By Pusch Commey
New African October 2000
Barking up the wrong tree; Mbeki is expected to dispense drugs like sweets
and make himself the darling of the drug companies. He will not. So he must
be given a bad name and hanged.
In the run-up to the first non-racial elections in South Africa in 1994, a
gang of racist white farmers led by the AWB leader, Eugene Terre Blanche,
entered the former Bantustan then ruled by Lucas Mangope and indiscriminately
shot dead over 40 innocent blacks. Their Dutch courage ran out when they
came under fire from the Bophuthatswana Defence Force. Three of the farmers
were killed--shot by a black policeman when their car was stopped.
The Sunday Times, one of the country's leading newspapers, angrily cried
MURDER all over its front page. Little was said about the 40 blacks who had
been shot dead for no reason except that they were black. It is that kind of
reality that South Africa continues to live with six years into majority
With its disproportionate voice in the media and its established links with
kith and kin abroad, most of the print media (read white) are especially
notorious in the manipulation of perception at the expense of the black
population and the country in which they live.
David Beresford's article of 20 August for the British weekly, The Observer
(see Baffour's beefs p 16-17) is an excellent example. l For those who don't
know, Beresford is a columnist for the Mail and Guardian of Johannesburg, a
sister paper of The Guardian (London) which owns The Observer.
Beresford's article, headlined Mbeki 'let's AIDS babies die in pain,' is
rich in speculation, distortion, damned lies and outright mischief. It
accuses the president of refusing to provide anti-AIDS drugs to pregnant
The article is anchored on the infantile threat by the AIDS Treatment Action
Group (a pressure group) to take legal action against Mbeki for "killing"
AIDS babies by an act of omission--refusing to give their mothers AZT and
An act of omission is a legal principle they hardly understand, which first
has to establish a duty of care in a situation where someone is under your
care and control (as in the landmark South African case of Minister of Police
In the first place, the government has not prevented anybody who wants to
privately seek whatever antiviral treatment or quack therapy from doing so.
A government obviously cannot be held responsible for the death of every sick
person in a country. Nobody has been arrested by Mbeki's government for
using AZT or Nevirapine. The government's crime is simply that "we are not
buying until we have made sure it works for us. So we cannot include it in
our official register yet."
Picking on this phantom legal threat, Beresford proceeds to take potshots at
Mbeki by saying: "It is becoming apparent that the explanation for these
seemingly perverse policies lies in South Africa's state of denial over AIDS."
He then disingenuously seeks an explanation for his "denial theory" by
resurrecting the case of Charlene Smith who wrote an article on her rape
ordeal at the hands of a black man and used it to make unhealthy conclusions
about black male sexual violence. Mbeki subsequently denounced her as
Astonishingly, Beresford perpetuates the very idea for which Charlene Smith
was denounced by quoting extensively from a discredited article by a white
anthropologist married to a black man, Dr Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala. Beresford
passes this off as a "most compelling" analysis.
He quotes her in part: "There is a significant body of well researched and
well documented social studies that points to high levels of premarital
sexual activity, extramarital relations and sexual violence, making African
societies more at risk from HIV/AIDS than those in other parts of the world.
"In many communities, women can expect a beating not only if they suggest
condom usage but also if they refuse sex, if they curtail a relationship, if
they are found or suspected to have another partner, or even if they are
believed to be thinking about someone else."
Beresford's conclusions are based on "a significant body of research."
"Research has found..." What research, and who is behind it?
How research by some anthropologist sitting in KwaZulu-Natal becomes
representative of a whole big continent, beggars belief. Snapshots taken in
time of selected targets suddenly becomes representative of all of Africa.
The Mr Beresford domonstrates considerable cowardice by taking cover under
the words, "if such analysis holds true," then the situation would appear to
call for strong national leadership to deal with the denial. He then insults
President Mbeki by declaring him unfit to offer a strong national leadership.
He further aggravates it by accusing Mbeki of being in denial.
Nauseatingly, Beresford caps his article by outrageously suggesting that
Mbeki's "sensitivity on race points to a previously undiscovered
psychological trauma" which makes him "least qualified to heal past wounds."
When, and where, Mbeki was diagnosed as suffering from psychological trauma
is yet to be known.
What is known, however, is the "psychological trauma" suffered by Beresford
himself when the master/servant relationship with his maid ended with her
death. On 18 August, (two days before his Observer article), Beresford
wrote in the Mail and Guardian about his heroic attempt to get to the
bottom of what his maid of eight years suffered and subsequently died of.
He concluded that it might have been AIDS but nobody would say what killed
her. It is this difficulty in understanding that different cultures handle
situations differently that is baffling. This is what Beresford calls
denial. And which makes him unfit to make any commentary on such matters.
Mbeki cannot heal past wounds because people like Beresford continue to rake
it. He says the president denies the reality of AIDS because he "nurses the
dreams of an Mbeki-led African renaissance." And yet in the same breath, he
talks about Mbeki pursuing AIDS cures such as virodene.
How one can deny the existence of a disease and yet seek a cure? It beats
me. Interestingly, virodene was invented by white South Africans, and
Beresford will do well to ask the manufacturers of AZT, Nevirapine and the
other anti-viral drugs about their laundry list of side effects, any of which
can make you sick.
Apparently, Mr Beresford wants President Mbeki to dispense drugs like sweets
and make himself the darling of drug companies and their governments in the
West. He will not. So he must be given a bad name and hanged.
The "good" black president in White South Africa/the West is the one who
serves their interest at the expense of his people. Mbeki will not.
And unfortunately, in our midst, are the Judases of South Africa (and Africa)
who will betray a presidency for 13 pieces of silver.