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Dr. Mantombazana 'Manto' Edmie Tshabalala-Msimang (born 9 October 1940 in Durbanmarker) is a South African politician. She was Deputy Minister of Justice from 1996 to 1999 and controversially served as Minister of Health from 1999 to 2008 under President Thabo Mbeki. After Mbeki resigned in September 2008, his successor, Kgalema Motlanthe, moved Tshabalala-Msimang to the post of Minister in the Presidency. She was not included in the first Cabinet of President Jacob Zuma, announced on 10 May 2009.

Her emphasis on treating South Africa's AIDS epidemic with vegetables such as garlic and beetroot, rather than with antiretroviral medicines, was the subject of international criticism.


Tshabalala-Msimang graduated from Fort Hare Universitymarker in 1961. As one of a number of young African National Congress cadres sent into exile for education, she received medical training at the First Leningrad Medical Institute in the Soviet Unionmarker from 1962 to 1969. She then trained as a registrar in obstetrics and gynecology in Tanzania, finishing there in 1972. In 1980 she received a master's in public health from the University of Antwerpmarker in Belgiummarker.

She was an official within the exiled ANC leadership in Tanzania and Zambiamarker during the latter decade of apartheid, with job responsibilities focused on the health and well-being of ANC militants there.

AIDS policies

Tshabalala-Msimang's administration as Minister of Health was controversial, because of her reluctance to adopt a public sector plan for treating AIDS with anti-retroviral medicines (ARVs). She has been called Dr Beetroot for promoting the benefits of beetroot, garlic, lemons, and African potatoes as well as good general nutrition, while referring to possible toxicities of AIDS medicines. She was widely seen as following an AIDS policy in line with the ideas of South African President Thabo Mbeki, who for a time publicly expressed doubts about whether HIV caused AIDS.

In 2002, the South African Cabinet affirmed the policy that "HIV causes AIDS" which as an official statement silenced any further speculation on this topic by Cabinet members, including the President. In August 2003 the cabinet also voted to make anti-retrovirals available in the public sector, and instructed Tshabalala-Msimang to carry out the policy.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and its founder Zackie Achmat have often targeted the minister for criticism, accusing the government and the Ministry of Health in particular of an inadequate response to the AIDS epidemic. The TAC has led a grassroots campaign calling for her resignation or dismissal.

TAC accused Tshabalala-Msimang of being aligned with Matthias Rath, a German physician and vitamin entrepreneur, who has had charges laid against him for discouraging the use of ARVs.

Tshabalala-Msimang has placed her emphasis on broad public health goals, seeing AIDS as only one aspect of that effort and one which, because of the financial costs of treatment, might impede broader efforts. Many people oppose this view, feeling that AIDS is such a burden on the public health system that treating it would actually free up costs. A report making the case for this argument was sent back for clarification and not released in the summer of 2003, until it was obtained and leaked by TAC. After the cabinet vote to accept the findings of this report, she has been in charge of the ARV roll-out, but has continued to emphasize the importance of nutrition in AIDS and to urge others to see AIDS as only one problem among many in South African health.

A case that attracted much public attention was Nozipho Bhengu, daughter of an African National Congress legislator, who rejected regular AIDS treatments in favor of Tshabalala-Msimang's garlic and lemon diet. The minister declined to attend her funeral, and her stand-in was booed off the podium.

In February 2005, COSATU criticized the health department for the failure to ensure that most of the 30 million rand used to establish the government's AIDS trust in 2002 had been spent. They said only R520,000 of this money has been used and of this a large portion had been squandered on unoccupied offices for the SANAC secretariat, something that has drawn criticism from the auditor-general.

In August 2006, at the International AIDS Conference in Torontomarker, Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy for AIDS in Africa, closed the conference with a sharp critique of South Africa's government. He said South Africa promoted a "lunatic fringe" attitude toward HIV and AIDS, describing the government as "obtuse, dilatory, and negligent about rolling out treatment".After the conference, sixty-five of the world's leading HIV/AIDS scientists (most of them were attending the conference) asked in a letter that Thabo Mbeki dismiss Tshabalala-Msimang.

