College of Law

Dr Zweli Mkhize appoints Unisan to National Health Research Council

Prof Melodie Labuschaigne

Melodie Labuschaigne, Professor in the Department of Jurisprudence and former Unisa College of Law (CLAW) Deputy Executive Dean, has been appointed to the National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC) by Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health.

The NHREC is a statutory body whose functions are primarily to provide direction on ethical issues relating to health and to develop guidelines for conducting research involving humans and animals. The council observes and advises on international developments in health ethics issues through liaison with relevant international organisations.

The appointment is a feather in Unisa’s cap because the university has never before had a member on the NHREC. These appointments traditionally come from universities or entities that undertake biomedical or health research, or those conducting animal studies, an elated Labuschaigne confirmed.

"The role of the council is specifically important in the present, where Covid-19 related research is undertaken. This appointment is a huge honour for me and I am humbled by the trust in my abilities and expertise. To serve in this capacity means to be able to serve the South African research community in a very specific capacity," says Labuschaigne. "As the legal member of the NHREC, I have the rare opportunity to learn from other experts and be exposed to important and meaningful research endeavours that not only showcase South African research successes, but also highlight the difficult ethico-legal challenges that have arisen as a result of the pandemic."


What is the National Health Research Ethics Council?

The Minister of Health appoints 15 people to the NHREC, after consultation with the National Health Council. They are chosen from nominations invited by the Minister by notice in the Government Gazette, in accordance with Regulation 3. Membership is constituted as follows:

  • Nine with extensive experience and knowledge of health research ethics
  • A layperson
  • A representative from the Department of Health
  • A person with extensive knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry
  • A person with extensive knowledge of the Medicines Control Council (now replaced by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority)
  • A person with extensive knowledge of the ethics of research using animals
  • A person with extensive knowledge of relevant law


The following are the functions of the NHREC:

  • Determine guidelines for the functioning of health research ethics committees.
  • Register and audit health research ethics committees.
  • Set norms and standards for conducting research on humans and animals, including norms and standards for conducting clinical trials.
  • Adjudicate complaints about the functioning of health research ethics committees and hear any complaint by a researcher who believes that he or she has been discriminated against by a health research ethics committee.
  • Refer matters involving the violation or potential violation of an ethical or professional rule by a health care provider to the relevant statutory health professional council
  • Institute such disciplinary action as may be prescribed against any person found to be in violation of any norms and standards, or guidelines, set for conducting research in terms of this Act.
  • Advise the national department and provincial departments on any ethical issues concerning research.

* Submitted by Ngwako Mokgotho, Communication and Marketing Specialist, College of Law

Publish date: 2021-03-09 00:00:00.0