The Journal of African History


a1 Oxford Brookes University

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The article adopts the approach of a group biography in discussing the careers and ambitions of early black South African doctors selecting both those trained abroad, and the first cohorts trained within South Africa who graduated at the Universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand from 1945–6. It focuses on the ambiguities involved, by looking at tensions between professional altruism and entrepreneurialism in pursuing a medical career, as well as that between self-interest and selflessness in attempting to balance the requirements of a medical practice against those involved in political leadership. The paper highlights the significance of the political leadership given by black doctors in the mid-twentieth century and indicates the price paid for this in loss of medical resources under the apartheid regime. Two annexes provide original data on the medical and political contributions of individuals.

(Published Online December 9 2005)

Key Words: South Africa; education; medicine; race; resistance.


1 Grateful acknowledgement is made: for the financial assistance given to this research by the Wellcome Trust; for assistance in some of the interviews by Dr. Helen Sweet; for the helpful comments made by Dr. Harriet Deacon, and by members of the History of Medicine Seminar at the Medical School, University of Cape Town; for the assistance of Maeve Hersman of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and Gonda Perez of the University of Cape Town (UCT) who facilitated access to material from recent Internal Reconciliation Processes in the two Health Sciences Schools; for the interest and support given by Drs. Anvir Adam, Essop Jassat and Kupedi Patrick Mokhobo.