Radio interview

In a controversial 2000 interview by Radio 702 presenter John Robbie, Tshabalala-Msimang refused to answer Robbie's direct questions about whether or not HIV caused AIDS.

Traditional medicines

At a meeting with traditional healers to discuss future legislation in February 2008, Tshabalala-Msimang argued that traditional remedies should not become "bogged down" in clinical trials, saying, "We cannot use Western models of protocols for research and development".

In September 2008, Tshabalala-Msimang called for greater protection of the intellectual rights of Africa's traditional medicines. Speaking at the 6th commemoration of The African Traditional Medicine Day in Cameroonmarker's capital of Yaoundemarker, she said that the continent should benefit more from its ancient traditional knowledge.


Tshabalala-Msimang is married to Mendi Msimang, the treasurer of the African National Congress.

There has been some concern over Tshabalala-Msimang's health since late 2006. She was admitted to the Johannesburg Hospital on 20 February 2007, suffering from anaemia and pleural effusion (an abnormal accumulation of fluid around the lungs). The Department of Health approached President Thabo Mbeki, and asked him to appoint an acting minister, and on 26 February Jeff Radebe was appointed acting health minister. On March 14, 2007, Tshabalala-Msimang underwent a liver transplant. The stated cause was autoimmune hepatitis with portal hypertension, but the transplant was surrounded by accusations of heavy drinking.

She has since recovered her health and returned to her Ministerial duties.


On 12 August 2007, four days after the controversial dismissal of her deputy minister, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, the Sunday Times ran an article titled "Manto’s hospital booze binge" about a previous hospital stay in 2005 for a shoulder operation. The article alleged that she sent hospital workers out to fetch wine, whisky and food items, in one case at 1:30 am. Tshabalala-Msimang threatened legal action against the newspaper on the grounds that they were in possession of her medical records. The paper defended its statements, stating that "a retraction was not under consideration". The article also reported speculation among "many top medical experts at state and private institutions, who refused to be named as they feared retribution from the health ministry" that her liver condition was alcohol-induced, cirrhosis.

According to a Sunday Times article titled "Manto: A Drunk and a Thief" published on August 19 2007, the minister is a convicted thief who had stolen patient items at a hospital in Botswana, and had been deported from Botswana and declared a prohibited immigrant.

ANC politics and replacement as Health Minister

With the endorsement of Jacob Zuma's supporters, Tshabalala-Msimang was re-elected to the ANC's 80-member National Executive Committee in December 2007 in 55th place, with 1,591 votes.

Mbeki was forced to resign by the ANC in September 2008. When his successor, Kgalema Motlanthe, took office on 25 September 2008, he moved Tshabalala-Msimang to the post of Minister in the Presidency, appointing Barbara Hogan to replace her as Minister of Health.

See also


  1. "Statement by President Jacob Zuma on the appointment of the new Cabinet", Government Communication and Information System, 10 May 2009.
  2. DA Calls for Release of AIDS Report
  3. Manto again angers AIDS activists
  4. COSATU: 'AIDS money not spent'
  5. South Africa Aids policy attacked
  6. SA govt under fire at Aids conference
  7. News24: 'Please fire Manto now'
  8. BBC NEWS | Africa | No clinical trials for SA healers
  9. Africa urged to protect traditional medicines South African Broadcasting Corporation. Published September 1, 2008. Accessed September 1, 2008.
  10. News24: 'Manto's 'on the mend
  11. IOL: Mbeki names stand-in for ailing health chief
  13. Manto’s hospital booze binge, Sunday Times article. Published August 12, 2007. Accessed August 15 2007.
  14. Sunday Times: Manto story is 'accurate', Mail and Guardian. Published August 14 2007. Accessed August 15 2007.
  15. MANTO: A DRUNK AND A THIEF, Sunday Times article. Published August 19, 2007. Accessed August 19 2007.
  16. Brendan Boyle, "Winnie Mandela tops ANC election list", The Times (South Africa), December 21, 2007.
  17. "South Africa: New President Removes Health Minister",, September 25, 2008.

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