View from the editor
By Baffour Ankomah
New African October 2000
Does Mbeki suffer from 'psychological trauma?' The sharks are circling.
They think they can smell blood in the water. But will Africa allow them to
make another kill?
The prey is Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, the African Renaissance
Man, the man who wants to see what lies at the bottom of the "African AIDS
In 15 months as president, Mbeki has proved beyond doubt that he is nobody's
errand boy. Recently, the powers that be wanted him to deliver the head of
Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe on a silver plate. He refused.
His usual display of African presidential confidence is causing ripples
abroad, especially in Britain, where he has become the target of crude
headlines in recent days. The aim is to give him a bad name so they can hang
All of a sudden, Mebeki is said to be suffering from some kind of mental
illness (mad is the word).
David Beresford, writing from South Africa for The Observer ("Mbeki lets
AIDS babies die in pain, 20 August), set the ball rolling: "A Sussex
University economics graduate, seen during the years of struggle against
apartheid as the ANC's arch-diplomat, Mbeki was widely regarded as
sophisticated and cosmopolitan," Beresford wrote. "Time and experience now
offer, however, another perspective--of a man whose sensitivity on race
points to a previously undiscovered psychological trauma which, while
deserving of sympathy, makes him among the politicians least qualified to
heal past wounds."
Three days later, Michael Dynes, writing in The Times (Mbeki flounders as
economic malaise settles on South Africa, 23 Aug.), put his own spin on it:
"...Mbeki is suffering from a gargantuan persecution complex."
The field was now cleared for R. W. Johnson, one of the most ribald of
British rightwing journalists, who recently wrote in The Telegraph that
"Africa should be recolonised," to take a swipe at Mbeki (The new apartheid,
The Spectator, 26 August).
"Crudely put," Johnson wrote, "many now believe that Mbeki is no longer
playing with a full pack--that he's off his rocker. A Russian friend said to
me, 'It's strange about Mbeki. In Russia it generally takes about five years
for our presidents to go mad. He's done it in one.'"
So Mbeki is mad! They said the same about Nkrumah, Lumumba, and recently
Mugabe. Any African leader who shows the slightest sign of independent
thought is mad. Yet Africa is accused of not offering its own solutions to
Now we are left with the likes of R. W. Johnson offering Mbeki advice: "Mbeki
is already in a hole," says Johnson, "and if he keeps digging, he can only
end as South Africa's Mugabe. It is unfortunate that he has a circle of
fawning yes-men as advisers, for the advice he really needs is that he should
It was the turn of The Sunday Times on 2l7 August to put the knife in.
Enemy of the people, was the headline. "Nelson Mandela," The Sunday
Times said, "was always going to be a hard act to follow... If the man to do
it was [Mbeki], it seemed just an eccentric part of the new Pretoria
politics. That was before Thabo Mbeki declared himself a medical expert who
understood his country's AIDS epidemic better than the global authorities."
Three days before The Sunday Times article, a curious one had appeared in
the International Herald Tribune (South Africa rejects AIDS drug loans).
Written by Rachel L. Swarns, the article said: "The US offer of $1 billion in
annual loans to finance the purchase of anti-AIDS drugs in sub-Saharan Africa
has been rejected by South Africa, one of the countries most devastated by
the disease, health officials said."
You didn't have to read the whole article to see the mischief hidden in the
headline. In the very second paragraph, Rachel writes: "Namibia has also
rejected the offer, and other nations in this stricken region are voicing
serious reservations, the officials say."
In effect, it is not only South Africa that has rejected the "AIDS drug
loans." So why pick on South Africa in the headline? Why not "Africa
rejects AIDS drug loans?" In fact that is what the story says. But,
remember, "get the shepherd and scatter the flock." It works!
But Rachel wasn't finished. She continued: "The [loan] offer last month by
the US Export-Import Bank, an independent government agency, financed by the
US Congress, was made to 24 sub-Saharan countries. Bank officials say none
of the countries has formally accepted the offer so far."
The loans are being offered at a 7% commercial interest rate.
"Officials at the SADC which represents 12 [sic] other countries in the
region," continued Rachel, "are also expressing doubts about the proposal.
They say they would prefer that the US put pressure on US drug companies to
'Members are already burdened by debt,' said Dr Thutula Balfour, director of
the health unit of the SADC. 'Making drugs affordable is the solution rather
than offering loans that have interest'... Dr Kalumbi Shangula, the
permanent secretary for the Namibian Ministry of Health, agreed. He said his
country could not afford the drugs. In the US, a patient might pay $12,000 a
year or more for drug therapy, a price tag wayout of reach for patients in
poor African countries."
An echo from the past
Mbeki's current "problems" should remind us of Kwame Nkrumah. Forty years
ago, Nkrumah was called a "megalomaniac" (mad, in short) for preaching
African unity, and wanting to industrialise Ghana as a model for a new Africa
of those days. His government was overthrown. His projects were called
Yet, today, Nkrumah's 11-point African Union programme (published in 1963)
has been adopted and implemented almost wholesale by the European Union.
