About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Statements by South African President Thabo Mbeki on the subject of HIV/Aids

October 1999 – September 2005

DATE: 21 October 2005
EVENT:  Hail the Nobel Laureates - apostles of human curiosity!
SOURCE: Letter from the President, ANC Today

"The 2005 Nobel Prize Winners for Medicine, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall, were forced to re-learn the message that to be a questioner of accepted truths, was to expose oneself to denunciation as a permanent public nuisance. Their own curiosity, expressive of the human urge to know, led them to engage in a labour of love to unravel the workings of the natural world.

As long ago as 1982, their efforts enabled them to prove that peptic ulcer was caused by a bacterial infection (the bacterium Helicobacter pylori). This contradicted the established "truth" that this medical condition was caused mainly by stress and lifestyle. Professor Terry Bolin described the Warren-Marshall discovery as 'the most revolutionary discovery in gastroenterology in the last quarter of a century'.

It was only in 1994, 12 years after the Warren-Marshall discovery, that the globally eminent US National Institutes of Health accepted the bacterial causation of ulcer and recommended that patients infected by H. pylori should be treated with antibiotics. Two years later, in 1996, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first antibiotic for the treatment of ulcer.

The Nobel Prize only came 23 years later - perhaps long after it was possible for the children of ninety-nine years old mothers to come running home with the prize that would make up for the trouble the now famous offspring had been to their mothers!

In an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) interview broadcast on 4 October 2005, Warren, Marshall and other Australian scientists explained some of the obstacles to the speedy acceptance of the new life-saving knowledge they had created.

The ABC broadcast reported that at the time of the Warren-Marshall discovery, the major pharmaceutical companies had introduced acid reducing drugs into the global market, which did nothing to cure ulcer. However, Marshall and Warren showed that a simple course of antibiotics could cure up to 90 percent of these ulcers.

Barry Marshall said: 'A pharmaceutical company wants to sell you a drug that you take every day for the rest of your life, a cholesterol drug, a diabetes drug, they are great sellers. If they sell you a drug which cures you, you only need to take it once or for one week. So how can you make it generate as much profit?' Robin Warren agreed that, "the drugs went out of business because we stopped the bacteria, so they weren't needed anymore."

To win the struggle for the victory of life-giving scientific truth over the powerful combination of the force of inertia and the pursuit of profit, Warren and Marshall went so far as to infect themselves with the H. pylori bacterium, and curing themselves with antibiotics. The desperate global resistance to the truth required bold measures to ensure the acceptance of new knowledge that had served to 'unravel the workings of the natural world'."

DATE: 27 May – 2 June 2005
EVENT: Letter from the President




Lies have short legs!

This year we were fortunate to spend a good part of Africa Day, 25 May, with the Members of our National Assembly. This was because the Assembly had set this date for the discussion of the Budget Vote of The Presidency….

One of the Members drew attention to persisting "fears" among sections of our white population. She spoke about how these fears sometimes distort reality, leading people to feel terrified, even when in fact there is absolutely no threat of any kind. She explained that this happens because these white people have accepted particular negative stereotypes of black people, whom they then expect to act in a manner that is consistent with those stereotypes.

She was supported by another Member of Parliament, who drew the attention of the National Assembly to a specific stereotype. He spoke about the evident unease among some of our compatriots at the emergence of successful black business people, especially those associated with the ANC.

He explained that this unease was based on the stereotype shared by some white people at home and abroad, that Africans are inherently corrupt. He said that it was therefore very easy to attribute the success of black business people to corruption, since the same frame of mind would also suggest that Africans are, in any case, not that competent to succeed as major business players in our economy.

Interestingly, in a recent article Professor Willie Esterhuyse of Stellenbosch University discussed issues about perceptions of Africa that are related to the matters raised by the two Members of Parliament.

He quoted one writer as having written that, "Africa has been effectively demonised in a post-colonial discourse of perpetual catastrophe and unnatural disasters". Another, referring to the way the West discussed the issue of the incidence of AIDS in Africa, said: "we are witnessing a fundamental reorganisation of Western racism, as the constitutive colonial analogy between race and class is dissolved, and African blackness is re-conceptualised as an analogue of the sexually perverse."

With regard to the latter, Professor Esterhuyse quoted "a respected academic" whose comments were published in 'Rapport' on 27 January 2001. The academic had written: "Because (Mbeki) refuses to confirm the white perception that blacks are promiscuous, he fails to give critically important leadership on the Aids epidemic."

This "respected academic" wanted us to accept the age-old white stereotype that we as Africans are sexually depraved, which he/she described as "the white perception". The leadership we would then provide would be to act as the loud black propagandist communicating this "white perception" to the black majority.

According to this "respected academic", the task of leadership in this instance would be to confirm the gratuitous insult directed against Africans, which has been part of the armoury of white racism for at least the last 300 years, that as the academic said, "blacks are promiscuous".

All these examples relate to the phenomenon described by one of the authors quoted by Professor Esterhuyse who wrote that "Africa has been effectively demonised in a post-colonial discourse of perpetual catastrophe and unnatural disasters".

The stereotypes that our Members of Parliament spoke about are also of the same kind, in that they project a threat of perpetual catastrophe simply because we are an African country, led by an African government, as the two Members of Parliament pointed out.

Of course, the other side to this projection of a perpetual catastrophe is the communication of the view that life was better when Africa and South Africa were under colonial and white minority rule. Seamus Milne, comment editor and columnist of the British 'Guardian' newspaper wrote recently on this matter in an article entitled "Britain: imperial nostalgia".

Milne cited one Andrew Roberts as saying, "Africa has never known better times than during British rule." Milne describes Roberts as a "conservative". It should therefore come as no surprise that Roberts sings the praises of British imperialism and colonialism, as conservatives in our country would, perhaps not so overtly and brazenly, sing the praises of colonialism and apartheid.

The colonial cruelty of the 20th century described and treated Africans as barbarians blessed with the gift of colonial and white minority rule. The "fundamental (post-colonial) reorganisation of Western racism" to which Professor Esterhuyse referred, maintains and perpetuates the stereotypes that informed the earlier ages of racism. As the authors quoted by Professor Esterhuyse said, those stereotypes include the projection of our country and continent as destined to experience "perpetual catastrophe and unnatural disasters", given that we have now been deprived of benevolent and morally upright white rule!

The "freedom" we have gained is therefore but mere licence for us to behave as to the manner born, destined to build a society consumed by corruption, sexual depravity, autocracy and criminal violence.

Professor Esterhuyse ends his article with the following paragraph:

"I think that Afrikaners have forgotten how to clean up their own mess. The majority of Afrikaners and their opinion makers are still suffering from a historical 'black-out' as far as white racism and destructive perceptions of black people are concerned. The second and third generation after 1990 will hopefully be different. Like Mikro's seven-year-old Afrikaner girl (where her mother also attended school), looking around the school asks her mother:

'Mommy, what's a non-white?' This normalisation at micro-level has fortunately already begun and gives cautious hope for the future."

Willie Esterhuyse is correct that normalisation has already begun. I would venture to say he is overly cautious about the future. In his article he also says: "It is not that all Afrikaners are racist or voice destructive perceptions of black people...Those who think otherwise, however, are not heard or seen."

The Afrikaners who are not racist and do not voice destructive perceptions of black people are the catalyst that will bring normalisation of relations in our country much sooner than Professor Esterhuyse allows for.

Our passing misfortune is that as long as these very decent South Africans and Africans are neither seen nor heard, so long will negative messages remain the most easily marketable commodity in our country.

Understanding these market conditions, and informed by false notions of "the golden age of empire", the purveyors of pessimism will remain hard at work.

They will continue to market the canard that the new South Africa is gradually sinking under the combined burden of rampant crime and corruption, maladministration, growing impoverishment, a lethargic economy and massive job losses, a rapidly increasing death rate, and growing marginalisation of the national minorities.

