HIV/AIDS Threatening Democracy, Governance in Southern Africa, Study Says
The Institute for Democracy in South Africa recently released a study that found HIV/AIDS is threatening democracy and governance in some Southern African countries, South Africa's Mercury reports.
For the study, Kondwani Chirambo, head of the Governance and AIDS Program at IDASA, and colleagues examined the impact of HIV/AIDS in Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe (Savides, Mercury, 3/19). The study, titled "The Political Costs of AIDS in Africa," found that in Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, deaths from undisclosed causes among Members of Parliament younger than age 55 was the main cause of vacancies during the last 15 years. In South Africa, 23 MPs had died of various causes since 1994, the study found.
"Not a single elected representative has been known to" have died of AIDS-related causes, "despite that this mortality profile seems to mimic the pandemic's effect," the study said (SAPA/Polity.org.za, 3/19). The study said that "because there is no further information on whether these deaths were as a result of disease, car accidents or other causes, no inferences have been drawn by IDASA regarding trends." However, the study noted that there are "higher levels of stigma and discrimination" related to HIV/AIDS "among political elites, given that not a single elected representative has been known to live with or die" from AIDS-related illnesses (Mercury, 3/19).
Because of the increased number of deaths among MPs in the countries studied, organizational and financial restraints have left the positions vacant for longer periods of time, the SAPA/Polity.org.za reports. The vacancies also have "opened the door" to less qualified replacements, which might affect the quality of service, the SAPA/Polity.org.za reports. "A viable option would be to simply allow political parties to replace the deceased through appointment," IDASA said (SAPA/Polity.org.za, 3/18). In addition, Chirambo said that new electoral models should be developed to address the effect of HIV/AIDS on Africa (Mercury, 3/19).
The study also found that deaths from AIDS-related causes among voters have hindered the ability to maintain registers. "AIDS is a much bigger problem than simply a health crisis," Chirambo said. He added that there are a "number of worrying revelations in this study," including the "large number of younger voters who have died; the rising deaths among MPs and the loss of representation attributed to these deaths; the impact on small or under-resourced opposition parties; and the implications for democratic accountability (SAPA/Polity.org.za, 3/18).