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Stop talking, wage war on Aids: Mandela
Nelson Mandela has called for an end to the debate on HIV/Aids, saying South Africans should focus on fighting the syndrome.

Former President Nelson Mandela has called for an end to the debate on HIV/Aids, saying the government and South Africans should focus on fighting the "war" against the syndrome, the 'Sunday Times' reported.

In an interview with the newspaper this week, Mandela issued his strongest attack so far on the government's lack of urgency in the fight against Aids.

"This is a war. It has killed more people than has been the case in all previous wars and in all previous natural disasters. We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing, when people are dying."

The report said that while stopping short of directly criticising President Thabo Mbeki and the African National Congress, Mandela said he was talking to the ruling party about its position on Aids and believed it would listen to sound advice.

"I have no doubt that we have a reasonable and intelligent government, and that if we intensify this debate inside, they will be able to resolve it."

He said it was only when he had done "everything in my power" and exhausted all channels within the ANC to reach an understanding that he could "come out and criticise."

Mandela admitted that differences over Aids and the provision of anti-retroviral drugs to pregnant women had resulted in a cooling in relations between himself and the ANC's senior leadership.
"I have got difficulties on questions of this nature (the government's stance on Aids). This is why I am meeting the ANC, so that we can sort out our differences ... "

The report mentioned that Mandela is due to meet the ANC's most senior officials on Monday. He also wants to meet its national executive committee to discuss the party's stance on HIV/ Aids.

The government has steadfastly refused to provide anti-retroviral drugs to pregnant women, arguing that their efficacy still had to be proved.

But during his opening-of-Parliament address a week ago, Mbeki hinted that the government was bowing to public pressure and would increase its mother-to-child transmission test sites.

Several ANC-run provinces have also announced that they would be expanding their nevirapine programmes.

The stand-off between Mandela and the ANC leadership came to a head in the run-up to the ANC's 90th birthday rally in Durban, when the national working committee decided that a message from Mandela should not be read out, the report said.

In the message, he said: "The President and the government have also been subjected to merciless criticism from various quarters. Some of this criticism seems to be almost instinctual, a reflex reaction that expects things to go wrong where a liberation movement has taken over the role of government. As a lay person we do, however, find some of the points of criticism that have consistently been raised difficult to reject or repudiate.

"Knowing your organisation and its leadership, we are confident that, in due course, the President and the government will take note and give consideration to those points of criticism as they are raised in the national interest and deserve to be taken seriously."

In the end, the committee decided that Mandela's message should simply be acknowledged, the report said.

It also mentioned that when Mandela heard this, he threatened to distribute the message to the media.
On the day of the rally, it was decided that ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe would read it out.

The article said that Mandela admitted this week that the incident took place.

The tensions re-emerged last week on the eve of Mbeki's State-of-the-Nation address, when Mandela said the importance of preventing mother-to-child transmission was "beyond argument or doubt."

He said debate on the syndrome "unfortunately continues to rage in manners that detract attention from what needs to be our core concern."

This week, Mandela defended his statements. "What I have done is to analyse the situation without necessarily criticising the government." - Sapa