All eyes on Mbeki to find Manto stand-in

President Thabo Mbeki is busy applying his mind to the appointment of an acting health minister, said his spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga on Saturday.

This follows the Health Department’s request to have an acting minister appointed while the incumbent Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, is in hospital.

“Although I am not aware of the Health Department’s request, I’m sure that the president would apply his mind on the issue before deciding on whether or not to appoint an acting minister,” said Ratshitanga.

Departmental spokesperson Sibani Mngadi on Saturday confirmed that the department had approached Mbeki to appoint an acting minister as it was experiencing difficulties without any leadership.

“We are continuing, although it is difficult for us without leadership. However, there are discussions with the Presidency currently under way to look at the issue of appointing an acting minister, which we hope will be another person who is currently a minister,” said Mngadi.

Opposition parties had earlier on Saturday called on Mbeki to appoint Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge as acting minister.

Democratic Alliance (DA) health spokesperson Gareth Morgan said that the appointment of Madlala-Routledge would be an exciting opportunity for the Health Ministry to get a much needed turnaround.

“Obviously it is the right of the president to apply his mind as to who he appoints, but we would like to see the deputy minister take over the position as she has shown a lot of desire to provide political leadership in this department.

“The fact that she is deputy minister suggests that she is first in line to be appointed as health minister. Her appointment would be a good test to see if she is capable to run the entire department on her own. It would also allow the department to have some continuity,” said Morgan.

He said that the DA had been encouraged by Madlala-Routledge’s brave stance on issues relating to HIV/Aids.

The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) said that the appointment of a new health minister would be a step in the right direction as the Health Department had lagged behind due to the minister’s illness.

“Although we wish her a speedy recovery, such action has to be taken to prevent the department from lagging behind even further,” said FF+ health spokesperson Willie Snyman.

Madlala-Routledge was hailed as a ray of hope when, alongside Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, she took the centre stage in the HIV/Aids battle following Tshabalala-Msimang’s first hospitalisation.

She was also praised for calling on government officials, including Mbeki, to take a public Aids test, although she later said that she had been misquoted.

Tshabalala-Msimang was admitted to the Johannesburg Hospital on Tuesday night and had undergone a blood transfusion. Another Health Department spokesperson, Charity Bhengu, said the minister was in a stable condition when she visited her on Friday.

Her doctor, Professor Jeff Wing, said on Friday that Tshabalala-Msimang still required ongoing investigations to clarify the cause of her anaemia and pleural effusion.

Her hospitalisation follows a three-week spell in the same hospital in October last year for a lung infection, followed by a lengthy recuperation at home.—Sapa

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