/ 4 October 2007

TAC stands by Qunta statement

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) says it stands by its statement on South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board deputy chairperson Christine Qunta and on Thursday laid complaints against her and the company Comforters Healing Gift with authorities.

”The TAC stands by our statement. We reiterate our views that Christine Qunta promotes pseudoscience and that as a director on its board, she bears responsibility for the Aids profiteering of Comforters Healing Gift,” the TAC said in a statement.

”She is consequently unfit to be a lawyer, a member of the SABC board, a member of the presidential task team on African traditional medicines in South Africa or to hold any public office whatsoever,” it said.

On Thursday morning, TAC members gathered at St George’s Cathedral to hand over a complaint against Qunta, her associate Freddie Isaacs, and Comforters Healing Gift to the director of public prosecutions, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Cape Law Society.

Two TAC members also went to Qunta Incorporated’s offices in the Reserve Bank Building to give Qunta a copy of the complaint.

On Wednesday, Qunta’s legal representatives demanded the TAC stop publishing defamatory material about her.

Her lawyer, Athol Gordon, said this had become necessary after a persistent disinformation campaign by the TAC, including media statements that were defamatory of Qunta and contained numerous falsehoods of and concerning her.

A lawyer’s letter to the TAC demanded it give a written undertaking to refrain from further publishing false statements about Qunta on its website or in any other media.

Further, the letter demanded the TAC 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.

In its statement on Thursday, the TAC said the letter ”failed to state what was false in our statement, which in any case, only contained information that was already publicly available”.

The TAC also dismissed the demand that it refrain from protesting outside Qunta’s offices, saying everyone in South Africa had a constitutional right to freedom of expression, which included the right to protest.

”TAC frequently expresses this right. This is not harassment or intimidation,” it said.

Gordon was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

‘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 a director of 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