January 13 – 19 2006

loveLife on target

Your report (”Documents contradict loveLife”, January 6) appears to be based on selective release of internal documents by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria secretariat. It is not clear whether they also made public the findings of two independent panels of experts appointed to appraise the facts concerning loveLife’s performance.

The documents handed to the Mail & Guardian contradict the fund’s own performance report of loveLife, which says ”achievement of results has met or exceeded targets in nearly every area in spite of their cash situation”.

The fund neglects to tell the M&G that it backtracked on assertions of loveLife’s performance, informing its board in September last year that there was ”no major disagreement” on performance as ”indicators ranged from 73% to 245% with the exception of [new building] construction (45%)”.

The report commissioned by the fund to review loveLife’s finances had to be withdrawn and rewritten once it was established that it contained fundamental mistakes leading to erroneous conclusions. Just to be sure, loveLife requested that the auditor general review its finances, confirming that financial management is sound.

The technical review panel (TRP) appointed by the board found that, ”overall, the pressing need for interventions aimed at reducing the impact of HIV among young people in South Africa, combined with the appropriateness of the revised strategy in this proposal, convinced the TRP to recommend to the board that this proposal be funded”. In the end, the board was evenly split on continuation of funding, short of the two-thirds required.

Throughout Phase 1, administrative delays by the Global Fund led to payment to loveLife being three to six months in arrears. Despite operating in deficit and with less than expected income because of currency fluctuations, loveLife met almost all performance targets. Through this funding, more than 350 more clinics provide teen-friendly services and attract far more young people to HIV prevention services than before. More than half a million young people participated every month in loveLife’s outreach programmes in 3 700 schools. It’s a massive undertaking that has enabled loveLife to reach the deepest rural areas and to cross the thresholds of scale needed to have prospects of major impact. Now’s not the time to cut back. — David Harrison, CEO, loveLife

I would like to express my initial views as a relatively new resident in South Africa. I concur with your editorial (”A new doorway”) in the January 6 edition. It would be excellent to hear from Thabo Mbeki more. In the United Kingdom we hear from our politicians too much, here too little. I learnt more about South Africa’s Aids crisis there.

Why is the Aids crisis allowed to continue? Is it a cynical ploy by the government to reduce unemployment or help solve the housing deficit? Isn’t the ”loveLife” campaign too subtle? We’re talking about a deadly disease.

It is a pity the victims are largely invisible. Let us see a hard-hitting campaign featuring gravestones and orphans. How about Tokyo Sexwale’s ”Condomise or Die?” If large sectors of the population are ignorant of the disease, it behoves the government to educate them.

Aids is not an easy problem to solve. But to fail adequately to tackle the problem is to condemn thousands to death. The powers that be must shoulder the burden or take the blame. — Beverley Bhaskare, Johannesburg

Stop these tabloid tactics

Let’s hope this is a seasonal glitch, but I don’t know when last I was left so completely puzzled by an Mail & Guardian cover picture (”The new colour of money: Poor whites, rich blacks”, December 23). After reading the articles, my confusion simply grew because there is absolutely no connection between the very specific message sent and intended by the picture, and the content spread over three pages.

Race is foregrounded, which simply serves to obscure the fact that there was a blatant comparison between unskilled white people and skilled, educated and/or well networked black people. It would be more interesting to compare like categories in terms of race, class, gender, age and so on, but I guess that does not sell newspapers!

Globalisation affects the unskilled negatively and favours the skilled and educated, regardless of their colour. In addition, a significant number of skilled and educated white people have a historical economic advantage over unskilled, emerging and ”emerged” black people because of inherited wealth and connections that span decades. The colour of money is definitely still white from where I’m sitting! Tabloid tactics don’t become you, M&G. — Sarah Henkeman, Pinelands

It is sensationalist and misleading to represent the class-race differentiation in South Africa as migrating towards a poor white, rich black scenario in a majority white-owned economy. The headline suggests that white poverty is occurring at the cost of black empowerment and plays into the psychology that black people are incapable of success without white sacrifice. In truth, colonial and apartheid economies were built on black exploitation and disenfranchisement. By presenting the problem as a black-white trade-off, the M&G perpetuates South African stereotypes that it challenged vociferously during apartheid. Why does the media seem incapable of writing articles about poverty without referring to race? The articles reveal a lack of political astuteness and consistency and a mentality that belongs in the old South Africa. Give us something new. — Camaren Peter

Goldstein does not deserve your praise

Your newspaper continues to regard Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein with fondness, recently ranking him among leaders possessing values to which our country should aspire (”Dreamers, dazzlers and doers”, December 23). The record of the rabbi does not warrant such acclaim.