This is a story of a growing and resilient economy. It is a story of increasing job opportunities. It is a story of hope for a better life for those who will qualify from our skills development programmes.

It is a story that says the principal owners of productive property are supremely confident about the future of our country. It contains an appeal by these business people to our government, that it should make it easier for them to increase their productive activities and create new jobs.

Seamus Milne ended his article with the appeal that rather than legitimising a terrible past, such as ours, what is required of those who belonged to the oppressor nations is "to celebrate those who campaigned for colonial freedom rather than the racist despotism they fought against". This is what our Members of Parliament did on Africa Day.

They also acknowledged and welcomed the progress achieved to eradicate the legacy of that racist despotism. At the same time, they pointed to the challenges ahead of us in terms of realising the goal of a better life for all.

They made the firm statement that hope and not despair is what will determine the future of our country and Africa as a whole.

There will be no perpetual catastrophe. The stereotypes will neither define who we are nor dictate what will be.

Thabo Mbeki

DATE:  21 April 2005
EVENT:  I Was Right About Aids – Mbeki
SOURCE: New 24


Singapore - President Thabo Mbeki declared himself the victor in a controversy over Aids in which he advocated healthy eating as the primary means of combating the HIV/Aids virus.

Responding to a question after addressing business leaders in Singapore on Thursday, Mbeki said experts at a World Health Organisation conference in South Africa last week agreed with him that nutrition was a very important aspect of the matter.

He said that it was "not merely the availability of taking a pill and that was the end of the story" but that effective Aids contravention required a healthy body, an effective health care system and efficient dispensing mechanisms.

"Quite why it became controversial I don't know, to me it was pretty simple," Mbeki said.

"That is what caused the controversy but I think now that people have understood."

The answer was well received by many of the audience who later said it had explained Mbeki's thinking on the matter, which attracted international attention in 2000.

DATE: 11 February 2005
EVENT:  SA 'Stepping Up' AIDS Fight
SOURCE: News 24



Cape Town - President Thabo Mbeki said on Friday his government was fighting Aids, which affects about one in five adults in the country, with "greater vigour".

In his annual state of the nation address at the opening of parliament, Mbeki said there was a need to pay "particular attention" to the health of the nation.

"With regard to Aids in particular, the government's comprehensive plan, which is among the best in the world, combining awareness, treatment and home-based care is being implemented with greater vigour," Mbeki told parliament in Cape Town.

The South African president last year said some 53 000 people would be receiving free anti-retroviral drugs from 113 state-accredited health centres by March this year However, that target has not been met.

The Aids activist group Treatment Action Campaign says only about 20 000 people are currently getting free medicine from the state.

"Campaigns to reduce non-communicable and communicable diseases as well as non-natural causes of death will continue, through... increased focus on tuberculosis, Aids, malaria, cholera and other water-borne diseases, and generally increasing the standard of living of the poorest among us," Mbeki said.

DATE: 4 October 2004
EVENT:  'Mbeki No AIDS Leader'
SOURCE: News 24


'Mbeki No AIDS Leader'

Antoinette Pienaar


Pretoria - Two of South Africa's best-known Aids researchers simply shook their heads on Monday in reaction to President Thabo Mbeki's most recent doubt about the role rape and men's attitudes plays in the transmission of HIV/Aids.


In his most recent letter in ANC Today, Mbeki questioned whether South Africa had the highest rape figures, as was alleged by Charlene Smith, a well-known journalist and activist.

Although Smith does not specifically refer to race in her reports about rape, he accuses her of portraying black males as "barbarians and potential rapists".


Mbeki questioned whether traditional attitudes amongst men are partially to blame for the spread of HIV.

DATE: 28 May 2004
EVENT: Mbeki Speaks Out on AIDS Funds
SOURCE: News24



Mbeki Speaks Out on AIDS Funds

Cape Town - South Africa might depend on goodwill to fight diseases such as Aids, but this must not be an excuse to condemn the nation to "perpetual subservience" because of its poverty, said President Thabo Mbeki on Friday.

Writing in the African National Congress' online publication, ANC Today, Mbeki referred to the furore around allegations that the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria had threatened to stop funding local Aids programmes because the government was creating delays in disbursing the money.

He said it was a popular view that Aids was a greater problem for South Africans than poverty and racial imbalances.

"It has, therefore, been suggested that, more than anything else, our people will succeed or perish solely to the extent that we reduce and contain the incidence of HIV."

Mbeki said the statements attributed to the director of the global fund, Richard Feacham, confirmed, "to people who did not know the truth", that the government had deliberately acted in a way to worsen the incidence of Aids.

Statements to clear up misunderstandings

Mbeki said he hoped these comments would lay to rest the "fake controversy" about non-existent delays on the part of government.

'We deeply appreciate the assistance'

Mbeki said: "Our country faces many challenges whose resolution requires large resources, among other things.

"We deeply appreciate the assistance extended to us by many governments and non-governmental organisations to enlarge our capacity to respond to these challenges...

"It is true that we are poor and need the support of people of goodwill.

"It is, however, also true that we would betray those who sacrificed for our liberation, and corrupt our freedom, if we succumbed to the expectation of some of those more richly endowed than ourselves, that our poverty should condemn us to perpetual subservience. This we will not do," he said.

DATE: 21 May 2004
EVENT: Mbeki's AIDS Pledge
SOURCE: News 24


Mbeki's AIDS Pledge

-Donwald Pressley

Cape Town - The government would be providing 53 000 people with treatment for HIV/Aids by March 2005, says President Thabo Mbeki.

"We have already started with the implementation of our comprehensive plan on HIV and Aids," he said in his State of the Nation address at parliament on Friday.

He added that 113 health facilities would be in full operation by March next year.

Mbeki, who has faced criticism over his government's slow progress in providing anti-retroviral drugs to those infected with HIV, said more impetus would be given to the Khomanani social mobilisation campaign "as we intensify home-based care".

Simultaneously regulations on the pricing of medicines were now in effect. "We anticipate that by the end of this year the consumer will pay less for the medicines at the retail outlets."

DATE: 3 March 2004
EVENT:  ANC Admits Fault of a Decade
SOURCE: http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/Elections2004/0,,2-7-1557_1495202,00.html

ANC Admits Fault of a Decade

Pretoria - The African National Congress admitted on Monday that not enough had been done to help those with HIV/Aids or to reduce crime levels.

Delivering this message himself, ANC president Thabo Mbeki visited homes in Eersterus and other parts of Pretoria to hand over a letter to residents.

In the letter, which asked residents what the country had achieved during its first decade of democracy and what it should strive to achieve during its second one, the ANC accepted that too many people were still without work and living in shacks.

While it claimed no other party in the country had done as much for the people as the ANC had, Mbeki acknowledged: "The levels of criminal violence remains too high.

"More work has to be done to improve the health of all our people. This includes Aids sufferers."

He said the ANC had dedicated the second decade of democracy to solving these and other problems.

"For this, we have urged that all South Africans should voluntarily enter into a people's contract to create work and fight poverty," Mbeki said, adding he was confident the people would accept the challenge.

DATE: 30 March 2004
EVENT: Mbeki meets faith leaders


(Last accessed 7 April 2004)

Mbeki meets up with faith leaders

President Thabo Mbeki


Mbeki was also asked by a Jewish doctor how his colleagues at the Kimberley Hospital were supposed to treat people living with and dying of HIV/Aids in the wake of government's slow roll-out of anti-retroviral drugs.

Mbeki ended by saying that he did not understand why government utterances about nutritious food and clean water for people living with HIV/Aids was controversial.

He said: "You can't say the response to a healthy human body is drugs. Your first response is proper feeding. The minister of health repeats this thing every day and what do they do, they mock her. It's like she's some crazy person of the moon! Doctors know extremely well that you need proper nutrition; you need clean water; you need these health conditions. That's the broad spectrum of a response you can say to the people in the hospital and that's what the government will do."

