Thursday, August 09, 2007

Deputy Health Minister for South Africa, Nozizwe Mdlala-Routledge, Sacked By Government

Firing furore: 'Politics works like that'

Mirah Langer | Johannesburg, South Africa
09 August 2007 01:00

President Thabo Mbeki does not have to give reasons for why he dismissed deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, the Presidency said on Thursday.

A decision by Mbeki had been taken and it had been implemented, said presidential spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga.

"The president doesn't have to provide reasons. We are not going to undermine the Constitution simply because of this case."

There has been a shocked reaction to her dismissal by various political parties and social movements.

Ratshitanga told the South African Press Association he would pay people his month's salary if they could find any country in the world where the president had to provide reasons for a dismissal.

Ratshitanga said politicians did not follow regular employment procedures such as receiving warnings and hearings before a dismissal.

"In politics it works like that.

"Members of Cabinet and deputy ministers serve at the behest of the president," he said. "It's a democratic system."

Mbeki's dismissal of the deputy health minister took immediate effect on Wednesday evening.

She was fired by Mbeki after apparently earlier refusing to resign.

Madlala-Routledge will speak out on Friday about her dismissal.

She will be interviewed live on radio from Cape Town at 10am. Primedia said a live interview with her would be broadcast on Radio 702 and Cape Talk.

Various reasons for her dismissal have circulated.

These included an unannounced visit she made to Mount Frere Hospital, which she declared to be in a state of "national emergency"

There had also been a R160 000 trip to Spain to attend an Aids conference -- which Mbeki apparently withdrew his permission for at the last minute.

Madlala-Routledge was also apparently involved in ongoing clashes with Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang over the government's Aids policy.

In its reaction, the Treatment Action Campaign raised concerns that the deputy minister's trip to Spain was refused as an "orchestrated attempt" to discredit her and justify her dismissal.

Independent Democrats president Patricia De Lille said: "Coming just hours before the dawn of our 13th Women's Day since freedom, this is an insult to every single South African woman who has the courage to stand up for the truth."

She believed Madlala-Routledge was probably set up and was confident that "the truth will prevail".

"I know a woman of integrity when I see one," De Lille said.

'Absolute disgrace'

The move raised fresh questions about the battle against Aids in South Africa, where an estimated 12-percent of the 47-million population is infected with HIV. About 1 000 South Africans die each day of Aids and related diseases.

Aids activists were delighted when Madlala-Routledge took a lead in the fight against Aids after Tshabalala-Msimang was forced to take time off due to illness, and applauded her direct and proactive approach to the disease.

"It's [her sacking] an absolute disgrace," said Mike Waters, the Democratic Alliance's health spokesperson.

"The fact is for the first time we had a deputy minister with a clear direction in the fight against Aids. Both the president and the minister are denialists, while the deputy minister has her feet stuck in reality."

"What it shows is that the president is a bully," Waters said. "If you agree with him you are protected but if you don't agree with him, you have got to watch your back."

Activists have criticised Tshabalala-Msimang for advocating natural remedies to treat Aids, including garlic, beetroot and the African potato.

Mbeki has stuck by his controversial health minister despite international criticism over her Aids policies.

At a conference in South Africa in June, scientists and health workers said they were encouraged by the government's pledge to expand the roll-out of antiretroviral drugs and increase HIV testing.

Sapa, Reuters



The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) said it would
ensure that deputy health Minister Nosizwe Madlala-Routledge repaid the public funds she used for an unauthorised overseas trip, the SABC reported on Wednesday.

Madlala-Routledge travelled to Spain without President Thabo Mbeki's approval, which was needed as set out in the ministerial handbook.

The parliamentary watchdog said this was clearly a case of irregular
expenditure, which was an offence in terms of laws governing public
money, and it planned to take steps against Madlala-Routledge.

"The case as it stands is a matter of public interest and it
involves public money, obviously it does warrant the attention of

"Irregular expenditure is an offence in terms of the law, so if that
has been committed, irrespective of who committed it, we would expect the law to be applied," said Scopa chairman Themba Godi.

Madlala-Routledge took a "consultant" from her office, along with
her son on a trip to Spain, allegedly without obtaining presidential
approval, at a cost of R160,000 to the taxpayer.

The three flew business class, stayed at a luxury hotel and were
allocated generous spending money while abroad.

An anonymous whistleblower wrote a letter to Mbeki to draw his
attention to the unauthorised Madrid trip, the broadcaster said.

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