SOUTH AFRICA: Mandela, Mbeki Spokesperson Dies, AIDS-Related Illness Rumored Cause
Parks Mankahlana, spokesperson to former South African President Nelson Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki, died Thursday at his parents' home "after a long illness," AP/CNN.com reports. After serving as the president of the African National Congress' Youth League, Mankahlana, 36, became Mandela's spokesperson in 1994 following the fall of apartheid and last year became Mbeki's spokesperson. A statement from Mbeki's office praised Mankahlana for his "immense contribution to the struggle for freedom and the realization of democracy in our country" (AP/CNN.com, 10/26). In July, a time "at the height of the controversy" over Mbeki's stance on the link between HIV and AIDS, Mankahlana went on extended leave from his job due to his illness. London's Independent reports that the ANC is "expected to come under pressure ... to make a clear statement about the cause of [Mankahlana's] death," speculating that he "might have died from an AIDS-related illness" (Smith, Independent, 10/27). The AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign has asked the government to "tell the truth" regarding Mankahlana's death and to "publicly acknowledge" that several other members of government are living with HIV/AIDS (Dempster, BBC News, 10/27). Mankahlana was considered a "controversial figure" in South Africa's AIDS debate, writing several articles on the issue, as well as saying that the " Durban Declaration," a statement declaring that HIV causes AIDS signed by 5,000 scientists preceding the 13th International AIDS Conference, belonged "in the trash." ANC spokesperson Nat Serache refused to comment on the cause of Mankahlana's death, saying that if one dies of "TB or pneumonia or whatever," the disclosure of that information is a "matter resting between" a patient and his or her doctor (Independent, 10/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.