About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

South Africa'S Top Twelve Aids Dissidents

A DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING!

THE LIST:

1. Anthony Brink

2. Anita Allen

3. President Thabo Mbeki

4. Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang

5. Dr Matthias Rath

6. Dr David Rasnick

7. Dr Roberto Giraldo

8. Prof. Sam Mhlongo

9. Minister Essop Pahad

10. Sibongile Manana MP

11. Christine Qunta

12. Ronald Suresh Roberts

A DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING!

RANKING: No. 1

NAME:

Anthony Brink

CURRENT POSITION:

Former practicing advocate and Convener and National Chairman of the Treatment Information Group (TIG) and spokesman for The Dr Rath Health Foundation. Author of the (online) book "Debating AZT".

HISTORY:

Anthony Brink and Anita Allen (No. 2) are the leading lights in the Aids dissident cause in South Africa. As a result of their intensive lobbying of President Thabo Mbeki, they are together responsible for the long delay in the adoption of a rational aids policy in South Africa.

According to Allister Sparks: "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, then practising in the provincial city of Pietermaritzburg…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 was dangerously toxic. 'A medicine from hell' he called it in an article in a Johannesburg newspaper in March 1999. This prompted a response defending the drug from Desmond Martin, president of the Southern African HIV/Aids Clinicians' society. After more exchanges, Brink contacted Mbeki and sent him copies of the debate between himself and Martin. 'That was the first time I became aware of this alternative viewpoint,' Mbeki told me." [Allister Sparks, Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South Africa (Jonathan Ball: Cape Town, 2003) pg. 286]

The TIG website opens with the following statement: "On 28 October 1999, after reading an early draft of High Court advocate Anthony Brink's book, Debating AZT: Mbeki and the Aids drug controversy, then subtitled Questions of safety and utility, South African President Thabo Mbeki ordered an enquiry into the safety of the Aids drug AZT."

The Treatment Information Group describes itself as "a public interest initiative to promote research-based debate of antiretroviral drug policy, alternative non-toxic treatment approaches to AIDS, and HIV testing issues in South Africa."

The TIG website states: "The TIG has entered into a strategic alliance with the Dr. Rath Health Foundation Africa to achieve this".

Brink often uses public platforms to defend and promote the Rath Foundation and the dissident position on HIV/Aids.

KEY QUOTES:

In a letter motivating for his employment with the Rath Foundation, Brink described himself as follows:

"South Africa's leading Aids dissident, best known for my whistle-blowing expose of the toxicity and inefficacy of Aids drugs, and for my political activism in this regard, which caused President Mbeki and Health Minister Dr Tshabalala-Msimang to repudiate the drugs in 1999." [Letter of motivation for employment to Matthias Rath, March 2004]

RANKING: No. 2

NAME:

Anita Allen

CURRENT POSITION:

Freelance journalist, secretary of the Forum for Debating Aids in South Africa and self-titled "not a member of the HIV-causes-Aids sect"

HISTORY:

Anita Allen claims that she was responsible for introducing President Mbeki to dissident views on Aids. In an article published in a US magazine in 2000, Allen's initial contact with the President is described as follows:

"It was close to midnight and the fax machine went off…what came through the fax was a handwritten letter from Mbeki, saying he had read her letter expressing concern about the HIV/Aids question and that he wanted to meet with her in the morning to discuss it". [http://www.purewatergazette.net/farber.htm]

In March 2002 it was reported in the Mail & Guardian that Allen had strong links to the late Peter Mokaba, a senior ANC MP and Aids dissident who co-authored the Castro Hlongwane document and lobbied dissident support on behalf of President Mbeki.

