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Manto Tshabalala-Msimang

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 14 January 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c127
  1. Pat Sidley

    South Africa’s health minister who advocated beetroot as treatment for AIDS

    South Africa’s controversial former health minister between 1999 and 2008, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, known with derision as Dr Beetroot, has died. She obstructed AIDS treatment that might have prevented at least 330 000 unnecessary deaths, according to researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr 2008;49:410-5).

    Having gone into exile with her close friend and mentor the former South African president Thabo Mbeki in 1962, she studied medicine, qualifying in 1969 in what was then Leningrad in the former Soviet Union. She was caught stealing from patients while working as medical superintendent at a hospital in Botswana; was fired, tried, and convicted; and was struck off the register and kicked out of the country. It was kept secret, but Mbeki conceded later when it became public that as president he had appointed her as health minister in 1999 knowing her background.

    Lunatic fringe

    Her nickname, Dr Beetroot, arose from her suggestion that beetroot, garlic, olive oil and lemon, and African potato were more use than antiretroviral drugs. This was seized on by her critics and used remorselessly, and caused her and President Mbeki much damage internationally. Outrageously, the South African stall at the 2006 international AIDS conference in Toronto was decorated with vegetables. It drew the minister scathing criticism, for example, from Stephen Lewis, …

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