|22. September 2000
ANC alarmed at growing Aids fiasco
Deep concern is spreading
through the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its parliamentary caucus
over the corner into which President Thabo Mbeki has led the party and the
government over HIV/Aids.
Most ruling party MPs and senior ANC members
approached this week privately said the HIV/Aids fiasco raised serious
questions about Mbeki's political judgement. They now had a huge job on their
hands to repair the damage done to the party, the government and to anti-Aids
campaigns by the president's stubborn and public commitment to eccentric views
on the pandemic.
A number of ANC MPs said the fiasco into which Mbeki
had led the party and government over HIV/Aids was his worst failure of
political judgement since he succeeded Nelson Mandela in June last year. Other
episodes of poor judgement included Mbeki's approach on the Zimbabwean crisis,
his repeated attacks on white South Africans in recent months, and what a
number of ANC MPs termed his "mismanagement" of tensions in the tripartite
alliance. But Mbeki's grip on the ruling party and the glue that holds it
together were evident when a number of those ANC MPs who had been sharply
critical of him in private discussions joined their colleagues in laughing and
cheering their leader in the National Assembly when he answered questions on
HIV/Aids, racism and Zimbabwe during president's question
Answering a question by Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon,
Mbeki stuck to his eccentric view that HIV could not be said to be the cause of
Aids. But he made two concessions in an attempt to get himself and the
government out of the corner in which his comments have placed both in recent
One, he acknowledged that the government's anti-Aids strategy
was - contrary to his own view - "based on the thesis that HIV causes Aids".
Two, he accepted that his utterances on the cause of Aids might have engendered
public confusion and undermined the government's anti-Aids campaigns.
number of health workers in townships and rural areas have, in recent weeks,
held the president and his comments responsible for subverting the anti-Aids
message, with grave consequences for those affected and their families. They
will be relieved if Mbeki's public comments this week on HIV/Aids science are
his last. A Cape Town-based political analyst, hitherto strongly supportive of
the government and the ruling party, said this week that the HIV/Aids
controversy into which Mbeki had drawn his administration was an instance of
"bad communication, bad strategy, bad policy, bad politics and bad governance".
He added: "This was incoherent government."
reputation - based on his efforts to achieve peace in Southern Africa's
conflict and his sometimes eloquent articulation of the problems of the
developing world - has also suffered serious damage as a result of his dogged
promotion of his views on HIV/Aids.