DATE: 8 February 2004
EVENT: State of the Nation Interview
SOURCE: Transcribed by TAC from Television Interview


Mr. President, you've delivered six Opening of Parliament addresses. On Friday, as in the previous five, with the eyes of the country on you, you didn't speak about HIV/AIDS with a sense of compassion or a sense of identification with those who are suffering from the disease. Given that you speak with compassion and with a sense of identification on so many other issues, why is that?


Well, I don't know what that means, John. You see, what happens, what has been happening now for a number of years is that generally the gov't will hold a Cabinet, we'll meet for 3 days and part of what happens, we do a review of the year that is financially that's come to an end and look at the final look at the budget that will be presented, as it will be presented later this month. It's a more global look. But because it's the tenth anniversary, we also have to look at that. And there will be some issues that will be raised in gov't which would be reflected in the state of the nation address. But because we are dealing with the 10th anniversary the general view what we meant is that we have to deal with the more global issues , in particular because quite shortly we will have another state of the nation address it becomes possible then to deal with all sorts of detailed matters. For instance, the budget is going to be presented this month. There will not be a discussion of the budget votes because of the forthcoming elections. The budget votes will come after the elections, at which point people will then deal with the specific programs. It's a peculiarity of this particular state of the nation, so we didn't deal with any of these detailed matters of all the questions that you are raising, we didn't deal with them in the detail because I am saying it is the particular nature of this particular state of the nation. We will come back, the entire gov't will come back to all of these other issues when the budget votes?


But I'm going back on five other speeches as well and I ask the question because when people look at the success of a country like Uganda in tackling HIV/AIDS, one factor that is spoken of  - and I'm sure you've read similar reports - that strong sense that from the top of the country the problem is embraced and embraced whole-heartedly by the president.


Well, I don't know what you want us to do, you know we?we've been running this campaign on HIV/AIDS for a long time. When President Mandela was president of South Africa, the deputy president was asked to lead this campaign and Mandela never led it. The deputy president did, has no complaint about it. The gov't continued that practice and the deputy president leads us on this thing?so this was happening over the last ten years. And as far as gov't is concerned, by attending to this matter, I am seeing very large budget allocations, we see it now in the new budget that is going to come out,  and also what has been done, I don't think that there is any country in the world that really can hold a candle to South Africa with regard to this point?


But you yourself have said that money alone won't solve the problem. And in a disease like this, with shame and secrecy and stigma is such a big part, do you not feel that it would make a big difference if the president were to speak about in that compassionate term?


I'm saying, John, for ten years?I've said many things about this matter over the years. And I don't think the gov't is going to change it's stance on this thing. We've got a program, we've announced it, and there's a campaign that runs all of the time. Right through gov't - from local gov't to national gov't - it's a very big program. And I'm saying, I challenge anybody produce any other country where there runs a comparable program. And that's what we're calling you to do and the deputy president leads us on this matter. And in instances where the President is called to speak, of course the President speaks about it. So that's what will happen. But also, I must say, that there is another responsibility here. You know the?TB is a very important disease in this country. I don't know why South Africans don't want to talk about it. My doctors have said to me "President, do you understand that diabetes in this country has reached epidemic proportions." I said, "Epidemic?" They said, "Yes, epidemic proportions." Why are we not talking about this? There are many, many things that impact on the health of our people. We've got to?Nobody complains, "The President, why are you not making noise about TB?" The WHO says South Africa is one of the nine worst countries in the world about TB. But why are we not talking about it?


But maybe it's because those diseases are controllable. AIDS has proved to be the most difficult one?


No, it's not. That's not the reason. It's not the reason. It's not because they are controllable.


Why is it?


It's because?I don't know why. There is a reluctance to talk about the general bad disease on our people.


But Mr. President, when organizations like the World Health Organization, they released a report just last year December, where they predicted that the worst is yet to come, that Africa has entered a phase of upward spiraling and mentioned, made particular mention of South Africa, is that just melodrama or would our gov't respond to that?


I don't know if that's WHO?


Oh, come on, they're talking about our country. You believe that?


The WHO will answer for itself and South Africa, of course, will answer for ourselves. The WHO will answer for itself. What I'm saying is, take a simple matter, the  - I've said this in public - South Africa does not have, up to today, does not have a proper record of mortality statistics. We don't have it. Doesn't exist. We don't know the causes, what are the things that kill South Africans? Now, not from mathematical models or extrapolations, but from Home Affairs. Home Affairs receives notices of death by law. Any South African dies, a medical doctor must certify that this person has died and this was the cause of death. All of these medical certificates are with the Minister of Health, but if you ask anybody in gov't to say, have these things ever been put together to say, "During the year 2003, this is how many people died, this what the doctors say people die from?" Doesn't exist.


But what does that say about what we are reading about, what we're taught?AIDS-related death?


I don't know what it says. I don't know what it says. What we've done to say?but obviously, as gov't you've got to have your health policy and by health policy, I don't just mean interventions with drugs and medicines. Everything that has to do with health of people - clean water, good nutrition, all of these things - surely you must have some idea as to what are these things that are killing our people.


Does it irritate you when people keep expecting you to explain on your stance on HIV/AIDS?


No, it doesn't. No, it doesn't. What puzzles me is why people don't want to think. You see, we've taken, in the end, we've collected all of these certificates from Home Affairs from '96 to June 2003. Altogether, there are two and half million - from 96 to June 2003. We've given them to people to say now can you please work on this. Sort out all of these things and put them systematically to say, "In 1996, so many people died and this is what killed them." The figures will also be used, those documents will also indicate places - where did these people die, gender, these kind of things. When that process is done, I don't know when it will be done, statistics are off and other people are working on that - you will get for the very first time - for the very, very first time -  you will get a picture based on what actually is being recorded by medical professionals in this country in terms of causes of mortality for the first time. So you will see the numbers. So all of these things, even the presumptions that I make, by saying just now that, my own team of medical doctors who I get to do regular check-ups, tell me, "President, we have an epidemic of diabetes in the country and it's killing people." And nothing is being said. And nothing is being done. I don't know that - that's what they say - we'll be able to, whenever this process is done, we'll be able to get for the first time - the very first time - a picture of the causes of death, which will include areas. Incidences of disease and death from various causes in particular areas. The only figure there is about this now is road, death from road accidents. And the reason for that is that there was a judicial commission of inquiry into the road accident file. And they went into depth into this particular matter and to say, "what is happening with the road accident fund" That was the original problem and it's finances. So they had to understand the burden on the road accident fund of death and injury. So we'll get that and I hope that South Africans will discuss those figures rationally.

DATE: 28 September 2003
EVENT: Statement by the presidency on media reports on the president's interview with the Washington Post.
SOURCE: Issued by Government Communications (GCIS) on behalf of The Presidency, 28 September 2003. Source: SAPA

In response to media reports of the recent interview by the President with the Washington Post, the Presidency wishes to clarify and put the record straight.

At the end of the interview the President agreed to being asked a personal question, which was whether he knew of anyone in his family or amongst his close associates who had died of AIDS or was infected by HIV.

It was these questions specifically about people close to him that the President answered, and his negative replies do not support any broader interpretation that some media have given them.

It should also be remembered that the health status of individuals as well as causes of death are personal matters on which people do not have to declare to the President.

In the same interview President Mbeki confirmed that the National Task Team charged with preparing an operational plan on public sector anti-retroval therapy is within days of completing its work. In presenting his report to the UN General Assembly Special Session, Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, singled out South Africa for tripling its resource allocation for HIV/AIDS programmes since the adoption of the UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS in 2001.

At a time when we are making progress in combating HIV/AIDS, we do not need red herrings that divert us from the real issues. We would expect that opposition parties would seek to distort things and create doubt, but we don't expect that of the media. We expect them to report objectively.

