The hji is a dedicated public health and law initiative addressing the intersection between racial and gender inequality with a special focus on access to life saving diagnostics, treatment and vaccines for COVID-19, TB and HIV, drawing on the expertise of researchers in law, public policy, economics, and public health, as well as on universities and scientific experts in and outside of South Africa.

The hji is founded and headed by Fatima Hassan, a social justice activist and human rights lawyer. We are supported by a Governing Board [Dr S Manjra, Noncedo Madubedube, Fatima Hassan (ex officio)] and a Reference Advisory Group. 


Our multi-disciplinary advisory group are highly regarded experts in and outside of South Africa and long standing experts in their respective fields. Drawing on their expertise in law, public health, economics, scientific advancement, policy development, activism and community engagement, the inaugural advisors will guide the hji on its governance, strategic focus areas and partnership models.  

Our advisors are:

Dr Francois Venter (Ezintsha, WITS), Phumi Mtetwa (JASS Southern Africa), Dr Francois Bonnici (Schwab Foundation), Phumeza Mlungwana (IBP-SA), Dr Els Torreele, Prof. Tshepo Madlingozi (CALS), Justice Kate O’Regan (Bonavero Institute), Noncedo Madubedube (Equal Education), Dr Linda Gail Bekker (Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation) and Dr Shuaib Manjra.

Short Biographies:

Justice Kate O'Regan - Inaugural Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, Oxford University

Kate is a former judge of the South African Constitutional Court (1994 – 2009). In the mid-1980s she practiced as a lawyer in Johannesburg in a variety of fields, but especially labour law and land law, representing many of the emerging trade unions and their members, as well as communities threatened with eviction under apartheid land laws. In 1990, she joined the Faculty of Law at UCT where she taught a range of courses including race, gender and the law, labour law, civil procedure, and evidence. Since her fifteen-year term at the South African Constitutional Court ended in 2009, she has amongst other things served as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court of Namibia (from 2010 - 2016), Chairperson of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into allegations of police inefficiency and a breakdown in trust between the police and the community of Khayelitsha (2012 – 2014), and as a member of the boards or advisory bodies of many NGOs working in the fields of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and equality.

Phumi Mtetwa - Regional Co-Director, JASS Southern Africa

Phumi is an activist working on issues of economic, gender and LGBTI equality and justice. She has a wealth of experience having worked in international and regional contexts particularly, Southern Africa and Ecuador. Phumi began her political life in 1985, her work included organising rent boycotts to combat Apartheid and mobilising against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. She was part of a group of activists that worked to enshrine the rights to equality, dignity, and freedom for all in the South African Constitution. As a former Co-Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) she contributed in bringing issues of concern in the global South to the organisation, including creating the LGBT South-South Dialogue, that strongly contributed LGBTI perspectives in the processes of the World Social Forum (WSF). She has been part of the leadership of many organisations, including the AIDS Law Project, TAC, FEDAEPS, the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project; is a co-founding member of the Masithandane End-Hate Collective. She is also Social Change Initiative Fellow (SCI).

Phumeza Mlungwana – Senior Programme Officer, IBP-SA

Phumeza is a social justice activist and currently works as a Senior Programme Officer with the International Budget Partnership (IBP) South Africa. She is also completing an MPhil degree in Criminology, Law and Society at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She completed her undergraduate studies and received her honours at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). She is the former General Secretary of the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) – a leading social movement in South Africa advocating for equality, safety, and justice in working class communities. Phumeza is also a recipient of the Open Society Foundations 25th Commemorative Scholarships (awarded to 25 young scholars in SA) and is a Fellow with the Social Change Initiative (SCI). She is a co-author of ‘Fragments of Activism’. She is a trustee of both Ndifuna Ukwazi and the Khayelitsha Youth Community Centre Trust.

