‘For very great is the number of the stupid’

Those who know that the consensus of many centuries has sanctioned the conception that the earth remains at rest in the middle of the heaven as its centre would, I reflected, regard it as an insane pronouncement if I made the opposite assertion that the earth moves.

Nicolaus Copernicus, Preface to De Revolutionibus, 1543

I have for many years been a partisan of the Copernican view because it reveals to me the causes of many natural phenomena that are entirely incomprehensible in the light of the generally accepted hypothesis. To refute the latter I have collected many proofs, but I do not publish them, because I am deterred by the fate of our teacher Copernicus who, although he had won immortal fame with a few, was ridiculed and condemned by countless people (for very great is the number of the stupid).

Galileo Galilei, letter to Johannes Kepler, 1596

Stupidity, selfishness and good health are the three requirements for happiness; though if stupidity is lacking, the rest are useless.

Gustave Flaubert, letter to Louise Colet, 13 August 1846

What puzzles me is why people do not want to think.

President Thabo Mbeki, SABC 3 television, 8 February 2004

What is it, [Schulz] asks, that causes Gambrowicz, and artists in general, to pay attention to, and even take secret delight in, the stupidest, most philistine expressions of public opinion? (Why, for example, did Gustave Flaubert spend months and years collecting bȇtises, stupidities, and arranging them in his Dictionary of Received Opinions?)"

J M Coetzee, Inner Workings: Literary Essays 2000-2005

One day I pray that I will find the time to write or otherwise address the issue of the calamitous retreat from the habit of thinking in our country, the atrophy of meaningful critical intellectual engagement and communication, and the occupation of the realm of ideas largely by dearth of originality, superstition, opinionated prejudice, stereotypes and a herd mentality.

President Thabo Mbeki, letter to Ronald Suresh Roberts, February 2006


‘We South Africans are losing the battle against this disease. This is, in no small measure, the result of the refusal by Mbeki to accept the guidance of best science. That refusal is irrational and perverse. More than four million South Africans are infected with HIV. These four million odd South Africans will die as a result. ... It is not too late for Mbeki to change the growing perception of him as an extremely intelligent man, but one whose intellect contains islands of irrationality that are impervious to reason, who has difficulty in conceding an error of judgement, and who prefers verbal play to the practical tasks at hand.’ Editorial, ‘Just say yes, Mr President’, Mail & Guardian, 15 September 2000

‘Mbeki – described by friends and even critics as among the smartest and most capable leaders in the developing world – has become better known internationally for his skepticism about conventional AIDS treatments than for any other reason.’ Jon Jeter, Washington Post, 6 July 2000

‘In the last few months, Thabo Mbeki has been introducing himself to the world as a loon … making a spectacle of himself. … He read the scientific papers and now talks confidently about “toxicities” and “the phosphoral relation [sic: the AZT triphosphorylation problem].” He portrays himself as an educated skeptic about AIDS. But his late night Web-trolling, credulity about what he read online, and $10 scientific phrases smack less of skepticism than obsession. The president of South Africa is acting like a nutter. It’s a shame that Mbeki has been diverted by this bizarre AIDS twaddle, because he is normally rational. … Mbeki’s AIDS paroxysm, in short, is uncharacteristic of his lifetime of reasonableness. Why is he fixated on questioning the Western consensus about AIDS? … Mbeki faces a health catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. The West keeps haranguing him to buy drugs that he can’t afford, without trying to find a solution that he can. For 58 years, he has never succumbed to desperation or folly, no matter how dire the situation. If South Africa has become so troubled that even the unflappable Mbeki is coming unhinged, the world should worry.’ David Plotz, ‘Thabo Mbeki: Why has South Africa’s excellent president gone loco?’, Slate, 14 July 2000

‘… his continuing personal musings [have provided] a year-long Christmas present to [the government’s] detractors, both here and abroad. Much of this has been, frankly, Mbeki’s fault. But as the dust settles now and his government continues its multibillion rand assault on Aids, we must not forget that this ordeal was not only – or even principally – a story of presidential error. Aids – an opportunistic disease – has attracted its fair share of opportunistic commentators. … Impatience with testing [i.e. with Mbeki’s questioning of the reliability of HIV antibody tests] is a natural instinct which I personally share. It seems like mere fiddling while Rome burns.’ Ronald Suresh Roberts, letter in Sunday Independent, 8 October 2000

‘President Mbeki’s persistent questioning of the link between HIV and Aids has been an unmitigated disaster for South Africa. It has distracted the country from dealing decisively with a social catastrophe, it has embroiled it in a long, destructive debate with bitter racial overtones, it has weakened the president internally after barely a year in office, and it has isolated him internationally, with most of the world’s scientific community and political leaders looking on in horror at his stubborn crusade to back the so-called Aids dissidents. … Tragically … a whole range of critically important issues … are getting sidetracked by the president’s personal obsession.’ Bryan Rostron, Deadly dissent of a would-be Galileo’, New Statesman, 16 October 2000

‘It is this implicitly racially governed as well as homophobic mindset that lies behind Mbeki’s refusal of the judgment of the overwhelming majority in contemporary science on the nature of the AIDS virus. On the one hand such a view endorses an Africanist myth of a pure and primal Africa contaminated by a sinful West, a reversion to the race theory of the apartheid state. It reflects on the other hand the cloistered, driven mindset that produced the sham biology of Lysenko in the final years of Stalin.’ Paul Trewhela, ‘Mbeki and Aids in Africa: A Comment’, New York Review of Books, 19 October 2000

‘… scientists don’t know what they are looking for when testing for HIV.’ President Thabo Mbeki, reported statement while on an official state visit to Brazil in mid-December 2000

‘The universal human response to Aids is denial. It is as though nobody can face the awful reality of a calamity that rivals the great plagues of history.’ Ken Owen, Leadership, December 2000

‘The year 2000 has been filled by weird and wonderful events. President Thabo Mbeki’s questioning of whether HIV does in fact cause Aids, must fall into the category of “weird.” His statements have caused uncertainty and have confused people.’ Abdul Kayum Ahmed, now CEO of the South African Human Rights Commission, ‘Developing a Theology of Compassion: Muslim Attitudes Towards People Living With HIV/Aids in South Africa’, unpublished paper, Department of Religious Studies, University of Cape Town, 2000

‘… too often … [the] African National Congress under President Thabo Mbeki … continues to view all politics through the lens of the national liberation struggle, identifying racism as the basic problem … Among the tragic consequences of this fixation [has] been Mbeki’s almost bizarre response to the AIDS epidemic.’ Jeffrey Herbst, International Herald Tribune, 27 October 2005

‘… not even the most skilled and devious spin-doctor in the world would be able to explain our president’s views and strategies on HIV/Aids.’ Max du Preez, Cape Argus, 20 November 2003

‘The year during which President Mbeki openly gave sustenance to denialist beliefs was a year of horror – for AIDS prevention, for AIDS implementation, for everything. It was a year of nightmare.’ Judge Edwin Cameron interviewed in ‘AIDS Treatment News’, thebody.com, 13 July 2001

‘Basically he doesn’t believe that HIV causes AIDS. That is why everything is in a mess.’ Zackie Achmat, founder and leader of the Treatment Action Campaign, in the documentary film ‘A State of Denial’, 2003

‘Thabo Mbeki’s legacy is in danger; tragically, “the president with the inexplicably contrary views on HIV/AIDS” would be most apposite at this stage.’ Richard Calland and Sean Jacobs, ‘Thabo Mbeki: Politics and ideology’, in Thabo Mbeki’s World: The Politics and Ideology of the South African President, edited by the authors (University of Natal Press/Zed Books, 2002)

‘President Thabo Mbeki has sentenced many thousands of our fellow citizens to death by pretending that HIV does not cause Aids.’ William Saunderson-Meyer, Weekend Argus, 13 April 2002

‘Certainly with respect to AIDS, the president’s views have prevented the effective marshalling and direction of public resources and social energy.’ Tom Lodge, then professor of politics, Wits University, Politics in South Africa (David Philip, 2002)

‘If you think the nutritionists and vitamin peddlers in the UK are weird, you really want to go to South Africa, where President Thabo Mbeki has a long history of siding with the HIV denialists, who believe that HIV does not cause Aids (but that treatments for it do) [namely] Anthony Brink ... the man who is credited with introducing Mbeki to HIV denialism, who has helped cost the lives of tens of thousands of people needlessly deprived of effective treatments.’ Ben Goldacre, ‘A new all-time low, London Guardian, 20 January 2007

‘HIV/Aids has decimated the population and perpetuated poverty. … Mbeki’s reluctance to sanction large-scale provision of anti-retroviral medication to HIV/Aids patients and his personal association with dissident Aids denialists have, until recently, undermined official efforts to curb the pandemic.’ Tom Lodge, ‘Mbeki leaves SA a mixed legacy’, Focus (journal of the Helen Suzman Foundation), March 2007

‘Our President, Thabo Mbeki, is a truly miserable piece of work. He is bitter, narrow-minded, vainglorious, officious, arrogant, pompous and racist. … He has the effrontery, in his hysterical, illogical and ignorant denial of the HIV-Aids scourge, to tell us that he does not know anyone who has died from Aids. When he makes such outrageous remarks, does he not see what a fool he is making of himself?’ Stephen Mulholland, ‘Mbeki’s legacy: misgovernance’, Citizen, 22 March 2007

‘In our country the issue of HIV/AIDS has for some time been fraught with an unusual degree of political, ideological and emotional contention. This is perhaps unavoidable, having regard to the magnitude of the catastrophe we confront.’ Chaskalson CJ, Langa DCJ, Ackermann J, Du Plessis AJ, Goldstone J, Kriegler J, Madala J, Ngcobo J, O’Regan, J Sachs J, and Skweyiya AJ in Minister of Health and Others v Treatment Action Campaign and Others (No 2) (CCT8/02) [2002] ZACC 15; 2002 (5) SA 721; 2002 (10) BCLR 1033 5 July 2002

‘“The central problem,” says Achmat, “is the absence of political will. Why is the president like this?” … Achmat’s theory is this: “The president doesn’t want to believe that people in Africa have a lot of sex.”’ Rory Carroll, London Guardian, 10 December 2002

‘Central to the problem [of Mbeki’s desire ‘to change the world’] is the issue of whom Mbeki most comfortably allies himself with. The social forces represented in the AIDS treatment example [i.e. the Treatment Action Campaign] are emblematic of the challenge, for they evoke enormous potential for real solidarity, for changing the balance of forces.’ Patrick Bond, then professor of economics, Wits University, ‘Thabo Mbeki and NEPAD: Breaking or shining the chains of global apartheid’, in Thabo Mbeki’s World: The Politics and Ideology of the South African President

‘No one trusts Mbeki on this topic. He has already rejected advice from former president Nelson Mandela, thousands of health professionals and advocacy groups, by refusing to make anti-retroviral drugs readily available across the country. … the terms genocide and infanticide are now regularly used by even professionals and journalists to describe Mbeki’s Aids policies. A slow, painful death also awaits South Africa’s economy.’ Patrick Bond, ‘Thabo Mbeki Addresses His Compatriots’, Z-mag, 15 February 2002

‘Thabo Mbeki’s interventions in the AIDS debate resulted in widespread confusion. As Judge Edwin Cameron (himself HIV-positive) put it when he addressed the Durban AIDS Conference in 2000, Mbeki’s “flirtation with those who in the face of all reason and evidence have sought to dispute the aetiology of AIDS … has shaken almost everyone responsible for engaging epidemic. It has created an air of unbelief amongst scientists, confusion amongst those at risk of HIV, and consternation amongst AIDS workers (Cameron 2000).”’ Nicoli Nattrass, professor of economics, director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit, University of Cape Town, The Moral Economy of AIDS in South Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2004)

‘The whole point of the TAC and other Aids activists is that the country can never deal with its Aids problem while the president is an Aids denialist, and while the government keeps putting back the timetable for providing ARVs. … [Gordimer:] “I just can’t understand his [‘wholly incomprehensible’] attitude. Yet in many ways he is an excellent president. He is so intelligent and such a well-read man.”’ RW Johnson interviewing Nadine Gordimer, London Sunday Times, 21 November 2004

‘The dangers posed by the lone righteous gunman are all too apparent in Elaine Epstein’s [documentary film] State of Denial, which (like Samantha Power’s recent article in The New Yorker) details South African president Thabo Mbeki’s blind, suicidal opposition to HIV-fighting drugs in a country grievously beset by AIDS as well as ignorance. (Health workers report that patients eschew condoms and medication, according to what they interpret as the president’s wishes.)’ Jessica Winter, New York Village Voice, 11 June 2003

‘AIDS campaigners who lobby for useful drugs for patients are accused of being stooges of foreign drug companies. Mr Mbeki has now stopped espousing his dreadful view that AIDS is not caused by a virus, but still shows little enthusiasm for the anti-AIDS measures that almost everyone believes are needed. ... who will tell him that his policies on AIDS ... are useless or dangerous?’ ‘A Man of Two Faces’, Economist, 20 January 2005

‘This is Anthony Brink, the biggest liar’ Zackie Achmat, addressing supporters outside the Cape High Court in the morning, Cape Town, 21 June 2005

‘Mbeki is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.’ Zackie Achmat, addressing supporters outside the Cape High Court in the afternoon, Cape Town, 21 June 2005

‘Mbeki’s handling of the AIDS issue has reinforced his image as a lone, remote intellectual and contrarian battling against the world. … In dealing with AIDS, Mbeki may have wandered off on a deadly diversion that has helped place an entire nation in denial and needlessly taken the lives of millions of its citizens. … Underlying the [government’s reluctance to provide antiretroviral drugs] was an unspoken belief among Mbeki’s inner circle that spending money on ARVs would be futile, since the real problem lay with the reasons for South Africa’s masses being particularly vulnerable to AIDS. At its most cynical, the view suggests that the exchequer was to be spared the cost of subsidising treatment for the poor and unemployed, who were a drain on resources rather than contributors to the state coffers.’ William Mervin Gumede, Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC (Zebra Press, 2005)

‘It seems we need a South African version of Professor Alfred C Kinsey [who] became famous in 1948 when he released his seminal work, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male … It is well known that part of Thabo Mbeki’s HIV/Aids denialism flows from his contempt for those who consider African sexual habits different to those of other groups. It is also well known that we suffer from one of the highest, if not the highest, levels of rape in the world. It is also likely that we have the highest recorded incidence of baby and child rape in the recorded history of mankind. We know of the belief, allegedly fostered by some traditional healers, that sex with a virgin will protect or even cure a man of HIV/Aids. Then there is the cultural aspect of male domination….’ Stephen Mulholland, ‘We need a local Kinsey report: Unless we face the facts of sex abuse in South Africa, we will not conquer it’, Citizen, 4 July 2005

‘Tragically he still shows signs of AIDS denialism. We at the TAC say, how can we engage the comrade President, because he is not carrying out the policy of the government and the ANC.’ Zackie Achmat, addressing TAC national congress, 24 September 2005

‘When did we last hear our President mentioning HIV and AIDS? … These failures start with a failure of leadership, beginning with the Presidency and the Ministry of Health. … This lack of leadership on HIV is a betrayal of our people and our struggle.’ Zwelinzima Vavi, Cosatu secretary general, at the TAC’s third national congress, 25 September 2005

‘There are few rivals to Lysenko’s position in the South African AIDS debate. I wish to give this dishonourable achievement to Anthony Brink, an AIDS denialist who seems to have found the ear of the President.’ Zackie Achmat, John Foster Lecture, University of KwaZulu-Natal, 10 November 2004

‘Now, with freedom and democracy, we did not expect a government that questions the existence of HIV and tells us that antiretroviral drugs are poisonous.’ Dr Dennis Sifris, AIDS specialist physician, Johannesburg, Health-e, 28 November 2004

‘Something has gone wrong with the post-Mandela government. Every senior UN official, engaged directly or indirectly, in the struggle against Aids, to whom I have spoken about South Africa, is completely bewildered by the policies of President Mbeki.’ Stephen Lewis, Race Against Time (House of Anansi Press, 2005)

‘The fact is that Mbeki has systematically shut down opposition and debate in … the country at large. … He has even had the effrontery to tell towering figures such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu to shut up. … Buffoons such as denialist campaigner Anthony Brink imagine the pressure on the president came from white journalists. The real heat came from ordinary people whose family members were dying while an ideologically perverse and stiff-necked administration continued to withhold drug treatment.’ Drew Forrest, deputy editor, Mail & Guardian, 28 October 2005

‘[The Constitutional Court] helped the Treatment Action Campaign acquire AIDS medicines for pregnant women because the judges agreed the state was needlessly killing tens of thousands of infants each year.’ Patrick Bond, director of the Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, ZNet, April 2004

Q: ‘You’ve condemned South African President Thabo Mbeki’s view that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS – as well as his opposition of HIV treatment.’ Cameron: ‘At the time, no one else in South Africa was speaking out about this. All that I did was draw attention to what President Mbeki had done and said and what that meant for HIV positive South Africans.’ Edwin Cameron, then judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal, POZ, January 2006

‘In the course of the HIV and AIDS debate, a demand was made that President Mbeki should subtract himself from the debate, partly on the grounds that he was making comments about issues of medical science on which he was not scientifically qualified to comment. He responded positively to this demand a few years ago. Since then, he has not commented on this subject, except to explain and support the government’s comprehensive programme of action against HIV and AIDS.’ ANC Today, 28 January 2005

‘How sad, how unfortunate that the president of the country with one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world is now effectively muzzled from speaking about the subject. … it is regrettable that this is a president who, like King Lear, is apparently blind to the harm that his personal obsession with he issue is doing to his reputation, to his government’s health policy and to the patient community. … Mbeki’s legacy, for all his other immense achievements, will always be seriously blighted by his quixotic preoccupation with the linkage between HIV and AIDS.’ Richard Calland, Anatomy of South Africa: Who Holds the Power? (Cape Town: Zebra Press, 2006)

‘… it’s not uncommon for my dear activist friends in the Treatment Action Campaign to describe the government’s policy as genocidal, based on [Mbeki’s] denialism. I’m so sorry, it’s such a life-and-death issue to the civil society forces I work with across SA … the damage done to the progressive movement – and the society as a whole – by AIDS denialists is so intense and deep ... It is … perhaps the most serious problem here, with at least five million HIV+ people and a government unwilling to provide proper care, justifying its resistance by using Duisberg [sic: Duesberg], Rasnick, Brink et al.’ Patrick Bond, email to British investigative journalist Janine Roberts, February 2006

‘Given your public and vocal position in the debate surrounding AIDS and HIV (a debate which many see as prolonging the suffering and dying of many human beings), it is possible that some people may have difficulty in spending time socially with you.’ Steve Dyer, saxophonist and university acquaintance, email to the author, 6 September 2006

‘Do you think it ever worries Brink that he may be responsible for millions of deaths?’ Warwick Swinney (a.k.a. ‘Warrick Sony’), musician, sound engineer and former high school friend (with a Junior Certificate), email to mutual friend Hamish Davidson, 20 June 2008

‘Been reading the brilliant Mbeki biography by Mark Gevisser and it’s amazing to see the influence Brink had on him. Fuck man he must be responsible for millions of lives!! Where is his head at – he’s not even a medical person. Look I stick with homeopathy and my kids haven’t ever had antibiotics but with a mass epidemic you have to bend a bit.’ Warwick Swinney, email to Hamish Davidson, 16 October 2008

‘No-one has sounded the alarm where I work daily in the presidency and … said there is a particularly alarming tendency of people dying. … nobody has said we are losing 10 percent of our staff every year because of AIDS. … There has not been any [such] indication.’ President Mbeki, City Press, 26 February 2006

‘Yesterday, City Press published views indicative of AIDS denialism by President Thabo Mbeki. … Tragically, President Mbeki continues to belittle HIV/AIDS related deaths to justify his personal denialism. He undermines government and ANC policy but he lacks the courage to do so openly as an AIDS denialist. More seriously, the President’s denialism contributes directly to delayed testing, prolonged illness and premature deaths. TAC demands that the Cabinet and ANC NEC act to save lives. The time has come to put loyalty to the Constitutional rights to life, health, dignity and equality before loyalty to a leader in denial. President Mbeki deliberately minimizes deaths from HIV/AIDS related illness. His denial is deeply offensive to people who live with HIV/AIDS and our families who bury us.’ ‘TAC Statement on President Mbeki’s AIDS Denialist Remarks in City Press’, 27 February 2006

‘… the President remains an HIV denialist.’ Zackie Achmat, Toronto Globe and Mail, 6 March 2006

‘… a disturbing rise in anti-science opinion … has permeated important public health and public policy debate … the anti-HIV nihilist rhetoric [has had] tragic consequences in lives lost. One need look no farther than South Africa, where such AIDS-nihilism has infected the leadership of the country and disrupted access to life saving prevention and treatment programs.’ Robert Gallo, director of the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, US, and author of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, letter to publisher and editor of Harper’s Magazine, 10 March 2006

‘The biggest problem we have in South Africa is that we have a president who doesn’t believe that HIV causes Aids.’ Zackie Achmat, News24.com, 15 March 2006

‘It is precisely because Mbeki’s undermining of the science of HIV treatment costs lives, that his position is so controversial. … Mbeki was portrayed as severely out of step with scientific opinion … and as stupidly pig-headed in his insistence that all avenues should be explored. In mid-October [2000] he announced his withdrawal from the public debate on AIDS science because it was causing confusion and widening divisions between the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP. Despite this “public withdrawal”, Mbeki continued to espouse denialist views … He was also linked (via an electronic signature) to a notorious ANC dissident document probably written by Peter Mokaba claiming, inter alia, that antiretrovirals were poisonous. … The most pernicious legacy of President Mbeki’s dissident stance on AIDS has been the erosion of the authority of science and of scientific regulation of medicine in South Africa.’ Nicoli Nattrass, ‘AIDS, Science and Governance: The Battle Over Antiretroviral Therapy in Post-Apartheid South Africa’, Centre for Social Science Research working paper, 19 March 2006

‘President Thabo Mbeki … is still stewing in the cesspool of his denialist views … Millions of South Africans live daily with the fallout from the HIV/AIDS scourge … [thanks to] Mbeki’s dalliance with AIDS dissidents, and a refusal to accept the seriousness of the peril SA faces. … Neither Mbeki nor the inept Manto Tshabalala-Msimang really believe HIV causes AIDS, despite government spin doctors’ efforts to get them to shut up about the science of the disease. They do not believe in the efficacy of antiretroviral medicine, the only globally accepted method for prolonging and improving the lives of people infected by the virus. … The ANC has still to overcome its own deep denial about the virus. Despite having lost many of its finest cadres to HIV/AIDS, the ruling party is yet to foster a climate of true and genuine acceptance of the scale of this pandemic within its own ranks. … SA’s former apartheid rulers presided over a crime against humanity, a fact confirmed by the United Nations. But their crime was not genocidal. It has taken a democratic ANC government, with a legitimate popular mandate, to be the true architects of a holocaust.’ Karima Brown, political editor, Business Day, 11 April 2006

‘Tragically, President Mbeki continues to display all the symptoms of denialism.’ Zackie Achmat, closing address, Microbicides 2006 conference, Cape Town, 26 April 2006

‘It’s under the president’s term of office that these deaths are occurring, so the person responsible for dealing with it has to be the president.’ Zackie Achmat, Mail & Guardian, 23 June 2006

‘SOUTH AFRICA’S TOP TWELVE AIDS DISSIDENTS: 1. Anthony Brink … 3. President Thabo Mbeki … A DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING! … President Thabo Mbeki, Anthony Brink … deny the existence of the human immuno-deficiency virus itself. … The DA’s objective in compiling this list is to make it clear why these individuals are so dangerous, and raise public awareness about who they are and what they stand for. These individuals hide behind the excuse of promoting scientific debate in order to promote views that are false and dangerous. … The DA calls on the media, the public, and professional organizations to … exclude these individuals from positions of authority; deny their dissident views publicity; and take vigorous steps to pursue official action in respect of any infringements of the law.’ Democratic Alliance press release, 20 October 2005

‘I personally think the kingpin of denialism is Anthony Brink, who rages about ARVs being toxic. His relationship with the President is first-class.’ Fatima Hassan, AIDS Law Project attorney, ‘Is there still denialism about HIV/AIDS in South Africa?’, Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust lecture, Cape Town, 23 March 2006

‘A dangerous AIDS dissident … Anthony Brink, one of the most notorious AIDS dissidents in the country … Brink, for those of you who don’t know it, is someone who has caused a great deal of harm, to say the least of it. Many people claim that his theories have had a considerable influence over President Thabo Mbeki’s disastrous views on HIV/AIDS.’ Johannes de Villiers (translated from Afrikaans), Die Burger, 22 July 2006

‘You must read [the writing of] a crazy man called Anthony Brink and read all the bad things they say about me. Do I care a damn? No, because I know it’s not true. You can never base your policy, your work or your principles on what people think of you.’ Zackie Achmat, Mail & Guardian Online, 30 November 2006

‘Brink could probably spell AIDS without consulting a dictionary, but that as far as his real knowledge goes. He has a twisted, perverse anti-science agenda that is based on him trying to “prove” the pre-conceived notion that AIDS is caused by the therapies used to treat it – an utter and manifest nonsense. He has no scientific qualifications that I am aware of nor any scientific publications.’ Nathan Geffen, TAC national manager, Die Burger, 2 December 2006

‘… Anthony Brink [is] South Africa’s loudest AIDS denialist.’ Nathan Geffen, journalism.co.za, 21 May 2007

‘I just wish that Mr Mbeki and the African National Congress would fight [AIDS] the way they fought apartheid.’ Jim Yong Kim, former director of the World Health Organisation’s HIV programme, at the start of the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, London Times, 14 August 2006

‘Mbeki has not recanted his eccentric views on HIV. Instead of showing leadership, he has retreated into a sullen silence on the subject.’ Rory Carroll, London Guardian, 15 August 2006

‘[South Africa] is the only country in Africa, amongst all the countries I have traversed in the last five years, whose government is still obtuse, dilatory and negligent about rolling out treatment. It is the only country in Africa whose government continues to propound theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state. The government has a lot to atone for. I am of the opinion that they can never achieve redemption. … I was appointed as envoy for AIDS in Africa. I see my job as advocating for those who are living with the virus, those who are dying of the virus, all of those in and out of civil society who are fighting the good fight to achieve social justice. It is not my job to be silenced by a government when I know that what it is doing is wrong, immoral, indefensible.’ Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, addressing the closing session of the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, 18 August 2006

‘I don’t think we have any lessons to learn from South Africa. ... its President is an HIV-denialist.’ Mark Wainberg, professor of molecular biology and virology, head of McGill University AIDS Centre, Montreal, and co-chair of the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, chairing a session on new AIDS drug trials, 17 August 2006

‘We as a world have sat back for far too long, watching South Africa continue to deteriorate in terms of thousands of people dying of HIV. Why it is that a government can continue to remain in power in a country despite all of the evidence that it has abysmally failed to deliver the essentials to its population is something that I clearly do not understand ... It’s something that burns a hole through my heart. [At the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban in 2000, AIDS scientists had expected to find] a South African government that would be onside with us. Instead … We found a denialist President in South Africa who immediately turned his back on us and who immediately began to convene committees that would articulate on his behalf that somehow it was in dispute whether HIV was truly the cause of AIDS. … We were completely taken aback. We were all insulted. … I for one am no longer prepared to take a back seat as a scientist and not express my personal concern that this situation seems to have continued unabated. … We have waited far too long to make this the crucial issue of this time.’ Mark Wainberg, addressing a press conference at the 16th International AIDS Conference, 18 August 2006

‘What is happening in South Africa is a human rights violation that needs leadership from outside of South Africa to address the crisis being created by the South African government. [But there’s] a terrible silence … Bill Clinton can’t get the words out of his mouth to criticise Thabo Mbeki. Kofi Annan can’t criticise Thabo Mbeki ... The long-term consequences for South Africa are enormous. This crisis has to be broken somehow. The African Union and the G8 and the EU have to speak out about it. The British government, who are silent on this question, have to find a way to intervene.’ Mark Heywood, London Guardian, 19 August 2006

