On the flight back from South Africa I began reading Andrew Feinstein’s After the Party. Feinstein was a young member of parliament representing the African National Congress in South Africa’s new democracy after 1994. While his own involvement with the ANC only began in earnest with the transition to democracy, he revered the people who had succeeded in overthrowing apartheid.
By August 2001, Feinstein had quit parliament, forced out because he had pushed for a full investigation of the arms-purchasing scandal that has led to the top ranks of the party. Even beforehand, he was furious with President Mbeki Thabo’s surreal refusal to deal with the AIDS pandemic sweeping through South Africa. Mbeki insisted that poverty, not a virus, caused the disease, and that Western pharmaceutical companies were trying to bankrupt Africa by selling dangerous and useless drugs. It was a conspiracy theory turned into a national policy of ignoring a plague.
The tie between the arms scandal and AIDS denial was the transformation of the ANC from a liberation movement embracing a wide variety of opinions to a top-down party where dissent was crushed. No questions about AIDS, no questions about government officials and their relatives getting rich in the process of buying unnecessary, inferior and overpriced arms.
As an aside, yes, Feinstein is Jewish, marginally.