Following an interview in September 2003, where President Mbeki said that no one close to him had perished from the disease - "Personally, I don't know anybody who has died of Aids," Mbeki said, and asked whether he knew anyone with HIV he added "I really, honestly don't". - Anita Allen argued in a letter to Business Day, that when President Mbeki said that he "knew no one in his circle who had died of Aids or had HIV, he meant exactly that, according to the paradigm he holds." [Business Day, 16 January 2004]

Later, in a letter to The Star [12th January 2004], Allen wrote that President Mbeki's views on Aids remained constant. She noted that in his New Year's message Mbeki made no reference to HIV or Aids. This was, she said, "a poignant omission under the circumstances, indicating an intellect unbowed… Mbeki has lots of questions about HIV and Aids and that he cannot be silenced from asking them until he gets answers."

Allen has devoted a great deal of time and effort to promoting the views of these dissident members of the Presidential Aids Advisory Panel. She says she is "shameless and even ruthless" in the pursuit of her agenda, which is "what it always has been – the search for the truth".

KEY QUOTES:

"No one as far as we know has been able to come up with evidence proving the HIV-causes-Aids hypothesis anywhere in the world. Plenty have tried, but no one has yet succeeded. They have even tried to get the reports of their studies published, but as the editor of the journal Nature once wrote, no one is going to publish the results of an experiment that failed!" [Open letter to the Democratic Alliance; 19th September 2000]

"What is needed now is for everyone to put their science up for scrutiny by conducting without further delay all the experiments outlined in the [Presidential Aids Advisory Interim] report from unbelievers which are aimed at falsifying the HIV-causes-Aids hypothesis". [Letter to The Star; 28 December 2001]

"…the jury is still out on ARVs and their efficacy" [Letter to The Star; 7 March 2005]

RANKING: No. 3

NAME:

President Thabo Mbeki

CURRENT POSITION:

President of the Republic of South Africa

HISTORY:

President Thabo Mbeki was once willing to ride roughshod over the Medicines Control Council (MCC) to get the toxic industrial solvent Virodene provided to the sick and the dying in South Africa. Yet from the time anti-retroviral treatment first became affordable, he has done his best to block its provision – eventually taking the position that there is no evidence that HIV causes Aids.

Three of the key statements that sum up his views are the following:

Ø      "No, I am saying that you cannot attribute immune deficiency solely and exclusively to a virus." [Interview with Time Magazine; September 2000]

Ø     "Now I do believe that is a sensible thing to ask: does one virus cause a syndrome? A virus cannot cause a syndrome. A virus will cause a disease". [Reply to a Parliamentary question; 20 September 2000]

Ø     "From what I read which is what the scientists are saying, you have here an acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Now a syndrome is a collection of diseases whose causes are known. You can't say one virus causes a syndrome." [BBC World's 'Hard Talk'; 6 August 2001]

His decision to set up a Presidential Aids Advisory Panel, on 28 February 2000, introduced a flood of dissident Aids scientists into South Africa, including Peter Duesberg, Roberto Gilraldo, Matthias Rath and David Rasnick, all of whom have now made South Africa their second home.

To date President Mbeki has yet to publicly state that he believes HIV causes Aids.

KEY QUOTES:

In an interview in April 2002 President Mbeki was asked whether he would consider taking an Aids test. His response was:

"It's setting an example within the context of a particular paradigm", and he went on to say that "One of the things we have to do is determine the following - when we do an HIV test, what is the test testing, what is it measuring?"

Later, in an interview with the Washington Post, on 25 September 2003, President Mbeki stated that he didn't know anyone who had died of Aids:

"Personally, I don't know anyone who has died of Aids."

Asked whether he knew of anyone with HIV, he responded:

"I really, honestly don't".

RANKING: No. 4

NAME:

Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang MP

CURRENT POSITION:

South African Minister of Health and Member of Parliament.

HISTORY:

Appointed as Minister of Health in June 1999, Dr Tshabalala-Msimang has been the chief enforcer of President Mbeki's dissident views on Aids in national health policy.

Central to the establishment of the Presidential Aids Advisory Panel, Tshabalala-Msimang has, like President Mbeki, frequently obfuscated about the causes of Aids – in particular, she has refused unequivocally to state that HIV causes Aids.

As far back as 1999 she ignored a United Nations call to declare Aids a national emergency and since then she has repeatedly denounced AZT and Nevirapine as 'dangerous' and 'poisonous' drugs.

