South Africa's Public Protector is probing whether Deputy President Thabo Mbeki and Health Minister Nkosazana Zuma acted unethically by urging that research resume on an anti-AIDS drug, Virodene. The opposition Democratic Party claims Pretoria-based Cryopreservation Technologies offered the ruling African National Congress a 6% stake in a unit that would hold patents on the drug.
An investigator at the Public Protector's office says a company document shows a proposal to give shares was discussed internally. But a company official says no shares were ever offered to, nor was the idea discussed with, the ANC. Mbeki, Zuma, and the ANC all deny any wrongdoing, saying they tried to speed testing of the drug, banned by the Medicines Control Council because it contains a toxic industrial solvent, to help AIDS sufferers.