The Economist on Manto and the ANC

In the last two weeks The Economist has had two articles (here and here) on our health minister, Manto. From the articles:

  • AIDS is now thought to kill 1,000 South Africans each day
  • Some 12% of the population, more than 5m people, are infected with HIV
  • She [Manto] has sown deadly confusion in the minds of many HIV sufferers by questioning the efficacy of ARVs and exaggerating their side-effects, instead promoting the curative benefits of beetroots, garlic and African potatoes.

Now she has been accused of receiving a liver transplant because of a serious drink problem, and of continuing to drink since her transplant. The local Sunday Times, in possession of her confidential medical records, also alleges that hospital staff were forced to bring her booze during an earlier hospital stint for a shoulder operation. The newspaper maintains that she was convicted of stealing patients’ jewellery and hospital supplies while working in Botswana in the 1970s, following which she was banned from the country for ten years.

The more general of the articles criticizes Thabo and the ANC in general for firing the effective deputy minister of health instead of Manto:

“Ms Madlala-Routledge was certainly feisty. She was, for instance, fond of visiting hospitals unannounced. Often she witnessed dreadful conditions and poor management—and then talked honestly about these problems in public. To Mr Mbeki and others in the African National Congress-dominated government, this sort of initiative and candour were not evidence of a democratic representative doing her job but of an undisciplined cadre refusing to defer to her bosses, who prefer to discuss such matters behind closed doors.”

I have often thought along similar lines about the ANC. The organization had to survive years of exile and oppression so it had to develop a strong emphasis on providing a united front and absolute loyalty. When your lives are at stake and you’re fighting an oppressive regime you can’t afford to show any dissension.

The problem is that those times are gone and the ANC still emphasizes the same culture – which is bad for a democracy. Absolute loyalty is not only unnecessary, it is having a negative effect on the country.