The Treatment Action Campaign’s call for President Mbeki to not dismiss Deputy-Minister of Health Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge has come too late.

After apparently asking Madlala-Routledge to step down early on Wednesday, President Thabo Mbeki has fired her following her refusal to resign. The organisation called the fracas “an orchestrated attempt to justify dismissing her.”

In a statement, the TAC said that, “Madlala-Routledge has demonstrated unparalleled political leadership and competence in the struggle for better health-care in South Africa. As Deputy-Minister of Defence, she introduced antiretroviral treatment into the military. She has consistently supported the scientific governance of health policy and denounced AIDS denialism. She has helped improve the image of the South African government both at home and internationally because she has counter-balanced the President’s support of denialism.”

Earlier this week several newspapers reported that the Deputy-Minister flew to Spain at the state’s expense of R160 000 on business class accompanied by her advisor and her son. The trip was apparently taken without the President’s permission as is usually required.

The Deputy-Minister travelled to Spain to participate in a meeting of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) apparently under the impression that the trip had in fact been approved. When she learnt that this was the case she immediately returned.

According to the TAC, the trip involved Madlala-Routledge carrying out valid business duties and government policy allows ministers and deputy-ministers to be accompanied by one member of family when travelling internationally.

The organisation said the event was the result of “administrative confusion” over dates and was a “trivial incident,” which was leaked to the media in a distorted manner aimed at discrediting the Deputy-Minister.

“This raises the concern that the Deputy-Minister’s trip to Spain was refused in order to discredit her and that this is an orchestrated attempt to justify dismissing her. This is the second time President Mbeki has attempted to dismiss her and resorted to unfounded allegations of misconduct to justify it,” said the organisation.

The TAC has described President Mbeki’s response to fire the Deputy-Minister “a dreadful error of judgment” and called on him to reverse his decision.

Independent Democrats president Patricia De Lille has also reacted negatively to the President’s decision, telling SAPA, “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,” adding that, “I know a woman of integrity when I see one.”

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