Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang will go to court to get her medical records back from the Sunday Times as a "matter of urgency", her spokesperson said on Tuesday, reports Independent Online

Sibani Mngadi said the minister's lawyers should finalise their submissions in a matter of days after the paper ignored a deadline to return the records by Tuesday afternoon. Mngadi said the minister believed the Sunday Times had her records in its possession.

"All of us have read the story. The story has said they are in possession of medical records. We want to believe that they are not lying, at least not on that issue."

Mngadi said the minister was confident of her case. "It's certainly a violation of the National Health Act," he said.

However, Tshabalala-Msimang was still considering her options when it came to disproving the accuracy of the Sunday Times story which ran on August 12 about her alleged alcohol binges in hospital two years ago.

"We contacted lawyers. There are various options."

Mngadi said the minister would decide later which options to take "for the reasons that are relevant and important to the minister and her legal team". The minister stood by her earlier comment that the story was "garbage".

On Tuesday, the Sunday Times said it refused to hand over documents to the minister, until she explained on what basis it should do so.

Editor Mondli Makhanya said the newspaper had written to the minister, saying the onus was on her to explain why documents and notes she was requesting should be returned.

As far as the Sunday Times was concerned there was no reason to give her anything because the story about her drinking was true.

"The minister needs to tell us what it is in the story that is garbage?" he said.

"The story that ran on Sunday is 200 percent accurate.

"[It is] thoroughly, thoroughly researched. Everything is accurate."

Makhanya said he was "not saying anything" about whether the paper was in possession of Tshabalala-Msimang's medical records.

Legal action remained just a "threat", and for the minister to succeed in court she would have to disprove the story, which Makhanya insisted was accurate.

A retraction was not under consideration, he said. It would be "terrible" for media freedom if the paper had ceded to her demands.

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