Zackie Achmat

Zackie Achmat
Achmat at an Open Society Foundation of South Africa event on police accountability in 2013
Born (1962-03-21) 21 March 1962
Vrededorp, Johannesburg, South Africa
Nationality South African
Alma mater University of the Western Cape
Occupation Activist, film director
Employer Ndifuna Ukwazi (Dare to Know)
Known for HIV/AIDS activism
Political party African National Congress
Board member of Ndifuna Ukwazi (Dare to Know)
Equal Education
Spouse(s) Dalli Weyers (m. 2008; d. 2011)
Parent(s) Suleiman Achmat and Mymoena Adams[1]
Relatives Taghmeda "Midi" Achmat (sister)[1]
Website .org.writingrightswww
Achmat speaking at a protest wearing the TAC's trademark "HIV Positive" T-shirt
Achmat protesting in support of freedom of the press and against ANC corruption

Abdurrazack "Zackie" Achmat (born 21 March 1962) is a Equal Education.[6]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Political activism 2
  • LGBT rights activism 3
  • HIV/AIDS activism 4
    • Solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa 4.1
    • Westville Prison incident 4.2
  • Social justice activism 5
  • Personal life 6
  • Media 7
  • Filmography 8
    • Directing 8.1
    • Acting (as himself) 8.2
  • Recognition and awards 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Early life and education

Achmat was born in the Johannesburg suburb of Vrededorp to a Muslim Cape Malay family and grew up in the Cape Coloured community in Salt River during apartheid.[7][8] He was raised by his mother and his aunt who were both shop stewards for the Garment Workers Union.[4][3]

He did not matriculate but nevertheless graduated with a BA Hons degree in English Literature from the University of the Western Cape in 1992 and studied filmmaking at the Cape Town Film School.[2][4][3]

Political activism

Achmat set fire to his school in Salt River in support of the 1976 student protests and was imprisoned several times during his youth for political activities.[9][10] He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1980 while serving time in prison.[11] Between 1985 and 1990 he was a member of the Marxist Workers Tendency of the ANC,[3][4] a Trotskyist breakaway group of the ANC and precursor to the Democratic Socialist Movement.[12]

Achmat describes his political ideology as democratic socialist since the unbanning of the ANC in 1990.[11][4] Despite being a member of the ANC, he vigorously opposed the HIV/AIDS denialism promoted by former President Thabo Mbeki and other senior ANC members and in 2004 he withdrew his ANC membership under Mbeki's leadership.[13] In 2006, Achmat called on fellow party members to formulate appropriate HIV policies and oust Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.[2][14][15][16] He has also been outspoken in his criticism of President Jacob Zuma and ANC corruption.[11][13][17]

LGBT rights activism

Achmat co-founded the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality in 1994, and as its director he ensured protections for gays and lesbians in the new South African Constitution, and facilitated the prosecution of cases that led to the decriminalisation of sodomy and granting of equal status to same-sex partners in the immigration process.[3][4][8][18][19]

HIV/AIDS activism

Before co-founding the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in 1998,[14] Achmat was a director of the AIDS Law Project based out of the University of the Witwatersrand, which is now headed by Achmat's longtime collaborator Mark Heywood. The AIDS Law Project and TAC work closely together in all the legal matters that arise in the course of advocating for the right to health, including prosecuting cases and defending TAC volunteers.[4]

Solidarity with people living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa

Achmat publicly announced his HIV-positive status in 1998 and refused to take antiretroviral drugs until all who needed them had access to them.[2][8][9] He held firm in his pledge until August 2003 when a national congress of TAC activists voted to urge him to begin antiretroviral treatment. He finally announced that he would start treatment shortly before the government announced that it would make antiretrovirals available in the public sector.[20]

Westville Prison incident

Achmat was one of 44 TAC activists arrested in 2006 for occupying provincial government offices in Cape Town as a protest in order to call for Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour to be charged with culpable homicide for the death of an HIV-positive inmate at Westville Prison in Durban. The protesters were charged with trespassing and ordered to appear before court. The inmate was one of 15 prisoners who were plaintiffs in a case against the Departments of Health and Correctional Services, suing to be provided access to antiretroviral drugs. The court ordered the government to provide the drugs immediately.[14][21]

