Africa ’s camp leader, his excellency Robert Gabriel Mugabe, must be relishing the African National Congress’ s adulation heaped on the former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

He must also be kicking himself that he may have thought that the murder of more than 20000 civilians in the early 1980s, the scores of his own comrades killed by his own paranoia — before and after liberation — and the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who have perished from preventable diseases, malnutrition and good ol’ fashioned despotism might in some way have blotted his liberation credentials.

I am not quite sure what it takes anymore — apart from being outed as gay — for a liberation movement to ostracise the post-liberation excesses of its comrades. The needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the legacy of HIV/AIDS orphans, certainly sets the bar in post-apartheid SA.

Zimbabwe’ s minister of state for presidential affairs Didymus Mutasa’s wish for only six million Zimbabweans — in the misguided belief that they will all vote for Zanu (PF) — must remain an attractive proposition, as struggle history is always the card that trumps slaughter in the region.

I don’t buy the excuse that she was only following orders from the Sussex graduate. Dr Tshabalala-Msimang appeared to embrace her AIDS denialism.

And I still do not understand why the government of former president Thabo Mbeki was so adamant about not buying western medicines, when it bought their whisky and weapons by the wagonload.

As some sage remarked, to the living we owe respect, to the dead the truth. And the unpalatable truth is that while Dr Tshabalala-Msimang was alive she was responsible for the needless deaths of the hundreds of thousands of South Africans that in death she is now being eulogised for saving through her days of struggle. That is far out.

The unchecked vanity of our politicians in their tributes is reminiscent of that infamous remark by US Air Force Major Chester L Brown during the Vietnam war: “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it."

I will certainly raise a toast this festive season, not to celebrate feeble- mindedness or the death of a minister, but in remembrance of those who bore their illness with such dignity and courage, while our leaders fiddled on the internet.

Wallace Mayne

Troyeville