Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has come out strongly in
defence of his late friend, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang denying that
thousands of South Africans have died due to the previous government’s
Aids policy. Tshabalala-Msimang, who died Wednesday, was health minister under Mbeki’s rule.
“Anti-retroviral medicines (ARVs) have always been part of the public
health system and the people have always received them,” a statement
from Mbeki spokesperson said Thursday.
Reports say according to research done by the Harvard School of Public
Health in the US, over 330 000 people died as a result of Aids between
2000 and 2005, because they did not receive ARVs from the government
But Mbeki said the health department, with the guidance of
Tshabalala-Msimang, followed a “holistic approach” to fight HIV/Aids.
“If you put this policy and the implementation thereof under a
microscope, it’s difficult to comprehend where anyone could find the
proof of 330 000 deaths.”
However, the Treatment Action Campaign has called on South Africans
and the world to forgive Tshabalala-Msimang for her Aids policies.
Beetroot, Garlic and Olive Oil
Tshabalala-Msimang was criticised by the TAC during her time as health
minister in the Mbeki presidency – from 1999 to 2008 – for her
reluctance to provide anti-retroviral treatment to Aids sufferers.
Instead, she advocated a healthy diet that included beetroot, garlic
and olive oil.
The Pan Africanist Congress Youth League said on Thursday that
Tshabalala-Msimang should not be held responsible for controversial
“Our people should be reminded that Tshabalala-Msimang was not
developing policy by herself, but she was implementing and defending
ANC policy,” it said in a statement.
“The masses of our people and the media should be reminded that it’s
ANC that has been running government since 1994, therefore everything
good and everything bad that happened should be blamed squarely on the ANC.”
Last month, current health minister Aaron Motsoaledi said South
Africa’s death rate doubled over the last decade due to the spread of
Aids blaming the crisis on government policies under Mbeki.
“In 11 years — from 1997 to 2008 — the rate of death has doubled in
South Africa. That is obviously something that cannot but worry a
person,” he said adding that in 1997 the total number of deaths stood
about 300 000.
Last year the figure was estimated at 756 000. Most of the Aids-related deaths were among young people, especially women.