Khabzela concerns the brief life and perplexing death of Fana Khaba, aka Khabzela, a youth icon whose brief life mirrors that of the first generation to reach adulthood after liberation. Born and brought up in dire poverty in Soweto, he managed against all the odds to fulfil a lifelong dream of becoming a DJ. No sooner had he achieved his dream - the most popular DJ on the most popular youth radio station, Yfm, with money flowing in and girls throwing themselves at him - than he fell ill with Aids. The central question of this timely and compellingly readable title is: why didn't he take anti-retrovirals and save his own life? The answer reveals a lot about many South Africans' understanding of Aids as well as the mendacity of the government's approach to it. McGregor's story introduces the reader to all sorts and conditions of South Africans as they connected with Fana and his life; taxi drivers, sangomas, a couple of Argentinian-born elderly Dutch ladies who have concocted a cure from their kitchen; academics and doctors, snake-oil salesmen, Dr Magic and his seductive potions and patter, the Minister of Health, and all the while, McGregor, engages with these people, and vividly portrays a changing South African world while trying to understand the country she had spent many years away from. This is a story about the fragility of the frontier generation: damaged by years of struggle, and now trying to make their way in a world totally different to the one they were prepared for. Liz McGregor was educated at Wykeham School in Pietermaritzburg and the University of Cape Town. She worked as a journalist on various papers including the Sunday Times and the Rand Daily Mail before leaving the country in 1985. She worked as a freelance journalist in South Korea for two years and for 13 years as a staff journalist on the Guardian in London, where she was deputy editor of the Comment and Analysis section. In December 2002, she returned to South Africa to a country transformed in her long absence. McGregor came upon Fana Khaba by chance. An American publication she wrote for requested an interview with an HIV-positive black celebrity. In early 2003, these were thin on the ground. Then Yfm DJ and youth icon, Fana Khaba aka Khabzela, announced on air he was positive. McGregor interviewed him and became increasingly fascinated by his life: this was a man whose life followed the trajectory of the new South Africa - the period she had missed out on. Khabzela lived the Soweto school protests of the eighties; the taxi wars of the nineties; the emergence of the kwaito generation and the birth of top youth radio station Yfm. When Aids consumed the same generation, he died from it. But his death left a mystery: why did he refuse to take the anti-retroviral drugs which would have given him another decade or so of healthy life? McGregor realised that to understand why he died the way he did, she would need to understand how he lived.
It was a heartbreaking day when Khabzela died of AIDS, nonetheless, this book about his agonising death will help to create further consciousness regarding HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa. What saddens me is that it had to be my buddy Khabzela to die in this way. Rest in peace, Khabzela. --Ashifashaba, DJ, Yfm
Country of origin: South Africa
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