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Wednesday, 20 September, 2000, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Church enters SA Aids row
South African President Thabo Mbeki
Mbeki: Under pressure to back down on Aids stance
The Anglican Church in South Africa says history will judge the government's inaction over Aids as a crime against humanity on the same scale as apartheid.

The head of the Church, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, issued a statement saying it was becoming increasingly clear that the South African Government would not come up with a solution to the Aids problem.

What is becoming increasingly clear is the futility of looking to government for a solution. At the very least, we need to apply pressure on our political leaders to change this situation.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane
The government says that poverty and other diseases, as well as HIV, cause Aids, and has refused to provide medication for people with HIV.

There is growing anger in South Africa that so much time is being spent arguing over - rather than acting against - a virus that is infecting 1,500 people every day.

The country's Human Rights Commission has said it is considering taking the government to court for its failure to supply cheap drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus.

According to government figures, 4.2m people - about 10% of the population - were infected with HIV at the end of last year.

Mbeki isolated

President Mbeki has found himself increasingly isolated over the past few days as members of his cabinet and his governing alliance have stated that they believe beyond doubt in the linkage.

He himself started the row when he rejected HIV as the sole cause of Aids. He has not so far clearly retracted the statement, despite huge pressure to do so.

And ministers have found themselves publicly embarrassed in recent weeks when trying to avoid answering the question of whether HIV causes Aids.

Members of Cosatu
Trade unions says Mr Mbeki's stance is confusing
The ANC's historic partners in government, the Trades Union Federation and the Communist Party have both come out with strong statements that they believe in an irrefutable link.

President Mbeki's spokesmen are trying to blame the dispute on the media, arguing that journalists are to blame by arrogantly demanding a straight yes or no from him.

But our correspondent says there is growing concern about the nature of a government which seems not to be listening to its people and to be ruling its own members in a less than democratic manner.

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See also:

11 Sep 00 | Africa
ANC in showdown with unions
11 Jul 00 | Africa
Aids threat to Africa's economy
14 Sep 00 | Africa
'Don't call me Manto'
14 Sep 00 | Africa
SA Government steps into Aids row
14 Jul 00 | Health
Pressure on Mbeki over Aids
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