Premier Helen Zille's muddled reply to our article is full of rhetoric and fist-banging, but it fails to respond, except angrily, to our considered and respectfully made points. Instead she sees fit to suggest that we have "vested interests" and that we are "politically correct" (whatever that tired term means). She ascribes views to us that we don't hold and implies we disagree with her on some issues which we actually agree upon.
Most astonishingly, the Premier claims that our response was characterized by "distortion and manipulation":
"The article focuses almost entirely on rebutting a statement I never made. It invents a position, falsely ascribes it to me - and then seeks to challenge it." ... "It is totally ludicrous to say that I suggested withdrawing treatment from those who contract AIDS "irresponsibly". How would one know? I have never suggested that the public health system stop treating any person (let alone category of people) with HIV."
Below are some of Premier's public comments made on the DA website, in the media, and on her personal Twitter account. We leave it to readers to decide if she is being truthful and whether this is appropriate behavior for the head of the Western Cape government and the leader of the opposition.
SA Today Newsletter (6 November 2011)
Speaking about the State's HIV/AIDS policy, Zille claimed that "Our response has largely had the effect of fuelling further denial and dependency by absolving rational (usually male) adults from the responsibility of changing their behaviour. Taxpayers must foot the bill without asking any politically-incorrect questions. Enough already! Especially when one confronts the under-funding of so many treatable health conditions."
Interview with the Cape Argus (11 November 2011)
"A person who consents to having unprotected sex without knowing the HIV status of their partner cannot expect the State to pick up the bill for treatment, without requiring an appropriate change in behaviour"
Tweets on Responsibility and State Provision of ARVs
Twitter user: Don't nanny state, let's encourage common sense!
Helen Zille: A nanny state when ppl don't act responsibly and then expect treatment.
Twitter user: Unsafe sex is a choice made by both partners."
Helen Zille: If it's a choice let them choose 2 fund treatment. 2gether. #irresponsibility"
Twitter User: Everybody decides 4 hm/hrslf,its ur choice if u want to use a condom!!"
Helen Zille: If you don't, pay for yr own ARVs.
Twitter User: Yo @helenzille get off your high horse Madame
Helen Zille: Get off your entitlement horse and pay for your preventable disease yourself.
Twitter User: Keep your laws off of my penis.
Helen Zille: Keep your preventable illnesses out of the state's coffers. Pay for your own ARVs.
Twitter User: If you have consensual unprotected sex, fund your own ARVs.
Helen Zille: Absolutely. The state should pay for unpreventable illnesses..
Helen Zille: So you think that Intergenerational sex with multiple partners is OK? Pay for treatment
Twitter User: Keep the nanny state out of my bedroom please.
Helen Zille: Then don't come looking for the nanny state when you need treatment.
Twitter User: outrageous! Hahaha you think u can police individual sexual activity?!" .
Helen Zille: Be responsible or pay for your own ARVs.
No politician can devise solutions alone to the abundant challenges we face in South Africa. There are no silver bullets or quick fixes when it comes to complex social issues such as HIV. It is a great pity that the Premier seemingly failed to consult with civil society or experts before publicly making these misinformed and confusing statements, and that she has responded to legitimate criticism - the bedrock of active citizenship and robust democratic participation - with ad hominem attacks and spin.
Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter