Send-off for CEO Olive Shisana



HSRC CEO Professor Olive Shisana is leaving the HSRC after 14 years, of which 10 years was spent at the helm of affairs. Taking leave took quite a few occasions. Herewith some photographs with the most memorable quotations from colleagues and friends of this extraordinary and inexhaustible leader, researcher and creative thinker.

What they said

Minister Naledi Pandor: ‘She leads by example, playing a strong role in ensuring that the HSRC’s policy advice to government was based on research, on evidence, and not on her political affiliations. She led the HSRC to focus on the wider issues in social sciences, broadening our understanding on how to respond in legislation and public policy.’

Director-general of Heath, Precious Matsoso: ‘Olive always starts a call with “you know what?”. Then you know you are either in trouble or that she wanted to interest you in something’... ‘She will phone you at 01:00 at night. I will hear the phone ring and still half asleep, not be sure whether I was dreaming. She would say: “Can you please look at page 3 and tell me what you think?” And I did not even have the document with me.’

Dr Botlhale Tema, member of the HSRC Board: ‘She is like a laser beam. She goes to the heart of the matter under discussion’... ‘No matter how heated an argument would get, Olive’s temper would remain on an even keel and she would calmly steer us back to the agenda. I need a recipe from her on how to do that.’

Dr Nono Simelela, special advisor to the Chair of the South African National AIDS Council: ‘To survive and be successful in the political environment one has to navigate and know when to step over the line and still take people with you. I have seen Olive take a seriously diplomatic role in meetings. People would walk into a room with fixed positions, and despite the abuse they throw at her, they would eventually agree and she would take them along on a path. I’ve seen her not losing her vision, staying in the moment, but also stepping back if something comes through, which she has not thought about.

Professor Dan Ncayiyana, advisor to the CEO: ‘She has an absolute loyalty to the HSRC and an incorruptible sense of fairness, but does not suffer fools gladly. You have to know what you’re on about if you want Olive’s attention and respect. She is a perfectionist and can cause discomfort for some, yet has a big heart and is caring and considerate.’

Professor Leickness Simbayi, long-suffering colleague and head of the HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB Programme at the HSRC: ‘She is very hard working and a slave driver... Those of us who survived, appreciate her very much.’ Pointing to the period of the first seminal study on HIV prevalence in 2002 and at the height of denialism, the team had to endure ‘nasty criticism’ following the shocking results of an 11% HIV infection rate, ‘but we persevered and this is because Olive could show, “this is the evidence.’