Civil society watch, 30 November - 6 December

World Aids Day in the time of Covid-19 

People around the world unite to show support for people living with and affected by HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS. (Photo:

This week we observe World Aids Day as civil society turns its attention to human rights, gender-based violence and privacy in digital contact tracing. Saturday also marks the 7th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death: that sad day will be commemorated with a global dialogue organised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and a musical tribute by American saxophonist, Kirk Whalum.

World Aids Day

Every year on 1 December, the world commemorates World Aids Day

People around the world unite to show support for those living with and affected by HIV and to remember the millions who lost their lives to Aids.

In South Africa alone, more than four million people have died of Aids. 

This World Aids Day, the United Nations is calling on countries to step up their efforts to achieve healthier societies, with the theme Global solidarity, shared responsibility.

The South African National Aids Council (SANAC) has a full day of activities and discussions planned, starting at 6am with a broadcast on Morning Live. 

The minister of health, civil society leaders and the youth will discuss the work of the Itireleng clinic as well as issues affecting young girls living with HIV. 

Deputy president David Mabuza, in his capacity as chairperson of SANAC, will deliver a keynote address at the World Aids Day commemoration event on Tuesday at the Itireleng clinic.

At 10am, the Ritshidze Project – a community-led monitoring system developed by organisations representing people living with HIV – will host a public hearing into the state of HIV, TB and other health services in Gauteng. 

On the same day, people living with HIV, TB and other conditions will talk of their experiences with healthcare services in the province. Register here to receive a Zoom link.

At 3pm, the Activist Education and Development Centre (AEDC), founded by HIV and women’s rights activist Vuyiseka Dunula, is hosting a dialogue and activity day with adolescent girls and young women in Cape Town. 

Participants from various organisations, including the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation, Sonke Gender Justice, Umoja and the Africa Centre for HIV/Aids Management, will be chatting with girls about HIV prevention and family planning. The event will be livestreamed on Facebook

In 2020, the world’s attention has focused on the Covid-19 pandemic and on how pandemics affect lives and livelihoods. On December 3 & 4 there is a United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Covid-19. 

Covid-19, much like HIV/Aids, reminds us how health is interwoven with social injustice, and that reducing inequality, respecting human rights, gender equality and social protection are all essential health strategies. 

The rest of the week…

On Monday, 30 November, as part of commemorating Women Human Rights Defenders Day (29 November) and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network in partnership with Amnesty International will host a two-day summit themed, Building back better: expanding the civic space and enhancing resilience of human rights defenders during and post Covid-19,  with a special focus on women and other vulnerable groups. 

The summit gets underway at 11am with a keynote address from Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. Register here.

At 3pm the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) is hosting a discussion on the state of civic space and elections in Africa in the context of Covid-19

The aim of the event is to highlight civic space trends as they relate to elections on the continent, with an emphasis on the challenges and opportunities that have arisen as a result of the impact of Covid-19. 

Speakers will reflect on how the ACHPR, state organisations and civil society can ensure compliance with human rights safeguards during elections, and draw lessons that can strengthen democratic processes across the continent in line with the African Charter and other instruments. Register here.

At 6pm on Tuesday, 1 December, Jacana Media and CNA invite you to the launch of The Unlikely Mr Rogue: a Life with Ivan Pillay, in which anti-apartheid activist Evelyn Groenink tells the story of her life with ANC freedom fighter, Ivan Pillay. 

Join Groenink and Pillay in conversation with Maverick Citizen editor Mark Heywood as they explore issues raised in the book.

At 5pm on Wednesday, 2 December, join The Herald and Nelson Mandela University as they unpack the book Pitch Battles: sport, racism and resistance authored by Peter Hain and Andre Odendaal. 

It tells the story of “their ultimately successful struggles against sports apartheid, both in SA and internationally, and how it shines a light on modern inequalities in sport and society globally”.

The race to develop digital tools to fight the spread of Covid-19 has sparked privacy concerns across the world. 

At 11am on Friday, 4 December, Maverick Citizen and Section27 will host a webinar on assessing South Africa’s approaches to privacy in Covid-19 digital contact tracing. 

The discussion will bring together privacy advocates and the department of health to have a much needed debate about the role of digital contact tracing in South Africa’s Covid-19 response, and what lessons we can learn for the next crisis. Register here

At 4pm, the Accountability Lab will host its annual Integrity Icon South Africa awards ceremony, which seeks to “name and fame honest civil servants who’ve all been nominated by their colleagues and communities for displaying exemplary integrity in their work, in a context where corruption is systemic”.

The event will be preceded by an ‘integrity dialogue’ followed by the honouring of this year’s five winners from the fields of healthcare, social development, home affairs and trade and industry: Dr Sarah Dlamini, Zodwa Ntuli, Constance Moitse, Unathi Filita and Dr Sadna Balton. 

At 6.30pm the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image and the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research in the United Kingdom will host a panel discussion on the documentary Prison for Profit, which is based on Ruth Hopkins’ exposé of private prisons in South Africa

The panel will include Hopkins, activist and former inmate Godfrey ‘Yoba’ Botsana, human rights lawyer Tessa Gregory and human rights and social justice activist Mark Heywood. Book your place here.

At 12pm on Saturday, 5 December, gender-based violence NGO Kuhluka Movement is hosting a live event at Zoo Lake Bowls, Johannesburg, to raise funds for dignity packs – essential sanitary and hygiene items distributed to police stations for women who have been raped or have experienced physical violence who need help within the first 24 hours of the attack. 

The event will feature live performances, DJs, a yoga session and an online auction and raffle. Book your tickets here.

At 5.30pm, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, in collaboration with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, invites you to a dialogue marking the 7th anniversary of Mandela’s death. 

The event will explore The bonds that bind us: remembering Madiba in a time of global fracture, and will feature a musical tribute by American saxophonist, Kirk Whalum. Register here

Finally, (for this week) at 6pm on Sunday, 6 December, join the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum for its final webinar for 2020. 

The event will see the heads of South Africa’s leading law enforcement agencies – Shamila Batohi (National Director of Public Prosecutions), Godfrey Lebeya (head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations) and Andy Mothibi (head of the Special Investigating Unit) – provide a progress update on Covid-19 corruption-related investigations and prosecutions. DM/MC

South Africa is full of activists whose voices and campaigns need to be heard, and we want to report on all of them! So, wherever you live, if you have virtual events or meetings which you think other activists ought to know about, write to us at [email protected]

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