Mon Oct 24 14:43:05 SAST 2016
R212m missing from East Cape health coffers

Millions intended to be spent on the health needs of Eastern Cape residents have gone missing from d.

He uses his HIV status to make money - and to help

By unknown | Jul 16, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

My colleague Lucky Mazibuko is not the drop-dead gorgeous guy he would like us to believe.

While I am not tall - in fact, far from it - I can look at the top of Lucky's head without even trying.

He has an angular head covered in a stylishly short haircut since losing his trademark dreadlocks. His face is pleasant enough. He dresses so-so and his spectacled eyes sometime shield a haunted, tired look.

Verdict: No great shakes in the looks department.

"If I were to die today," he tells me with a naughty glint in those brooding eyes, "I will make the world's best-looking corpse."


But that's Lucky Mazibuko for you. Always in his element. Always ready with sound bites. Media-savvy and probably one of the most eloquent HIV-positive personae this side of Magic Johnson.

For months, if not years, I have been pining to sketch Lucky's portrait in words, but somehow, it didn't seem right.

Talking to a colleague I have come to regard as my younger brother, asking very personal, sometimes hurtful questions and dissecting his life to me sounds worse than being accused of incest.

Thankfully, Lucky is a motor-mouth. He takes every opportunity to talk about Aids in general and his personal state of health to colleagues and whoever wants to listen.

I finally plucked up the courage and broached the subject. But it would take months again before I overcame my guilt and wrote this piece.

"Hey man," Lucky would tell last week, somehow peeved at my egg-dance, "we need to do that interview before I die." No rancour, no self-pity. Just a simple statement of fact.

Turns out that the previous week, he was again at his lowest emotional and physical ebb healthwise.

"I thought this time was it. I was on the way to meet my maker."

Two days later, Sowetan's Online editor Bruce Frazer and myself hit the road that led to Katlehong, a township more famous for the infamous black-on-black violence that bled the country in the mid- to late-1980s.

Senior photographer Pat Seboko pimped the lift with us. Ride on! We screeched to a halt in front of The Zone Katlehong exactly an hour late. Turns out tugging Pat along was a rotten idea. Firstly, we got lost going to his Witpoortjie home, and secondly, he takes longer to search for a coat and put it on than Paris Hilton gets herself manicured and dressed for a night out on the town.

In the middle of this upmarket tavern, in the middle of a wounded township, Lucky is holding court with some of his Sowetan colleagues.

They're nursing their drinks and listening to good music in a joint peopled by the East Rand's young and beautiful things.

Life doesn't get better than this.

The Zone Katlehong is Lucky's latest venture, a pub-and-grub joint modelled on the other one he owns in Soweto, The Zone Emndeni.

Minutes later, I broke one of journalism's sacred rules: never accept gratuities from your subject.

The proprietor summoned one of his black-suited waitresses and ordered her to give me a whole bottle of Johnny Walker Black. Sweet of him.

But besides, he's a colleague and what's a bottle of Johnny among brothers?

Later that evening we were seated at Lucky's house in the south of Johannesburg and settled down to some serious business.

His marvellous house with the tastefully furnished rooms looks eerily quite.

The kids, two from Lucky's previous marriage, aren't home.

But his wife, a charming young lady I first met at their wedding early last year, is around.

She only makes brief appearances at the dining room when she brings some health sandwiches of lettuce.

She is called from the kitchen and asked: "Sweetheart, by the way, when did we first meet?"

Funny question.

Mazibuko was once a taxi driver for four years.

"My stepfather owned a fleet of taxis and that is how I became a taxi driver.

"Being a taxi driver had its own perks.

"You get to meet a lot of people, exciting or dull, criminally beautiful or incredibly ugly."

One day Lucky met a beautiful young girl.

The meeting mutated into a one-night stand that would change the course of his life and sentence him to a life lived on the very edge of death.

In a hard-hitting interview with Tim Sebastian of the BBC's Hard Talk programme, Lucky told millions of viewers around the world that the young lady who had infected him had the gumption to call him and let him know that he had the "Big A".

A routine medical check-up detected the disease.

When the call came, he had already gone public - becoming one of the first South African HIV-Aids victims to do so - and joined Sowetan, circa 1998 where he is still a columnist writing about Aids issues.

What went through his head when that call came?

When she called him, he was devastated.

It was almost like receiving the shocking results of his HIV status all over again.

And did he want to shout at her? Did he want to condemn her or throw rocks her.

"I wanted to ask 'Why me?', but I also wanted to forgive her.

"I wanted to reach out to her and say 'I understand why you did that'."

Back at the pub and Lucky is sucking the juices out of the best prepared spare ribs this side of an Arizona steak ranch.

I know; I got to taste them.

By now the parking lot resembled the outskirts of FNB Stadium on a big match day. Lucky's workforce is working on overdrive.

The tills are ringing ka-tching, ka-tching!

I put it to Lucky that his critics accuse him of hypocrisy by cashing in on his status as an HIV victim.

I ask him about getting paid to speak at conferences and gaining celebrity status along the way.

"I have heard such accusations," he said, "and frankly, I don't care."

He went further, saying were he not tackling the Aids pandemic and giving out money and his time, mostly for free, he would be one of the richest men in South Africa.

"Probably even richer than Patrice Motsepe." Wow!

"I was born and grew up in a business- orientated family.

"My granny brewed and sold umqombothi.

"My stepfather had a fleet of taxis and I think I always had a head for business."

Short of saying 'there is nothing for mahala', he is frequently invited by the corporate community to speak at their conferences and Aids-awareness campaigns.

They have the money and naturally, they must pay for his time.

"I was not struggling before the Aids thing.

"Besides, if I didn't make the money, many of the projects and individuals I sponsor would be in dire need."

Several people rely on him just for survival.

A case in point is the Lucky Mazibuko Scholarship.

He gave a presentation at Rosebank College in 2002. He deferred his appearance fee and instead asked the college to use the money for a scholarship.

"A year later they called me back. They had appreciated my gesture and pledged a R1million towards the scholarship for students who have just finished their matric."

Besides running Lucky Mazibuko & Associates Consulting, he also runs a tour operation company.

He readily agrees that his celebrity status often gives him a front seat.

People mob him like some kwaito star.

At restaurants they often refuse to take his money.

Traffic cops who stop him end up asking for his autograph instead of issuing him with a ticket.

Sometimes it is embarrassing, he says, mentioning an incident in Polokwane where, after a presentation, two women wanted to take him home.

"They wouldn't hear a thing. They actually argued with each other."

The contents of the good whiskey evaporating, everything became fuzzy and for some reason, I began to believe that Lucky was indeed drop-dead gorgeous.

l For a podcast of this interview, go to and search for The Andrew Molefe People


Login OR Join up TO COMMENT