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200 Young South African 2014

The Mail & Guardian’s annual feature of eminent 200 Young South Africans has become a hallmark of our calendar.
It is one of the most popular editions of the M&G, but it has earned significance far beyond our newsroom. A listing in the 200 Young South Africans supplement is now a feature of the best CVs in the country.
Every year since 2006, we’ve featured 200 young South Africans, on course to touch the world with their greatness. It is not an award as much as it is a mark of distinction — a number of young people featured have since grown into leaders in their fields. This is a celebration of excellence as much at is a directory of future leaders.
We begin by inviting nominations from the public, of people between the ages of 18-35, and we received over 6 000 nominations in 2019.

Phumeza Tisile

“I didn’t decide to be an activist, it just happened; turns out I’m good at it and I enjoy it,” says 23-year-old Phumeza Tisile, whose blog on her struggles with multiple drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and extremely drug resistant TB (XDR-TB) – and life thereafter – has helped many in South Africa.
“As much as it helps others who are going through treatment, I’m happy to help where I can. I still get personal messages on my Facebook page from people begging for better drugs.”
Born in the Eastern Cape, Tisile studied in Cape Town and was doing a human resources qualification when TB struck “with a huge bang”.
“It was in 2010, the time when South Africa hosted the World Cup. At first no one knew what was wrong with me, they assumed it was pneumonia, but instead of getting better I got worse.”
She was diagnosed with ordinary TB, then MDR-TB (the complicated drug regimen includes a daily injection which can, and in her case did, cause deafness as a side effect).
The nightmare grew into a two-year battle as she was then diagnosed with XDR-TB. Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) was able to assist the young woman with a vital drug to beat XDR; winning that fight is something she characterises as a “huge achievement”.

Tisile started blogging while at the TB Care Centre. “Many people wanted to give up, but when they read my blog they saw
that I had had it worse and their problems are a drop in the ocean. It’s a spirit-lifter when you know someone out there
cares.”

In 2012, Tisile and MSF doctor Jennifer Hughes co-authored the ‘DR-TB Manifesto’, which explains the terrible situation facing people with drug resistant TB worldwide, and makes a call for: 1) universal access to diagnosis and treatment, 2) hugely improved treatment and 3) enough funding to achieve this.
In mid-May, Tisile headed for the World Health Assembly in Geneva to hand over the manifesto and ask governments, the World Health Organisation, major health role-players and the research community to prioritise the fight against drugresistanty TB.


— Mandi Smallhorne