Despite a rhetorical commitment to democracy in South Africa, Goldstein has done little to lead South African Jews towards an engaged and principled involvement. He opposed the visit to South Africa of Steven Greenberg, the brave gay Orthodox rabbi and stood by while Greenberg was hounded out of the Jewish day schools. Moreover, Goldstein has not acknowledged Jewish Outlook, the new Jewish gay organisation.

At last year’s Holocaust Memorial, Goldstein walked off the stage when a woman sang as part of the programme. Recently he boycotted the 10th anniversary commemoration of late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on the grounds that he would not appear alongside a Reform rabbi.

Particularly disturbing are Goldstein’s views on Israel/Palestine. He authored a booklet, available from the SA Zionist Federation, which captures his version of Middle East history and effectively purges Israel of responsibility for conflicts past or present.

We find ourselves in the amusing situation where the conservative Jewish Report features more criticism of the chief rabbinate than the Mail & Guardian. I suggest the paper turn a more critical eye on Goldstein, as continuing to hold him up as an example of progressive values is a sham. — Steven Levin, Cape Town

Don’t throw them the crumbs

While newspapers and opposition parties constantly lambaste the government for lack of delivery, the issues raised in Nieu Bethesda (Friday, January 6) highlight how the poor have been constantly marginalised and reduced to receiving the crumbs from the table, instead of fully participating in their development as envisaged in policy and legislation. This state often arises because the levels of services and the associated tariffs are developed without consultation with the community or acknowledging the socio–economic and geographical restrictions.

I have been visiting Nieu Bethesda for the past eight years and have become very aware of all the development issues in the place. At the moment the big issue is the complete lack of housing. Not a single additional house has been provided since 1994 and no one in authority has shown any inclination to release land to ease the situation. This, combined with a very racist outlook by many members of the white population, consultants and so on, has led to the occupation of the commonage and adverse publicity locally and internationally.

Outsiders have promoted development in the area, rather than addressing the issues raised by the community, the biggest being sustainable employment. All of the projects have three things in common: they promote short-term employment, are good for the consulting engineers’ fees and do nothing to promote sustainable human settlement. The community is supposed to be grateful for the crumbs of employment thrown to them.

If the same money had been invested in new and improved housing, using local building materials and appropriate levels of service, a large proportion of the funds would have flowed to the community rather than outsiders. — Richard Holden, Bellevue East, Johannesburg

Bitchy, throwaway comments

The review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (December 23) was sloppy and ill-conceived. Shaun de Waal flip-flops between a review of the film (where he makes telling points), a review of the book (where he is on shaky ground), and a comparison between CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien (where the wheels come off).

De Waal describes links between Lewis and Tolkien, but overlooks the most significant — they were both distinguished academics. This is important because both brought a depth of understanding of literature and historical forms to their fiction.

The comparison between Lord of the Rings and The Lion is not apt. As De Waal notes, the Chronicles were written for children. The only Tolkien work explicitly for children was The Hobbit (1937). A more appropriate comparison with the Lord of the Rings is Lewis’s superb trilogy — Out of the Silent Planet (1938), Perelandra (1943) and That Hideous Strength (1945). (Note the publication dates — not post World War II.)

These are popular works, in the sense that they were written for the general public, but to describe them as ”pop-Christianity” with patronising overtones of superficiality is a gross insult to the generations of Christians and non-Christians who have been inspired by their insights.

One might question the origin of De Waal’s tone of bitchiness — from the inaccurate derogatory statements to the throwaway comment on the use of Liam Neeson’s voice for Aslan. Neeson was ideal for the role — whatever the availability of Sean Connery might have been. — Ed Dexter, Johannesburg

Reject this racism

The recent killings of two Zimbabwean nationals in Olievenhoutbosch, near Pretoria, and other unreported killings and harassment of foreign nationals — whether deemed illegal or not — cannot, in a civilised society, go unchallenged.

There are thousands of illegal foreign immigrants from Pakistan, India, China and Portugal in South Africa, but they are hardly attacked or labelled as illegal.

The prejudice that my fellow African brothers are exposed to is purely because of the colour of their skin.

Ill-treatment of Africans from other parts of the continent should be condemned in the strongest possible language. — Ntwampe Morata, Bochum

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