Here is the previously unknown text of a loony letter that the Aids denialist Anthony Brink asked me to deliver to Thabo Mbeki a mere three days after he introduced himself to me in a Cape Town book shop.
The letter is so very obviously bonkers that I, of course, never gave it to the president. But in light of the recent futile attempts made by Brink to suggest that Mbeki is or was ever an Aids denialist — attempts that have been comprehensively refuted by the president himself, by presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga, by Mark Gevisser and by myself — this letter certainly belongs in the public domain at this time.
In particular, Brink has accused me personally of “fraudulently misrepresenting” the president’s true views on HIV/Aids policies. He spuriously claims to speak from a standpoint of superior knowledge of the president’s authentic views. The letter and the fact that Brink sought to use me as a conduit for it directly belie his self-serving pretensions.
Among other things, Brink — who was and remains a complete stranger to Mbeki at a personal level — is seen in the letter to be filling out basic personal information. In effect, he is attempting to introduce himself at the very late date of March 2005, years after his supposed influence began in 1999. As I point out in Fit to Govern, Brink habitually attributes the full and varied range of his own views to the president, among others, and this has seen him get into trouble before. After he claimed in a letter to a prospective supporter that Mbeki had instigated the formation of his TIG as a counterweight to the TAC, the Presidency responded:
“A statement from the president’s office said Mbeki has ‘declare[d] his views on Aids and antiretroviral treatment, and the claims in advocate Brink’s document of secretive counter-mobilisation, intimate friendships and his special influence on the thinking of government leaders do not, we believe, deserve a response’.” Mail & Guardian, March 25 2005.
I met Brink practically the same day that this particular M&G article appeared. Indeed, I had just finished reading it. I therefore realised from the outset that Brink was a chancer. Four days later, Brink handed me a loony letter — addressed to Mbeki and reproduced in full below, dated March 29 2005. This letter, in which Brink lashes out with great defamatory violence against his perceived detractors (whose names I have withheld for their protection) immediately convinced me that I was dealing not only with a chancer, but also with an extremely peculiar fish. That is the impression that such a letter would create in the mind of any reasonable reader.
Among other things, the letter confirms that Brink had no contact whatsoever with the president (he sought to enlist me as that conduit). It confirms that apart from Brink’s first book, published in 1999, on the safety and efficacy of antiretrovirals, Mbeki had not even read Brink’s work (Brink asked me to deliver this subsequent work to Mbeki). The letter also clarifies, in its sheer unmitigated looniness, why I regarded Brink with great circumspection and caution from the outset. Incidentally, the letter also demonstrates that the work Brink claims to have given me was in fact regarded by him as what, in this same letter, he called “a raw, unformatted sprawling draft from which I hope to cut a book later this year.”
Among the inaccuracies that Business Day editor Peter Bruce took hook, line and sinker from Brink in a recent Weekender front-page lead story that Bruce himself wrote was the suggestion that when Brink approached me in March 2005, he and I “hit it off” immediately and became “pals”, as the Sunday Times puts it, or “chums”, to use the term that Brink apparently prefers. This suggestion is false, and the letter demonstrates why: it showed me that Brink was a very loony guy.
Unlike those who are happy to demonise and ostracise others on the basis of media stereotypes, I certainly made sure to give Brink a full and fair hearing for myself, which is more than his critics in the media and the Treatment Action Campaign ever did. That hardly made Brink and I “chums” any more than it made me his ideological kinsman or a sharer of his absurd denial that HIV causes Aids or that the pandemic exists.
Throughout his own rather manic online manuscript, Brink himself indeed repeatedly confesses that I regarded him as an odd fish and his views as somewhat fishy. At his page 62, for example, Brink writes:
On another occasion, also irritated by some dumb thing he’s said, I told Roberts similarly, ‘The reason you’re going to fuck up your Aids chapter is because [sic] you’re too stupid and too lazy to read what Mbeki has!’ Robert’s reaction was not curiosity about what subversive literature I might be referring to, but to roll his eyes or smirk, as if he knew better. Roberts’s own faith in HIV/Aids was adamant, and, as I discovered only recently, had been so, on the record, since at least 2000.
Alistair Sparks and others have correctly but loosely referred to Brink’s first, self-published book, Debating AZT: Mbeki and the Aids Drug Controversy, as marking Mbeki’s introduction into what they call the Aids denialism or dissident literature. The looseness is regrettable because in fact that book deals almost solely with the questions of safety and efficacy of the then standard-of-care antiretroviral drugs.
Brink dragged Mbeki’s name into his title only in retrospect. His original title had been Debating AZT: Questions of Safety and Efficacy. Under either title, Brink’s 1999 manuscript contains no denial that HIV exists or that HIV causes Aids. This is a fact that is systematically overlooked when journalists make reference to Brink’s 1999 text, which indeed Mbeki read before correctly raising safety and efficacy concerns about antiretroviral drugs. Mbeki was correct to take drug-safety issues seriously.
Even in his otherwise loony March 2005 letter, seeking to catch Mbeki’s ear for his broader denialism with me as his hoped-for messenger, Brink significantly kept the more loony stuff to himself (see his drug-safety-focused closing paragraphs). But then Brink goes about into the world claiming falsely that Mbeki buys or has bought into his denial that HIV causes Aids or that the pandemic exists.
