Nkosazana Zuma

Minister of Health – pre 2001. Now Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Considered as being one of the most powerful woman politicians in the country. She has the full backing of the ANC, Mbeki himself and Nelson Mandela with a lot of very powerful friends in cabinet. She was behind the importation of Cuban doctors (who mostly spoke limited English) and tackling the tobacco industry head-on. Zuma also pee'd the US with legislation on parallel importation of medicines and generic drugs as a cost-cutting exercise.

In spite of her dedicated efforts in providing cheaper and/or free medical services to rural areas (re. Disadvantaged), frequent blunders undermined her performance and image. A public relations firm was hired to improve her tainted image, but even they had limited success. Her poor rapport with the public was ultimately her downfall. Failure to consult with major shareholders on sensitive issues and the steamrolling through parlaiment certain legislation has alienated the relevant industries (health and pharmaceutical).

In 1995 Zuma funded the anti-AIDS musical Sarafina II. After media exposure of tender irregularities, the ANC closed ranks to protect her in spite of her refusal to admit to mistakes being made. Since then she handled every blunder with the same defensiveness and lack of transparency. She crossed swords with competent staff (who normally got fired) on matters of principle of which one was her director-general for refusing to take responsibility for the Sarafina II debacle which cost the country R14.5-million. This Dr. Olive Shisana is alleged to have received R1-million as settlement from government coffers in recompense. Prof. Peter Folb (Medicines Control Council) also lost his job after clashing with Zuma on issues relating to the regulation of medicines.

Zuma's involvement in the controversial drug Verodine has raised questions about her motives and ethics. She punted Verodine as a cure for AIDS setting the stage for a further R3-million sate fund allocation to develop the drug further.

Crtisism of her approach has been rejected with unreasonable fury. Zuma interprets any critisism or advise as a desire on the part of racially motivated critics to block her transformation programme and sustain suffering and disease in the poorer sections of the population.

Source: Mail & Guardian – A-Z of South Arican politics 1999