An SABC video tape with newspaper front-page footage claiming Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was a drunk and a thief has mysteriously vanished from the public broadcaster's library.

Three independent sources confirmed on Monday that the tape could not be located in the SABC's electronic system or library.

The tape contains the Sunday Times front page which made reference to the minister's drinking habits, her conviction of theft and dismissal from a Botswana hospital in the mid-70s.

The disappearance of the tape follows a crisis meeting last Wednesday when SABC head of news Snuki Zikalala is said to have ordered that transcripts, tapes and other material on the Tshabalala-Msimang controversy be handed to him.

Independent Newspapers could not confirm what was discussed at the meeting and whether the missing tape had anything to do with the meeting. But Zikalala is said to have ordered staff in the current affairs and news departments, including producers, to submit materials regarding the health minister.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago on Monday denied the disappearance of the tape. When told that three sources confirmed the disappearance of the tape, Kganyago said: "There is no truth in that. I'm hearing it for the first time from you."

A staff member said on Monday it was standard procedure for editors to order video tapes for scrutiny, especially with controversial stories, but "it was bizarre" because the only tape not in the library or archives is the file material of August 19, with the Sunday Times front page on Tshabalala-Msimang. He said this was unusual.

Library staff declined to say who had removed it.

Kganyago confirmed Zikalala had spoken to journalists about news coverage. "All he (Zikalala) was dealing with was that they do their investigations and not take newspaper angles."

A source said on Monday that they were instructed to avoid portraying the minister in a bad light.