OFFICIALS URGE AIDS DISSIDENTS TO STOP MISUSING MBEKI'S NAME
By Wyndham Hartley
Business Day (South Africa) 22 April 2002
Johannesburg -- State's about-turn on drugs raises questions over his relationship with
David Rasnick and Peter Duesburg, who question the link between HIV and AIDS
There have been discussions among senior members of government aimed at
getting the socalled HIV/AIDS dissidents to stop misusing President Thabo
Mbeki's name, but these discussions did not involve the president.
Last week's reversal of government's position on the AIDS drug nevirapine
for rape survivors and the announcement that preparations were under way for
a roll-out to HIV-positive pregnant women raised speculation about Mbeki's
relationship with AIDS dissidents David Rasnick and Peter Duesburg. Both
have written letters to the SA press and signed themselves as members of
Mbeki's AIDS panel. They have also used his name when questioning the link
between HIV and AIDS on international platforms.
Presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo said that the matter had been discussed
at some levels of government "but these discussions did not involve the
president". He said Mbeki was not aware of the discussions.
The changes from last week have also put the position of ANC MP Peter Mokaba
in the spotlight. The former youth league leader has been following the
dissident line on platforms both at home and abroad. He has openly declared
that HIV does not cause AIDS and has declared nevirapine to be a poison.
ANC officials confirmed yesterday that a strong message had been sent to
Mokaba that he should desist with his dissident campaign. The concern was
the damage being done to SA's image abroad and the deepening gulf between
civil society and government.
The image spreading around the world was one of an uncaring government and
there was the possibility of increased opposition to government on this one
Tony Leon, leader of the official opposition, welcomed the decision on AIDS
drugs yesterday. He said, however, that there needed to be immediate moves
to "remove the major contradictions that mark our AIDS policy". He
questioned the position of Mokaba and how it contradicted with the actions
of Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Another contradiction was the
cabinet decision on making nevirapine available but still persisting with
its appeal against the Pretoria High Court ruling that government should
provide the drug to pregnant HIV-positive women.
"It is not enough to cut informal contact with the AIDS dissidents. He
(Mbeki) must remove them from government's advisory panel. Decisive
leadership and not mixed messages should characterise our policies." Leon
also called for government to withdraw from its Constitutional Court appeal.
New National Party spokesman Kobus Gous said "firm, principled and correct
decisions, guided by accepted science and above all effective management, is
"SA has the capacity to turn around this disaster. Recent developments
might, at long last, indicate that we are now on the right track," he said.