The Virodene affair (I)


The secret history of the ANC’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic

The involvement by the ANC of Mbeki in the promotion, protection, and development of Virodene – an ‘African solution’ for the African HIV/AIDS epidemic – is one of the most important, but least understood episodes in recent South African history.

The story sprung to prominence in early 1997 after the South African cabinet announced that a possible cure for AIDS had been discovered. It subsequently dropped out of the public consciousness after the Medicines Control Council blocked trials of the drug in South Africa.

A great deal of new information has trickled out over the past few years about how the Virodene developers then went overseas to have the drug tested – first in the United Kingdom and then Tanzania – and who funded them.

In broad terms the ANC’s involvement in the financing of the Tanzanian trials has been on the public record since mid-2002. However, over the weekend Fiona Forde reported in the Saturday Star that much of the money for these trials had been directly “sourced from the Presidency” between 2000 and 2001. The article added that “on numerous occasions, money was collected from ‘the Presidency, in the Union Buildings’ in briefcases and ‘always in US dollars, and always $100 bills’.”

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