to the most criminal element in the country; medical schools where they are likewise convinced of their inferiority by being reminded of their role as germ carriers; schools where they learn a history that pictures black people as human beings of the lower order, unable to subject passion
to reason (Mbeki 2001b).
But then, in the following passage, he turns South African organisations and individuals fighting against HIV/AIDS into epigones and followers of a ‘dark continent discourse’, thus transforming them in dichotomous ways into ‘the enemy’ along with apartheid spokespersons—which is obviously absurd:
Thus it comes about that some who call themselves our leaders… take to the streets carrying their placards, to demand that because we are germ carriers, and human beings of a lower order that cannot subject its passions to reason, we must perforce adopt strange opinions, to save a depraved and diseased people from perishing from self-inflicted disease. … Convinced that we are but natural-born, promiscuous carriers of germs, unique in the world, they proclaim that our continent is doomed to an inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to sin and lust (Mbeki 2001b).
Mbeki may be right regarding a certain international HIV/AIDS discourse— along the lines of the argument in the influential 1989 paper by Caldwell et al. (cf. Arnfred’s chapter) or as expressed in the medical discourses regarding male circumcision as a cure for AIDS, as analyzed by Jungar and Oinas. But sadly, his oneeyed analysis prevents him from seeing the work of the numerous HIV/AIDS prevention organizations in South Africa, and the ways in which these organizations (as also reported by Jungar and Oinas) while struggling against HIV/AIDS, in the very process are redefining the issues, thus effectively and in practice dissolving the ‘dark continent discourse’. Unfortunately Thabo Mbeki, by just squarely confronting this discourse without dissolving it, becomes himself a co-producer and carrier of the very discourse, which he perceives himself as being up against.
Also the Sarah Bartmann speech in August 2002—a speech given on the South African women’s day on the occasion of the burial on the banks of the Gamboos River of the remains of Sarah Bartmann—provides examples of Mbe – ki’s turning the dichotomies upside-down: “This young woman was treated as if she was something monstrous. But where in this affair is the monstrosity? … It was not the lonely African woman in Europe, alienated from her identity and her motherland that was the barbarian, but those who treated her with barbaric brutality” (Mbeki 2002). In this speech, by quoting at length and in detail Georges Couvier’s dissection report from 1815 (which is very racist indeed), Mbeki re-created a racist imagery which—according to contemporary reports from the event—was previously unknown to large parts of the audience.
The flip side of Mbeki’s rage against ‘dark continent discourses’ is the re-valorization of Africa-based traditions and customary knowledge, which is part of what the president’s high-profile project of African Renaissance is all about (cf. Mbeki 1999). One such custom, the re-vitalization of which is enjoying the support of certain African Renaissance proponents (cf. Leclerc-Madlala 2001) is vir-