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Most people know Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge as the former South African Deputy Minster of Health (2004-2007) who was famously fired after a supposedly ‘unauthorised’ trip to Spain to investigate HIV/Aids vaccines. Before her firing she had become a national hero following an unannounced ministerial visit to an Eastern Cape hospital where she publicly exposed substandard conditions after a number of deaths there. Her boss was not amused.
Most agree though that the real reason for her firing and the thing that placed her most regularly in the headlines was that she’d become a thorn in the side of her then bosses, the Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the country’s then president, Thabo Mbeki, for her stance on HIV/Aids.
Msimang, supported by Mbeki, advocated beetroot and garlic as necessary immune boosters while millions of South Africans died of Aids related illnesses due to a lack of access to anti-retrovirals. It was a shocking time in South Africa’s history with Msimang and Mbeki resisting the roll out of the life saving drugs as well as indulging the views of Aids denialists. Nozizwe publicly disagreed with them and met with activists lobbying for anti-retrovirals. She was, in truth, simply following the government’s official policy on HIV/Aids while its President and Health Minster held a contrary, deadly position.
So what did it take for Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge to speak out against her bosses, risking career suicide by doing so?
Another famous leap for Nozizwe, years before she became a national hero for her stance on HIV/Aids, was accepting the position of Deputy Minster of Defence. Few people know that she and her husband Jeremy Routledge are Quakers and as such believe in non-violence. How much of a leap of faith was it for her to accept this military position and how did she reconcile this role with her spiritual and philosophical beliefs?
Today, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge is out of politics and heads up an anti-trafficking and human rights initiative with Jeremy Routledge called the ‘Embrace Dignity Campaign’. She is as feisty as ever and graciously and openly shared her full story with us.
Join us for a frank first person account of Nozizwe’s courageous journey so far. Learn first hand about her early days as an activist, her imprisonment in solitary confinement, her years in post apartheid government and her work today with Embrace Dignity.
At last get to know the real woman behind the headlines, and her husband Jeremy, in their own words. Don’t miss it!
Find out more about the Embrace Dignity Campaign here
Listen to Nozizwe on radio.