NEWS & ANALYSIS

Jacob Zuma's comments on Mbeki and AIDS

Extract from transcript of SA president's interview on CNN, September 25 2009

EXTRACT OF INTERVIEW BY CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, WITH SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, CNN, SEPTEMBER 25 2009

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THABO MBEKI, FORMER PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA: And so when you ask the question, "Does HIV cause AIDS?" the question is, does a virus cause a syndrome? How does a virus cause a syndrome? It can't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: So joining us back again, President Zuma of South Africa.

That was your predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, and it's generally considered that he had a very wrong idea about AIDS and the spread of AIDS and how to treat it. Do you subscribe to his ideas? Or do you think there needs to be a much more medically sound way to go at it?

ZUMA: Well, we explained this a number of times, because President Mbeki has his views, which were his personal views, which was not ANC policy...

AMANPOUR: No, but it was government policy.

ZUMA: ... it was not government - it was not government policy, either.

AMANPOUR: But the health minister was scandalous in the way...

ZUMA: No, I'm - I'm saying that was not a government policy. It was his personal views. What the minister did, the minister emphasized certain foods...

AMANPOUR: Talked about having onions - onions...

ZUMA: Yes, that's what - that's what the minister talked about.

AMANPOUR: ... as to ward off AIDS.

ZUMA: That's what the minister talked about.

AMANPOUR: That was government policy.

ZUMA: It was not government policy. It was the minister going further to explain to people (inaudible) the kind of food you need to eat to help you, to help your immune system.

AMANPOUR: All right.

ZUMA: It was not policy of the government.

AMANPOUR: So what is your policy?

ZUMA: We said this many, many times. Our policy is - is very clear. We've got a very comprehensive policy. We have a comprehensive five-year plan, which that minister, whilst he was talking about onions and everything, and in addition to the policy that were - were there.

So we are talking about an individual feeling about specific things, as the president did, but did not remove the (inaudible) policy, which has been recognized by the World Health Organization as the best, in fact, even now.

AMANPOUR: And yet so much money is being poured into South Africa in trying to eradicate and deal with the HIV-AIDS problem, and yet so many people are dying. It's basically made almost no difference whatsoever, all this help that's coming in.

And I'm going to have to go back to an unpleasant part of your past, in which you were accused of rape. You were on trial. You were eventually acquitted, but some of the things you said were pretty incredible. You said that you didn't have a condom, but that you showered after sex. I mean, what kind of message is that? What is that saying, A, to women and, B, to young people about the spread of AIDS?

ZUMA: What people have missed on this issue is that I did not make a statement - just woke up in the morning and made a statement. I was in court. The prosecution very systematically asking a question after question. What happened after this one? What then happened? What then happened? So the shower was part of a series of answers to specific questions. What then happened after this? What happened after that one?

Sorry. I know that people then singled out that particular item. It's an item that was put in a very systematic questioning by the prosecution, and I was merely telling exactly what happened after this, what happened after this one.

AMANPOUR: Would you admit, though, that President Mbeki and even President Mandela have been very squeamish about talking about sex publicly, talking about the dangers of unprotected sex? Are you reversing - are you trying to reverse that?

ZUMA: No, there's nothing that I'm trying to reverse. I'm saying we have a policy of my organization, the policy of my government, which I follow in every respect.

AMANPOUR: Which is?

ZUMA: Here, there was a specific - specific question referred to, to an individual under specific circumstances, which I answered at that point in time.

AMANPOUR: I know, but I'm just talking about in terms of your government's policy now. You have an opportunity to connect with the youth.

ZUMA: We have been connecting with the youth all the time. Even at that time, 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 - the - 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.

[CUT]

Source: CNN. See also: www.constitutionallyspeaking.co.za

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter