Independent On-line, 23 November 2002, Western Cape ANC snubs Manto over Aids

Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the minister of health, has been given a slap in the face by the Western Cape African National Congress.

She has been excluded from its list of candidates for election to the national executive committee (NEC). The ANC will elect officer-bearers and members of the NEC at its national conference to be held in Stellenbosch next month.

More than 300 branch delegates of the ANC Western Cape as well as members of the regional executive committee and the provincial executive committee met recently to finalise the province's election list.

All ANC cabinet ministers were nominated for the NEC with the pointed exception of Tshabalala-Msimang, who also has a position on the ANC's national working committee. An ANC source in the province said that her exclusion was an indication of grassroots unhappiness with the health minister, particularly over her policies on HIV/Aids.

Tshabalala-Msimang has been identified as one of the hardline Aids dissenters in the government.

"People on the ground are quite politically astute because they can see that people are dying of Aids - their family members and friends - yet Manto has been fighting battles to deny these same people anti-retrovirals," said another source.

Tshabalala-Msimang's exclusion is also a subtle message to the government to rethink its policies on HIV/Aids and to review its vacillating views on providing anti-retroviral drugs to Aids sufferers.

Senior ANC members in the province have been at pains to point out that the health minister's exclusion was not the result of an orchestrated campaign.

It appears that a natural consensus had emerged about the health minister and her performance because only two of the provinces six regions had nominated her for a position on the NEC.

Tshabalala-Msimang will probably prevail because she has been nominated for an ANC position by the ANC Youth League and other provinces are bound to nominate her, said political commentators.

Another surprise on the list was the inclusion of Blade Nzimande and Jeremy Cronin, both leading South African Communist Party members, despite an apparent attempt by Luthuli House to purge the ANC of ultra-leftists.

Cronin, who has a reputation as a hard worker, enjoys much support in the Western Cape since he was nominated by all six ANC regions in the province. Other ANC members who also received unanimous support from the regions are: Trevor Manuel, the minister of finance, Naledi Pandor, the chairperson of the national council of provinces, Baleka Mbete, the deputy chairperson of the national assembly, Dullah Omar, the minister of transport and Zola Skweyiya, the social development minister.

Also on this list is Tony Yengeni, the former ANC chief whip, who appears to be making a comeback after being charged with fraud.

Yengeni has also been included in the team of heavy-hitters, including several cabinet ministers, which has been dispatched by ANC headquarters to Eastern Cape to sort out the leadership and organisational crisis there.