It is striking, in the postcolonial era, how little the modern African university has to do with African institutions. It draws its inspiration from the colonial period and takes as its model the discipline based, gated community that maintained a distinction between clearly defined groups: administrators, academics and fee-paying students. The origins of this arrangement lay in 19th-century Berlin, and Humboldt University, founded in 1810 in the aftermath of Napoleon’s conquest of Prussia. The African university makes its appearance later in the 19th century. At the southern end of the continent, colleges were started from scratch – Stellenbosch, Cape Town, Witwatersrand. In the north, existing institutions such as al-Azhar in Cairo, a centre of Islamic scholarship, were ‘modernised’ and new disciplines introduced.
Listening to SAFM this morning, I was alerted to the advert below, showing in the most stunningly visual and moving manner that those who question(ed) the link between HIV and AIDS and the potential benefits of anti-retroviral treatment have a lot to answer for. Wonder what former President Thabo Mbeki would make of it.
Writing to then leader of the opposition, Tony Leon, Mbeki said the following in 2000:
In your letter to me of June 19, you make the extraordinary statement that AZT boosts the immune system. Not even the manufacturer of this drug makes this profoundly unscientific claim. The reality is the precise opposite of what you say, this being that AZT is immuno-suppressive. Contrary to the claims you make in promotion of AZT, all responsible medical authorities repeatedly issue serious warnings about the toxicity of antiretroviral drugs, which include AZT.
On 28 October 1999, Mbeki told the members of the National Council of Provinces:
Two matters in this regard [the demand to make AZT available in the public health service] have been brought to our attention. One of these is that there are legal cases pending in this country, the United Kingdom and the United States against AZT on the basis that this drug is harmful to health. [This claim was untrue.] There also exists a large volume of scientific literature alleging that, among other things, the toxicity of this drug is such that it is in fact a danger to health. These are matters of great concern to the Government as it would be irresponsible for us not to heed the dire warnings which medical researchers have been making. I have therefore asked the Minister of Health, as a matter of urgency, to go into all these matters so that, to the extent that is possible, we ourselves, including our country’s medical authorities, are certain of where the truth lies.
And of course the later Minister of Health also had rather dangerous and bizarre views on the matter. Dr Tshabalala-Msimang, launching an anti-TB campaign on 15 March 2003 said the following:
In my heart I believe it is not right to hand them [AZT and other ARV drugs] out to my people.
The late Peter Mokaba, who died tragically under the influence of this denialism told The Star the following on 4 April 2002:
We have seen colonization, we have seen imperialism, we have seen apartheid … and all of them used against us as a people. [Africans have] won their liberation and now they are fighting another war and they are being psychologically terrorised once more because people want to sell [ARV drugs] and make profits. And there is no benefit in those products. The only thing that can really happen is that once you touch the antiretrovirals you can go one way.
This is the story behind the advert.
° What Would Mbeki say.BACK TO TOP