Zille's unprotected tweets

Helen Zille has a reputation as a no-nonsense leader with a penchant for tweeting, but her recent stream of tweets and views on HIV/Aids has left some wondering if her Twitter account has been hacked.

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  1. But the opposition leader's stance that men who have multiple sexual partners and refuse to use condoms should be charged with attempted murder was clearly expressed in person at a wellness summit in Cape Town this week.
  2. She made points about the immense cost that risky sexual behaviour was incurring, according to the article:

    "Zille said HIV treatment alone cost the provincial government close to R2-billion a year. She said shifting the emphasis to prevention would free up more resources for unpreventable conditions which were often seriously underfunded because of the 'burden of disease'."


    But her contention has several legal problems, which constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos outlined in his blog following Zille's bizarre statements.
  3. Beyond the legal ramification was the serious questions about the premier of the Western Cape's judgement in making such a call. De Vos ended his thoughts on the matter on a damning note:

    "Julius Malema is often criticised for being a populist -- saying things that are truly idiotic or even dangerous but which he knows would be popular with his constituency. But he is not the only populist politician around. This statement by Premier Zille is a classical populist statement: idiotic and dangerous but quite popular with a certain constituency. She should have known better. And if she did not, she should have known to ask somebody who is a bit more knowledgable than herself to inform her about the legal and medical issues around HIV."
  4. Zille seemed to grow increasingly controversial in her statements on the subject, particularly in a Twitter debate on Wednesday, where she made a startling call that the state should not be expected to provide life-saving antiretroviral drugs for those individuals who had contracted HIV/Aids by engaging in risky behaviour.
  5. The issue of state provision of ARVs is all the more concerning given the country's history, where the drugs were denied to people living with the syndrome under former president Thabo Mbeki, which led to thousands of deaths. The DA has often referenced that dark period in SA's recent past, and even put together a list of top Aids dissidents.
  6. Indeed the DA's own healthy policy states:

    "... We need to recognise that the state has an important function in guaranteeing the overall effectiveness and smooth coordination of the health system (even if it does not provide all services directly) and ensuring that the basic requirements for an effective health system are in place. If it does not undertake these responsibilities with the necessary rigour and sophistication, the lesson of history is that the result would be an expensive service accessible only by an elite -- or no functional health service at all."
  7. Zille's tweets were immediately questioned.
  8. This is not the first time the party has been accused of double standards. Cartoonist Zapiro once captured this double-speak.
  9. Indeed, with President Jacob Zuma gaining popularity with his recent series of strong moves to consolidate his support ahead of the ruling ANC's next elective conference, Zille may well be shooting herself in the foot with her statements.
  10. Luckily for Zille, her tweets went largely ignored on Thursday, as they were eclipsed by the suspension of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.
  11. But one phrase that the leader coined in mid-rant proved more successful than even she probably hoped for.
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