AIDS: MBEKI BACKS OFF
Sundat Times (SA) 15 Oct. '00
President Thabo Mbeki has told the ANC's highest
decision-making body that he is withdrawing from the public
debate on the science of HIV and AIDS.
Party insiders said Mbeki told the ANC's national executive
committee that his continued participation in the debate was
They said there was concern in the government that the
controversy sparked by his views on AIDS was creating a
negative mood in South Africa and causing disillusionment with
the President within the ANC.
It was also widening divisions between the ANC and its allies,
Cosatu and the South African Communist Party.
Mbeki told the committee he would leave his ministers, led by
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the Health Minister, to liaise with
the Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel, which he established this
year to investigate the causes of AIDS.
Mbeki told the ANC meeting that the committee of ministers, not
him, would receive and process the report.
But although he will withdraw from the public debate, Mbeki also
gave the meeting a detailed explanation of his controversial views
Mbeki's withdrawal from the public debate follows his admission
in Parliament three weeks ago that his participation had
His decision to withdraw coincides with other efforts by the
government to undo the damage done by the controversy:
Tshabalala-Msimang announced this week that HIV-positive
pregnant women would be given the anti-HIV drug Nevirapine at
seven hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal. a significant expansion of a
government study on the feasibility of a programme to prevent
Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who chairs the National AIDS
Council, this week emphasised conventional approaches to HIV
and AIDS such as using condoms and treating sexually
transmitted diseases; and
The government launched a R2-million publicity campaign
promoting conventional methods of fighting AIDS.