Bheki Khumalo, 083 256 9133

DATE: 25 September 2003
EVENT: Washington Post Interview in New York
SOURCE: Washington Post

In an interview at the Plaza Hotel in New York, where he was attending the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, Mbeki talked expansively about Mugabe, the Bush administration's Iraq policy and South Africa's HIV/AIDS crisis. Mbeki has been criticized for moving slowly to address the epidemic.

One in 10 South Africans -- nearly 5 million people -- is infected with HIV, according to government statistics. Mbeki said, however, that no one close to him has perished from the disease.

"Personally, I don't know anybody who has died of AIDS," Mbeki said. Asked whether he knows anyone with HIV, he added quietly, "I really, honestly don't."

DATE: 15 July 2003
EVENT: Interview with Gavin Esler, Newsnight, BBC
SOURCE: BBC Subtitling Transcript

ESLER: Could I turn to a big problem which affects everybody in the continent and affects the conscience of everybody outside Africa, the problem of AIDS. Do you think with some 600 South Africans a day dying because of the AIDS problem, that your government has been too slow to act?

MBEKI: I don't know where you get the figure from, I don't have it. I don't know where that figure comes from. The South African Government has got, I am certain, the most comprehensive programme on the matter of AIDS and the best-funded. I think the response is very good, very comprehensive.

ESLER: Have you changed your personal views about medical research and the relationship between the HIV virus and AIDS?

MBEKI: I never raised that question. I don't know where that comes from.

ESLER: There were many reports that you doubted the two were related?

MBEKI: They were false, I have never said that. The issue we raised was that in terms of responding to AIDS we've got to have a comprehensive response. Look at the entirety of the health conditions of a person. Because for instance, you can't feed a person who has no food. Feed them with medicines and drugs and so on. You have to take care of things like that.

ESLER: Will antiretroviral therapy become available paid for publicly in South Africa?

MBEKI: It is available now.

ESLER: Your government will pay for it?

MBEKI: It is available now.

ESLER: To anybody who wants it?

MBEKI: There is mother to child transmission, those drugs are given. People who have injuries at work and people who get raped and go to the public health hospitals and so on. The matter of the general availability of antiretroviral drugs is a matter that was raised even by President Bush, do you have the health infrastructure to handle such a programme?

ESLER: Those activists who complain you are going too slowly, are they wrong?

MBEKI: They are very wrong. They started off by saying all you needed was to give drugs and we are saying no it is not. They've changed. Now they are saying you must also take care of nutrition.

DATE: 19 March 2003
EVENT: Conversation between prominent Cabinet minister and Mbeki
SOURCE: Power, Samantha. "The AIDS Rebel Letter from South Africa." The New Yorker, 19 May 2003. Vol 79, Issue 12, p.54.

A prominent Cabinet member, who refused to be named, related a conversation that he once had with the President.

"I've been to so many AIDS funerals," the minister said. "I attend more every month."

The President was irritated by the comment. "What makes you so sure they died of AIDS?"

The official explained that young men in their twenties and thirties don't just die of pneumonia.

"Yes," Mbeki said, "but you don't really know how they died, do you?"

DATE: February 2003
EVENT: Mbeki responds to February 14 NEDLAC demand
SOURCE: "No S African HIV/AIDS plan,' says Mbeki". Marketletter, 24 Feb 2003.

In his first public response to the February 14 "march for treatment" to get the South African government to sign and implement a national HIV/AIDS treatment plan by end-February or face a non-violent disobedience campaign, President Thabo Mbeki has said on national television that no such deal exists. "Where the idea came from that there is an agreement ready to be signed, I don't know," he said.

However, in the television interview, Pres Mbeki said the matter had been put on the Nedlac agenda by Cosatu and that "discussions are continuing, but there is no agreement that the government is not signing."

DATE: 2003
SOURCE: Allister Sparks. Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South Africa. (Jeppestown 2003), 286.


"Mbeki himself confirmed that the first person to draw his attention to these dissident websites was a lawyer and part-time jazz  musician named  Anthony Brink... Brink came upon the writings of the AIDS dissidents in 1996, and after much surfing and reading became convinced they were right and that the drug AZT in particular was dangerously toxic... This prompted a response defending the drug from Desmond Martin, president of the Southern African HIVAIDS Clinicians Society.  after more exchanges, Brink contacted President Mbeki and sent copies of the debate between himself and Martin. 'That was the first time I became aware of this alternative viewpoint,' Mbeki told me."

DATE: 5 April 2002
EVENT: Beginning of Health Month
SOURCE: ANC Today, Volume 2, No. 14. 5 - 11 April 2002. http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/anctoday/2002/at14.htm

Because of the pursuit of particular agendas, regardless of the health challenges facing the majority of our people, who happen to be black, in our country there is a studied and sustained attempt to hide the truth about diseases of poverty.

If we allow these agendas and falsehoods to form the basis of our health policies and programmes, we will condemn ourselves to the further and criminal deterioration of the health condition of the majority of our people. We cannot and will not follow this disastrous route. We are both the victims and fully understand the legacy of centuries-old and current racism on our society and ourselves.

We will not be intimidated, terrorised, bludgeoned, manipulated, stampeded, or in any other way forced to adopt policies and programmes inimical to the health of our people. That we are poor and black does not mean that we cannot think for ourselves and determine what is good for us. Neither does it mean that we are available to be bought, whatever the price.

DATE: March 2002
EVENT: ANC criticises Jimmy Carter regarding his criticism of South Africa's AIDS policies
SOURCE: Cohen, Mike. "S. Africa's A.N.C. Criticizes Carter." Associated Press, 10 Mar 2002.

"We find it alarming that President Carter is willing to treat our people as guinea pigs, in the interest of the pharmaceutical companies, which he would not do in his own country," the party said in a statement.

"We do not need the interference and contemptuous attitude of President Carter or anybody else," it said. "We are not arrogant to presume that we know what the U.S. should do to respond to its many domestic challenges. Nobody from elsewhere in the world should presume they have a superior right to tell us what to do with our own challenges."

DATE: 12 October 2001
EVENT: Address at the Inaugural ZK Matthews Memorial Lecture, University of Fort Hare
SOURCE: http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mbeki/2001/tm1012.html

To quote Carter Woodson, these [black people] have studied in...medical schools where they are likewise convinced of their inferiority by being reminded of their role as germ carriers; schools where they learn a history that pictures black people as human beings of the lower order, unable to subject passion to reason.

And thus does it happen that others who consider themselves to be our leaders take to the streets carrying their placards, to demand that because we are germ carriers, and human beings of a lower order that cannot subject its passions to reason, we must perforce adopt strange opinions, to save a depraved and diseased people from perishing from self-inflicted disease.

Convinced that we are but natural-born, promiscuous carriers of germs, unique in the world, ["others who consider themselves to be our leaders"] they proclaim that our continent is doomed to an inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to the sin of lust.

DATE: October 2001
EVENT: Mbeki criticises AZT
CONTEXT: Referring to revised CDC guidelines on use of AZT. Responding to a question from his African National Congress colleague, Abe Nkomo, Mbeki said that the SA government's position had to be an informed one.


Barber, Simon and Wyndham Hartley. "Mbeki Sparks a New Aids Drug Row; President's Strong Reservations On Use Of Antiretrovirals Met With Criticism." Business Day, 25 Oct 2001.

"I have said to the minister of health, have we looked at the radically revised guidelines the US government issued at the beginning of this year about treatment with antiretroviral drugs? Where they have said that these drugs are becoming as dangerous to health as the thing they are supposed to treat?"

NOTE: Democratic Alliance AIDS spokesman Kobus Gous said the CDC revision was simply that instead of massive doses of drugs being administered upon testing HIV-positive, the new regime was to wait for the virus levels to reach certain thresholds before treatment. Once the levels went down following treatment, the CDC guidelines recommended discontinuing treatment until the thresholds were again reached, Gous said.

DATE: Oct 2001
EVENT: Answering questions in parliament
SOURCE: Forrest, Drew and Barry Streek. "Mbeki in Bizarre Aids Outburst." Mail and Guardian, 26 Oct 2001.