‘The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) demands that President Mbeki … Dismiss Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and her director-general Thami Mseleku immediately. Since her appointment in 1999 and reappointment in 2005 [sic: 2004] by President Mbeki, she has … failed to address the HIV denialism in the Presidency.’ TAC ‘Call to Action’ pamphlet, 21 August 2006

‘Calling for Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to resign because of government’s failure to deal adequately with HIV/AIDS is like condemning the puppet for stupidity while letting the puppeteer off the hook. … what we are faced with when looking at the spectacle of Tshabalala-Msimang is the wholesale betrayal of the poor … and her expedient refusal to defend them against the unscientific, lunatic extremities of her political master. … Whatever Mbeki and his government manage to achieve for South Africa’s future, nothing can remove the culpability of millions of preventable deaths that will forever stick to his name. And the message from Toronto is that the rest of the world has woken up to this culpability. After 12 years as the toast of the international stage, SA has been returned to its familiar place as the world’s pariah.’ Karima Brown, Business Day, 22 August 2006

‘[Mbeki] stop killing your countrymen. … everyone [ought] to rise up and tell Mbeki to save his reputation and stop killing thousands of his own people. … [Tshabalala-Msimang is] killing tens of thousands [of people by advocating nutrient rich foods for AIDS instead of ARV drugs].’ Sir Richard Branson, Sunday Times, 29 October 2006

‘This government is not doing enough … [It] is killing thousands of its own people. … the little that they are doing could be seen as genocide.’ Sir Richard Branson, African Eye news service, 30 October 2006

‘You could call … the president’s original lack of sympathy and public questioning of both the causal link between HIV and Aids, and the effectiveness of anti-Aids drugs [that] resulted in confusion and paralysis in the nation’s management of the epidemic … genocide by sloth.’ Peter Mandelson MP (UK), London New Statesman, 18 February 2002

‘Mbeki’s own appalling insistence that his lay research could trump the wealth of scientific knowledge built up around the world cannot be forgotten or ever forgiven. He must carry to his bed each night the knowledge that his stubbornness has sent thousands to their graves earlier than a more humble and humane approach might have allowed. His semantic juggling with the definitions of “virus” and “syndrome” to mock the life work of good men and women of medicine will be forever on his conscience. … Mbeki may wish to contemplate the origins of the perception that he would put personal pride ahead of the welfare of his people. … Let that be his personal torment.’ Brendan Boyle, Sunday Times, 5 November 2006

‘I do not believe [Mbeki] was in denial as much as he saw it as a conspiracy, a much more traditional African response. Both Vice President Gore and I argued with passion with him to move on this issue. And you know, we had polite responses. … He simply listened politely and basically said to us, “We understand what we need to do in our country,” and, “Thank you very much.”’ Donna Shalala, former US Secretary of Health and Human Services, PBS Frontline television documentary The Age of AIDS, 31 May 2006

‘What disturbs me greatly inasmuch as we say people are aware of HIV, is the continuing denialism among our people and some of our political leaders. … the time for denialism is over.’ Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, then Deputy Minister of Health, addressing the annual congress of the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa on 11 August 2006, reported in Izindaba, South African Medical Journal, September 2006

‘Tshabalala-Msimang, in an open letter on the ANC website last Friday, complained that her recent illness had been seen as “an opportunity to turn others into champions of a campaign to rid our government of the so-called ‘HIV and Aids denial at the highest level’”.’ Despite this, Madlala-Routledge confirmed this week that “denialism has cost us time and lives”.’ Times, 26 November 2006

‘She has publicly admitted for the first time that the government has been in “denial at the very highest level” over Aids. … Mrs Madlala-Routledge has broken new ground by taking her family with her for an HIV test – and has called on the president, Thabo Mbeki, to do the same. … “To me it is logical that people in the leadership see the need to do this,” she said. … What has happened in South Africa … is sad and tragic … people are confused about treatment … and this has come about because of the confusing messages coming from the very top.’ Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge quoted in ‘African minister ends decade of denial on Aids’, London Daily Telegraph, 11 December 2006

‘… the changes Mbeki’s handling of AIDS has effected upon South African national culture … has been far more destructive than we care to admit. Until he stopped speaking of these matters, Mbeki’s talk about AIDS was a mixture of ersatz science and sociology. The science was primarily about the social and organic factors that cause disease. The sociology was a treatise on the force of white racism and the ways in which it has corrupted scientific knowledge. Yet these things may well shroud the heart of Mbeki’s response to AIDS, which was neither scientific nor sociological, but profoundly political. As the historian John Iliffe writes in his recent book, The African AIDS Epidemic, the government’s early resistance to antiretroviral treatment is perhaps best understood as “an insecure regime’s anxiety to maintain control over a situation perceived as threatening. The threat was that pressure from a coalition of HIV-positive people, AIDS activists, political opponents within and outside the ANC, pharmaceutical companies, and international opinion might oblige the government to undertake an antiretroviral programme that it could neither administer nor afford at current drug prices, at the expense of its authority, its health priorities and its wider developmental programme.” … [Mbeki’s] ideas [about] AIDS and antiretroviral treatment [have] in common [a] frenzied anxiety about an erosion of authority – perhaps even of national sovereignty. … What Mbeki coaxed to the surface of SA’s political culture was an anxious man’s nationalism and a paranoid’s nativism – both of which instinctively lash out at the arrival of technology and ideas from abroad. … Mbeki … treated the AIDS epidemic as a pernicious attack on our sovereignty launched from abroad … he has made his own sense of besiegement a nation’s sense of besiegement. In diffuse and unhappy ways, he has triggered a flurry of trench digging across large strata of SA. It is a troubling legacy to leave behind.’ Jonny Steinberg, Business Day, 6 November 2006

‘The deepest stigma impeding effective management of AIDS today appears to come from the President’s continuing unwillingness or inability to lead effectively and speak unambivalently on this issue.’ Judge Edwin Cameron, speaking at the University of Cape Town, 15 November 2006

‘For far too long, the world was in denial. But over the past 10 years, attitudes have changed. The world has started to take the fight against AIDS as seriously as it deserves. Financial resources are being committed like never before. People have access to antiretroviral treatment like never before. … Leaders must hold themselves accountable – and be held accountable by all of us. That is why accountability is the theme of this World AIDS Day. Accountability requires every President and Prime Minister, every parliamentarian and politician, to decide and declare that “AIDS stops with me”.’ UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on World AIDS Day, 1 December 2006

‘Mbeki’s recent bout of denials can be equated to his HIV/Aids quackery at the turn of the century in which he fatally refuted the scientific link between HIV and Aids. … “He hasn’t been any more of a denialist in this case than any other leader. All leaders defend their record,” said Richard Calland, executive director for the open democracy advice centre at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa. “But any leader who lacks empathy with his or her people [demonstrates] bad politics.” … How to squander a legacy … Deny Aids. In 2001, President Thabo Mbeki began to question the links between HIV and Aids. He established a presidential advisory panel comprised of the world’s most notorious dissident scientists. … Mbeki does not say anything substantive or persuasive about HIV and Aids.’ Vicki Robinson and Rapule Tabane, Mail & Guardian, 2 February 2007

‘President Thabo Mbeki [has] an awful lot of explaining to do. So far he has never been made to do it.’ Chris Barron, Mail & Guardian Online, 17 March 2007

‘For years Mbeki has pandered to fringe commentators who question the incontrovertible link between HIV and Aids, retarding government’s roll-out of the ARVs that might to date have saved hundreds of thousands who have succumbed to the disease.’ Tony Leon, ‘SA Today’, DA website, 24 March 2007

‘[In promoting Lysenko’s] doctrine of environmentally (as against genetically) acquired inheritance … Stalin too imagined that biology was susceptible to his own ideological fetishism. … President Mbeki’s forays into biological science on HIV/AIDS, in which he is as ignorant as Stalin in plant genetics, offer a parallel deriving from an imposed overriding ideological imperative. Still more, Mbeki is deeply conservative in not wanting – for whatever reason – to confront the historically developed current sexual mores of African men in South Africa. All the more then does the dogma of “poverty” – so apparently radical, with the blame always pointed elsewhere – serve as a blind.’ Virginia van der Vliet, ‘The Poverty Trap’, AIDSAlert, 14 March 2007

‘South Africa really does have an odd head of state in Thabo Mbeki. … his strange views on HIV/Aids … have cost South Africa tens of thousands of lives.’ David Beresford, London Guardian ‘Comment is free’ blog, 21 March 2007

‘… the government’s disastrous policy on HIV/Aids – which has led to the loss of many thousands of infected black women and babies’ lives – has been largely attributed to the dissenting views held by Mbeki. In fact, many believe, even some in the ANC, that the shadow of Mbeki always hung over the wayward and sometimes shocking comments on HIV/Aids of Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, whose own health could have been affected by the strain she must have taken for the enormously disparaging public criticism she faced for years. It is arguable that the catastrophic handling of the Aids crisis … was the single biggest indictment of the Mbeki administration over the past decade.’ Ephraim Harvey, Cape Times, 3 April 2007

‘Speculation is developing once again in South Africa that President Thabo Mbeki is planning to circumvent the constitution, leading the country into one-party rule. … Fundamentally, suspicion of Mbeki’s motives with regard to the presidential succession is based on the belief that he simply will not surrender power. It is a belief based on his record in power and what can perhaps best be described as his curious personality. It is a belief and a record examined in detail by James Myburgh, a former speechwriter to South Africa’s opposition leader, Tony Leon. In a PhD dissertation at Oxford (The Last Jacobins of Africa – Thabo Mbeki and the making of the new South Africa 1994–2002), Myburgh argues that the South African president is no friend to democracy … Myburgh goes on to give a fascinating account and analysis of Mbeki’s perverse stance on HIV/Aids, arguing that his insistence that immune deficiency was caused primarily by malnutrition and poverty, rather than a sexually transmitted virus, was ideologically driven. It offered a defence of the dignity of the black majority; absolved the ANC of moral responsibility “and placed the blame for the epidemic back onto the ‘legacy of the past’”.’ David Beresford, London Guardian ‘Comment is free’ blog, 22 April 2007

‘Without question, he is personally responsible for the deaths and illness of many thousands of his countrymen and women.’ Mark Weinberg, Brisbane Times, 5 May 2007

‘In SSA [sub-Saharan Africa] the vast majority of HIV infections are attributed to heterosexual HIV transmission while in the USA epidemic heterosexual HIV transmission is virtually absent. … The answer of mainstream medical science to the question – why is epidemic heterosexual transmission so rampant in SSA and not in most other regions – should be simple and direct. Epidemic heterosexual HIV transmission requires a high prevalence and frequency of sex partner exchange (i.e., having multiple sex partners on a concurrent basis) and the pattern and prevalence of these heterosexual risk behaviours in most SSA populations are sufficient to sustain epidemic HIV transmission whereas the patterns and prevalence of these risk behaviours in most other populations are not sufficient to fuel epidemic heterosexual transmission. … During the 1990s, as major political and social changes were underway in South Africa, HIV spread steadily … An accelerated decrease in HIV incidence in South Africa cannot be expected until there is full acceptance by policy makers, especially the President, and the general public of the need to significantly reduce risk behaviours … According to AIDS dissidents, the African AIDS diseases by their conventional and widespread causes – malnutrition, parasitic infections and poor sanitation – and have nothing to do with sexual risk behaviours. This hypothesis offers a simple and politically correct explanation for the predominant heterosexual distribution of AIDS in SSA, a view that has apparently been accepted by President Mbeki of South Africa. … Another false assertion is that because of poor nutrition due to poverty most Africans have an “undermined” immune system that makes them more susceptible to HIV infection and the development of AIDS. … The best that can be said about President Mbeki and his Minister of Health is that they have been extremely unhelpful in developing adequate HIV prevention and treatment programs: they are now hindering rather than promoting anti-retroviral treatment (ART) programs. … President Mbeki of South Africa and probably the majority of Africans are sceptical and just don’t want to believe in the African origin of HIV/AIDS and are all too willing to listen to … conspiracy theories and the theories of dissident scientists who do not believe HIV is the causative agent of AIDS.’ Dr James Chin, Clinical Professor of Epidemiology, University of California at Berkeley, and former head of the Surveillance, Forecasting and Impact Assessment unit of the Global Programme on AIDS, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, The AIDS Pandemic: The Collision of Epidemiology with Political Correctness (Oxford: Radcliffe, 2007)

‘… it is a matter of common knowledge that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is wreaking havoc on our economy and has already substantially lowered the life expectancy of South Africans ... At best, government tends to smother civil society; at worst, it is downright antagonistic towards it. For example, the relationship between the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) on HIV/AIDS and the government and the Department of Health is seriously skewed. There is no doubt that the TAC has done an enormous amount of good work in making people conscious of the threats and dangers of HIV/AIDS and on challenging the big pharmaceutical companies about their pricing structures. What should have been a relationship of independent allies working toward a common goal is perceived as a relationship of antagonists. And the fault lies primarily on the side of the government.’ Mac Maharaj quoted in Shades of Difference: Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa, Padraig O’Malley (Viking Penguin, 2007)

‘One hopes history will come to judge Mbeki’s AIDS dissidence as an aberration in the African nationalist project. For an African nationalism congenitally suspicious of foreign knowledge and technology beckons a future of low expectations.’ Jonny Steinberg, Business Day, 5 June 2007

‘Thabo Mbeki is not now, nor has he ever been, an AIDS dissident.’ Ronald Suresh Roberts, Fit to Govern: The Native Intelligence of Thabo Mbeki (STE Publishers, 2007)

‘[Alluding to Ronald Suresh Roberts’s Fit to Govern: The Native Intelligence of Thabo Mbeki, Judge Edwin] Cameron warned against “the massive historical fraud” of revisionist historians who would sweep under the carpet the four to five years of Aids denialism, a nightmare period when the coherence and substance of the Aids programme was on hold.’ Maureen Isaacson, Sunday Independent, 24 June 2007

‘Recent attempts by President Thabo Mbeki’s official biographer, Ronald Suresh Roberts, to airbrush Mbeki’s Aids denialism from the historical record smell of Stalinism – the era in which history was most cynically and viciously rewritten – and trivialize the responsibility Mbeki carries for thousands of lives lost because he gave credence to ludicrous denialist tenets about the cause of Aids and the efficacy of antiretrovirals. … According to demographic modelling, if during the Mbeki presidency South Africa had rolled out ARVs for pregnant women with HIV and for treating those sick with Aids … then at least 170 000 HIV infections could have been prevented and more than 340 000 deaths averted. This amounts to what European commissioner Peter Mandelson once described as a form of “genocide by sloth”.’ Nicoli Nattrass, Mail & Guardian, 20 July 2007

‘HIV denialism is lethal. It is responsible for the infections of at least several hundreds of thousands more people around the world than would have otherwise been infected and died. South African President Thabo Mbeki and his health minister, HIV denialists until last year, were among those in Africa whose refusal to be content with mere ostrich-like obliviousness, whose insistence on propagating flagrant disinformation about the disease, amounted to an arguably criminal abrogation of leadership. Last summer, when political pressure generated by the International AIDS Conference in Toronto caused them to finally reverse their position, a scientific presentation there estimated that the number of HIV-infected people in South Africa was approximately 25 per cent higher than otherwise because of that country’s policies.’ Mark Wainberg and John Moore, Toronto Globe and Mail, 4 July 2007

‘Treatment delivery is working and there can be no more excuses for losing this momentum or letting millions die of AIDS.’ Zackie Achmat, Reuters, 18 July 2007

‘While Brink is an AIDS denialist, to compare him with Lysenko would only be justifiable if Brink had been placed in overall control of South African AIDS policy. … Fortunately, in the end and in this instance, good sense prevailed over rhetoric. Treatment did indeed eventually materialise … a happy ending …’ Mathew Blatchford, ‘The Discourse of HIV/AIDS Treatment Action’, presented at the Association of University English Teachers of SA Conference, University of KwaZulu-Natal, July 2007

‘Mbeki is arguably the most intelligent national leader this country has ever had.’ Peter Bruce, Editor’s Note, Financial Mail, 17 November 2000

‘Mbeki is an exceptionally intelligent man, one of the sharpest and brightest analysts I have ever met.’ Allister Sparks, London Guardian, 9 April 2004

‘… he read books at an early age which we thought were not for his standard. And he was not talkative. He was reserved, even as a young person. And he had very few friends because, you know, his mind was above average.’ Epainette Mbeki, Fair Lady, November 2005

‘The 2005 Nobel Prize Winners for Medicine, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall, were forced to relearn the message that to be a questioner of accepted truths, was to expose oneself to denunciation as a permanent public nuisance. Their own curiosity, expressive of the human urge to know, led them to engage in a labour of love to unravel the workings of the natural world.’ President Thabo Mbeki, ‘Letter from the President’, ANC Today, 21 October 2005

‘There is also a “Socratic” inquisitiveness to which Mbeki is predisposed and which underpins his leadership style and management practice. In this regard, his thinking finds expression in questions. He holds no concept or view sacred and aims at it a quiver of questions, all of which have to be answered before he is content to move on. … This is a powerful intellectual asset for any president, but can also be dangerous, as we have seen in his overt curiosity in unorthodox approaches to understanding the HIV/AIDS pandemic. … Mbeki is a man with … an egocentric view of his own epic place in history; he knows his own mind, stubbornly so at times (as on HIV/AIDS).’ Richard Calland, Anatomy of South Africa: Who Holds the Power? (Cape Town: Zebra Press, 2006)

‘President Thabo Mbeki stunned and outraged campaigners yesterday by sacking the country’s deputy health minister, the woman credited with ending a decade of Aids denialism at the heart of the South African political leadership. Activists fear that the decision spells a disastrous political regression on Aids, which could cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. … by sacking his cabinet’s most forceful advocate of an aggressive campaign to provide drug treatment, Mr Mbeki has reopened questions about his own acceptance of the science surrounding Aids. “He has once again shown his contempt for those seeking scientific approaches to Aids,” said Professor Nicoli Nattrass of the University of Cape Town. “This is a dreadful error of judgement. It indicates that the President still remains opposed to the science of HIV,” the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), South Africa’s biggest Aids advocacy group, said yesterday.’ London Independent, 10 August 2007

‘Idasa analyst Richard Calland condemned Madlala-Routledge’s dismissal as “a shameful error of judgment”.’ Sunday Times, 12 August 2007

‘In many ways, Thabo Mbeki has been a successful leader of South Africa since he took over from Nelson Mandela in 1999. … But there is one particular area in which President Mbeki has been a scandalous failure: in confronting the scourge of HIV/Aids. More than one in 10 of the population are infected. It has been estimated that 1,000 South Africans are dying of an Aids-related illness every day. Yet President Mbeki for a long time refused to put his weight behind a safe-sex awareness campaign and the rolling out of anti-retroviral drugs to prolong the lives of the infected. In the face of all credible scientific research, he has argued that Aids was a “disease of poverty” rather than a sexual infection. Even now, when the link between the HIV virus and Aids is beyond dispute, President Mbeki is begrudging of anti-retrovirals and criticises outside attempts to help to ease the problem as a manifestation of neo-colonialism. … The social stigma and denial surrounding Aids in South Africa will only be eradicated through strong political leadership. The tragedy for South Africa is that such regressive attitudes seem as entrenched at the top as they are throughout wider society.’ ‘Leading article: Death and denial’, London Independent, 10 August 2007

‘What is it about South Africa’s devastating AIDS epidemic that President Thabo Mbeki just doesn’t want to understand? Mr. Mbeki has catastrophically failed to face up to his country’s greatest challenge. For years, he associated himself with crackpot theories that disputed the demonstrable fact that AIDS was transmitted by a treatable virus. He also insisted that he knew nobody with AIDS, even though nearly 20 percent of South Africa’s adult population are estimated to be living with H.I.V. And he suggested that antiretroviral drugs were toxic, and he encouraged useless herbal folk remedies instead. As a result, thousands of South Africans have needlessly sickened and died. ... Unlike other African countries, South Africa has the financial resources and the medical talent to successfully take on its H.I.V./AIDS epidemic. What it lacks is a president who cares enough about his people’s suffering to provide serious leadership. Only two more years remain in Mr. Mbeki’s presidential term. Unless he finally starts listening to sensible advice on AIDS, he will leave a tragic legacy of junk science and unnecessary death.’ Editorial, New York Times, 14 August 2007

‘I’ll never understand [Mbeki’s] disastrous response to the AIDS virus. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone, inside or outside of South Africa, who fully understands. After all, this is a man of immense intelligence, who fought against apartheid with every intellectual and organizational weapon at his command. But his place in the annals of South Africa is forever sullied by the inexplicable unwillingness to confront HIV/AIDS. No matter the astuteness of his economic policy, social interventions, financial acumen, or peace-keeping initiatives across the continent, he will always be known as the President who presided over the AIDS apocalypse. It’s a terrible legacy with which to haunt the pages of history. … It is said that 900 men, women and children die every day in South Africa of AIDS-related illnesses. It’s Armageddon every 24 hours. Other than South Africa, every government in the high-prevalence countries is moving heaven and earth to keep its people alive. There are no excuses left for President Mbeki and his Minister of Health. The day of reckoning is surely coming.’ Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS-Free World, op-ed piece, Cape Argus, Star, Pretoria News, Daily News, 15 August 2007

‘The former UN special envoy on Aids in Africa, Stephen Lewis, accused Mr Mbeki of presiding over an “Aids apocalypse” and said the dismissal of the widely praised deputy health minister crushed a glimmer of hope in the fight against Aids. “Other than South Africa, every government in the high-prevalence countries is moving heaven and earth to keep its people alive,” he said. Mr Mbeki, Mr Lewis said, would always be known as “the president who presided over the Aids apocalypse. It is a terrible legacy with which to haunt the pages of history.”’ Basildon Peta, ‘Mbeki hits out at “The Independent” in HIV row’, London Independent, 18 August 2007

‘[The death of 900 people a day from AIDS is] like three jumbo jets crashing every day. … too many died unnecessarily because of bizarre theories held on high.’ Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, speaking at Nelson Mandela University, Eastern Cape, 31 August 2007

‘... what‘s difficult about tackling Mbeki is that he is so obviously an enlightened man. He reads, he is erudite, he‘s good company.’ Peter Bruce, editor of Business Day, editorial, 14 August 2007

‘[Mbeki] may well be the world’s most intelligent head of government.’ Steven Friedman, Business Day, 22 August 2007

‘I have been concerned for a long time about the way in which Mbeki seems to be drifting from reality. … Some of the worrying patterns of behaviour include his continued duplicitous position on HIV and Aids.’ Max du Preez, Star, 23 August 2007

‘Thabo Mbeki … rank[s], with his friend Robert Mugabe, among the worst Presidents in the world. The backdrop is Mbeki’s twisted relationship with Aids, a disease that affects one in nine South African people and kills 900 of them a day. Specific events this past month concern two women, rivals in South Africa’s Aids drama: former Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, whom Mbeki fired on 8 August, and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang in whom he has retained total faith. Beyond the sycophants who surround Mbeki and his loyal-to-a-fault cabinet, the consensus is widespread in South Africa that he fired the wrong minister. And that in so doing he has laid bare the wilful ignorance and criminal neglect with which he has responded to a humanitarian crisis of such vast proportions that any half-decent leader anywhere else would not hesitate to flag as his country’s overwhelming national priority. Yet Mandela’s heir, the man charged with preserving the admirably principled tradition of the African National Congress, behaves as if South Africa’s Aids disaster is no such thing. … During Mbeki’s first five-year term, he used to say, with the enthusiastic backing of his Health Minister, a doctor, that Aids was not a sexually transmitted disease and that the anti-retroviral drugs that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives around the world were poisonous. He also famously declared that he knew no one who has Aids. Since then, Mbeki has been bludgeoned into grudgingly starting to have anti-retroviral drugs handed out. The government’s official policy on Aids today is medically sound at last. But Mbeki continues to show an abject lack of leadership, indicating – as his firing of the Deputy Health Minister shows – that he is less than half-hearted in his commitment to the cause; that the great $64,000 question of South African politics – what the hell is going inside Mbeki’s head on Aids? – remains unanswered. Because he is an otherwise eminently rational, intelligent man. While Mbeki has battled with repression, the crisis has cried out for Diana-like theatrics. Mbeki should have gone out into the worst-affected areas and held the hands of Aids patients; he should have publicly celebrated the Lazarus-like return to life of people on the anti-retroviral programmes; above all, he should have gone out of his way to set people straight on Aids, to counter the ignorance and confusion he himself has sown, contributing immeasurably to the scale of the catastrophe. … He seems oblivious to the callousness of the message he is sending in persisting with the buffoonish Tshabalala-Msimang, a drinking buddy of long-standing, in a ministerial post that Mandela would have considered the most critical in his government by far. John Carlin, London Observer, 2 September 2007

‘Today I speak to you as a person living with HIV/AIDS. I am healthy and I have the hope of decades of natural life ahead because of my use of antiretroviral medicines. I speak to you also as chairperson of the Treatment Action Campaign and a lifelong ANC member. … Since the advent of President Mbeki’s tenure more people have died in their 30s than in their 70s. …President Mbeki has made a calamitous mistake because of scientific denialism. … President Mbeki does not have the power to bring people who have died back to life. … Fortunately, President Mbeki also has the power to address this mistake. He has power to unite all of us with the demand of science, human rights, accountability and hard work. He has the power to appoint a new Minister Health and a new Director-General of Health. He has the power to make science work for all of humanity and for the African Renaissance he dreams for all of us. That brings me, nearly in conclusion to science. In a recent debate, the Director-General of Health claimed equality for “African science” and “Western Science” with the treatment of HIV/AIDS. This a red-herring. It aims to cause a racist division and will further undermine traditional healers and most importantly lead to an unnecessary loss of life.’ Zackie Achmat, ‘The tradition of student mobilisation in the crisis of government and HIV/AIDS’, speech at University of Cape Town, 6 September 2006

‘Today, public debate in South Africa tends to be characterised by the absence of reason, and the font of that unreason is President Thabo Mbeki. After all, if Archbishop Tutu (among many others) is correct in claiming that 900 South Africans die each day of Aids, many of them unnecessarily, surely that points to unreason? In fact, it is a record which should earn him a place in the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.’ David Beresford, London Guardian ‘Comment is free’ blog, 17 September 2007

‘… supporting [Mbeki] at the outset of the Aids-denial debate [were] such loathed personalities as Anthony Brink.’ Charles Molele, Sunday Times, 30 September 2007

‘The international media are very interested in the story of the Joe Slovo informal settlement. Your arrogant behaviour towards its residents will bring world-wide discredit on our government, as has the president’s silence on Zimbabwe and the health minister’s ‘denialism’ on AIDS.’ Emeritus Professor Martin Legassick, Open Letter to Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, 6 October 2007

‘The Mbeki regime has been an unmitigated disaster from the onset [for its] ineptitude [in its] failure to deal with HIV/Aids.’ Justice Malala, Sunday Times, 14 October 2007

‘HIV causes AIDS. So, what’s difficult? Which tyrant will stop me from saying that? ... We wasted time in debating the causality of AIDS in this country. People were dying. When there is a fire, you don’t discuss the theory of combustion; you pick up a bucketful of water and you fight the fire.’ Tokyo Sexwale, addressing the Cape Town Press Club, 25 October 2007

‘Yet another prominent former ANC public representative has attacked President Thabo Mbeki for his Aids denialism … [Speaking] at the Cape Town Press Club … former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein … said yesterday: “The greatest tragedy … is … the years we prevaricated in dealing with HIV and Aids due to the president and health minister’s denialism. … And let’s not beat about the bush … they are Aids denialists.” … He said the fact that their actions had “unnecessarily” cost tens of thousands of lives was “unforgivable”. … Feinstein said the darkest days since apartheid for him were when his conscience forced him to betray the confidentiality of the ANC caucus and speak out over how Mbeki had told members that Aids was a notion invented by the Americans to help pharmaceutical companies recoup their investments. “We must never allow a return to a denialism that encompassed not just the science of HIV/Aids, but a denialism that saw the party adopt the view that a leader is always right (and) can do no wrong.” He also said Mbeki had failed the party and the public through his “hubristic and inexplicable ongoing support” of the “embarrassing minister of health” … Feinstein argued that [Mbeki] lacked the necessary moral leadership [to lead the ANC and its] moral regeneration.” Cape Times, 2 November 2007

