National

Sunday Times report on white doctors 'entirely false'

Staff Reporter

President Thabo Mbeki strongly criticised the Sunday Times on Wednesday for what he termed its peddling of "falsehoods" in a report published earlier this month. The report dealt with the alleged rejection by Western Cape health authorities of doctors for top posts because they were white.

President Thabo Mbeki strongly criticised the Sunday Times on Wednesday for what he termed its peddling of “falsehoods” in a report published earlier this month.

Responding in the National Assembly to debate on the Presidency’s budget vote, Mbeki also rebuked Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Sandra Botha for making “serious allegations” against him based on the June 3 newspaper article.

In the House on Tuesday, Botha referred to the Sunday Times report—dealing with the alleged rejection by Western Cape health authorities of doctors for top posts because they were white—and told Mbeki he should “take responsibility” for what had happened.

A sombre-looking Mbeki told MPs on Wednesday: “I would like to inform the honourable leader of the official opposition and the House that the Sunday Times report on which the honourable Sandra Botha based her comments is entirely false. To repeat, the Sunday Times report ... is entirely false.”

He gave details of what he said was the true story, including quoting a senior doctor who had told him “no appointment of a deserving candidate had been refused on racial grounds in the department of medicine” at his hospital.

Mbeki said that “contrary to the falsehoods peddled by the Sunday Times”, the Western Cape health authorities had, since last year, appointed 72 medical specialists, of whom 55 were white and 17 black.

Truth

On Botha’s referring to the newspaper article in the House as a recent example of “racial nationalism”, Mbeki said she should have checked the verity of the report before advancing “the extremely serious allegations she made yesterday [Tuesday]”.

He said it is difficult to avoid the conclusion this was not done “because the false story told by the Sunday Times was, for particular partisan reasons, too good to check and verify”. The same mindset is also responsible for “the persistent negative propaganda” about South Africa’s preparations for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

“It strives to use the power of the word, conveyed in print and [on] the airwaves, to present the actual and positive physical bricks and mortar ... visible to the naked eye at all the relevant stadiums as being nothing more than a conjuror’s fiction or a desert mirage.”

He further warned there are some within South African society seeking to take the country back to its apartheid past. “There are some in our society who see it as their task to pull us backwards towards a future defined by the racial divisions and conflicts of the past from which we are striving to escape.

“[These are] the conflicts that killed Steven Bantu Biko and Mapetla Mohapi and Onkgopotse Tiro and countless others, sustained by the lies that were told then, which have as their kith and kin the lies that are told today.”

Serving MPs have a responsibility to “repudiate all falsehoods”, Mbeki said.—Sapa

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