Mbeki Criticizes Global Fund for Not Following Procedure for KwaZulu-Natal Grant
South African President Thabo Mbeki on Thursday criticized officials in charge of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for approving a $60 million grant to KwaZulu-Natal province that had not received clearance from the central government, as stipulated in the fund's rules, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 7/25). In April, the fund approved a one-year grant that would allow the province to expand the Harvard AIDS Institute's Enhancing Care Initiative from one hospital to all clinics in the province. The South African government last month tried to block the grant, stating that the grant application did not go through the national government before being submitted to the fund as specified in the application guidelines. KwaZulu-Natal officials said that they applied directly to the fund because South Africa had not established a Country Coordinating Mechanism at the time of application. The South African National AIDS Committee has since been designated as the nation's CCM.
In a statement released July 16, KwaZulu-Natal Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that he and South Africa Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang had agreed to pool the funds under the National AIDS Council, which would use the funds "in a manner that will benefit all the provinces equitably and within programs contained within the proposals submitted to the Global Fund" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/18). Mbeki said, "We don't know the reason why the fund dealt with us nationally, and with KwaZulu-Natal." He added that the funds will be handled by the national government and said that the disbursement would not occur until after the government receives a report on AIDS mortality rates. He said the report is expected by the end of the year and noted that TB was still the leading cause of death among South Africans (Associated Press, 7/25).
Opposition Party Criticizes Government Stance on AIDS
The opposition Democratic Alliance party on Thursday said that Mbeki's "obstructionism" with regard to KwaZulu-Natal's grant and his emphasis on TB as the nation's leading cause of death indicate that he has not altered his position on HIV/AIDS, the South African Press Association/AllAfrica.com reports. A D.A. statement said that "KwaZulu-Natal submitted its own proposal because of the incompetence and mismanagement" of Tshabalala-Msimang. "As for Mbeki's emphasis on deaths by TB, the fact is that often people die of TB because it is an opportunistic disease that feeds off depleted immune systems. Mbeki must face up to this fact," the statement said (South African Press Association/AllAfrica.com, 7/25).