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Friday, 23 May 2008


The Swazi Observer has repeated the advice that people who are HIV positive should have marks branded on their bodies to advertise the fact.

The Observer yesterday (Thursday 22 May 2008) gave a full page to university lecturer Dr Eliot Tofa to repeat his hatred on the subject. I wrote yesterday that the Observer had reported Tofa’s remarks on its front page on Wednesday.

This time the newspaper has given him more space to expand on the subject. I’d like to give you details of Tofa’s ‘argument’ but his reasoning (as well as his command of the English language) is so confused that it is impossible to follow the detail.

What is clear is that Tofa believes that all means of HIV prevention have failed so far and his plan is the way to save Swaziland from the virus.

Even though the Observer has now devoted two days to Tofa, the newspaper has failed to explain to its readers who he is. We know that he is a lecturer in the Theology and Religious Studies Department at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA), but we don’t know what his expertise is in HIV AIDS. Nor do we know why the Observer thinks his views are worth publishing at this time.

As well as repeating Tofa’s comments, the Observer published some reaction on his views from the newspaper’s readers.

They are all critical of Tofa – and some are almost as extreme as he is himself.

One writer says Tofa should be ‘lynched’. Another notes that Tofa is not a Swazi and ‘not from our shores’ and is bringing unwelcome ‘exotic’ ideas. Another likens Tofa’s attitudes to people with HIV to those of Adolf Hitler and the Jews.

What both Tofa’s arguments and the reactions to it show is that it is very difficult to get reasoned argument in Swaziland’s newspapers. People take extreme views and in effect shout at one another across a great divide.

I don’t want to be one of the shouters, but can I (in a reasonable tone of voice) ask the Observer to share with us the background to this story. Who is Tofa and why is the newspaper giving such space to his views? And what stance does the Observer itself take on branding of HIV positive people?

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