On this day in history, prominent activist Tseko Simon Nkoli died of an AIDS related illness. Nkoli was one of the first Black anti-apartheid activists to publicly identify as gay and HIV-positive. He was diagnosed with HIV whilst in prison and went public with his status in the early 1990s - a time when HIV was stigmatised by White South Africans as divine retribution against homosexuality and perceived among Black South Africans as a European disease. Within this political climate, Nkoli worked with various organisations to educate the populace and to destigmatise HIV/AIDS. One of these organizations, was the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW), of which Nkuli was a founding member. It was the first multiracial gay-rights organisation in South Africa. GLOW organised South Africa’s first ‘Gay Pride’ march in Johannesburg in 1990 and was instrumental in advocating for freedom of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in South Africa’s democratic constitution. Nkoli campaigned for the recognition and inclusion of gay and lesbian rights within the struggle against apartheid, stating that: “If you are Black and gay in South Africa, then it really is all the same closet…inside is darkness and oppression. Outside is freedom”. Nkoli did not draw boundaries in his activism against homophobia and apartheid. He was tried and acquitted alongside 21 others in the 1986 Delmas trial and was given a four-year prison sentence for his participation in various anti-apartheid demonstrations. In the Delmas trial, some of his fellow accused did not want to be tried alongside Nkoli. During interrogations, the police exploited the stigma against Nkoli by asking him: “Do you really think the ANC…would be mad enough to take a moffie on?”. A few days after his death, a protest on the steps of St George’s Cathedral led to the birth of the Treatment Action Campaign, which went on to make significant strides in HIV/AIDS awareness.  

GALA, “The GLOW Collection”, Gay and Lesbian Archives, Accessed 27 January 2017, https://www.gala.co.za/resources/docs/Archival_collection_articles/GLOW.pdf|South African History Online, “Biography of Tseko Simon Nkoli”, South African History Online, accessed 30 January 2017, https://www.sahistory.org.za/archive/biography-of-tseko-simon-nkoli-|South African History Online, “The History of LGBT Legislation”, South African History Online. 17 December 2014, https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/history-lgbt-legislation