Africa, realising that it has lost out because it allowed itself to be
deceived, is now going back 40 years for Nkrumah's African Union project.
Mbkei's two cardinal sins are supposed to be his refusal to "berate Mugabe in
public" (Michael Dynes), and his little trouble with AIDS.
But in the West, when one country is in trouble, leaders in "the region " do
not publicly berate the president of the troubled country. They call it
"non-interference" in domestic affairs. At best, they use diplomatic
channels to make themselves heard. Why the same Western countries and their
journalists wanted Mbeki to do otherwise, in Mugabe's case, shows how lowly
they think about Africa and its leaders.
Michael Davis (The Times) even had more to say: "President Mugabe's
reckless seizure of white farms shocked investor sentiment across the region.
'How do we know we are going to own the land we build our factories on 10
years down the line?,' investors asked in bewilderment."
This is what is we call in Ghana, "putting sand in my gari." First, troubles
in Northern Ireland--and they've been going on for a long time--do not affect
foreign investment in mainland Britain or even the Republic of Ireland.
Troubles in the Basque regions of Spain and France themselves, least the
whole "European region."
So if troubles in Zimbabwe affect "investor confidence" in the whole SADC
region of 14 disparate countries, when peace in Namibia does not favourably
affect investment in the whole region, then there is something more to it
than meets the eye.
Anyway, if investors are not sure they would still own the land on which
their factories stand in 10 years time, this is why: For far too long, the
world has glossed over the fact that from Canada to USA, to Latin America, to
New Zealand, to Australia, to parts of Africa, and elsewhere, indigenous
peoples were deprived of their lands by European settlers after exterminating
the native populations. Today the descendants of these European settlers
have become the fat of the land, while the descendants of the natives tread
water, (if not herded into reservations).
This is an affront to the modern world, and something must be done by way of
restitution. In short, if investors in the SADC region are not sure that the
land beneath their factories would still be their in 10 years time, it is
because the descendants of the natives also want to eat.
Which takes me to Mbeki's other supposed crime--AIDS?
R. W. Johnson kindly informs us (A second Black Death looms in South
Africa, The Times, 29 Aug) that in South Africa, "AIDS has an unequal
racial incidence. Africans have by far the highest infection rate, followed
by Coloureds... The Asian and white figures are microscopic by comparison."
Bold statement, this. But if you asked Johnson to give you HARD figures to
back up his claim, he would have none. He would give you only "estimates."
Anyway, the view that AIDS is black African is not Johnson's. It is the view
of the AIDS establishment. Look at your average AIDS map. Arab North Africa
is painted white (free from disease). Anywhere else below the Sahara is
painted brown. How AIDS knows the differences among the skin colours is one
of the seven wonders of our modern world. ["HIV" is supposedly so
sophisticated that it also distinguishes between genders and sexual
But let's go with Johnson for a moment. If AIDS is indeed black African,
doesn't it behoove responsible African leaders to look at what lies at its
bottom, in order to find a suitable cure? Yet Mbeki does exactly this, and
they say he is "mad, he is acting like a nutter" (The Sunday Times).
But there are very important questions here. On 2 March this year , both
The Times and The Independent reported that the Millennium holiday (24
Dec. - 31 Dec 99) alone resulted in a 20% rise in abortions in Britain. "An
additional 9,000 women and abortions in January and February  compared
with the same time last year, aid Marie Stopes International, one of the main
providers of abortions in the country," reported The Independent.
"This increase could be the tip of the iceberg,"said Helen Axby, the deputy
director of Marie Stopes. "It seems we are just seeing the first swath of
women who have missed their period after the holidays."
The Times quoted Ann Furendi, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, as
also saying: "We have some figures for the January period showing numbers are
up by as much as 30% in some clinics..."
Which means two things: (a) the British are sexually promiscuous, (b) they
don't use condoms (if at all, the rate is low). Britain, again, is said to
have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe. Again, it confirms that
condom usage is low else the teenagers would not be getting pregnant at that
Now the question: If the British are promiscuous, and the majority do not use
condoms, and ARE NOT catching AIDS; and if Africans are promiscuous, and the
majority do not use condoms and ARE catching AIDS (as the AIDS establishment
tells us), doesn't Africa deserve the right to examine why the dichotomy, in
order to find a cure unique to the African condition?
This is all what Mbeki is doing. But they say, "No, you mustn't do that, we
have the answer, the drugs and the loans here for you, take them."
Well, thank God, Africa now has, at least, one leader who is not prepared to
swallow this arrogance from the North. They can rant and rave--but let them
rant and rave!
For Africa, it is time we knew when to support and protect our progressive
leaders. Nkrumah, Lumumba, etc., were cut down because the people did not
protect them. Are we going to allow the sharks to make another kill?