SOUTH AFRICA'S ANC STOKES MBEKI AIDS CONTROVERSY
By Emelia Sithole
Reuters 4 October 2000
Johannesburg -- A senior official of South Africa's ruling African National Congress stoked
more controversy over AIDS on Wednesday by backing President Thabo Mbeki's
view that the disease could not be caused by a single virus.
In a statement published in the Business Day newspaper, Smuts Ngonyama,
head of Mbeki's office at the ANC, challenged a reporter who had urged the
government to admit unequivocally that the human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV) caused Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), to produce
evidence to show that the virus was the sole cause of AIDS.
"Among other things, what the president is challenging is the assertion
that AID--AIDS without "S''--is the exclusive fault of a single virus,''
"He is saying that he does not believe that immune deficiency can be
acquired--the "A'' in AIDS--from a single cause, the HI virus,'' he said.
Ngonyama's statement comes after an appeal by the country's doctors for an
end to the debate which they said was confusing people who should be
focusing on fighting AIDS which is spreading faster in South Africa than
anywhere else on earth.
The South African Medical Association (SAMA) said on Tuesday it was
concerned at the growing number of people who were now questioning the
existence of HIV after Mbeki questioned the causal link between it and
"The point we want to raise is that at this point in time there shouldn't
really be discussion about whether HIV causes AIDS,'' SAMA chairman Zolile
Doctors say HIV/AIDS link scientific fact
"Whether HIV causes AIDS or not is not a matter of speculation, it's a
question of scientific fact. As professionals and scientists we want to
make that statement very clear. It's our responsibility to do so,'' Mlisana
Mbeki has said he will not accept the causal link between HIV and AIDS
unless it is proven anew by an international panel that he has appointed to
test the link.
Ngonyama said the controversy had arisen because Mbeki had said that
science should provide answers to questions posed by "eminent (dissident)
scientists who question this conventional wisdom.''
"The president's international advisory panel on AIDS is working precisely
to consider the divergent scientific opinions on this matter,'' he said.
In a statement strongly contested by doctors, Mbeki told parliament a week
ago that a virus could not cause a syndrome.
AIDS activists and doctors have slammed the president's stance, saying it
undermined the country's efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
One in 10 South Africans are infected with HIV and the numbers swell daily
Last week, former President Nelson Mandela also repudiated his successor's
stance on the issue, saying HIV was the primary cause of the disease that
threatens to kill millions of South Africans.
Mandela told the Independent Group newspapers that he would respect the
"dominant opinion which prevails throughout the world'' that HIV causes
AIDS until he was shown conclusive and scientific proof that this was