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Mandela says son died of AIDS
Updated: 2005-01-07 09:09

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa's Nelson Mandela, one of Africa's most committed campaigners in the battle against AIDS, announced that his only surviving son had succumbed to the disease yesterday.

Pop musician Annie Lennox (centre R) embraces Nelson Mandela (C) while Peter Gabriel (L) and Yusuf Islam (R) look on during the launch of a photographic book. [AFP]

Makgatho Mandela, 54, died in a Johannesburg clinic where he had been receiving treatment for more than a month. His wife Zondi died in 2003 from pneumonia.

"I announce that my son has died of AIDS," the 86-year-old Nobel Peace laureate told a news conference, urging a redoubled fight against the disease.

"Let us give publicity to HIV/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 to say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS. And people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary," said a frail-looking Mandela, surrounded by his grandchildren and other family members.

Mandela's courageous announcement of his personal AIDS tragedy challenged the widespread taboo which keeps many Africans from discussing an pandemic which now infects more than 25 million people across the continent.

In South Africa, with some 5 million HIV/AIDS infections, has the highest AIDS caseload in the world, and the disease kills more than 600 people a day, activists say.

Despite the mounting death toll, few public figures in South Africa or other African countries have personally come forward to say that AIDS has affected them or their families.

Veteran opposition leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Inkatha Freedom Party helped to break the silence last year when he announced that two of his children had died from AIDS-related causes.

Mandela lost his first son, Madiba Thembekile, in a car crash in 1969 while still in prison for his anti-apartheid efforts.

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