/ 30 June 2003

Buthelezi lashes Mbeki’s Aids stance

More people tend to die of HIV/Aids than all those who died in wars fought in South Africa during the past two centuries, says South African Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

The Inkatha Freedom Party leader also lashed out at South African President Thabo Mbeki on his stance on HIV/Aids.

“The war on HIV/Aids cannot be won if the general and commander in-chief [Thabo Mbeki] is not committed to winning it. We will never understand why it took a constitutional court decision to distribute [the antiretroviral] nevirapine.

“We will never understand why more than a year after that decision was handed down; there are still many, many places in our country which are not honouring it.

“We will never understand why government has not developed a policy to give nevirapine to all the mothers who could be HIV-infected, to prevent transmission to their newborn babies, if need be on a prophylactic basis.”

Speaking at an Aids awareness day rally in Umlazi, Durban on Sunday, Buthelezi said: “At least in this province [where his party co-rules with the African National Congress] we must ensure that the constitutional court decision is fulfilled wherever anyone practices medicine as a doctor, a nurse or a midwife.”

In a hard-hitting speech Buthelezi — who is also traditional premier of the Zulu kingdom — said the war which was waged to destroy the Zulu Kingdom, the oppression of colonialism, racism and apartheid and the fratricide conflicts of the past during the armed struggle “have not killed as many people as those who stand to die because of HIV/Aids”.

Government, institutions of civil society and individuals must act in partnership to “win this war” against HIV/Aids, he said.

“At the individual and community level it is essential that the facts of HIV/Aids be conveyed to, and understood by, all.

“We need to become open in talking about the facts of HIV/Aids which, to a great extent, are the facts of sex and the facts of life. In my tradition we did not used to be open in talking about sex, and when we did talk about it we would giggle and be shy about it.

“Condoms must be used on all occasions … only when there is absolute certainty of sexual faithfulness on both sides and after there has been testing of the blood, only on that occasion, should condoms not be used.”

According to Zulu culture people waited until they married before having full relations as man and wife.

“The kind of petting which unmarried people indulged in, did not involve deflowering someone else’s daughter. It was a serious offence even if it did not result in any pregnancy.

“That is why the harsh Zulu pejorative of ‘isihhobho’ was actionable in accordance with Zulu law and one could pay heavy damages for using that pejorative in describing any unmarried female. It meant that she was no longer chaste.”

“With this background I have great admiration for the views that have been expressed the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference in emphasising the teaching of the Church in this matter rather just to sing only the song of prophylactics. It is embarrassing to speak about these prophylactics even in the presence of young children, who have yet to know about sex,” said Buthelezi. – I-Net Bridge