Without doubt, the Minister's most serious failing is the disastrously long time taken by government to commit itself to the rollout of ARVs. The Constitutional Court had to compel the Minister to make Nevirapine available to HIV-positive pregnant women. Even then, under the Minister's watch, this commitment was undertaken reluctantly and has been executed half-heartedly.

Several of Minister Tshabalala-Msimang's interventions have been quite bizarre. In August 2000 the Minister sent a memo to all provincial Health MECs claiming that Aids was intentionally spread among Africans by Western nations through smallpox vaccines. She attached a chapter from a book by William Cooper, Behold a Pale Horse, suggesting that extraterrestrials and the Illuminati were involved in the spread of Aids. In April 2001, she likened South Africa's fight against HIV/Aids to the country's containment of Foot and Mouth Disease. She has courted Aids dissidents and embraced bizarre medical "science" and in between all this, she has managed to combine poor political judgement with a seemingly endless stream of madcap views and opinions.

It is only now, many years too late and only because of legal precedent and the rigorous fight put up by political parties and civil society, that she has allowed health policy to begin to recognize the threat of Aids.

Even so, the Minister continues vocally to promote the use of garlic, olive oil and African potatoes over ARVs in the fight against Aids.

KEY QUOTES:

In 2000, after President Mbeki failed to withdraw his dissident views on the causes of Aids at the opening of the Durban Aids conference, the Minister came to his defence and stated that, "The President of this country has never denied either the existence of Aids nor this causal connection between HIV and AIDS".

In 2004 Tshabalala-Msimang stated that "I have always said there are three options... and we must remember that ARVs are not a cure and they do have side-effects". She added that garlic, lemon, olive oil and beetroot "are absolutely critical - first of all to have a beautiful face and beautiful skin - but they also protect you from disease".[ See, http://www.capetimes.co.za/index.php?fSectionId=269&fArticleId=2510099]

"Yes and no. I'm saying no." [When asked whether government would abide by a court order to provide Nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women at state hospitals with the capacity to do so.]

RANKING: No. 5

NAME:

Dr Matthias Rath

CURRENT POSITION:

Director of the Dr Rath Health Foundation.

HISTORY:

Rath arrived in South Africa in January 2004 and, through an intensive advertising campaign claiming that Aids is a disease of malnutrition which can be cured by his vitamin products, he reignited a debate which had just started to recede into the background.

Rath sells his products over the internet and distributed them from the Dutch town of Almelo until legal action stopped him. His foundation has used HIV-infected people as human guinea pigs in a series of illegal medical experiments for these products.

According to a report in Health E, two HIV-positive women in Khayelitsha died within weeks of being convinced to discard their medication in favour of Rath's vitamins, while others said they were told to strip to their underwear, photographed and had blood taken without giving consent.

The Dr Rath Health Foundation employs the AIDS dissidents Anthony Brink and David Rasnick, and is supported by the Minister of Health who has said that "[Those at the foundation] are not undermining the government's position. If anything they are supporting it".  The World Health Organisation and the United Nations, for their part, have dismissed the claims made by the Foundation as "wrong and misleading".

Rath makes a wide range of absurd claims, mostly using his web site, including:

Ø     The real objective of the invasion of Iraq was to keep pharmaceutical companies viable.

Ø     The Medicines Control Council "is essentially composed of people directly or indirectly on the payroll of the pharmaceutical industry".

Ø     The Democratic Alliance and the TAC are the "Trojan horses of the drug cartel in South Africa".

KEY QUOTES:

"This human tragedy [Aids] has become a multi-billion dollar market for the pharmaceutical investment business - the drug cartel - in which the return on investment is based on the continuation of the Aids epidemic. To maintain their global market with patented Aids drugs, the pharmaceutical drug cartel promotes so-called anti-retroviral (ARV drugs) to combat immune deficiencies. These ARV drugs severely damage all cells in the body - including white blood cells - thereby not improving but rather worsening immune deficiencies and expanding the Aids epidemic".