‘I feel very strongly that what the country requires, because I do feel, is that the country is in need of almost a moral regeneration, a moral revival.’ Andrew Feinstein, Cape Town International Book Fair, Cape Town, South Africa, 14 June 2008

‘According to a long-awaited biography by Mark Gevisser, the president feels aggrieved that he was deflected from continuing to question the causes of the epidemic by colleagues who believed the country’s reputation was being damaged by his views on Aids. Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred describes how the president contacted the author earlier this year to reiterate some of the views that caused uproar in the medical community before Mr Mbeki stopped talking publicly about Aids several years ago. … Mr Gevisser recounts how Mr Mbeki phoned him late on a Saturday evening in June to discuss Aids. The president asked the respected Johannesburg author whether he had seen a 100-page paper secretly authored by Mr Mbeki and distributed anonymously among the ANC leadership six years ago. It compared Aids scientists to latter-day Nazi concentration camp doctors and portrayed black people who accepted orthodox Aids science as “self-repressed” victims of a slave mentality. It describes the “HIV/Aids thesis” as entrenched in “centuries-old white racist beliefs and concepts about Africans”. The author said he did have a copy but the next day a driver from the presidency arrived with an updated and expanded version. “There is no question as to the message Thabo Mbeki was delivering to me along with this document: he was now, as he had been since 1999, an Aids dissident,” the author writes. … But Mr Mbeki was persuaded to “withdraw from the debate”, which Mr Gevisser describes as “one of the most difficult [decisions] of his long political career”. After that the government agreed to distribute ARVs in public hospitals and to adopt an Aids strategy that won wide approval from many of those who had previously been its critics. “But that did not mean, in any way, that he had changed his mind,” writes Mr Gevisser. “When I asked him in 2007 how he felt about having to withdraw from the Aids debate, he told me it was ‘very unfortunate’ that his initiative had been ‘drowned’.”’ ‘Mbeki admits he is still Aids dissident six years on’, London Guardian, 6 November 2007

‘In spite of the government’s about-turn on HIV/AIDS and its admission that HIV causes AIDS, President Thabo Mbeki remains an “AIDS dissident” and regrets having been forced to withdraw from the “debate” on the disease. This emerges in Mark Gevisser’s biography of Mbeki, which has just been published. … He writes in Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred that the president admitted he was still an AIDS dissident, and regretted bowing to pressure from cabinet colleagues to withdraw from the debate. … Zackie Achmat, founder of the Treatment Action Campaign, said yesterday Mbeki’s continued denialism was “deeply tragic” and “damaging”. “The president is directly responsible for unnecessary deaths. He’s showed continued arrogance. He continues to send out mixed signals,” Achmat said.’ Business Day, 7 November 2007

‘Mark Gevisser told the BBC Mr Mbeki thinks he has “failed on the issue of Aids” and regrets dropping the debate. … “He feels even more strongly about the efficacy of anti-retroviral (ARV) medication. He believes that ARV medication is toxic and that it is a project that’s been imposed upon particularly vulnerable Africans by the pharmaceutical companies,” Mr Gevisser said.’ BBC News, 7 November 2007

‘On one of the greatest controversies of Mbeki’s years in government – the president’s attitude to HIV/Aids – Gevisser depicts Mbeki as remaining a sceptic who still yearns to debate the cause and treatment of the epidemic. He admits that the president’s views are wide open to be called bizarre.’ Chiara Carter, ‘Revealing the custodian of dreams and political seducer’, London Independent, 10 November 2007

‘Amid the kerfuffle that broke with Gevisser’s revelation that Mbeki regrets that he opted out of the Aids debate and his reassertion of his denialism, Gevisser says he is a biographer, not a medical health practitioner and Mbeki is not his analysand. Gevisser has offered up a portrait so balanced, so empathetic that he says he lost friends when trying to come to grips with Mbeki’s Aids denialism. These people actually believed he was a collaborator! “How would it have helped the understanding of the Aids issue if I had put the knife in?” he asks. This is how Gevisser sees it: “You are so clever, so brilliant, so focused, so smart, you are so good at mounting this campaign, that you managed to defeat the boere. People talk about a negotiated settlement, but it was in fact a triumph. You win and you come home and the people you have liberated are all dying from an illness for which there is no cure. That is the dream deferred. Now there are people and now they are dying, and there is nothing you can do about it. And what is more you are being accused of being the man who is killing them. In the 1990s it was the exiles who brought Aids to South Africa. So to me Mbeki’s Aids dissidence is a manifestation of the dream deferred.” Gevisser quotes Hughes’s poem: What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun/ Or fester like a sore/ And then run? Gevisser has written about this previously and Helen Epstein wrote that “… like Coriolanus, Mbeki has stubbornly decided to debate Aids on his own terms … by denying 15 years of research on HIV and Aids”. Epstein wrote that Mbeki’s pride may well destroy his own people. This will indeed be the ultimate disconnection.’ Maureen Isaacson, ‘Mbeki Biography Reveals a Life of Loss’, Sunday Independent, 11 November 2007

‘Steven Friedman, senior research associate at the Institute for a Democratic South Africa, said he was not surprised … that Mbeki remains an “AIDS dissident”. “His opponents know he’s an AIDS denialist and his supporters don’t care. … The international community may influence his decision on whether or not to stand next month [December 2007, for ANC president]”. The TAC said in its response that the latest news about the president’s state of mind about the scientific approach to the pandemic was “deeply tragic”. … Zackie Achmat, the Treatment Action Campaign’s founder, said another term with Mbeki at the helm of the party would be “a tragedy” for the country and the continent.’ Business Day, 12 November 2007

Q: ‘Did you put it to him that history may hold him responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people?’ A: ‘No …’ Q: ‘How do you think history will judge him?’ A: ‘I think the deepest scratch against his legacy will be the way he dealt with HIV and Aids.’ Q: ‘Do you think that he intellectualises all this to the extent that the deaths of so many people because of his policies doesn’t actually bother him?’ A: ‘I think that he believes that the damage caused by ARVs is greater than the damage caused by Aids.’ Chris Barron interviewing Mark Gevisser, Sunday Times, 18 November 2007

‘Let us look at this “work” of his that is not done. What “work” is this? Let us start with the controversy, re-opened by Gevisser’s book, about Mbeki’s Aids denialism (or the pedantic belief that he is a “dissident” and not a “denialist”). Now, if you were president of a country in which there are, conservatively estimated, 5.5 million people living with HIV, and in which almost 1000 Aids deaths occur every day, would you be debating the link between HIV and Aids, or would you be moving quickly to provide anti-retroviral drugs? This is Mbeki’s greatest failure, his shame and the shaming of us as a nation. Only five months ago, Mbeki was still dispatching his driver to drop off Aids denialist literature with Gevisser, plainly pointing to the fact that he is not at all interested in the success of the government’s anti-retrovirals roll-out. Something is deeply wrong with a party – and country – that wants to return to power a man so clearly heartless and unfeeling about the suffering of his people. Something is sick when such a man believes he still deserves to lead.’ Justice Malala, ‘Who would want more of Mbeki?’, Times, 19 November 2007

Zapiro depicting Brink, Cape Times and Star, 20 November 2007

‘Mbeki’s … record on … HIV/Aids has brought international derision.’ William Saunderson-Meyer, Witness, 24 Nov 2007

‘South Africa is ... headed ... by President Thabo Mbeki, a man who remains an HIV denialist and recently told a biographer that he regrets withdrawing from publicly discussing his beliefs. He has compared Aids scientists to Nazi concentration camp doctors and portrayed black people who accepted orthodox Aids science as “self-repressed” victims of a slave mentality. ... Our greatest impediment is wishful, brutal stupidity.’ Ben Goldacre, ‘Aids quakery [sic] in Africa, and nearer home’, London Guardian, 1 December 2007

‘His yearning for a specifically African approach to the continent’s problems is the reason why he continues to question so strongly the supposedly “Western” view that HIV causes AIDS, and hence opposes proper treatment of the disease. Astonishingly, Mr Gevisser reports that Mr Mbeki has not changed his weird and destructive views on HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, he even regrets having kept silent on the subject over the past few years.’ ‘Thabo Mbeki: Mystery Man’, Economist, 29 November 2007

‘… once you humanise someone, then maybe it is easier to sympathise with them, even if you are fighting them on AIDS. … The only person that would know Mbeki is himself, but that is if he spends years in therapy.’ Mark Gevisser, interviewed in the Weekender, 1 December 2007

‘The President is an intellectual dissident with a lifelong habit of fighting against the majority view. … But that same contrarian instinct is also behind … his skepticism, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, that HIV is the principal cause of AIDS. … independent-minded stubbornness can look like callousness when millions of lives are at stake.’ Time, 5 December 2007

‘Looking back on this year’s events, Zapiro said that … “most off the scale on the lunatic meter” was Mbeki’s revival of the Castro Hlongwane document which questioned the link between HIV and Aids. In an interview with Mark Gevisser about the biography, Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred, Gevisser asked, if I put the knife in about Aids, what good would it have done? Of course you should put the knife in, Zapiro said. Aids continues to be “the number one issue of importance. I am so upset and angry that it has been so badly handled and that Nosiviwe [sic: Nozizwe] Madlala-Routledge was fired.”’ Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (‘Zapiro’) interviewed in the Sunday Independent, 23 December 2007

‘What I’ve noticed throughout the years is that his intelligence is above average. As a result people are unable to reach up to him … and he won’t come down to them.’ Epainette Mbeki, Sunday Times, 23 December 2007

‘Mbeki will forever be associated with his idiocy over Aids. In one sense, it could be said that the initial culprit was Mandela who, despite the best efforts of Aids campaigners, said nothing until seeing the light after leaving office. If he had spoken out and instructed his government to do likewise in 1994, it is possible that hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved. But Mbeki went several leagues further – by adopting an absurd, flat-earth position that denied the link between sex, HIV and Aids. This position has been proved beyond any doubt to be wrong, yet Mbeki persisted with it, meaning those fighting the disease, also had to fight their government.’ Gavin Evans, Times, 22 January 2008

‘Thabo Mbeki’s legacy will largely be defined by his intransigence on the greatest public health threat facing South Africa, HIV/AIDS. In order to understand the gravity and sheer irresponsibility of Mbeki’s apparent denialism, we need only look at the evolution of a potentially manageable disease into a pandemic that has claimed the lives of millions of South Africans. … What the whole HIV/AIDS saga reveals is that Mbeki lost his sense of judgment because of his personal hubris. … There has been much speculation about why a man who prides himself in rationality should be so irrational in such a critical issue for his nation. … Thabo Mbeki had shown that under his stewardship nationalism would trump even the most deadly public health issue of his time.’ Xolela Mangcu, To the Brink: The State of Democracy in South Africa (UKZN Press, January 2008)

‘Mbeki’s [‘disastrous HIV/Aids policy’ has] been wildly unpopular within the ANC, especially within the tripartite alliance. The delay in the rollout of antiretroviral drugs is often termed criminal. It is hard to fault the oft-expressed view that Mbeki’s racially-based denialism of a South African tragedy is a dereliction of duty which borders on genocide. … Mbeki has never been a populist or a man of the masses. His convoluted diatribes posing as philosophy tend to bore and confuse, and provide little evidence of any vitality of thought.’ Jan-Jan Joubert, chief political reporter, Die Burger, address at Harvard University, 8 January 2008

‘The president’s … Partnership Against Aids that was launched in 1998 by then deputy president Mbeki … delivered little more than the schizophrenic report of his International Advisory Panel and the truly crazy Castro Hlongwane missive.’ Jonathan Berger, head of policy and research, AIDS Law Project, Mail & Guardian ‘ThoughtLeader’ blog, 15 February 2008

Q: ‘As President Thabo Mbeki ends his term of office, what do you think will be his greatest legacy?’ A: ‘I think he’s done many things right, but the two big spots on his legacy are the ways he dealt with HIV/Aids and Zimbabwe. He started out being very open and realistic, ready to deal with problems and recognising them, but in the course of time, his entourage has isolated him from reality and he became increasingly detached. This is not unique, [it] happens to many rulers.’ Q: ‘How do you mitigate such splendid isolation?’ A: ‘It requires a deliberate effort to remain aware.’ George Soros, interviewed by Mail & Guardian editor Ferial Haffajee, Mail & Guardian, 19 February 2008

‘Mbeki and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang condemned thousands of South Africans to certain death by denying them HIV/Aids treatment.’ Mondli Makhanya, editor of the Sunday Times, editorial, 4 May 2008

‘Mbeki started off with a great initiative to restore Africa’s pride and her place in the international community with the African Renaissance and Nepad. But in the end he did Africa more damage than most African heads of state with his bizarre notions, and criminal denialism, on HIV and Aids.’ Max du Preez, Daily News, 15 May 2008

‘[With] his bizarre position on HIV/AIDS … Mbeki has gone from lame-duck president to pariah of the ANC.’ Edwin Naidu, Sunday Independent, 18 May 2008

‘In his latest column in The Times [Justice Malala] has … called for President Mbeki to be charged with crimes against humanity, either in this country or at the International Court for Human Rights. … Not once in his presidency have we even seen the spark of leadership from Thabo Mbeki. He is bookish, doesn’t like people very much, can’t take criticism and doesn’t inspire confidence. But that’s no reason for Malala to suggest he sees out the rest of his days wasting away in a prison cell. Besides, blind stupidity is not a criminal offence. … There are some serious whackos out there as I’ve discovered over the years and few more whacko than those who are in positions of power. … I would suggest that we let Mr Mbeki end his short term in office without making life any more difficult for him than it already is. A despised man, he leaves no legacy worth the mention and that must be punishment enough for any politician.’ David Bullard, ‘Out to Lunch’ at freeracer.co.za, 10 July 2008

Q: ‘When many people outside of South Africa think of Thabo Mbeki, they think of his more controversial moments, for example his questioning the link between HIV and AIDS … How much have these positions obscured his real accomplishments?’ A: ‘What has got to be said is that they have damaged his reputation hugely, both at home and abroad. There’s no question that particularly his position on HIV/AIDS has done much damage to his reputation.’ Mark Gevisser, ‘Thabo Mbeki’s Successes, Failures in South Africa’, NPR, 11 June 2008

‘How does one understand a man who is among the finest minds of his generation, yet doggedly denies the scientific evidence over HIV/Aids? … Gevisser is at his strongest tackling the most difficult subject of all – Mbeki’s denial of the science surrounding HIV/Aids. With tens of thousands of South Africans dying around him, the President searched out his own explanation for the pandemic, rejecting what he saw as the easy consensus of the medical profession: a consensus that he believed portrayed Africans as sex-crazed germ carriers, “doomed to an inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to the sin of lust”. Combining this angry denunciation with a distrust of globalization, a rejection of the greed of pharmaceutical companies and an almost pathological belief that the world was conspiring against him, Mbeki joined the ranks of the Aids denialists. Pressure from his Party has in recent years persuaded Mbeki to step back from the Aids controversy: South Africa now has an effective programme providing anti-retrovirals. But Mbeki himself has not changed his intense scepticism about the medical orthodoxy on the subject, and his Health Minister still peddles ridiculous solutions involving traditional medicines and dietary supplements. Gevisser, who is an Aids activist, struggled for years to finish the book because with his subject’s stand on the subject.’ Martin Plaut, ‘No denial’, Times Literary Supplement, 22 August 2008

‘A healthy skepticism of conventional wisdom on Aids turned to denialism in the highest echelons. More than a decade passed before government finally began seriously addressing treatment. In the meanwhile, the epidemic brought death to the door of tens of thousands of families.’ Ray Hartley, editor of the Times, editor of thetimes.co.za, and deputy editor of the Sunday Times, ‘The Wild Frontier’ blog, 28 August 2008

‘His reputation started to suffer blows principally at first over his rather strange views on AIDS. As people were dying in extremely large numbers from AIDS, the President and his Health Minister insisted on these rather peculiar policies while people were dying all around them.’ Chris McGreal, London Guardian Africa correspondent, audio interview on guardian.co.uk, 15 September 2008

‘In South Africa, at the beginning of this decade, Aids scepticism gained currency with a political class dismayed at the prices being charged for life-saving medicines. Under the influence of Duesberg and his fellow “dissidents”, Thabo Mbeki’s government chose to delay for several years public provision of anti-HIV drugs. The economist Nicoli Nattrass estimates that this decision – made amid one of the world’s worst Aids epidemics – may already have cost hundreds of thousands of lives.’ Richard Wilson, ‘Against the Evidence’, London New Statesman, 18 September 2008

‘The South African president, Thabo Mbeki, has never courted popularity, sometimes seeming to revel in his image as a cerebral and remote figure … the technocrat and intellectual … But while Mbeki will be remembered for engineering a deal that pulled Zimbabwe back from the brink ... he will also be remembered for his bizarre stance on HIV/Aids. For all his accomplishments, Mandela largely ignored the virus, which infects an estimated 5.3m South Africans and kills 600 people a day. Hopes were high that Mbeki would tackle this killer when he became president in 1999, but those hopes were dashed when he sided with dissident scientists and quacks who denied that HIV caused Aids and argued that anti-retroviral drugs could shorten, rather than extend, lives. Civil society groups and medical organisations were blocked from setting up treatment projects, even as drug prices tumbled. Hundreds of thousands of people were dying on his watch but, to international dismay, Mbeki stayed firm. Commentators claimed he was “inhibited” by statements he had made in the past and felt he could not go back on them – as if politicians do not make U-turns regularly. Under pressure, Mbeki “withdrew from the debate”. Only in 2004 did South Africa finally start a national treatment programme, just in time to neutralise HIV/Aids as an election issue. Some even suggested Mbeki did not want to spend scarce resources and chose to let the virus decimate the poor and unemployed.’ Mark Tran, ‘Thabo Mbeki: Profile: South African president can claim credit over Zimbabwe negotiations but has mystified observers with his attitude to Aids’, London Guardian, 19 September 2008

‘Then there was the shadow-side to the Mbeki presidency … Aids denialism confounded many of Mbeki’s colleagues, who by and large remained silent about their disagreement with his views, and to this day remains a terrible blot on his rule. Not only did the president’s espousal of quack science see him clash with virtually the whole world aside from health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, it translated into a mountain of avoidable deaths in a country that had one of the highest infection rates in the world. While Mbeki was eventually pressured into effecting saner HIV/Aids policies, many believe he remains a denialist.’ Chiara Carter, ‘Thabo Mbeki’s downfall’, Cape Argus, 20 September, 2008

‘His government did much to improve housing and health care but his refusal to accept the causes and scale of the AIDS crisis reversed many of the social advances.’ Donna Bryson, International Herald Tribune, 20 September 2008

‘As Mark Gevisser’s magisterial biography of Mbeki, A Dream Deferred, was poised for the presses, Mbeki couriered Gevisser an updated copy of the Castro Hlongwane document that expounds AIDS denialist and dissident positions, saying it accurately reflected his views. Mbeki wanted it clear-cut in Gevisser’s text that he still questioned the link between HIV and AIDS and regretted withdrawing from the debate under pressure from the cabinet. What remains murky are the reasons for Mbeki’s intransigence. He indulges in sophistry that doesn’t grasp scientific process. Science is a systematic explanation of the world as it is experienced, not a revelation of a philosophically incontestable reality.’ Brent Meersman, Weekender, 20 September 2008

‘Personally I would have liked to see him impeached for causing the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV.’ Zackie Achmat quoted in ‘OUT! How Mbeki was toppled’, Sunday Times, 21 September 2008

‘As president, Mbeki is widely credited with helping the South African economy to mature and for helping broker difficult political deals across the continent (most recently last week in Zimbabwe). But he has been heavily criticized for siding with HIV/AIDS skeptics and blamed for delays in the country’s fight against the disease.’ David McKenzie, ‘Analysis: Mbeki’s departure “the end of an era”’, CNN.com, 21 September 2008

‘[Mbeki’s] complex political legacy across Africa … includes the championing of an uplifting African Renaissance philosophy – while disastrously questioning the scientific basis of the continent’s most brutal scourge, AIDS. … Perhaps his greatest blunder as president may be rooted in his fascination with intellectual debates. Mbeki astonished the medical world in 2000 by wading into AIDS policy on the side of “denialist” scientists, who questioned the viral nature of the disease. His government’s initial, overly cautious response to the devastating disease – which infects more than 10 percent of South Africans – was fiercely condemned by AIDS experts.’ Paul Salopek, ‘Mbeki’s legacy, like him, enigmatic’, Chicago Tribune, 21 September 2008

‘He came under attack for … a glaring AIDS epidemic … Internationally, Mbeki earned ignominy for questioning the cause of AIDS.’ Karin Brulliard, ‘S. Africa’s Mbeki Agrees to Step Down: Move by President Follows Recall Vote’, Washington Post, 21 September 2008

‘One of his [‘Mbeki, a cool, cerebral figure’] mistakes, according to critics, was his failure to address HIV and AIDS with urgency, delaying the introduction of antiretroviral medication. Robyn Dixon, ‘South African President Thabo Mbeki forced out’, Los Angeles Times, 21 September 2008

‘… on his watch the ANC has pursued disastrous policies over AIDS … South Africa has more people with AIDS than any other country. Aids activists argue that for his links to the dissident scientists who dispute a link between HIV and AIDS alone, he should long since have been forced to resign.’ Editorial, Financial Times, reprinted in the Citizen, 21 September 2008

‘His international reputation suffered in 2000 when he began a catastrophic association with the dissident scientists who dispute a link between HIV and Aids, ensuring that thousands were denied access to antiretroviral drugs.’ Alec Russell, ‘Arrogance leaves a dream derailed’, Financial Times, 22 September 2008

‘Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said … Mbeki leaves a “checkered legacy” because of his refusal to accept the causes and seriousness of the AIDS epidemic, which now kills more than 900 South Africans per day … “His denialism of HIV/Aids … cost thousands of lives.”’ ‘South Africa’s Mbeki resigns after power struggle’, New York Times, 22 September 2008

‘Mr Mbeki has failed South Africa in … signal ways that have outraged international opinion. … his preposterous pseudoscientific denial that HIV causes Aids has had terrible consequences for public health in a nation that has the highest number of carriers of the virus.’ ‘After Thabo Mbeki: South Africa’s president departs with dignity but limited achievement’, London Times, 22 September 2008

‘Even if [the] court of history takes a benign view of his policies on Aids (he denied the link between HIV and Aids and blocked free access to anti-retroviral drugs) and qualifies them as an aberration, his views on Aids were closely bound to his obsession with race. He accused those with a more conventional view of the disease of denigrating black people as vice-ridden germ-carriers. Aids and his policy of propping up the dying Mugabe regime will go down as the two great stains on his period of office.’ Editorial, ‘Failed hero’, London Guardian, 22 September 2008

‘In Mr. Mbeki’s view the West oppressed the rest of mankind. Obsessed with race and colonialism, Mr. Mbeki undermined the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa. To him, orthodox science “portrayed black people ... [as] victims of a slave mentality.” Rejection of the HIV/AIDS orthodoxy was necessary to confront “centuries-old white racist beliefs and concepts about Africans.” Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of South Africans died needlessly while Mr. Mbeki defended rejectionist scientists who claimed AIDS wasn’t caused by HIV.’ Marian Tupy, ‘Mbeki’s Legacy’, Wall Street Journal Europe, 22 September 2008

‘“We have lost confidence in Mbeki,” [‘ANC treasurer Matthews Phosa’] said. “There have been problems for a long time.” He mentioned Mr. Mbeki’s … handling of AIDS. Mr. Mbeki allied himself with scientists who say HIV does not cause AIDS, and label life-saving anti-retroviral treatments a conspiracy of the pharmaceutical industry even as the country developed the worst AIDS epidemic in the world and 800 people a day died of the disease.’ Stephanie Nolen, ‘Mbeki falls victim to the stealthy politics he pioneered’, Toronto Globe and Mail, 22 September 2008

‘He always gives convoluted intellectual reasons that don’t make sense. Mbeki is not an intellectual. This is a good thing. I am scared of intellectuals as leaders. We need simple-minded people in government. ... One emotion he exhibits is a visceral hatred of the West. He likes being an Englishman but hates the West.’ Professor Robert Schrire, University of Cape Town, ‘He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in international organisation and rational choice theories’, Wolpe Trust lecture, ‘The Legacy of President Thabo Mbeki’s Foreign Policy’, Cape Town, 23 September 2008

‘British newspapers branded South Africa’s outgoing President Thabo Mbeki a failure yesterday for disastrous policies on Aids and Zimbabwe.’ ‘British newspapers brand fallen Mbeki a failure for his policies on Aids and Zimbabwe’, Cape Times, 23 September 2008

‘The choices Mbeki made as president of both the African National Congress (ANC) and South Africa were entirely his own, and they were not always wise and just. History will judge him harshly for his stubborn refusal to listen to reason on issues such as HIV/AIDS.’ Editorial, Business Day, 23 September 2008

‘Although an intellectual, Mr Mbeki has always been quirky, picking over truths that others take for granted and aggressive in defence of his own theories. Experience of racism in Britain as well as South Africa may have been formative and his views were often based on race rather than class. Mr. Mbeki’s defence of his bizarre refusal to acknowledge the link between HIV and AIDS was often accompanied by attacks on white perceptions of black sexuality, delivered with venom. He saw at the heart of the AIDS debate a conspiracy of white drug companies and hinted that antiretroviral drugs were poisoning Africans.’ Richard Dowden, London Times, 23 September 2008

‘Mr Mbeki’s record has been mixed. … In his nine year presidency, Mr Mbeki – an aloof, rather prickly intellectual – got one big thing right, one big thing wrong. His free market economic strategy has helped create a prosperous black middle class while delivering strong growth … This forward-looking approach to the economy stands in stark contrast to Mr Mbeki’s bizarre views on the Aids pandemic which is ravaging his country. His refusal to accept the link between HIV and Aids and his apparent suspicion that white drug companies were using antiretroviral drugs to “poison” South Africans has been disastrous. There are now nearly 6 million South Africans with HIV and 1,000 Aids-related deaths in the country every day.’ ‘Opinion: Can Jacob Zuma continue Thabo Mbeki’s most significant legacy?’, London Daily Telegraph, 23 September 2008

‘One of the saddest aspects of Thabo Mbeki’s rule was the unwillingness of his Cabinet members to speak out on the issue of HIV/AIDS and to challenge the President’s strange ideas. … Thabo Mbeki would stand up in Parliament and question the link between HIV and AIDS and set in motion a series of events so bizarre, it still hurts my head to think about them.’ Laurice Taitz, managing editor of the Times Online, ‘Nothing to do in Joburg besides.…’ blog, 24 September 2008

‘His government did much to improve housing and health care but his refusal to accept the causes and scale of the Aids crisis reversed many of the social advances, causing despair among the global scientific community and condemning an estimated 900 South Africans per day to death.’ Clare Nullis, Pretoria News, 24 September 2008

‘Jimmy Carter … once crashed straight into the Mbeki AIDS madness, and it seems to have scarred him for life. “Frankly, I’m glad to see him (Mbeki) gone,” Carter told guests at the Carter Centre on Tuesday night. … Carter reckoned the closest he had come to hitting someone was Mbeki. Carter was there when Bill Gates Snr offered Mbeki funds for antiretrovirals. Mbeki rejected it, saying they were “a plot of white people against black people”. … “I think with (Mbeki) gone, that is good,” Carter said again for good measure.’ ‘Jimmy Carter wanted to clobber Thabo Mbeki’, Business Day, 25 September 2008

