July 18, 2006
Former South African President and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela turned 88 years old today. On Monday he held a private party for the staff of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The Foundation works on two of Mandela’s concerns: making a difference on the HIV/AIDS issue and improving the situation of children in rural schools.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail (about a third of this life), said he never expected to live to be 88. One remarkable feature of Mandela both as an individual and leader of a Free South Africa was his quest for knowledge. Even the mental and emotional torture of 27 years on Robben Island was not a barrier for education. In his memoirs, “Long Walk to Freedom,” Mandela wrote:
“As freedom fighters and political prisoners, we had an obligation to improve and strengthen ourselves, and study was one of the few opportunities to do so”.
This rings true today in Africa as its people mobilize and demand a knowledge-driven leadership where the country’s administrators are learned people who make sound decisions on economic and social policy issues while engaging civil society.
May he continue to lead us forward for the next 88 years.
May 10, 2006
I wanted to follow-up on yesterday’s post on the acquittal of Jacob Zuma. First–check out the NYT’s scathing editorial on why letting him back into political life would be a disservice to the country.
Women’s groups have condemned the verdict and AIDS activists have also spoken against Zuma for hurting the cause. Today’s Independent Online picked up a story from AFP reporting that a senior UN envoy criticized the former South African deputy president for his “unacceptable male behavior” and “appalling uninformed testimony” during his trial.
“Zuma has done irreparable damage to efforts to curb the spread of the deadly disease with actions that came to light in his recent rape trial,” said Stephen Lewis, UN chief Kofi Annan’s special envoy for Aids in Africa. “I feel embarrassed for the African leadership and if you will forgive me that has been the situation in South Africa where the voice of political leadership has been both confused and confusing.”
The confusion Lewis is referring to is what AIDS activists have long complained about—lack of commitment from their government officials. President Thabo Mbeki once remarked that AIDS is a disease caused by poverty and Health Minister Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has advocated a diet of garlic, beetroot and olive oil as an antidote in lieu of anti retrolviral drugs.
I did a Google news & blog search looking for different media reports on Zuma—and haven’t been able to find a match to a second story on the Independent Online. Allegedly, the testimony of Zuma’s 23-year-old daughter, Duduzile, helped her father get acquitted. The news story reports that the judge unwaveringly believed Duduzile’s account and afterward praised the young woman for her testimony. Read the rest of this entry »
May 9, 2006
I have written a couple of posts before on HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The verdict for SA’s former deputy president Jacob Zuma was reported yesterday. AllAfrica.com picked up the story from IRIN. No surprise really that he was acquitted on rape charges. While the judge believed the sex was consensual, he did chastise Zuma for not using protection even though he knew the woman was HIV-positive. In Blogher’s post she excerpted this bit from the NYT. It’s upsetting that this attitude still exists:
“AIDS hotlines were briefly besieged after his testimony with queries from men asking whether soap and water could prevent AIDS infections. Judge Van der Merwe said today that Mr. Zuma’s remark was beneath comment.”
What this trial has done is draw attention to sexual violence in South Africa, which IRIN reports as having one of the highest incidences of reported rape in the world. Women’s rights groups like People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) protested outside the courthouse during Zuma’s trial. POWA was part of the “One in Nine”campaign. This is in reference to the number of women who have reported being raped. Between April 2004 and March 2005, 55,114 cases were reported to the police. Read the rest of this entry »
April 23, 2006
Last Thursday a top AIDS activist group pulled out of South Africa’s delegation to a U.N. forum on HIV/AIDS, saying it could not “lend respectability” to the government’s approach to the pandemic.
South Africa’s approach to AIDS has always received criticism from the international community. This is nothing new–what is upsetting is that they undermine and refuse to support the work of local agencies.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) which often clashes with President Thabo Mbeki’s government on AIDS policy, said after they were left out of the upcoming UN meeting:
“officials had excluded critics and handpicked supporters to show a united front at the coming U.N. General Assembly Special Session on AIDS.”
The activists claim 900 South Africans die of AIDS-related diseases every day and estimates that 5.6 million of the country’s 45 million people are infected with HIV. TAC’s campaign for anti-retroviral drugs is credited with pushing the South African government to announce a public treatment program in 2003. Despite this, TAC claims access to the drugs has been slow because of a “lack of political will by Health Minister Dr. Tshabalala-Msimang.”
What can be done to raise HIV/AIDS awareness in a country when the government is covering their eyes, ears and mouths like the “See No Evil” monkeys? Turn to the local media to mobilize people?