[Open letter to the New York Times,  http://www4.dr-rath foundation.org/open_letters/open_letter_2005_05_06.htm ]

"The people of South Africa now have an historic opportunity to liberate themselves from the yoke of HIV/Aids and many other diseases. The solution to these health epidemics does not come from high-priced and toxic pharmaceutical drugs but from public education about the dramatic health benefits of vitamins and other natural therapies".

[Advertisement in Business Day, 18 February 2005]

RANKING: No. 6

NAME:

Dr David Rasnick

CURRENT POSITION:

Visiting Scholar, Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, University of California at Berkeley.  Senior researcher, Dr. Rath Health Foundation Africa and self-titled "Member of Mbeki's Aids Advisory Panel"

HISTORY:

According to his bio-sketch on the Dr Rath Health Foundation website, Dr Rasnick has over 20 years experience in the pharmaceutical biotech industry working on cancer, emphysema, arthritis and parasitic diseases.

Rasnick is former president of the International Coalition for Medical Justice. He is currently a member of President Mbeki's Aids Advisory Panel. Since 1996 he has worked closely with Dr Peter Duesberg at the University of California at Berkley on the anaploidy (chromosomal imbalance) thesis of cancer.

In a letter to Business Day in 2002, Rasnick called upon the MCC to "muster the courage to deregister that useless and dangerous drug [Nevirapine]".

KEY QUOTES:

"The contagious, HIV hypothesis of Aids is the biggest scientific, medical blunder of the 20th Century. The evidence is overwhelming that Aids is not contagious, sexually transmitted, or caused by HIV. I have come to realize that embarrassment is the main obstacle to exposing this simple fact". [Mail & Guardian, 24 Jan 2001]

"In fact, I'm pretty sure right now there's no such thing as an Aids epidemic in Africa, from my previous two trips last May and this July. The reason I say that in brief is that we've looked and looked and asked people, the government ministers, we asked the director of the Medical Research Council in South Africa, the Centers for Disease Control in the US -- everybody we could ask, 'What are the numbers of Aids cases in South Africa and how many Aids deaths?' No answer at all. Zero. To this date we do not have an answer to that, and in fact, I don't think there is any such thing as Aids going on in South Africa. It's just the same old things that Africans have been suffering and dying from for generations due to poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, bad water, that sort of thing. We're calling it Aids now, instead of by the old-fashioned names that were more honest".

[Interview with science writer Gene Mahoney, http://www.purewatergazette.net/rasnickinterview.htm]

"If it weren't for the HIV test, there would be no talk in newspapers of an Aids epidemic….Outlaw the damn HIV tests and the African Aids epidemic will disappear from SA newspapers because there won't be anything to write about"  [Letter to Business Day, 4 June 2002]

RANKING: No. 7

NAME:

Dr Roberto Giraldo

CURRENT POSITION:

Technologist in the Laboratories of Clinical Immunology and Molecular Diagnosis at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center, in New York City

HISTORY:

According to the resume on his personal website, Giraldo is a specialist in internal medicine with a major in infectious diseases from the University of Antioquia, Colombia.

Giraldo has been an independent Aids researcher since 1981. In 1997 he published a book entitled: AIDS and Stressors, which argued that "AIDS is neither an infectious disease nor is sexually transmitted. It is a toxic-nutritional syndrome caused by the alarming worldwide increment of immunological stressor agents".

Since 2000 Giraldo has been a member of the South African Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel and he has advised several African countries on "nutrition and diseases related to poverty". In 2003 he presented to 14 Ministers of Health of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) the scientific basis for his proposal: "Nutritional therapy for the treatment and prevention of AIDS."

Giraldo served as a consultant to the South African Health Department when it updated its "Nutritional Guidelines for People Living with TB, HIV/Aids and other Chronic Debilitating Conditions".

The originator of the Minister of Health's diet of garlic, lemon juice, beetroot and African potato, Giraldo is quoted as saying that "It is essential that affected individuals and communities rid themselves of the erro-neous beliefs that Aids is an infectious, viral, contagious, and fatal illness."