The full text of Brink’s letter, given to me in 2005 in his attempt to establish contact with Mbeki, follows below. Names have been deleted or altered, as indicated, to protect the innocent. (Incidentally, Brink is no longer an employee of the Rath Foundation, as he then was).
March 29 2005
Dear President Mbeki
I write to you concerning the Mail & Guardian article this week under the title ‘Mbeki rejects Rath’.
When I got wind of the trouble coming earlier in the week, from a request for comment from the [black female Mail & Guardian] reporter [name deleted] (which I declined, except to repudiate certain allegations about my new book), I immediately contacted [two names deleted] to alert them for the purpose of damage control. [Name deleted] was on his way to see you, he said — and, I hope, conveyed all I told him about what had happened. But just in case:
In February, 2004, having completed a two-year tour in the Eastern Cape trying crime, I was at a loose end, thinking of going to work in London, when I was telephoned by one [name deleted: “John Doe”]. He had been hired as Dr Matthias Rath’s point-man in Cape Town while the latter’s foundation was setting up here. ‘We’ve heard about the work you’ve been doing’, he said. ‘We’d like to support you.’ I had a close look at the foundation’s mission on its website and became excited by the possibilities: Rath and I were talking much the same language.
At my second meeting with [John Doe], he suggested that I make a written proposal for Rath’s consideration. I duly did so and tabled it at my meeting in March with Rath, his 2IC Chris Fairhurst (now working for the foundation in the UK) and [John Doe], marked ‘Highly Confidential’. The upshot of my two-hour meeting with Rath was that I was sponsored to continue my work on exposing Aids drugs, and then soon afterwards was invited to join the foundation.
Several weeks later, [John Doe] was sacked. The full reasons are immaterial here, but they boiled down to a complete collapse of trust. Unable to impeach his dismissal in the CCMA, [John Doe] thereupon took to vindictive email flaming, in which he attacked Rath’s integrity in email sent to thousands of people and institutions, both locally and abroad.
From my several conversations with [John Doe] before he began this, it was obvious that his new suggestion that Rath was a dishonourable person, a vulgar businessman, rather than a health revolutionary steeped in the political consciousness of the European left, was itself dishonest. [John Doe]’s campaign to blacken [sic] Rath was motivated by the puniest, most disreputable motives of personal revenge.
It’s obvious that [John Doe] has since become a TAC asset — probably in its pay as a consultant in its ongoing campaign to discredit the [Rath] foundation and derail its mission to displace patented, generally toxic synthetic pharmaceutical drugs as the foundation of primary healthcare, and promote nutritional medicine in their place.
Two weeks ago [John Doe] was the ‘former employee who did not want to be identified’ in the M&G criticising Rath and making him out to be an opportunistic charlatan.
[John Doe’s] next move was to hand my confidential proposal to the TAC/M&G. (I have it from Napwa director Nkuleleko Nxesi that [white male TAC member] and [black female M&G journalist] are lovers.) I am certain [John Doe] sold this document.
I cannot convey to you my horror and shame at this breach of confidentiality. It made me literally sick. In my defence I had no idea that [John Doe] would turn out to be a traitor. There were no early indications to me that he has a psychopathic, completely amoral personality. Since his dismissal we have heard a great deal from former intimates about a troubled childhood, a deserted mother with mental problems whose best friend went off with his father and who used to beat him regularly, a stepfather who committed suicide, violence against a woman for which he was locked up and so on, and this accounts to me for his disturbed personality and his penchant to lie freely.
We were discovering at the [Rath] foundation that nothing he said could be relied upon. He was taking money from people in the name of the foundation under false pretences, sexually harassing the receptionist and spying on her email communications with spyware (he’s a master computer hacker). A continuing working relationship became impossible.
This is a man who amuses himself shooting at homeless people and young black party revellers [sic] with a pellet gun equipped with a telescopic sight. (A sworn criminal complaint which e.tv cameraman [name deleted] tried opening was declined by the police on the grounds that no one who’d actually been hit had filed a charge.)
What you need to know is that [John Doe] is an official member of the South African delegation to the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which last met in Bonn, Germany, in October last year. I was there to give a speech at an unofficial satellite meeting, and saw him. I suggest that [John Doe] be relieved of his appointment immediately. He is an information trader who sells to the highest bidder, a totally unprincipled person and unfit to represent our country in any capacity whatsoever, and certainly not in a matter in which the pharmaceutical industry is moving to shut down the availability of micronutrients as alternatives to synthetic patented toxic drugs.
[John Doe] didn’t hesitate to embarrass you in the prosecution of his personal vendetta against Rath. He well knows that Aids drugs are poison; but in the penultimate issue of the M&G he suggested that we ‘exaggerate’ their toxicity to sell vitamins instead. In short, he cared nothing that people might discount our [sic] warnings about Aids drugs and then suffer their life-threatening toxicities.
An NIS tail on him to track his movements, and an investigation of the source of his current income, is likely to confirm his partnership with the TAC.
I have asked Ronald Roberts to give you manuscript copies of The Trouble with Nevirapine and Poisoning our Children: AZT and Nevirapine in Pregnancy, which are about to be published and widely distributed to parliamentarians and ANC leaders — as well as of ‘Just Say Yes, Mr President’: Mbeki and Aids. The latter is a raw, unformatted sprawling draft from which I hope to cut a book later this year. If it’s wrong in any respect I’d appreciate your pointers, perhaps via [name deleted]. Nobody else will know.