HIV/Aids activist Prudence 'fought a struggle to be human' - Ramaphosa

2017-07-19 18:46
The memorial service of Aids activist Prudence Mabele at Wits University’s Great Hall on July 16 in Braamfontein. (Gallo Images)

The memorial service of Aids activist Prudence Mabele at Wits University’s Great Hall on July 16 in Braamfontein. (Gallo Images)

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'Fearless' Prudence Mabele laid to rest

2017-07-19 13:33

HIV/Aids activist and Positive Women’s Network’s Prudence Mabele was remembered and honoured at her funeral service on Wednesday. WATCH

Johannesburg – When HIV/Aids struck 18-year-old Prudence Mabele in the 1990s, it struck a rock, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.

Instead of keeping quiet about her status, Mabele publicly announced it in 1992, Ramaphosa said during a eulogy for the respected HIV/Aids activist and sangoma at her funeral in the Rhema Bible Church. This made her one of the first black South Africans to do so.

She died of pneumonia on July 10. "She felt the full force of stigma," Ramaphosa said. The response from the public forced her to stop her medical technology studies.

The Peninsula Technikon, where she was studying, told her it feared she may infect other students in the laboratory.

"Her hospital file was stamped with a big red X and nurses who treated her asked her if she was a sex worker."

WATCH: 'Fearless' Prudence Mabele laid to rest

Ramaphosa said, despite the daily attacks on Mabele’s dignity, she had the resilience and the fortitude to form the Positive Women’s Network at Garankuwa Hospital.

Two years later, she helped set up the Treatment Action Campaign to fight for the government to provide antiretroviral treatment.

These were safe spaces where women with HIV/Aids could go to.

"Prudence bravely opened new frontiers of struggle. She was among Aids activists who were essentially fighting a struggle to be human, to be remembered as worthy, normal individuals with a manageable condition."

'We will carry on with the fight'

He said Mabele’s courageous life echoed the historic march by over 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in 1956.

Mabele gave voice to thousands whose stories and experiences, fears and dreams, often went unheard, he said.

"She brought comfort to those she knew were pained by physical discomfort, social stigma and the violation of their fundamental human rights."

She was not shy to speak truth to power and never stopped questioning or confronting those she believed were neglecting their duty to society.

Her vision was for a South African healthcare system that cared for everyone, especially the poor.

"She dreamt of a South Africa that educated and skilled its young people. She spoke of a South Africa that had a leadership core that had integrity."

Mabele wanted a South Africa that did everything to advance the interests of all citizens, not just a few. She envisaged a South Africa free of corruption.

"A South Africa where the resources of our nation were used efficiently and prudently to advance the lives of the poor. A South Africa where women were affirmed and felt safe. "We will carry on with the fight," Ramaphosa said.

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  johannesburg ­  |  aids  |  hiv

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