An investigation has been launched by the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) to find out why so many would-be surgeons across five universities failed a standard final examination.
Eight universities sent 46 surgeon students for the Fellowship of the College of Surgeons (FCS) exam.
Only 15 of the 46 candidates who wrote this exam passed.
All of the candidates from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), University of Cape Town (UCT), University of Pretoria, Walter Sisulu University and University of the Free State failed the exam.
Only candidates from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University and Stellenbosch University passed.
Academics from institutions where students failed have called for a thorough investigation into the unprecedented failure rate.
Professor Martin Smith, head of the surgery department at Wits, says it's too early to speculate whether something untoward is at play.
Wits will allow the CMSA to conduct its investigation, which Smith says should focus on a broad range of factors.
The results of the exam were completely unexpected and out of keeping with previous results.— Professor Martin Veller, Head of the Department of Surgery in the School of Clinical Medicine at Wits
Having a 100% failure rate from my institution surprised me because the paper itself did not appear to be a difficult one.— Professor Martin Veller, Head of the Department of Surgery in the School of Clinical Medicine at Wits
We will support any investigation that tries to understand what happened.— Professor Martin Veller, Head of the Department of Surgery in the School of Clinical Medicine at Wits
Listen to the discussion with Clement Manyathela: