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Tributes pour for the late Reverend Phumzile Mabizela

The late Reverend Phumzile Mabizela.

The life of the late Reverend Phumzile Mabizela was illustrious as evidenced by an outpouring of tributes to the departed civil society activist as well as a religious and spiritual leader.

The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa had kind words for the late community leader whom they described as a shining beacon of emancipation.

“It is with sadness and heaviness of heart that we painfully embrace the reality of the loss of a woman of a kind, Reverend Phumzile Mabizela. A mother, sister, and devoted spiritual leader to many; feminist of note, riveting gender activist, a passionate HIV, and human rights trailblazer. And, particularly to us at UNESCO and the UN Technical Coordinating Group for the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), she will affectionately be remembered as our CSE champion.

“Phumzile’s outstanding contributions speak volumes about her open-mindedness and pragmatic approach towards the advancement of positive transformation, inclusivity, and diversity in society. As our CSE champion, she was on a mission to ensure that no young person goes through the struggles that she experienced as a teenage mother,” UNESCO said.

Reverend Phumzile advocated for the provision of information and services for young people to make informed choices and decisions. Thus, she emerged to take her rightful place globally to impart wisdom and truths in different spheres to promote better lives for adolescent girls and boys. She truly embodied the motto, no one should be left behind.

In the religious setting, she preached a message of understanding and inclusion, supporting access to sexual and reproductive health to all, and discouraging the use of religion to perpetuate inequality, social injustice, and oppression.

The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa said she had a big heart that accommodated the entirety of humankind itself; a beautiful human being who demonstrated that a better world is possible and that there is hope for humanity.

“Reverend Phumzile was a charismatic woman with an unwavering dedication to social justice. We all agree that she leaves this world a better place than she found it. She represents a glowing example of an impactful existence – a life well-lived,” they said in a statement.

The Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) also joined other stakeholders in mourning the passing of Reverend Phumzile Mabizela.
“The Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Rev. Phumzile Mabizela, board member and ally in the struggle towards a more inclusive and affirming faith space on the African continent. Her work with the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA) was a witness to her life’s work in breaking the silence and challenge stigma in faith communities. In IAM’s 25-year celebration video (2020), Phumzile reminds us that “in our work with IAM we are trying to liberate sexuality.”

Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa also expressed its heartfelt condolences on the passing of Reverend Mabizela. SAfAIDS and the INERELA+ Board, staff, and partners described the late leader as an African feminist powerhouse, loving, courageous, sister and mother to many.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende