/ 1 October 2007

DA lays charge against Qunta

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has laid a charge against South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board deputy chairperson Christine Qunta of contravening provisions of the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act.

The charge was laid at Cape Town Central police station on Monday by DA spokesperson Mike Waters.

The charges relate to Qunta’s association with a product ”that is being touted as a cure for Aids to desperate HIV-positive people in South Africa”, he said.

”People like Ms Qunta, who associate themselves with untested products for which impossible claims are made, are profiteering from South Africa’s tragic Aids epidemic instead of taking constructive action to reduce infections and help those infected.

”The appropriate authorities, and in particular the Medicines Control Council, refuse to act.

”Therefore the DA is obliged to take action itself to ensure that the law is applied,” Waters said.

During recent interviews for a new SABC board, it was disclosed that Qunta was the director of a company called Comforter’s Healing Gift.

”The products this company makes have not been properly tested. No clinical trials have yet been conducted on them.

”There is no proof whatsoever that it has any ability to fight off HIV, let alone eliminate it. Yet claims have been made by a co-director of this company that the product is able to cure Aids,” Waters said.

Selling and marketing the substance was not only illegal, but ”grossly unethical and exploitative”.

The medicines Act made it absolutely clear that no one could associate themselves in any way with the promotion of an untested medical product.

Although Qunta had not directly associated herself with the product, as a director of the company, the section of the medicines Act that made it illegal to ”authorise, direct or allow a sale of” a medical product should apply.

”Her high public profile has given this company and its products a level of exposure that would never have been possible without her intervention and therefore she must be held accountable for her association with it,” Waters said.

Qunta’s lawyer said last week that allegations that Qunta is involved in a company selling medicines purported to cure HIV/Aids were ”irresponsible and defamatory”.

Athol Gordon, from Bowman Gilfillan attorneys, was responding to a threat by Zachie Achmat of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to take court action if Qunta was officially reappointed to the SABC board.

”Our client regards the unsubstantiated allegations made concerning her by Mr Achmat of the TAC as irresponsible and defamatory,” Gordon said.

He said Qunta would not conduct a debate in the media regarding allegations that lacked a factual basis.

”It is apparent that this is a calculated attack on our client’s reputation by the TAC and appropriate legal action is being considered,” he said.

Lats Wednesday, Achmat said that if President Thabo Mbeki officially re-appointed Qunta to the board, the TAC would definitely take the matter to court. — Sapa