Dissident president? : Thabo Mbeki, critical discourse analysis and the struggle to define HIV and AIDS in South Africa, 1998-2003.
This dissertation is an examination of presidential communication, focusing primarily on how Mbeki promoted a fringe group of researchers (the Virodene researchers) and a discredited scientific position (the AIDS dissidents). It employs aspects of critical discourse analysis in order to examine Mbeki's speeches, articles, interviews and letters dealing with HIV/AIDS from 1998 to 2003 in order to identify how his views and beliefs on the epidemic changed from the orthodox position that HIV causes AIDS to a dissident view, which led to him asserting that it was impossible for one virus to be the single cause of a wide range of illnesses defined as AIDS. In addition, it examines briefly how civil society, particularly the TAC, responded to Mbeki's unconventional approach to HIV/AIDS, and how Mbeki reacted to criticism of his views on HIV/AIDS. By using the relations of antithesis, entailment and equivalence, this dissertation finds that, although Mbeki moved from an orthodox to a dissident position on HIV/AIDS, there are common threads running through all his discourse. These threads include an intense interest in science and a concern with the plight of the "underdogs", namely those that he feels have been discriminated against by the scientific establishment particularly the pharmaceutical industry. Mbeki's dissident views were not a crude assertion that HIV does not cause AIDS, as has been suggested by other researchers, or those of a sophist seeking excuses for his government's inability to deploy adequate resources to HIV/AIDS. His interest in dissident theory is considered and he has clearly engaged with the scientific arguments of the dissidents. However, this is not the case when Mbeki deals with his critics. It is a matter of concern that Mbeki used the power of the Office of the President to undermine and discredit his opponents by accusing them of being racists or "Uncle Toms" for opposing his dissident views on HIV/AIDS.