President Thabo Mbeki has been widely condemned by opposition leaders and health activists for dismissing outspoken Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge.
But the president has stood his ground. His spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said yesterday the constitution allowed the president to hire and fire without providing reasons for his decisions.
SACP spokesman Malesela Maleka said his party was "saddened" by Mbeki's decision to axe the newly elected SACP central committee member.
He said Mbeki had acted unilaterally to dismiss MadlalaRoutledge without showing "sensitivity" for the discussions taking place in the alliance about presidential powers and the deployment of alliance members. Observers believe Madlala-Routledge was fired for travelling to Spain at a cost of R160000 without getting permission from Mbeki, as required by law.
But Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille scathingly dismissed the decision as an "insult to every single South African woman", which came just hours before the celebration of the 13th Women's Day in South Africa .
"I know a woman of integrity when I see one," said De Lille.
The PAC's Eastern Cape spokesman Waters Toboti yesterday slammed Mbeki's decision.
"The president has to account to the nation for his actions.
"We have to know in clear terms what the deputy minister has done. The president is shy in coming out and saying what she has done wrong. It is cowardice on the side of the president," said Toboti.
The Treatment Action Campaign also blasted Mbeki's decision.
"This is a dreadful error of judgment that will harm public health care, especially the response to the HIV epidemic.
"It indicates the president still remains opposed to the science of HIV and towards an appropriate response to the epidemic," the campaign said in a statement.
The TAC said the ANC had mounted an "orchestrated attempt to justify dismissing her".
The TAC praised the former deputy minister's work, which had led to the development of the HIV-Aids strategic plan that includes civil society groups in a revamped South African National Aids Council.