Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
6 November 2007

Gevisser: Mbeki admits he is still an AIDS dissident

Ever wondered why President Thabo Mbeki has failed to fire Health Minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang despite her disastrous tenure? Apparently the new biography of President Thabo Mbeki by Mark Gevisser provides some answers. The London Guirdian reports this morning that the President had admitted to Gevisser that he was still an AIDS dissident. The paper continues:

 

Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred describes how the president contacted the author earlier this year to reiterate some of the views that caused uproar in the medical community before Mr Mbeki stopped talking publicly about Aids several years ago. Mr Gevisser also describes how the president’s view of the disease was shaped by an obsession with race, the legacy of colonialism and “sexual shame”.The book will reinforce the view of Mr Mbeki’s critics who say his unorthodox opinions have cost hundreds of thousands of lives by delaying the distribution of medicines, and that the health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, has continued these views.

Mr Gevisser recounts how Mr Mbeki phoned him late on a Saturday evening in June to discuss Aids. The president asked the respected Johannesburg author whether he had seen a 100-page paper secretly authored by Mr Mbeki and distributed anonymously among the ANC leadership six years ago. It compared Aids scientists to latter-day Nazi concentration camp doctors and portrayed black people who accepted orthodox Aids science as “self-repressed” victims of a slave mentality. It describes the “HIV/Aids thesis” as entrenched in “centuries-old white racist beliefs and concepts about Africans”.

The author said he did have a copy but the next day a driver from the presidency arrived with an updated and expanded version. “There is no question as to the message Thabo Mbeki was delivering to me along with this document: he was now, as he had been since 1999, an Aids dissident,” the author writes.

Mr Gevisser says he asked Mr Mbeki why he allowed Aids to absorb him.

The president replied: “It’s the way it was presented! You see, the presentation of the matter, which is actually quite wrong, is that the major killer disease on the African continent is HIV/Aids, this is really going to decimate the African population! So your biggest threat is not unemployment or racism or globalisation, your biggest threat which will really destroy South Africa is this one!”

Yet, as the book points out, the government’s own statistics show the effect of Aids in South Africa has been “catastrophic” with more than 2 million people already dead and one in eight of the working-age population infected with HIV.

And yet, half the branches of the ANC has renominated this man to be President of the Party. What are they smoking?

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