Step down and salvage your HIV/Aids treatment policy legacy‚ Zuma advised

14 April 2016 - 16:02 By Sipho Masombuka

Besieged President Jacob Zuma has been advised to heed the chorus calling him to step down to save the notable only twinkle on his legacy: the radical shift in HIV/Aids treatment roll-out policy that saved millions of lives and hiked life expectancy. When Zuma came to power in 2009‚ he ushered a new era in the roll-out of treatment to HIV-positive people‚ extending treatment to South Africans with the CD4 cell count of 350‚ as opposed to Thabo Mbeki's administration qualifier CD4 count of 200. Third East London ANC branch calls for Zuma’s ‘release’A CD4 cell count indicates the strength of the immune system and determines the advancement of HIV. Normal CD4 count in adults range between 500 and 1200.‘Voting for the ANC makes you feel peaceful inside‚’ says ZumaOwing to the mass HIV treatment roll-out‚ life expectancy increased from 53 in 2002 to 60 years in 2013.Calls have been mounting for Zuma to step down following the Constitutional Court judgment that found he failed to uphold‚ protect and respect the country's supreme law for his handling of the R240-million Nkandla scandal.Mark Heywood‚ co-founder of the Treatment Action Campaign‚ an HIV/Aids lobby group which had running court battles with the Mbeki administration over the roll-out of treatment‚ said 3-million lives would have been lost if it were not for Zuma's radical policy shift.But he has to go‚ Heywood said.“If he does not step down‚ people will forget the positive things that he has done because what people are seeing now is the danger that he presents to the country... this controversy is taking away everything (good) that he has done‚” Heywood said.Tshwane University of Technology research associate and political analyst‚ Professor Lucky Mathebula‚ said Zuma put a face to the HIV/Aids epidemic and identified with patients on their death beds.He said as a former commander of the ruling party's former military wing uMkhonto we Sizwe‚ Zuma was exposed to the suffering of operatives who died of Aids.“He was the one visiting them in hospital so he was able to put a face to the epidemic.“He would walk to visit people affected by the virus‚ sit with them and promise direct government support. People see him as an ally in the fight against the scourge. This is why he still‚ besides all the bad things he has done‚ fills stadiums‚” Mathebula said.However‚ Mathebula said this was the human side of Zuma‚ that of helping sick people. But‚ he said‚ then there was this other side that compromises the president.A right-thinking person would have stepped down‚ Mathebula said.“We do not have evidence that the ANC has asked him to step down‚ or not only that they came out with the statement that they support him....We still need to check whether Zuma really does not want to go‚ because a right-thinking person would have stepped down but a person who is loyal to the collective‚ would continue‚” he said.

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