Manto pulled rank

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

South Africa would still be in the dark about infant and maternal mortality rates if four independent researchers had not defied Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's demands to remove them from an official report.

So says the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP).

The report said that 260 mothers and children died each day because of complications in pregnancy and childbirth, illnesses affecting infants, HIV-Aids and malnutrition. Poverty was found to be an underlying factor in all of the deaths.

The Every Death Counts report claimed that South Africa lost 95000 lives each year, including 75000 children younger than five years. The report said that 40000 of these lives could be saved if the country's health system performed adequately.

The ACDP claims that Tshabala-Msimang had demanded that four pages of the information be removed. The party said nobody would have known about the deaths had the researchers not insisted that the data be retained in the report.

ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley said she had raised the issue in Parliament, but the minister had not yet responded.

"We are waiting for her answer. We know that she wanted this information removed. All we want to know is why was she trying to hide it," Dudley said.

Joy Lawn, a doctor and one of the report's authors, yesterday refused to confirm that the minister had demanded that the information be removed.

Lawn said: "We did what we had to do. We had to let people know that infant and maternal mortality rates were on the rise. We don't want to get into any controversy with Tshabalala-Msimang. The report is in the public domain and all the information that was supposed to be in it is there."