Stubborn Mbeki Denies the Blood on Hands

From HIV to Zimbabwe, S. African's inaction has cost lives, says Cohen
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2008 6:45 AM CDT
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, right, and his South African counterpart, Thabo Mbeki in Harare, Friday, May 9, 2008.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Five years ago Roger Cohen interviewed Thabo Mbeki in the New York Times, and even then the South African president insisted that Zimbabwe will "get over" its conflicts. So as supposed mediator in Zimbabwe's deepening economic and humanitarian disaster, why has Mbeki still done nothing? An earlier act of stubbornness might provide a clue: his AIDS denialism, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives in his own country.

In Mbeki's "angry vision," HIV does not cause AIDS, and the link between the two is a racist fabrication that parallels earlier white dehumanizations of black Africans. It's the very real crimes of apartheid that gave rise to Mbeki's appalling pseudoscience—and, writes Cohen, to his support for Mugabe, a tyrant in the guise of a liberator. "Mugabe must go, South Africa move on, and Mbeki must consider the blood that has flowed from his myopia," writes Cohen.