"We have to look at all these [AIDS] matters, not as a matter of religious belief, as matters about which you campaign in the street, but as matters we focus on properly, accurately, in order to save our people from ill-health and from unnecessary disease," he said.

"We want to have a proper profile of the incidence of the disease. The government is not an NGO ... focused on one particular disease. We are not a TB NGO or an Aids NGO or a pneumonia NGO.

"We are concerned about the health of our people. I am concerned about the incidence of disease and the incidence of mortality comprehensively. We need to have a look at that so that we can see whether our programmes are correct."

Mbeki said health programmes do not consist only of drugs and medicine. "They include improving the general health conditions of our people, and this includes nutrition, clean water ... It includes the question of the violence in this society."

"We have to look at all of those questions indeed to make sure our spending not only in health but generally throughout government responds to that particular health profile."

DATE: 10 Sep 2001
EVENT: Letter from Mbeki to Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
QUOTE AND NOTE SOURCE: "Mbeki questions spending on AIDS." Business Day, 10 Sep 2001. http://www.bday.co.za/bday/content/direct/1,3523,924850-6078-0,00.html

[Questions Mbeki asks as a result of his look at these numbers in his letter to Manto:]

- what social policies have we put in place to reduce the incidence of death, bearing in mind the importance of the causes of death by rank?

- do our health policies and therefore the allocation of resources reflect the incidence of death as reflected by these figures? and,

- are the programmes of the state medical research institutes geared to respond to the profile of the incidence of death as reflected by these statistics?

There is no need for me to emphasise the point that, necessarily, the government has to respond to the objective reality of the health profile of our country and not what we or other people wish it to be or mistakenly assume it to be. It may be, of course, that the issue is more complex than I am stating it.

Needless to say, these figures will provoke a howl of displeasure and a concerted propaganda campaign among those who have convinced themselves that HIV/AIDS is the single biggest cause of death in our country.

These are the people whose prejudices led them to discover the false reality, among other things, that we are running out of space in our cemeteries as a result of unprecedented deaths caused by HIV/AIDS. In this context, I must also make a point that we have to act without delay on the proposal made by the Presidential AIDS Panel that, among other things, an investigation be made of the HIV and AIDS statistics that are regularly peddled as a true representation of what is happening in our country.

Nevertheless, whatever the intensity of the hostile propaganda that might be provoked by the WHO statistics, we cannot allow that government policy and programmes should be informed by misperceptions, however widespread and well established they may seem to be....


Mbeki's methodology is likely to be criticised, firstly, because the pattern of AIDS deaths shifted significantly since the mid-1990s, the period from which his statistics come.

Secondly, the WHO figures Mbeki quotes reflect, for example, tuberculosis deaths (5,3%) as separate from AIDS, although it is known that AIDS manifests itself widely in tuberculosis in Africa.

DATE: 6 August 2001
EVENT: Interview with Tim Sebastian on BBC World's Hard Talk
ONLINE VIDEO COPY: www.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/cta/progs/01/hardtalk/mbeki06aug.ram

DATE: 28 June 2001
EVENT: Mbeki meets with President Bush and refuses to link HIV with AIDS
SOURCE: Ross, Sonya. "Bush, Mbeki Discuss AIDS in Africa." The Associated Press, 27 Jun 2001.

South African President Thabo Mbeki again refused to link HIV with AIDS, even though he agreed "that's what the scientists say.''

DATE: 24 April 2001
EVENT: eTV interview on "On The Record"
SOURCE: Cohen, Mike. "Mbeki Questions HIV Testing." The Associated Press, 24 Apr 2001.

But in a rare live broadcast on the private television station e-TV, Mbeki reignited the debate Tuesday, saying he would not take a public HIV test as it would send a message that he supported a particular scientific viewpoint.

"I go and do a test - I am confirming a particular paradigm," he said.

"I think it would be criminal if our government did not deal with the toxicity of these drugs," he said. "Let's stop politicizing this question, let's deal with the science of it."

DATE: March 2001
EVENT: Addresses parliament regarding state of emergency
SOURCE: Jeter, Jon. "South Africa Resists Call For AIDS 'Emergency'." Washington Post Foreign Service, 15 Mar 2001.

"No other country has declared a state of emergency on these grounds," Mbeki said in his address. "We see no reason why we should not rely on the more comprehensive legislation approved by this Parliament."

DATE: 23 October 2000
EVENT: Speaks before municipal elections
SOURCE: Forrest, Drew. "Behind The Smokescreen: The Record Reveals President Thabo Mbeki's True Stance On Aids (Opinion)." Mail and Guardian, 26 Oct 2000.

Before the municipal elections, he says South Africans are being used as "guinea pigs" and conned into using dangerous drugs. He likens the use of drugs in the DA-controlled Western Cape to "biological warfare of the apartheid era" (October 23 2000).

DATE: 28 September 2000
EVENT: Address to African National Congress MPs at a caucus meeting in Parliament in Cape Town.
SOURCE: Mail and Guardian, 6 Oct 2000.

President Thabo Mbeki believes the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is part of a conspiracy to promote the view that HIV causes Aids. Mbeki also thinks that the CIA is working covertly alongside the big US pharmaceutical manufacturers to undermine him because, by questioning the link between HIV and Aids, he is thought to pose a risk to the profits of drug companies making anti-retroviral treatments.

He said the propaganda being made against him because of his stance on HIV/Aids was a foretaste of attempts to undermine him and South Africa that were being mounted by those determined to defend the established world economic order.

Mbeki said that if one agreed that HIV caused Aids, it followed that the condition had to be treated by drugs and those drugs were produced by the big Western drug companies. The drug companies therefore needed HIV to cause Aids, so they promoted the thesis that HIV caused Aids, he said.

DATE: 20 September 2000
EVENT: Answering questions posed in parliament
SOURCE: Harvey, Marjolein. "How can a virus cause a syndrome? asks Mbeki" iClinic, 21 Sep 2000. http://www.aegis.com/news/woza/2000/IC000906.html

"All HIV/AIDS programmes of this government are based on the thesis that HIV causes AIDS," said Mbeki, adding "There is absolutely no confusion about what to do."

But he went on to ask "Does HIV cause AIDS? Can a virus cause a syndrome? How? It can't, because a syndrome is a group of diseases resulting from acquired immune deficiency." He said that the question still unresolved by scientists is: what contribution does HIV make to the collapse of the immune system?

"Indeed, HIV contributes, but other things contribute as well," said Mbeki.

He said that what is not yet resolved and what is being investigated by the International AIDS panel is: what do HIV tests measure? "Scientists from both sides of the divide have identified this as an essential question to be resolved in order to provide comprehensive treatment," says Mbeki, adding that "We need to understand all these complexities so that our intervention can be more effective, even though many people do not want to study this question."

[Opposition leader Tony] Leon wanted to know whether the SA National AIDS Council has made any recommendations about the use of anti-retroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MTCT).

Mbeki replied that antiretroviral nevirapine has not been registered for MTCT anywhere in the world and that the World Health Organisation is still considering its use for this purpose.

"A National Steering Committee on MTCT has already met and will finalise its report mid-October," says Mbeki.

On the question whether he believes that HIV is a minor or major cause of AIDS, Mbeki replied that "there is a serious AIDS problem".

On the question of AIDS orphans, Mbeki replied that "orphans result from the health crisis in SA, caused by many diseases".

He pointed to 1999 WHO estimates of the causes of death in Africa, which stated that 12% of deaths are caused by HIV/AIDS, but heart diseases is still the biggest killer. "All these cause orphans," says Mbeki.

On the question why there is a delay in MTCT in other provinces when the Western Cape, the only province not controlled by the ANC, has successfully implemented free treatment, Mbeki replied that "This matter will be dealt with through the Steering Committee on MTCT".

