||Mandela, Anti-AIDS Crusader,
Says Son Died of Disease
By MICHAEL WINES
Published: January 7, 2005
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SALT ROCK, South Africa, Jan. 6 - Nelson Mandela, who has devoted much of
his life after leaving South Africa's presidency to a campaign against AIDS,
said Thursday that his son had died of the disease in a Johannesburg clinic.
The son, Makgatho L. Mandela, 54, had been seriously ill for more than a
month, but the nature of his ailment had not been made public before his
death on Thursday.
At a news conference in the garden of his Johannesburg home, the elder Mr.
Mandela said he was disclosing the cause of his son's death to focus more
attention on AIDS, which is still a taboo topic among many South Africans.
To keep the illness secret would wrongly imply that it is shameful, he said.
"That is why I have announced that my son has died of AIDS," he said. "Let
us give publicity to H.I.V./AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to
make it appear like a normal illness like TB, like cancer, is always to come
out and say somebody has died because of H.I.V./AIDS, and people will stop
regarding it as something extraordinary."
Mr. Mandela, 86, gave the statement surrounded by his family, including his
wife, Graça Machel, and his grandchildren. Makgatho, who was a lawyer, was
Mr. Mandela's only surviving son; his younger son, Thembekile, died in an
auto accident in 1969, shortly after Mr. Mandela began 27 years of
imprisonment as punishment for his anti-apartheid activities.
Makgatho and his sister, Makaziwe, who survives him, were from Mr. Mandela's
first marriage, to Evelyn Mase, who died in May at 82. Nelson Mandela has
two other daughters from his second marriage, to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Both personally and through his Nelson Mandela Foundation, Mr. Mandela has
campaigned for greater awareness of AIDS and H.I.V., the virus that causes
the disease. Although as recently as last July Mr. Mandela said it was a
blessing that "the world has made defeating AIDS a top priority," he has
acknowledged that as president he did not recognize the severity of the
epidemic in his own nation.
But he embraced the fight after he left office in 1999 and pushed his
successor, Thabo Mbeki, to do the same. Mr. Mbeki's delays in rolling out an
anti-AIDS plan brought a rare public reprimand from Mr. Mandela in 2002.
Mr. Mandela said at his news conference on Thursday that he had not known
Makgatho's medical status when he began his campaign. He did not say whether
his son had been receiving antiretroviral therapy, a drug regimen that can
prolong the lives of infected people for years, even decades.
Antiretrovirals have been available through private doctors in South Africa
for some time, but the current government has lagged in extending the
treatment to scores of thousands of South Africans who need the drugs but
cannot afford them, a delay Mr. Mandela has publicly criticized. Some five
million South Africans have the virus, according to the United Nations, but
the adult infection rate - about one in eight - is lower than in many other
Makgatho Mandela entered Linksfield Clinic in Johannesburg in late November,
and his father canceled a number of appearances to be at his bedside during
that time. After word of his hospitalization spread in December, the family
appealed for privacy, saying members would talk to the media at an
Makgatho Mandela worked as an insurance underwriter before earning a law
degree in 1997, being admitted to the South African bar in 2000 and becoming
counsel and consultant to Standard Bank here. He was also an executive of a
South African health care company and had only recently resigned as
corporate secretary of the South African operations of Diner's Club.
His wife, Zondi, died of pneumonia in 2003 at age 46. He is survived by