‘Yesterday the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) said they agreed with Carter’s statements. TAC leader Zackie Achmat said it was sad that it took so long for the ANC to recall Mbeki. He said Mbeki’s failure to act promptly resulted in millions of premature Aids-related deaths. “We think the (former) president (Mbeki) has done enormous damage to our society. … Since he came into power, at least two million people have died prematurely,” said Achmat.’ ‘Jimmy Carter pleased to see Mbeki booted out’, Daily Dispatch, 25 September 2008

‘The decision by newly sworn-in President, Kgalema Motlanthe to remove Manto Tshabalala-Msimang from the Health Ministry, is an inspired one that sends a strong signal to the country about Aids. He appointed Barbara Hogan to the position, signalling that the debate over government’s approach to Aids has ended. Tshabalala-Msimang, with the support of former president, Thabo Mbeki, presided over the disgraceful failure of the government to accord Aids the seriousness it deserved. Hogan must deliver on the new ANC leadership’s promise to finally tackle this massive social problem with conviction.’ Ray Hartley, ‘The Wild Frontier’ blog, 25 September 2008

And he has made his mistakes,’ Moeletsi [Mbeki] says, “no doubt.” The Aids debacle is the one that stands out most in his mind. To the world back then, it was denialism. To Moeletsi it was “the wrong policy for such a big problem affecting our country”.’ Star, 25 September 2008

‘Claiming that over two million South Africans died of AIDS during Mbeki’s presidency, Achmat said that “at least 300,000 deaths could have been avoided had the President merely met the most basic constitutional requirements”.’ PlusNews, 26 September 2008

‘The decision by the ANC to recall President Thabo Mbeki … was long overdue. … his culpability in the death of hundreds of thousands of people in South Africa with HIV/Aids cannot be underestimated and its impact will be felt for generations. Death certification by Stats SA shows more than 1,5-million deaths in the ages 0–49 and more than two million new infections during his rule. The long-overdue roll-out of a comprehensive antiretroviral programme, compounded by state-sponsored pseudo-science, has left 524 000 people desperately in need of the life-saving treatment unable to access it. As a direct result life expectancy has dropped every year Mbeki has been in office.’ Zackie Achmat, ‘Crimes of the great denialist’, Mail & Guardian, 27 September 2008

‘[Mbeki’s] HIV/AIDS policies resulted in the avoidable death of hundreds of thousands of people living with the condition, who were denied proper medication, nutrition, access to basic services and information about the disease.’ Editorial, Amandla!, 27 September 2008

‘[If the Cabinet members who resigned with Mbeki] genuinely believed that they share the responsibility for all of Mbeki’s decisions, then do they also feel jointly responsible for the AIDS deaths caused by Mbeki’s pathetic response to AIDS?’ Peter Bruce, ‘The Thick End of the Wedge: The Editor’s Notebook’, Business Day, 29 September 2008

‘In the immediate aftermath of his departure, his image, inside and outside South Africa, is of a flawed, austere and stubborn man whose legacy is an economic boom which has unfortunately left the poor behind: … six million people (out of 43 million) are HIV-positive, the majority of whom will almost certainly die from Aids.’ Ivan Fallon, Chief Executive of Independent News & Media UK, Daily News, 3 October 2008

‘We also want more action with regards to the reduction of HIV infections, in effective treatment for tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, as well as widespread HIV prevention, treatment and support programmes.’ Jacob Zuma, ‘Letter from the President’, ANC Today, 3 October 2008

‘Health is about ensuring that the future of the youth of our country is not blighted by the scourge of HIV and AIDS. … Through our comprehensive plan for HIV and AIDS Care, Management and Treatment Programme, we have initiated the largest number of people on antiretroviral treatment in the continent and globally. Yet we still have millions of people being afflicted by HIV and AIDS, both the infected and affected. Our country has seen the human face of this scourge, with many young orphans resulting from the premature deaths of their parents. … It is crucial that we change the behaviour of people who are driving the epidemic. It is critically important that those who need treatment are able to get it; we must also ensure that there is compliance with the treatment regime that is required.’ Barbara Hogan, Minister of Health, addressing a press conference, Pretoria, 2 October 2008

‘South Africa’s new health minister pledged yesterday to “get things right” over Aids, after years of denialism by former president Thabo Mbeki and blunders by her predecessor … “You don’t have to be a health expert to understand the challenge this country is facing when it comes to the Aids pandemic,” she told a press conference in Pretoria. … South Africa has the world’s highest number of carriers of HIV. Some 5.5 million out of a population of 47 million are estimated to be HIV positive. “It is critically important that those who need treatment are able to get it,” said Hogan … “I am passionate about getting things right. We will as a matter of urgency examine all the gaps in delivery.” Hundreds of thousands of South Africans have died from Aids over the past 14 years of ANC government, while Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela as president in 1999, has been lambasted for claiming that HIV does not lead to Aids.’ Alex Duval Smith, ‘South Africa to draw a line under years of denial about HIV/Aids’, London Guardian, 3 October 2008

‘She was teary eyed when she spoke of the privilege and honour to assist those suffering with HIV/Aids. “My goodness, to be given that privilege to actually help, is a gift that I am really grateful for. Certainly, it’s disrupted my life, certainly there’s heartache about it – there’s other things I wanted to do.” Hogan said that she planned to retire from Parliament and reclaim her personal life, but the plight of those who suffered compelled her to accept the appointment. “I think we underestimate the heroism of the people who live with this kind of burden.”’ ‘Hogan: HIV, TB are huge challenges’, Daily Dispatch, 3 October 2008

‘I could go on about Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, but suffice it to say that the deaths on her watch of 300 000 people who could have been saved by life-prolonging drugs does not commend her for high office.’ Justice Malala, ‘Subservience breeds tyranny’, Times, 6 October 2008

‘After years of denialism and foot-dragging from the department of health, it is encouraging to hear the minister confirm that she regards HIV and Aids, which infects around half a million people each year, as one of the most serious health challenges facing this country. … The federation welcomes the minister’s intention to press for more funds to roll out life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs to as many people as possible and meet the target to give 80 percent of HIV-positive people access to ARVs by 2011.’ COSATU press statement, 7 October 2008

‘“We have had a decade of obstruction and HIV denialism from Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang”, [‘François Venter of the Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand’] told The Lancet. … The minister never shook off labels like “Dr Garlic” and “Dr Beetroot” for preaching the virtues of nutrition rather than antiretrovirals. At the 2006 AIDS conference in Toronto, she became an international embarrassment, putting garlic and lemons on the South African stand. The former UN envoy for AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, said her policies were “worthy of a lunatic fringe”. … South Africa now has the world’s biggest antiretroviral treatment programme, with more than 450 000 patients receiving therapy by the end of February. But critics said the success was despite Tshabalala-Msimang rather than because of her, as was the provision of dual therapy for the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV/AIDS, which was only approved nationally this year – 4 years after being recommended by WHO.’ Clare Kapp, ‘New hope for health in South Africa’, Lancet 2008; 372:1207-1208

Q: ‘Do you think this will silence certain politicians, for example in South Africa and the like, or others who have also questioned the role of HIV in all this?’ A: ‘Yes, we hope it will quieten the conspiracy theorists and others who assert ideas that have nothing to do with research.’ Professor Bjorn Vennstrom, Nobel Committee member, on the award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine 2008 to Luc Montagnier and Francoise Barré-Sinoussi for their alleged discovery of HIV, interviewed on Swedish Radio (translated), 6 October 2008

‘… is Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki really an intellectual? Some would say it was exactly his pseudo-intellectual nonsense that created the gap for the present wave of anti-intellectualism. … Need more evidence? Then I offer you … the crazy ranting of Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.’ Max du Preez, acting editor of noseweek, editorial, October 2008

‘At the opening of the International AIDS Vaccine Conference 2008 in Cape Town the new Minister of Health, Barbara Hogan, repeatedly stressed the importance of scientific, “evidence-based responses” to stop HIV. … “We know that HIV causes AIDS,” said Hogan, a point that former president Thabo Mbeki publicly contested. ... Deputy minister for Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, praised activists in the Treatment Action Campaign for pushing forward the HIV agenda in South Africa – which he described as the “eye of the storm” of the HIV/Aids epidemic. He urged everyone in HIV prevention “to intensify our efforts”.’ Claire Keeton, ‘Hogan wants a new approach to AIDS’, Times, 14 October 2008

‘“It was imperative to get ahead of the curve of this epidemic ten years ago. We all, for various reasons, have lost ground,” Hogan told the opening ceremony of an AIDS Vaccine conference in Cape Town. “We also wasted time despite having one of the best plans to cope with the epidemic,” she said, adding South Africa must now show more urgency in implementing a national programme launched last year to fight HIV/AIDS. Mbeki drew sharp criticism shortly after coming to power in 1999 when he questioned accepted AIDS science and failed to make life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) widely available. … The comments on Monday were her most critical yet of the Mbeki government’s stance on HIV.’ Reuters, ‘S. Africa wasted time in AIDS fight, minister says’, 13 October 2008

‘Hogan said that more than half of all public hospital admissions are Aids-related and more than one quarter of the national health budget goes to fighting the disease.’ IOL (Sapa-AP) ‘Speed up Aids research, asks health minister’, 13 October 2008

‘Barbara Hogan’s statement that HIV does cause Aids is proof that a monumental and definitive shift in outlook has taken place in the Health Department under her tenure. The DA welcomes this statement of fact, which for so long, no one in our leadership has been able to make. We believe this will be the beginning of a new and much brighter phase in South Africa’s battle against HIV/ Aids.’ Mike Waters, DA Health spokesman, 13 October 2008

‘The previous beleaguered regime of Manto Tshabalala-Msimang existed in a bunker of opprobrium and arrogance, its officials serving a deathly ideology of denial, listening only to a president who sacrificed his people on the altar of loony science. The department reflected the racial chips on president Thabo Mbeki’s shoulders and so saw health not as a service but as a battle of us against them. … This week [Barbara Hogan] made things right with the science community, thus bringing rationale [sic] back to the centre of the fight against HIV/Aids. Mbeki alienated scientists in the first years of his presidency and it’s been a battle of attrition ever since. Now trust from an essential community may be back on the horizon. This week Hogan declared there was no doubt about the cause of Aids, putting to bed a useless debate that took up too much of our airtime.’ Editorial, ‘At last an end to lemons’, Mail & Guardian, 17 October 2008

‘On the HIV and Aids debate in particular, I believe his biggest missed opportunity was his failure to inspire the nation to rise up against the monster. The public needed inspiration. It was sorely missing and, sadly, now threatens to define his presidency – which is a pity when you consider that, despite these debates, South Africa soldiered on to create the biggest antiretroviral roll-out programme in the world. Its strategic plan is today the envy of the world – a fact often conveniently forgotten by those seeking to crucify him.’ Onkgopotse Tabane, Altron group executive, ‘This is Mbeki’s legacy – judge it’, Sunday Independent, 19 October 2008

‘There is no excuse for the hoops through which the country jumped for years as the presidency and the health ministry cast about with charlatans offering industrial solvents and health diets as a way to combat the disease. … The failure of Mbeki and his top team to embrace the AIDS issue … and to emblazon his own leadership in confronting the challenge will always be marked against his name. … tragically his legacy will probably not be celebrated for [his political achievements], but will be remembered for … his ambiguity on HIV/AIDS.’ Brian Pottinger, The Mbeki Legacy (Cape Town: Zebra Press, 2008)

‘Under [Mbeki’s] guidance … the government wasted precious time in addressing the critical challenge of HIV-AIDS. While over-engaging in protracted intellectualism, many people suffered without much-needed medical help in our cities, towns and villages.’ ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, speaking at a debate of Mbeki’s legacy, Atlas Studios, Milpark, Johannesburg, 14 October 2008

‘A new study by Harvard researchers estimates that the South African government would have prevented the premature deaths of 365,000 people earlier this decade if it had provided antiretroviral drugs to AIDS patients and widely administered drugs to help prevent pregnant women from infecting their babies. The Harvard study concluded that the policies grew out of President Thabo Mbeki‘s denial of the well-established scientific consensus about the viral cause of AIDS and the essential role of antiretroviral drugs in treating it. Coming in the wake of Mr. Mbeki’s ouster in September after a power struggle in his party, the African National Congress, the report has reignited questions about why Mr. Mbeki, a man of great acumen, was so influenced by AIDS denialists. … “I feel ashamed that we have to own up to what Harvard is saying,” Ms. Hogan, an A.N.C. stalwart who was imprisoned for a decade during the anti-apartheid struggle, said in a recent interview. “The era of denialism is over completely in South Africa.”… “The tragedy of Thabo Mbeki is that he’s a smart man who could have been an international statesman on this issue. To this day, you wonder what got into him.” … said Richard C. Holbrooke, the former ambassador to the United Nations in the Clinton administration who heads a coalition of businesses fighting AIDS.’ Celia Dugger, ‘Study Cites Toll of AIDS Policy in South Africa’, New York Times, 25 November 2008

‘Former President Thabo Mbeki’s letter to the ANC has cleared one thing up: He really was a bit of a looney tunes president. Little has been written or said about some of the crackpot junk in his recently aired letter to the ANC. Here are some paragraphs: “I have taken note of the campaign that some in our ranks, supported by some in our media, have waged for many years focused on discrediting me in particular, given the senior positions I have occupied in the ANC, and the ANC in general. I have been constantly and acutely aware of the fact that this campaign has been based on outright lies and deliberate and malicious distortions.” Mbeki’s words bring to mind the famous Carly Simon lyrics: “You’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you”. You see, life is a slightly more varied and interesting tableau than Mbeki imagines it to be. There are very few people with the time or the inclination to while away the hours coming up with ways of assaulting Mbeki’s integrity. Especially while he was doing such a handsome hatchet job on himself in a weekly online column which can only be described as looney tunes.’ Ray Hartley, ‘The Wild Frontier’ blog, 3 November 2008

‘You say that history will judge your presidency. The rough draft is looking appalling: 300 000 people died for lack of antiretroviral medication because you intimidated all of us into a despicable silence on HIV/Aids. I can only hope, comrade, that you sleep easy at night with such a statistic hanging over you. For myself, I can only say: never, never again should such moral dereliction sit at the head of our noble movement!’ Justice Malala, ‘Dear Thabo Mbeki, please shut up’, Times, 03 November 2008

‘On the 22nd of August 2006 Senator Barack Obama, during a tour of Africa, visited South Africa and met with members of the Treatment Action Campaign in Khayelitsha. He also visited Site B Clinic in Khayelitsha were he saw the work that TAC’s Treatment Literacy Practitioners do on a daily basis in clinics across the country. During the closed session of their meeting TAC members suggested to Senator Obama that he run for president. Obama took a strong position on preventing and treating HIV/AIDS and was critical of President Mbeki and the South African government’s response to the epidemic and their disregard and animosity towards the Treatment Action Campaign.’ TAC newsletter, 4 November 2008

‘South Africa is one of the countries most severely affected by HIV/AIDS. At the peak of the epidemic, the government, going against consensus scientific opinion, argued that HIV was not the cause of AIDS and that antiretroviral (ARV) drugs were not useful for patients … In 1999, President Thabo Mbeki, under pressure to provide zidovudine (ZDV or AZT) for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) and AIDS treatment, announced that the drug was toxic and dangerous to health and that the government was not going to provide it. He then questioned whether HIV was the cause of AIDS, and this broadened the debate from the usefulness of ZDV to the usefulness of all antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in fighting the AIDS epidemic because they all target HIV. … Access to appropriate public health practice is often determined by a small number of political leaders. … More than 330,000 lives … were lost because a feasible and timely ARV treatment program was not implemented in South Africa.’ Chigwedere et al. (Harvard School of Public Health), ‘Estimating the Lost Benefits of Antiretroviral Drug Use in South Africa’, Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (49: 410-15), Epub ahead of print in December, 16 Oct 2008.

‘Mr Achmat, who leads the Treatment Action Campaign, which successfully lobbied for the eventual reversal of government policy, claimed Mr Mbeki had “blood on his hands”. He called for him to be summoned to a judicial inquiry or the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.’ BBC News, 7 November 2008

‘I feel ashamed that we have to own up to what Harvard is saying. The era of denialism is over completely in South Africa.’ Barbara Hogan quoted in ‘Study Cites Toll of AIDS Policy in South Africa’, New York Times, 26 November 2008

‘The Aids policies of the former South African president Thabo Mbeki’s government were directly responsible for the avoidable deaths of more than a third of a million people in the country, according to research by Harvard university. South Africa has one of the severest HIV/Aids epidemics in the world. About 5.5 million people, or 18.8% of the adult population, have HIV, according to the UN. In 2005, there were about 900 deaths a day. But from the late 1990s Mbeki turned his back on the scientific consensus that Aids was caused by a viral infection that could be fought – though not cured – by sophisticated and expensive medical drugs. He came under the influence of a group of maverick scientists known as Aids denialists, most prominent among whom was Peter Duesberg from Berkeley, California. In 2000, Mbeki called together a round table of experts, including Duesberg and his supporters, but also their opponents, to discuss the cause of Aids. Later that year, at the International Aids conference in Durban, he publicly rejected the accepted scientific wisdom. Aids, he said, was brought about by the collapse of the immune system – but not because of a virus. The cause, he said, was poverty, bad nourishment and general ill-health. The solution was not expensive western medicine, but the alleviation of poverty in Africa. In a new paper, Harvard researchers have quantified the death toll of Mbeki’s stance, which caused him to reject offers of free drugs and grants and led to foot-dragging on the part of his government over bringing in a treatment programme, even after Mbeki – under intense international criticism – had taken a vow of silence on the issue. “We contend that the South African government acted as a major obstacle in the provision of medication to patients with Aids,” write Pride Chigwedere and colleagues from the Harvard school of public health in Boston in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. … The authors estimate that more than 330,000 people died unnecessarily in South Africa over the period and that 35,000 HIV-infected babies were born who could have been protected from the virus and would probably have a limited life. … The authors conclude: “Access to appropriate public health practice is often determined by a small number of political leaders. In the case of South Africa, many lives were lost because of a failure to accept the use of available ARVs to prevent and treat HIV/Aids in a timely manner.”‘ Sarah Boseley, ‘Mbeki Aids denial “caused 300,000 deaths”‘, London Guardian, 26 November 2008

‘Zackie Achmat, South Africa’s leading Aids activist, called for Mr Mbeki and his former health minister, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, to answer questions before a special commission of inquiry into the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people who were denied access to antiretroviral drugs. … South Africa has the largest caseload of HIV sufferers anywhere in the world. About 1,000 people a day die of Aids; a fact that Mr Mbeki – who once claimed he did not know a single person who had died of the disease – resolutely refused to accept. A scholarly man whose “denialism” appeared at odds with his much vaunted intellectualism, Mr Mbeki is also accused of having tolerated a host of charlatans touting bogus Aids cures under the guise of “traditional” African medicines.’ ‘Thabo Mbeki must answer for needless deaths of 365,000 Aids victims, says activist’, London Times, 27 November 2008

‘Mbeki’s denial that the virus was the prime cause of Aids (he avoided a complete denial of any link at all) was the oddest feature of his otherwise too-cerebral presidency … Since he was ousted by his party in September, the South African Government has been trying to extract itself from this poisonous legacy … denying life-prolonging treatment to his country’s citizens.’ Bronwyn Maddox, ‘“Lethally perverse” denial of science’, London Times, 27 November 2008

‘In SA, HIV denialism by ousted president Thabo Mbeki and his quixotic health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has already resulted in at least 330 000 preventable deaths and 35 000 babies born with HIV. According to a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health, between 2000 and 2005, Mbeki’s government stalled on delivering a national antiretroviral programme and ensuring babies were born free of HIV. There’s now empirical evidence that political obstruction has blocked access to life-saving drugs. Civil society, the opposition and business have been shouting for many years for government to be more proactive in tackling the pandemic. Then, finally last year, this push culminated in the birth of the ambitious National Strategic Aids Plan 2007-2011, one of the world’s most progressive policies on the deadly disease. SA now has the biggest treatment programme in the world with 575 000 people on antiretroviral drugs. … The cards have definitely shifted, it seems, with Hogan driving home the message: “I’m sorry I even have to state it – we all know HIV causes Aids.”’ Sharda Naidoo, ‘Time Bomb’, Financial Mail, 28 November 2008

‘“Those people are dead because of the previous health minister and the previous president. It’s that simple,” said Dr Francois Venter, head of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society.’ Agence France Press, 29 November 2008

‘Mark Heywood, deputy chair of the SA National Aids Council, said: “The war is over. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be disputes and that the Treatment Action Campaign will be muted when we have issues to raise – but it means that the level of resistance that we once encountered is over. Today is the day we start working and we are glad that this is a new beginning.” Heywood, speaking in Durban at an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of World Aids Day, was referring to the recent appointment of Barbara Hogan as health minister and the sea change she has brought to the government’s response to HIV-Aids. “Today is an unprecedented show of unity and it is not fake unity. For the first time, the government is taking this epidemic seriously and is doing something about it,” Heywood said. … Hogan, who attended the Durban event, said a new day had dawned in the fight against HIV-Aids. … “We have got off to a marvellous start; we are united in fighting this disease. We have been sitting here in unity with politicians, traditional leaders, unionists, the National Aids Council and civil society, and we are gaining momentum to reach our goals of reducing infections and up-scaling antiretroviral treatment to curb mother-to-child transmissions.” … Former UNAids director Peter Piot said he was impressed by the partnership the government had formed with civil society to fight the epidemic – a first for South Africa. “It is clear that a new morning has begun in South Africa. I am glad to note that the health department will be accountable for reaching its strategic goals and that we have tackled the leadership problem. It is a signal of powerful hope.”’ Times, 2 December 2008

‘It is not often that the cost of political leaders being wrong gets quantified. It’s doubly important to bring science to bear on such a question when people have paid with their lives, as happened with the AIDS epidemic in South Africa under the leadership of then-president Thabo Mbeki. An article from the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative published this week … provides such a service by estimating the benefits lost through underuse of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in South Africa. … It concludes that the lack of an ARV drug programme caused the loss of more than 330,000 lives – consistent with an estimate along different lines by the South African economist Nicoli Nattrass … – and that 35,000 babies were needlessly born with HIV. … Mbeki was deposed in September, and his successor, Kgalema Motlanthe, moved swiftly to replace Mbeki’s chief accomplice, health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, with Barbara Hogan. Hogan has rejected the dissident line, subscribed to by both her predecessor and Mbeki, that AIDS is not caused by HIV. Moreover, describing herself as “ashamed” about the estimates, she has declared that “the era of denialism is over completely in South Africa”. ... The needless deaths that occurred in South Africa prompt reflection on Mbeki’s now infamous presidential AIDS advisory panel on the link between HIV and AIDS … In retrospect, the panel, constituted as it was, should never have been supported. Yet several of the country’s key scientific institutions explicitly endorsed its establishment, and also desisted from criticizing Mbeki. Along with his cabinet, they bear some culpability for the consequences that have now been documented. There is a moral to this tragic tale that may prove relevant in other contexts. In a young democracy with a historically hierarchical culture, and with attitudes often hardened by a colonial past, scientific institutions need not only to guard their independence fiercely but also to make their reasoned voices heard above the fray of political sycophancy.’ Editorial, ‘The cost of silence? Analyses of AIDS deaths attributable to misguided policies in South Africa carry lessons for scientific leaders’, Nature, 4 December 2008

‘Throughout his tenure as South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki rejected the scientific consensus that Aids is caused by a virus, HIV, and that anti-retroviral drugs can save the lives of people who test positive for it. Instead, he embraced the views of a small group of dissident scientists who suggested other causes for Aids. Mbeki stubbornly continued to embrace this position even as the evidence against it became overwhelming. … While Botswana and Namibia, South Africa’s neighbours, provided anti-retrovirals to the majority of its citizens infected by HIV, South Africa under Mbeki failed to do so. A team of Harvard University researchers has now investigated the consequences of this policy. Using conservative assumptions, it estimates that, had South Africa’s government provided the appropriate drugs, both to Aids patients and to pregnant women who were at risk of infecting their babies, it would have prevented 365,000 premature deaths. That number is a revealing indication of the staggering costs that can arise when science is rejected or ignored. It is roughly comparable to the loss of life from the genocide in Darfur, and close to half of the toll from the massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. One of the key incidents in turning world opinion against South Africa’s apartheid regime was the 1961 Sharpeville massacre, in which police fired on a crowd of black protesters, killing 69 and wounding many more. Mbeki, like Mandela, was active in the struggle against apartheid. Yet the Harvard study shows that he is responsible for the deaths of 5,000 times as many black South Africans as the white South African police who fired on the crowd at Sharpeville. … But good intentions are not enough, especially when the stakes are so high. Mbeki is culpable, not for having initially entertained a view held by a tiny minority of scientists, but for having clung to this view without allowing it to be tested in fair and open debate among experts. When Prof Malegapuru Makgoba, South Africa’s leading black immunologist, warned that the president’s policies would make South Africa a laughingstock in the world of science, Mbeki’s office accused him of defending racist western ideas. … The lessons of this story are applicable wherever science is ignored in the formulation of public policy. This does not mean that a majority of scientists is always right. The history of science clearly shows the contrary. Scientists are human and can be mistaken. They, like other humans, can be influenced by a herd mentality, and a fear of being marginalised. The culpable failure, especially when lives are at stake, is not to disagree with scientists, but to reject science as a method of inquiry.’ Peter Singer, ‘Mbeki ignored the science on HIV’, London Guardian, 17 December 2008

‘One out of five people in South Africa live with HIV/AIDS. And for a long time, this has been denied by the government for complex reasons. Unfortunately, none of these are valid. … But it is calculated that probably something like 30,000 [sic] people died, who should not have died, because they were not being given the medicines that they should have been given, the antiretrovirals, for instance, because the government just denied the very existence of HIV/AIDS. They fought a very stupid battle against big pharmaceutical companies, which under most circumstances would be a valid one, claiming that AIDS is, you know, a Western invention, it’s an attempted genocide of the African population, and the pharmaceutical companies are poisoning the population. So we’ve been distracted by secondary considerations, when the real issue was what do we do to try and make it possible for people who are afflicted with HIV/AIDS to get the necessary medicine. How do we prevent the transfer of HIV/AIDS from mothers to children, for instance? That was a huge issue in the country. … I think that South Africa is only really now starting to feel the economic consequences of that, because it is affecting huge, huge sums of people. People in the country tell me that they spend one or two days a week just going to funerals.’ Breyten Breytenbach, Democracy Now, 26 December 2008

‘Mr Mbeki … has continued to talk nonsense about HIV/Aids, from which 30 per cent of the population is said to be suffering.’ Editorial, ‘Why Thabo Mbeki had to go as ANC president’, Daily Telegraph, 5 Jan 2009

‘Obviously we cannot be brought to pardon or sympathise with Mbeki’s … stance on Aids … but Gevisser helps us to understand … how – and why – he has developed such seemingly monstrous attitudes. It is fitting that Gevisser should present the story as the unfolding of a tragedy, as Mbeki evolves from the “reasonable revolutionary” into the seeming madness of his final moments in power.’ ‘André Brink compares two writers’ accounts of Thabo Mbeki’s disastrous presidency’, London Daily Telegraph, 17 April 2009

‘Thabo Mbeki’s presidential legacy is coming under increasingly critical scrutiny, not only from political rivals and opponents but also from more objective analysts. Among the most damning is the study by Nicoli Nattrass, director of the Aids and Society Research Unit at the University of Cape Town and visiting scholar with the Health Economics and HIV/Aids Research Division at UKZN, which shows that the delay in the government’s roll out of antiretroviral treatment has led to approximately 171 000 HIV infections and 343 000 deaths that might otherwise have been prevented. Those are appalling figures, and the fact that they include mother-to-child infections makes them all the more distressing. … Mbeki’s denialism affected many facets of his leadership in both domestic and international affairs, but there are few in which the cost to the people, in suffering and death, has been so evident and so terrible. For the 343 000 dead, there is no way to retrieve the situation. For a nation soon to choose new political leaders, however, there is a lesson to learn. The core function of a government is to care for the welfare of its people, and of the environment upon which the wellbeing of humanity depends. With a leader known for prickliness, his intellectual remoteness and his insistence on getting his own way, the Mbeki administration put its political aspirations ahead of the people’s needs. As the Western Cape example illustrates, different leadership yielded different consequences. The nation needs leaders who are accessible and open-minded, willing to be guided by validated expert opinion and big enough to concede that their own thinking could be flawed. The quality of leadership can literally be a matter of life and death.’ Editorial,Cost of denial’, Witness, 16 March 2009

