Presidency saddened by the passing on Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Presidency has learnt with deep sadness and shock, the news of the passing on of former Minister in the Presidency and former Minister of Health, Dr Manto-Tshabalala-Msimang in a Johannesburg hospital, after an illness.

"Our hearts go out to her husband Mr Mendi Msimang as well as her children and grandchildren during this hour of difficulty and sadness. They have our love and support as Government", said President Jacob Zuma.

Dr Tshabalala-Msimang has served the South African public all her adult life. She has served government since 1994, firstly as Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and later as Minister of Health, and finally in 2008 until the elections, she served as Minister in the Presidency in President Kgalema Motlanthe's cabinet.

As Minister of Health she contributed effectively in the enhancement of government programmes with regards to child and maternal health, which were her particular interests, as well as in responding to diabetes and other chronic diseases. She was known for her promotion of massive child immunization programmes around the country as well as the fight against malaria.

Her interest and impressive work on child and maternal health led to her appointment last year, as African Union goodwill Ambassador and Champion for Africa's Movement to improve Maternal Health and Promote Child Survival and Development in Africa, beyond 2015.

Despite the controversies in the media during her tenure as Health Minister, South Africa scored impressive improvements in putting systems in place for the fight against HIV and AIDS.

For example, government expenditure on HIV and AIDS increased substantially during the terms of the first three democratic administrations. It grew from R30 million in 1994 to over R3 billion in 2005/06 and has grown in each subsequent fiscal year. At the time of World Aids Day last year, government was able to report that 93% of public health facilities were reported to be offering voluntary counseling and HIV testing.

By the end of September 2008, around 600,000 people had been initiated for antiretroviral treatment (ART). That figure has now increased to more than 700,000. By the end of last year, over 400 facilities had been accredited to provide ART in the public sector.

The prevention programme includes prevention of mother-to-child transmission, with over 3,000 facilities in operation by the time the current administration came into office, covering 91% of health facilities.

The rapid growth of government's HIV treatment programme took place alongside a massive prevention and awareness programme. This included the free distribution of millions of male and female condoms. As a result of communication programmes, the awareness levels are said to be over 95%.

During her short stint as Minister in the Presidency she actively took on the problematic custom of ukuthwala in the Eastern Cape, in which under-age girls are taken away to be married off to older men. Through this campaign government was able to raise awareness of the illegality as well as the human rights violation element of this custom.

On behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of South Africa, President Zuma extended heartfelt condolences to the family. He said Government recognized and acknowledged Dr Tshabalala-Msimang's sterling contribution to the country, and appreciated the support that her family gave her as she worked to serve the nation and her organization, the ANC.

Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.

Enquiries: Baby Tyawa on 083 302 7657 or Vusi Mona on 082 047 2260.

Issued by the Presidency