The Democratic Alliance (DA) has zeroed in on the Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize's Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC), claiming that recent events have pointed to "a culture of seeking to silence dissenting voices within government."
This is in the wake of allegations made by the president of the South African Medical Research Council, Prof Glenda Gray, that government had ignored scientifically-based advice on the national lockdown.
She also chairs the research sub-committee on a team of 50 expert COVID-19 pandemic advisors to the government.
In an interview with News24, Gray took issue with the government's handling of the pandemic.
"This strategy is not based on science and is completely unmeasured. Almost as if someone is sucking regulations out of their thumb and implementing rubbish, quite frankly", she is quoted as saying.
Mkhize hit back at Gray, labelling her allegations as "devoid of the truth"
"At no point has the department of health or government as a whole ignored and not responded to the advice", the minister said.
The number of infections of the respiratory disease has surpassed the 20 000 mark and close 400 others have died.
A variety of views should be considered in fighting the coronavirus
"The fight against Covid-19 is one that requires plurality of voices – something that can be achieved by the 50-member advisory committee that was appointed to advise the Minister. However, if those experts who disagree with government strategy are criticized, sidelined or silenced we will rob the country of the opportunity to utilise the variety of skills that we have at our disposal", said DA MP Siviwe Gwarube.
"We have seen over the past weeks those who have broken rank within the MAC be treated with disdain. This is a concerning trend that Minister Mkhize should be fighting against instead of allowing his department to instigate it", Gwarube further added.
The party said while the health response to date has been largely commendable, expert voices have been targeted for not approving government strategy – which raises questions about its credibility.
"While we should never excuse the peddling of false information in order to advance an argument, the right of those who have differing views must still be protected. The use of false information must be dealt with as a separate matter. Government should not deliberately conflate the refuting of false claims with the right to make differing inputs"