'Firing has cost Mbeki credibility'

SACKED: Deputy Minister of Health Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge on her arrival in Cape Town. Pic: Howard Burditt. 09/08/2007. © REUTERS
SACKED: Deputy Minister of Health Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge on her arrival in Cape Town. Pic: Howard Burditt. 09/08/2007. © REUTERS

President Thabo Mbeki's decision to fire Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge has the potential to undermine public confidence in the government.

President Thabo Mbeki's decision to fire Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge has the potential to undermine public confidence in the government.

This is the view of political analyst Steven Friedman, who argues that Madlala-Routledge's axing has "destroyed Mbeki's credibility".

Mbeki fired Madlala-Routledge ostensibly for a trip to Spain. He subsequently wrote a letter telling her that she was fired because of her "inability to work as a collective".

Friedman said yesterday Mbeki's decision could not be "delinked" from the fact that she had taken a different view from his on the situation at Mount Frere Hospital.

Madlala-Routledge visited the hospital following reports about the high rate of infant deaths due to unhygienic conditions and shortages of medical supplies.

She had described the situation at the hospital as a "national emergency".

Mbeki subsequently wrote in his weekly letter on the ANC's website dismissing the report as not factual.

"It is quite clear that the firing of the deputy minister has nothing to do with her going on an unauthorised trip, but everything to do with the fact that she took a position different from that of the president on the issue of the babies' deaths," Friedman said.

He said Madlala-Routledge did not openly defy Mbeki by going to Spain. He said information in the public arena about the trip indicated she was under the impression that the trip had been approved. When she realisedthe trip was not approved, she caught the first flight home.

He said there was concern that people in the government seemed to use their power to settle political scores.

Friedman said the Sunday Times report about Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's drinking binges could not be divorced from this growing tendency.

"It is a problematic political atmosphere where political rivals are willing to use every means possible to attack each other," Friedman said.

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