Sacked deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge has confirmed she was dismissed by President Thabo Mbeki for her unannounced visit to East London's Frere Hospital and her unauthorised trip to Madrid.

Addressing a press conference broadcast live on Cape Talk radio on Friday, she said she wanted the facts, "as I see them", to receive an airing.

"I've been fired for paying an unannounced visit to Frere Hospital on the 13th of July 2007 and for my response to the shocking situation I found in the maternity ward."

This visit to Frere Hospital was prompted by the much publicised story broken by the Daily Dispatch newspaper after a two-month under-cover investigation into why babies died at Frere Hospital, she said.

"The other reason for my dismissal is the much publicised trip I undertook to Madrid to address a conference hosted by... the International Aids Vaccine Initiative.

"What is at issue here is that I went to Madrid without permission from the president.

"I can disclose now that I know the reason the president did not approve this trip, because he told me on Tuesday.

"He believed that the meeting was not for politicians. He believed that politicians have nothing to say in a conference of technocrats and researchers.

"This I was not aware of prior to my departure for Madrid. I do not believe that the president had all the facts relating to the two incidents and the actions I took," Madlala-Routledge said.

Responding to a question, she said she had no intention of challenging her dismissal in court.

On her visit to Frere Hospital, she had "considered it my duty to respond quickly to a report of babies dying at the reported rate in one of our facilities.

"I had no intention to create 'hype', as alleged by the chairperson of the health portfolio committee, James Ngculu.

"My comments that the situation constituted a national emergency were informed by the shocking realisation that some of the deaths were avoidable, and that the situation I observed was not unique to Frere Hospital."

On her trip to Madrid, Madlala-Routledge said she had not deliberately defied Mbeki by flying to Spain without his permission.

"I acted in good faith in the belief that our president had approved the trip... Often, ministers and deputy ministers travel at short notice, and this does not allow enough time to get the necessary stamp of approval.

"When I realised the trip had not been approved by the president, I had a huge dilemma because besides the huge cost to the department, I could not be seen to defy the president by attending the meeting. So I did not attend... I took the first available flight back home," she said.

Asked whether she was fired for "doing her job", Madlala-Routledge said the Constitution clearly stated the authority and responsibilities of members of the executive.

"I agree with you... I was just doing my job. And I did follow protocol, because one of the things that was said was I like to act outside of the structures, and I don't know what this means, because we have our Constitution.

"I had delegated functions, although it was difficult at first before acting Minister Radebe was in the ministry for a short while, because it was he who realised that the were meaningless without authority.

"And he signed, giving me authority. Just before I was dismissed that authority was withdrawn by the Minister of Health .

"So, the answer to your question is that indeed I had the responsibility and obligation to go and find out why babies are dying..."

The aborted trip to Madrid was a lost opportunity for South Africa, Madlala-Routledge said.

Spain's health minister spoke at the meeting, and she was due to speak on the importance and urgency of finding a vaccine, particularly focusing on Southern Africa.

On why she refused to resign when asked by Mbeki, she said she would like to know what processes were followed to establish that "I had broken rules in how I organised my trip to Madrid".

"But at that stage already, I did not think that doing what I was paid to do was wrong."

Asked whether she had been "set-up" by Tshabalala-Msimang, Madlala-Routledge said "I can't say".

"But I will say that when I spoke in the National Council of Provinces two years ago, and this is the time when I was almost sacked, the minister of health had said to me, and had not looked at me, 'I'll fix you', and maybe she has fixed me."

Sacked deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge has confirmed she was dismissed by President Thabo Mbeki for her unannounced visit to East London's Frere Hospital and her unauthorised trip to Madrid.

Addressing a press conference broadcast live on Cape Talk radio on Friday, she said she wanted the facts, "as I see them", to receive an airing.

"I've been fired for paying an unannounced visit to Frere Hospital on the 13th of July 2007 and for my response to the shocking situation I found in the maternity ward."

This visit to Frere Hospital was prompted by the much publicised story broken by the Daily Dispatch newspaper after a two-month under-cover investigation into why babies died at Frere Hospital, she said.

"The other reason for my dismissal is the much publicised trip I undertook to Madrid to address a conference hosted by... the International Aids Vaccine Initiative.

"What is at issue here is that I went to Madrid without permission from the president.

"I can disclose now that I know the reason the president did not approve this trip, because he told me on Tuesday.

"He believed that the meeting was not for politicians. He believed that politicians have nothing to say in a conference of technocrats and researchers.

"This I was not aware of prior to my departure for Madrid. I do not believe that the president had all the facts relating to the two incidents and the actions I took," Madlala-Routledge said.

Responding to a question, she said she had no intention of challenging her dismissal in court.

On her visit to Frere Hospital, she had "considered it my duty to respond quickly to a report of babies dying at the reported rate in one of our facilities.

"I had no intention to create 'hype', as alleged by the chairperson of the health portfolio committee, James Ngculu.

"My comments that the situation constituted a national emergency were informed by the shocking realisation that some of the deaths were avoidable, and that the situation I observed was not unique to Frere Hospital."

On her trip to Madrid, Madlala-Routledge said she had not deliberately defied Mbeki by flying to Spain without his permission.

"I acted in good faith in the belief that our president had approved the trip... Often, ministers and deputy ministers travel at short notice, and this does not allow enough time to get the necessary stamp of approval.

"When I realised the trip had not been approved by the president, I had a huge dilemma because besides the huge cost to the department, I could not be seen to defy the president by attending the meeting. So I did not attend... I took the first available flight back home," she said.

Asked whether she was fired for "doing her job", Madlala-Routledge said the Constitution clearly stated the authority and responsibilities of members of the executive.

"I agree with you... I was just doing my job. And I did follow protocol, because one of the things that was said was I like to act outside of the structures, and I don't know what this means, because we have our Constitution.

"I had delegated functions, although it was difficult at first before acting Minister Radebe was in the ministry for a short while, because it was he who realised that the were meaningless without authority.

"And he signed, giving me authority. Just before I was dismissed that authority was withdrawn by the Minister of Health .

"So, the answer to your question is that indeed I had the responsibility and obligation to go and find out why babies are dying..."

The aborted trip to Madrid was a lost opportunity for South Africa, Madlala-Routledge said.

Spain's health minister spoke at the meeting, and she was due to speak on the importance and urgency of finding a vaccine, particularly focusing on Southern Africa.

On why she refused to resign when asked by Mbeki, she said she would like to know what processes were followed to establish that "I had broken rules in how I organised my trip to Madrid".

"But at that stage already, I did not think that doing what I was paid to do was wrong."

Asked whether she had been "set-up" by Tshabalala-Msimang, Madlala-Routledge said "I can't say".

"But I will say that when I spoke in the National Council of Provinces two years ago, and this is the time when I was almost sacked, the minister of health had said to me, and had not looked at me, 'I'll fix you', and maybe she has fixed me."

In what could be interpreted as her disapproval of Mbeki's leadership style, the former deputy health minister said her dismissal a few months before the African National Congress (ANC)'s December Conference gives her an opportunity to vigorously campaign for a capable leader.

"I will campaign hard to get a leader that is brave {and able} to stand up for the truth," she said.

Madlala-Routlege's dismissal on the eve of Women's Day caused an uproar amongst opposition political parties, NGOs and the public.

On Friday a group of Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) members protested over her dismissal outside the Primedia offices where the former deputy health minister was addressing the media.

Waving placards calling for her reinstatement, the protesters chided Mbeki for removing her from office.

"Stop being an Aids denialist, fire Manto - not Madlala-Routledge," read one of the placards. - Sapa