Manto Tshabalala-Msimang is on a ventilator in intensive care.
The road to this point has been an interesting one. She’s back in the same hospital that she spent a month in at the end of last year, with a ‘lung infection’. During her stay, she was delightfully undermined by her deputy and the deputy president, who together extended a friendly hand to organizations like the Treatment Action Campaign, and began the process of turning the health department’s AIDS stance on its head. Upon her return she focused her efforts on the easy-out of taking on public smoking, while at the same time trying to make nice with pharmacists (after trying to destroy all small pharmacies in the country over the last few years with her lunatic drug pricing policies). She was very quiet on the subject of HIV/AIDS.
This month, though, it became evident that something was amiss. Two weeks ago at the state of the nation address, Manto had to be assisted by two cabinet ministers, and was reportedly unintelligible and rambling at a cabinet lekgotla. Last week Thursday Manto appeared at a parliamentary press briefing disoriented, drawn, and having trouble speaking. Democratic Alliance spokesperson on health Dianne Kohler-Barnard called for Manto’s removal (again), asking if the presidency was going to allow yet another minister to die while in office (three down so far). Naturally, Manto’s spokesperson insisted continuously that the minister was fine, and denied all allegations that she was behaving oddly in any way. The spokesperson for the presidency claimed to be appalled at the DA’s request.
What a pity that spindoctoring doesn’t cure anything. On Tuesday night this week, Manto was admitted to intensive care, with severe anaemia and residual pleural effusion. Depending on the severity of her condition, it could be life threatening. Despite the fact that she is a minister of parliament and her health should be a matter of public concern, both her department and the presidency are keeping a hush on what’s really wrong with her.
Those who believe in such things could be permitted to think that she’s finally being punished. The rest of us will merely revel in gleeful schadenfreude.