Mbeki and AIDS in Frank Chikane's memoirs

Rev Frank Chikane was Mbeki's Director-General of the Presidency (see Wikipedia entry).

In July 2010 the Johannesburg Star ran a series of eight excerpts from Chikane's memoirs, No Life of My Own. They can be read as a single, combined, optimized PDF file, commencing with an introductory article about Chikane himself, here (PDF, 4.4 MB).

This bit deals with Mbeki's engagement with the AIDS controversy and the danger he understood his life was in over his obstruction of the pharmaceutical industry's marketing agenda for the countries of the South. And not for nothing.

In October 2010 the Durban Mercury and other provincial papers ran further excerpts from Chikane's book focusing specifically on Mbeki and AIDS. Although it's evident from his writing that Chikane doesn't appreciate the full extent of Mbeki's dissension from AIDS orthodoxy* and so doesn't report it entirely accurately (he has many historical inaccuracies too), his memoirs on the subject are nonetheless very interesting and contain fresh inside information about Mbeki's conviction and determination.

The excerpts are scanned and posted on this site as compressed jpeg files One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight under a fitting headline Battles of an African alongside a good Mbeki photo.

The three-day series of full-page feature articles dedicated to the subject of Mbeki and AIDS, and flagged on the Mercury’s front page, suggests that two years after Mbeki left office people remain fascinated by the scientific controversy he brought to public attention, both locally and internationally, and that white bourgeois and Loyal Native antipathy towards him for doing so** is now cooling to a point where the possibility of a dispassionate reappraisal of the scientific issues is approaching.  

Postscript 2013

Karl Gernetzky, ‘”Third parties” working to undermine government, Chikane warns in new book’, Business Day, 22 March 2013:

‘In his book “The Things that Could Not be Said” – a literary account of the most controversial policies of former president Thabo Mbeki, to be released this month – Rev Chikane says it is often difficult to accurately represent the actions and positions of the state. The book follows last year’s release of “Eight Days in September: The Removal of Thabo Mbeki,” an in depth account of the political turbulence between September 19 and September 26, 2008, which resulted in Mr Mbeki’s removal from the Presidency. According to Rev Chikane, the book was split into an account of the politics behind Mr Mbeki’s removal and an account of his most criticised policies, due to the volume of material. … On the most controversial aspect of Mr Mbeki’s legacy – HIV/Aids – Rev Chikane paints a picture of a president who was highly committed to combating the epidemic, but whose rigid intellectualism required a commitment to the same scepticism essential to scientific inquiry behind finding solutions to the virus. Mr Mbeki’s commitment to his ethics and willingness to speak out led to his being misunderstood and labelled as a denialist, the book claims. Rev Chikane reveals a disjuncture between a public that viewed Mr Mbeki’s positions as unethical and a president who was adamantly convinced his course of action was not only ethical but represented a different, almost higher phase of the liberation struggle for Africans and developing countries, which were being treated differently from developed countries also seeking to address the HIV/Aids epidemic. The public outrage over drugs and healthcare provision are counterpointed by Rev Chikane’s description of how Mr Mbeki attempted to act on his belief that attempts to guide the health system’s response to the epidemic needed to be more holistic, due to multiple factors contributing to the immune deficiency of patients requiring healthcare.’


* Read Mbeki's radical disassembly of the HIV-AIDS construct – there's no virus; the drugs are pure poison; it's basically racist ideology – in Castro Hlongwane: HIV-AIDS ... and the Struggle for the Humanization of the African. Released as a discussion document to a meeting of the ANC NEC in March 2002, Mbeki has since updated and amplified it to twice its original length.

** For collected examples of the typically hysterical tenor of criticism of Mbeki for doubting the integrity of Western HIV-AIDS orthodoxy, see ‘For very great is the number of the stupid’ (a remark of Galileo’s). The prospectus for ‘Just say yes, Mr President’: Mbeki and AIDS (in preparation) includes an extensive analysis of Mbeki biographer Mark Gevisser’s ignorant, opinionated snarling on AIDS behind his cutesy white South African liberal smile.