Aids activists target Manto the ‘deceiver’

Aids activists shouted down health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang on Tuesday when she tried to address a public health conference in Cape Town.

Blowing whistles and waving red ”wanted” posters, members of the Treatment Action Campaign shouted: ”Murderer” and ”Manto go to jail”, as she tried to make herself heard.

She was able to go on with her speech — flanked by police — only after TAC members read a statement accusing her of responsibility for Aids deaths. The protest was part of TAC’s week-long civil disobedience campaign to get the government to commit to an antiretroviral treatment programme.

Last week TAC laid a charge of culpable homicide against Tshabalala-Msimang and her trade and industry colleague Alec Erwin over what it said were 600 Aids-related deaths in South Africa every day.

Reading out the statement at Tuesday’s conference, a angry TAC chairman Zackie Achmat told her Aids activists were tired of promises. ”You have deceived, misrepresented, delayed and denied for too long. We hope you will prove us wrong by making an unequivocal and irreversible commitment to antiretroviral therapy.”

Tshabalala-Msimang stood near Achmat as he read the statement with a slight smile on her face and at one stage offered him a tissue to wipe the sweat from his face. He rejected it.

”Does someone decent have a tissue?” he asked.

”That is democracy in South Africa,” said Tshabalala-Msimang as she resumed her place at the speaker’s lectern, now flanked by uniformed police.

”You’ve had your say, now I’m going to have my say. I think you can be decent now.”

Earlier about 160 TAC members blockaded the entrance to the grounds of the Woodstock Holiday Inn, where the conference is being held, in a bid to stop the minister entering.

However, she slipped in unnoticed through a parking garage entrance at another level. – Sapa

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Ben Maclennan
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