articles from 2003

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Asia Africa Intelligence Wire,  25 February  2003

President Thabo Mbeki and Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang should be investigated on charges of genocide because of their stance on HIV and Aids, according to South African playwright and satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys. In a message addressed to "All who can take it further", he writes: "The weapon of mass destruction is in South Africa and being harboured by the South African president and his minister of health. It is HIV/Aids."

Uys called for an "investigative process" to be put in place as soon as possible, "with vigorous support in local South African and international legal and political circles". This process could result in Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang being summoned to appear before the International Court of Justice in The Hague for genocide. "Rather this happen now than in 10 years time, when the world will no doubt look back at 2003 and the actions of the South African president and his minister of health, and realise that by acting sooner, millions of lives could have been saved from an unnecessary death from Aids.

"The South African people are dying today because of government carelessness and political negligence," Uys said. Borrowing from government's rallying call to arise and act, Uys said: "The time to act is now. Vuk'uzenzele."

In his reaction, government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said South Africa was a free country, and all citizens, including Uys, enjoyed freedom of speech. "While we are convinced that there are limits to satire, we do recognise Uys' right to overstate matters and respond flippantly to serious issues."

The government urged all South Africans to unite against HIV and Aids in the campaign of hope and not despair, Netshitenzhe said. "We would have thought that Pieter-Dirk Uys would realise from his own experiences in Aids prevention, as most South Africans do, that searching for scapegoats and instant solutions is not the correct response to the challenge of HIV/Aids." Working with partners from all sectors of society, government would continue to implement the national comprehensive strategy on Aids, in all its elements, as the most rational approach to the pandemic, Netshitenzhe said.

Last year, Uys launched a 40-minute Aids awareness video, directed at people in the workplace, titled "Having sex with Pieter-Dirk". Introducing a range of South Africans, starting with apartheid-era cabinet minister Piet Koornhof, Uys used humour in the belief that laughing at one's fears makes people less fearful. "We are not laughing at HIV/Aids, we are laughing at the absurd attitudes and dangerous taboos that stop people receiving the information that can save their lives," Uys reportedly said at the time.

"The bottom line is clear: Aids will succeed in South Africa where apartheid failed. If 40 percent of our workforce is already HIV-positive in 2002, half of them will be dead in 2006. Investment will dwindle, business will shrink. Fears will again reign supreme." Uys also visited 200 schools and 400000 children in an Aids awareness drive throughout South Africa, and has recently performed in shows tackling Aids and politics, including Foreign Aids and Symbols of Sex and State.

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