Politicians are globally recognised as the scourge of the earth, lowest of the low, lower than snakes and even lawyers. And in South Africa's infantile democracy our own rash of Teflon-coated, ideology swopping, floor crossing, self-serving, money-grubbing, arms procuring, gravy train riding, issue avoiding, capacity lacking political lackeys have done precious little to stem the tide of popular cynicism towards their chosen profession. Nuh uh, politicians, at home and abroad, are scum. From George Bush to Jacob Zuma, politics is skewed and we're all screwed. Sorry for you.

But then, out of this quagmire, from amidst the large bellied, bellowing hippopotamuses and snapping crocodiles of the political pond of filth and gravy known as parliament, arises a woman with her sleeves rolled up like the Aussie croc hunter. Willing to pick up and handle the most foul and dangerous creatures, examine them in the light and show them to the world for the miserable species they are.

How refreshing to find a politician who shoots straight. She tells it like we see it. She was the first person to blow the whistle on the arms deal, the first MP to take a public HIV test and the first parliamentarian to adopt an Aids orphan. In terms of saying it then doing it, Patricia De Lille has set the standard.

Ever wanted to know what is really going on in Zimbabwe? Ask Patricia.

'I think there is no justification for "quiet diplomacy" because you must understand "quiet diplomacy" is not a programme. It is a special invention to deal with a friend. The mistake we make with our foreign policy is that it is based on who used to be our friends in the past, and that's wrong. When it comes to foreign policy you must be seen to be principled. Especially us as South Africans, who have just emerged from a sad past of fighting for human rights, we should be at the forefront on any human rights abuses anywhere in the world, whether it's in America, Germany or Zimbabwe. We should be at the forefront because we've just come from that. And I think we've lost that moral high ground as South Africans - that we could actually achieve our freedom through negotiations - we've lost that image because of the way we dealt with Zimbabwe. You know I've always pleaded with president Thabo Mbeki, saying, after all you are the president, you're speaking on behalf of all of us, take us in your confidence what does this "quiet diplomacy" entail? In my view, he is acting like this towards Zimbabwe because they are old friends. And that is very sad. And you see similar behaviour by him when it comes to dealing with people who are involved in corruption. Again the criteria there is that, "we used to be in the trenches together and therefore you're still my old comrade and friend". I think as far as Zimbabwe is concerned it's a total disgrace.'

And what about HIV? Just ask Patty:

'It's inexcusable. Look Thabo Mbeki, like you and me, we're entitled to our opinion. We're entitled to believe whatever we want. But for a head of state to hold a belief that is completely contrary to the conventional belief - because in HIV/Aids there is the conventional belief that 99.995% of people the world believe - that HIV causes Aids. Then you've got the 0.005% of dissidents who don't believe that. So he is quite simply a dissident, but that has impacted on the whole HIV/Aids response. And he always says we need an African solution to African problems, but then why not look to the rest of the continent, look at how they deal with HIV and Aids in Uganda, Zambia, Botswana, Swaziland, Sierra Leone. The leaders are at it on a daily basis, they lead by example. So it's inexcusable what he has done and what he is doing. And the other responsibility must go to the line-function ministry. The line-function minister is a medical doctor herself, but she is an absolute indictment to women. She is not caring and is breaking every part of the Hippocratic oath, down to the commas and the full stops. One day I think we need to have a truth commission around HIV and Aids and call him and the minister of health and all these people who are responsible for the death of so many South Africans. We need to call them to order, we need to call them to book. I am so happy with organisations like the TAC, the way ex-president Mandela is dealing with the issue, Archbishop Ndungane, Bishop Tutu, people like that.'

And what about the SABC's special ANC election coverage?

'Really it has done irreparable damage to the image of the public broadcaster. But it's no different from the old government. The National Party did exactly the same thing. So the more things change the more they stay exactly the same. It is an abuse of state resources. At least [Mbeki] could have, on that day, while he was on state television, announced the election date. Which was something that would have been of interest to the whole country. But it was specifically an ANC election manifesto launch - which is a political party event. And the SABC made the same mistake as the ANC. The ANC can never distinguish between the state and the political party, they've always failed. And the SABC also failed to make that distinction. And we just have to wait and see what's going to happen closer to the election. TV is a very powerful medium and if all other parties are not going to get the same exposure, maybe not equal, but at least fair, then the SABC will lose all its integrity.'

What about transformation and black economic empowerment?

'Even with transformation, we've not properly defined transformation. This is what angers me about the ANC. To them transformation merely comes to replacing white faces with black faces and then they say its transformed. That's not transformation, to me that's a colouring in exercise.

What I also think needs to be put on an agenda for debate around our 10 years of democracy, is the whole issue of Black Economic Empowerment. When do you stop being a candidate for empowerment? When you are a millionaire? Someday you must stop and get out of the line, so others can get in. You can't qualify over and over. Like the same people do now. Look at Patrice Matsepe, he's a billionaire and he still goes and gets mining rights for previously disadvantagedů Tokyo Sexwale and people like that. I am saying there's nothing wrong with empowerment, but move on and let new people get the benefits. We have to ask is Black Economic Empowerment the only tool that can transform our economy? Shouldn't we find other tools? Those things must be questioned, we can't just sweep these things under the carpet.'

And now let's talk about the Arms deal.

'You know, all over the world, governments remain in power through arms deals. When it comes to arms deals, it's the only opportunity where the government goes shopping. The arms dealů we've been misled! We've been disappointed and as a nation, for the next 50 years we're going to be paying it off. That's how long it is going to take. We've actually indebted the next generation, and the next one. You know the biggest threat to South Africa's democracy is HIV and Aids. You must also understand that South Africa has more armaments than all of the continent put together. What has happened once we started buying arms, we started an arms race in the region. So all these dictators up here, where all these people are so poor in the SADC region, all started buying arms. You know I challenged the British minister of African Affairs in Blair's cabinet, "you come and talk here about Zimbabwe, but why are you still supplying arms to Zimbabwe, while you're fighting with Zimbabwe?" And he said there are contractual obligations they still have to attend to. And that's how they lie and lie and lie.'

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