Thursday, 16 August 2007

That Thabo Mbeki Collective

Unable to minister to health

The news of the sacking of the South African Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge with immediate effect last week by President Thabo Mbeki was received with alarm and sadness, but the reasons for her sacking are quite instructive and interesting.

Apparently, the minister had gone to an AIDS conference in Spain with her consultant son without the express permission of the President and he was no more going to countenance a situation where she exhibited the “inability to work as part of a collective” in cabinet.

One does not have to introduce Dr. Beetroot, the Health Minister Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang whose inability to understand the demographic crisis of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in her country where 25% are purported to have succumbed to the disease is expressed in her recommending herbal remedies like garlic, beetroot and the African potato for therapeutic management of HIV/AIDS.

Accumulated ignorance of health

However, we should not forget that President Mbeki still has problems with the accepted body of knowledge about HIV/AIDS and the science that underpins most of that knowledge – indeed there is an economy dimension to how that disease can be managed, but those who are infected and affected need treatment now.

It took a global outcry as well as derisive appraisals of South African health policy before things started to move in the direction of the proper management of the disease with drug therapies and other initiatives, many of which were spearheaded by the Deputy Health Minister.

Her inability to work as part of that obdurate collective is commendable, because that collective once had a chairman of the South African National AIDS Council who became the Vice-President of South Africa under Thabo Mbeki say that he had a shower to wash himself clean after knowing having sex with an infected partner.

Mountain climbing a mole hill

Such crass ignorance beggars belief as there would now be no serious driver for these initiatives having sacked a minister for what would have been an error of judgement when other ministers thrive in the cabinet by long-standing affiliation to the president rather than competence, probity and worthwhile activity.

Mrs. Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge has obviously refused to be subsumed into the group think that assumes all is well when nothing is. She supported a damning report about conditions in the maternity wards of Frere Hospital which both her boss and the president desperately tried to debunk.

Detached, oblivious and complacent

However, what makes this even the more instructive is the way Thabo Mbeki’s friendship with Robert Mugabe, along with his complacency and the condoning of the nonsense going on in Zimbabwe is allowing the situation to deteriorate into complete anarchy. There is nothing on this earth that can support Robert Mugabe continuing to hold sway over his country with despotic megalomania, not even in the name of quiet diplomacy or the African liberation movement of old.

Mr. Mbeki is of the view that the UK is to blame for the problems in Zimbabwe and that is disingenuous to the extreme. In fact, what this simply tells us is about leaders in Africa who are seeking African solutions to African problems they have not even begun to understand in any sense.

Expect nothing

If people who are supposed to wield such great influence allow intemperance to dissent to cloud the greater vision of bringing working solutions to the people, we have much to despair about Africa and it is a shame.

It would appear African ministers are only supposed to warm seats and go to international conferences to make Africa a laughing stock and subject us to ridicule, the moment you master your brief to start changing things for the better, the sooner you would be out of a job, because we are never expected to expect anything of our ministers.

Mr. Mbeki however is caught in the limbo between staid Western conservative and African freedom fighter – he is neither and in trying to be either or both we are left with the schizophrenia of leadership and even I would not want to be in the collective where Mr. Mbeki is top-dog.

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