News Release

1 December 2018
Johannesburg, South Africa

The End of Nkosi’s Legacy?

Nkosi’s Haven might not be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year. Should financial assistance and aid not be forthcoming in the next few weeks, Nkosi’s Haven will close its doors by the end of this year.

Even with an estimated 7.2m South Africans – some 18.9 % of the entire population – living with HIV, this country still had a new HIV infection rate of 270 000 people in 2017.  These figures supplied by Avert demonstrate that there is still an enormous task ahead to prevent future infections, and to care for those who are infected.  

Nkosi’s Haven has treated and accommodated some 220 mothers and over 300 children since its inception. On the downside the Haven has had to bury more than 45 mothers, one teenager, and sadly five babies.  

Gail Johnson, founding director of Nkosi’s Haven, regrets the sounding of alarm bells about the Haven’s distressed financial situation, and is anxious for the future of the 105 current children, and 28 resident mothers accommodated at the NGO in the south of Johannesburg.

Gail Johnson said, “The Haven is Nkosi’s legacy. We have worked tirelessly over the last 20 years to make a difference in the lives of HIV-infected mothers and their children – and our statistics demonstrate that we have certainly made a real difference.

To celebrate International AIDS day with this dark cloud over our heads is not what we intended for our residents. This day is usually celebrated with celebrities, media and corporate sponsors – a day to observe those who have succumbed to the disease, and a day to enjoy with those who have survived. 

We have been most grateful for the assistance we have received to date from our South African and international donors. We still receive tremendous goodwill from these donors but unfortunately unless we receive monetary assistance, our operational expenses cannot be met.

We are fairly nonplussed by the ineptitude of provincial and national governments. We have been most conscientious in our applications for funding from government, but our experience is that we don’t think that our government really understands its role in its entirety, never mind the amount of times documents have been lost. When the then deputy-president Cyril Ramaphosa and his entourage visited Nkosi’s Haven on 13 July 2016 on the occasion of the Five-Day Count Down to the 21st International World AIDS Conference held in Durban, we thought our leadership had finally got its act together. This was the very first time that the South African government acknowledged Nkosi Johnson’s role in his fight against AIDS and the roll out of ARVs – some 15 years after his passing.  However, the dithering and dallying by government has worsened – try calling the provincial department of social development for a start.”

The board of directors at Nkosi’s Haven share their founder’s sentiment and are aghast at the prospect of not being able to continue caring for the most vulnerable in South African society. The Haven has already been approached to accommodate an extra 27 infected mothers, children, and HIV-infected orphans in the new year. Another concern is the plight of the 25-support staff currently employed at Nkosi’s Haven.

Gail Johnson concludes, “If we could wave a magic wand right now – we need R1.5m to tied us over for another four months. Another dysfunctional entity, the National Lottery Foundation, cannot even assist as we have an ‘open application’ since 2015 – which in their convoluted gobbledegook means that they like government, are also dysfunctional. And it is this scenario that faces many, many more NGOs and NPOs throughout the country.”

The first ever International Children’s Peace Prize was awarded posthumously to Nkosi Johnson in 2005 and handed over by Nobel Peace Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev for his work and dedication to offer a more dignified existence to South African children and their mothers living with HIV and AIDS.  Without financial assistance, Nkosi Johnson’s legacy will come to pass.

About Nkosi’s Haven

Inspired by Nkosi Johnson, and founded by his foster mother Gail Johnson, Nkosi officiated the opening of the first Nkosi’s Haven and Friends on 14 April 1999. When Nashua purchased the adjoining house in the Berea, Nkosi was in a coma. The Nkosi’s Haven projects include: Nkosi’s Haven Village in Allan Manor, and the rural Nkosi’s Haven Farm near Vereeniging. The Nkosi’s Haven projects can accommodate 155 HIV-infected mothers and children. All educational, medical and nutritional needs are met by the projects. Nkosi’s Haven is a registered NGO 008-995 and is audited by BDO South Africa. The annual financial statements are available on request.

For more information, visit

Banking Details

Bank: Standard Bank
Branch: Melville Branch
Code: 006-105
Account Name: Nkosi’s Haven Village
Account No: 00 288 4097

Section 18A receipts will be issued.