Giraldo is also the former president of "Rethinking AIDS: The International Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of AIDS".

KEY QUOTES:

"The transmission of Aids from person to person is a myth. The homosexual transmission of the epidemic in western countries, as well as the heterosexual transmission in Africa is an assumption made without any scientific validation". [Cited by SABC News/Reuters, 21 January 2003]

"Success in the treatment of Aids depends primarily upon guaranteeing and optimizing the nutritional status at both clinical and micronutrient levels… Whenever possible, use garlic, onions, asparagus, citric fruits, beets, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, carrots, yeast, wheat, and pollen, as well as sprouts"

[From "TREATING AND PREVENTING AIDS: A Guide to Basic Principles for Effective, Nontoxic and Inexpensive Alternatives", February 2003, http://www.robertogiraldo.com/eng/papers/TreatingAndPreventingAIDS.html ]

RANKING: No. 8

NAME:

Prof. Sam Mhlongo

CURRENT POSITION:

Head: Department Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, University of Limpopo Medunsa Campus.

HISTORY:

Well known for his dissident views on Aids, Prof. Mhlongo was the only South African dissident on President Mbeki's Aids Advisory Panel.

Mhlongo is closely associated with both Dr David Rasnick and Anita Allen and regularly features in South Africa's newspaper letter pages promoting dissident views on HIV/Aids and antiretroviral drugs.

"It is about time that the public are told that Aids is a collection of old-fashioned diseases under a new name. The list includes chronic cough, tuberculosis, diarrhea, weight loss, fever and malnutrition."

In 2002 it was reported that Mhlongo was advising Health Minister Manto-Tshabalala Msimang.

In an affidavit prepared for the Constitutional Court, Mhlongo revealed that not only was he skeptical about the existence of HIV, but that he believed that use of the "notoriously toxic" anti-retroviral drug Nevirapine was part of a campaign to maximize corporate profits. The affidavit also revealed that he had advised the Health Minister on how best to respond to news that the manufacturer of Nevirapine had withdrawn from registering the drug with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. [Mail & Guardian, 16 May 2002]

"It is incredible to contemplate that a notoriously very toxic drug, approved as a therapeutic agent in the First World on a provisional basis only… should be judicially prescribed in our developing country for an indication not licensed anywhere else in the world".

Prof. Mhlongo has also argued that it is impossible to conclude that anyone in South Africa has actually died from Aids (a view which has also been mirrored by President Mbeki):

"Look, there are no death certificates whatsoever. We have no references for anything. All you have is the media. Television, radio and newspapers agreeing on this." [http://www.pure watergazette.net/farber.htm]

KEY QUOTES:

"Reporters should be made aware that, in scientific terms, HIV/Aids has nothing to do with evidence for and against the hypothesis that:

None of these proposals has been demonstrated in the scientific literature." [The Citizen, 4 October 2000]

RANKING: No. 9

NAME:

Minister Essop Pahad

CURRENT POSITION:

Minister in the Presidency and Member of Parliament

HISTORY:

As President Mbeki's chief henchman, Minister Pahad has defended the President's dissident views on numerous occasions. Pahad has failed in his role as a presidential adviser. Instead of offering sound advice, he has encouraged and given succour to the President's wayward views and vehemently attacked his detractors, both national and international.

In a letter to Business Day in 2000, Pahad attacked the media for what he described as its lack of action in fighting Aids. He commented, "Will the newspapers stand aloof as the horror mounts?" This was highly ironic, given the government's callous neglect of those infected with HIV and its failure to roll out ARVs.

Pahad also branded the media racist when it questioned the Minister of Health's wasteful expenditure of R14 million on a play, Sarafina II, to raise awareness about Aids.

In 2000, several newspapers from the Independent Newspapers stable and the Caxton group published an advertisement free of charge explaining Mbeki's position on HIV/Aids. Several editors objected to the fact that they were placed free of charge. Despite rumours to the contrary, Pahad denied that the adverts were placed at the specific request of the President.

