‘I had nothing to do with hit on doctor’
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Durban - THE father of Zayyaan Sayed has denied involvement in the killing of specialist anaesthetist, Dr Abdulhay Munshi.
Mohammadh Sayed made the statement following several reports that suggested it was a revenge killing for his son’s death in October 2019.
Zayyaan, 10, who suffered from reflux, underwent a laparoscopic procedure conducted by Munshi and Dr Peter Beale, a paediatric surgeon, at Johannesburg’s Park Lane Hospital.
His lung collapsed soon after the surgery and he died. Munshi and Beale were accused of negligence and were suspended from the hospital after investigations by Netcare and the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA).
Before the investigations were finalised, they were charged with culpable homicide and were each granted R10 000 bail.
They last appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on August 31 and the matter was adjourned to November.
Last Wednesday, Munshi, 73, was shot dead in Orange Grove, Johannesburg. It was alleged that a motorist knocked into the back of his vehicle and when Munshi got out of the car, he was shot six times.
No valuables were believed to have been taken.
His funeral was held at Westpark Cemetery on Thursday. Beale has since gone into hiding.
Sayed, the chief executive of tobacco company Carnilinx, through his spokesperson Sinen Mnguni, said the allegations about his involvement in Munshi’s death were irresponsible, reckless, speculative and sensationalist.
He said he hoped the perpetrators were found and brought to justice as soon as possible.
Mnguni said it was a matter of public record that Sayed followed the legal route in pursuit of the truth after the death of his son.
“He has instructed his legal team to engage with the investigating and prosecuting authorities on a regular basis in his endeavours to ensure that justice is not only achieved but also done in a legitimate and transparent manner in this matter.”
Mnguni said the investigation remained in the hands of the police and the National Prosecuting Authority.
“He has endeavoured to hold the doctors involved accountable, criminally and before the HPCSA. This is to ensure that no other parent suffers the pain and anguish that he and other parents have endured.”
Dr Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of the South African Medical Association, said Beale called her two weeks ago saying he had received death threats.
“He called to ask if I could assist with the case as the HPCSA was doing nothing. He then mentioned that he and Dr Munshi had received death threats. We both didn’t take it too seriously even though the thought lingered in the back of our minds.”
She said after Munshi’s death, Beale went into hiding.
“This is not going to help. If a killer wants to kill you, he will find you by any means. At some stage, Beale needs to come out of hiding and face the matter head-on.
“The best course of action is for the HPCSA to speed up the process and for the criminal procedure to be finalised.”
After Munshi’s death, health-care workers gathered outside his Houghton home demanding justice for his death.
They said the public arrest and criminal charges against Munshi and Beale were premature and should have been handled by the HPCSA.
In a virtual media briefing on Thursday, Dr Kgosi Letlape, HPCSA chairperson, said: “We were quite concerned when we saw the arrest of the practitioners despite the fact that there was a regulatory body that was looking into issues that were raised.
“The turn of events was unfortunate that the practitioners were paraded as criminals. We wrote a letter of objection to the commissioner of police, director of public prosecutions and copied the minister of justice … sadly we have not heard back and it has now come to this.”
He said an inquest first needed to be conducted and any action should have been based on those findings.
In December 2019, Letlape said suspension hearings for Beale were held and completed.
“He was suspended pending a conduct of inquiry. The matter is now being
prepared for a full inquiry and council is ready to proceed on that matter.”
He said Munshi’s hearing was not completed because of legal interference.
Letlape said if South Africans were going to criminalise the practice of medicine, doctors would be too scared to take care of citizens.
“We are extremely disappointed that the lawmakers and the police who are supposed to protect us chose not to uphold the rule of law.”
He said the HPCSA had planned to write once more to the commissioner of police to remove the matter from the criminal courts.
Letlape said as a private practitioner, he was concerned about his future in the country.
“This is my home but I will have difficulty practising my profession if we are treated like criminals.”
Dr Dharmesh Daya, president of the Radiological Society of South Africa, said there were increasing numbers of reports of doctors and paramedics being attacked and killed.
“Doctors are already at risk from the diseases they treat, as we have seen in the Covid-19 pandemic. It is even more tragic when they are violently killed while following their calling and serving the community.”
Dr Chris Archer, of the South African Private Practitioners Forum, said that Munshi, as an anaesthetist, was at the front line during the pandemic.
“Anaesthesiology is one of the disciplines at the highest risk for contracting Covid-19. This means he was offering his life for the service of people, and that this acted against him, his family and the profession at this time of the pandemic makes it more unbearable.”
Netcare said Munshi devoted his life to health care and was known for his compassion and dedication to his patients and his profession.
The Islamic Medical Association of South Africa said Munshi’s killing appeared to be targeted and it was an attack on the profession.
The South African Medical Association also expressed their anger and demanded justice.
On Facebook, Dr Kevin Naidu said: “Where is the outrage? Where are the hashtags? Will they take a knee for us? Will there be protests for us? No, because they don’t care about us but it’s our oath to care about you!”
Vivak Lazarus said: “This is the very reason why we practise defensive medicine and the reason I don’t want any of my children to pursue a medical career. We are going to be short of good doctors soon.”
Jeanne Albertse, director of MacRobert Attorneys and legal representative of Beale, said: “Apart from stating that Professor Beale and his legal representatives are shocked to learn of Dr Munshi’s death, no further comments.”
Attorney Raizel Davidow, who represented Munshi in court, said: “Unfortunately, we are unable to comment at this juncture.”
Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, a spokesperson for the Gauteng SAPS, said the motive for the shooting was unknown at this stage.
“The case will be investigated by a multidisciplinary team on the immediate activation of the 72-hours response plan to detect the perpetrators.”