Khabzela: The Life And Times Of A South African
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Khabzela: The Life And Times Of A South African is a bestselling 2005 biography written by South African author Liz McGregor about South African disc jockey Fana Khaba (known as "Khabzela"), who died from AIDS.
The book recounts how the author, Liz McGregor, was asked while working as a freelance journalist for Poz magazine to write a story about a black celebrity infected with HIV. When Khabzela announced on the radio in April 2003 that he was infected, he seemed to make an ideal subject. McGregor interviewed him, wrote the story for Poz, and then went on to write the biography because, as she put, the story "got under my skin".
McGregor tells how Khabzela rose to fame in post-apartheid South Africa, enjoying relative fame and wealth and leading a hedonistic and promiscuous lifestyle. Following his infection with HIV, Khabzela initially took antiretroviral medications but then, beset by a "bevy of faith healers and purveyors of magical drugs", he was persuaded to abandon his treatment and pursue quack remedies instead. Khabzela died in January 2004.
For Shula Marks, the biography shows that ambivalence towards medical treatment of AIDS was not just the result of the dubious dictates of the Thabo Mbeki government, but also stemmed from ingrained attitudes in the wider South African public.
Maurice Taonezvi Vambe and Anthony Chennells write that Khabzela raises interesting questions about the boundary between biography and autobiography, since it describes not only the subject's life but also recounts the author's experiences of meeting him.
Nogwaja Shadrack Zulu writes that beyond the surface narrative of the biography, the book explores the politics around AIDS in 1990s South Africa and raises questions about the consequences of AIDS denialism at that time. Zulu considers that the biography refocuses on AIDS as predominantly a medical issue and acts as a critique of the deceptive "African solution" whereby ineffective remedies – such as the African potato – were touted by governmental authorities as an effective form of treatment.
Jonny Steinberg sees the book as "investigative" and writes that it "lays open what is perhaps the most upsetting aspect of the [AIDS] pandemic" – that even though the subject is talked of openly, it is something South Africa failed to engage with effectively.
Gavin Steingo writes the McGregor cannot understand why Khabzela pursued a course that ended in his own death, and finds her proffered explanations – that he craved independence or wanted to retain the added attention that his illness brought – unconvincing.
- Zulu 2009, p. 53. For "bestselling" see Steinberg 2011.
- Marks 2007, p. 865.
- Zulu 2009, p. 54. For the date of Khabzela's radio announcement see Marks 2007, p. 866.
- Zulu 2009, p. 55.
- Marks 2007, p. 866.
- Zulu 2009, p. 61.
- Marks 2007, p. 868.
- Marks 2007, p. 865.
- Vambe & Chennell 2009, p. 3.
- Zulu 2009, p. 54.
- Zulu 2009, p. 60.
- Steinberg 2011.
- Steingo 2011, p. 359.
- Marks, Shula (2007). "Science, Social Science and Pseudo-Science in the HIV/AIDS Debate in Southern Africa". Journal of Southern African Studies. 33 (4): 861–874. doi:10.1080/03057070701647025. ISSN 0305-7070.
- Steinberg, Jonny (25 April 2011). "An Eerie Silence—Why is it so hard for South Africa to talk about AIDS?". Foreign Policy.
- Steingo, Gavin (2011). "Chapter 29: Kwaito and the Culture of AIDS in South Africa". In Barz, Gregory; Cohen, Judah M. (eds.). The Culture of AIDS in Africa: Hope and Healing Through Music and the Arts. Oxford University Press. pp. 357–361. doi:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199744473.001.0001. ISBN 9780199744473.
- Vambe, Maurice Taonezvi; Chennells, Anthony (2009). "Introduction: The Power of Autobiography in Southern Africa". Journal of Literary Studies. 25 (1): 1–7. doi:10.1080/02564710802261725. ISSN 0256-4718.
- Zulu, N.S. (2009). "Challenging Aids Denialism—Khabzela: Life and Times of a South African". Journal of Literary Studies. 25 (1): 53–63. doi:10.1080/02564710802261782. ISSN 0256-4718.
- "Khabzela: The Life And Times Of A South African – Liz McGregor" (Book review). Independent Online. 19 June 2007.