[Marxism] South Africa pres fires minister for AIDS activity

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Aug 30 02:24:38 MDT 2007

Something about this may have appeared on this or other lists when the event
occurred more than two weeks ago. But a report on it has just showed up on
my emails for the first time. So if this is a repeat, apologies.

But just in case it isn't....

I consider the failure to deal adequately with the AIDS crisis to be the
greatest failure of the South African government.  It has always seemed
clear to me that this was a national emergency that challenges the
priorities the government has adopted up till now.

I am convinced that this would be the first priority of a people's
government (socialist or not), whatever policy it might adopt toward South
African capital or imperialist investment.

What strikes me about this article is the focus on international, NGO-type
responses to this firing, a passing mention of "opposition politicians", and
the lack of any broader South African response. Does anybody on the list
know more about this event?

What did South African AIDS activists say? Any response from within the ANC?
andd the lack of any hint of a South African response.  Was there any?  Was
there any response to Mbeki's denial that AIDS is a national emergency in
South Africa?
Fred Feldman

Minister sacked for HIV stance 
Jonathan Clayton, Johannesburg | August 11, 2007 
AIDS activists and opposition politicians reacted with fury yesterday to the
sacking of South Africa's high-profile Deputy Health Minister after she
spoke candidly about the country's HIV-AIDS crisis and the appalling
conditions in some public hospitals.

President Thabo Mbeki dismissed Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, who won plaudits
across the political spectrum for her work, after she refused to resign for
allegedly attending an AIDS conference in Spain without presidential

She had previously fallen out publicly with her boss, controversial Health
Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who is dubbed Dr Beetroot for advocating
a diet of garlic and beetroot to fight HIV infection. 

The clash followed an unannounced visit to a public hospital last month
where she described the conditions as a national emergency, a view later
disavowed by Mr Mbeki in his weekly online newsletter. 

"This is a dreadful error of judgment that will harm public healthcare,"
said the Treatment Action Campaign, the country's leading organisation of
AIDS activists. 

South Africa has about 5.5million HIV-positive people, one of the highest
caseloads in the world. 

About 1000 people die there each day of AIDS-related illnesses. 

The TAC said that the sacking of Ms Madlala-Routledge would further harm
South Africa's fight against AIDS. "It indicates that the President still
remains opposed to the science of HIV and to appropriately responding to the
epidemic," it said. 

Mr Mbeki's office confirmed that he had "relieved the Deputy Minister of
Health of her duties", but said it was under no obligation to give reasons
for the decision. 

South African media reports said that Ms Madlala-Routledge had been
dismissed because she had defied the President's orders and attended the
AIDS conference in Spain, with her son and a consultant, at a cost to the
taxpayer of 16,000 rand ($2635). 

However, Mr Mbeki's ministers frequently travel to meetings and then receive
approval retrospectively. 

Mr Mbeki, who fled apartheid South Africa in 1962 with a group of activists
that included Ms Tshabalala-Msimang, had previously shown unswerving loyalty
to her in the face of much derision at home and abroad. 

After years of feet-dragging, the Government has brought forward plans to
roll out anti-retroviral drugs for HIV-positive sufferers. 

The deputy minister, who had criticised Mr Mbeki and Ms Tshabalala-Msimang
publicly for their approach to the crisis, was at the forefront of a new,
proactive, government anti-AIDS strategy. 

"The President has finally found the courage to fire someone, but he has
fired the wrong person," said Patricia de Lille, leader of the Independent
Democrats opposition group. "This will have a direct and deadly impact on
the lives of our millions of poor." 

Critics said that the dismissal showed how the African National Congress
placed loyalty above all else. 

Mr Mbeki had previously fired only his deputy president, Jacob Zuma, after
he was embroiled in a corruption scandal, and a former head of the
intelligence services. 

He had never before dismissed a government minister. 

"Ms Madlala-Routledge brought hard work, a love for freedom of expression
and the ability to admit mistakes to the ANC Government and she has been
rewarded in an outrageous way," Ms de Lille said. 

The Times

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