South African President sacks minister who questioned AIDS policy

South African President Thabo Mbeki has dismissed his deputy health minister who had questioned the AIDS policy in a country with one of the world's highest caseloads, an official said Thursday.

South African President sacks minister who questioned AIDS policy
It is true that Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge was sacked on Wednesday by the president," presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga told AFP on the telephone.

An official statement said that the "presidency wishes to inform the nation that acting in terms of the provisions of the constitution ...President Thabo Mbeki has today (Wednesday) relieved the deputy minister of health, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, of her duties with effect."

"An appointment to the position of deputy minister of health will be made in due course," it said.

South African media reports however suggested she had been fired because of a recent unauthorised trip she took to an AIDS conference in Spain.

The reports said that Madlala-Routledge "defied" Mbeki's orders and attended the conference which cost 16,000 rand (2,285 dollars/1,656 euros). She had also taken her son and an aide.

Madlala-Routledge is no stranger to controversy and is believed to be in Mbeki's bad books after she advocated a review of health policy and clashed with her boss, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

Tshabalala-Msimang has been a major target of criticism both at home and abroad over her approach to AIDS, earning the name of Dr Beetroot for touting the use of vegetables to help combat the disease.

But she apprently has the support of Mbeki, who himself earned criticism some years ago for famously questioning the link between HIV and AIDS.

South Africa recently launched an AIDS plan with the aim of halving new infections by 2011, focusing on the youth among whom most new infections occur.

South Africa's overall HIV prevalence was 18.4 percent in 2006, with some 5.41 million people living with the disease, 257,000 of which are children under the age of 14.

The United Nations pinned South Africa's prevalence rate at 18.8 percent in 2005.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Ağustos 2007, 15:24