Quote of the week

An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.

Plasket AJ
Victoria Park Ratepayers' Association v Greyvenouw CC and others (511/03) [2003] ZAECHC 19 (11 April 2003)
3 November 2007

After the party…. (I)

I am busy reading Andrew Feinstein’s book After the Party and it seems so far to be quite an honest book and quite scathing of President Thabo Mbeki and the ANC that he now leads. Of course, I immediately turned to the chapter on HIV/AIDS to see if there was anything new there.

Feinstein includes the verbatim notes he took of a speech President Thabo Mbeki gave to the ANC caucus two days after he announced he was withdrawing from the debate on HIV/AIDS. It was the same notes he leaked to the Mail & Guardian, so the speech became public knowledge and was widely reported on.

These notes remind us of what really happened and counter the arguments put forward by revisionists like Ronald Kevan Roberts who now claims the President never questioned the link between HIV and AIDS. How would the unlikeable Mr Roberts respond to the following statement by the President?


There is a huge amount of literature on these issues that we must read so that when we are bombarded with huge propaganda we can respond.

And what is the propaganda the President is talking about? Well, that HIV causes AIDS and that drugs can help stop the progression to AIDS. Thus:


If we say HIV=AIDS then we must say = drugs. Pharmaceutical companies want to sell drugs which they can’t do unless HIV causes AIDS, so they don’t want this thesis to be attacked. That is one problem.

The other one is the international political environment where the CIA has got involved. So, the US says we will give loans to Africa to pay for US drugs.

This clearly shows that the President is attacking the assumption that HIV causes AIDS and that he thinks there is a conspiracy out there to ensure that this line of questioning does not succeed. Reading this drivel I became so cross that when the President later complains about the British Press calling him “deranged”, I laughed.

For me the most interesting thing is the way in which President Mbeki and his supporters have tried to rewrite the history in this regard. When Stalin decided to get rid of an opponent for whatever paranoid reason, the official pictures were doctored so as to erase the man in question. Like a pictorial version Haydn’s Farewell Symphony, the pictures over the years became more sparely populated. Crowd scenes turned into intimate portraits of two or three people.

In a way President Thabo Mbeki’s supporters like Ronald Suresh Roberts are trying to do the same thing. The worst part is that these efforts are having some success. I was starting to doubt my own memory of 1999 and 2000 and was wondering whether Mbeki had really questioned the link between HIV and AIDS. Was this not another case of a “generally corrupt relationship” – a phrase we all thought was uttered by judge Hillary Squires in the Schabit Shaik case, but was not?

The fact is that President Thabo Mbeki did question the link between HIV and AIDS and Feinstein’s notes once again starkly remind us of this tragic and scandalous fact. We all lived through it and knew that it had happened, but the Stalinists among us are trying to deny us our own lived truth.

The tragedy is, of course, that many people believed the President and thus also started questioning the link between HIV and AIDS and questioned whether ARV’s could work. They did this because of their own denialism, convenience or out of a deep respect for authority – and consequently many of them died needlesly. Long after we are all dead, the historians who write our President’s biography will point this out and will conclude that Mr. Mbeki was a disastrous and tragic leader.

What the Feinstein book also reminds us of is that no one else in the ANC spoke out. In fact Trevor Manuel, the darling of the liberal press called ARV’s Voodoo medicine and ridiculed those who argued for its use. We should therefore not only condemn Mbeki but we should condemn our other leaders and ourselves for not speaking up. For fearing to speak up against our President.

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