Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2001-01-18 Reporter: Editor:

Makgoba Now Backs Mbeki 

Publication  News24
Date 2001-01-18
Web Link

Crossroads - In a surprising twist, Medical Research Council President Professor Malegapuru Makgoba has emerged as a strong supporter of President Thabo Mbeki over his African Renaissance ideas, as well as his handling of the Heath unit's involvement in the controversial arms deal.

Makgoba, a medical scientist, against all expectations at a Cape Town press club function, expressed opinions over various political issues. He sided with Mbeki on several counts.

This is in contrast to a speech he made seven months ago at the International Aids conference in Durban, where he was far less supportive of the ANC government.

Makgoba, in a thinly disguised reference to the dying Aids victim Nkosi Johnson, expressed his disgust with people who exploit "young Aids activists" to "demonise" Mbeki.

He added that Judge Willem Heath's unit should be allowed to continue with its work, but Mbeki should also employ other public watchdog bodies, such as the auditor-general, public prosecutor, director for public prosecutions, and the investigating unit for serious economic offences, to probe the controversial R43 billion arms deal.

"If I were the president, I would also exclude the Heath unit, allowing it to concentrate on and complete its other work. More importantly, I would uphold principles that would expand and improve democracy, rather than serving petty interests."

Makgoba, a black immunologist who has been described by the magazine Leadership as among the top black scientists of the 20th century, also gave his support to Mbeki's call for an African Renaissance.

"If we don't promote ourselves, who will? Certain people have constant doubts, and they spread pessimism by dismissing the idea as a flight of fancy."

'Country Digging Its Own Grave'

Makgoba added that he was not aware of any other country spending so much time, energy and resources on digging its own grave, by creating negative perceptions about its leadership and government.

He described the government's national HIV/Aids strategy, compiled under the leadership of Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, as a "good basis on which to build".

The government's commitment to medical research was evident in a Medical Research Council budget increase from R48 million in 1995 to its current R130 million. Whereas 60 percent of its personnel had previously been white, this proportion had shrunk to 40 percent. At least 118 doctoral and 137 masters' degrees are financially supported by the MRC.

With acknowledgement to News24.