Social justice activism

In 2008 Achmat co-founded the

External links

  1. ^ a b c Mbali, Mandisa (2013). South African AIDS Activism and Global Health Politics. Palgrave Macmillan.  
  2. ^ a b c d e Thompson, Ginger (10 May 2003). "In Grip of AIDS, South African Cries for Equity". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Mbali, Mandisa (2012). "Achmat, Abdurrazack". In Emmanuel Kwaku Akyeampong; Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Dictionary of African Biography, Volumes 1–6. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 83–85.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Witness Statement of Abdurrazack Achmat" (PDF). The Guardian. July 2008. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Staff". Ndifuna Ukwazi (Dare to Know). Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Equal Education Board". Equal Education. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Brummer, Willemien (1 December 2004). "Zackie Achmat: Alive and well". Die Burger. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Davis, Ken (2000). Robert Aldrich; Garry Wotherspoon, eds. Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History Vol.2: From World War II to the Present Day. London: Routledge. p. 4.  
  9. ^ a b Karon, Tony (19 April 2001). "Person of the Week – South African AIDS Activist Zackie Achmat". TIME. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Goldacre, Ben (20 January 2007). "No way to treat an Aids hero". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c Nicholson, Zara (23 November 2012). "JZ goes or I do – Zackie Achmat". Cape Times. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Thomas, Scott (1996). The Diplomacy of Liberation: The Foreign Relations of the African National Congress since 1960. London: Tauris Academic Studies. pp. 62–63.   General coverage of the MWT.
  13. ^ a b Nicholson, Zara (19 December 2012). "Mangaung a victory for corrupt – Achmat". Cape Times. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c McGreal, Chris (12 September 2008). "Zackie Achmat: Profile". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  15. ^ Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (12 July 2004). "Interview With Zackie Achmat, South African AIDS Activist". Remedy Health Media. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Ismail, Sumayya (30 November 2006). "Zackie Achmat on the future". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  17. ^ Mlandu, Lindiwe (2 December 2013). "Achmat: Impeach and prosecute Zuma". Eyewitness News. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Hoad, Neville Wallace; Martin, Karen; Reid, Graeme, eds. (2005). Sex and Politics in South Africa. Cape Town: Double Storey. p. 8.  
  19. ^ Power, Samantha (19 May 2003). "Letter from South Africa: The AIDS Rebel". The New Yorker: 54. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (4 August 2003). "First National South African AIDS Conference Opens Amid Anger Over Government Decisions on Providing HIV Drugs". Remedy Health Media. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  21. ^ Maclennan, Ben (18 August 2006). "TAC members arrested after protest". IOL. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  22. ^ "200 Young South Africans 2013 – Gavin Silber". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  23. ^ "TAC's Zackie Achmat arrested in Cape Town". News24. 12 September 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  24. ^ Gill, Peter (2010). Body Count: How they turned AIDS into a catastrophe. London: Profile Books.  
  25. ^ Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (29 March 2005). "Treatment Action Campaign Chair Zackie Achmat's Doctor Says Heart Attack Not Caused by Antiretroviral Medication". The Remedy Health Media. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  26. ^ "Zackie Achmat marries partner". News24. 6 January 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  27. ^ Huisman, Biénne; Makwabe, Buyekezwa (12 June 2011). "Zackie's same-sex divorce". Times LIVE. Retrieved 29 March 2013. 
  28. ^ Nolen, Stephanie (2007). 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa. New York: Walker & Co.  
  29. ^ "Fig Trees: a video opera". Oakville galleries. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  30. ^ "Fire in the Blood – The Contributors". Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  31. ^ Deane, Nawaal (11 February 2005). "Will SABC screen doccie?". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  32. ^ "Law and Freedom part 1 – Who was Mrs Komani?". Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  33. ^ "Law and Freedom part 2 – A nice country". Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  34. ^ a b c d "Zackie Achmat gets international award". Mail & Guardian. 29 May 2003. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  35. ^ "Homo Homini Award". People in Need. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  36. ^ "National Press Club nominates Zackie Achmat and TAC as Newsmakers for 2003". 15 February 2004. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  37. ^ "Zackie Achmat". Ashoka. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  38. ^ Hawthorne, Peter (20 April 2003). "Dying To Get Aids Drugs To All". TIME. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  39. ^ Morrison, James (22 April 2003). "Achmat's struggle takes him into world spotlight". IOL. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  40. ^ "The 10 Greatest South Africans of all time". 27 September 2004. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  41. ^ "Achmat nominated for Nobel Peace Prize". Mail & Guardian. 2 December 2003. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  42. ^ "Zackie Achmat". OSF. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  43. ^ Marx, Fritz (28 April 2011). "Cape Town honours Zackie Achmat and others". Politicsweb. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  44. ^ "Zackie Achmat". City of Cape Town. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 


Recognition and awards

Acting (as himself)

  • Apostles of Civilised Vice (2000) – documentary about homosexuality in South Africa[18]
  • Law and Freedom (2005) – two-part documentary about landmark court cases in South Africa[31][32][33]




On 5 January 2008, Achmat married his same-sex partner and fellow activist Dalli Weyers at a ceremony in the Cape Town suburb of Lakeside. The ceremony was attended by then Mayor Helen Zille and presided over by Supreme Court of Appeal judge Edwin Cameron.[26] The couple divorced amicably in June 2011.[27]

Achmat was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1990.[2][4][24][7] In 2005 he suffered a heart attack, which his doctor said was unlikely to be caused by his HIV-positive status or treatment. He recovered sufficiently to return to his activism work.[25]

Personal life

In 2013 Achmat and 18 other SJC activists were arrested for an illegal gathering outside the Cape Town Civic Centre, where they were protesting about sanitation services in the township of Khayelitsha.[23]


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