Maverick Citizen


Maverick Citizen editor Mark Heywood recognised for remarkable contribution to public health and social justice in SA

Maverick Citizen editor Mark Heywood recognised for remarkable contribution to public health and social justice in SA
Maverick Citizen editor Mark Heywood has won the Public Health Association of South Africa’s lifetime achievement award. (Photos: Pixel Aspect Media)

Maverick Citizen Editor Mark Heywood has been awarded the Public Health Association of South Africa’s lifetime achievement award for his contribution to public health in the country.

Mark Heywood, the editor of Maverick Citizen and adjunct professor at the University of Cape Town’s Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, was awarded the Public Health Association of South Africa’s lifetime achievement award on Tuesday, 13 September, for his advocacy work in this field.

“I feel honoured,” Heywood said. “The Public Health Association brings together great practitioners and academics in this sphere. It has an important history and tradition.”

If only the government could tap into the energy and knowledge of those at the conference, Heywood said. “We have the knowledge, the human resources and the money to fix the public health system. Many countries do not have any of those things.”

Heywood said: “On a personal level, it is wonderful to get recognised. It gives me the energy to continue a struggle that is far from finished. 

“We were forced to dream big during apartheid,” he said, pointing out that since 1994 the public health system has had to deal with multiple crises caused by Aids, TB, trauma “and everything else”.

Harsha Somaroo, the president of the Public Health Association, said the lifetime achievement award honours individuals who make an exceptional and significant contribution to public health research, education or service in their lifetime.

“Mark Heywood is one of South Africa’s most experienced and respected health and social justice activists, with a track record of advancing the health rights of marginalised groups and working for improved public health in the country,” she said.

Heywood’s work as organiser, organisation builder, writer, teacher, public speaker, intellectual and thought leader were highlighted by the judges in making the award.

Somaroo said there had been seven nominations for the lifetime achievement award.

Heywood’s work “truly made an impact”, she said, highlighting that the lives of millions of South Africans had been touched by his dedication.

‘Remarkable’ record of service

His work and extensive experience in constitutional litigation to realise human rights, health equity and access to life-saving treatments, most notably for people living with HIV/Aids, were highlighted for the award. He was also recognised for work related to mental health and cancer services, and the social determinants of health.

Heywood’s political activism began in the early 1980s in England when he was a member of the Militant Tendency, ​​a Trotskyist group in the British Labour Party. It continued in South Africa, where he was a leader of the Marxist Workers Tendency of the ANC.

After South Africa achieved its liberation in 1994, Heywood joined the Aids Law Project at the University of the Witwatersrand, commencing, as described in the award citations, “remarkable work that influenced HIV policy and access to treatment and care for people living with HIV, in the country”. 

Between 1997 and 2010, Heywood was the head of the Aids Law Project and later co-founded SECTION27, a public interest law centre. He was also one of the founders of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the Aids and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa, Corruption Watch and Save South Africa.

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Heywood was a founding co-editor of Maverick Citizen in 2019. In September 2020, he was appointed as an adjunct professor at the Nelson Mandela School of Governance at the University of Cape Town.

His contribution and consultancy work on Aids, the law and human rights for various global organisations including UNAIDS, the United Nations Development Programme, the International Labor Organization, the Southern African Network of AIDS Service Organisations, the World Bank and the International HIV/Aids Alliance were highlighted. 

Heywood has contributed to many national and international policy documents, including the Southern African Development Community Code on Aids and Employment, the WHO/UNAIDS’s Guidance on Disclosure, Partner Notification and AIDS Reporting, the United Nations’s International Guidelines on HIV and Human Rights, the UNAIDS’s Manual on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights for Members of Parliament, and South Africa’s National Strategic Plan on HIV/Aids and STIs.

He has also served on and led several committees, including as an executive board member of the TAC, deputy chairperson of the South African National Aids Council and as chairperson of the UNAIDS Global Reference Group for HIV and Human Rights. DM/MC


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