On the call to go for an HIV test by PAC spokesperson Patricia de Lille, who went for a public HIV test recently to spur on other politicians to lead by example, Mbeki replied that "It is important to know what the state of one's health is - in my capacity as president of this country I go for regular health check-ups".

On the controversial debate whether HIV causes AIDS sparked by Mbeki's courting so-called AIDS dissidents in his presidential AIDS panel, Mbeki replied that "The way we have handled the complex scientific questions around HIV/AIDS may have been confusing, but there is nothing confusing about what government HIV/AIDS programmes are based on and are trying to do".

DATE: 10 September 2000
EVENT: TIME Magazine interview
SOURCE: "Gov releases parts of Time Magazine to quell Mbeki AIDS controversy." South African Press Association, 10 Sep 2000.

"Clearly there is such a thing as acquired immune deficiency. The question you have to ask is, what produces this deficiency?" he said.

"Now, if you go through the literature, ordinary standard literature available in medical schools, there will be a whole variety of things [that] can cause the immune system to collapse.

"Endemic poverty, the impact of nutrition, contaminated water, all of these things, will result in immune deficiency."

Mbeki said on the African continent, repetitive infections like malaria and sexual transmitted diseases like syphilis were also contributing factors.

"This is precisely where the problem starts. No, I am saying that you cannot attribute immune deficiency solely and exclusively to a virus,"

Mbeki said there is a lack of consensus among scientists as to whether there was a link between HIV and Aids.

He said if it was believed that HIV destroyed a person's immune system, it would mean someone with tuberculosis would not be treated for that disease, which also causes immune deficiency, but for AIDS only.

"If you come to the conclusion that the only thing that destroys immune systems is HIV then your only response is to give them anti-retroviral drugs. There's no point in attending to this TB business because that's just an opportunistic disease." Mbeki said.

"The problem is that once you say immune deficiency is acquired from that virus (HIV) your response will be anti-retroviral drugs. But if you say the reason we are getting collapsed immune systems is a whole variety of reasons, including the poverty question which is very critical, then you have a more comprehensive response to the health condition of a person."

Mbeki said he believed the virus was only partly to blame for immune deficiency.

"If the scientists come back and say this virus is part of the variety of things from which people acquire immune deficiency, I have no problem with that." Mbeki said.

"But to say this is the sole cause therefore the only response to it is anti-retroviral drugs, I am saying we'll never be able to solve the AIDS problem."

DATE: July 2000
EVENT: Letter to Tony Leon
SOURCE: Sunday Times (SA), 9 July 2000

In this regard, you might care to consider what it is that distinguishes Africa from the United States, as a consequence of which millions in sub-Saharan Africa allegedly become HIV positive as a result of heterosexual sexual intercourse, while, to all intents and purposes, there is a zero possibility of this happening in the US.

I imagine that all manufacturers of antiretroviral drugs pay great attention to the very false figures about the incidence of rape in our country, that are regularly peddled by those who seem so determined to project a negative image of our country.

The hysterical estimates of the incidence of HIV in our country and sub-Saharan Africa made by some international organisations, coupled with the earlier wild and insulting claims about the African and Haitian origins of HIV, powerfully reinforce these dangerous and firmly-entrenched prejudices. None of this bodes well for a rational discussion of HIV-AIDS and an effective response to this matter, including the use of anti-retroviral drugs.

I trust that our discussion about AZT and rape will convince you that despite the fervent reiteration of various assertions, supported by many scientists, medical people and NGO's, about the existence of some unchallengeable and immutable truths about HIV-AIDS, as public representatives we have no right to be proponents and blind defenders of dogma.

Whatever the intensity of the campaign to oblige us to think and act differently on the HIVAIDS issue, the instinctive human desire in the face of such a barrage, to obtain social approval by succumbing to massive and orchestrated pressure, will not lead us to become proponents and blind defenders of dogma.

The cost of AIDS in human lives is too high to allow that we become blind defenders of the faith.

Once again, I would like to suggest that you inform yourself as extensively as possible about the AIDS epidemic. Again, for this purpose, I would like to recommend that you access the Internet.

On the various websites, you will find an enormous volume of literature, including CDC, WHO and UNAIDS documents, editions of various highly respected science journals as well as "dissident" articles.

I believe that it is imperative that all our public representatives should base whatever they say and do on the HIV-AIDS matter, on the truth and not necessarily on the comfort of fitting themselves into the framework of whatever might be considered to be 'established majority scientific opinion'.

DATE: July 2000
EVENT: Address at opening session of International AIDS Conference, Durban
SOURCE: Swindells, Steven. "Major killer is poverty not AIDS - S.Africa's Mbeki." Reuters News, 9 Jul 2000.

"The world's biggest killer and the greatest cause of ill health and suffering across the globe, including South Africa, is extreme poverty," Mbeki told a stadium audience.

"As I listened and heard the whole story about our own country, it seemed to me that we could not blame everything on a single virus," Mbeki said in a speech drawing heavily on a 1995 study by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

DATE: July 2000
EVENT: Address at opening session of International AIDS Conference, Durban.
SOURCE: Nessman, Ravi. "S. Africa Defends AIDS Policies." The Associated Press, 9 Jul 2000.

"Some in our common world consider the questions that I and the rest of our government have raised around the HIV/AIDS issue ... as akin to grave criminal and genocidal conduct," he told delegates at the opening ceremony of the 13th International AIDS Conference. "What I hear said repeatedly, stridently is 'Don't ask questions.'"

DATE: June/July 2000
EVENT: Mbeki's spokesman replies to Durban Declaration.
SOURCE: Health-AIDS-SAfrica: AIDS declaration fit for dustbin: Mbeki's spokesman. Agence France-Presse - July 4, 2000. www.aegis.com

But Parks Mankahlana, Mbeki's spokesman, said Monday night: "If the drafters of the declaration expect to give it to the president, or the government, it will find its comfortable place among the dustbins of the office," the SAPA news agency reported.

"People can't, under the pretext of meeting in Durban to discuss questions of HIV/Aids, circulate a petition all over the world condemning the president," Mankahlana said.

On Sunday, Mankahlana said in a statement: "President Mbeki respects the rights of people to issue declarations and publish them, but we must be careful that we don't turn the Durban conference into an Mbeki-bashing action bazaar."


JOHANNESBURG, Apr. 21 (AIA/GIN) -- The fight against AIDS in South Africa is taking some strange twists.

The most bizarre recent turn has been the controversy surrounding Virodene, a substance which has been touted by its promoters as a possible new cure for AIDS, despite a lack of any concrete evidence or proper clinical trials.

What is far stranger, however, has been the role of the African National Congress (ANC) and its representatives, most notably Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, Minister of Health Nkosazana Zuma and Secretary General Kgalema Motlanthe, in the growing debacle.

The saga began about a year ago when three Pretoria-based researchers approached the Minister of Health and were given the opportunity to present their findings to a full session of cabinet.

In their presentation they made the claim that their discovery was a major breakthrough in the fight against AIDS.

The cabinet responded with enthusiasm and gave the researchers their full support.

Subsequently, it was established that none of the normal protocols for the testing of the drug had been complied with and the researchers were testing the drug on AIDS patients prior to going through the recognized procedures required before a drug can be tested on humans.

The Medicines Controls Council (MCC) subsequently called the researchers to account and instructed them to submit the testing of the drug to the proper test procedures prior to it being tested on humans.

The MCC also voiced its doubts about the efficacy of the drug.

Subsequently, Mbeki, Zuma and Motlanthe have all, in different contexts, attacked the credibility of the MCC.

In an open letter to the Sunday Times and Sunday Independent, Mbeki implies that the MCC has a hidden agenda and that although a range of experts had approved the research protocol submitted by the Virodene team the MCC had not approved the application.

"Alas... the MCC still refuses to accept the application, despite its knowledge of the unanimous opinion of these `learned and highly qualified professionals', and of whose credentials it is perfectly aware."

Zuma has put pressure on the MCC to speedily resolve the status of Virodene.

