Medicine vs alternative medicine in South Africa

One of my recent posts mentioned those people that want to give more recognition to traditional healers; something I think would be a terrible mistake. I’m somewhat buoyed by hearing that the Health Products Association of SA (HPSA), a rather misleading name since they produce alternative medicines, is suing the minister of health, Aaron Motsoaledi, over coming regulations. It means that the department of health is doing the right thing. The regulations would require even alternative medicines to show that they are both safe and beneficial. Continue reading

My paper on connexin deafness in Africans

It’s my second published paper; this time I am the first author! I’m not going to go into much detail on this because it’s not really of general interest and the paper itself is only a few pages long. In short, we examined two connexin genes, GJB6 and GJA1, to see whether there are changes in the gene sequences that may cause deafness in Africans. GJB6 is known to cause deafness, usually with GJB2, in Europeans and earlier research, later shown to be mistaken, had suggested GJA1 might play a role in deafness in Africans. We didn’t find any evidence that mutations in either gene cause deafness in patients from Cameroon or the Xhosa population of South Africa. Continue reading

Scientific literacy in South Africa

General science education in South Africa is in a terrible state. Recently, a survey was conducted among 1000 South Africans. They were asked 10 true or false questions about general science and, as Rapport reports (The article is in Afrikaans because the English versions only report on that article and are pathetic in comparison), the average South African only got five answers correct. These same questions were also asked in the United States where the average person got 6,5 questions correct. Since there is a lot of confusion over these questions I would like go through them, share the correct answer and briefly expand on it. Continue reading

Wolves in South Africa

Male Coywolf (Wolf X Coyote)

Male coywolf (wolf X coyote)

When I was in Port Elizabeth last week, I went, with friends, to the Tsitsikama Wolf Sanctuary. It is currently the only wolf sanctuary in South Africa and houses a number of wolves from zoos or that were originally kept as pets. Because of how they were raised, they can no longer be released into the wild. Even if they could be, they are not a native species to South Africa. It’s nice to know that there are people that are looking after these beautiful animals and, if you are in the area (It’s about an hour and forty minutes drive outside of Port Elizabeth), I would recommend a visit to support them. You can see some of my own pictures from the day below. Continue reading

That’s offensive! So what?

There seem to have been a number of incidents recently where one person has said something that others took offence to which have made it into the news. Some of these cases involve people expressing their opinion but most concern inappropriate jokes. I have some concerns that, given the ability of social media to find things to take offence to and the amount of pressure that can be levied with it, we are heading towards a dangerous situation where it will be safe only to voice the most popular opinions or tell the most politically correct jokes.

At times, the apparent need to get offended gets justified in the most ridiculous ways, as shown here in South Africa. I would encourage everyone to read the Broacasting Complaints Commission of South Africa’s (BCCSA) findings with regards to “jou ma se paw paw” that was said on Heart 104.9FM. A complaint was made after a DJ said “jou ma se paw paw,” which translates to “your mother’s paw paw.” Fairly inoffensive. The problem is that “jou ma se poes,” which translates to “your mother’s cunt” is a common insult. The complainant said that by using something similar it is an attack on women’s dignity and encourages sexism.

Against all common sense the complaint was upheld! Although the BCCSA only reprimanded the broadcaster and found the words did not amount to advocacy of hatred, they , somehow, concluded that:

The words “Jou ma se paw-paw” are grossly offensive within the South African context. They strongly remind of the seriously derogatory original phrase, which need not be repeated here. The words are also, within the same context of children, harmful to children in terms of clause 6(1)

Continue reading

Exaggerated and misguided statements by ANC

One can seemingly always rely on the ANC to say something stupid. I had planned to ignore the most recent example of this until I saw it get even worse. They have taken issue with an art project by some high school students. Some of the T-shirts on display had unflattering depictions and captions of ANC members. They’ve since decided to ignore the constitutional right to freedom of expression, that the ANC members are public figures and all that entails, that the artists are high school students and that the syllabus includes a section on political commentary. Continue reading

SASHG & YRF 2013 conference

The large gap in posting at the beginning of October was due to the Southern African Society of Human Genetics (SASHG) 2013 conference and the associated Young Researchers’ Forum (YRF), the latter for students and postdocs. This saw me travelling north to Johannesburg for just under a week to see what was happening in the world of South African genetics and to present my own work at both the YRF and SASHG conference. There was far too much to go into detail for so I will just focus on a couple of highlights. Continue reading

Hypocrisy, thy name is…

The internet is great for getting the word out there when someone has done something wrong. However, it also makes claims very easy to check up. Sometimes people don’t put two and two together and hypocrisy can become quite evident very quickly. That’s been the case just recently in South Africa. I got a link to this post, where South African designer Euodia Roets calls out Woolworths for the way they stole her design. She gives a lot of details and photo evidence of the similarity between her picture and the one that was then printed on some scatter cushions to sell. Continue reading