‘Feinstein and Johnson both deal with the Aids crisis and Zimbabwe, two of Mbeki’s most paranoid and dangerous failures of policy. It seems that to Mbeki, if the West wanted something, it was his duty to oppose it: thus Aids drugs were a conspiracy to denigrate and poison the African … But the statistic which will hurt is that, according to a recent Harvard study, Mbeki’s Aids denialism has led to the avoidable death of over 300,000 South Africans, including 85,000 babies. Johnson has in the past pointed out that not even the Apartheid government killed this many people.’ Justin Cartwright, Spectator, 22 April 2009

‘Our own “City of Choice” [Pietermaritzburg] gets a mention [in The Virus, Vitamins & Vegetables by Kerry Cullinan and Anso Thom] in what has to be one of the most shocking chapters – the story of the government’s strange denialist bedfellows including Anthony Brink … described by a prominent international scientist as “delusional” [and, according to Cullinan, responsible for] “the madness, sheer weirdness and despair of a decade with Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang [who] came to have the ear of the president, health minister, and other top officials … by exploiting divisions etched by apartheid … with nothing to offer other than ideology in place of ARVs for people with weak immune systems”.’ Julia Denny-Dimitriou, Witness, 18 May 2009

‘Except for Malegapuru Makgoba, Thandwa Mthembu and Max Price, many of the vice-chancellors chose not to challenge openly Mbeki’s nonsense on HIV/AIDS. Some even tried to provide some pseudo-intellectual cover for Mbeki. They betrayed the idea of scholarship and failed to protect the weakest in our country.’ Sipho Seepe, Business Day, 20 May 2009

‘The crisis in South Africa’s public healthcare system seems to deepen by the day, despite new Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s claims to the contrary. In fairness to Motsoaledi, he has to wrestle with the legacy of policy incoherence and official miserliness left by Thabo Mbeki. As we report today, the ANC has consistently underfunded state hospitals and shifted resources away from them amid of a burgeoning Aids epidemic. State health spending per citizen declined after 1996, returning to the same levels almost a decade later. A further toxic inheritance of the Mbeki era is the greatly increased cost burden of treating the millions of South Africans infected with HIV. If he and his deluded former health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, had faced the facts and acted promptly, many sick people might have avoided infection.’ ‘A legacy of incoherence’, Opinion, Mail & Guardian, 29 May 2009

‘… a catastrophe is unfolding that will claim thousands more lives, as a consequence of fourteen years in which the party failed its people on the most important challenge to confront it.’ After Mandela: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa, ‘The AIDS Betrayal’ chapter, Alec Russell (Hutchinson, 2009)

‘South Africa has the largest burden of HIV/AIDS and is currently implementing the largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme in the world.’ Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, foreword to South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey, 2008, June 2009

‘The HIV/Aids denialism at the apex of the state [‘a decade of health policy failure under former president Thabo Mbeki, his health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Director General Thami Mseleku’] had an immensely damaging effect on doctors’ morale and convinced many of them that their employer cared little for the lives of their patients.’ Editorial, Mail & Guardian, 3 July 2009

‘Something remarkable has happened in South Africa’s struggle against the worst Aids epidemic the planet has seen: doctors and health experts have begun to use the word “hope”. A recently published report by the Pretoria-based Human Sciences Research Council found that … 11 per cent of all South Africans over the age of two are HIV positive. … Some of the newfound optimism stems from the political upheavals of recent months. President Thabo Mbeki’s departure from office in September last year triggered a sharp shift in policy. Mr Mbeki’s denial of the link between HIV and Aids delayed the provision of anti-retroviral medicines to HIV sufferers, contributing to the increase in Aids-related deaths. Under Mr Mbeki, the government eventually implemented an extensive anti-retroviral programme but official ambivalence inevitably undermined the effectiveness of policy, not to mention safe sex and other prevention campaigns.’ ‘HIV/AIDS: A glimmer of hope shines amid the epidemic’, Financial Times, 16 July 2009

‘During nearly 10 years of denial and neglect, South Africa developed a staggering Aids crisis. Around 5.2 million South Africans were living with HIV last year – the highest number of any country in the world. Young women are hardest hit, with one-third of those aged 20-to-34 infected with the virus.’ ‘South Africa launches Aids vaccine trial’, London Independent, 20 July 2009

‘By all accounts, it is again a country on the brink. Nearly two decades after South Africa marked the end of the apartheid era, the combination of the global economic crisis and a looming peak in AIDS deaths has revealed the true cost of 10 years of bad governance. Life expectancy has dropped from an average of 63 a decade ago to 50 years for men and 53 for women. … If the term of a president can be measured by life and death, then Thabo Mbeki’s 10 years in power in South Africa came at a high cost. … Beyond the 330,000 AIDS deaths attributed directly to the previous government by Harvard University, it is difficult to calculate the damage of failing to provide life-saving antiretroviral treatments to the 5.7 million people with HIV. … AIDS deaths are expected to reach an all-time high in the next 12 months, while the Government’s investment in treatments is the lowest per capita in the region, says Nicoli Nattrass, the director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit. “The most recent model [shows] the denialism of the Mbeki era cut off at least 1 per cent of South Africa’s growth rate per year over the last 10 years,” Professor Nattrass says.’ … But those who believe the departure of Mbeki and his health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, from the political stage has meant immediate improvements should think again, says Francois Venter, president of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society. “The damage was done and it cannot be repaired overnight,” says Dr Venter, who runs an HIV clinic treating several thousand patients in central Johannesburg. “Many of my patients even today still fear antiretroviral drugs and believe that they are extremely toxic.”’ ‘AIDS crisis gathers force’, Brisbane Times, 21 July 2009

‘Finally there is a small light flickering at the end of the dark tunnel of HIV/Aids. ... maybe we can start to overcome the legacy of Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang.’ ‘End of Madness’ editorial, Mercury, 24 July 2009

‘“We have the challenge everyone is aware of. We have to make up for some lost time, but we are looking forward,” Clinton said at a U.S.-funded clinic where patients receive antiretroviral drugs. The clinic visit underscored a new juncture in U.S.-South African relations after years of tensions over AIDS … Clinton was accompanied to several of her meetings by Eric Goosby, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator. That “shows how eager we are to broaden and deepen our relationship” with the new government led by President Jacob Zuma, she said.’ ‘Clinton Hails Zuma’s Policies on HIV/AIDS: New South African Government Eschews Skeptical, Unscientific Approach of Past’, Washington Post, 8 August 2009

‘Society also needs to be protected from uninformed voices (remember the AIDS dissidents?) on projects of national importance.’ Nithaya Chetty, Physics Department, University of Pretoria, ‘Universities in a time of change’, TB Davie Memorial Academic Freedom Lecture, University of Cape Town, 12 August 2009

‘Who was to know ... that hundreds of thousands of black South Africans would be allowed to die of Aids because of the president’s arrant conviction that he knew better than the scientists? ... one quickly forgets the grimness of the Mbeki era. We know now that if anyone were to face charges of genocide, it would not be Achmat but Mbeki. A Harvard University study last year conservatively estimated that the prolonged refusal by the Mbeki government to provide antiretroviral drugs through the public health-care system resulted in some 365 000 early deaths. It is difficult to imagine that Zuma could prove to be worse than Mbeki.’ William Saunderson-Meyer, ‘A reminder of grim times’, Witness, 15 Aug 2009

‘Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi … appointed in May, has earned praise for his willingness to listen, acknowledge the mistakes of the past and offer new ideas after taking over a ministry accused of failing – on Aids in particular. South Africa has an estimated 5.5 million people living with HIV, the highest number of any country. As the epidemic raged, then-president Thabo Mbeki denied the link between HIV and Aids, and his health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, mistrusted conventional anti-Aids drugs. The leading international medical journal, The Lancet, devoted its latest issue to health problems in South Africa ... In an editorial, The Lancet said … the policies of Motsoaledi’s predecessor, Tshabalala-Msimang, had “not only led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 300 000 South Africans (who were denied antiretroviral medicines), but also squandered much of South Africa’s hope for enlightened post-apartheid government”. Motsoaledi has said of the previous government’s stance on Aids: “It was wrong and it set us back 10 years.”’ Sapa-AP, ‘Health clinics set up to reduce deaths’, Pretoria News, 9 September, 2009

‘Mbeki was right to ask questions. His mistake was to accept the first answer given – Aids could be a hoax – and proceed accordingly. Once he’d taken that position, he was too proud to back down, and a terrible price was exacted.’ Rian Malan, Resident Alien (Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2009)

‘I’ve been connecting with the youth, pitching the policy of the ANC, which is very clear, which says HIV causes AIDS. That’s the policy of the organization. The awareness campaign, I led it, as I chaired the organization that dealt with this from the government point of view. So this is what we have been doing as a government and in terms of policy, as well as the ANC. We have been actually making people aware and undertaking programs. I’ve just spoken here about the comprehensive program on HIV and AIDS which is the policy of the ruling party, is the policy of government.’ President Jacob Zuma interviewed on CNN, 25 September 2009

‘Once internationally condemned for its handling of the AIDS crisis, SA is now being lauded by the world’s leading organisation for combating the disease. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) regional director, Mark Stirling, yesterday gave the thumbs-up to President Jacob Zuma’s administration’s approach to the HIV epidemic, saying: “What I see in SA is very responsible leadership and governance.” Former president Thabo Mbeki was slated by 82 of the world’s leading scientists for his contrarian approach to HIV/AIDS, and a Harvard study estimated that 330 000 lives would have been saved if the government had not delayed providing AIDS treatment until 2005. Last week, Zuma told CNN that Mbeki’s unorthodox views were his own and not government policy.’ Tamar Kahn, ‘South Africa: Country Wins Plaudits for Aids Approach’, Business Day, 1 October 2009

‘While Mbeki’s and Tshabalala-Msimang’s pursuit of the holy grail of a cure for HIV/Aids – based on such remedies as potatoes, garlic or toxic chemicals – may have ended where it belonged, in the realm of the witch doctors, South Africa’s health crisis has only worsened.’ David Beresford, ‘South Africa: Health reform has a long way to go’, Guardian Weekly, 15 October 2009

‘At the time of his death, Kerkorrel was on the point of declaring his HIV status. He wanted to use it as a means to fight Thabo Mbeki’s disastrous AIDS policy.’ Koos Kombuis, quoted in ‘Johannes Kerkorrel wanted to tackle Mbeki on AIDS’ (translated from Afrikaans), Rapport, 17 October 2009

‘Chairperson, honourable members – Our young democracy faces significant challenges. … The first of these challenges relates to our economy. …The second challenge that I wish to highlight is no less grave. Indeed, if we do not respond with urgency and resolve, we may well find our vision of a thriving nation slipping from our grasp. Recent statistics from the Department of Health, Human Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council, Statistics South Africa and other sources paint a disturbing picture of the health of our nation. They show that nearly 6 out 10 deaths in our country in 2006 were deaths of people younger than 50 years. If we consider mortality trends over the last decade, we see that the age at which people die has been changing dramatically. More and more people are dying young, threatening even to outnumber in proportional terms those who die in old age. Honourable members, South Africans are dying at an increasing rate. The number of deaths registered in 2008 jumped to 756 000, up from 573 000 the year before. At this rate, there is a real danger that the number of deaths will soon overtake the number of births. The births registered during this period were one million two hundred and five thousand one hundred and eleven (1 205 111). The Independent Electoral Commission had to remove 396 336 deceased voters from the Voters Roll during September last year and August this year. What is even more disturbing is the number of young women who are dying in the prime of their life, in their child-bearing years. In 2006, life expectancy at birth for South African men was estimated to be 51 years. By contrast, life expectancy in Algeria was 70 years and 60 years in Senegal. These are some of the chilling statistics that demonstrate the devastating impact that HIV and AIDS is having on our nation. Not even the youngest are spared. Some studies suggest that 57 percent of the deaths of children under the age of five during 2007 were as a result of HIV. This situation is aggravated by the high tuberculosis prevalence. The co-infection rate between HIV and TB has now reached a staggering 73 percent. Statistics indicate that the numbers of citizens with TB number at 481 584. These statistics do not, however, fully reveal the human toll of the disease. It is necessary to go into the hospitals, clinics and hospices of our country to see the effects of HIV and AIDS on those who should be in the prime of their lives. It is necessary to go into people’s homes to see how families struggle with the triple burden of poverty, disease and stigma. Wherever you go across the country, you hear people lament the apparent frequency with which they have to bury family members and friends. Chairperson, Honourable members – Let me emphasise that although we have a comprehensive strategy to tackle HIV and AIDS that has been acknowledged internationally, and though we have the largest anti-retroviral programme in the world, we are not yet winning this battle. We must come to terms with this reality as South Africans. We must accept that we need to work harder, and with renewed focus, to implement the strategy that we have developed together. We need to do more, and we need to do better, together. We need to move with urgency and purpose to confront this enormous challenge. If we are to stop the progress of this disease through our society, we will need to pursue extraordinary measures. We will need to mobilise all South Africans to take responsibility for their health and well-being and that of their partners, their families and their communities. All South Africans must know that they are at risk and must take informed decisions to reduce their vulnerability to infection, or, if infected, to slow the advance of the disease. Most importantly, all South Africans need to know their HIV status and be informed of the treatment options available to them. Though it poses a grave threat to the well-being of our nation, HIV and AIDS should be treated like any other disease. There should be no shame, no discrimination, no recriminations. We must break the stigma surrounding AIDS. In just over a month, we will join people across the globe in marking World AIDS Day. Let us resolve now that this should be the day on which we start to turn the tide in the battle against AIDS. Let us resolve now that this should be the day on which we outline those additional measures that need to be taken to enhance our efforts. Let World AIDS Day, on 1 December 2009, mark the beginning of a massive mobilisation campaign that reaches all South Africans, and that spurs them into action to safeguard their health and the health of the nation. Though a considerable undertaking, it is well within our means, and we should start now, today, to prepare ourselves for this renewed onslaught against this epidemic. We have very impressive awareness levels in our country, well over 95 percent. We should now seriously work to convert that knowledge into a change of behaviour. We have demonstrated in the past that, working together as a nation, we can overcome even the greatest of challenges. We can and will overcome this one. But we must begin by acknowledging the true nature of that with which we are confronted. We should not be disheartened by what we find. Rather, we should be encouraged to act with greater energy and motivation to overcome. I have instructed the Minister of Health, as we prepare for World Aids Day, to provide further detail to the nation on the impact of HIV and AIDS on our people. He will do so next week. The important factor is that our people must be armed with information. Knowledge will help us to confront denials [sic] and the stigma attached to the epidemic. Informed by this understanding, we expect that the South African National AIDS Council, under the leadership of the Deputy President of the Republic, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, will develop a set of measures that strengthen the programmes already in place. We must not lose sight of the key targets that we set ourselves in our national strategic plan. These include the reduction of the rate of new infections by 50 percent, and the extension of the antiretroviral programme to 80 percent of those who need it, both by 2011. Prevention remains a critical part of our strategy. We need a massive change in behaviour and attitude especially amongst the youth. We must all work together to achieve this goal. As we prepare for World Aids Day, and as we undertake the programmes that must necessarily follow, let us draw on our experience of mass mobilisation and social engagement. The renewed energy in the fight against AIDS and in mobilising towards World Aids Day must start now, by all sectors of our society. Working together, we cannot fail. Chairperson, Honourable members – The NCOP has led the way in taking Parliament to the people. We should build on this innovation to foster a close working relationship between government and citizens and between parliament and the people. I have come before you to ask for your cooperation and support in renewing this communal spirit and cooperation. It will help us to deal with the challenges we face, especially HIV and AIDS and its impact. Whatever challenges we face, we will overcome. Whatever setbacks we endure, we will prevail. Because by working together we can and will build a thriving nation. I thank you.’ President Jacob Zuma, address to the National Council of Provinces, Cape Town, 29 October 2009

‘The fight against HIV/Aids needs to be intensified, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Friday. “Reports from the Lancet Medical Journal says South Africa forms 0,7% of the global population, yet carries 17% of the HIV burden, he said. “We need to come out with guns blazing fight this scourge.” Motsoaledi was addressing a conference in Midrand on living with HIV/Aids. He assured delegates that the government, including President Jacob Zuma, was committed to supporting HIV/Aids campaigns in its continued struggle against the virus. “A war is still going to be won. We’ll only win when we stand together as government ... as civil society. We need to undertake a massive campaign of voluntary counselling and testing,” he said.’ Mail & Guardian online, 6 November 2009

‘Young Communists League leader Buti Manamela said Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang denied hundreds of HIV-positive people access to antiretroviral drugs when they were in government. “We cannot have a situation where people continue to die because of those who presided over government as president and health minister and who refused to provide antiretrovirals. … [They] are responsible for many deaths … People who refused to accept the existence of HIV/Aids also refused to save our nation. … Those who have denied the existence of HIV/Aids must be … tried for genocide,” he said. … He was addressing at least 1000 SACP supporters yesterday at the local stadium just outside Rustenburg, North West, at a rally to mark the closing of the party’s Red October Campaign.’ ‘Charge Mbeki and Manto with genocide’, Times, 8 November 2009

‘“In 11 years – from 1997 to 2008 – the rate of death has doubled in South Africa. That is obviously something that cannot but worry a person,” Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told reporters at parliament in Cape Town. … Motsoaledi said the figures called for a “massive change in behaviour and attitude” toward AIDS among South Africans. “On the figures, it’s shocking. As to whether it has been affected by what we did in the past 10 years, to me that’s obvious. … I don’t think we’d have been here if we’d approached the problem in a different way,” he said. “It’s a really obvious question. Yes, our attitude toward HIV/AIDS put us here where we are.”’ Mail & Guardian online, 10 November 2009

‘[Motsoaledi] said that in 2007, the total number of deaths – from all causes – registered in South Africa was 573,408; in 2008, this figure had leapt to 756,062. … “If in 2008 it’s 756,062 it means the rate of deaths increased by more than 100 percent within... 11 years,” he said. Researchers attribute the sharp rise in the total number of registered deaths to the Aids pandemic. … When you take the global average of HIV/Aids, the country is 23 times the global average,” he said. Contacted for comment later on Tuesday, former president Mbeki’s spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga told Sapa: “No, he (Mbeki) would not like to comment.”’ Citizen, 10 November 2009

‘Last week President Zuma revealed an utterly dumbfounding “fact” – Aids caused a staggering 32 percent surge in registered deaths in 2008. This meant more than 180,000 more deaths last year than in 2007. The story made global headlines. It looked as if the apocalypse so long predicted had at last arrived. Early this week the Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, repeated the numbers at a press briefing. Again, mass coverage resulted. … I started making calls. StatsSA were clueless, but I eventually got an explanation from Dr. Debbie Bradshaw at the MRC in Cape Town. She said, “I don’t know where the problem lies but Zuma somehow got the numbers wrong. The minister of health too. Somebody transposed two digits. Somebody must be dyslexic. We will forward a memo on the subject to the health minister.” In other words, there is no apocalypse. No massive Aids-related death surge. If anything, death registrations are stable.’ Rian Malan, ‘Did Zuma & Motsoaledi get their AIDS stats wrong?’ Politicsweb.co.za, 13 November 2009

‘“Let the politicization and endless debates about HIV and AIDS stop,” Zuma said in a speech on World AIDS Day. … The United States said on Tuesday it would provide an additional $120 million funding over two years for ARV drugs in response to a request from Zuma.’ Reuters, 1 December 2010

‘[Mbeki] denies that he ever said HIV does not cause Aids. He denies there was a lack of action or confusing action on his part. The honourable thing would have been for him to deny it, particularly using the opportunity tomorrow. Perhaps he should have used the opportunity to just come out and say it was a mistake and it’s a regrettable mistake, and apologise … for presiding over hundreds of thousands of Aids-related deaths. … He should apologise for the suffering of all those people who died in that period. … We are so relieved and so happy that finally we have a government prepared to lead the battle against this epidemic from the front. We’ve got a minister [of health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi] who is mobilising society.’ Zwelinzima Vavi, Cosatu secretary general, World AIDS Day press conference, 30 November 2009

‘[Mbeki] must lead the campaign against HIV/Aids. He must set up the campaign himself and join the forces that are fighting against this scourge. That would be the most honourable thing to do while he is still alive.’ S’dumo Dlamini, Cosatu president, at the above press conference

‘As we learned with our handling of HIV and Aids, denialism and prevarication in the face of the crisis only benefit undertakers.’ Fikile-Nstikelelo Moya, Editor of the Witness, inaugural editorial, ‘Complacency is Fatal’, 9 April 2010

‘“The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa applauds President Jacob Zuma for disclosing his HIV status after taking a public test,” said spokesman Castro Ngobese. “Zuma buries the denialism, aloofness, poetic and bookish approach to the HIV/Aids pandemic associated with the presidency during the 10 year tenure of president Thabo Mbeki.”’ ‘Zuma buries denialism: Numsa’, Citizen, 26 April 2010

‘Further to complicate the challenges with which we have had to contend, the matters that have been raised by some of our opponents have required that we engage a discourse that relates to intellectual paradigms relating to philosophy, ideology and politics. All this, including the practical politics to which we necessarily had to respond, has imposed on the National Executive the obligation to consider and respond correctly to the dialectical relationship between the two phenomena of human existence, the objective and the subjective. Confronted by the reality that as Government we must govern, and therefore take decisions that have a national, structural and long-term impact, we have consequently had the task to relate the subjective to the objective, to find the necessary relationship between theory and practice.’ President Thabo Mbeki, final address to Cabinet, 24 September 2008

‘... an element I consider to be of vital importance if Africa is to Claim the 21st Century – the need for Africa to recapture the intellectual space to define its future, and therefore the imperative to develop its intellectual capital! ... Another celebrated African intellectual, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, drew attention to the responsibility of the African intelligentsia to play its role in ‘the making of Africa’. When he spoke in 2003 at a conference to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of CODESRIA, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, he said:

“Despite her vast natural and human resources, indeed despite the fact that Africa has always provided, albeit unwillingly, resources that have fuelled capitalist modernity to its current stage of globalization, Africa gets the rawest deal. This is obvious in the areas of economic and political power. But this is also reflected in the production and consumption of information and knowledge. As in the political and economic fields, Africa has been a player in the production of knowledge.

“The increase in universities and research centres, though with often shrinking resources, have produced great African producers of knowledge in all fields such that brilliant sons and daughters of Africa are to be found in all the universities in the world ...

“CODESRIA is reflective of the vitality of intellectual production in Africa and by Africans all over the world.

“Has this vitality resulted in the enhancement of a scientific and democratic intellectual culture? Are African intellectuals and their production really connected to the continent?

“Even from a cursory glance at the situation it is clear that there is a discrepancy between the quality and quantity of this production of knowledge and the quality and quantity of its consumption by the general populace. Ours has been a case of trickle-down-knowledge, a variation of the theory of trickle-down economics, a character of capitalist modernity, reflected more particularly in its colonial manifestation, which of course is the root base of modern education in Africa. And here I am talking of social production and consumption of knowledge and information in the whole realm of thought, from the literary to the scientific.

“Since our very mandate as African producers of knowledge is to connect with the continent, it behoves us to continually re-examine our entire colonial heritage, which includes the theory and practice of trickle-down knowledge. This means in effect our having to continually examine our relationship to European memory in the organisation of knowledge.”

Thus did Ngugi, as did Armah, and Tiyo Soga before them, challenge the African intelligentsia to understand that their very mandate as African producers of knowledge is to connect with the continent, precisely to act as a motive force for the renaissance of Africa.

From this surely it must follow that one of the tasks of this renaissance, which would enable us to give a positive reply to the question – Can Africa Claim the 21st Century? – must be the cultivation and nurturing of an African intelligentsia which understands its mandate in the same way that Ngugi understands the mandate of the African producers of knowledge.

I believe that in this regard the African intelligentsia has to understand that it has to carry out a veritable revolution along the entirety of what we might call the knowledge value chain. It must therefore address in a revolutionary manner the integrated continuum described by:

Analysis of African reality and the global context within which our Continent exists and pursues its objectives;

The policies relevant to the renaissance of Africa that would seek to transform the reality discovered through analysis;

The politics Africa that needs to translate these policies into the required transformative programmes; and,

The institutions that must be put in place to drive the process towards the renaissance of Africa.

I am certain that when it proceeds in this manner, seeking both to understand our reality and to change it, our intelligentsia will rediscover its mission as a vital agent of change, obliged critically to re-examine the plethora of ideas emanating from elsewhere about our condition and our future, including what have become standard prescriptions about such matters as the democratic construct, the role of the state and civil society, good governance, the market economy, and Africa’s relations with the rest of the world.

