Misquotation corrections and comments on Roberts's responses in The Citizen article


I did not in 'Lying and Thieving' or nor in my brief telephone interview with the author of this article describe Roberts as a 'poisonous viper'. I liken him to a 'mamba', and a 'snake' in the book's introduction. And I described during the interview what it was like for me reading a scanned copy of Roberts's attacks on me in 'Fit to Govern' emailed to me in June while I was in Italy between Rome and Florence. I used the metaphor of walking through the country, suddenly feeling a searing pain in your calf, looking down and seeing a snake wrapped around your leg and pumping the poison in. All you can think of is getting the snake off and the poison out. This account has been reduced to liking to Roberts with a 'poisonous viper'. Only I don't speak that way, and didn't. All vipers are poisonous.


Nor did I say Roberts is a 'despicable coward, and not very intelligent'. If you've read the book, you see that the speech rhythm is all wrong, and it's not mine. The author of the article described an angry encounter he had with Roberts, in which he said Roberts went to pieces 'like a three-year-old. I've never met a bigger coward.' I agreed that Roberts is a coward; I describe him as one in the book, giving examples. The journalist made up the phrase 'despicable coward' and made me say it in his piece. But I never did; I don't speak that way. Despicable isn't in my vocabulary; I find it a slightly ridiculous word. 

The journalist asked me whether I thought Roberts was intelligent, saying he certainly didn't. I responded that I didn't either; as I say in the book: 'heís clever but heís not intelligent'. I did not say 'he's not very intelligent'. And I did not run these criticisms together in the same clumsy sentence, as misquoted.


The journalist says I was 'one of the first to question whether anti-retroviral drugs work'. In fact I was the first to raise the toxicity of ARVs in South Africa in the media and I brought this to government attention.


The journalist says: 'Brink said: "In the words of Robert Mugabe: 'The game is over and it's time for him to go.'" Actually I quoted President Mugabe precisely, and what he said was, 'The game is up, and it's time for you to go.'


The journalist says: 'Brink said he had been extensively quoted in early drafts of Robertsís book, but that in the final manuscript Roberts removed the quote marks, and so passed off Brinkís work as his own.' The first part is correct, the second completely wrong. The impression created is that Roberts quoted my work and then later removed the quotation marks and attribution. He didn't, and I never said he did. In fact Roberts removed the chunks of prose that he quoted from my book in his first draft of his AIDS chapter, not merely quotation marks. There's one chunk of my writing in his footnotes in which he credits me for a point that I made, then goes on to quote my prose on this score without quotation marks so you think my writing is his. This is compounded by the fact that where my writing ends, his begins, without any indication to distinguish my writing from his. 


The journalist's carelessness here left a hole open through which Roberts was able to scurry off like a sewer rat: 'He has no idea how my draft evolved. I therefore wait with some fascination to see the language he contends I stole from him, by the supposed device of dropping quotation marks. The suggestion is beneath seriousness.' In fact I never claimed Roberts 'dropp[ed] quotation marks' from my writing originally enclosed by them in his manuscript. As Roberts has correctly stated elsewhere,  'Nowhere in Brinkís 376 page manuscript does he make, let alone sustain, any such defamatory allegation.' Indeed so. The journalist misreported what I said.


But Roberts is mistaken in claiming that I have 'no idea how [my] draft evolved'. Actually I have a very good 'idea how [his] draft evolved', because I have read six of them, the final published version aside, which is to say seven in all. And these successive drafts are most informative in showing the dishonesty of Roberts's evolving attack on me as a lunatic. It's like watching gangrene setting in.


The journalist writes: 'Said Brink: "The man is a flagrant liar. My entire book is replete with instances of Roberts being less than honest. Itís also full of examples of his bullying and his cowardice. Itís a must-read." This is a mix of what I said, what I more or less said and what I never said. I never said Roberts was 'less than honest'. I never used those words because I do not think those thoughts. I am much more forthright in my judgement of him. I never followed with a comment about 'his bullying and his cowardice'; this was earlier in a discussion of how these traits go hand in hand, and are both pronounced aspects of Roberts's character. I urged the journalist to read the book, but I never used the expression 'a must-read'. I never do.