When AIDS started spreading in South Africa, there was cultural resistance to even talking about it. A white anti-apartheid activist named R.W. Johnson writes that: “When I tried to raise the subject with black audiences in those years I faced audience walkouts, incomprehension, and a feeling that public discussion of such matters was unseemly.”
R.W. Johnson wrote a book South Africa’s Brave New World and in one chapter, he discusses how president Thabo Mbeki caused many deaths in South Africa, because he did not believe that AIDS was caused by a virus. Mbeki prevented anti-HIV drugs from being sold in the country.
Mbeki’s health minister “ignored the whole subject of AIDS as far as possible. Instead she spent her time on new anti-smoking legislation and bitter attacks on the big tobacco companies; on berating the medical schools at the formerly white universities to increase their black intake; …and in strong criticism of the big pharmaceutical companies for profiteering at the expense of the poor. She was steered in this direction by Mbeki (who was already effectively running the government.”
She also cut the budgets of the top hospitals (who supposedly were preoccupied with diseases of the “rich”).
Doctors emigrated in droves, and she replaced them by Cuban doctors.
At one point Mbeki enthusiastically promoted Virodene, a toxic industrial solvent, as a ‘cure’ for AIDS. There was a backlash to this, however.
The arrival of AZT, a drug which cut mother-to-child HIV transmission by 50 per cent, brought new hope. A woman raped by a HIV-positive assailant could nullify the infection if she took AZT within 48 hours.
Yet in 1998, the health minister announced that she had decided against making AZT available, because she wished to focus on prevention instead.
“When it was pointed out that AZT was a preventive drug, she said it was too expensive. When AZT’s makers, Glaxo Wellcome, cut the drug’s price by 70 per cent she said it was toxic and that those advocating its use were just trying to poison blacks.”
“With 5,000 HIV-positive babies born every month, the decision against AZT meant condemning 30,000 children to death every year. In addition, South Africa has the world’s worst rape statistics: in 2004-5, for example, there were 55,114 reported rapes, 40 per cent of them against children, but since most rapes went unreported the police thought the real figure was three times that.”
Some rapes were due to the idea that sex with a virgin would cure AIDS.
South Africa now had more AIDS victims than any other country.
The much admired black leader Nelson Mandela did nothing about any of this.
In October 1999, Mbeki announced that his own late night internet searches had convinced him that AZT was toxic.
In 2000, Mbeki found out that AIDS did not exist – from the writings of AIDS dissidents like Peter Duesberg and David Rasnick. Mbeki even said they were terrorized and persecuted for their views.
R.W. Johnson says: “His (Mbeki’s) pretence to specialized knowledge in every field and his extreme sensitivity to criticism were all classic paranoid traits.”
Mbeki argued as well that the real killer was extreme poverty, and that AIDS was a disease of poverty.
When Boehringer Ingelheim announced it would make the anti-AIDS drug nevirapine available free for five years, the next health minister – named “Tshabalala-Msimang” – denounced the company for making such statements ‘without consultation’ , and said that South Africa would never accept special treatment; the drug must be free to other developing countries too. Boehringer Ingelheim immediately agreed to even this proposal, infuriating the Minister.
A subsidiary of the government then invested R80 million into another “cure” oxihumate-K, made from burnt coal.
R.W. Johnson goes on to show that the government lied, and used outdated statistics, to bolster its views.
Tshabalala-Msimang even circulated a chapter from William Cooper’s book Behold a Dark Horse, in which Cooper, who advertised himself as ‘America’s leading UFO expert’, argued that HIV had been specially devised by the world’s ruling elite to reverse population growth. Cooper also explains world events as a result of a conspiracy of Jews, the CIA, the Freemasons, secret societies and aliens from outer space. In addition, he was a frequent attendee at Ku Klux Klan rallies.
Tshabalala-Msimang was clearly desperate for reinforcement, says R.W. Johnson, since she chose this KKK admirer as her scientific source.
By 2004, there were over 6 million people with AIDS in South Africa.
Foreign celebrities such as Harry Belafonte and Jesse Jackson voiced support for Mbeki’s stance on AIDS, but this simply diminished the celebrities.
R.W. Johnson tries to explain why this all happened. He thinks that the ‘colonial personality’ marked by “paranoia, an overwhelming sense of victimhood and thus also of righteousness and entitlement” were responsible. Mbeki was not the only black leader who viewed AIDS as a conspiracy, so did Namibia’s president, for instance. A racial nationalist like Mbeki would not want to admit that large numbers of Africans had not made the decision to protect themselves from AIDS (safe sex etc.) that other groups (whites, coloreds) had. In his own words – Mbeki said that some believed that ‘we [Africans] are but natural-born, promiscuous carriers of germs…[and] that our continent is doomed to an inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to the sin of lust’. He accused journalist Charlene Smith, herself a rape victim of writing that black men were ‘rampant sexual beasts, unable to control our urges….”
Mbeki should have preached “a philosophy of individual responsibility, of self-discipline, of not blaming others…” But he preferred to blame the situation on poverty, which in turn could be blamed on external forces like colonialism.
And because of Mbeki’s unwillingness to face some unpleasant realities. many men, women, and children died.
Source: South Africa’s Brave New World by R. W. Johnson