PRESIDENCY DISOWNS 'DUSTBIN' COMMENT
SAPA 5 July 2000
Johannesburg -- The Office of President Thabo Mbeki
has distanced itself from a statement by presidential
spokesperson Parks Mankahlana who said the Durban
Declaration -- a statement signed by 5 000 scientists decrying
Mbeki's stance on the causes of AIDS -- should be consigned
to the dustbin.
Tasneem Carrim of the Office of the President said
Mankahlana was just "speaking off the cuff and not
representing the presidency".
She said media statements on the AIDS conference had been
assigned to the Government Communication and Information
It is understood that Mankahlana has been instructed to
avoid making any further statements on the issue following
the remark. Attempts to speak to Mankahlana drew a blank
Various political parties have condemned the remark as
irresponsible while the ANC declined to comment.
Democratic Party spokesperson Jack Bloom yesterday
described the remark as astonishing and highly irresponsible.
Azanian People's Organisation spokesperson Kedibone
Molema said the remark was undiplomatic and belittled the
stature of the Office of the President. It would render the
entire AIDS conference useless since it had been implied that
the Office of the President would not consider what would
come out of the conference.
Bloom said: "By causing doubt that HIV causes AIDS, you are
actually encouraging people to continue with their
irresponsible behaviour. This kind of a statement undermines
our efforts to combat AIDS because there are people who do
not think that AIDS is a reality.
"This is very serious and Mankahlana should be called to
account. He is trying to protect President Mbeki who has
exposed himself to criticism."
Pan Africanist Congress secretary-general Thami Plaatjie
rejected Mankahlana's comment as stupid.
"We have no record of Mankahlana as a trained scientist.
How can he dismiss scientists who have committed their lives
to study the subject? It is only a fool who can challenge the
findings of scientists on this matter.
"Considering this kind of attitude, we doubt if South Africa is
qualified to host this international conference on AIDS," said
ANC spokesman Nat Serache said he did not want to
comment on Mankahlana's statement.