The MCC has an international reputation for integrity and professionalism.

Dr Peter Folb, the internationally recognized pharmacologist head of the MCC, has said that "at this stage it would be unsafe to expose human beings to Virodene."

The MCC's own research has found that the primary ingredient of Virodene is a toxic industrial solvent used in the plastic industry and that at this stage its use on humans was definitely unsafe.

The MCC had also obtained seven independent reports on Virodene all of which found that Virodene as presently constituted was unsafe for human consumption.

Folb feels that at present Virodene may worsen the conditions of AIDS patients rather than improve their condition.

There is a fear that Virodene could cause serious, irreversible damage to the liver.

Mbeki and Zuma have mediated in a dispute between two warring factions in a company called Cryopreservation Technologies, the company that holds the Virodene patent and formed by the Virodene researchers.

It would appear that the major issue was how Cryopreservation Technologies should respond to the MCC's demands.

One director, Callie Landauer, was adamant that all human trials be halted and took his two fellow researchers and directors to court to force them to disclose whether any human trials were still continuing.

He was concerned that "something could go wrong, people could be harmed.

We, as members of a closed corporation, would be liable."

A startling allegation, initially made by the Democratic Party, is that Cryopreservation Technologies offered the ANC a six percent stake in the company.

This has been vigorously denied by the ANC.

The most recent ANC intervention has been that of ANC secretary general Motlanthe.

He also launched a scathing attack on the MCC: "The rationale of the MCC should be questioned. I surmise that the MCC is driven by other interests than concern for proper control of medicines," suggesting that the MCC was driven by financial interests.

This was vigorously denied by Folb: "This is not something that a responsible person should be hinting at. He should be called on to clarify his statements, which are seriously damaging and utterly untrue."

The Virodene saga continues.

In the meantime the reasons for the ANC's leadership's inappropriate obsession with Virodene continue to remain obscure.

(Alan Morris is a correspondent for Africa Information Afrique, a news and feature service based in Harare, Zimbabwe.)

DATE: 23 June 2000
EVENT: Mbeki's spokesperson responds to questions
SOURCE: Cohen, Jon. "South Africa's new enemy." Science, 23 June 2000.

When asked how Mbeki feels about embarrassing his country's AIDS researchers, [Mbeki spokesperson Parks] Mankahlana responds, "People are just being foolish." He adds: "You know, Mbeki wants to wake up in the morning and see the South African economy grow. He wants to see jobs being created. He wants to see crime levels coming to zero. He wants to see lodgings of people improve. OK, there's this problem of HIV/AIDS, but you see scientists must work. They must do what they have to do, which is to find a cure for this thing. They must. If they want government assistance, they will get it. End of story."

DATE: 23 June 2000
EVENT: Parks Mankahlana, Mbeki's spokesperson, confirms a widespread rumor that providing treatment to infected pregnant women worries the government because of the number of surviving orphans this policy would create.
SOURCE: Cohen, Jon. "South Africa's new enemy." Science, 23 June 2000.

"A country like ours has to deal with that [AIDS orphans]," insists Mankahlana. "That mother is going to die, and that HIV negative child will be an orphan. That child must be brought up. Who's going to bring the child up? It's the state, the state. That's resources, you see?"

DATE: 22 May 2000
EVENT: Mbeki meets with President Clinton and denies ever saying AZT is ineffective
SOURCE: Ross, Sonya. "S. Africa Asks U.S. Help With AIDS." The Associated Press, 22 May 2000.

Mbeki flatly denied that he said the drug AZT, a common treatment for AIDS, is ineffective.

"I never said that. Pure invention. Pure invention," Mbeki said.

DATE: 20 April 2000
EVENT: Mbeki won't undergo public HIV test
SOURCE: "Mbeki & Buthelezi won't undergo public HIV test." South African Press Association, 20 April 2000.

President Thabo Mbeki had more important things to worry about than publicly testing for HIV/Aids, presidential aide Parks Mankahlana said on Thursday.

"The president is not prepared to engage in trivia; he has got more important things to worry about than testing for HIV/Aids.

"Those who want to go and test for HIV/Aids must do so," he told Sapa.

DATE: 16 April 2000
EVENT: Interview with Carte Blanche
SOURCE: http://www.mnet.co.za/CarteBlanche/Display/Display.asp?Id=1492

Joan Shenton: Some AIDS doctors say the evidence is overwhelming that AIDS exists and AZT is of benefit. What is your comment on that?

President Mbeki: I say that, why don't we bring all points of view. Sit around a table and discuss this evidence and produce evidence as it may be, and let's see what the outcome is. Which is why we are having this International panel which we are all talking about. They may very well be correct, but I think if they are correct and they are convinced they are correct, it would be a good thing to demonstrate to those who are wrong, that they are wrong.

Joan Shenton: People say you are not keen on giving AZT to pregnant women because it is too expensive and in some ways you are seen as penny-pinching. What do you reply to that?

President Mbeki: That surely must be a concern to anyone who decides this drug must be given - to stop transmissions again from mother to child - which is extremely costly and must be taken into account. But we also need in that context to answer the particular questions of toxic effect of this drug. If you sit in a position where decisions that you take would have a serious effect on people, you can't ignore a lot of experience around the world which says this drug has these negative effects.

Joan Shenton: In the press you are exhorted to confine yourself to the job to which you were elected, and leave specific subjects to the taking of best available advice.

President Mbeki: I don't imagine Heads of Government would ever be able to say I'm not an economist therefore I can't take decisions on matters of the economy; I'm not a soldier, I can't take decisions on matters of defence; I'm not an educationist so I can't take decisions about education. I don't' particularly see why health should be treated as a specialist thing and the President of a country can't take a Health decision. I think it would be a dereliction of duty if we were to say, as far as health issues are concerned, we will leave it to doctors and scientists; or as far as education is concerned we will leave it to educationists and pedagogues. I think the argument is absurd, actually.

Joan Shenton: How do you feel about the reaction of your country's leading virologists and intellectuals to your position?

President Mbeki: I get a sense that we've all been educated into one school of thought. I'm not surprised at all to find, among the overwhelming majority of scientists are people who would hold one particular view because that's all they're exposed to. This other point of view, which is quite frightening?this alternative view, in a sense, has been blacked out. It must not be heard, it must not be seen - that's the demand now. Why is Thabo Mbeki talking to discredited scientists, giving them legitimacy? It's very worrying, at this time in the world, that any point of view should be prohibited, that's banned, there are heretics that should be burned at the stake. And it's all said in the name of science and health. It can't be right.

President Mbeki: ?The concern around probable questions, which in a sense have been hidden, will grow around the world and the matter is critical. the reason we are doing all this is so we can respond correctly to what is reported to be a major catastrophe on the African continent. We have to respond correctly and urgently. And you can't respond correctly by closing your eyes and ears to any scientific view that is produced. A matter that seems to be very clear in terms of the alternative view is -what do you expect to happen in Africa with regard to immune systems, where people are poor, subject to repeat infections and all of that. Surely you would expect their immune systems to collapse. I have no doubt that is happening. But then to attach such important defence to a virus produces restrictions. What we are disappointed about as an Africa government is that it seems incorrect to respond to this AIDS challenge within a narrow band. If we only said safe sex, use a condom, we won't stop the spread of AIDS in this country.

DATE: April 2000
EVENT: Mbeki's letter to world leaders
SOURCE: "Reciting comfortable catechisms on AIDS is not good enough." Sunday Times, 23 Apr 2000. (Excerpts from Thabo Mbeki's letter.)

As you know, AIDS in the US and other developed Western countries has remained largely confined to a section of the male homosexual population.

US AIDS deaths for the period January 1996 to June 1997 were stated by the US Centre for Disease Control as amounting to 32 750.

On May 13 1999, UNAIDS and World Health Organisation reports had said that AIDS was responsible for one death in five in Africa, or about two million people. It quoted a Dr Awa Coll Seck of UNAIDS as saying that there are 23 million carriers of HIV in Africa.

