This is a recent posting from the Treatment Information Campaign of South Africa on the probable cause of death of Nelson Mandela's son, Makgatho.
PRESS RELEASE (Treatment Information Campaign) 11 January 2005
WHAT KILLED MAKGATHO MANDELA?
Media reports of the death of former President Nelson Mandela's son Makgatho
on 6 January 2005 have ascribed it to AIDS. This is incorrect. According to
his brother-in-law Dr Isaac Amuah, quoted in the Washington Post on the same
day, 'the immediate cause of Makgatho's death was complications from a gall
bladder operation' on 30 November. He mentioned to the Sunday Times that
he'd also suffered 'problems with his pancreas'.
Regrettably, the misconception that Makgatho Mandela died of AIDS originated
from former President Mandela himself, as indicated in the headline of the
article, 'Mandela Says AIDS Led to Death of Son'. The Washington Post quoted
Dr Amuah adding: 'But he said that AIDS was a contributing factor and that
Mandela was determined to portray the death as resulting from AIDS to
demystify the disease.' Addressing journalists at his home, Mandela said
that declaring that his son had 'died of AIDS Š was the only way to turn the
tide and make HIV/AIDS an ordinary disease like any other'.
According to Dr Amuah, Makgatho 'had been receiving antiretroviral treatment
for more than a year'. Pancreatitis and gall bladder problems, caused by
lactic acidosis, are a well-known consequence of ARV drug toxicity. The gall
bladder is part of the liver system; liver failure is now the leading cause
of death among HIV-positive people treated with ARVs (Reuters, 19 November
1999 - see: http://aras.ab.ca/haart.html and http://aras.ab.ca/azt.html
Although the potentially lethal toxicity of ARVs such as AZT and nevirapine
is abundantly established in the medical literature, this is little known by
the newspaper-reading public due to their billing always as 'life-saving' by
well-intentioned journalists, and, in the case of the Mail, express
editorial policy to promote the sale and use of these drugs and to black out
any countervailing information.
On 26 November 2004, for instance, we published an invited article in the
World AIDS Day supplement of that newspaper, in which we stated, inter alia,
that 'Hundreds of studies have found that AZT is profoundly toxic to all
cells of the human body, and particularly to the blood cells of the immune
system' and that 'Numerous studies have found that children exposed to AZT
in the womb and after birth suffer brain damage, neurological disorders,
paralysis, spasticity, mental retardation, epilepsy, other serious diseases
and early death.'
We referred readers to shocking recent research findings in this latter
regard, canvassed in our letters to the Medicines Control Council about this
and posted on our website www.tig.org.za under the title 'Poisoning our
Children: AZT and nevirapine in pregnancy'. This drew a barrage of hostile
letters, three of which claimed that such information could actually 'kill
people'. Mail editor Ferial Haffejee reacted by apologizing for publishing
our article, stating that it 'should not have been carried' and that such
writing 'will not be carried in the Mail in future'.
After agreeing to publish our reply, Haffejee spiked it just before going to
press. Chief Operations Officer Hoosain Karjeiker explained that what was
objectionable about it was our reference to 'the side effects of extremely
toxic pharmaceutical drugs like AZT and nevirapine'. 'We are proponents of
AZT,' he said. 'Once again the ad casts aspersions on AZT and nevirapine.'
'Do you mean it's unacceptable to state that AZT is toxic?' we asked
incredulously. 'Yes,' he replied; it's 'dissident'. Haffejee confirmed that
the 'position of the M is that everyone is entitled to treatment' with ARV
drugs, and announced that the merits weren't open to debate. 'Our newspaper
has been at the forefront of the push for antiretrovirals in this country.
Our brand has suffered because of your ad two weeks ago. The new ad contains
the same message, albeit not as strong. Publishing it will continue to
damage our brand.'
(Protecting the newspaper's commercial brand, tied to the reputation of the
toxic drugs it has uncritically championed, was deemed more important than
readers' right to arrive at their own informed opinions about them.)
Reacting to news that the Treatment Action Campaign had gone on to complain
to the Advertising Standards Authority about our article, the Mail quoted
Haffejee repeating: 'This newspaper has always supported the need for an
effective anti-retroviral programme and will not in future carry any
advertising which dilutes this message or creates confusion in the minds of
It has now become politically incorrect, unprogressive, 'confusing',
unacceptable - even dangerous - to make the simple statement in the media
that AZT and nevirapine are toxic, let alone caution, as the medical
literature does, that they are potentially deadly. This explains why a major
exposé in mid-December by Associated Press in New York concerning the HIVNET
012 nevirapine and AZT scandal went unreported in the Mail - even as it
made front-page news in more than a thousand major newspapers and science
and medical journals worldwide. AP disclosed that 'thousands' of adverse
events and numerous fatalities among Ugandan mothers and their babies given
nevirapine and AZT were not recorded by the American researchers running the
trial; and when independent audits revealed this, the US National Institutes
of Health, which had sponsored the study, fraudulently suppressed the
embarrassing information so as not to upset President George W Bush's plans
to spend millions shipping nevirapine into African maternity wards.
Just as Makgatho Mandela's death was wrongly attributed to 'AIDS', so the AP
exposé similarly related how the death of Joyce Ann Hafford - a healthy
eight-months-pregnant black American woman killed in July 2003 by a couple
of weeks of experimental nevirapine treatment given to her because she was
HIV-positive - was also initially chalked up by her doctors to 'AIDS'
We too very much regret the untimely death of Makgatho Mandela.
It is doubly tragic that he should apparently have been killed by the very
drugs that his father, former President Mandela, has been misled into
promoting in South Africa; and it underscores the question we asked in the
headline of our offending article in the Mail: 'Why should South Africans
continue to be poisoned by AZT?' And by similar toxic drugs?