God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

17.12.2009 Manto and her legacy…

Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has died and it is amazing to see the reaction from around the world. From wishing her to “burn in hell” till the praise of “nation building” there is not one gray shadow, which one can not encounter seeing what it is said and written about her. You don’t say something bad about a dead person, I was taught in my childhood, but this wisdom does not to count anymore. So what can one say as an AIDS activist and a priest?

So difficult to say: I do remember sitting next to her at a Durban AIDS conference and discussing her controversal stands on antiretrovirals. I also do remember the embarrassment of the South African stall in Toronto during the World AIDS Conference where she singing and dancing visited the exhibit of natural remedies, forgetting about the medication. And I do remember the collective outcry thereafter. I do remember her seemingly to enjoy being controversial at conferences. And I do remember her at a visit at Red Cross Children’s hospital, which she clearly loved very much.

I remember all my sentiments while listening to her beetroot and vitamin talks – and I am aware, that thousands have died because of her resistance to HAART treatment.
She was wrong, deadly wrong for thousands of people, but still – I refuse to condemn her completely. I have no idea what was really in her mind. I never understood why she resisted the obvious and why she kept up her views proven wrong so many times.

I am sure also in her life there was some light, some good, some moments of giving and loving and appreciation. I refuse to believe that she caused the death of people on purpose. My anger about the past dealing with HIV in South Africa remains, but I believe that it needed much more than just one person to mess it up so completely. It also needed all those in her department who followed and implemented this nonsense. It also needed the cowardice of a whole bunch of people assisting her.

So instead of damning now one person, lets rather look to create structures where obviously wrong politics will have no chance to blossom; Manto is for me in this sense a lesson to learn also for the future of South Africa. Let her rest in peace.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Treatment, Politics and Society, Reflection, , , ,

HIV, Development and HOPE – thoughts of a Catholic priest

Being a Roman - Catholic priest and working in the fields of HIV and social development in Africa has its challenges. You will find stories and reflections about my work, about the church, South Africa and Africa, about politics and whatever triggers my interest. You are most welcome to leave a comment or to get in touch with me. Blogging means to initiate thoughts and discussions and for the writer to formulate what is loosely running around in the heart and mind in need of being sorted and spoken out.

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