To: John Conyngham,

Editor, The Witness

21 June 2009

WHERE ARE ALL THE DEAD ZULUS?

Ten years ago, on 15 April 1999, an editorial in this newspaper entitled ‘HIV/Aids’ stated: ‘It has been confidently asserted that one third of the population of KwaZulu-Natal is now infected with the Aids-causing HIV virus. This statistic has been arrived at by a national survey that pools data from antenatal clinics … [T]he actual position is … very possibly worse. These figures match the dire predictions made years ago when Aids first caused concern. There was a time when those predictions were discounted: now the alarm is shown to be well founded. … [T]he rate of infection [is] increasing exponentially … Death does not come with terrifying swiftness: a full decade may pass before the sufferer (and carrier) eventually dies. … By the end of the first decade of the first millennium, most of those infected will probably be dead. Dying parents, many of them single mothers, will leave millions of orphaned children to be cared for. The work force that powers production in all sectors will be decimated, and worse. The potential for catastrophe is enormous.’ Just to make sure we all got suitably alarmed, and rushed out to buy condoms for the servants, the editorial concluded with an allusion to ‘the Biblical plagues of Egypt’ and everything.

The editorial followed an alarming report in this paper the day before, warning: ‘Up to a third of people in KwaZulu-Natal are infected with HIV, the virus that causes Aids. This figure is up from 1.61% in less than a decade.’ Indeed, twelve years earlier, on 6 August 1987, big news of the first alleged AIDS case hit the headlines of the Echo supplement: ‘Aids suspect has blood tested at Edendale Hospital’.

Your editorial was exaggerating a bit to claim ‘the rate of infection [is] increasing exponentially’, even though this sounded very exciting, because six years later in December 2005 the HSRC’s ‘HIV Prevalence’ report reckoned only 40,7% of women in KwaZulu-Natal are ‘infected with the Aids-causing HIV virus’.

Seeing as the study also found that luckily only 0.6% of whites in this country have got it (gone down to 0.3% in the HSRC’s latest report published earlier this month), the AIDS experts obviously meant an alarming 40,7% of the maids not the madams.

Which means that no matter how healthy she looks and how brightly she smiles about every second Zulu woman you see is a ‘carrier’ of deadly sex germs in her you know where, according to the scientific authorities, just waiting to jump out and give you AIDS!

A decade after it was ‘confidently asserted that one third of the population of KwaZulu-Natal is now infected’ and ‘a full decade may pass before the sufferer (and carrier) eventually dies’, leading this newspaper to predict, ‘By the end of the first decade of the first millennium, most of those infected will probably be dead’, could I please ask some stupid questions?

Why haven’t a third of the Zulus in this province gone to Heaven already? Where is the ‘decimated … work force’? And where are all those ‘millions of orphaned children’ left behind? I mean the ‘catastrophe’ you promised.

Sorry if I sound like a denialist.

ANTHONY BRINK
CAPE TOWN