Thus should we depend on our intelligentsia as our educators and no longer mere conveyor belts of knowledge generated by others outside our Continent about ourselves and what we need to do to change our reality.’ Thabo Mbeki, ‘Africa must define its own future’, Thabo Mbeki Lecture Series inaugural address, 30 May 2010

‘Mbeki is, perhaps not incorrectly, accused of genocide. Now how does one write empathetically of Mbeki as an AIDS denialist? If you don’t write polemically about it, are you in some way a collaborator in the genocide? My answer is, no. I have no doubt that what Mbeki did was very wrong and incredibly damaging, but if I’m not going to be the one to help explain why he came to this bizarre set of opinions, who is?’ Mark Gevisser interviewed by Adam Biles at the Shakespeare and Company Literary Festival, Paris, 17 June 2010

‘Mbeki’s efforts to raise Africa’s international profile were considerable. But it is difficult to see how the [Mo Ibrahim] prize could go to a man who ... sentenced an estimated 300 000 HIV-positive South Africans to premature graves because of his eccentric medical theories.’ William Saunderson- Meyer, Thabo in the wilderness, Weekend Witness, 19 June 2010

‘[Van Zyl Slabbert] also tended to assume an intellectual equality with whoever he was talking to – and he was, in fact, far cleverer than Mbeki. From Mbeki’s viewpoint, this was a toxic mix. One just has to imagine Mbeki trying to put Aids denialism past Van at the cabinet table to realise how unworkable it would have been.’ RW Johnson, ‘Van Zyl Slabbert: What went wrong?’, Politicsweb, 21 June 2010

‘Quarraisha [Karim] cried bitterly at an international convention in 2000 at news that Mbeki had not changed his Neanderthal stance on HIV/Aids. She was devastated by the sheer magnitude of the loss of lives, since HIV is the world’s greatest epidemic unparalleled by any other that we have experienced in the past. Today those tears have turned to smiles under the Zuma-led government which has promised its support through co-operative health ministers and provincial heads.’ Devi Rajab, ‘Devi’s Diary’, Mercury, 11 August 2010

‘... even a murderous anti-anti-retroviral policy didn’t have other party leaders stand up to Mbeki and damn the consequences.’ Stephen Grootes and Phillip de Wet, ANC NGC: is a witch hunt by any other name still revolutionary discipline?, dailymaverick.co.za, 23 September 2010

‘Mbeki’s... legacy ... consists in three classes of phenomena: mayhem caused and now needing to be repaired (policies on AIDS ...) ... Biographers, columnists and political scientists have felt compelled to retool as amateur psychologists the better to understand the former president’s psychic complexity. And Mbeki’s was a consequential complexity: his sensitivity to racial slight directly influenced government approaches to the AIDS pandemic ... It is, after all, precisely the legacies most clearly stamped with Mbeki’s personal agency – notably on AIDS – that are now being decisively overthrown. ... He found in white racism a reassuring explanation for phenomena he found disconcerting, notably the medical-scientific claim that Africans were victims of a lethal disease sexually transmitted within their ranks and the criticism to which he was subjected over his policies on AIDS ... Mbeki was commonly charged with being a ‘denialist’, and this charge touches on an aspect of Mbeki-ism that receives insufficient attention: his peculiar conception of the relationship between knowledge discourse and power. ... Denial can mean a number of things: a refusal to admit that something is so; a cognitive subordination of “is” to “ought” (as in, “this cannot be because it ought not to be”), a belief that reality can be altered by assertion, or damning those bearing bad news. All these meanings found expression, I would argue, in Mbeki’s denialism. Medical orthodoxy on AIDS ought not to have been true – because in Mbeki’s reading it confirmed stereotypes and blamed victims – therefore could not be. If the orthodoxy could not be true, its bearers must be malicious: in this case, agents of a colonialist discourse of medical-scientific domination. If the orthodoxy serves colonialist domination, it is proper – indeed a revolutionary requirement – to counter it, whether through passive-aggressive silence, textual resistance (as in online polemics) or by diverting the recourses of state to dealing with other social maladies that can be more plausibly attributed to Western colonialism and the poverty it spawned. ... South Africans ... paid a terrible price for this epistemology. The most egregious was in lives ... Certain fashionable ideas, mostly drawn from the discursive universe of post-socialist cultural radicalism – anti-scientism, Foucaldian preoccupation with the knowledge power nexus, Afrocentrism, post-colonialist theory – probably helped shape an intellectual climate in which Mbeki could believe the things he did with authority and confidence. The trendiness of such ideas guaranteed him at least a small cult following (see, e.g., Ronald Suresh Roberts, Anthony Brink, Christine Qunta). ... The most successful of the left-activist social movement organisations, the Treatment Action Campaign, had, of course, its own preoccupations: Mbeki’s denial of life-saving treatment to millions of HIV/AIDS sufferers. ... In the case of [‘the external shock of the HIV pandemic’] the Mbeki government made matters worse for itself: the withholding of ARVs aggravated unnecessarily the toll of AIDS of mortality, productivity, and household income. ... Mbeki the internet-trawling intellectual forged distinctive (for the ANC at least) ideas of his own, and made them his party’s. His views on AIDS, and perhaps Mugabe, fall into this category. There was noting inevitable about the ANC’s brief career in AIDS dissidence, but few in the party were willing to challenge it during the peak of Mbeki’s authority between the late 1990s and the early 2000s ... How, in 2010, does Thabo Mbeki figure in the South African collective mind? ... There is evidence in his interview with the journal Thinker ... that he is still quietly awaiting his vindication, notably on HIV/AIDS ... On the positive side, the state is now united in a clear-eyed recognition that HIV/AIDS has reduced life expectancy way below where it lay in 1994, and that the pandemic needs to be treated as an urgent priority. Even here, though, the president’s well-publicised unprotected extra-marital sex rather blunts the message.’ Professor Daryl Glaser, ‘Mbeki and his Legacy: A critical introduction’, in Mbeki and After: Reflections of the Legacy of Thabo Mbeki, edited by Daryl Glaser, published by Wits University Press, November 2010

‘Certainly, Mbeki failed, many times – not least in his inability to reflect upon himself and his actions publicly and critically: a shortcoming of intellect as much as of statesmanship. He followed a devastatingly misguided approach to AIDS.’ Mark Gevisser, ‘Why is Thabo Mbeki a “Nitemare”?’, in Mbeki and After: Reflections on the Legacy of Thabo Mbeki

‘a charlatan and AIDS denialist named Anthony Brink ... claimed that AZT is poisonous.’ Mark Heywood, ‘The Treatment Action Campaign versus Thabo Mbeki 1998 – 2008’ (footnotes), in Mbeki and After: Reflections on the Legacy of Thabo Mbeki

‘I was trying to unpack his [AIDS] denialism and looked at his obsession with “the Text” ... over reality. His habit of trying to get reality to conform to the word.’ Daryl Glaser, at the launch of Mbeki and After, c. 8 November 2010

‘In the book, I point out that Thabo Mbeki is directly responsible for 335 000 preventable deaths. It’s difficult to put that in a book when the person in question is not long deceased, not in prison, but is still
living amongst us in Johannesburg ... Mbeki’s AIDS denialism can’t be isolated from the rest of his government. People seem to dismiss it in that way, implying it was just some strange quirk of his ... When Mbeki finally capitulated on the HIV/AIDS issue, it was because denialism had become unsustainable. ... The fact that people weren’t literally murdered or beaten to death in prison doesn’t change the fact that the outcomes of his policy were the same as if he had put people in concentration camps. It’s more than the 335 000 preventable deaths: he oversaw the total collapse of the public healthcare system.’ Mark Heywood, director of Section 27, incorporating the AIDS Law Project, at the launch of Mbeki and After, c. 8 November 2010

‘One of the impetuses for removing Mbeki from office was that he denied that AIDS is caused by the HIV virus, claiming instead that AIDS is caused by poverty and the legacy of white oppression. Owing to this view, Mbeki refused to allow South Africa to participate in international programs to distribute anti-retroviral drugs which stem the development of AIDS. Two years ago a team of Harvard scientists published a paper alleging that Mbeki’s actions had caused the preventable deaths of some 300,000 South Africans. They also alleged that his refusal to provide HIV-positive pregnant women with access to anti-retroviral drugs caused 35,000 babies to be born with HIV.’ Caroline Glick, ’Our World: Out of South Africa’, Jerusalem Post, 8 November 2010

‘Thabo Mbeki is a seriously deluded man. He’s often considered to be highly intelligent. The evidence however, is rather sketchy. … HIV does not cause AIDS. Such a statement does not support the hypothesis of intelligence. … The closure of the black man to the white man! The knowledge that walking down the pathways of European reason and logic will only lead to his defeat and destruction. … A little bit of genuine intelligence would be quite nice, and we all know it’s out there.’ Doug Downie PhD, Rhodes University, ‘Take on Thabo’, www.book.co.za, 10 November 2010

‘...the villain of this narrative is Thabo Mbeki, who emerges as one of the most cowardly and morally obtuse men ever to lead a free nation. ... Mr. Johnson details Mr. Mbeki’s ... denial of the country’s HIV problem. Mr. Mbeki enshrined in policy the ravings of AIDS denialists and encouraged the fighting of the disease with garlic and potatoes. Mr. Johnson traces such missteps to Mr. Mbeki’s black revolutionary nationalism and a lingering Leninist tendency to view all dissent as fifth-column activity by puppets of patronizing whites.’ Graeme Wood, ‘Good Hope in Bad Trouble’, a review of South Africa’s Brave New World by R W Johnson, Wall Street Journal, 19 November 2010

‘South Africa is in the midst of a rapid expansion of its AIDS programs, attempting to overcome years of denial and delay when former President Thabo Mbeki questioned whether H.I.V. caused AIDS. He suggested that antiretroviral drugs were harmful, and his health minister recommended remedies of beet root and garlic.’ Barry Bearak, ‘South Africa Fears Millions More H.I.V. Infections’, New York Times, 19 November 2010

‘There are drug trials that flop, or political leaders such as South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki, who opposed AIDS programs. In the end, it was a confusing picture. Was AIDS on the rise or finally bottled up? This year, the good-news brigade is winning. ... the latest in a string of wonder drugs offers a pill a day that can ward off the virus.’ Editorial, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 November 2010

‘Recent actions and statements by President Mbeki have raised caution flags about his ability to accept criticism and manage collegially. The challenge for U.S. officials will be to accept this important, but hypersensitive, African figure as he is, and build a constructive dialogue. Post strongly recommends that he be invited to Washington early on to begin building that dialogue. … [There are] several worrisome signals from Mbeki and his camp that raise questions about his judgment. Mbeki’s reluctance to accept overwhelming scientific evidence on HIV/AIDS has been much noted and discussed in international circles and within South Africa. … South Africa’s reporters and editors have brought these inadequacies to the public’s attention with unrelenting zeal. Even papers historically sympathetic to Mbeki and the ANC, such as the Sowetan have joined a chorus of critics questioning Mbeki’s leadership. Sipho Seepe, for example, a political analyst sympathetic to the ANC, writing in the Sowetan asked if Mbeki is fit to govern. … Why Mbeki, whose intelligence is widely acknowledged and who is well respected personally, should exhibit a tendency toward shrillness and defensiveness is hotly debated. Some speculate that Mbeki and the majority of ANC leaders and office holders are still handicapped by the experience of the struggle against apartheid. Then, enemies were everywhere and the world fit very neatly into shades of black and white. Others see Mbeki as an individual who must always be right. When the force of medical and public opinion on the causal link between HIV and AIDS grew too great, Mbeki announced that he was “withdrawing” from the debate rather than admit that he possibly had erred. Mbeki has posited the view that none of the criticisms he has received worries him because he knows they aren’t true, as he told the editor of Drum magazine recently. … Ultimately, no one knows why Mbeki sometimes displays this irrational side, or when it will manifest next. Certainly, he is more frequently reasonable, intelligent, and capable, as he demonstrated again in the February 9 state of the nation address. Mbeki is an avid reader and is acutely aware of the criticisms being levied against him. He must also be aware of the stream of recommendations from the media that he should surround himself with an advisory team that is intelligent, well versed in current affairs, and able to make rational decisions. ... His perceived failure to effectively address the HIV epidemic, in particular, could make him vulnerable to grassroots opposition, possibly from women’s groups. … Dialogue with this essential African leader should be couched in positive, supportive language, in the hope of building a relationship that will allow us to cross swords with him at a later date if we have to. Ambassador Lewis has already begun to establish a relationship with President Mbeki that encourages Mbeki to adopt a more moderate tone with his adversaries and a less controversial stance on critical issues (such as HIV/AIDS) that affect the well-being of South Africa. … We recommend initiating an early and high-level dialogue between the administration and Mbeki. He has made it known to us that he would like to be invited to Washington before Nelson Mandela, whose global stature has something to do with Mbeki’s occasional manifestations of a fragile ego. And we support his request and hope Washington will be able to accommodate this brilliant, prickly leader of Africa’s most important state.’ ‘SUBJECT: THIN-SKINNED MBEKI WILL REQUIRE DEFT HANDLING’, cable from US Embassy to US Administration on 23 February 2001 classified ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ by US Ambassador Delano Lewis, released by Wikileaks on 28 November 2010

‘At least 350,000 people died in just 10 years while the government was dilly-dallying and sending confused messages. ... It was an act of genocide.’ Zwelinzima Vavi, Cosatu General Secretary, interview, Sunday Independent, 5 December 2010

‘As we depart the first decade of the 21st Century, it might be worthwhile to dwell for a moment on the lasting damage our second President, the pretentious pseudo-intellectual and would-be philosopher-king Thabo Mbeki, did to our country and our region during this period. Perhaps his Aids denialism comes first, particularly given a Harvard University estimate that his policies led to the death of some 365 000 South Africans, mainly black citizens. “We contend,” said scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, “that the South African government acted as a major obstacle in the provision of medication to patients with Aids”. Mbeki made frequent bizarre and often hysterical attacks on those who accepted that HIV causes Aids and that anti-retrovirals could be effective in its treatment.’ Stephen Mulholland, ‘Thabo: our little destroyer’, Citizen, 29 December 2010

‘Mbeki is a fine example of the damage that intellectuals can do in power. Instead of accepting the limits of his expertise and taking his cue from global medical-scientific consensus on HIV/AIDS, Mbeki experimented on his people with policies inspired by late-night trawling on internet sites. Mbeki’s Africanism, which drove his insistence that colonialism rather than HIV caused AIDS, was moreover seriously ideological. The populist Zuma is ideologically shapeless and nurtures few pretensions about his intellectual powers. Happy to be the top guy, he is likely to leave health policy decisions to people who are guided by current scientific wisdom rather than by paranoia about the Western medical-industrial complex.’ Professor Daryl Glaser, Department of Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, ‘South Africa: Toward Authoritarian Populism?’ The Johannesburg Salon, Volume Two, 2010

‘... in his judgments and principled public interventions, in particular his brave stand against the Mbeki Aids denialists ... Cameron has significantly advanced the cause and scope of the Constitution to the benefit of our democratic project.’ Serjeant at the Bar, ‘Debate is the answer to prejudice’, Mail & Guardian, 24 January 2011

‘Fast-creeping corruption and obscene enrichment probably makes Mandela’s heart bleed, as did the scandalous denialism by President Mbeki of Aids being caused by the HIV virus. As a result of Mbeki’s refusal to admit the scientific consensus that anti-retroviral drugs delay the onset of full-blown Aids, some six million South Africans in a population of 45 million have died from Aids-related illnesses. Every day 1000 South Africans die from the disease and another 1000 become HIV-positive. Out of power, Mandela was unable to persuade Mbeki to abandon a policy that was widely condemned as “genocidal”. Unwilling to criticise Mbeki publicly, Mandela established his own AIDS foundation, socialised publicly with HIV-positive South Africans, and organised concerts to raise funds. Under President Zuma, Mbeki’s disastrous policy has been gradually reversed, and much of the credit goes to Mandela.’ Fred Bridgland, ‘After Mandela’, Sunday Herald (Scotland) 30 January 2011

There’s a certain odour of Thabo Mbeki around Amos Masondo at the moment. The whiff of do-nothing, head-in-the-sand, don’t-care, fiddle-while-Joburg-burns. And the sheer lack of communication, the arrogance, the misguided self-belief that everyone else is wrong. Stephen Grootes, Joburg’s billing crisis: The horror. The horror.’, dailymaverick.co.za, 2 February 2011

‘AIDS-denialism. Justice Cameron reserved his most stinging rhetoric for the second topic: the effect of ‘rights-talk’ on social policy, as a corrective for public irrationality. He started this section by stating that “in 1999, President Thabo Mbeki plunged South Africa into a ghastly nightmare.” The reference was to Mbeki’s stance on AIDS; lending credence to a discredited, unscrupulous, denialist tranche of businesspeople, lawyers, activists and scientists.’ Rachit Buch, What you can do with rights – Justice Edwin Cameron’, UK Human Rights Blog, 7 February 2012

‘If former president Thabo Mbeki’s rule was the Age of Denial, President Jacob Zuma’s term of office is likely to be known as the Age of Apology. … Suppressing dissent In Mbeki’s time there was no such thing as an apology. The name of the game was to be tough and try by all means to suppress dissent – but finally removed from the debate by your party, as happened over the former president’s dissidence over Aids. So Zuma’s readiness to apologise was, at first, a welcome addition to public discourse. A leader who could own up to his mistakes? What a breath of fresh air.’ Mandy Rossouw, ‘The ANC’s Age of Apology is upon us’, Mail & Guardian, 4 March 2011

‘But there remain a few die-hard pseudo-libertarians, oddball contrarians and conspiracy theorists who challenge this science. I find it strange that we never think of entertaining debates on whether HIV causes AIDS any longer … but we all defend free speech when we let these denialists spread their confusion.’ Max du Preez, ‘Nuclear power not the best option’, Mercury, 22 March 2011

‘An anti-scientific approach to the treatment of HIV has long been a scourge in Africa. The questioning of the link between AIDS and HIV by the former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, did huge damage to the public information campaign designed to bring down that country’s appalling infection rate. The advocacy by the former South African health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, of “natural” treatments for the virus (ranging from beetroot to wild garlic) was similarly damaging. According to a study by Harvard University, their combined resistance to the scientific consensus on HIV and their failure to push the distribution of anti-retroviral drugs might have resulted in the needless deaths of some 300,000 people.’ Leading article: Resist this medical obscurantism, London Independent, 3 May 2011

‘Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Tuesday hailed South Africa’s turnaround on AIDS, going from denialism to the roll-out of the world’s largest treatment programme. “It is like a breath of fresh air,” said Tutu on the apartheid-era prison Robben Island, where the UNAIDS High Level Commission on HIV Prevention was meeting. “For many many years, we were gravely embarrassed in most of our international gatherings because of what we were doing or not doing in this country,” Tutu said. Under former president Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s government had openly questioned the causes of AIDS. His health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang had promoted garlic and beetroot instead of medication. But now one million people are receiving anti-AIDS drugs in South Africa, which has the world’s most HIV infections, affecting 5.6 million of the 50-million population, according to UN estimates. The country has also rolled out massive testing and prevention drives, including male circumcision and testing in schools. The meeting at Robben Island was meant to be a symbolic passing of the torch from an older generation of activists to younger people who were brought to meet Tutu and others fighting to stop the disease.’ ‘Tutu hails South Africa’s turnaround on AIDS’, AFP, 3 May 2011

‘Thabo Mbeki[’s] ... presidency will be remembered above all for his questioning of the link between HIV and AIDS. ... His dabbling in quack science and AIDS denialism was symptomatic of a great unease in South Africa’s political culture, one that has translated into an eerie silence on the page.’ Jonny Steinberg, ‘An Eerie Silence: Why is it so hard for South Africa to talk about AIDS?’, Foreign Policy, May/June 2011

‘For broadly comparable reasons, the African National Congress saw the Aids epidemic that began under apartheid in the 1980s as the result of a plan by the white-supremacist South African government to reduce the numbers of the black majority population. A subsequent ANC government rejected the first effective therapy – AZT, made available in 1998 – as an expensive confidence trick by drug companies and agents of “western medicine”. For South African president Thabo Mbeki and his supporters, the idea that Aids was spread by sexual contact was an expression of western stereotypes about African sexuality. The result was that HIV spread unchecked, the number of South Africans infected with the virus reaching an estimated 5.7 million or 12% of the population in 2007, the highest proportion in any country in the world. More than 300,000 people were dying of Aids in South Africa each year in the mid-to-late 2000s. It was only with the defeat of Mbeki in the 2008 election and the replacement of his health minister that the government’s position began to change and the situation to improve. What conclusions can we draw from all this? As new epidemic diseases strike, scientific opinion is initially uncertain and often divided. The mass media and the internet allow dissident scientists to gain a hearing, just as they did in the more restricted media environment of the 19th century. Governments and politicians are frequently driven to choose the science that best serves their interest, or their ideological standpoint.’ Epidemics and refuseniks, Richard Evans, Regius Professor of History, University of Cambridge, London Guardian, 9 May 2011

‘After the Mbeki regime’s epic failure of the on HIV and Aids, President Jacob Zuma initiated a new movement for the prevention, care and support of the epidemic. And not a moment too soon, because South Africa has one of the largest number of HIV infections in the world, set at some 5.7 million, according to UNAIDS statistics for 2009. The government’s programme now includes the treatment of HIV with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. … ARVs improve the wellbeing and quality of life of people who have HIV, but the problem is that there is a drop-off in the use of these drugs. In some cases this is because of death, but often people on the treatment start to feel better and consequently stop taking their medication.’ Mandy de Waal, ‘Gustav Praekelt and mobile phones for social good’, dailymaverick.co.za, 13 May 2011

‘In South Africa, meanwhile, former president Thabo Mbeki’s obsession with AIDS denialism and crackpot theories of the disease’s origins — and his consequent reluctance to distribute lifesaving medications — are estimated to have caused more than 330,000 otherwise preventable deaths. In 2000, as the world scientific community demanded that Mbeki’s government act against the AIDS epidemic, he instead sent world leaders a paranoid letter, claiming that the pressure on Africans to adhere to “established scientific truths” comprised a “campaign of intellectual intimidation and terrorism.” His like-minded health minister discouraged her citizens from taking antiretroviral drugs, which she called “poison,” and instead promoted natural “remedies” like garlic and beetroot. Education, many readers might assume, is the key to eradicating conspiracism. The Fort Detrick-AIDS conspiracy theory — and Mbeki’s response to it — suggest the answer is more complicated. Consider that the former South African president was one of the most intellectually sophisticated members of the African National Congress elite, having earned a BA in economics and a master’s degree in African studies from the University of Sussex. Yet Mbeki’s mind also was permanently scarred by his fight against apartheid. … Mbeki’s whole early life had been one constant set of battles, tragedies and dark plots. When a mysterious new epidemic suddenly broke out in his backyard, he saw it through this same conspiratorial lens. The notion that AIDS was spread through unprotected sex, in particular, seemed to strike Mbeki as a sort of blood libel against black people — not dissimilar to those spread by white bigots during the apartheid era. Medical schools, he complained, taught South Africans that they are “germ carriers, and human beings of a lower order that cannot subject [their] passions to reason … natural-born, promiscuous carriers of germs, unique in the world. [Scientists] proclaim that our continent is doomed to an inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to the sin of lust.” Eventually, Mbeki relented, and permitted some distribution of AIDS medications in South African medical clinics. But he never fully backed off from his conspiracy theories, despite persistent appeals by the world’s scientific community. Only when he was succeeded in the presidency by Jacob Zuma — a man with a fifth-grade education — did South Africa fully embrace the full scientifically prescribed panoply of AIDS treatments and prevention programs. As Mbeki’s example illustrates, conspiracism is only a nominally intellectual exercise. Its true source inevitably can be traced to some powerful emotional reflex.’ Jonathan Kay, ‘Why debating a conspiracy theorist is always a losing proposition’, excerpt from Among the Truthers, HarperCollins Publishers, 2011, National Post (Canada), 13 May 2011

‘The Mbeki government did not deal with [‘the HIV/Aids problem’] because to the president it was nothing more than a scientific debate. A proper government would have seen it as a grave health challenge and girded its loins to tackle it head on.’ Thula Bophela, ‘The politics of service delivery’, Politicsweb.co.za, 20 May 2011

‘Mbeki was kicked out because he was a rubbish president whose reign ended up costing people their lives. ... Thabo’s embrace of AIDS denialism killed people and delayed significant action against the disease. What Thabo did there was equivalent to mass murder. And the harm he did there went further than AIDS. With his policy of African solutions to African problems Thabo Mbeki brought nationalism into debates where it just didn’t belong. I don’t much care who solves a problem just that it gets solved. We shouldn’t adopt a policy of looking down our noses at things we deem un-African, particularly when it means neglecting treatments that prolong people’s lives because what that particular ideology means is adopting harmful memes like calling science “western” – science by its nature is not nationalist. Something is either sound science or it isn’t, it doesn’t matter where the science was done or who did it.’ Bruce Gorton, science and business journalist, Times Live online, ‘Mbeki wasn’t a good president’, blogtimeslive, 6 June 2011

‘The youth leader’s weekend praise of the former president was tempered by an acknowledgement of two of Mbeki’s flaws … We could add a few, including denialism (on HIV …).’ Editorial, ‘Malema using Mbeki to hit JZ’, Citizen, 7 June 2011

‘One of the great ironies of our post-1994 era must be the creation of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute. Mbeki was such a rotten leader that even his own party ejected him. Apart from deadly musings over AIDS [etc].’ Bryan Rostron, Business Day, 9 June 2011

‘Stung by the communist party boss’s castigation of him for keeping quiet during the period of Mbeki’s Aids denialism, Asmal called Nzimande “an unreconstructed bigot“ ... Asmal admitted to his close friends that cowardice had kept him from speaking out about Aids.’ Chris Barron, ‘Asmal’s brave, proud legacy’, Sunday Times, 26 June 2011

‘He is widely respected for his intellectual prowess. He also stands for what he believes in, no matter what. That is both a strength and weakness. It’s a weakness in a sense that he’s not open to opposing views. It’s strength because he’s not easily swayed. That said, his mistakes have – and continue to – cost the country dearly. Many poor people have died of Aids because he refused to give ARVs to HIV positive people. Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) had to take the government to court to force it to give ARVs to the infected people who desperately needed them. The court ruled in favour of TAC but government dragged its feet to roll out the much needed ARVs. When sanity prevailed, and government decided to roll out ARVs, the country had already lost many souls because of AIDS. He’s yet to apologise for that.’ Thabile Mange, ‘Despite his costly mistakes, Mbeki remains one of the best ANC produced leaders’, NewsTime.co.za, 29 June 2011

‘Solal has invoked the insane arguments of Anthony Brink’ Marcus Low, ‘Quacks of a feather? How Solal relied on AIDS denialist Anthony Brink’, Quackdown.info, 13 July 2011

‘Bad enough that Solal has invoked the insane arguments of Anthony Brink’, Rebecca Hodes, comment on Quackdown, 13 July 2011

‘Former DA leader Tony Leon has heaped praise on President Jacob Zuma and National Health Minister Aaron Moatseledi, saying there is “an honesty of analyses in dealing with the approach on HIV and Aids”. Speaking to the Daily News during a visit to South Africa this week, Leon described the Zuma administration as being “better than that of former president Thabo Mbeki”. “Listening to Aaron Moatseledi talk about Aids compared to Mbeki is like day and night, there simply is no comparison. “Today we have the highest levels of HIV testing, while during Mbeki’s term there was complete denial of Aids, so much so that Mbeki couldn’t even bring himself to utter the words HIV causes Aids. We now have people like Moatseledi ... who have a sense of realism and an attitude that while you can honour the past, you cannot live in it,” said Leon, who is now South Africa’s ambassador to Argentina, but remains a member of the DA.’ ‘Zuma administration better than Mbeki: Leon’, Daily News, 19 July 2011

‘For years, president Thabo Mbeki succumbed to his paranoia regarding whites, the West and prevailing knowledge in medicine and foisted a bizarre and catastrophic HIV policy upon a nation arguably at the epicentre of the global crisis. And yet, eventually, through a mixed process involving courts, activists and, eventually, the removal of Mbeki himself, South Africans today can access medicines that extend and normalise their lives.’ Alexander Parker, ’Vroom with a view’, Business Day, 31 August 2011

‘If there was on topic that overwhelmed Mbeki’s reign in high office and tarnished it forever, it was HIV/Aids. It is common knowledge now that for many years South Africa’s strategy for combating Aids was shaped by an antipathy on the part of Mbeki and his health minister towards antiretroviral therapy. The early years of Mbeki’s presidency were framed by Mbeki’s support for Aids denialists and dissenters who believed that HIV was a harmless passenger virus and that Aids symptoms were caused by malnutrition and antiviral therapy.’ Kader Asmal, Politics In My Blood, Jacana Media, August 2011

‘Thabo Mbeki read everything thoroughly and in detail, while Jacob Zuma and a number of other ministers never read anything. ... Asmal’s account of Mbeki and the Aids debacle sheds further light on this tragic episode in our recent history.’ Gerald Shaw, ‘Asmal dedicated life to ideals’, Cape Times, 6 October 2011

‘Zuma was head of the ANC’s AIDS council through all those years of Mbeki’s denialism. They all kept quiet. They all collaborated in the genocide of the sick. The country will bear the scars of Mbekistan just as long as it suffers the legacy for apartheid. ... Damning proof of how dangerous it is to leave policy arguments to the ANC’s internal debates was demonstrated concretely by Mbeki’s AIDS denialism and the entire leadership’s complicity in the genocide of the sick. ... It was left to civil society in the form of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to save the day. Mbeki was able to use a toxic mix of rhetoric around race, historical grievances, African victimhood, and exploit paranoid notions about imperialists and Big Pharma (ignoring the fact that the TAC did more to take on the multinational pharmacies than the ANC government).’ Brent Meersman, ‘Occupy Pretoria’, Politicsweb.com, 21 November 2011

‘When the world’s community of medical scientists said HIV compromised the human immune system, making its victims vulnerable to death, former African National Congress (ANC) president Thabo Mbeki said no, this cannot be. There are people in our Parliament who did not stand up to this pseudoscience that resulted in nearly 350 000 deaths.’ Dr Wilmot James MP, Democratic Alliance Federal Chairman, ‘Cowards in Parliament’, Business Day, 6 December 2011

‘I remember all those years of denialism, and not a single voice at the most senior levels of the United Nations – Under-Secretaries-General, the Secretary-General himself. Not one of them said publicly to Thabo Mbeki, “You’re killing your people”. Oh, to be sure, it was said in private by everyone. They took Thabo Mbeki aside and begged him to reverse course. He didn’t budge an inch. Around him, in every community in South Africa, and in communities throughout a continent heavily influenced by South Africa, were the killing fields of AIDS. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress, I can’t forget the millions who died on Thabo Mbeki’s watch, while those who should have confronted him before the eyes of the world stood mute.” Stephen Lewis, ‘Remarks to ICASA 2011, Addis Ababa’, 6 December 2011

