Mbeki draws international scorn for firing deputy health minister

South Africa’s Presdent Mbeki has drawn widespread criticism for his recent sacking of his Deputy Health Minister. South Africa has the highest number of HIV-positive people (>5 million) including 19% of adult population, and a scandalous history of denial of both HIV and the benefits of HIV treatment.

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledgene, one of the few high level ministers to tackle HIV head-on, supporting both testing and access to antiretrovirals. The reason is apparently for attending an HIV meeting in Spain.

By contrast, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the South African Health Minister is widely ridiculed for public statements on the benefits of garlic, African potato and beetroot to fight a viral infection that still kills over 1,000 of South Africa’s poorest citizens everyday. The Minister is seen as a corrupt face of government denial, while benefiting personally from the best care. She recently received a liver transplant despite drinking up to and after the operation, which a letter to the Cape Times sardonically referred to as ‘contributing to national reconciliation by nursing a dead white boy’s liver within her own body’.

Lead articles in the Independent, Lancet, Nature, and Science are amongst the mainstream press that have raised this issue.

This is a terrible sign that the South African is still too stupid and recalcitrant to care for its citizens in this crisis. It is heartbreaking that people of South Africa continue to suffer from this new apartheid.

In South Africa, the Treatment Action Campaign launched a call to action in response to the firing of Madlala-Routledge. In a press release issued on 15 August, TAC state “The dismissal of former Deputy-Minister of Health, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, reinforces growing concerns about President Mbeki and Minister Tshabalala-Msimang’s commitment to implementing the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV/AIDS 2007-2011. Madlala Routledge created a new partnership that contributed to the development of this plan. She fought for a scientific approach to HIV medicine, based on the principles of universal access to treatment and comprehensive evidence-based prevention. The TAC believes we can best show our support for Madlala-Routledge by galvanising public support for the implementation of the NSP.

Source: TAC press statement

Online petition

Coverage in The Independent

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