Professor Francois Venter - Head of EZINTHSA, Wits University

Francois holds qualifications in MBCCH, MMED, FCP (SA) DTM&H and a Diploma in HIV Management. He has expertise in HIV programme implementation, including antiretroviral therapy, opportunistic infection prophylaxis, human resource allocation, data systems and service integration, having led large PEPFAR-funded HIV programmes. He has extensive training experience, supervises local and international master’s and PhD students, and is moderator for the regional Diplomas in HIV Medicine, and Sexual Health and HIV for the Southern African Colleges of Medicine. Francois leads multiple antiretroviral treatment optimisation studies, has an active interest in public sector access to HIV services, medical ethics, and human rights. He is an advisor to the South African government, Southern African HIV Clinicians Society (SAHCS) and WHO and is an active participant on numerous guidelines, policy committees and working groups which include the HIV expert review subcommittee of ARV Procurement Committee, National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs Steering Committee 2017- 2022 and the WHO Technical working group on HIV resistance.

Professor Tshepo Madlingozi – Director of CALS, WITS University

Tshepo holds a PhD from the University of London, as well as two master’s degrees in law and sociology from the University of Pretoria. Over the past 13 years, he served as the national advocacy coordinator and a board member of the Khulumani Support Group, which represents over 85,000 victims and survivors of apartheid-era gross human rights violations. In addition to his work at Khulumani, he has served on the boards of a number of human rights and social justice organisations, including the Centre for Human Rights, University of Free State; the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa; Zimbabwe Exiles Forum; the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution and amandla.mobi. He has also consulted for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Pan-African Parliament and was appointed to the Advisory Committee of the South African Law Commission: Project 25 on Statutory Law Revision.

Dr Linda Gail Bekker - Deputy Director Desmond Tutu HIV Centre; Chief Operating Officer Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation

Linda is a physician scientist with a keen interest in HIV, Tuberculosis, and related diseases. In her role as Chief Operating Officer at the DTHF, she is passionate about community development and engagement and actively explores new and innovative ways to tackle the challenge that is HIV. She is principal investigator for the NIH funded UCT CTU which comprises four clinical research sites: Groote Schuur Clinical Research Site (CRS) (focused on HIV treatment and prevention); The Lung Institute (focused on tuberculosis), Emavundleni (focused on HIV prevention) and SATVI (focused on tuberculosis). She has served as an advisor to the United States Presidents Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and is President-Elect of the International AIDS Society.

Dr François Bonnici - Director of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

François is a physician, professor, and the former Founding Director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town (UCT), the first academic centre dedicated to social innovation in Africa. His experience spans over two decades of working across multiple systems, sectors, and scales, deeply rooted in context and frontline work, while also working extensively with public sector, multilaterals, civil society, and business in progressive and catalytic partnerships. Recognised as a Rhodes Scholar, an Archbishop Tutu African Leadership Fellow and serves as board member of the Tshishimani Centre for Activist Education.

Noncedo Madubedube – General Secretary , Equal Education

Noncedo Madubedube is a black, queer, feminist-Marxist and pedagogist, and social justice activist. She is currently the General Secretary of Equal Education (EE), a youth-led social movement focusing on the right to education in South Africa, she is the first woman to hold this position since the formation of EE. hji Expert Reference Advisory Group 3 13/07/20 She first began working at EE as a tutor in 2012, then as a facilitator, and organiser. She has a Bachelor's degree in Education with a focus on Mathematics and Language, from the University of the Western Cape (UWC). She currently also serves as a trustee of the Bookery Project. As a long-standing student activist and feminist organiser, she also co-founded the Siyakhula Project in Cape Town, focusing on learners and social cohesion.

Dr Els Torreele – Medical Innovation and Access Activist

Els is currently on sabbatical as a researcher and advocate for global health and social justice, in particular medical innovation that prioritises health needs and includes equitable access. She graduated as bioengineer with a PhD in biomedical sciences from the Free University Brussels, and subsequently worked on innovation policy issues related to R&D agenda-setting, patenting of research, and the commercialisation of biotechnology research. In 2000, she joined the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access to Essential Medicines Campaign in its pioneering years as chair of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Working Group, a think tank to advance needs-driven R&D for diseases that primarily affect developing countries. A key outcome was the creation in 2003 of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), a nonprofit drug development organisation which she joined as a founding team member. In 2009, she joined the Open Society Foundations in New York to lead their Access to Medicines and Innovation work. She returned to MSF in March 2017 for three years as their Access Campaign Executive Director, advocating to ensure that appropriate medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics are developed, available, affordable, and adapted to people’s needs.  

