Mbeki’s ideas on HIV/Aids should be buried

inlPicsCopy of PN_mbeki0 AP Former president Thabo Mbeki, whose Aids policy is blamed for the early deaths of about 300 000 South Africans, has triggered fresh criticism by defending some old pronouncements about the disease. File picture: Anja Niedringhaus

Elvis Masoga strongly appeals to all citizens not to pay any meritorious attention to whatever former president Thabo Mbeki says about HIV and Aids.

Johannesburg - French philosopher Voltaire was once summarised as having said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

In any discursive public discourse, multiplicity of ideas and plurality of views must be encouraged and tolerated. In this advanced era of scholastic enlightenment, we should implore great thinkers and ideologues to refine our destinies and simplify our societal complexities.

The main purpose of great thinkers is to interpret and exploit the “laws of abstraction” for the material, spiritual and intellectual benefit of society. “Laws of abstraction” enable and empower philosophers and ideologues to detect the dynamism, intricacy and complexity of a trend or phenomena under study.

It is impossible for any social scientist to comprehend and resolve a societal complexity without applying the “laws of abstraction”.

Philosophers and ideologues who do not apply laws of abstraction are known as dissident theorists.

Dissident theorists believe in the penultimate importance of face-value attractions and superficial appearances. According to dissident theorists, an appearance/outlook of a phenomenon represents its penultimate form and content.

Dissident theorists argue that “an appearance” represents “the highest level of objective and subjective reality”.

It is that kind of fallacious philosophic mentality that is crippling the prolific intellectualism of former president Thabo Mbeki.

Notwithstanding his superb mastery of poetic oration and macroeconomic technocracy, Mbeki is a remorseless dissident theorist.

Early this year he resolved to author and publish a series of weekly articles aimed at clarifying some popular misconceptions and perceptions about his erstwhile presidency. I was one of the many people who applauded the former president for his bold and courageous resolve.

But I never thought our former president would base those articles on a shaky foundation of absolute denialism and selective reasoning. This week, Mbeki presented us with insurmountable proof that he is aloof and socially disconnected from public sentiment and societal complexities.

On Monday he published his eighth weekly article, titled “A Brief Commentary on the Question of HIV and Aids”.

Since Mbeki’s presidential overthrow in September 2008, I have always dreaded the possibility or probability of him commenting on HIV and Aids again. The most disastrous failure of Mbeki’s presidency was his apocalyptic refusal to tackle the scourge of HIV and Aids head-on.

Despite his pea-size knowledge of medical science, he mysteriously dismissed the existence of a symbiosis between HIV and Aids. He was an excessively uninformed and misinformed Aids denialist-cum-dissident.

It is estimated that more than 300 000 people lost their lives to HIV and Aids during Mbeki’s presidency. That terrifying nightmare occurred because his administration shamelessly refused to provide antiretroviral drugs to citizens living with HIV.

Despite ample scientific and medical proof of the tragic lethality of HIV and Aids, Mbeki stuck his head in the sand. For years, his government persistently refused to offer antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

His forced departure from the presidency in 2008 brought a ray of hope and inspiration to thousands of people who were living with HIV.

I never thought Mbeki would propagate his apocalyptic opinions about HIV and Aids once more.

It was my greatest wish that he would not dare mention the words “HIV and Aids” in his weekly articles.

Notwithstanding his other shortfalls, President Jacob Zuma’s government has performed brilliantly in the domain of the prevention and treatment of HIV and Aids. Since 2009, the Zuma administration has put in place an array of pragmatic programmes to reduce the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Since Mbeki’s axing in 2008, the aggregate life expectancy rate has increased by more than 10 years among South Africans.

The Department of Health’s aggressive preventative approach has helped to reduce the rates of HIV and STD infections dramatically.

The rates of HIV and STD infections have dwindled by more than 25 percent and 32 percent respectively in the past 6 years.

Let us revert to Mbeki’s latest article (“A Brief Commentary on the Question of HIV and Aids”, dated March 7, 2016).

With a demeaning streak of denialism, Mbeki writes in that article: “I must also mention that I never said HIV does not cause Aids. This false accusation was made by people who benefited from trumpeting the slogan ‘HIV causes Aids’ as though this was a religious edict. What I said is that a virus cannot cause a syndrome.”

Inherently entrenched in this quoted statement is Mbeki’s lack of human compassion.

He exposed and laid bare his lack of sympathy for the thousands of families that had lost their loved ones to HIV and Aids.

To this day he still views the HIV pandemic as a mythical slogan trumpeted by those who believe “HIV causes Aids”.

More than 300 000 citizens lost their lives during his presidency and, instead of exuding remorse, Mbeki still regards the existence of HIV as “the slogan”.

In academic and intellectual terms, Mbeki is a lightweight novice when it comes to the mastery of medical science and its attendant nomenclature.

Mbeki holds a Master’s degree from Sussex University but he does not possess even a short course in medical science.

Just like myself, he is not qualified at all to interrogate the scientific and theoretical foundations of medical science.

Medical professors, doctors, researchers and relevant medical analysts are best placed to lead discussions on the nature, context and dynamism of medical science.

In a recent article in The Star headlined “Mbeki’s foot-in-mouth syndrome”, world-renowned medical scientist Professor Malegapuru Makgoba writes: “Mbeki wrote in his article: ‘What I said is that a virus cannot cause a syndrome.’

“From this simple statement it is obvious that Mbeki does not understand the language of medicine or medical science. Clearly his definition and understanding of a syndrome is wrong as defined in plain English. In Mbeki’s world, a virus (HIV) cannot cause a syndrome (Aids). This is another (Mbeki) misunderstanding, as medical literature provides many examples of viruses causing syndromes.”

Our highly distinguished Professor Makgoba further shares his great scientific wisdom: “Here are basic (scientific) facts: HIV is a retrovirus. It is the cause of Aids. The specific destruction of CD4 cells by HIV leads to Aids. (Mbeki’s) letter removes any lingering doubt or ambiguity about his true stance: dissident and denialist.”

Lastly, I strongly appeal to all citizens not to pay any meritorious attention to whatever Mbeki says about the causality, effects and the genesis of HIV and Aids.

I’m reasonably convinced that Mbeki’s bizarre misconceptions on the HIV pandemic borders on tragic “ignorance and conscientious stupidity”.

We need Mbeki’s visionary intelligence and technocratic brilliance, but not his unsolicited apocalyptic inclinations and self-centred theoretical dissension.

* Elvis Masoga is a political analyst.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent



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