Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was the first health minister in South Africa after the 1994 elections. Her position as health minister was dogged with controversy.
In 1995, the health department commissioned Sarafina II
, a R14-million lavish musicalproduced by Mbongeni Ngema that was criticised for its mixed messages, overpriced budget and the fact that relatively few South Africans ever saw it. The play contract was cancelled in 1996 after irregularities
Although Dlamini-Zuma tried to deflect blame by claiming the musical had been funded by theEuropean Commission, the commission denied ever sanctioning the play (source
In 1997,Dlamini-Zuma championed acontroversial experimental anti-AIDS drug,Virodene
, and allowed researchers to address Cabinet withpreliminary findings that were not controlled or peer-reviewed. Virodene was later found to have no proven antiviral effects.
In a controversial move which had the potential to provide access to cheap antiretroviral drugs, but angered pharmaceutical companies, Dlamini-Zuma promotedthe amendment of the Medicines and Related Substances Control Amendment Act
, allowing compulsory licensing
that would enable the government to use a patent without the consent of the patent-holder in certain cases (Read more in Treatment factsheet
). This opened up the potential for widespread generic antiretroviral distribution in South Africa.
Although the amendment came into effect in 1997 — and was subsequently confirmed as legal in court after a challenge from the South African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association (PMA) — the SA government did not immediately exercise it to make generic antiretroviral drugs available to South Africans.
In 1998, the health department under Dlamini-Zuma announced that it would not make AZT available to pregnant women (source
), a controversial decision which many in the HIV/AIDS arena saw as regressive. The issue reared its head again during the term of the next health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
. AZT has since been rendered obsolete by more advanced antiretrovirals, such as Nevirapine.
Dlamini-Zuma was switched from her health minister post tominister of foreign affairs in 1999.