This Sapa-AFP report quotes Dr Coll Seck as saying: "In Southern Africa, the prevalence of the (HIV) infection has increased so much in five years that this region could, if the epidemic continues to spread at this rate, see its life expectancy decline to 47 by 2005." (Interestingly, the five years to which Dr Coll Seck refers coincide closely with the period since our liberation from apartheid, white minority rule in 1994.)

The report went on to say that almost 1 500 people are infected in South Africa every day and that, at that point, the equivalent of 3.8 million people in our country carried the virus.

Again as you are aware, whereas in the West HIV-AIDS is said to be largely homosexually transmitted, it is reported that in Africa, including our country, it is transmitted heterosexually.

Accordingly, as Africans, we have to deal with this uniquely African catastrophe that:

Contrary to the West, HIVAIDS in Africa is heterosexually transmitted;

Contrary to the West, where relatively few people have died from AIDS, itself a matter of serious concern, millions are said to have died in Africa; and

Contrary to the West, where AIDS deaths are declining, even greater numbers of Africans are destined to die.

It is obvious that whatever lessons we have to and may draw from the West about the grave issue of HIV-AIDS, a simple superimposition of Western experience on African reality would be absurd and illogical.

Such proceeding would constitute a criminal betrayal of our responsibility to our own people. It was for this reason that I spoke as I did in our Parliament, in the manner in which I have indicated.

I am convinced that our urgent task is to respond to the specific threat that faces us as Africans. We will not eschew this obligation in favour of the comfort of the recitation of a catechism that may very well be a correct response to the specific manifestation of AIDS in the West.

We will not, ourselves, condemn our own people to death by giving up the search for specific and targeted responses to the specifically African incidence of HIV-AIDS.

I make these comments because our search for these specific and targeted responses is being stridently condemned by some in our country and the rest of the world as constituting a criminal abandonment of the fight against HIV-AIDS.

Some elements of this orchestrated campaign of condemnation worry me very deeply.

It is suggested, for instance, that there are some scientists who are "dangerous and discredited" with whom nobody, including ourselves, should communicate or interact.

In an earlier period in human history, these would be heretics that would be burnt at the stake!

Not long ago, in our own country, people were killed, tortured, imprisoned and prohibited from being quoted in private and in public because the established authority believed that their views were dangerous and discredited.

We are now being asked to do precisely the same thing that the racist apartheid tyranny we opposed did, because, it is said, there exists a scientific view that is supported by the majority, against which dissent is prohibited.

The scientists we are supposed to put into scientific quarantine include Nobel prize winners, members of academies of science and emeritus professors of various disciplines of medicine!

Scientists, in the name of science, are demanding that we should co-operate with them to freeze scientific discourse on HIV-AIDS at the specific point this discourse had reached in the West in 1984.

People who otherwise would fight very hard to defend the critically important rights of freedom of thought and speech occupy, with regard to the HIVAIDS issue, the front line in the campaign of intellectual intimidation and terrorism which argues that the only freedom we have is to agree with what they decree to be established scientific truths.

Some agitate for these extraordinary propositions with a religious fervour born by a degree of fanaticism, which is truly frightening.

The day may not be far off when we will, once again, see books burnt and their authors immolated by fire by those who believe that they have a duty to conduct a holy crusade against the infidels.

It is most strange that all of us seem ready to serve the cause of the fanatics by deciding to stand and wait.

It may be that these comments are extravagant. If they are, it is because, in the very recent past, we had to fix our own eyes on the very face of tyranny.

I am greatly encouraged that all of us, as Africans, can count on your unwavering support in the common fight to save our continent and its peoples from death from AIDS.

DATE: 21 March 2000
EVENT: Description of agenda of Presidential AIDS panel
SOURCE: Schoofs, Mark. "Flirting with pseudoscience" Village Voice, 21 Mar 2000.

[Presidential spokesperson Parks] Mankahlana told the [Village] Voice [newspaper] that Mbeki has ordered his health minister to assemble an international panel to look into "everything about AIDS," from the merits of various treatments such as AZT to "whether there's this thing called AIDS, what it is, whether HIV leads to AIDS, whether there is something called HIV, for an example. All these questions."

DATE: 20 March 2000
EVENT: Parks Mankahlana statement in Business Day
SOURCE: Mankahlana, Parks. "Buying anti-AIDS drugs benefits the rich." Business Day, 20 Mar 2000.

The tragedy is that HIV/AIDS is not going to succumb to the machinations of the profiteering pharmaceutical companies and their propagandists. Like the marauders of the military industrial complex who propagated fear to increase their profits, the profit-takers who are benefiting from the scourge of HIV/AIDS will disappear to the affluent beaches of the world to enjoy wealth accumulated from a humankind ravaged by a dreaded disease. And we shall continue to die from AIDS.

What is reality? There is no cure for AIDS. What is reality? We humans know very little about HIV/AIDS. This is the reality of the president's world, namely the challenge to find answers about an illness that is ravaging more people, especially the poorest of the poor.

The president has agreed with the decision of the health department that an international panel be instituted to broaden the search for solutions.

This international panel must strive to give us answers to all the unknowns. It must attempt to unravel the "mysteries" of the HIV/AIDS virus, including, and more especially, what the profit-takers cannot tell us.

DATE: March 2000
EVENT: Mbeki responds to letters
SOURCE: SAfrica-AIDS: Mbeki digs heels in over AIDS panel: report. Agence France-Presse - Sunday, March 26, 2000. www.aegis.com

CONTEXT: His comments, it said, were contained in a written reply to the five -- Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron, Anglican leader Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, Methodist leader Bishop Mvume Dandala, the chairman of an upcoming international aids conference in Durban, South Africa, Professor Jerry Coovadia, and AIDS activist Merci Makhalamele.

They had written to him asking him to reconsider the government's policy of not providing anti-HIV drugs to pregnant women.

Mbeki also responded personally, the report said, to a letter from Cape Town immunologist Dr. Johnny Sachs, who questioned the wisdom of "individuals in leadership positions" querying the links between HIV and AIDS.


"I am taken aback by the determination of many people in our country to sacrifice all intellectual integrity to act as salespersons of the product of one pharmaceutical company," Mbeki said, referring to Glaxo Wellcome, the British manufacturers of the anti-HIV drug AZT.

"I am also amazed at how many people, who claim to be scientists, are determined that scientific discourse and inquiry should cease, because 'most of the world' is of one mind," he added.

In his response to his critics, Mbeki defended his decision to court dissidents.

"By resort to the use of the modern magic wand at the disposal of modern propaganda machines, an entire regiment of eminent 'dissident' scientists is wiped out from the public view, leaving a solitary Peter Duesberg alone on the battlefield, insanely tilting at the windmills," he said.

Referring to his proposed panel, Mbeki said: "I hope you will agree with me that such a meeting should be inclusive of all scientific views and not only those representative of the 'consensus' to which you refer."

DATE: October 1999
EVENT: Alleges that AZT is unsafe.
SOURCE: Wakin, Daniel. "Mbeki's AZT Claims Set Off Debate." The Associated Press, 2 Nov 1999.

In his speech Thursday, Mbeki spoke of a "large volume of scientific evidence alleging that, among other things, the toxicity of this drug is such that it is in fact a danger to health."

Mbeki said that it would be "irresponsible" not to heed the "dire warnings" of researchers about the safety of AZT, which is one of the world's oldest and best-known AIDS drugs. Reputable scientists have issued no such warnings, and it was unclear what he was referring to.


So where did the most powerful person in Africa get the notion that AZT is dangerous?

From the Web, one of his spokespeople, Tasneem Carrim, told the Johannesburg Sunday Independent. Mbeki's office denied it, but what Carrim said had the ring of guileless truth: "The president goes into the Net all the time," she was quoted as saying.


Schoofs, Mark. "South Africa acts up" The Village Voice, 28 Dec 1999.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.