The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has launched a fund to help sacked Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge pay back expenses the government says she owes.

The government is pursuing Madlala-Routledge, the former Deputy Minister of Health, for the R312 000 alleged cost – twice the initial amount reported – of her trip to an international AIDS conference. The Department of Health has also withheld her salary in lieu of that ‘debt’.

Madlala-Routledge, who was said to be in conflict with AIDS denialists in government, was fired for going on the trip without presidential authorisation.

Various organisations and commentators have claimed that her critical stance towards government policy was the true reason she was fired. She was also credited with being behind a more scientifically-accepted stance by the Health department

The state has also demanded that Madlala-Routledge pay for rent due for the use of ministerial accommodation since 2001. Sunday Newspapers have repored that the former Deputy Minister is broke.

“These actions are vindictive and intended to humiliate her,” said Zackie Achmat, head of the TAC, in a statement.

He announced that, “In defence of good governance and to support Ms Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, a fund has been set up to assist her with short term financial needs related to non-payment of her salary and to cover any legal costs of defending these claims by the government.”

The “Support Good Governance – Support Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge Fund” will be managed and accounted for by the AIDS Law Project on the guidance of a fund committee which will include Andrew Feinstein (former ANC MP and former Deputy-Chair of SCOPA) and Cheryl Gilwald (former Deputy-Minister of Correctional Services).

In the meantime, The AIDS Law Project (ALP) has sent a letter to President Mbeki on behalf of the TAC demanding reasons for why he continues to retain Manto Tshabalala-Msimang as Minister of Health.

The TAC will host a rally at St Georges Cathedral on Wednesday in support of Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, with the demand that government implement the latest HIV/AIDS and STI National Strategic Plan.

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