Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Farewell, Manto

Former Minister of Health, Dr Mantombaza Tshabalala-Msimang has died this afternoon in the Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre, where she had been admitted following a crisis with her almost brand new liver - an organ she obtained apparently by skipping queues of dying citizens two years ago.

I'm still very angry with this woman. This woman who was the proximate cause of the death and suffering of thousands of South Africans through her denialist stance on HIV and AIDS; this woman who will probably go down in history for her disgusting statements concerning garlic, lemon and African Potato and their efficacy in treatment the symptoms of HIV; this woman who was raced to the head of the organ recipient line on the strength of her parliamentary position. This woman who has now departed through the veil which separates the living from the dead.

Her arrogance was legendary - in one famous radio interview, she took huge umbrage at the host's attempts to set a more informal tone and refused permission for him to address her as 'Manto'. The way she handled herself in public stunningly reminded me of myself in my former incarnation as an alcoholic and addict. Huge arrogance, born of huge feelings of inferiority.

Yes, I identify with Dr Tshabalala-Msimag on a very personal level. She apparently could never admit that she might have been wrong - about HIV, about nutrition, about her feelings of entitlement to the very best care, ahead of the grubby masses.

And she was once a Freedom Fighter - the extent of her involvement I'll leave to more informed writers to detail, but I believe that she was once both brave and passionate about the Struggle.

So sad. And there - dying in a sterile hospital room as your body rejects itself painfully - but for the grace of the Gods, would have gone I.

Cheers, Manto. You, too, I will see on the other side. I look forward to it.