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2001: Mbeki, AIDS and Race

In a lecture at Fort Hare University in late October 2001, Mbeki inferred that traditional explanations of the sexually transmitted diseases were racist.

Reported the Mail&Guardian:

"Mbeki's address, at the inaugural ZK Matthews memorial lecture on October 12, makes no direct reference to the disease.

However, after referring to medical schools where black people were "reminded of their role as germ carriers", he says: 'Thus does it happen that others who consider themselves to be our leaders take to the streets carrying their placards, to demand that because we are germ carriers, and human beings of a lower order that cannot subject its [sic] passions to reason, we must perforce adopt strange opinions, to save a depraved and diseased people from perishing from self-inflicted disease.'

He returns to the theme two paragraphs later: "Convinced that we are but natural-born, promiscuous carriers of germs, unique in the world, they proclaim that our continent is doomed to an inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to the sin of lust." (read full speech)

In a parliamentary debate in 2004, Mbeki lashed out at people who saw a link between HIV/AIDS and the sexual behaviour of black Africans. The Mail&Guardian reported him as saying:

"I will not keep quiet while others whose minds have been corrupted by the disease of racism accuse us, the black people of South Africa, Africa and the world, as being, by virtue of our Africanness and skin colour, lazy, liars, foul-smelling, diseased, corrupt, violent, amoral, sexually depraved, animalistic, savage and rapist." (see full speech)

Using language which disconcerted some of his own supporters, Mbeki said certain white people regarded black people as 'rampant sexual beasts, unable to control our urges, unable to keep our legs crossed, unable to keep it in our pants'."

In a 2002 research paper, South African researcher Mandisa Mbali described Mbeki's HIV/AIDS position as a struggle "fuelled by his own mistaken belief that Western biomedical mainstream understandings of the causes and treatments of HIV and AIDS are part of a plot to discredit Africans, their culture and sexuality. In arguing this he is wrestling with the ghosts of colonial medicine and old traditions in Western culture projecting ‘negative' sexual practices and sexual traits onto the Other." (read paper)

Wits Journalism Anova Health

The project is jointly managed by the Anova Health Institute and the Journalism and Media Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. The project is funded by by the Health Communication Partnership based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Centre for Communication Programmes and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief through the United States Agency for International Development under terms of Award No. JH/HESA-02-05 and through the Anova Health Institute through PEPFAR via USAID under Award No. AID-674-A-12-00015.