News and Information

Race row as Mbeki blood rejected
December 7, 2004
South Africa's national blood service is to meet to discuss whether to stop treating blood donated by black people as high risk.

The health minister has already said this should stop, after it emerged that President Thabo Mbeki's blood was destroyed because he was black.

He did not fill in a questionnaire and because he was considered high risk, his blood was burnt.

Ahead of the busy Christmas period, a new appeal for blood has been launched.

Mr Mbeki's blood was destroyed in 2001, after he responded to an appeal for blood but his doctor asked for a special dispensation for him to be excused completing the questionnaire.

'Strict protocol'

"We have a very strict protocol to follow," South African National Blood Service (SANBS) director of technical services Ravi Reddy told the Sunday Independent newspaper.

People are getting emotional, please don't stop donating blood
Mercia van der Westhuizen SANBS
"We had to take a decision whether to abort bleeding the president, which would have been a disaster from a publicity point of view, or whether to draw blood and then dispose of it," Mr Reddy said.

Following an outcry, Health Minister Manto Tsbalala-Msimang said: "Other scientific determinants that determine risk more accurately should be identified and they should not based on race."

But the head of the SANBS said she had not received any clear instructions on the matter, prompting Tuesday's meeting.

Mrs Tsbalala-Msimang also said that the president's medical records should not have been leaked to the press.

"The SANBS should apologise to the president for this unethical conduct," she said.

The SANBS has meanwhile urged people not to be put off donating blood by the row.

"People are getting emotional, please don't stop donating blood," said spokeswoman Mercia van der Westhuizen.

Current stocks stand at 5.3 days, compared to the ideal of eight days, ahead of the holiday period when there is often increased demand for blood because of a spate of traffic accidents caused by drink-driving.


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