In 2002, three major weekly magazines, Newsweek, The Economist and Financial Mail, carried articles questioning Mbeki's leadership in the fight against AIDS. The cover story of Newsweek bore the headline, "Mbeki against the world – feuding with old comrades and Aids activists, a lonely leader fights to save his presidency". Pahad wrote a response to the magazine, questioning whether the article was planted by a United States government office set up to leak false stories to the media.

KEY QUOTES:

"On Aids, it has been emphasized time and time again that, far from having a 'flirtation' with dissidents, the president appointed an expert panel and awaits the response prior to making decisions".

[ Article in Business Day, 18 August 2000]

"The President's position on Aids is defensible, though at times misunderstood. He acknowledges that there is a measure of debate about the cause. He has appointed an eminent panel to advise him -- not a rag-bag of idiots but experts including world renowned 'mainstream' medical scientists".

[Letter to Financial Mail, 10 November 2000]

RANKING: No. 10

NAME:

Sibongile Manana MP

CURRENT POSITION:

Former MEC for Health in Mpumalanga. Currently serving as an ANC MP in the National Assembly.

HISTORY:

During her reign as MEC for Health in Mpumalanga, Manana became a virulent supporter of President Mbeki and Dr Tshabalala-Msimang's denialist approach, and turned the Mpumalanga health department into a vehicle for these views.

In September 2000, Manana gave a speech stating that Aids drugs were part of a plot to undermine President Mbeki, that these drugs threatened the lives of black South Africans and that they would turn South Africa into a banana republic.

In 2001:

Ø     The mother of a six-month-old HIV-positive baby ("Baby Tinashe") sued Manana for R700 000.  She pointed out that Manana had delayed setting up a pilot project to provide the anti-Aids drug Nevirapine to HIV-positive mothers;

Ø     Manana ejected the Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project [GRIP] from the Rob Ferreira and Temba hospitals because they were giving antiretroviral drugs to rape survivors; and

Ø     She forbid doctors and nurses in state hospitals (in Mpumalanga) from counselling pregnant women and rape survivors on steps to be taken to prevent HIV infection

Manana's persecution of rural hospice volunteers and veteran hospital superintendents who supported the use of anti-retroviral drugs earned her a reputation as Mpumalanga's own Nurse Ratched.

KEY QUOTES:

An article in the Mail & Guardian from 2002 cites Manana as labelling all anti-retrovirals as "poison" and describing them as part of a plot to undermine the ANC government.

"Any individual or groups who want to play a role and be part of the Partnership against HIV and Aids has to do that openly, not by blackmailing government and masquerade [sic] as a good Samaritan [sic] whilst at the very same time undermine [sic] the present government." [Mail & Guardian, 20 October 2000]

RANKING: No. 11

NAME:

Christine Qunta

CURRENT POSITION:

Lawyer. Served on the Presidential Commission into the Collapse of the Rand. Currently serves on the SABC board and Presidential Panel investigating land reform.

HISTORY:

In much the same fashion as Essop Pahad and Ronald Suresh Roberts, Christine Qunta has acted as a political defender for the President and the Minister of Health. She has failed to condemn the President's views on Aids and instead chosen to use her regular newspaper column to defend various dissidents and the President.

Her key role has been to vilify mainstream journalists and scientists and paint them as dangerous thugs. For example, in a Business Day article in May 2000, she stated that "Amid the brilliant scientific advances that we have made in the past 100 years, with intelligent computers, the internet and space travel, [Dr Peter] Duesberg and his colleagues have become victims of a kind of zealotry that is reminiscent of the Inquisition".

On 6 May 2001, along with a collection of other 'concerned' members of civil society and at the height of the fallout over the President's views on Aids, Qunta took out a full page advertisement in various newspapers defending the President and vilifying the media for attacking him:

"We respect his leadership qualities. Yet he is human and therefore will sometimes behave as such. Where he stumbles we will hold out a hand. Where he errs, we will criticize and caution, sometimes publicly, always however from a deep love for our country and people. Under his leadership we have the best government this country has ever had."

