Zackie Achmat is a political activist, most widely known as founder and a chairperson of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and for his work on behalf of people living with HIV/ AIDS in South Africa. Born in 1962, Zackie joined the African National Congress (ANC) in Victor Verster prison in 1980 as an anti-apartheid organiser. From 1985 to 1990, Zackie was a member of the Marxist Workers Tendency of the ANC, playing a leading role in establishing its underground structures during the last years of apartheid. He remains a critical member of the ANC.
Identifying as a gay man, Zackie co-founded the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality in 1994. He served as its director during the mid-1990s. With the goal of ensuring the protection and rights of gay and lesbian people in the new South African Constitution, the Coalition was instrumental in bringing cases that ultimately led to the decriminalisation of sodomy, among other achievements.
Zackie lives with HIV and in 1998 co-founded the Treatment Action Campaign. TAC's initial focus was on ensuring access to medicine for people living with HIV/AIDS who are unable to afford private healthcare. Zackie was persistently critical of former President Thabo Mbeki and his administration's AIDS denialism. Between December 1998 and August 2003, he also refused to take antiretroviral medicine until it was publically available. TAC successfully sued government, drug companies and quack-remedy peddlers.
In 2008, TAC helped coordinate the efforts of civil society to assist people displaced by xenophobic violence. From these efforts, Zackie joined others to found the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), an organisation dedicated to promoting safety and security for all people in South Africa. As a member of Open Shuhada Street, Zackie also works directly with Palestinians and Israelis resisting the Occupation through grassroots and non-violent methods.
Zackie has written and directed four major documentaries on children's rights, the Afrikaans language, South African lesbian and gay history and the Constitutional Court. Today he serves as the Co-Director of Ndifuna Ukwazi, a non-profit organisation involved in leadership development and providing strategic support to other organisations.