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Sunday Times: Manto story is 'accurate'

Staff Reporter

The Sunday Times on Tuesday refused to return documents detailing Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's alleged drinking in hospital. The minister must "explain on what basis" the documents should be returned, Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya said after a deadline set by the minister for the return of the documents had passed.

The Sunday Times on Tuesday refused to return documents detailing Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s alleged drinking in hospital.

The minister must “explain on what basis” the documents should be returned, Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya said after a deadline set by the minister for the return of the documents had passed.

Makhanya said the newspaper had written to the minister, saying the onus was on her to explain why the documents and notes she was requesting should be returned.

He said as far as the Sunday Times was concerned, there was no reason to give her anything because the story about her drinking was true.

“The minister needs to tell us what it is in the story that is garbage,” he said.

“The story that ran on Sunday is 200% accurate.

“[It is] thoroughly, thoroughly researched. Everything is accurate.”

Makhanya said he was “not saying anything” about whether the paper was in possession of Tshabalala-Msimang’s medical records.

He said legal action remained just a “threat”.

In any case, to be successful in court she would have to disprove the story, which Makhanya insisted was accurate.

A retraction was not under consideration, he said.

It would be “terrible” for media freedom if the paper had ceded to her demands.

After the deadline passed on Tuesday afternoon he said, “We’ll take it from there.”

Tshabalala-Msimang said she would proceed with legal action after the newspaper failed to return her medical records.

“The newspaper has failed to comply with the demand to return these medical records.

“The minister has therefore directed her legal team to proceed with the litigation against the Sunday Times,” said the minister’s spokesperson, Sibani Mngadi, in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

‘Malicious statements’

Yesterday it was reported that Tshabalala-Msimang demanded the Sunday Times retract “malicious, untrue and injurious statements” made about her.

This follows the weekend front-page report, under the headline “Manto’s Hospital Booze Binge”, in which it is alleged the minister consumed excessive amounts of alcohol while in hospital for shoulder surgery two years ago.

The Sunday Times also reported that Tshabalala-Msimang suffered from an alcoholic liver disease, which led to her requiring a liver transplant earlier this year.

“Just three months ago, Tshabalala-Msimang received the gift of life from a teenage suicide victim whose family donated their child’s liver,” wrote the Sunday Times.

“Within hours of the operation at Donald Gordon Medi-Clinic in Johannesburg, doctors said the minister had been diagnosed with auto-immune hepatitis, and that the cause of her cirrhosis was not alcohol.

“However, the Sunday Times can reveal that many top medical experts at state and private institutions, who refused to be named as they feared retribution from the health ministry, said speculation was rife in the profession that she suffered from alcoholic liver disease.

“Many of these experts said the only reason she got the liver was because she was the minister of health. Had it been another patient of her age in her condition, she would not have qualified,” reported the newspaper.

The newspaper also claimed that the minister drank bottles of red wine and whiskey when she was admitted to the Cape Town Medi-Clinic in 2005 for a shoulder operation.

It alleged that she forced staff to buy alcohol for her, often late at night.—Sapa

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