Unimagined Community: Sex, Networks, and AIDS in Uganda and South Africa

By Robert J. Thornton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Imagining AIDS
South Africa’s Viral Politics

MBEKI’S DENIALISM — ITS ROOTS AND BRANCHES

The roots of what has come to be called President Thabo Mbeki’s “denialism” are undeniably deep in South African soil. Its branches are discernable in many aspects of health beliefs and medical practice in South Africa. It is far too simple to call it a denial. It points to a world of meanings — a worldview — that links almost every aspect of health and illness to the social rather than the medical. It is not a denial of knowledge or a denial of science and medicine. It is a refusal to bring into the mind’s eye, the imagination, a vision of the community of sufferers and the cause of their suffering.

President Mbeki has been in the forefront of efforts to reduce violent conflict in Africa, and to reform governments across the continent. He led the continent in formation of the African Union (AU), a new continentwide organization that has replaced the old, corrupt, and somnolent Organisation of African Unity. The AU instituted a program of peer review of African governments by other Africans in order to lead the continent toward good government and economic development. In the eyes of many South Africans, Mbeki is more concerned with the rest of Africa than he is with his own country. In most areas of government, Mbeki’s leadership has been excellent, and he has earned high approval ratings across the South African political and racial spectrum. Early in his presidency he announced the coming of the African

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