13/06/2008 13:53 - (SA)
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has called for the dismissal of health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang following a Cape high court ruling against her and the controversial vitamin entrepreneur Matthias Rath.
In his judgement, Judge Dumisani Zondi said the minister and her director general -- who both opposed the TAC court application -- had a duty to take "reasonable measures" to prevent Rath from conducting trials and from advertising VitaCell.
The judge said they should investigate the vitamin trials that Rath has been conducting in black townships "and in the light of the facts revealed by such investigation, take further reasonable action in accordance with their duty".
"The Minister of Health has wilfully obstructed the rule of law and promoted pseudoscience, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of many people. We call on the President and the ANC to demonstrate their commitment to the rule of law by immediately relieving the Minister of her duties," The TAC said in a statement.
Victory for rule of law
Nathan Geffen, of the TAC, described the ruling as a victory for the rule of law and the scientific governance of medicine in South Africa.
"Over the last decade in this country that rule of law has been contested by our minister of health and the president, and a culture of impunity has been created meaning that charlatans like Matthias Rath can get away with deceiving vulnerable people into taking snake oils such that those people end up progressing to Aids and dying."
Geffen said the TAC was aware of at least 12 people who had died of Aids after going to Rath's clinics and not seeking appropriate treatment at public health clinics.
"So although this is a great victory today let's not forget that there were real human lives lost as a consequence of the actions of Matthias Rath and, more importantly, by the failure of Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the president to stop this sort of quackery."
Geffen said there were quacks and charlatans everywhere in the world.
What made South Africa different was that here they had political support of the health minister and ultimately the president, Thabo Mbeki.
It was this that allowed them to act with impunity and be so pervasive.
Rath acting unlawfully
The Cape High Court ruled that clinical trials conducted by Rath were unlawful, and banned him and his Rath Foundation from conducting unauthorised clinical trials.
Judge Zondi also ordered that Rath may no longer publish advertisements claiming that his vitamin products, VitaCell, cure Aids.
- (Sapa/Marcus Low, Health24)
Manto Rath's imbongi?