Los Angeles (AFP)
Had a group of racist mercenaries created a fake vaccination program to inoculate the AIDS virus to black South Africans? As implausible as it sounds, this is what a documentary coming out this week in the United States claims to have discovered by accident, while investigating a mysterious plane crash.
Danish director Mads Brugger's film "Cold Case: Hammarskjold" initially focused on the unexplained crash in 1961 over present-day Zambia of the plane carrying Dag Hammarskjold, UN secretary-general.
For the purposes of his film, Mads Brugger met a former member of a clandestine paramilitary group that allegedly had ties to the South African apartheid regime. And this man, Alexander Jones, tells him that his organization had undertaken HIV research in the 1980s, with the goal of eliminating the black populations of the country by contaminating them.
"We were at war," says Alexander Jones in the documentary, "Blacks from South Africa were the enemies."
Fortunately, there is no evidence that this white supremacist conspiracy has been implemented, and scientists believe that, at the time, the technical means would not have allowed it.
The documentaries, however, managed to find in South Africa traces of clinics that were led by the late leader of the paramilitary group, Keith Maxwell.
The latter claimed to seek a cure for AIDS but had no medical training, and he publicly evoked his fascination with biological weapons. The film crew met with witnesses claiming that he had personally injected suspected vaccines on black patients.
"What's easier to get a human guinea pig than to live in an apartheid system," says Alexander Jones in the film.
"Negroes have no rights and they need medical treatment.A + philanthropist + arrives by saying + I will open clinics and treat you + ... The wolf is in the sheepfold," he continues.
"I know that what Jones says is outrageous and sensational," says Mads Brugger. "But so far, what he told us and what we corroborated has been verified," he told AFP.
- Theories of conspiracy -
The conspiracy theories about the deliberate contamination of Africans by the AIDS virus are numerous and have been fed by the Soviet Union at the end of the cold war.
Disinformation that can be particularly harmful for immunization campaigns, especially in countries with a high prevalence of AIDS, such as South Africa.
Despite the criticism surrounding the broadcast of the documentary at the prestigious Sundance festival in January, Mads Brugger, who has won several awards in the past, defends his work and the track followed in his film.
These are documents found in the South African government archives, mentioning a possible bomb attack on the plane by Dag Hammarskjold, who led the director to this sulphurous group dubbed the South African Institute for Maritime Research ( ARWIS).
Mads Brugger went back to Alexander Jones, who told them that it was the SAIMR that had shot down the plane of the Swedish diplomat.
Since then, the film crew has arranged a meeting between Mr. Jones and UN investigators working on a report on this air disaster. A meeting confirmed to AFP by a spokesman of the United Nations and confirms according to Mr. Brugger the credibility of his witness.
Many doubts remain, however, about the veracity of the thesis defended by the filmmaker.
Many doubt, for example, that the SAIMR really existed, beyond the whimsical spirit of Keith Maxwell, a notorious eccentric who dressed as a British admiral of the eighteenth century.
A New York Times investigation also suggests that Alexander Jones initially denied the existence of the HIV research project, and only after talking to the film crew would he have said he knew about the camera.
Asked about it by AFP, the director conceded that there may have been in some cases "cross contamination" because his team spent a lot of time talking with Mr. Jones. "But I'm sure most of what he tells us, it's not us who blew him," he defends himself.
According to UNAIDS, South Africa is experiencing "the largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 19% of the total population" living with the virus, more than 7 million people in 2016.
© 2019 AFP