Media Enquiries

Gary Scallan
Barbet Communications
Tel: +27 (0) 72 658 4803

Gail Johnson is available for an interview – please contact her directly on 082 593 1999

Photographs Available on Request (Hi-Res)

1. Christmas 2017 at Nkosi’s Haven
2. Nkosi's Haven Art Theatre Production 2018
3. Nkosi's Haven Art Theatre Production Finale 2018
4. Gail Johnson and Nkosi’s Haven Theatre Production 2018

Reference Story

By Dr Holly France

I find it difficult to know where to start when I consider the impact Nkosi’s Haven has had on the children under my care in the last 5 years.

I am a paediatrician working at a primary health care clinic serving the impoverished community of Diepsloot and I am responsible for the paediatric HIV clinic.

When Anorica was 14 months old she had both TB and HIV. She started on treatment and should have been getting better but instead I was seeing her every week and watching her waste away in front of me. Steadily losing weight and looking like those children you see on the news in famine- struck countries. I thought perhaps I was missing something, perhaps another diagnosis we hadn’t seen, perhaps drug resistant TB. Her mother didn’t even seem to be giving the medication. She would walk in looking exhausted and dejected. She had no job and no support. Her mother lived far away, and her boyfriend was little help. One day she walked into my room, with Anorica crying. When I asked what was wrong, she said neither of them had eaten anything for 2 days.  I didn’t know where to turn but a colleague suggested we try Nkosi’s – and that was the beginning! They were so quick to help – sent the forms through and we had Anorica and her mother placed there in a matter of days. The difference was unbelievable. Each week I saw her after that, she had gained weight, mum looked visibly lighter as the burden of trying to feed her child was removed. The staff helped her to give the medication and she started to believe that she could do this, she could be a good mother and her child could thrive. After a few months, Anorica’s mother was able to get a job and they moved out, but she has never looked back. The respite for those few months, the opportunity to be cared for, educated and fed, quite honestly saved both of their lives.

When I first met Tumelo he was 8 years old. He had contracted HIV from his mother who had passed away and he was cared for by his grandmother. He had severe damage to his lungs from TB and repeated chest infections, which in turn put strain on his heart. The result was that he needed handfuls of pills every day and was oxygen dependent The hospital had arranged for him to have oxygen at home but living in a shack with 2 metres of tubing from the oxygen cylinder to Tumelo was a nightmare. His grandmother was scared to leave him but couldn’t take him anywhere- she couldn’t even go to the shops or church. They had no other family and no support. He would arrive at clinic blue and breathless because his oxygen had run out, but they had no phone and no way to get hold of the supplier. In addition, he was desperately underweight, and they didn’t have the resources to improve his nutrition. It just wasn’t working. In discussion with the social workers, we felt he would have to go to a children’s home- but to leave his beloved granny - the one source of stability and love in his chaotic life- would be too awful. So, we approached Nkosi’s. They took Tumelo and his granny in, initially in the sick bay but after a time into a cottage together. They helped granny to manage all his medications, arranged for him to go to all his hospital visits, and slowly but surely, he started to improve. Each visit, I would see a change - both in him and his granny who was finding life again after the stress of the preceding few years. After some time, he could manage short times without the oxygen, and could play like other children. And eventually, much to everyone’s delight, he came off the oxygen altogether! He had never attended school and had learning problems, but through Nkosi’s, he had an educational assessment and was placed in a special school.

Sadly, his condition deteriorated again after a time – which is not unusual in children with such severe chest disease- and he needed to go back on his oxygen but today, he and granny continue to live together at Nkosi’s, surrounded by people who care and who support them through the tough times. I cannot imagine how they would cope and where he would go if they ever had to leave. It is quite simply, Home.

I could keep going forever! There are countless stories just from my clinic about children and the caregivers whose lives have been turned around both by short stays and long-term placement at Nkosi’s. There is nowhere quite like it-so few places where mothers and their children can stay together and get the support they need from dedicated professional, passionate staff. A pool of light and hope in the darkness of poverty, illness and stigma that continues to surround so many South Africans

I am forever grateful for my relationship with them.

Dr Holly France


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