South African Leader of Change Visits UK

Although Barbara Hogan was born into a white family and did not have to endure the harsh restrictions of segregation, she was struck by the glaring inequalities imposed by an apartheid government.

Refusing to remain a passive spectator, Hogan became a member of the outlawed African National Congress (ANC) in 1977, joining a chorus of voices speaking out against an oppressive apartheid regime. Ultimately, she not only became the first woman in South Africa to be found guilty of high treason for her “illegal” political activism, but she endured periods of harsh, solitary confinement during her imprisonment.

As a testament to her remarkable spirit, Hogan immediately began working toward the building of a democratic South Africa upon her release in 1990. A passionate supporter of equality, she has focused her energy on improving both the socio-economic conditions of all South Africans as well as addressing pressing health issues, including the AIDS epidemic, in her country.

"She gave us hope when it was dark," said Treatment Action Campaign founder Zackie Achmat.

And that's just what this South African political warrior, activist, wife and friend has continued to do – Hogan has brought light and groundbreaking change to the shadows of South Africa's political past; and her work continues in the fight for a free and healthy South African future.

Hogan is visiting the University of Kentucky this week as a part of the College of Arts and Sciences South Africa Initiative. While on campus, Hogan will speak to faculty and students about her experiences, in addition to receiving an honorary doctorate from the university.

With the theme of "South Africa & Kentucky: Different Lands, Common Ground," UK’s College of Arts and Sciences has featured South African activists, scholars, politicians, art exhibits, performances and coursework throughout the 2010-2011 school year.

"Barbara is a remarkable woman," said Mark Kornbluh, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "She was imprisoned for 10 years fighting apartheid, she was one of the most important people in Parliament leading the economic transformation of South Africa after apartheid, and she was appointed minister of health to deal with the AIDS epidemic in South Africa in 2008."

Joining the ANC to fight the apartheid regime was an unusual choice for a white South African. She was indicted for high treason and sentenced to 10 years at Fort Women's Jail and Pretoria Central Prison, where she continued her work while behind bars. Upon her release in 1990, she became a member of the ANC Executive Committee and Parliament. A passionate supporter of equality, Hogan worked to improve the socio-economic conditions of black South Africans. Hogan also met fellow activist Ahmed Kathrada that year, experiencing an "electric chemistry" and forging "a powerful personal partnership," according to UK’s South Africa website.

"Barbara has many endearing and admirable traits and few faults," said Kathrada in his recently republished memoirs, titled "No Bread for Mandela." "She is loyal, committed, brave, frank, disciplined, adventurous, impulsive, reticent and difficult; passionate about nature, enjoys travel and loves animals, especially cats and dogs." Hogan's visit to Kentucky will be a rare chance for her to share some of her experiences with the world that she has aided.

As part of the new South African government, Hogan began to fight the AIDS epidemic with hard science when most of the government and society refused to recognize the scope of the catastrophe.

"During our initiative’s January book club, we read 'Sizwe’s Test' about the AIDS crisis in South Africa. We learned how difficult it is to deal with the AIDS crisis because it hit right after the end of apartheid and felt like yet another attack on black South Africans from whites. So many awful things happened under apartheid that it was hard to know if all the sickness wasn’t just another racially motivated horror," explained program director Lauren Kientz. "It took time for the government to sort through all the possible reasons and treatment for AIDS, but when it decided to address the epidemic, it brought in Barbara Hogan, to great celebration from many AIDS specialists. She used her business and finance talents to reform the Health Ministry and begin a national policy of getting anti-retroviral medicine to those who needed it."

Hogan served as the minister of health and also as minister of public enterprise, where she continued to build South Africa's strength for all its citizens. Although she has retired from her political posts, Hogan continues her tireless work for the people of South Africa – work that she will also share with Kentucky.

 

Article Date: 4/14/2011
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