We Were Wrong. 04/04/09
“We owe it to the nation. We, as MPs, were there and we failed to rise up,”
THE ANC is planning a post- election apology to the nation for former president Thabo Mbeki’s disastrous HIV-Aids policy, which has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of infected people.
“We owe it to the nation. We, as MPs, were there and we failed to rise up,” said an ANC MP.
The Times has established that there are behind-the-scenes discussions within the ANC alliance about the need for MPs who served during Mbeki’s tenure to apologise to South Africans for failing to publicly question his denialist views on HIV-Aids.
Insiders said the proposed move enjoys support from within the ANC, the South African Communist Party and Cosatu.
The proposal would see an ANC parliamentary ad-hoc committee, composed of ANC MPs, drawing up the apology to the nation.
Parliament’s deputy speaker, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, has also called for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission into the role of government in relation to the pandemic.
Madlala-Routledge served as deputy to former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for three years, before she was fired by Mbeki in 2007.
She championed HIV-Aids issues and received widespread support for disagreeing with her boss’s controversial views on the pandemic. She also undertook a public Aids test in 2006, a move that irritated her former bosses.
Last year, the Harvard School of Public Health released a damning report that revealed that more than 330000 lives were lost because of Mbeki’s and Tshabalala-Msimang’s failure to provide antiretroviral drugs between 2000 and 2005.
The report placed the blame on Mbeki’s government for failing to implement a feasible and timely antiretroviral treatment programme.
Madlala-Routledge said South Africa could benefit from a TRC process on HIV-Aids.
“Will a greater understanding of this period of Aids denialism not help prevent something like this happening again?” she asked at the launch of a book on the subject on Wednesday night.
The launch of the book on Aids denialism, title ‘The Virus, Vitamins and Vegetables’, was held in Durban to celebrate the end of the denialism era.
Attempts to reach Mukoni Ratshitanga, Mbeki’s spokesman, were unsuccessful.
Health Minister Barbara Hogan’s spokesman, Fidel Hadebe, said he was not in a position to say whether the minister would support such a move, as she was on a plane back from China at the time the inquiry was made.
Professor Salim Abdool- Karim, director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine in Durban, supported the call for an HIV- Aids truth commission: “This would be trying to reconcile what happened so we can put it in the past and not keep raising it.”
He said he did not see an HIV-Aids truth commission as merely a means of granting amnesty, but rather as exposing what went wrong with the government’s response to the pandemic through the testimony of people who were centrally involved.
Abdool-Karim was one of only four orthodox HIV scientists among dissidents on Mbeki’s first HIV-Aids panel in 1999, which was later expanded to include more scientists from South Africa.