“I was too young to understand. All I can remember were her killers shouting that I should come ‘get my dog’, as they were done with her. She was stoned to death,” she said, recalling the day her mother was attacked by a group of men in 1998.
Mandisa, now aged 30, was speaking at the SA Aids Conference in Durban this week. She has committed herself to carrying on her mother’s legacy.
Recently she established a community-based organisation, the Gugu Dlamini Foundation, which fights the social stigma against people living with HIV – in the same community where her mother was brutally killed.
“We have come a long way since … people living with HIV like my mother faced terrible discrimination. Now people are taking treatment. But we have a new challenge to overcome – the infection rate of young girls by older men [known as] ‘sugar daddies’.”
She challenged parents to discuss issues of sex and HIV with their children.
“We cannot fight HIV if we don’t become open to our children and the youth,” she said.
Addressing the public ahead of the official opening of the conference, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was important to remember those who had lost their lives at the hands of a society that tolerated the brutality of such terrible deeds.
“She was a true heroine who was tired of living with a secret. We should acknowledge that violence against people living with HIV/Aids is not only physical. There are still people who whisper terrible things about HIV-positive people.”
Ramaphosa challenged South Africans to fight the stigma by discouraging those who “whispered” about people living with the virus.The conference ends tomorrow.