Was Manamela’s ‘genocide charge’ of Mbeki going to stand or was it just a ‘political score settling’ tactic?

Young Communist League President Buti Manamela said in 2009 that former president Thabo Mbeki should be charged with genocide together with the then health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. This after scary AIDS/HIV statistics in that year.

The statistics indicated that approximately 5.7 million South Africans were living with HIV/AIDS and Manamela blamed Mbeki for this, saying his alleged denial of a link between HIV and AIDS was to blame. Manamela said Mbeki “made a mockery of our country and failed to provide sound political guidance to a nation in crisis”. He said Mbeki’s “argument that there is a link between poverty and HIV/AIDS stigmatised the diseases”.

Mbeki’s theory that the prescription of ARVs should be linked to a good meal demoralised health practitioners such that it “lead to some of them being persecuted, thus creating further damage to an already deteriorating healthcare situation”. What shocked everyone at the time was when he said he did not know of anyone who died of the disease. His attitude inhibited South Africa’s war on HIV/Aids and did not assist the situation or challenge the youth (who are the most affected) to change their behaviour(sic), attitudes and lifestyle in order to prevent HIV infection, Manamela said in a statement.

At the time President Jacob Zuma had reportedly slept with an HIV+ woman without using a condom and later took a shower with the hope that he will not get infected but his supporters continued to support him as a president-elect. No one from the political circle at the time, the ANC especially, ever condemned Zuma or his supporters. Now how assisting is that attitude of Zuma and his supporters in challenging the “youth, attitude and [their] lifestyle in order to prevent HIV infection” as Manamela claims?

Manamela went on to say it was “never government or ANC policy to deny the link between HIV and Aids, or to deny people antiretroviral drugs, even when they were being provided free by foreign governments and NGOs“. He said Mbeki’s was a “view held by one individual supported by a group of pseudo-scientists and yes-men who suspected the profit motives of multi-national companies rather than doubt their prescription.” But not once did the YCL or even Manamela release a statement dismissing “a view held by one individual supported by a group of pseudo-scientists and yes-men who suspected the profit motives of multi-national companies rather than doubt their prescription” which can be read as Mbeki’s.

For this denial was never an ‘ANC policy to deny the link between HIV and AIDS’ which many have attributed to the high level of infections within the country especially among the young, the YCL therefore wants to hold Mbeki accountable but in order for that to happen “a state-led judicial commission with prosecutorial powers to determine whether Mbeki is guilty of mass killing” and that “a commission of HIV/AIDS similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) through which victims and perpetrators will receive their respective justice through forgiveness and remorse” must be set up.

All this genocide charging for Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang, that is?

Before you answer that, here are a few questions that you might want to answer too:

  • Why were there no disciplinary actions taken against Mbeki while he was still in government at the time when he said or denied that?
  • Where were the ANC Executive Committee members, deputy president, ANCYL, YCL, SACP, COSADTU at the time when Mbeki said or denied this and what actions did they take?
  • Was it Mbeki who said people can sleep around as negligently as they pleased without using condoms or whatever protection was there at their disposal?
  • Was it Mbeki who controlled the sexual behaviour of those who were sexually negligent?
  • Is this decision – to charge Mbeki (and Tshabalala-Msimang for genocide) – politically motivated?

The purpose of charging Mbeki, according to Manamela and despite Mbeki being one of their [the ANC or just aSouth Africa?] own, is to ensure that he should account “for his role in this debacle” and that would therefore act as a “lesson that one must take responsibility for one’s actions”.

If by taking “responsibility for one’s actions” means contributing to the deaths of many people in South Africa directly or indirectly by denying them medicines, then yes but to a certain extent. But surely you will agree with me that it is not Mbeki who is entirely responsible for even the deaths of those who had negligent sexual intercourses with people with high chances of being affected or infected by HIV/AIDS and thereby more infections of the disease and the passing on therefore. More than that, not once did Mbeki or Tshabalala-Msimang hold people at gun point for using protection when they did at the time when they in fact had the right, time and choice to do so but chose not to.

When Mbeki was seen as being ‘aloof’ by those within and outside the ruling party, people never boycotted that. Not the ANC, not Manamela. No one. Everyone kept quiet except the Treatment Action Campaign when it won a court case in which pregnant women were then allowed to take ARVs to prevent passing the disease to the child before birth. And it cannot be dismissed that government policies were responsible for denying access to life-saving medications through the public health sector as indicated by South African Institute of Race Relation deputy CEO Frans Cronje at the time.

There is no better truth as this one, as noted by Cronje, that during his presidency and before he was toppled in 2008, the South African Parliament Parliament “had the legal, and the ANC the political, power to remove him from office. Not once in this period did a member of his cabinet publicly disagree with him or resign in protest. The ANC therefore shares collective responsibility with Thabo Mbeki. What is often described as Thabo Mbeki’s Aids policy would in fact be better described as the ANC’s Aids policy”. None of that was used but he was only removed “over a simple power play in the ruling alliance suggesting that the party saw an internal power squabble as a more serious than the deaths of so many of their own suppers”.

Suffice to say what I said in 2009 when Fikile Mbalula accused Mbeki of “failing to defend the unity and integrity of the ANC” that “not only will have Mbeki failed as president of the country and the ANC, but the organization he was a president to will have too failed because no disciplinary actions were levelled against him which will have prompted the same organization to bring forward concrete evidence which after consultation and thorough consideration will have rendered Mbeki grossly/slightly guilty for such allegations as suggested and accused by Mbalula”.

I further mentioned that Mbalula, too, will be “guilty of whatever allegations he’s levelling against Mbeki. This is because as member of the ruling party which Mbeki was a president to and a member of, he himself failed to initiate disciplinary actions to the ANC Disciplinary Committee against Mbeki. As a result, accordingly, not is or will Mbeki alone be guilty (for allegations which maybe have to be proved valid in a court of law and not through political conspiracy suspicions as it seems to be the norm on the present days) but the entire ANC and all its members for failing to take such disciplinary actions against him when it deemed necessary, valid and authentic will also be guilty”.

Sipho Nghona described Mbalula’s comments as “ignorant, immature and opportunistic at best”. Nghona said: “[We] all acknowledge that some serious mistakes were made during Mbeki’s tenure, but we should be big enough to acknowledge that these took place collectively under the watch of President Zuma, who at the time was the country’s Deputy President and Chairman of the South African National AIDS Council. The ANC and its alliance partners pride themselves in collectivism and implementing ANC policy in Government”.

Why is it now convenient to castigate a leader of Mbeki’s stature when collectively they could have avoided their now publicised concern? asked Nghona.

Fortunately for Mbeki, while sadly for Manamela, ANCYL present Julius Malema is reported to have said that the ruling party “would not allow former president Thabo Mbeki to be charged with genocide”. But as to whether he will be supported remains to be seen. Malema was quoted as saying Mbeki “might have made mistakes but we can never charge him”. “We must not charge one of our own. If we allow that, the same thing would happen to [Zimbabwean President Robert] Mugabe, and the same would happen to [President Jacob] Zuma, and the next thing you know they will come for you”, said Malema of Mbeki. And I do agree with agree with Nghona that “blaming Mr Mbeki will never solve any problems, but will be a catalyst to fuel more divisions and anarchy than finding meaningful solutions that will benefit millions of South Africans”.

So was charging Mbeki for genocide going to help in any way or was this just one of those ‘political score settling’ tactics?


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