You have 4 seconds to accuse the president of genocide … go!

Yes, I do hate sick peopleThe South African President, Thabo Mbeki’s, long war against his own people has just plumbed new depths. Loyalty to the party line is the only thing that matters to him. Everything and everyone else must yield or be sacrificed.

Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge has just been fired. The one and only government minister with the courage, humility, independence and passion to admit the scale of the AIDS pandemic in South Africa and the failure of the ANC government in dealing with it. Her public acknowledgement of AIDS embarrassed the president and her boss, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. That was, by the president’s standards, entirely unforgivable.

Mbeki’s statements about AIDS are intentionally ambiguous but his actions are not. Thirteen years into majority-rule more South Africans have died of AIDS than died through torture and massacre under Apartheid. This is not accidental. It is deliberate government policy. 5.5 million South Africans – 18% of the population – has HIV. 320 000 people a year die of the disease. There are 1.2 million AIDS orphans. In 1994, when the ANC took power, only 1% of the South African population was infected.

The problem was known and there was still time. Chris Hani, one of the leading lights in the ANC, declared in 1990: “Existing statistics indicate that we are still at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in our country. Unattended, however, this will result in untold damage and suffering by the end of the century.”

Not only does the health department continue to debate the nature of HIV and AIDS but their actual mandated medication to solve the problem is (I kid you not): garlic, lemons, beetroot and the African potato (yams).

I do not toss the word genocide about lightly. South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which defines genocide as follows:

Article 7: Crimes against humanity, Section 2 (b)

“Extermination” includes the intentional infliction of conditions of life, inter alia the deprivation of access to food and medicine, calculated to bring about the destruction of part of a population;

Article 27: Irrelevance of official capacity, Section 1

This Statute shall apply equally to all persons without any distinction based on official capacity. In particular, official capacity as a Head of State or Government, a member of a Government or parliament, an elected representative or a government official shall in no case exempt a person from criminal responsibility under this Statute, nor shall it, in and of itself, constitute a ground for reduction of sentence.

In a further move to ensure that no-one gets to disagree with government, parliamentary rules have been changed which drastically limit the time that opposition parties get to speak.

The ANC’s Chief Whip in the council, Bafana Sithole, said: “If a party cannot say what they want to say in eight seconds it is not worth saying”. The ANC’s new speech recommendation included four seconds speaking time for: the Azanian People’s Organisation, the Christian Democratic Party, the Christian Front, independent councilors, Operation Khanyisa Movement, United Democratic Movement, and the Freedom Front Plus.

So, not only has the ANC government fired all the people who were actually attempting to solve the AIDS crisis but they have now entirely emasculated any opportunity for those opposed to their policies to speak against them.

The real losers are the very people that the ANC claims to represent: the poor.

10 replies »

  1. Wow. I’ve started to hear people here in the U.S. bitch about how AIDS treatment has been so effective that it’s starting to fall off the radar and thus is actually at risk of backsliding. It’s a real risk and something that activists here in the U.S. should focus on. But the degree of the problem is so radically different from here to Africa that we’re not even playing the same game, never mind playing in the same league.

    Keep publicizing this, Gavin. The more people know about it, the sooner it will change. I just hope you’re not putting yourself at risk in the process. From what you’ve said before, I’d consider avoiding the taxis….

  2. Gavin as you can see from the article you link, it is the ANC city council in Johannesburg that introduced the limits in speaking time – not the national parliament. Presenting that (bad as it is), as somehow part of the ANC government’s actions against critics of its HIV policiy is just not honest.

  3. Alleman, depends how much weight you give to Johannesburg / Gauteng – at 50% of the country’s GDP and 40% of the population it isn’t just a bellwether for what happens elsewhere, it is the nation.

    And, no, I don’t claim that stopping talk by opposition politicians in council is only about HIV policy, but it certainly doesn’t help. When the ANC removes any contrarians from their own ranks, and then reduces the opportunity for debate from their opponents then where is the chance for alternative ideas to be considered?

  4. Gavin the Johannesburg City Council isn’t even the government of Gauteng.
    Stop digging and admit that you shouldn’t piss away your credibility like this. Your words were that to “ensure that no-one gets to disagree with government, parliamentary rules have been changed”. That is a complete lie that only foreigners might possibly believe.
    Parliamentary rules have not been changed, and this has nothing to do with central government or Mbeki and his HIV/AIDS policies.

    Dissent to Mbeki’s HIV/AIDS policies is widespread within the ANC, and it would not surprise me if the same ANC councillors who introduced the limited speaking-time rule in Johannesburg are opposed to his HIV/AIDS policies

    The ANC may be arrogant and power drunk, but lying is not the way to counter that.

  5. I’ll admit I erred in confusing the Jo’burg legislature with parliament but if you can name a single sitting ANC MP anywhere prepared to put their job on the line and declare Mbeki wrong on AIDS I’ll stand you a beer.

    Let’s see if anyone from the hierarchy backs up Madlala-Routledge. It is one thing to quietly mutter, it is another to make a principled stand.

    I think the ANC has done a remarkable job of emasculating parliament, local councils and legislatures and making them all pliant lapdogs with little authority to do anything. Of course, that came back to bite them in Cape Town where the DA uses the same rules to keep the ANC out of participating.

    However, that was still a throw-away line in an otherwise vitriolic declaration that Mbeki has committed genocide. Where do you stand on that main point?

  6. Yes, the ANC MPs are a pretty tame lot – only in it for the perks, which is what we should expect from a system where the parties appoint MPs. They are unprincipled lapdogs as you describe them.
    Like almost everyone, I cannot understand or approve Mbeki’s actions on AIDS that prevented many lives from being saved. I understand why people accuse him of genocide, yet I cannot get myself to believe that he wanted all these deaths to happen under his watch.
    As someone pointed out, he is essentially a denialist – he also denies the devastation of crime.
    Maybe he is like my family member who refuses to open her post, because it is mostly bills and letters from debt collectors.
    Mbeki refuses to know about unpleasant facts. He doesn’t know what tik is. He is only interested in foreign affairs, the economy and his blog. He should never have become president at all.

  7. Proportional representation has been a disaster; I’d really like to see us get back to constituencies.

    As for Mbeki; you may be right. I have seen him speaking often enough to imagine him as some ivory-tower academic. His brother is fairly approachable and would make a better president, but Thabo is completely out of it. Sadly for him, though, ignorance is not an excuse any more than it would be for that family member of yours who failed to read a critical letter.

    The Rome Statute, drawing as it does on the Nuremberg Trials, does not allow the excuse of “following orders” or of the “wilful ignorance” of those in high office with the capacity to intervene.