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Cablegate: Anc Defends Embattled Health Minister

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #3735 2970737
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 240737Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2380
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 4987
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 9296
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS PRETORIA 003735

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON KHIV SF
SUBJECT: ANC DEFENDS EMBATTLED HEALTH MINISTER

REF: PRETORIA 2957

1. (U) The National Assembly on 18 October adopted a motion
of full confidence in embattled Health Minister Manto
Tshabalala-Msimang, reversing the original motion brought

SIPDIS
forth by the Democratic Alliance (DA) which called for a
special committee to probe her fitness to hold public office.
Sandra Botha, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament,
introduced the motion, citing a litany of failures on the
part of the Minister and her Department saying "the
yardsticks against which to measure performance...are life
expectancy, infant mortality, the maternal death rate, and
the incidence of incurable diseases."

2. (U) The DA's request was sparked by recent media reports
alleging Tshabalala-Msimang's alcoholism, kleptomania, and
incompetence (reftel). The ANC has admitted it knew about
the 1970s theft charge, but has not spoken about other
allegations. Tshabalala-Msimang spoke to reporters on 16
October from a Soweto Hospital (while hand delivering
bassinets after an expose showed newborn babies sleeping in
cardboard boxes) saying she is waiting for the right moment
to speak to the media about the allegations surrounding her.

3. (U) The ANC-led Parliament used its 74 percent
parliamentary majority to reword the resolution rejecting the
DA's request and instead expressed its full confidence in the
Health Minister. When put to a vote, there were 176 votes
for and 55 against, with two abstentions. According to
press reports, ANC chairman of Parliament's Health Committee
James Ngculu called the DA's motion irrelevant and
unconstitutional because the Constitution allows anyone to
become an elected representative five years after being
convicted of a crime. He also made some disparaging comments
about the DA, calling the motion "an onslaught of
revolutionary forces," and asking ANC MPs how they could
allow themselves to be savaged by "DA hyenas who are the
leaders of the right wing in South Africa." An unnamed ANC
MP told the press that Tshabalala-Msimang is a very important
person with strong struggle credentials and that "the party
will not turn against her now; she will be protected at all
costs."

4. (U) The DA's motion comes on the heels of UNICEF's
declaration that South Africa is in danger of losing its
battle against HIV/AIDS, with almost 1,100 South Africans
dying every day from the disease. On 12 October, Ann
Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, publicly said, "South
Africa is neglecting most of the 100,000 children born every
year with HIV/AIDS and half of them are likely to die before
the age of two." She also called on the government and
community leaders to end what she called a state of denial
and to recognize the magnitude of the problem. On 17
October, UNICEF's South Africa representative, Macharia
Kamau, also stated that South Africa is one of only nine
countries in the world where infant mortality is rising --
from 60 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990, to 95 deaths today.
The main reason is HIV/AIDS, as new infections and death
rates are outpacing the number of those being treated,
according to Kamau. If present trends continue, Kamau said,
there could be five million orphans in South Africa by 2015.

5. (SBU) The ANC's weekly newsletter, ANC Today (19-25
October 2007), questioned whether Veneman ever made such
comments, whom she met with and whether they were black or
white, and what her true purpose was in visiting the country.
The column said, "We do not expect UNICEF to fall into the
trap to elevate its profile, presumably to raise funds,
by...joining a counter-productive propaganda bandwagon." It
also complained that UNICEF's comments "created space for
some in our media to repeat the shameless and tired lies
about our President and Minister of Health." Mbeki also
expressed overall disappointment in UNICEF, saying "the noble
cause (of fighting HIV/AIDS) will not be served by four-day
visits to our country by "senior UN officials," (quotes in
original) and their involvement in dishonest propaganda
campaigns."
BOST

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