Zille now lily-livered on Manto

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

DA leader Helen Zille has withdrawn the call for a probe into whether President Thabo Mbeki exerted undue influence on hospital and doctors to secure a liver transplant for Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

This about-turn comes a few days after she met the president and is seen as a softening of stance by the new DA leader towards the ANC.

Zille yesterday wrote to her party's health spokesman Mike Waters asking him to withdraw the request to Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana to investigate the issue regarding the health minister.

The DA was reacting to reports that Mbeki exerted undue influence on the hospital or doctors to secure a liver transplant for Tshabalala-Msimang.

The reports claimed in March that Mbeki asked doctors at the Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg to approve the operation.

Mukoni Ratshitanga, Mbeki's spokesman, confirmed that Zille had raised the issue of Mbeki's alleged influence in the liver transplant matter during the meeting and that the president provided the answer.

"We will presume that she was convinced by the president's explanation," said Ratshitanga.

He would not speculate on the specifics of Mbeki's talk with the DA leader and refused to answer Sowetan when asked whether the two leaders would work together in future.

"We hope that in future we will consult and brief one another to establish facts before we pronounce anything publicly," said Ratshitanga.

The move by the DA came a few days after Zille and Mbeki held discussions in which the Tshabalala-Msimang's liver transplant issue was one of the items on the agenda. Zille, the new DA leader, is charting a new direction in dealing with the government on certain issues.

The official opposition's decision to let Mbeki off the hook could be the first instalment of Zille's new way of doing things differently from Tony Leon, who was a hawk and a thorn in Mbeki's side.

Meanwhile, the DA's Mike Waters yesterday said the ANC's admission that Mbeki knew of the health minister's criminal conviction before he appointed her speaks volumes about the president's judgment and the moral values of the ANC.

Waters said he would ask Tshabalala-Msimang in parliament if she disclosed her theft conviction of 1976 while employed at Athlone Hospital in Botswana to Mbeki when she was appointed minister.