Durban - Aids dissident and advocate Anthony Brink, who claims to have influenced former president Thabo Mbeki’s position on antiretrovirals (ARVs), claims he was overlooked for a Legal Aid job because he is “acutely unpopular and widely reviled”.
Brink brought legal action against Legal Aid South Africa in the Durban Labour Court in which he claimed he had been unfairly discriminated against when his appointment as senior litigator was stopped in 2010.
He asked the court to order Legal Aid to appoint him as a senior litigator, pay damages for lost income and compensation of R1 million for iniuria (defamation of character).
In a recent judgment, Judge Hamilton Cele dismissed Brink’s application with costs. He had failed to prove that his alleged unpopularity caused him to lose the job.
Legal Aid had denied any wrongdoing and said budget constraints had forced them to halt the recruitment process for senior litigators in Pietermaritzburg, Durban and Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.
Brink testified that he was interviewed for the position in November 2009 and the interview panel recommended he be selected for a second round of interviews.
The panel’s recommendation and Brink’s CV, along with the CVs of other candidates, were sent to a Mr Nair, the Legal Aid’s national operations executive.
In 2010, after several months passed without hearing anything from Legal Aid, Brink was told that the appointments had been put on hold and letters of regret had been sent out.
Brink said he believed Nair stopped his appointment because he had read his CV in which he had disclosed his work and literary contributions on the debate around the use of AZT and Nevirapine on HIV positive pregnant women.
He said a simple “Google search” of his name would show his involvement in the Aids treatment controversy as he was vilified in the media and labelled the number one “Aids dissident in the country” by the DA in 2005.
He testified that he sent a draft of his book Debating AZT to the government which caught the interest of Mbeki.
He surmised that Nair did not agree with his medical opinion on ARVs and claimed that Nair’s name appeared on an e-mail list of people who promoted the use of “Western medicines to treat Aids in South Africa”.
He argued that the budget constraints were resolved in October 2010 and were only put forward to hide the termination of his appointment.
But Nair testified that he did not look at Brink’s CV prior to the decision to put the positions on hold.
He said he did not know who Brink was prior to his complaint in July 2010 and had no views on ARVs apart from what he read in the media.
He said his name could have been placed on an e-mail group as he had previously sat on the South African National Aids Council after the position was delegated to him by a colleague.