Updated 24 August 2017

Top Aids Council spot for Criselda Dudumashe?

Criselda Dudumashe’s defence of Manana is reportedly 'in line with her defence of Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s quack remedies'.

Controversial talk show host Criselda Kananda Dudumashe, who ignited fury on social media over the weekend for defending the woman-bashing Mduduzi Manana, is due to be appointed to the board of the SA National Aids Council (SANAC).

SANAC facing a legitimacy crisis

Sources close to the process told Health-e News that Dudumashe’s name had been sent to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is expected to announce the new SANAC board within the next week. SANAC is a multi-stakeholder body that co-ordinates the country’s response to HIV. There is no public process for the nomination of SANAC board members and nominations appear to come from SANAC staff and top health department officials.

SANAC is facing a legitimacy crisis after being accused by the Treatment Action Campaign, SECTION27 and others of being controlled by a clique led by Steve Letsike, SANAC’s deputy chair, and Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of the Higher Education and Training HIV/Aids Programme (HEAIDS) who are using the council to advance their own personal interests.

During the height of government’s Aids denialism, Dudumashe was part of a group centered around former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who worked to discredit antiretroviral medicine.

Former Mpumalanga Health MEC Sibongile Manana, was also part of this group. She is the mother of former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana, who resigned in disgrace over the weekend after being caught on camera bashing a young woman twice hard on her head while his henchmen held her down. The woman had apparently called him “gay” during an argument.

While Dudumashe expressed her “disappointment” at Manana’s behaviour in a Facebook post she has since removed, she went on to praise him as someone she has “travelled with countrywide to the most rural of villages” providing “socio-support to students with various issues from HIV infection, substance abuse, gender based violence” (GBV), someone committed to “youth development” and with “politics running in his veins” from “political family” who opened his eyes to injustice.

Promoted as a 'role model'

Vuyokazi Gonyela, from human rights organisation SECTION27, said Dudumashe’s defence of Manana “is in line with her defence of Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s quack remedies”.

“We are aware that HEAIDS is promoted Criselda and Manana, giving them platforms to – ironically – speak on gender-based violence.,” said Gonyela. “We would like HEAIDS to come clean on whether she will continue to enjoy this platform and how much she is being paid to do so.”

Meanwhile, TAC chairperson Anele Yawa said Dudumashe and Manana had been “rubbing shoulders on the HEAIDS and SHE Conquers programme that seeks to empower young women against new HIV infections”.

Dudumashe has been promoted as a “role model” through these programmes, said Yawa, but her defence of Manana was “an insult to these young women and a betrayal of those fighting for women’s emancipation”.

“Manana also beat the young woman because she called him gay,” said Yawa. “But there is nothing wrong with being gay. South Africa has one of the highest incidence of hate crimes against people because of their sexual orientation, and it is evident that Manana is one of the perpetrators of this.”

Life expectancy has leapt 10 years

Dudumashe has always liked hanging out with politicians, and her condemnation of ARVs ensured she was in with the dominant faction during the Mbeki years. At the time, Dudumashe claimed to be a disciple of Tine van der Maas, the Dutch nurse who said that her concoction of lemons, olive oil, beetroot, garlic and vitamins, could stop Aids.

However, in the post-Mbeki era, government discarded Aids denialism and rolled out the world’s biggest ARV treatment programme. The life expectancy of South Africans has leapt 10 years – from 52 in 2006 to 62 in 2014 – thanks to the ARV programme. Being an Aids denialist was no longer viable in the face of this evidence.

In order to survive as an HIV speaker in the new era, Dudumashe toned down her antipathy towards ARVs but still draws attention to their side effects.

No platform for Aids denialist

Yawa said he was shocked by the idea of Dudumashe serving on SANAC’s board:

“As TAC, we will object her appointment and we will do whatever in our powers to stop her appointment to that position because she's a disgrace and disappointment to other woman and victims of GBV,” said Yawa. “We can't have people whose minds are located into their bank accounts; people who prefer to make money and good fortunes about the pain and misery of others.”

Meanwhile, Gonyela said “we trust SANAC will also not give this Aids denialist any platforms or position and we will challenge any moves to do so”. – Health-e News.

Image from Twitter.