‘Highly intelligent ... He ... flirted with controversial ideas, especially in respect of HIV/Aids.’
Caiphus Kgosana, ‘Thabo Mbeki (1997-2007) The good, the bad and the great’,
Sunday Times, 8 January, 2012

‘It’s easy to stick the boot in with Thabo Mbeki. Aids ... the sheer awfulness that accompanied Mbeki years ... The Aids denialism that condemned so many to death ...’ Stephen Grootes, ‘The decreasing loneliness of Thabo Mbeki’, dailymaverick.co.za, 11 January 2012

‘Mbeki ... was fatally flawed as a leader and made fundamental mistakes in his handling of key issues, such as the government response to HIV/AIDS’. Editorial, Business Day, 12 January 2012

‘If we could erase Mbeki’s madness around HIV and Aids from history, wouldn’t he just be the best person for the job? ... Mbeki is an intellectual giant, he’s a statesman, he is a modern, innovative leader, he is charismatic and South Africans and the world take him seriously ... Sadly, the price we paid for Mbeki’s Aids lunacy can never be forgiven or forgotten. But that shouldn’t exclude him from playing a role as wise counsel in the ANC’s national executive committee.’ Max du Preez, ‘Mbeki gearing up to retake position?’ Mercury, 17 January 2012

‘In 1999, President Thabo Mbeki plunged South Africa into a ghastly nightmare. The reason was his support for AIDS denialism. … AIDS denialism is the systematic rejection, deriving from pseudo-scientific premises, and supported by quasirational arguments, of evidence establishing that HIV causes AIDS, that ARVs significantly reduce mortality and morbidity associated with HIV infection, and that there are tens of millions of people in Africa living with HIV or dying from AIDS. … From October 1999, he lent endorsement to a group of discredited dissidents who cast doubt on the medical science of AIDS. He repeatedly questioned the viral aetiology of AIDS, the efficacy and safety of drug treatments for it, and the reliability and meaning of statistics showing that AIDS was having a cataclysmic effect. Worse, he refused to allow his government to distribute ARVs, the only known treatment for AIDS. The effects were horrific. As hundreds of thousands fell ill and died, decisive government action was delayed for years in the mists of an absurd, obfuscatory debate. Conservative calculations show that more than 330,000 lives (or what epidemiologists call 2.2 million “person-years”) were lost because President Mbeki thwarted a feasible and timely ARV treatment programme. This horror did not go unchallenged. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), founded to tackle the iniquities of drug pricing, was forced to turn its attention to presidential denialism instead. It did so, unflinchingly. The Congress of South African Trade Unions, the South African Council of Churches and other organisations joined the TAC in challenging the President and in campaigning for rational policies and treatments. But their courage was isolated. Large sectors of society were cowed into silence. President Mbeki was a forbidding man who headed a governing party with an illustrious history and a massive electoral majority. Many were fearful of crossing him. The issue – a mass epidemic of sexually transmitted disease on a continent oppressed by centuries of racism – was explosive. The judgment was a ringing victory for treatment access as well as for rational public discourse. The decision in TAC had a dramatic institutional and operational force. But it also had a discursive and ideological effect. Twenty one months before the TAC ruling, the Court had outlawed irrational job discrimination against those living with HIV. Its decision then had pointedly set out the medical facts of AIDS, even though the science was not in dispute. Despite these passages in the judgment, the decision was noted mainly for its effect in damning discrimination in employment. Though delivered eleven months after President Mbeki’s public flirtation with denialism began, the decision was not seen as rebuking it. There could be no similar ambiguity about the TAC judgment. It was a rebuke not only for government inaction on AIDS drugs, but for the absurd obfuscation that underlay it. That poor women had a legal right to use anti-retroviral drugs to protect their babies from HIV transmission, and that government was constitutionally obliged to offer them the choice to do so, dealt a blow that would eventually prove fatal to the ludicrous discourse of denialism. President Mbeki had made his stand on AIDS an article of faith of his administration. He had proved impervious to anguished activist pressure, international scientific entreaty, and impassioned condemnation by commentators. But large sectors of the established elite, including members of his own party and government, had maintained a cowed silence. By contrast, the Court unerringly committed its moral capital to the issue. Its stand, affirming medical science, proved pivotal. Presidentially-licensed denialism continued to dog the Mbeki government’s response to the epidemic, but the Court’s authoritative assertion of reason proved a vital intervention that shifted public and governmental discourse in ways that eventually triggered action. The judgment constituted an authoritative, morally cogent and politically irrefutable assertion of the science of AIDS, and of the necessity for public action in accordance with it. It showed the Court as a source not merely of institutional decision-making power, but of unparalleled moral and intellectual authority. My retired colleague Justice O’Regan has recently emphasised the importance of the Court as a forum for reasoned debate on contested issues of public policy. The TAC decision shows the immense public power of that reason, when rightfully employed.’ Edwin Cameron J, ‘What you can do with rights’, The Fourth Leslie Scarman Lecture, Middle Temple Hall, London, 25 January 2012

‘We saw what happened when Thabo Mbeki ... set out to study the founding material on HIV-Aids to form his own opinion on the best treatment strategy. It cost tens of thousands of lives and diverted him from his proper job for years.’ Brendan Boyle (editor), ‘Personal interest at heart of constitution “review’, Daily Dispatch, 7 March 2012

‘Bruce casually says that we were “all cross with Mbeki, for AIDS, for aloofness...” This is a weak acknowledgment of Mbeki’s weaknesses. In the context of the column it almost amounts to exculpating Mbeki, diminishing the extent of his personal and political shortcomings. More than 300 000 South Africans died from AIDS related illnesses as a result of Mbeki-led denialism. That cannot be waspishly noted in passing as if you are excusing a kid for spilling coffee on the couch. ... Mbeki’s Aids policies are a textbook example of a political leader having a personal existential crisis – “The West thinks we can’t control our penises, and stuff!” – at the expense of his country.’ Eusebius Mckaiser, ‘Peter Bruce misremembers Mbeki’, Politicsweb.com, 12 March 2012

‘Mbeki’s bizarre HIV/AIDS lunacy (“how can a virus cause a syndrome?”) caused untold suffering and thousands of deaths.’ Max du Preez, ‘Pale Native’ column, Mercury, 13 March 2012

‘Reverend Frank Chikane must not write a book [Eight Days in September: The Removal of Thabo Mbeki]as if we were not there when those things that he is talk about was happening. ... We were amongst those who were insulted and called extraordinarily arrogant when we said we must accept the scientific view that HIV causes AIDS. He himself doesn’t say in that book where did he stand when it was denied, which caused us thousands of lives that we could have saved if we had actually gone the route of antiretrovirals in this country.’ Blade Nzimande, General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, addressing a SACP Gauteng provincial congress in Benoni, Jacarandafm.com, 24 March 2012

‘What input did Frank Chikane have when his principal was indulging in an “intellectual debate” about HIV and Aids when South Africans were dying in their hundreds of thousands?’ Thula Bopela, ‘I come to bury Caeser, not to praise him’, Politicsweb.co.za, 31 March 2012

‘Like some media commentators, you couch your attacks on the former president with the usual negative brush of Gear, Aids denial and Arms deal. Well, that’s fair enough because these are serious stains on the leadership of former president Mbeki.’ Mzukisi Makatse, ‘Thula Bopela on Thabo Mbeki: A reply’, Politicsweb.co.za, 1 April 2012

‘Mbeki’s dogged insistence on elevating ideology above humanitarian concern for countless numbers of Aids victims ... remains one of the most baffling aspects of his presidency.’ Richard Steyn, ‘His master’s voice’, Financial Mail, 12 April 2012

‘Mbeki was ... phoning up Mark Gevisser and dishing out great wads of Aids denialism and admitting he had written much of the previous mad stuff that had appeared anonymously. ... According to the definitive Harvard study Mbeki’s policy of denying ARVs to HIV+ mothers cost the lives of 365,000 mothers and children. Not even many Nazi war criminals can claim to have killed so many of their own people. Yet not only has Mbeki never uttered a single word of apology but nor have Chikane, Erwin, Essop Pahad and all the others who went along with this deeply evil policy. ... I was astonished that Stellenbosch University could invite Mbeki to speak on their platform with this issue unresolved. I would also like UCT to explain to the world how on earth it could have given a special award for leadership to this man. If they had any sense of shame, this award would now be revoked and, perhaps, a gentle word or two could be said in its place about those 365,000 young women and their babies who, unfortunately, are never coming back.’ RW Johnson, ‘Remembering Mbeki-ism’, Politicsweb.co.za, 16 April 2012

‘In September 2000, in one of the most shameful episodes in South African newspaper history, the Independent Newspaper management gave free space in their publications to government to defend and obfuscate President Thabo Mbeki’s “denialist” views on AIDS.’ The Ratcatcher, ‘How to ruin a newspaper group’, Politicsweb.co.za, 24 April 2012

‘Throughout his presidency, Mbeki stubbornly refused to acknowledge the evidence showing HIV causes Aids, leading to inadequate prevention and treatment and the death of an estimated 330,000 South Africans. The TAC’s “HIV POSITIVE” T-shirt is a lasting symbol of resistance to Mbeki’s obsessive linking of the virus to issues of race and the legacy of colonialism. It was an issue that made him famously unpopular and united an unlikely opposition. We are only counting the cost of his stance now. It forms his legacy.’ Greg Nicolson, ‘Richard Mdluli: Zuma’s Waterloo?’, dailymaverick.co.za, 9 May 2012

‘…the question of Mbeki’s legacy has always prompted a mixed response. … His detractors call his policies on HIV/Aids a disaster. Mbeki’s dithering on the question of whether HIV causes Aids and on distributing antiretroviral drugs may have cost the lives of up to 330,000 people, according to a Harvard study. The matter was an extremely sensitive one for Mbeki. When badgered by Democratic Alliance member of parliament Ryan Coetzee on his Aids policy, he snapped and blasted the opposition politician for racism. “I will not keep quiet while others whose minds have been corrupted by the disease of racism accuse us, the black people of South Africa, Africa and the world, as being, by virtue of our Africanness and skin colour, lazy, liars, foul-smelling, diseased, corrupt, violent, amoral, sexually depraved, animalistic, savage and rapist,” he snapped. … Writing in the Mail & Guardian retired journalist Meshack Mabogoane [stated:] “No doubt Mbeki is central in this tragedy. Zackie Achmat is right to call for his impeachment. But the government, especially the departments of health, education and social development, stands accused of measures that have escalated Aids. There has been dereliction of duty that makes the government an accessory to this horrendous pandemic, a veritable crime against humanity.” Sipho Hlongwane, ‘Mbeki at 70: his legacy still mixed, despite resuscitation efforts’, dailymaverick.co.za, 19 June 2012

‘After Mbeki’s election as ANC president in 1997, he took firm hold of the party and left little space for contestation and factional battles. The only place where opposition could sprout was in the alliance. After Zwelinzima Vavi and Blade Nzimande were elected general secretaries of Cosatu and the SACP respectively, an anti-Mbeki coalition began to take shape. While the SACP and Cosatu fiercely opposed Mbeki on macro-economic policy, they were only able to really mobilise against him when he exposed a tangible area of weakness: his dissident views on Aids.’ Ranjeni Munusamy, ‘Road to Mangaung: The ANC’s faction matrix’, dailymaverick.co.za, 20 June 2012

‘Mbeki’s positions on AIDS, Zimbabwe and the arms deal became the three defining issues of his unlamented presidency. ... Hundreds of thousands of people have died of HIV/Aids-related causes because weapons procurements were given priority instead of anti-retroviral drugs.’ Terry Crawford-Browne, Eye on the Diamonds, Penguin, 2012

‘But if Mandela was less than perfect, the men who followed had far more glaring flaws and little of the first president’s inclination to serve as a national moral conscience. His immediate successor, Thabo Mbeki, made matters far worse on the AIDS front by delaying treatment for rising numbers of HIV-infected South Africans. When action mattered most, he provoked a drawn-out and damaging debate over established medical science by questioning the link between HIV and AIDS. An aggressive campaign to contain the epidemic wasn’t fully launched until he was forced from office in 2008.’ Douglas Foster, ‘Mandela’s mortality is South Africa’s fear’, Los Angeles Times, 22 July 2012

‘The final piece of evidence, however, against President Zuma’s contention comes from within his own government. … It is the speed with which he and the health ministry acted once the lunatic twins of Thabo Mbeki and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang were despatched, clutching their bizarre theories on HIV/Aids. Almost immediately, policy on antiretrovirals was changed, distribution and delivery speed increased and education levels ramped up. A special focus was placed on mother-to-child transmission, which figures released this month show to have declined dramatically. It’s a very clear example of straightforward leadership and equally simple execution – exactly what is needed in the educational arena and what is not happening. No one needs 18 years to fix the problems in our education system, not even Jacob Zuma. To pretend otherwise, to blame Hendrik Verwoerd, is to feed us the educational equivalent of garlic and African potatoes. Treat his claim with the same level of scorn.’ Chris Gibbons, ‘Dear Mr Zuma & the ANC, how long do you need?’ dailymaverick.co.za, 25 July 2012

‘U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, visiting the country with the world’s highest rate of HIV infection, said Tuesday that American-sponsored efforts to stop the virus “have saved hundreds of thousands of lives” in South Africa. … In South Africa, 5.7 million people – 17.8 percent of the population – have tested positive for HIV. PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has spent $3.2 billion on anti-retroviral drugs and HIV prevention programs in South Africa since 2004. The program was initiated by President George W. Bush and has been continued by President Barack Obama’s administration.’ ‘Clinton lauds AIDS progress in South Africa’, The Washington Post, 7 August 2012

‘U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Washington has begun transferring control of an anti-AIDS program to South Africa, which has the world’s highest rate of HIV infection. … The U.S. limited access to HIV/AIDS funding to the government of South Africa during the administration of former President Thabo Mbeki, who denied there was a link between HIV and AIDS and rejected internationally recognized treatments for the disease. Washington has spent $3.2 billion since 2004 on the South Africa HIV/AIDS program. Though the country has made advances in slowing the infection rate, more than 17 percent of the country has tested positive for the virus.’ ‘Clinton Announces Major Step in AIDS Fight’, VOA News, 8 August 2012

‘ The United States and South Africa are to sign an agreement on funding for an anti-Aids campaign that is symbolic of Pretoria’s shift from being a pariah to a global player in fighting the disease. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a visit to South Africa that Pretoria will begin taking more of the responsibilities for its HIV/Aids programme, part of a broader effort to overhaul the US global plan for Aids relief launched under former president George W. Bush. “South Africa is taking the lead, and I want publicly to commend your minister of health and his associates who are widely being given great admiration around the world for the success of their efforts,” Clinton told a news conference. The United States limited access to HIV/Aids funding to the government of former president Thabo Mbeki, whose administration was ridiculed for denying there was a link between HIV and Aids while prescribing meaningless treatments such as beet root instead of internationally proven medicines. President Jacob Zuma, who took office in 2009, put policies in line with global research, strengthened campaigns to provide nationwide the anti-retroviral drugs that control HIV and has slowed an infection rate that ranks among the world’s highest. On Wednesday, Clinton is expected to sign a deal to rework South Africa’s programmes under what is known as the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), allowing the government to better use the funding in its fight against the virus. US officials said South Africa will be the first PEPFAR country to begin to “nationalise” its programme, but others would be expected to follow as their capacities increase and the United States seeks to more effectively target its overseas assistance in an atmosphere of budget austerity at home. The United States has spent $3.2-billion since 2004 on anti-Aids programmes in South Africa, where 5.7 million people are infected – or close to 18 percent of the adult population. It has budgeted $460-million for South Africa under PEPFAR in 2013, but US officials say that amount is expected to gradually drop in the coming five years. “South Africa over the next decade will be committing more of its own public health funds to deal with people with HIV,” a senior US official travelling with Clinton’s party said. South Africa says about 1.7 million are now on treatment and the rate of mother-to-child transmission has dropped from eight percent in 2008 to 2.7 percent in 2011.’ Peroshni Govender, ‘Clinton hails SA’s progress in Aids battle’, iol.co.za, 8 August 2012

‘The United States has spent $3.2-billion since 2004 supporting South Africa’s fight against Aids. The new five-year agreement gives South Africa’s government more control over the spending. “Some people may hear ‘South Africa is in the lead’ and think that it means that the US is bowing out,” Clinton said. “Let me say this clearly: the US is not going anywhere.” … The agreement highlights South Africa’s shift from an international pariah on Aids, under former president Thabo Mbeki, who refused to believe the scientific evidence that Aids is caused by a virus – to a celebrated one. Now the country runs the world’s largest Aids treatment programme, with more than 1.3 million people receiving drugs, out of a total infected population of 5.6 million.’ ‘Clinton vows to help fight Aids’, Iafrica.com, 8 Aug 2012

‘US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday gave South Africa greater control over its AIDS programme, which Washington has spent $3.2 billion ramping up over the last eight years. US aid began in 2004, when South Africa was an international pariah for then president Thabo Mbeki’s refusal to accept that AIDS was caused by a virus. His health minister advocated beetroot and garlic instead of medication for treatment. Now the country runs the world’s largest AIDS treatment programme, with more than 1.2 million people currently receiving medication. About 5.7 million, or more than one in 11 South Africans, have HIV – more people than in any other country. “South Africa and the entire region has a brighter and healthier and more secure future,” Clinton said while visiting a clinic in the Cape Town township of Delft. “Even as we take a moment to say ‘well done’, we cannot make the mistake of thinking that our job is done,” she said. “The disease is still very dangerous.” Currently the United States funds an array of programmes and clinics directly. Under the new arrangement, South Africa will gradually take over management of those programmes and patients will be shifted into the public health system. “Some people may hear ‘South Africa is in the lead’ and think that it means that the US is bowing out,” Clinton said. “Let me say this clearly: the US is not going anywhere.” … “South Africa will become the first country in Africa to plan, manage and pay for more of your own efforts to combat the epidemic,” Clinton said in a speech later in the day. “The United States will continue to provide funding and technical support through our PEPFAR programme.” The change to the South African programme comes as the United States grapples with its own budget issues at home. AIDS activists have already voiced concern about possible cuts to PEPFAR, credited with transforming treatment in poor countries. As the richest country in Africa, South Africa has far more resources than any of its neighbours to combat the disease. According to UN data, the United States provides almost half the world’s funding for AIDS assistance – mainly through PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. That has helped bring about dramatic changes in hard-hit countries like South Africa, where Clinton cited a litany of success.’ ‘Clinton grants S Africa more control over AIDS programme’, Daily Times (Pakistan), 9 August 2012

‘US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday signed a new deal supporting efforts to fight AIDS in South Africa, which has the world’s biggest population of people with HIV. … “Even as we take a moment to say ‘well done’, we cannot make the mistake of thinking that our job is done,” she said. “The disease is still very dangerous.” The United States has spent $3.2 billion since 2004 supporting South Africa’s fight against AIDS. The new five-year agreement gives South Africa’s government more control over the spending. “Some people may hear ‘South Africa is in the lead’ and think that it means that the US is bowing out,” Clinton said. “Let me say this clearly: the US is not going anywhere.” … The agreement highlights South Africa’s shift from an international pariah on AIDS, under former president Thabo Mbeki, who refused to believe the scientific evidence that AIDS is caused by a virus – to a celebrated one. Now the country runs the world’s largest AIDS treatment programme, with more than 1.3 million people receiving drugs, out of a total infected population of 5.6 million.’ ‘Clinton signs new deal to fight Aids in South Africa’, Times Live, 8 August 2012

‘Aids is a mirror that reflects how we think about society. It displays whether we judge those different from us harshly or embrace them in their diversity, whether we have faith in modern science or are deeply suspicious of it and whether we view those with less education and more disease as our equals or as lesser beings. … At the conference, delegates take stock not only of how much progress scientists have made in their attempts to save the world from a devastating epidemic, but also the levels of discrimination against those infected with a virus that continues to rage. Whether the world is getting life-saving treatment to those who need it is always a hot topic. Mention that you are South African and thus a citizen of the country with the most people living with HIV in the world, its biggest antiretroviral drug roll-out and the homeland of “that man Mbeki” and his health minister whose name they still cannot pronounce, and things get hotter. … Not surprisingly, the dialogue was dominated by HIV in the developed world. Some kind soul did, however, take pity on me when he threw a question my way. It was: “How did it feel to report on HIV under the rule of Thabo Mbeki?” I should have been irritated at having to regurgitate ancient history. Instead, I did my best to answer, happy to be involved, finally able to free lips that had become stuck to my teeth owing to prolonged silence. The question and my answer did, however, give me the opportunity to reflect just how radically the sphere of HIV has changed in South Africa in recent years. Being a South African journalist at an HIV conference between 2000 and 2008 was an almost comical, but also incredibly sad and embarrassing affair. Comical, because all you did was run after former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to report on her latest ridiculous, unscientific comment. Sad, because the South African media should have been busy reporting new research on HIV to their listeners, readers and viewers back home. Embarrassing for obvious reasons. However, at this year’s conference, South Africa was on several occasions elevated as an example of good HIV governance. We have the largest antiretroviral programme in the world. Our mother-to-child infection rates have decreased by more than half. HIV testing has increased dramatically. And Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe were keynote speakers. Their comments were praised by everyone I spoke to.’ Mia Malan, ‘Aids conference reflects new hope for Africa’, Mail & Guardian, 10 August 2012

‘South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki instituted policies starting in the early 2000s denying citizens life-saving anti-HIV drugs. Even as the country’s government confirmed that 1 in 10 South Africans was HIV-positive, Mbeki adhered to long-since discredited claims that the virus was not the cause of AIDS. TIME’s Tony Karon reported at the time: “Distinguishing AIDS in Africa as a primarily heterosexual phenomenon that is destined to slash average life expectancy in his region to 47, Mbeki insisted that ‘as Africans we have to deal with this uniquely African catastrophe’ and that simply accepting Western conventional wisdom on AIDS would be ‘absurd and illogical.’” During Mbeki’s rule, South Africa’s health minister urged patients to avoid drug therapies from the West and to rely instead on unsupported remedies including garlic and beetroot to help treat AIDS. Such policies may have cost 365,000 South African lives, according to a study by Harvard researchers.’ Alice Park, ‘Thabo Mbeki and AIDS Denialism’, TIME, 20 August 2012

‘Mr Mbeki’s denial of the link between HIV and AIDS cost millions of lives.’ ‘Cry, the beloved country’, The Economist, 20 October 2012

‘[‘Mbeki’s] remarks [that under ‘President Jacob Zuma’s leadership of the country … South Africa was being allowed to “progress towards a costly disaster of a protracted and endemic general crisis … a dangerous and unacceptable situation of directionless and unguided national drift”] earned a sharp rebuke from ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who said South Africa had progressed since Zuma had taken office. He cited advances in the fight against Aids since Mbeki had left office.’ Sibusiso Ngalwa, Sibongakonke Shoba and Caiphus Kgosana, ‘Mbeki blasts Zuma’s leadership’, Sunday Times, 21 October 2012

‘We are not referring to his well-known policy failures on HIV and Zimbabwe, both of which have had disastrous consequences in terms of human suffering. Rather his own blind spots, his denialism, his inability to tolerate dissent and criticism.’ Editorial, ‘Mbeki helped to create this mess’, The Citizen, 22 October 2012

‘After stepping down from office, Nelson Mandela tried to keep his counsel, until he was moved to speak up by Thabo Mbeki’s delinquent dalliance with Aids denialists.’ Barney Mthombothi, Editor’s note, ‘Time to speak up’, Financial Mail, 24 October 2012

‘Mbeki himself became a national liability with his Aids denial, his ineffective “quiet diplomacy” and his retreat into a cloud of intellectual navel-contemplation, inaccessible to ordinary mortals. … That is why I say, come back, Thabo, all is forgiven. You have learnt your lessons, and so have we. The Aids policy has been rectified, so you can’t do any more harm there ... You also have a lot of other things going for you.’ John Scott, ‘Please come back as president, Thabo Mbeki, all is forgiven’, Cape Times, 24 October 2012

‘Late last week former President Thabo Mbeki delivered an “OR Tambo memorial speech” at the University of Fort Hare. … Significantly, in the week of Mbeki’s speech, heartening statistics were released showing a very dramatic improvement in South Africa’s life expectancy and infantile mortality figures – a tribute to those (in the face of being labelled “agents of imperialism”, “ultra-leftists”, “populists” and the like), who waged a bitter battle against the disastrous AIDS-denialism that was such a tragic feature of Mbeki’s presidency.’ Jeremy Cronin, First Deputy General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, ‘The moral decline Mbeki now loftily laments’, Umsebenzi, 25 October 2012

‘The government is finally laying the ghosts of the previous administration’s HIV policies to rest. Figures released by the Medical Research Council (MRC) earlier this month show a surge in life expectancy largely attributable to the provision of antiretroviral drugs through the public health system, a programme that was official policy for years but only gained real impetus when Thabo Mbeki was ousted as South Africa’s president in 2008. ... These statistics were seized upon by African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe last week to attack Mr Mbeki after the former president delivered a speech at Fort Hare University criticising South Africa’s political leadership. Mr Mantashe was notably silent about the fact that many senior ANC figures who remain in government today did little or nothing to challenge Mr Mbeki’s HIV/AIDS policies when he was president.’ Tamar Kahn, ‘Burying the ghost of past AIDS policies’, Business Day, 25 October 2012

‘Minister of Higher Education and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande says he was “slaughtered” at the time Thabo Mbeki was president when he spoke of a need to accept a scientific view on HIV/Aids. ... Though Nzimande did not mention Mbeki’s name, he reminded Mbeki, together with embattled Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota, that in their time as leaders “they left a highly questionable legacy. ... None of yesterday’s Aids denialists must come and lecture us today on leadership when they have not accounted for the hundreds of thousands of deaths they left behind by refusing to acknowledge that HIV causes Aids, and denying our people ARVs.” Nzimande, who never saw eye to eye with Mbeki while he was president, was speaking at the party’s four-day conference of commissars, the equivalent of a political school, in Midrand yesterday.’ Hlengiwe Nhlabathi, ‘Blade flays Aids denialist Mbeki’, Sowetan, 26 October 2012

‘Nzimande has reached the lowest levels of intellectual engagement ... showing an inability to discuss the merit of issues raised by Thabo Mbeki, and resorted rather to name-calling.’ ANC Youth League statement, 26 October 2012

‘It might be that he is simply too controversial and provokes too many loyalty issues to help resolve domestic challenges. Nothing can bring back those South Africans who succumbed to AIDS for lack of antiretrovirals due to Mbeki’s policies.’ Shawn Hagedorn, ‘Myths and Misunderstandings: Mbeki’s rehabilitation’, moneyweb.co.za, 13 November 2012

‘Under Zackie Achmat’s persistent and courageous leadership, the Treatment Action campaign forced the state to change its dangerous and wrongheaded policies in the treatment of AIDS.’ Caption beneath Achmat photograph: ‘[His] relentless perseverance helped cure Aids denialism under Thabo Mbeki, and paved the way for antiretroviral treatment for all who need it’. Alex Boraine, ‘A call to arms for justice and peace’, Mercury, 27 November 2012

‘The ANC self-corrects. Take HIV/Aids. It messed up for five crucial and deadly years under former president Thabo Mbeki. But when it fixed the mess by appointing Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, it did so spectacularly.’ Ferial Haffajee, ‘What makes the ANC cool’, City Press, 17 December 2012

‘Section27 and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi are the runners up for Daily Maverick’s 2012 South Africans of the year. ... A standout minister, Motsoaledi has achieved improvements where it counts. “The rapid transition from the failed stewardship of ex-President Thabo Mbeki and the disastrous policies of his health minister Mantombazana Tshabalala-Msimang to the leadership shown by the present health minister Aaron Motsoaledi and his team could not have been more striking,” said the study.’ Greg Nicolson, ‘South African persons of the year: Runners up’, dailymaverick.co.za, 31 December 2012

