Mbeki should boldly face up to his HIV/AIDS mistakes - SACP

Party says former president is telling a falsehood if he says he never said HIV does not cause AIDS

SACP statement on former President Thabo Mbeki and HIV and AIDS denialism


The SACP finds it very strange that former President Thabo Mbeki's letters are said to be correcting 'falsehoods' and yet Mbeki himself seems to be making matters worse. Mbeki now is deliberately  telling a falsehood if he says he never said HIV does not cause AIDS, but instead he  said, on the same matter, 'a virus cannot cause a syndrome'.

No amount of English and political sophistry will take away the fact that Mbeki's AIDS denialism directly led to the death of hundreds of thousands of South Africans. The fact of the matter is that government, under Mbeki, did not roll out antiretroviral treatment which would have saved these lives.

Instead of flooding us with these letters, the SACP calls upon former President Mbeki to boldly own up to his AIDS mistakes and apologise to the South African people. Nothing will “correct falsehoods” about this matter.

Whilst Mbeki has found it necessary to mention the name of our General Secretary on some of his earlier letters, in this case he has found it convenient to omit the name of Cde Blade in the unfolding saga of his AIDS denialism. Let us remind him.

In his address to the 7th National Congress of Cosatu in September 2000, SACP General Secretary Comrade Blade Nzimande had this to say in the context of the problems of HIV and AIDS denialism (“a virus [HIV] cannot cause a syndrome [AIDS]”) and the need to deal with poverty: 

“The SACP accepts the view of the scientific community that the HI Virus causes AIDS. The SACP also agrees that opportunistic diseases that thrive in conditions of poverty like TB and malaria do indeed increase amongst poor people infected with the HI Virus.”

It was for the statement “The SACP accepts the view of the scientific community that the HI Virus causes AIDS” that Cde Blade was to endure an eight hour Mbeki-instigated vicious and personalised attacks at the next meeting of the ANC national executive committee chaired by Mr Terror Lekota with Thabo Mbeki as President. Full details about this personalised attack will be told at an appropriate time in the future.

For the record, no one can deny the importance of proper and balanced nutrition to strengthen the immune system as well as the need to deal with the social context of poverty which denies many people access to proper and balanced nutrition and plunge them in conditions where disease thrives.

Also, the issue of imperialist machination and the problem of foreign monopoly dominance in the pharmaceutical sector are undeniable. This is why the SACP has long been campaigning for the establishment of a state owned pharmaceutical company underpinned by measures to strengthen research and development to find new scientific solutions, medical and medicinal, to the health problems that our society faces and those that we could likely come across in future.

Since our country discarded HIV and AIDS denialism, in particular following the exit of Mbeki from government massive progress was made to confront HIV.

This was recognized on 27 January 2015 by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) in its press release on the latest report at that time on mortality which revealed a steady improvement in life expectancy in the country. “According to this Rapid Mortality Surveillance Report 2013, issued by the council’s Burden of Disease Research Unit”, said the SAMRC, “South Africa’s life expectancy has escalated to 62 years in 2013 (i.e. four years since the government started implanting its rigorous HIV treatment in 2009) – a staggering increase of 8.5 years since the low in 2005”. “Improvements in average life expectancy in South Africa are reason to celebrate and can be attributed in major parts to the country’s vigorous response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in recent years,” said Dr Debbie Bradshaw, Director at the SAMRC’s Burden of Disease Research Unit.

Mbeki should actually commend the work that was done by the government since 2009 to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who contracted the HI virus. The work was not done during his tenure as President due to the contradictions of “a virus [HIV] cannot cause a syndrome [AIDS]” mantra that he propagated and still sphasises to this day.

The SACP fully agrees with the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) and the government that we must ignore Mbeki's letter on HIV and AIDS and instead focus our efforts on strengthening government's commendable efforts to combat this scourge and improve the health of our people.

Statement issued by the SACP, 10 March 2016