Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A bloody row

The South African blood service destroyed a donation made by Thabo Mbeki because the president is black. This has provoked indignation in South Africa.

The reality, as usual, is a bit more nuanced.

Mbeki did donate blood in 2001, but he refused to fill out an obligatory questionnaire. It's a questionnaire that every other South African blood donor has to answer. It's surely similiar to the one I have to answer before I donate blood.

What sort of pomposity causes one to think one immune from such necessary and universally applied steps and then blame it on racism? Perhaps the pomposity of a president of the republic.

Since South Africa has one of the highest HIV rates in the world, prudence on the part of blood officials should be applauded, not condemned. ALL donations from people who don't fill out questionnaires should be destroyed. Even from heads of state.

Though it was right to destroy Mbeki's blood for refusing to provide information every other blood donor must provide, the South African blood service DID screw up by leaking the fact to a newspaper. For this inexcusable ethical lapse, it rightly apologized to the president.

Abiola, over at Foreign Dispatches, speculates that the South African leader's refusal to fill out the obligatory questionnaire that involves questions on sexual activity along with Mbeki's refusal to accept the existence of a link between HIV and AIDS has something to do with his own health status.

I have no idea if this conjecture is true, but it would certainly explain some of Mbeki's bizarre behavior.

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