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Prof Yosuf “Joe” Veriava

The Order of Luthuli in

Prof Yosuf “Joe” Veriava Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the medical profession in South Africa. He has consistently personified medical ethics and progressiveness. He also courageously pushed back the barriers of the unjust and repressive laws of apartheid.
Prof Yosuf “Joe” Veriava is the founder member of what became the South African Health Workers’ Congress of which he was Vice-President from 1979 to 1981.

He was the Secretary for Health of the Azanian People’s Organisation from 1979 to 1981. He served as a Trustee of the Education Programme Centre from 1987 to 1993, involved in the provision of secondary school courses for black students.

Veriava was the convenor of committees involved in opposition to apartheid between 1970 and 1990, and a Trustee of the Abubaker Asvat Trust for nation-building. In 1976 he was the convenor of the Detainees’ Parents Support Committee in response to the detention and disappearance of children following the student uprising in 1976. He is the Director of the Wits University Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics.

Having qualified as a medical doctor in 1968 and medical specialist in 1975, Veriava began his career as a consultant at the then Coronation Hospital (now Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital) in Johannesburg. He challenged unjust laws in many ways, including challenging the racist provincial administration on the matter of unequal pay for equal work performed by non-white doctors during apartheid.

He joined the fight against the provincial Director of Hospital Services when doctors at the then Baragwanath Hospital (now Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital) were denied posts as a result of a letter to the South African Medical Journal which criticised facilities and conditions at the hospital. He cared for political prisoners who were admitted to hospital after embarking on hunger strikes.

Perhaps the best known challenge to authority was the successful outcome of the court case against the South African Medical and Dental Council for its exoneration of the doctors involved in the examination and mistreatment of Steve Biko. This challenge also spilled over to the Medical Association of South Africa, forcing it also to acknowledge the culpability of the doctors.

He was part of the group that initiated the establishment of an internal Truth and Reconciliation Commission within the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences, overseen by Advocate Jules Browde. This was an initiative to critically review the faculty’s history under apartheid and identify shortcomings in terms of ethics, morality and justice.

In recent years Veriava has assisted the Ministerial Academic Review Committee involved in the selection, training and deployment of South African students to Cuba under the Mandela-Castro programme. This committee is also involved in the recruitment and peer review of Cuban doctors for service in South Africa.

He looked into the scoping of functions of the Department of Health’s Office of Health Standards Compliance. He was part of the team that performed the clinical review of cases involved in the recent Life Esidimeni tragedy.

He is in the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation, overseeing approvals of kidney transplants. He is in the Gauteng Patient Safety and Medical Litigation Panel and he served two terms as Ministerial appointee to the position of Chair of the Council for Medical Schemes.