Saturday, March 04, 2006

Through the Spectre of AIDS, Love

From this morning's Sunday Times:

AIDS brought former President Nelson Mandela’s grandson and his wife to the altar.

Mandla Mandela and his wife Thando hosted high-profile guests, including President Thabo Mbeki, and hundreds of villagers when they tied the knot at one of a series of colourful wedding ceremonies during a two-day celebration at the Mandela homestead at Qunu in the Eastern Cape last weekend.

Speaking at his reception, Mandla, clutching his weeping 27-year-old bride’s hand, told the 800 guests that Aids had killed both his and his wife’s parents.

“My parents, Makgatho and Joyce Zondi Mandela, died of Aids,” said Mandla. “But I also want to tell you that my wife Thando’s parents died of the disease as well.”

Mandla told the guests that he met Thando at a difficult time in her life.

The couple met five years ago in Johannesburg. In 2002, her 55-year old mother, Yolisa Mabunu, died of Aids-related complications. Two years later her 56-year-old father, Mpumelelo Mabunu, also died of the disease.

“In both cases I was there to support and comfort her,” he said.
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Although this story is bittersweet at best and not so likely to make the New York Times style section's wedding story of the week, I'm always happy to see any public pronouncements of the devastation of an individual AIDS death. Former President Mandela has been a leader in this regard upon his departure from office-- expressing public grief at the death of his son from AIDS-related causes. In South Africa, we're bombarded with mass AIDS figures- over 5 million infected with HIV, but there is little public dialogue on the toll of AIDS on one family, on one life, on one couple losing both sets of parents before their wedding day.

President Mandela reminded us that an AIDS death is not a cause for personal or family shame, just a cause for sorrow.

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