HIV/Aids

18 November 2009

Mbeki, Manto killed 330,000

The SABC did not refuse to air a controversial documentary on the Thabo Mbeki era and Aids deaths, the Health-e news service said on Tuesday.

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The SABC wanted "issues of balance" addressed before agreeing to air a documentary on former president Thabo Mbeki and Aids deaths,it stated.

"The main weakness was the flagrant flouting of basic principles of fairness and balance, and the right of reply which insists on giving both sides an opportunity to counter allegations put to them," SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said.

"Both former President Mbeki and former Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang were not afforded a chance to counter the allegations against them."

The SABC said it raised these issues with the producers of the film, Health-e news agency. Health-e said the documentary looks at the legacy of Mbeki's administration and as such did not ask the parties concerned to comment.

"We used clips of comments made by Mbeki in parliament and quotes from Tshabalala-Msimang as well," said Health-e managing editor Kerry Cullinan.

Documentary to be shown on etv
Beeld newspaper reported that the documentary would be screened on etv's 3rd Degree after the SABC refused to air it.

"The programme was initially made for SABC's Special Assignment, but the corporation apparently decided that the allegations against Mbeki were too controversial and even unfounded," Beeld reported.

"The film looks at the havoc that Aids denialism has wreaked," said 3rd Degree executive producer Debora Patta. "It's a damning documentary. We offered Mbeki a chance to respond and he declined."

Health-e said the SABC did not refuse to air the documentary, but took too long to decide whether or not to use it.

"They never refused to air it," said Health-e managing editor Kerry Cullinan. "They took a long time to decide whether they wanted it. They never gave us a reason why."

Cullinan said financial concerns forced them to look elsewhere to broadcast the documentary.

’Mbeki, Msimang responsible for 330 000 deaths’
The documentary, entitled The Price of Denial, investigates the impact of former president Mbeki's government's denial about HIV/Aids and treatment for ordinary South Africans living with HIV/Aids. It was produced by Anna-Maria Lombard, winner of the CNN African Journalist of the Year 2009 Award for HIV/Aids reporting.

It quotes a 2008 Harvard University study, led by Harvard-based Zimbabwean physician Dr Pride Chigwedere, which found that Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang were directly responsible for over 330 000 Aids-related deaths during their tenure.

"At the peak of the epidemic, the government, going against consensus scientific opinion, argued that HIV was not the cause of Aids and that antiretroviral (ARV) drugs were not useful for patients and declined to accept freely donated nevirapine and grants from the Global Fund," the study found.

However, Cullinan said the documentary was "about the consequences for normal people. It's more about looking at the human stories of people who did not get HIV treatment."

During an address in Rustenburg, Young Communist League leader Buti Manamela called for Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang to be charged with genocide.

In response, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema said that the ANCYL would not allow Mbeki to be charged.

"Thabo Mbeki might have made mistakes, but we can never charge him. We must not charge one of our own," Malema said at the gala dinner of the Pan African Youth Union at Emperor's Palace in Boksburg. – (Sapa, November 2009)

 

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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