Thursday, June 15, 2006

South Africa's best-known Zulu weatherman has died of AIDS


Jabu Sithole became one of the handful of South African celebrities to publicly admit he had HIV, saying he wanted people to protect themselves from the epidemic that infects about 5 million people in the country.

He died in a Johannesburg clinic on Thursday, aged 34.

"Over the years that Jabu was at the weather center, he brought the Zulu weather bulletin to life ... the enthusiasm that he brought to the bulletin will be sorely missed", South African Broadcasting Corp (SABC) spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said in a statement.

Sithole was among the first South African television meteorologists to broadcast in an African language following a decision by the SABC in 2002 to introduce the service in all 11 of the country's post-apartheid official languages.

He had an estimated audience of 2.3 million Zulu-speakers, and regularly ended his broadcasts with a hearty "Umphiumhlope!," which roughly translates as "good luck."

Despite having one of the world's largest HIV/AIDS caseloads, South Africa has seen very few high-profile figures acknowledge having the disease, a situation that critics say perpetuates stigma around AIDS and makes it harder to fight.

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