Enough is enough: South African activists demand: fire Manto

Polly Clayden, HIV i-Base

Throughout the conference activists from the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) demanded that their government “Fire Manto” Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, their nonsense-talking Minister of Health.

TAC activists briefly occupied the South African booth (that they were later accused of trashing which would not have been unreasonable under the circumstances) that, with cruel irony, displayed garlic, lemon and African potato but typically no antiretrovirals.

Their frustrating struggle has not gone unnoticed by the international community, both at the conference and beyond. Stephen Lewis made his position very clear in his closing address: “South Africa is the unkindest cut of all. It is the only country in Africa, amongst all the countries I have traversed in the last five years, whose government is still obtuse, dilatory and negligent about rolling out treatment. It is the only country in Africa whose government continues to propound theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state. Between six and eight hundred people a day die of AIDS in South Africa. The government has a lot to atone for. I’m of the opinion that they can never achieve redemption.”

As did Mark Weinberg: “We went to the Durban meeting, expecting a South African government that would be on the same side as us. Instead, we found a denialist president who turned his back on us… and who began to convene committees that would articulate on his behalf that somehow it was in dispute whether or not HIV was truly the cause of AIDS … We were all completely taken aback, we were all insulted. … I for one am no longer prepared to take a back seat as a scientist and not express my personal concern that this situation seems to have continued unabated.”

And on 4 September 2006 a letter was sent to South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki from over 80 leading HIV scientists “to support and endorse Dr Wainberg’s words.”

They write: “To deny that HIV causes AIDS is farcical in the face of the scientific evidence; to promote ineffective, immoral policies on HIV/AIDS endangers lives; to have as Health Minister a person who now has no international respect is an embarrassment to the South African government. We therefore call for the immediate removal of Dr Tshabalala-Msimang as Minister of Health, and for an end to the disastrous, pseudo-scientific policies that have characterised the South African Government’s response to HIV/AIDS.”

TAC, which launched protests against the health minister last month welcomed the letter and continue to step up their national campaign for a united and rational South African response to AIDS.

TAC have asked for international support for their campaign. In the UK we can get involved or make donations through the Friends of TAC: – Letter to South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki:


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