OPINION

In honour of Lucky Mazibuko - Mmusi Maimane

DA leader says HIV/AIDS activist refused ARV treatment for 16 years out of principle

In honour of Lucky Mazibuko – a hero in the fight against HIV and AIDS

Note to Editors: the following remarks were delivered today by Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, Mmusi Maimane, following a visit to HIV/AIDS activist, Lucky Mazibuko, in Soweto, Gauteng.

My fellow South Africans,

Today I am honoured to pay tribute to one of Soweto’s proudest sons, and a true servant of not only this community here in Soweto, but indeed our whole country.

Lucky Mazibuko’s contribution to the fight against HIV and AIDS – and particularly in helping break down the stigma so that more people could openly seek help and treatment – has been of immense value to all South Africans living with HIV and AIDS.

Today many South Africans are disclosing their status and seeking help, but this wasn’t always the case. Two decades ago it took courageous activists to come forward and change the narrative around being HIV positive. And few were as courageous as Lucky Mazibuko.

Lucky has been living with HIV for close on three decades now, and was one of the first South Africans – particularly from this community – to openly declare his status in a time when most still feared the public reaction. He was certainly the first to spread his message and his activism through a newspaper column in the country’s largest daily newspaper, The Sowetan.

He also served as the HIV/AIDS Programme Director for the Nelson Mandela Foundation in the early 2000’s during which time he helped former President Mandela prepare speeches and become an influencial voice in the combating of HIV and AIDS.

Lucky’s tireless activism and fight for access to antiretroviral drugs for all has made it possible for thousands of other HIV positive South Africans to live normal, healthy lives, just as he does.

But it wasn’t always an easy struggle. For sixteen long years Lucky refused his ARV treatment out of principle, saying that he would not use the life-saving medication until it was available to all. This left him gravely ill on several occasions.

His ARV-strike increased the pressure on a government that, at the time, had not endorsed ARVs or made them available through our public healthcare. This selfless sacrifice nearly cost him his life, but it almost certainly saved the lives of countless others.

South Africa’s fight against HIV and AIDS, and our wide-scale ARV rollout, has been largely possible thanks to the brave activists who stood up all those years ago, and particularly someone like Lucky Mazibuko.

I am proud to call Lucky my friend. I find great inspiration in how he lives his life and how he has remained such an incredible role model for all our brothers and sisters living with HIV.

He is a wonderful family man, and a great father. Anyone living with HIV can take encouragement and inspiration from Lucky’s approach to life.

The DA will table a motion in the Johannesburg council to have Lucky Mazibuko’s work in the fight against HIV and AIDS recognised. This is the least we can do to honour his immense contribution to South African society.

May he long continue to serve the people of South Africa in his role as an activist, and may he long continue to inspire this community of Soweto with his selfless deeds and his wonderful attitude to life.

Statement issued by Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 20 April 2019