Thursday 17 December 2009

Dr. Beetroot is feeding beetroots

Dr. Beetroot is dead

It is with sadness that one reads of the passing of Dr. Manto Tshabalala Msimang [1] of South Africa, she was if you have forgotten the Health Minister during the tenure of President Thabo Mbeki.

This is significant because a certain study avers that between 2005 and 2008 about 300,000 South Africans died from HIV/AIDS whilst the President and his Health Minister took on the view that HIV did not really cause AIDS, that HIV/AIDS medication was too expensive and this medication could sometimes be harmful.

Speaking out of turn

It could well be that they had valid arguments but some of what they said did not have relevant research to support the claims, meanwhile, their fellow countrymen languished in the ravaging grip of the disease.

The Doctor in a conference on AIDS in Canada then went on to advise that people with HIV/AIDS should take olive oil, lemon, beetroot and the African potato which offered beneficial qualities to sufferers.

It is from this statement that she became widely known as Dr. Beetroot. Indeed healthy diets are necessary and there is a poverty issue related to it in terms of taking drugs but not associating that with rich diets that would help the efficacy of those drugs, but the drugs were essential.

The bad legacy of suspicion

It needed a willingness of the Mbeki government to acknowledge there was a problem with about 20% of the population affected, to consider negotiations allowing for drugs to be made available for more affordable cost and to have socio-economic plans implemented to lift people out of poverty into conditions that would be conducive to fighting the disease effectively.

By pandering to the politics of suspicion borne of their old apartheid struggles they failed many even though the people blindly supported this stance for the brotherhood of the liberation struggles.

Change eventually

Common sense eventually prevailed after activism, global opprobrium and with a very competent deputy Health Minister who later got sacked for lacking the loyalty of being a team-player whilst Dr. Beetroot was retained with her rumoured alcoholism problem and liver disease issues.

That, I think was one of the low points of President Mbeki’s tenure for all the great things he might have achieved. When Mr. Mbeki was ousted, and Dr. Beetroot was replaced, we all heaved a sigh of relief.

Much as one is saddened, one is outraged that political expediency reigned over a situation that should have had a more compassionate and responsible handling – the death of Dr. Beetroot marks the end of the embarrassment South Africa became in the fight against HIV/AIDS as personified in the office and statements she made.


[1] BBC News - South Africa HIV-row minister Tshabalala-Msimang dies

1 comment:

olaoluwatomi said...

Had a simulation of the issues around Dr Beetroot and the SA HIV saga in a class on Health Human Rights and the International System, twas interesting seeing her part played out, kind of funny that a doctor would have such notions but like they say 'anything can happen'

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