Fire controversial minister, Mbeki told

“We received the letter yesterday but the president has not been able to see it as he is busy with President Vladimir Putin,” spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said on Wednesday.

Putin is the first Kremlin leader to visit South Africa.

The scathing letter ‘ signed by 81 people including Nobel laureate David Baltimore, an American biologist and Robert Gallo, the developer of the first HIV blood test ‘ said Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was an “embarrassment” for a country with one of the world’s heaviest caseloads.

“To promote ineffective, immoral policies on HIV/Aids endangers lives; to have as health minister a person who now has no international respect is an embarrassment to the South African government,” it said. “We therefore call for the immediate removal of Dr Tshabalala-Msimang as minister of health, and for an end to the disastrous, pseudo-scientific policies that have characterised the South African government’s response to HIV/Aids.”

Msimang, dubbed “Dr Beetroot” for her championing of vegetables and olive oil in the fight against Aids, is facing growing calls to quit, both at home and abroad.

International frustration at the government’s policies in a country where 5,5 million are infected with HIV, boiled over spectacularly last month when the UN’s top envoy for Aids in Africa denounced what he called “theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state”.’ AFP.

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