Dr Shuaib Manjra - Medical Doctor

Shuaib is a sport- and occupational-medicine physician, and works with a range of non- governmental organisations, state- and private-sector institutions. He is also a senior honorary lecturer at UCT's School of Public Health and Chairperson of the Medical Committee of the International Netball Federation. He was awarded the Helen Suzman Fellowship (Chevening) by the British Council, and the John Darwell Prize for academic achievement. He is an associate fellow and examiner of the College of Public Health Medicine (Occupational Health) (CMSA). He graduated in medicine from the University of Natal and did his post- graduate studies in sports medicine and occupational health at UCT and the University of Birmingham.


Fatima Hassan - HJI Head

Fatima Hassan is a human rights lawyer and social justice activist and the founder of the HJI. She is the former Executive Director of the Open Society Foundation for South Africa (OSF-SA), heading the Foundation for 6 years (mid-2013 - mid-2019). She has dedicated her professional life to defending and promoting human rights in South Africa, especially in the field of HIV/AIDS where she worked for the AIDS Law Project and also acted for the Treatment Action Campaign in many of its legal cases. She has a BA and LL.B from the University of the Witwatersrand and an LL.M from Duke University. She clerked at the Constitutional Court of South Africa for Justice Kate O'Regan and has served as the Special Adviser to former Minister Barbara Hogan (Health; Public Enterprises). She is a former co-director and a founding Trustee of Ndifuna Ukwazi, and previously served on the Boards of the Raith Foundation; SA Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF-SA); the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC); and the SA Council for Medical Schemes. She is currently serving on the Board of Global Witness. She is the recipient of several fellowships and awards, including the Franklin Thomas SA Constitutional Court Fellowship; and the Tom and Andi Bernstein Distinguished Human Rights Fellowship at Yale University’s School of Law.

Fatima's articles for the Daily Maverick are available here: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/author/fatimahassan/

Fatima hosts a COVID-19 and IP related podcast called ACCESS - https://www.volume.africa/access

And hosts a new PPLAAF podcast called 'The Witness' https://www.pplaaf.org/podcast.html

Dr Marlise Richter - HJI Senior Researcher

Marlise has worked in the health and human rights field for twenty years and has served in several key South African NGOs and civil society coalitions. She was a researcher at Project Literacy, the AIDS Law Project (ALP), the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit (RHRU, WITS) and more recently served as the Head of Policy Development & Advocacy at Sonke Gender Justice.

She holds a BA (Hons) and LLM degree from Wits University (South Africa), and completed an MA in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame (USA) as a Fulbright scholar. In 2013, she graduated with a PhD in public health from the International Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Ghent (Belgium) on sex worker access to health care services in sub-Saharan Africa.

She has published in academic and popular forums in the areas of law, bioethics, gender, migration and public health. She holds a visiting researcher position at the African Centre for Migration & Society, Wits University, and currently focuses on research, advocacy and policy change in gender, human rights and the COVID-19 pandemic, with an emphasis on the impact of the criminal law on health access for sex workers.

Althea Adonis - Administrator and Coordinator

Althea has over 15 years experience in the field and a Business Administration degree. She is passionate about health justice, and the rights of differently abled persons.

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Covid 19


The hji works in partnership with other organisations that focus broadly on rights protections. Given South Africa’s massive inequality and dual health care system, it will address the factors that influence inequity in health access (with a focus on medicine access) during a pandemic, and after, with a focus on race, class and gender.

The hji will initiate broad local and global policy reform campaigns, using research, to protect classes of people and movements by focusing on the social determinants of ill health, to advance the right to access medicines and health care, specifically for COVID-19, TB and HIV, with a special focus on intellectual property and patent barriers, to address the health and other consequences of the pandemic and other chronic conditions on access to health care generally, and on pending and proposed health policy and law reforms.



  • Equitable Health Care

  • Access to Affordable Life-Saving Medicines 

  • COVID-19 and its intersection with other chronic conditions (TB, HIV/AIDS, Cancer)

  • Barriers to Access to Health Care (Inequality)  

  • Medicine Pricing and Affordability (Patents, Intellectual Property) 

  • Pandemic Profiteering, Pricing Transparency, Corruption and Accountability

  • The Impact of Joblessness on ill-health and vice-versa 

  • COVID-19 and the future of Universal Health Care in South Africa 




Cape Town, South Africa

​ NPC 2020/779556/08

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