Hundreds of thousands of rands in taxpayers' money spent on newspaper
adverts attacking a court judgement has plunged Health Minister Manto
Tshabalala-Msimang into a new controversy, writes Deon du Plessis in the Weekend Argus.

The advertisements contain articles relating to the controversial minister's legal battle with the Sunday Times over her medical records.

The Health Department yesterday placed full-colour adverts at a cost of R380 000 in five newspapers countrywide running articles in which departmental legal services chief Sello Ramasala and director-general Thami Mseleku launch a parallel attack on the judgement (by Ramasala) and a defence of the minister's right to privacy (by Mseleku).

The department has entered the fray even though the minister pursued her legal battle with the newspaper in her personal capacity.

The apparent public relations effort drew strong condemnation from opposition parties, legal experts and non-government organisations.

Legal commentators who spoke to Weekend Argus on Friday were unanimous in their criticism of the department's decision to spend public money in this way.

Professor of applied legal studies at Wits University, Kathy Albertyn, said it was "problematic" that the judgement was criticised in this manner, but not appealed against in the courts.

"I am not saying they should shut up. But if you disagree with the judgement, then the correct course of action is to appeal," she explained.

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