Friday, 24 August 2007

Tshabalala-Msimang: is this saga dragging us all down or is it good for the country?

There is great deal of noise, and much division around the Tshabala-Misimang saga. In this blog post, I decline the chance to add to the shrillness, stridency (there's enough going around) and name calling and instead set out 18 questions that may help clarify the issues and your own response to them?

- Is this saga dragging us all down or is it good for the country?
- Is it true that - as one friend said to me - that recent developments around Health Minister Tshabala-Msimang and former Deputy Health Minister Madlala-Routledge are good because many more people (who are otherwise passive and quiet) are discussing and debating political issues?
- Among those who think the Health Minister has done are good job, where are the areas of notable achievement and how does this stack up with areas of poor performance, ineffectiveness and mediocrity?
- Can the Minister actually do her work, especially regarding the HIV/Aids pandemic, without widespread societal confidence in her?
- A Cabinet Minister does not have to be a fervent populist, but they need to be responsive; is the Health Minister responsive to key constituencies?
- If the President is wedded to keep the Health Minister as his Cabinet team, has he considered moving her to another portfolio where broader stakeholder enrolment is not as critical?
- Has government investigated why highly-regarded senior managers in the Health Department (two Director-Generals) quit their jobs in recent years?
- Was the timing right/immaterial/poor for the President to fire Madlala-Routledge as Deputy Minister of Health?
- Did the Presidency anticipate the extent and types of reaction to this decision?
- Did the presidency anticipate that the dismissal decision could spark negative reactions in the international media (e.g. the Independent in the UK) and reignite questions about the President's stand on HIV and Aids?
- Did the Presidency anticipate that a leading Sunday newspaper would want revenge – "an eye for an eye?" – and would pull out all stops to try to bring about the sacking of the Minister of Health?
- Does the way the government is handling Public Relations and implementing crisis management on this issue fall short of government’s usual competence in media handling?
- What is making the Sunday Times so strident, angry and vehement? And why does it garner support from several/many quarters, even if it is venturing into distasteful reporting and a reporting style that is unusual in South African tradition?

- Do you agree with Sunday Times's probe into the Minister's private life? What do you think the wider media impact will be? Assuming the end is more effective implementation of stated health policy, does the end justify the means?
- Is this issue – surrounding the Health Ministry’s political leadership – not an unnecessary distraction for officials such as Themba Maseka who are charged with building broad support for government’s Asgisa agenda?
- Has this issue unleashed forces and reactions that are feeding into a broader breakdown of consensus between government and key constituencies?
- Is it worth it for government and the President to cling to Tshabala Msimang as Health Minister, given the impact it is having?
- Is it true that many people here and abroad think Minister Tshabala-Msimang’s behavior and performance reflect on President Mbeki, and if so, why should the President, who has scored many remarkable achievements, have his legacy sullied by what looks like an overall poor performer? Why should he let her be a liability to him and adversely affect his leadership standing?
- Earlier this year, the President considered replacing Manto Tshabala-Msimang in the health portfolio with Transport Minister Jeff Radebe, but backed off from the idea; is the thinking and motivation behind that original proposal still valid, and can the impediments to implementation now be overcome?
- Is there a way that the President can relieve Tshabala-Msimang of her Health Minister job without it looking like a climb-down, or does this not matter?

- How can we move the focus back to key policy issues while making sure performance and conduct flaws revealed through this incident are dealt with?

As always, responses to this post are welcome ....

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