In another article, in May 2005, she lent her overt support to Matthias Rath, stating that "Rath makes a perfectly valid point regarding the value of vitamins and the role they can play in improving the health of Aids patients" (There is in fact no scientific evidence to back up Rath's claim that vitamins can cure Aids).

Qunta's law firm, and Qunta herself, is representing Dr Matthias Rath in his various defamation cases against various members of South African civil society, including the Democratic Alliance and the Treatment Action Campaign.

KEY QUOTES:

"To shut out the views of scientists who do not agree with the majority but whose theories can enhance opportunities for finding solutions to the Aids epidemic is surely out of place in the modern scientific community. Their views must be aired".

"It was absolutely correct and essential for the President to seek out the views of all scientists who may help government to find answers to deal with the epidemic". [Business Day, 19 May 2000]

"(The Aids orthodoxy) stifles any view that does not conform to the 'official' or 'sanctioned' one. Like the issue of Zimbabwe, no dissent is tolerated. The few people brave enough to advance a different perspective are attacked in ways that are often quite vicious." [Business Day, 27 May 2005]

RANKING: No. 12

NAME:

Ronald Suresh Roberts

CURRENT POSITION:

Presidential speechwriter and biographer

HISTORY:

Ronald Suresh Roberts has bobbed and weaved trying to protect President Mbeki from criticism of his stance on Aids over the past five years.

Initially, Roberts did express some displeasure at President Mbeki's views on Aids and antiretroviral drugs, if only to maintain some intellectual credibility. In 2000, in a letter to the Sunday Independent, he admitted that much of the damage to South Africa's Aids programme was "frankly, Mbeki's fault". He also claimed that the reason why Mbeki was delaying on anti-retrovirals was that he had "been burnt by Aids short-cuts before: In 1998 the anti-Aids "miracle drug" Virodene…turned out to be a toxic industrial solvent. The government was correctly slammed for its undue haste and has plainly learnt from that experience." (Ironically, at the same time Roberts was saying this, Ziggy and Olga Visser were setting up clinical trials of that "toxic industrial solvent" in Tanzania- with the full knowledge of both President Mbeki and the Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang).

Later, in an interview with the Boston Globe in 2001, Roberts went so far as to criticize the opposition for only taking up Aids as a political issue when President Mbeki started to express his controversial views: "Why was it not a bigger issue on the opposition's agenda until [President] Thabo Mbeki starting talking nonsense about Aids?"

KEY QUOTES:

Since then, however, Roberts has adopted the extraordinary position that, contrary to what everyone else might have thought, history had vindicated President Mbeki's views on Aids. In an interview with the Natal Witness last month he stated:

''The Aids debate is one of the best examples of how the media loses attention to the facts. I am saying that on key issues which Mbeki raised and placed in dispute in the early 2000s, history now shows, five years later, that he was right. 'The public and the media forget that the emphasis on nutrition and the caution on toxicity are a part of orthodoxy that came out of Mbeki's early dissidence. We only need to look at what some of the key players in the Aids debate - such as [Judge Edwin]Cameron - were saying five years ago, and what they are saying now, to see a lot of second thoughts going on and a great symbol of retreat. We carry on the idea that this man is mad, insane - but week by week he is winning arguments as the days go by.''

More recently still, following the expose of the Rath Foundation by news agency Health-e – exposing the fact that numerous HIV/Aids patients who had supposedly benefited from Dr Rath's vitamin regime were in fact on antiretroviral drugs – it was reported that Roberts attacked Health-e general manager Kerry Cullinan and came to the defence of Rath Foundation spokesperson Anthony Brink.

Cullinan said she had received a threatening and aggressive phone call from Roberts who had stated that he was writing the authorized biography of President Mbeki and that he would be covering the Aids debate in his book. Roberts said he had been struck by the personalized "medieval" level of attacks in the Aids debate and intended including Cullinan in a chapter on "vendetta journalism" as she appeared to have a vendetta against Anthony Brink.

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