SOUTH AFRICA:Nobel laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has called for a new sort of leadership to tackle the HIV/Aids crisis in Africa.
In a strongly worded attack on South African president Thabo Mbeki, the Anglican cleric said the extent of the Aids crisis had been "horribly exacerbated" by futile debates about its cause.
"People who would be alive today died needlessly," he said. "We were culpably remiss in not providing people with anti-retroviral drugs which have a proven track record in extending lives and improving quality of life.
"For goodness sake, for God's sake, let us get cracking."
In Pretoria ahead of World Aids Day today, the archbishop said the latest UN figures on Aids, indicating the spread of the disease worldwide had slowed, was "very cold comfort".
The statistics showed that two-thirds of the estimated 33 million people affected globally were in sub-Saharan Africa. They also showed that South Africa had the highest incidence of HIV, with at least 5.5 million out of a population of 48 million infected.
Archbishop Tutu welcomed the publication of a new strategy to deal with the crisis in his country but, he said, "a plan is a plan is a plan until it is implemented and I am afraid we have been dragging our feet.
"It is unacceptable for us to pretend that we can't do anything. Poorer countries have shown us up. In poorer countries, they have been able to turn the tide because those in leadership positions led."
The archbishop was addressing a gathering of campaigners, health workers and diplomats at an event hosted by the embassies of Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden and the delegation of the European Commission in South Africa.
His plea was echoed by the UN special envoy on Aids in Africa, Elizabeth Mataka, who said politicians had adopted declarations on HIV/Aids but "Aids clearly has not stopped". "We are again beseeching leadership to 'stop Aids and keep the promise'."
Archbishop Tutu also expressed concern about the direction South Africa might go after next month's African National Congress (ANC) leadership race.
In a thinly disguised attack on Mr Mbeki, who is seeking a third term, he said: "We hope that you have leaders who would take very seriously what is said by science, the orthodox view about diseases and the causes of diseases."
However he also expressed concern about the ANC electing Jacob Zuma, who has admitted having had unprotected sex with a woman whom he knew to have HIV.