South Africa has the highest number of people infected with HIV in the world. Health advocates estimate that nearly 1,000 South Africans die from AIDS-related illnesses every day and 500 to 1,000 more are newly infected with HIV. However, the government's record on fighting HIV/AIDS has been dangerously inconsistent. ...Fine, but the President delegates this kind of thing to his ministries to deal with. That's not reassuring:
President Thabo Mbeki has a well-publicized suspicion of anti-retroviral treatments. Of late, the government has shown no vigor in trying to meet its goals.
Enter Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, South Africa's minister of health. She reportedly shares the president's distrust of anti-retroviral medications and has become public enemy No. 1 among AIDS activists, who refer to her as "Dr. Beetroot" or "Dr. Olive Oil." They accuse her of dragging her feet on drug programs — including one that would protect babies from contracting HIV from their mothers.AIDS is annually sending more than 300,000 to an early grave in South Africa alone (there are four other smaller African nations with higher prevalency rates). The National Party's apartheid regime, in contrast, killed hundreds or thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands in some of the tit-for-tat political violence between the National Party and the ANC and PAC and their respective sympathizers, in more than five decades of existence. Hard numbers are hard to come by (partially for political reasons, as they are relatively diminutive), but the worst incident has come to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre, in which 69 protesters were killed in nervous police fire.
Last year, Tshabalala-Msimang represented South Africa at an international conclave and extolled the power of salad fixings — beetroot, olive oil and a variety of fruits and vegetables — to fight the effects of HIV.
Mbeki has begun emulating Mugabe's disastrous land redistribution plan in Zimbabwe that has seen, starting with the ominous ending of the Lancaster Agreement at the end of the eighties, white Zimbabweans forced to sell their farmland at a tenth of market value in an economy with quadruple-digit inflation rates. A year later, that 10% payout is actually worth less than 1% of what the farm is. Stealing real assets during an inflationary period is especially damaging, since they hold their real value while paper plummets.
He is also emulating, or sharing in, the beliefs of King Mswati of neighboring Swaziland, whose attitude on AIDS prevention is similarly toxic. The king's top adviser on cultural matters, who also hosts a national radio program, is especially antagonistic:
Talk-show host Jim Gama was at his provocative best, answering letters from listeners who sought traditional Swazi solutions to the daily problems of modern life in this tiny African nation. ...This is what the end of white rule in sub-Saharan Africa looks like. While the IQ gap between white and black Africans averages about 30 points (similar to the difference in African American and Ashkenazi Jewish average IQs in the US), it's not just hopelessly incompetent leadership that is to blame. Cultural norms create a breeding ground for the spread of HIV:
Mr. Gama, who has called condoms "un-Swazi" and vowed never to use one himself, warned an HIV-positive man that the groups fighting AIDS in Swaziland "are full of half-truths and lies."
Health workers, research scientists and even the king's own AIDS council have concluded that polygamy, child marriage, widow inheritance and a culture in which women are virtually powerless have contributed to the disease's spread. A Swazi born in 1991 could expect to live 65 years. One born today will, on average, never see his 36th birthday, according to a new study led by Alan Whiteside, a Swazi-born economist specializing in AIDS at South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal.Geez, a decline in life expectancy of three decades, cutting Swazi longevity in half. Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of Africa that, despite two-thirds of its labor force being employed in agriculture, today cannot even feed itself. This is where South Africa is heading as its Euro-descended population continues to dwindle and the ANC continues to plunder those who remain.
The moral aspersions cast upon the West for setting sub-Saharan Africa on its self-destructive path stem from two major actions. Introducing it to the modern world and then failing to continue to lead it. The latter is generally portrayed as some sort of moral triumph, but that assumption is absurd in the face of contemporary Africa, which is experiencing greater poverty, higher mortality, and more instability than it did during colonial rule or minority white native rule.
Never having brought modern institutions, economic systems, and Western culture would've served Africans better than what has come to pass. Those who celebrated the socially debilitating sanctions against South Africa's 'apartheid regime' have the current state of southern Africa to answer to.
But what has come to be will have to work itself out. To the extent that the West can ameliorate the situation, it should do so through working to insure that nutritional supplements and birth control devices are distributed and used as ubiquitously as possible.