/ 3 October 2007

Stop defaming me, Qunta tells TAC

South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board deputy chairperson Christine Qunta has demanded the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) stop publishing defamatory material about her.

Qunta’s legal representatives sent a letter in this regard to the TAC on Wednesday, her lawyer, Athol Gordon, said.

”This letter became necessary after a persistent disinformation campaign by the TAC, including a media release concerning Ms Qunta entitled: ‘Unethical Promotion and Testing of Medicine on Humans — a Judicial Investigation into the Presidency and Health Ministry and Criminal Proceedings against Christine Qunta are Necessary’,” he said.

The letter noted, among other things, that media statements by the TAC were defamatory of Qunta and contained numerous falsehoods of and concerning her.

Qunta denied the TAC’s defamatory claims, and recorded that she had already responded fully to the reports by the Independent Newspapers group and the Sunday Times, to which the TAC referred.

The letter further noted that utterances were made by the TAC on September 30 in Guguletu that Qunta was profiting from the unlawful sale of unregistered herbal remedies which were being sold to HIV/Aids sufferers, and had called on people to mobilise and participate in a march to her offices on Thursday.

This intended gathering or demonstration might be illegal and its purpose was unlawful.

The letter demanded the TAC give a written undertaking on Wednesday that it would refrain from further publishing false statements about Qunta on its website or in any other media.

Further, the letter asked that the TAC to refrain from organising, or inciting members of the public to participate in any illegal or unlawful gathering and/or demonstration at or near Qunta’s offices — or any other place where she might be.

‘Irresponsible and defamatory’

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday laid a charge against Qunta of contravening provisions of the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act.

The charge was laid at Cape Town Central police station 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”. — Sapa