Simon Nkoli to be honoured in 2nd memorial lecture

Simon Nkoli

Simon Nkoli

The life and work of one of South Africa’s most influential LGBTI activists will be remembered in the second Simon Nkoli Memorial Lecture on 22 October at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.

The inaugural Simon Nkoli Memorial Lecture took place last year as an initiative of the University of Johannesburg’s LGBTI student group, Liberati.

It aims to preserve the memory and legacy of the South African anti-apartheid icon and LGBTI and AIDS rights activist.

This year’s lecture will feature talks by speakers such as Justice Edwin Cameron, Terror Lekota, Busi Deyi, Kwezi Mbandazayo and Mmapaseka Steve Letsike.

Topics that will be discussed include: civil society participation and law reform; the Delmas Trial and Simon coming out; LGBTIAQ organising and visibility from the early 90s through the mid-2000s; looking back on Simon and what we have become; black love and solidarity work; and work in HIV activism.

Before, during and after the talks, letters that were exchanged between Nkoli and his partner when he was in prison during the Delmas Treason Trial will be on display. The exhibition will also showcase work that has been done on Nkoli.

“We want to honour the memory of Simon Nkoli and educate young people; preserving his memory and legacy while addressing current challenges,” Mpho Buntse, one of the organisers of the lecture, told Mambaonline.

He said that there are plans to next year extend the talks into more events that will be part of a full Simon Nkoli Memorial Week.

Nkoli, at a time of immense social and political silencing, exclusion and oppression of black thought and action, showed passionate leadership and desire for social justice and universal human rights.

“His contribution towards the fight against homophobia, struggle towards changing the status quo for people living with HIV/AIDS and fighting against all forms of prejudice offers lessons on social justice organising under a constitutional democracy,” said the lecture organisers.

Nkoli founded the Saturday Group, South Africa’s first regional gay black organisation, as well as co-founded the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of Witwatersrand (GLOW), the first national non-racial LGBT organisation in South Africa.

Nkoli died in hospital from HIV related illnesses at the age of 41 on 30 November 1998. His efforts played a key role in ensuring that sexual orientation is protected under South Africa’s Constitution.

The memorial lecture is themed, “Preserving the legacy of Nkoli: Addressing current challenges”, and takes place on Thursday 22 October, at the Old Fort, Constitution Hill, (Human Rights Room) from 4:30pm to 7:30pm. Some refreshments will be served.

Please RSVP to Buntse on

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