I am reading R.W. Johnson’s extraordinary history of South African since the transition to majority rule ‘South Africa’s Brave New World: the Beloved Country since the End of Apartheid’. I will blog more about it when I have finished it. It reveals in devastating detail the sheer political incompetence, corruption and catastrophic economic results of the government of South Africa by the African National Congress (ANC) particularly under Mandela’s successor Thabo Mbeki.
South Africa during this period had not received the media attention it received under Apartheid. But during this period a catastrophic policy of self-genocide-by-neglect has been in force and its victims are the Black population of South Africa. If this had happened under Apartheid, there would be a massive international outcry and economic boycott. But under the cover provided by Nelson Mandela’s moral stature, this has happened with little international outcry outside the medical profession and aid agencies.
What is the form of this self-genocide: denial that HIV and AIDS were related and refusal to use proven Western pharmaceutical drugs to prevent AIDS transmission, and mitigate the diseases progress. Also a denialist refusal to educate the population on safe sex, and act to counter the reality that South Africa is the rape capital of the world. An estimated 70% of Black women have been subject to forced sex.
Johnson puts it:
Thus the unhappy story of Mbeki, the ANC and AIDS. No other policy or event did more to damage all the actors involved. By 2008 2.5 million South Africans had already died of AIDS, often in misery and ostracism, many deliberately deprived of medicines the could have saved them. This regiment of the damned included huge numbers of small children, innocents put to the slaughter. This ruined not only Mbeki’s reputation but the reputation of cabinet members who supported him or refused to dissent while countless lives were lost. It also showed up the new elite’s callous attitude to the African masses, whose interests they claimed to be pursuing. Even the ANC’s long crusade against Apartheid was devalued, for Apartheid never committed genocide like this. AIDS was also responsible for South Africa’s fall down the rankings of the UN Human Development Index from number 85 to 120 in 2004.
After diagnosing the causes of this policy catastrophe (which he details at length) in terms of Mbeki’s paranoia, victimhood and refusal to face reality, (though to be fair the Afrikaner Apartheid government helped build the paranoia over many decades) he goes on to say:
Thus Mbeki’s attitude to AIDS was not an isolated aberration nor was it a purely individual matter. Sadly, AIDS is indeed a metaphor of the wider African condition. The denialist attitudes to which it has given rise are simply the most powerful sign of how disabled, irrational, and self-referential black consciousness in South Africa had become during its long unequal struggle against white supremacy.
There is another reputation in tatters: Nelson Mandela did nothing to stop the dying. He put ANC solidarity and his loyalty to the movement ahead of the interests of his people. History will not judge him well for this. Nor will the estimated 11% of the population and17% of the 15-49 year olds living with AIDS. This is 5.6 million people.
Mass killer by denial and neglect Thabo Mbeki (1942-):