Lebese died more than a week ago, and his mother Florence Lebese has now released a statement confirming that the former Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates midfielder died of “AIDS-related complications”.
“My son Thabang Lebese is no more and though it was difficult we as the Lebese family have accepted his passing,” she says.
“I would like to inform South Africa, especially the football fraternity that my son, Thabang Lebese died of AIDS-related complications. It was his wish to have disclosed his HIV status himself; unfortunately he did not get this opportunity. Thabang was very involved with Show Me Your Number, a social engagement project using sport as a tool to promote HIV/AIDS prevention.
“Through this non-profit organisation, Thabang and other players involved engaged South Africans about prevention, treatment, care and support regarding HIV/AIDS. Show Me Your Number was a platform that my son contributed towards in dealing with the knowledge of his HIV status after testing. He silently used it as a means to encourage many others to do like he did – get tested and know your status so that you can get help.
“As a mother I believe that to address the problem of HIV/AIDS is to speak openly about the disease, so that we deal with the stigma associated with it. Like many others, I could have taken the easy route and keep the cause of my son’s death a secret and in the process allow innuendos fueled by media reports and corridor murmurs of “death due to an undisclosed illness”. But in not speaking out regards Thabang’s cause of death, I would be betraying my son's last wish to disclose his status.
“In his hospital bed, with superb support from the Helen Joseph team of professional medical and administrative teams, Thabang had grown in strength and had accepted his status. He had decided that upon his discharge from the hospital he would not just encourage others about prevention and treatment, but would become a living example of his Show Me Your Number teachings.
“At his prime, Thabang was celebrated, at his lowest ebb and in his coffin to the grave, Thabang was equally celebrated. Some of his friends, co-workers and some of us in his family knew about my son's status and we all allowed him the space he needed, to find the soft landing pad that would have made it easier for him to disclose. At no point did anyone discriminate against him due to his HIV status. That is ubuntu.
“Go my son for you served your purpose in life… You were a true leader. Let us support Thabang’s legacy by joining hands with Show Me Your Number to do greater things in the quest to win this battle.”
Florence Lebese has in the process thanked South Africans for their unwavering support following her son’s death.
“We received with warmth the condolences and messages of support from all South Africans upon learning of Thabang’s death. As a family, we want to sincerely thank Kerrs Funeral Directors for volunteering to help bury Thabang. All we can say to Kerrs, to Show Me Your Number, Kaizer Chiefs FC, Orlando Pirates FC, the Ministry and Department of Sport & Recreation, Gauteng Departments of Health and Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, the City of Joburg, SAFA, the PSL, the multitudes of Thabang’s friends, the football family of former and current players, PSL clubs, the soccer fans - that which you all did for us and for Thabang is unparalleled.
“It is never easy to lose a loved one, especially when that person is the free spirited, jolly and loving person Thabang was. Our grief is made bearable only by the incredible support we have received during this trying time.
“My son's football prowess made a lasting impression on South Africans and his legacy was celebrated in a manner fit for a king. Thabang was given a dignified end,” Lebese concludes.
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