Philadelphia MOVE Organization were a group of mostly black, freedom and nature loving activists who lived in Philadelphia in the early 1970s to early 80s until the Philadelphia police department dropped a bomb on their house from a helicopter on May 13, 1985, silencing their central figure, John Africa. Eleven MOVE family members, five of them children, clawed their way out of the inferno, only to be beaten back by police gunfire. The Philadelphia Police and Fire departments let the blaze continue for hours as the 11 people and their numerous rescued animals all perished. Their crimes? They were raw vegans protesting zoos and pet shops, taking in stray animals, composting, home schooling and preaching about the sacredness of life in the middle of a city that had no time to listen.
In 1997 the South African government passed a law setting up, among other things, a marketplace for medicines based on affordable prices. Clause 15c relied on two practices agreed under the World Trade Organisation’s guidelines.
One, compulsory licensing, allows businesses in a country in a state of emergency to manufacture generic products paying only a royalty to the patent owner. The second, parallel importing, lets a nation import drugs made more cheaply in one country than in another.
Patent rights for the HIV cocktail would cost the South African health service an inconceivable $10,000 per Aids patient. Using the mechanisms under Clause 15c would reduce the costs by between 50 and 90 percent.
But the legislation was labelled ‘piracy’ by Pharma - the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. This is a formidable alliance of the nation’s 100 biggest drugs companies. They claimed the South African law would violate patents and undermine profits on which research depended.
For a battle against a government led by the world’s most popular leader, Pharma needed political clout, and chose a consultancy called Podesta .Com.
It chose well. What was formerly Podesta Associates was founded by two brothers from Chicago, John and Anthony, and rated by Washingtonian magazine among the top 20 lobbying groups in the capital.
Both men were heavy-hitting Democrats, both had the President’s ear and were especially close to Gore. Both were members of President Clinton’s transition team when he took office in 1992. John remained at the White House, later becoming Chief of Staff, while Tony streamlined the company. ‘We Help You Change Outcomes’ was his slogan.
The Clinton administration, with John Podesta as Chief of Staff, went to war over South Africa’s anti-Aids drive. Trade Representative Charlene Barshevsky denied South Africa tariff breaks on its exports to the US. Gore told Nelson Mandela to his face that the US would not tolerate the legislation.
South Africa refused to back down, and the pharmaceutical companies intervened directly. They sued: led by Pharma, the massive Bristol Myers Squibb from the US, Britain’s SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo (through its South African subsiduary), Germany’s Bayer, Roche of Switzerland, France’s Rhne-Poulenc and a host of others.