MANDELA DENIES RIFT WITH MBEKI ON AIDS POLICY
Reuters 19 Feb. 2002
Johannesburg -- South Africa's Nelson Mandela
on Tuesday brushed aside speculation about a growing rift with his
successor, President Thabo Mbeki, over the government's controversial
handling of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
"The feeling that there is a rift between us is totally untrue,"
Mandela said in a radio interview a day after meeting with Mbeki and
senior members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to
discuss the AIDS crisis. South African newspapers reported on Tuesday
that Mandela had locked horns during the meeting with Mbeki over the
issue, but that the two leaders later agreed to close ranks.
The 83-year-old Mandela, who stepped down as president in 1999, has in
recent weeks made several strong statements on HIV/AIDS. Mbeki has
drawn criticism both at home and abroad for publicly questioning the
link between HIV and AIDS and for refusing to provide drugs that can
help prevent pregnant women with HIV from transmitting the virus to
In an interview over the weekend, Mandela said it was time to stop
debating and fight a "war" against the epidemic. "We must not continue
debating, to be arguing when people are dying," he told the Sunday
Mandela told 702 Radio on Tuesday that his comments were not a
criticism of Mbeki or his government, which he added was correctly
handling the AIDS crisis.
"The only weakness is that they have not communicated sufficiently. If
they did, I'm sure many people would appreciate why they are so
cautious about this matter," he said. "I was not criticising the
government. I was talking about the debate and calling upon everybody
to try and agree on how AIDS should be treated," Mandela said.
Citing sources at the meeting, the Star newspaper said Mandela had
complained about the lack of debate within the ANC on critical issues
such as the use of antiretroviral drugs for pregnant women. "Mandela
was worried that not one of the ANC cabinet ministers opposed to
Mbeki's approach to HIV/AIDS pandemic has spoken out," the newspaper