‘I think back to the dark days of denialism. He would have been beaten up for wearing such a [‘HIV-POSITIVE’] T-shirt at the time when the insane policies of a government created a human catastrophe that made South Africa the epicentre of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Over 350,000 innocent lives were lost tragically. Thankfully this madness is over. The current government and the minister of health have revolutionised treatment. Over 1, 5 million HIV-positive people are on ARVs. … “But while we have a good minister, we still struggle to get answers from local officials,” says Solanga, who was one of the thousands of activists of the Treatment Action Campaign that played a sterling role in confronting an uncaring government and forcing it to change its policy.’ Jay Naidoo, ‘A trip to Limpopo: The Forgotten Land’, dailymaverick.co.za, 8 February 2013

‘In more recent history, we fought against the model of the “big leader” and the “all-knowing state”. We know the consequences of that style of leadership. It led to South Africa becoming the epicenter of HIV/Aids. Over 350,000 of our fellow citizens died for no other reason than the foolishness of our denialism and political arrogance. We must never allow this to happen again.’ Jay Naidoo, Would Hani and Slovo today be accused of Neo-liberalism and Counter-revolution?’, dailymaverick.co.za, 25 February 2013

‘In early 2002, the South African government was able to turn the page on the madness of Aids denialism and started offering life-saving anti-retrovirals to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission and developed a universal treatment rollout plan. It brought to an end years of unnecessary debate about whether the disease existed at all and whether nutrition could be a substitute for drugs, which resulted in government holding back vital treatment, in effect causing hundreds of thousands of Aids-related deaths. For this turnaround to happen, the ANC had to have a hard conversation with its former president, Thabo Mbeki, and advise him of the harm his policies were causing. Even South Africa’s elder statesman Nelson Mandela stepped in, via the ANC leadership, to call Mbeki to order. But Mandela also spoke out publicly at the time. “This is a war. It has killed more people than has been the case in all previous wars and in all previous natural disasters. We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing, when people are dying,” said Mandela. The statement of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting of 18 March 2002 sounded bland, belying the true nature of what happened behind closed doors: “The NEC held a wide-ranging discussion on HIV/Aids within the context of the broad health and development challenges facing the country. The discussion was preceded by an overview of the development of government policies and programmes since 1994 to combat the epidemic. The NEC adopted a comprehensive statement on the ANC’s approach to HIV/Aids which will be communicated to the structures of the movement and the South African public during the course of this week.” The impact of that discussion, however, was profound. After the ANC lay down the line, the powerful and feared Mbeki relented, Cabinet announced the dramatic turnaround and now South Africa has one of the best Aids treatment plans in the world. Of course, the ANC did not come to the realisation on its own that it needed to pull the plug on Aids denialism. In fact, to their eternal shame, many ANC leaders and government ministers at that time chose to remain silent in public while they privately professed to battling with their consciences. But there was intense pressure from inside and outside the country, mostly from the Treatment Action Campaign but also from the ANC’s allies, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party. The disease was impacting the ANC support base so there was a surge from inside the party to initiate the turnaround.’ Ranjeni Munusamy, ‘Mission Impossible: In search of the ANC’s incredible vanishing conscience’, dailymaverick.co.za, 4 April 2013

‘In yet another sign of President Jacob Zuma’s break with the AIDS denialism of former president Thabo Mbeki, the Presidency on Monday announced that three medical scientists whose work challenged Mr Mbeki’s dogma are to receive national orders on April 27. Among people to be honoured at the weekend are Prof Glenda Grey, who has conducted pioneering studies into the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; Prof Quaraisha Abdool Karim, who has worked on developing methods to protect women from HIV; and University of KwaZulu-Natal vice-chancellor Prof William Makgoba, who challenged Mr Mbeki’s quixotic views on HIV/AIDS in the prestigious international journal Nature.’ Tamar Kahn, ‘Awards for scientists for work on HIV/AIDS’, Business Day, 23 April 2013

‘In a wide-ranging interview [on Power FM] on Thursday night, former president Thabo Mbeki admitted he could have done a better job at communicating his position on HIV and Aids. It wasn’t an admission of failure – nutrition is very important, he said – but it shows some sanity has returned to his view on the issue. ... When asked about the HIV/Aids crisis which spiralled out of control under his presidency as he continued to fight activists and scientists on the cause of Aids and the provision of treatment, Mbeki clarified his stance and somewhat admitted his failure on the matter. Immune deficiencies can be created by a number of factors, including “persistent malnutrition”, and they need to be addressed along with HIV, he said. “Perhaps we could have presented the matter in a different way,” he added, responding to claims that he is an Aids denialist. ... Once the interview was over, Mbeki posed for photos with [CEO] Mkhari and the Power staff. “Always tell the truth,” he wrote on the radio station’s message board.’ Greg Nicolson, ‘Mr Mbeki goes to Power FM’, dailymaverick.co.za, 21 June 2013

‘HIV and AIDS have almost dropped out of the news, so we made them the focus of an issue of Fast Facts published in March 2013. We pointed out that the country had come a long way from the time when President Thabo Mbeki said that antiretroviral medication endangered the lives of black people. Now some 60% of those in need of antiretroviral therapy (ART) were receiving it, substantiating the assertion by President Jacob Zuma’s government that South Africa had the largest ART programme in the world. So it should. We account for 0.7% of the world’s population, but almost 17% of HIV-positive people.’ South African Institute of Race Relations, 83rd Annual Report, July 2013

‘Kasrils cannot find a harsh word for the paranoid, Aids-denying, Mugabe-backing president who made him minister of water affairs and forestry.’ Gavin Evans, ‘Bonds of tribal loyalty loosen’, Mail & Guardian, 28 August 2013

‘Former president Thabo Mbeki was well read and well educated, and he delivered us Aids denialism, with tragic consequences.’ Eusebius McKaiser, ‘Choosing bad reasons to damn Zuma’, Star, 30 September 2013

‘Duesberg’s entire odd career detour would be nothing but the mildly annoying ramblings of the village contrarian were it not for the fact that it has supplied the scientific-sounding foothold for the lethal denialism of former South African President Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki, acting in 2000 on his belief that HIV was not a cause of AIDS, refused antiretroviral medication donated to his country, which then as now had a startlingly high rate of HIV infection. … One study that examined the impact of his declination during the years 2000 to 2005 estimated that at least 330,000 South Africans died because of the lack of antiretroviral medications. In addition, 35,000 babies were born with preventable HIV infection because effective antiretroviral medication was not given to their infected mothers. The sad fate of … thousands in South Africa and worldwide who have become sick with HIV for lack of effective treatment, is a chilling example of the power of nonbelief.’ Kent Sepkowitz, ‘Deadly Disbelief’, Slate, 8 October 2013, and Mercury, 10 October 2013

‘Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils ... was in Cabinet when government was sticking to its catastrophic stance on Aids’. Ranjeni Munusamy, ‘Born-again politicians and their new-found morality in the political wilderness’, dailymaverick.co.za, 11 October 2013

‘Former US president Jimmy Carter has said he once almost punched former South African president Thabo Mbeki during a heated argument of the latter’s lack of an HIV/Aids treatment plan. According to the Sunday Times, Carter, who attended a meeting of the Elders in South Africa last week, told the newspaper that it was the closest he had ever come to punching a head of state. He said the row was over Mbeki, and then minister of health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s refusal to let Aids be treated at the time. Former president Thabo Mbeki famously denied the link between HIV and Aids. In 1999, Mbeki claimed that AZT – the most suitable ARV at the time – was toxic and refused to make treatment available despite offers of UN aid.’ ‘Jimmy Carter almost punched Mbeki’, News24.com, 3 November 2013

‘Former US president Jimmy Carter nearly punched former SA president Thabo Mbeki over HIV/Aids treatment in the country, the Sunday Times reported. “The first time I came here to Cape Town I almost got in a fight with the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, because he was refusing to let Aids be treated,” Carter told the newspaper. … He said at the time, then-health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was standing with Mbeki. “That’s the closest I’ve come to getting into a fist fight with a head of state”. Carter said he and Bill Gates senior were trying to convince Mbeki to at least provide antiretroviral treatment to pregnant women with Aids, “but Mbeki was against that”.’ ‘Carter: I almost punched Mbeki’, iol.co.za, 3 November 2013

‘I had found that I could not escape South Africa. For instance, while I had been advocating the World Bank’s progressive HIV policies everywhere in the developing world, I was constantly confronted with then President Thabo Mbeki’s HIV denialism. It was an embarrassing situation. … Until Mbeki’s HIV policies, South Africa was regarded as a country apart from the continent. And this would have continued, especially with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development campaign, but when that was set against the denial of a disease that had the potential to destroy our country’s future, we lost momentum. We lost respect.’ ‘Speaking truth to power, from the World Bank to Thabo Mbeki: Agang leader Mamphela Ramphele’s autobiography tells how the Machiavellian bank culture helped her prepare to address HIV denialism’, Mail & Guardian, 8 November 2013

“We have committed mistakes: one of them was the confusion on HIV/AIDS and we are owning up” … African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Friday.’ ‘Western Cape “has never tasted a free SA”, says Mantashe’, Business Day, 8 November 2013

‘[Mbeki’s] wrong-headed refusal to distribute anti-retroviral drugs made millions of South Africans face a lingering death from Aids’. Raymond Whitaker, ‘Nelson Mandela memorial: The booing of Jacob Zuma shows that divisions still remain’, London Independent, 10 December 2013

‘[Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie] Kasrils ... apologised for not speaking up earlier about things like Aids denialism.’ ‘“Vote No”, say ANC veterans at campaign launch’, Mail & Guardian, 15 April 2014

‘In 1996, when it was clear who would succeed Mandela to the presidency, we asked: “Is Thabo Mbeki fit to rule?” ... Mbeki’s stance on HIV and Aids (dissident to denialist) ... began to give the sad answers to our question.’ Editorial: ‘Sting in the tale of our freedom’, Mail & Guardian, 25 April 2014

‘If the former president is increasingly hailed as a profound thinker, what do people make of his most controversial thought of all, that HIV is not the primary cause of AIDS? How influential a legacy has that thought left in SA’s collective consciousness? … The vast majority, then, thought that doctors and nurses knew considerably more about HIV/AIDS than anyone else, including politicians. Mbeki’s dissidence had done nothing to change this. Whatever else people thought of revered figures such as Mandela, they knew that he did not have specialist knowledge of HIV/AIDS; his views thus carried considerably less authority than those of a humble nurse. … HIV/AIDS treatment is now an experience stitched into everyday life. It has become one of the most meaningful connections between ordinary people and their democratic state. The notion that Mbeki was against it jars. People remember what is useful to them. Mbeki the great man is much more useful to South Africans now than Mbeki the HIV/AIDS dissident.’ Jonny Steinberg, ‘SA wants to forget about Mbeki and HIV/AIDS’, Business Day, 30 May 2014

‘... the catastrophic decisions and foolish ideologies of the Mbeki administration have been corrected and the state now provides antiretroviral treatment to around 2.5 million people.’ Tim Fish Hodgson and Mluleki Maroko, ‘Ezempilo Zililungelo! Lungisa Isebe Lezempilo Sizophila!’, dailymaverick.co.za, 6 June 2014

‘Thabo was responsible for one of the most colossal tragedies in our recent history, which was his blindness to the reality of Aids. That killed thousands of South Africans, possibly more than the machinations of the nationalist government ever did. That’s not just me saying that.’ Athol Fugard: ‘Prejudice and racism are still alive and well in South Africa’, London Guardian, 12 August 2014

‘Yet when we lampoon, say, Aids denialists, for example, with a mix of evidence-based reasoning and ridicule, few would say, be nice to an Anthony Brink or Peter Duesberg. Some views are so ridiculous and dangerous for society that ridicule is surely permitted.’ Eusebius McKaiser, ‘No need to treat God with kid gloves’, Mercury and Star, 16 September 2014

‘Mbeki’s years of Aids denialism cost the country dearly. In a devastating piece of research by the Harvard School of Public Health, Mbeki was blamed for causing the preventable deaths of those with Aids by refusing to authorise treatment: “More than 330 000 people died prematurely from HIV and Aids between 2000 and 2005 [because of] the Mbeki government’s obstruction of life-saving treatment, and at least 35 000 babies were born with HIV infections that could have been prevented.”’ Ray Hartley, Ragged Glory: The Rainbow Nation in Black and White, Jonathan Ball, 2014

‘His attitude towards the HIV/AIDS epidemic was disastrous at best, genocidal at worst, with one Harvard study suggesting his administration’s responsibility for over 300,000 avoidable deaths.’ Saul Musker, ‘The case of Thabo Mbeki: It didn’t take us long to forget’, dailymaverick.co.za, 8 October 2014

‘President Jacob Zuma brought “new openness and admission” that SA had a problem in its hands with HIV and AIDS, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday. Mr Ramaphosa said at media briefing in Johannesburg that the government turned the corner in its approach to the pandemic by “listening extremely carefully” to the professionals in the medical field. “We did go through a period of wanting to hide our heads in the sand,” he said. SA “has embraced the AIDS pandemic and what needs to be done to curb it”.’ Setumo Stone, ‘Zuma has brought “new openness to AIDS approach”’, Business Day, 27 October 2014

‘To let the TAC die now would be to lose the power of one of the strongest voices during the mad Mbeki Aids-denialist years. A voice we still need. … Saving the TAC would give us many things. It would save a voice that South Africans have created that speaks truth to power. A rare, apolitical voice. It would keep alive a network across the country that still saves lives to this day.’ Stephen Grootes, ‘TAC: It’s about saving more than an organisation’, dailymaverick.co.za, 3 November 2014

‘The increase in the number of new HIV infections in South Africa is “quite alarming”, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa told MPs on Wednesday. “The increase in the number of new infections is a matter of concern to all of us. We’ve been witnessing much higher increases, particularly among the youth,” he said, responding to a question on the matter in the National Assembly. Ramaphosa said there were “quite a number of reasons” for the rise, but did not expand on these. He said a coming SA National Aids Council plenary would probe the issue, and come up with programmes and activities to stem the increase. “The new infections in our country are quite alarming at this stage, and we’d like to reverse that trend,” he said.’ ‘HIV increase alarming: Ramaphosa’, SAPA report, 5 November 2014

‘The cases [the TAC] fought against the government ended the Aids denialism of the Thabo Mbeki years and galvanised a proper treatment programme for South Africans living with HIV and Aids. Nelson Mandela supported the TAC: he wore the TAC’s trademark “HIV-positive” T-shirt when he visited TAC leader Zackie Achmat, who was then refusing HIV treatment until it was available to all citizens. … It would be tragic if the TAC faded away: it is a shining example of people’s power in action.’ Editorial: Civil groups can socialise state into action’, Mail & Guardian, 7 November 2014

‘South Africa is a country of many heroes. People who gave their lives, careers, safety, neglected their nearest in order to fight for the greater good, against injustice, so all of us could have a future. In the personal pantheon of mine, there are few organisations that are valued as highly as the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). And as the crucial month of November 2014 starts to draw to a close, I cannot but ask myself: what country can stand and watch TAC end its existence? … The Thabo Mbeki-government’s position on HIV/AIDS is still something that I, and many others, cannot fully understand. A once proud organisation, the ANC of Mbeki chose the path of political expedience and even laughed at Nelson Mandela in a 2002 ANC NEC meeting, when he tried to convince them that they really needed to do something about the evil disease that was decimating their own people. People were dying. … The leaders of TAC (including Zackie Achmat, Mark Heywood, Sipho Mthathi, Vuyiseka Dubula, Mandla Majola, Nathan Geffen, and many others), were highly accomplished people that could have translated their energies into building their own successful careers and comfortable lives. Some of them were not even born in South Africa. Still, they were the people who could not close their eyes and turn their heads away from what was such an apparent injustice – the one that was threatening to tear apart the very fabric of our society, or whatever was left of it. Life was not easy in those days if you were not in Mbeki ANC’s graces, but they did not care. That TAC fighters were right, was never in doubt. That they could eventually prevail, well, that was not always obvious, not in the days when Mbeki was so totally dominating just about every aspect of SA life. And yet they fought. They spent their days, weeks, months and years driven by the idea that we ought to be a kinder society than we were turning into, and that caring for your poorest and sickest is the only way to live. They could not save them all. According to estimates, some 350,000 perished needlessly, denied ARV treatment by Mbeki through his proxy, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. But eventually the tide was turned, and the new, Zuma-led ANC embraced TAC’s and COSATU’s positions and introduced the world’s most ambitious ARV programme. The extraordinary transformation for the better was almost instant. ... TAC is, after all these years of fearless service to South Africa, facing a closure. Yes, I can’t believe it either. We … cannot find R30 million a year to enable this extraordinary organisation to continue doing what it’s been doing for so long: saving South African lives. And I know this might sound callous, but the lives saved and not lost, through TAC’s actions in itself, save this country billions. Even now, there are still around 600-700 deaths and 1,000 new infections, every per day. Three million new people need to go onto treatment in the next four years. And now, that whole incredible effort, that service that one cannot put a price tag on, it is all in mortal danger. I consider Mark Heywood and Nathan Geffen dear friends and spent many hours talking to them about the turn of events that resulted in TAC fighting for life. When did we as community stop caring?’ Branko Brkic (founder and editor), ‘Will South Africa really let TAC fold?’, daily maverick.co.za, 19 November 2014

‘A decade ago the party had a leader who seemed just as determined not to listen to what the public was saying as it does today. Despite this, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) was able to prevail against Aids denialism and bullying in order to win a fight on behalf of millions of South Africans. … In the same way that Mbeki’s Aids denialism became an albatross that the former president could not shake from his neck, Nkandla is a yoke will not allow Zuma to walk freely. … While the scenes of EFF members in hard hats and domestic workers’ uniforms, asking when the president is going to pay back the money have been poignant, the images of the Treatment Action Campaign as it set about shaming the ANC for letting people die of a treatable disease were no less powerful. Given the short news cycles and the endless scandals we have had to endure, it is easy to forget that before the TAC’s civil disobedience campaign began, South Africans had been in the thrall of our new democracy and our new leaders. When the TAC began to raise serious questions about the state’s refusal to provide ARVs to pregnant women when science had proven that it was possible to prevent HIV transmission, our freedom was still shiny and clean and largely untested. Where Mandela had opened his arms to us, Mbeki folded his across his chest. Where Mandela had been open to loving, Mbeki was open for business. And because he shone with ambition, an ambition that seemed collective rather than personal, we loved him. Ah, how we loved him. With his glittering mind and lilting cadences and his poetry. His every sentence spoke to us of the dignity and pride we always knew we had possessed. He cultivated questions in us that we had never thought to ask. Here in our beautiful new president was evidence that the very notion of black intellectual inferiority was a lie. Ah, how we loved him. We so loved his mind that when he began to ask highly theoretical questions about whether a virus caused a syndrome, we thought he might have had a momentary lapse. Perhaps, we rationalised, this curious intellectual jaunt though territory that had already been trod upon by others far better qualified than he to explore these questions in depth was going to take us somewhere useful. But it didn’t. It led everybody to nowhere and yet it continued. It became puzzling, embarrassing even. We wondered what was happening to our latter-day hero. When these questions led him to stay awake feverishly seeking answers in the ether, on the ’net, through his secure connection as he browsed like a mole, we thought that perhaps he was blind to what others could see. Ah, but still we loved him. He embodied so much of what we aspired to. Even if he was imperious, he was also urbane and driven and a master of detail who was overseeing a grand scheme that required an appreciation of both the macro and the micro. But then we began to see he wasn’t only angry about the virus. … We began to understand that the thing that made him angriest of all was that we the people were asking him questions at all. By this time he was surrounded by people of weak character; the inevitable bootlickers and acolytes who cluster around power offering their leader yesses and overstretched grins and enthusiastic nods, these men and women of poor judgment and poorer moral standing egged him on, allowing him to believe in his own righteousness. It was this, in the end, this inability by Mbeki to understand how disappointed the nation was not only at his stance on Aids, but at his seemingly contemptuous attitude towards we the people, that was his downfall. His aloofness, his prickliness and his refusal to concede that he might have been wrong on Aids, or crime, or Zimbabwe, alienated him from we the people who so desperately wanted a post-Mandela hero. And so, when the marches began, when Nkosi Johnson pulled at our heartstrings with his eyes that seemed larger than life itself, when a sick young man called Zackie, who was inchoate with righteousness, who was electric in his desire to live, whose rage sparked from his skin because the justness of his cause was so clear; when the marches and arrests did not stop, when the songs of liberation were sung channeling old meanings for a new struggle; when all this happened as we watched, some of the liberators began to feel a certain kind of sorrow. They kept an uneasy quiet. As dust rose under angry toyi-toying feet – the same feet that had stomped for freedom that now marched for pills – these men and women who called themselves our liberators ducked their heads in shame. They knew that their brother leader had erred. And when the death toll began to mount, when Mbeki remained resolute and distant in spite of the body count because he could neither admit defeat nor accept that he had perpetrated an injustice against his own people, those around him looked askance. Quietly, they began to talk amongst themselves. The media reports, the pillorying of his minister – she of beetroots and garlic – even the death of his spokesperson after a long illness he purported to have never seen – none of these seemed to shake him. I remember these things now because we are again at a crossroads. The Treatment Action Campaign gave all South Africans permission to look a president in the eye and tell him that he was wrong. The TAC taught us to challenge the post-apartheid state by changing the rules of engagement. The TAC said ‘we the people are not afraid of you’. Had it not been for the moral pressure brought to bear by the TAC – pressure that forced the ANC and its allies to confront real and undeniable problems of leadership and accountability within their structures – South Africans might have taken longer to understand that they had a right to ask critical questions and to demand more and better answers from their liberators. … At root, the Nkandla crisis, like the Aids crisis before it, is about the importance of the truth.’ Sisonke Msimang, ‘Nkandla is to Zuma what AIDS was to Mbeki: The truth will out’, dailymaverick.co.za, 8 December 2014

‘A denialist in the Mbeki mode, [Zuma] claimed he had been cleared by all three reports on investigations into security upgrades at his Nkandla homestead.’ Martin Williams, ‘JZ adopts an Mbeki habit’, Citizen, 24 December 2014

‘[Mbeki’s] hubris over HIV/AIDS and abandonment of a human rights-based foreign policy in order to prop up Robert Mugabe were further examples of how badly he handled power and allowed his “off-the-wall contrarianism” to overrule his better judgment and make him enemies everywhere.’ Richard Steyn, ‘Sobering reminder of how SA surrendered hard-won moral authority’, Business Day, 6 January 2015

‘However, the main reason the country is now being crippled by power outages is the ANC ignored expert advice in the 1990s about the need to build power stations. In a rare departure from his characteristic denialism, Thabo Mbeki publicly admitted this at least twice while he was still president.’ Editorial, ‘When democracy can be expensive’, Citizen, 12 January 2015

‘Mbeki could not have persisted with his inhuman policies towards the victims of HIV/AIDS without the support of his party.’ John Kane-Berman, ‘Reinventing the ANC means more than simply dumping Zuma’, Business Day, 12 January 2015

‘... the most damning aspects of Mbeki’s legacy is increasingly being forgotten: his stubborn and near criminal refusal to roll out antiretroviral drugs to HIV-affected South Africans resulting in the death of over 300 000 people according to  one conservative study by Harvard University. ... given Mbeki’s own history when it came to dissent we lose nothing by his backtracking. As professor Sipho Seepe said in an interview on SABC yesterday. “If you look at the disaster he has caused … there are many people who are a victim of Mbeki’s rule. Even if he does have a point we shouldn’t take him too seriously.’ Verashni Pillay, ‘Was Mbeki pressured into watering down his Sona criticism?’, Mail & Guardian, 16 February 2015

‘In mid-February 2002, Nelson Mandela made an appointment to address the ANC’s national executive committee on the controversial stance Mbeki had taken on HIV/Aids. This was after reports in the press indicated that Mandela had been trying to meet Mbeki on this subject, to no avail. According to The Guardian: “Mr Nelson Mandela has been under pressure from Aids activists, scientists, trade unions and churches to challenge the controversial policies of President Thabo Mbeki towards a disease that is expected to kill about 6 million South Africans by the end of the decade.” Mandela was quoted at the time by Sunday papers as having said: “This is war. It has killed more people than has been the case in all previous wars and in all previous natural disasters. We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing when people are dying.” Then-Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane argued that the government was “sinning” by taking a controversial stance on HIV/Aids. ... When Mandela sought to be critical he was stonewalled and you were missing in action. ... I am prompted to ask why, as an activist, you were silent all this time when ... churches took a stance against Mbeki’s controversial position on HIV/Aids. ... Could it be that you were conveniently complicit through your silence or that you were utterly disdainful of what was right and just? When your master and political benefactor made what amounted to an irrational and genocidal statement to the effect that HIV did not cause Aids, a statement that saw scores paying with their dear lives since the necessary antiretroviral drugs were not rolled out, your voice was silent.’ Thami ka Plaatjie, Head of ANC Research and adviser to Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu, Letter: ‘The sheer silence of Mbeki’s lamb’, an open letter to Rev Frank Chikane: The tragic price of short memory, Sunday Independent, 11 October 2015

‘It was vintage Mbeki, right down to the hint of a whiff of pipe smoke and armchair leather – and the blinkered paranoia, the disconnection from reality, and the belief that he can change by decree how South Africans interpret facts ... But he does not launch this campaign by addressing his stance on HIV, which by some estimates cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives.’ Editorial: ‘Please put a lid on it, Mbeki’, Mail & Guardian, 15 January 2016

‘President Mbeki was not the devil incarnate. But he was also centrally responsible for a tragic AIDS denialism (unfortunately‚ in the coming weeks‚ I suspect we will have another Mbeki letter denying the denialism).’ Jeremy Cronin, 1st Deputy General Secretary, SACP, and ANC National Executive Committee Member, ‘Mbeki still doesn’t get it’, rdm.co.za and Sunday Times, 20 January 2016 


Zapiro, Sunday Times, 17 January 2016

Zapiro, Mail & Guardian, 7 March 2016


Zapiro, Times Live, 8 March 2016

Vavi, who was ousted from the union after fierce in-fighting, once again apologised "to South Africa" for the union's role in getting rid of former president Thabo Mbeki at Polokwane in 2012. “I apologised to the country for that mistake, for getting it so wrong. ... We were angry because he was an Aids denialist, and thousands of our people were dying.”’ Vavi repeats apology for helping to oust Mbeki, News24, 9 March 2016

‘And any last words of wisdom on the epidemic? “Yes,” he says. “Stop reporting on Mbeki.” Regardless of what he says? “Yes, regardless of what he says. Something is wrong there. It’s hurting. It’s so ridiculous and so bizarre that we can’t even discuss it. There must be someone instead who can say something smart.”’ Marelise van der Merwe, ‘A) Meet Dr Gallo B) Stop talking about Thabo Mbeki’, dailymaverick.co.za, 15 April 2016

‘...missing in Maluleke’s account of the Mbeki presidency is the tragic, some say genocidal, Aids denialism that Zuma’s administration brought to an end with a dramatic impact on life expectancy. ... Mbeki’s strategic misreading of the global conjuncture, his belief in the imminence of an African Renaissance, which is to say his denialism about the predatory behaviour in Africa and the rest of the global south by the developed north, was not disconnected from his Aids denialism. The cruel blow that the country suffered with a surging HIV/Aids pandemic at the very moment it was emerging from apartheid simply didn’t fit easily with the renaissance narrative. By another cruel twist, what was denied (imperialism) made a perverse return in the narrative - the virus didn’t exist, it was an anti-African imperialist myth.' Jeremy Cronin, ‘Let’s not romanticise Mbeki era’, Sunday Independent, 9 October 2016



The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.

Francis Bacon

Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.

— Frantz Fanon

Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Men fear thought as they fear anything else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death. It is fear that holds men back – fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be. … Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

Bertrand Russell

We would rather be ruined than changed;
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.

WH Auden