Lungile Zakwe

Chief operating officer, Treatment Action Campaign

After completing her studies in South Africa, Scotland, Sweden and Japan, 33-year-old Lungile Zakwe has worked extensively in the civil society sector to improve life for her fellow South Africans. She plays an instrumental role in the running of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), as well as the AFRO-Freedom Book Club.

Founded in December 1998 to campaign for access to Aids treatment, the TAC is widely acknowledged as one of the most important civil society organisations active on Aids in the developing world. One of its most significant victories was the 2002 Constitutional Court ruling in which the South African government was ordered to provide anti-retroviral drugs to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies during birth. Today the TAC continues to represent users of the public healthcare system in South Africa and to campaign and litigate on critical issues related to the quality of and access to healthcare. The organisation currently has over 8 000 members and a network of 182 branches and provincial offices in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces.

The AFRO-Freedom Book Club, founded over four years ago, is a great setting for Afro-centric, creative, opinionated and open-minded people. This is an excellent way to enjoy African literature with a great and diverse group of readers. The book club is open to those who want to stimulate their brain cells, have fun and create meaningful relationships through shared literature.

Women’s empowerment is big on Zakwe’s radar. “I particularly draw my strength from everyday women — we are powerful beyond measure. I am inspired by feminine leadership. It is a special kind of leadership that uplifts and raises the social bar.”

She also feels strongly about African identity, and is inspired by fellow South Africans who “wake up and choose to be part of the solution.”

“My every being believes in the Afrikan continent and its people,” she says. “I believe in our experiences and stories. We are the change we’ve been waiting for. I am greatly interested in my work because it combines my passion and talents to make a difference in the world of Afrikan storytelling and social justice. Our time is now and I am driven by that.”

— Aaisha Dadi Patel