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South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki breaks silence on axing of deputy health minister

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki breaks silence on axing of deputy health minister

President Thabo Mbeki broke his silence Saturday on his dismissal of the deputy health minister who was credited with revamping South Africa's beleaguered campaign against AIDS, saying she had failed to work as part of a collective.
After previously maintaining firmly that the president did not have to explain his action, the government communications office released a letter Mbeki sent Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge relieving her of her duties, "in an effort to prevent further speculation and misrepresentations of facts," the statement said.
Mbeki fired Madlala-Routledge Wednesday following reports that she had gone to Spain to attend an AIDS conference without his permission.
Madlala-Routledge's dismissal has been widely criticized especially by AIDS activists who fear it will lead to renewed doubts about South Africa's commitment to fighting a disease that claims the life of nearly 1,000 people a day in the country.
In his letter to Madlala-Routledge, Mbeki wrote that even during her tenure as deputy defense minister he had "consistently drawn your attention to the concerns raised by your colleagues about your inability to work as part of a collective, as the Constitution enjoins us to."
He said traveling to Madrid despite the fact that he had declined her request to undertake the trip made it clear that she had "no intention to abide by the constitutional prescriptions that bind all of us. For this reason I suggested to you that you should resign.
"It is clear that you do not accept my advice. This leaves me no choice but to relieve you of your duties," the letter said.
Speaking for the first time since she was fired, Madlala-Routledge on Friday told reporters of clashes with her boss, Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who has been heavily criticized for her promotion of garlic and lemons as AIDS remedies.
Madlala-Routledge also said Mbeki _ a strong ally of Tshabalala-Msimang and whose own record fighting AIDS has been criticized by AIDS activist _ did not approve of her trip where she was to speak at a seminar held by International Aids Vaccine Initiative.
Calling it a "lost opportunity" she said that once she was aware that the trip had not been sanctioned by Mbeki, she did not attend the meeting and returned to South Africa as soon as possible.
During nine months recently when the health minister was ill, Madlala-Routledge mended fences with AIDS activists and the mainstream medical community and was one of the driving forces behind a new five-year plan which has made reducing the number of new HIV infections one of its main targets and aims to extend treatment to 80 percent of those with AIDS by 2011.
When Tshabalala-Msimang returned to work in June after a liver transplant, her first public gesture was to snub South Africa's national AIDS conference on the grounds that her deputy had been given a more prominent speaking role than her.
On Friday, Mbeki's office had said that "in the interest of both the government and Madlala-Routledge, and cognizant of the fact that she is no longer a member of the Executive, the Presidency will neither be responding to her statements nor giving reasons why she was relieved of her duties."
Sukhthi Naidoo, a spokeswoman for Madlala-Routledge, said Saturday that the former deputy minister was not commenting on the release of Mbeki's letter.


Updated : 2021-10-17 05:01 GMT+08:00