Today is World Aids Day



Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Weekly Newsletter to the Nation

My dear friends and fellow South Africans,

Today is World Aids Day. Yesterday I was present at a ceremony at which Vodacom handed over six cars to the King’s HIV/Aids Foundation.

I noted that one of the improbable spin-offs from this tragedy had been the unlikely coalitions that have emerged in South Africa. What else, I asked, but the HIV/Aids pandemic could bring together treatment activists, people living with the virus, the trade unions, the Churches and big business, such as Vodacom?

But I still feel that we are not doing enough as a collective.

The most recent statistics indicate that about 250, 000 young South Africans aged between 15 and 24 became infected with HIV this year (Business Day, 30 November 2006). This means that the key target of the government’s prevention programmes is still not being hit. We need to find out why. The ABC message, though important, is not enough.

I am dismayed that nothing came of my call in a parliamentary debate in 2004 that we convene at least one day a month for a dedicated session to evaluate the progress that the Executive and parliamentarians are making in the fight against HIV/Aids. If we were engaged in a military campaign with a similar numbers of causalities, I am sure that this would have happened long ago. I still believe such a lead from parliament could play a decisive, if not the determining role, in winning the people’s war.

In my tribute to outgoing DA leader Tony Leon this week, I complemented him on how he employed his considerable rhetorical skills "to devastating effect against his political opponents; and that, importantly, is how he saw those on the opposing benches: as opponents, not enemies".

On this note, we will know this time next year who President Thabo Mbeki’s successor will be – and the person most likely to be the next President of South Africa.

Unlike in Britain where Gordon Brown will almost definitely succeed Tony Blair as the leader of Labour (a sister party of the ANC in Socialist International), the ANC’s leadership battle will not be a coronation and is set to be bruising.

I appeal to my colleagues on the opposition benches, as much as those on the government’s benches, to ensure that this important debate takes place in a civilised manner with a healthy tolerance of other people’s viewpoints.

That also means that the ANC must understand that we who sit on the opposition benches have a contribution to make to this debate because its outcome affects us all. When we disagree, let us do so without being disagreeable in our conduct.

Yours sincerely,