Fragment of Sobukwe history cherished at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital

Retired cardiothoracic surgeon recalls his time with revered struggle veteran in interview

Tuesday, December 5 2017

On the 93rd anniversary of the birth of struggle veteran Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Netcare has made a recorded interview with one of the surgeons who cared for him at Groote Schuur Hospital available to a wider audience for the first time.

“The interview, which provides some fascinating insights into the life of this towering figure in our unfortunate past, is part of the historically significant collection exhibited on the twelfth floor of the new Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital,” says Dr Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare.

“We consider it a tremendous honour to be the custodians of this piece of South African history, and it has been a fixture of the public display since the hospital opened in its new building on the Cape Town Foreshore in December last year. To help bring this material to a wider audience, we have decided to share Dr Jose de Nobrega’s interview about his time with Mr Sobukwe with the media and people who may otherwise not have access to it. The link to the interview will also be posted on the Netcare Limited and Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital’s Facebook pages.”

Retired cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr De Nobrega, was a consultant to the iconic unit at Groote Schuur Hospital run by cardiac surgeon, Professor Christiaan Barnard. In the interview, he relates his memories of Mr Sobukwe’s time at the hospital, where he received treatment for lung cancer, as well as of the three weeks the Pan African Congress leader spent in his home recuperating.

The interview includes Dr De Nobrega’s recollection of interactions between Mr Sobukwe and Prof Barnard, including the venerated heart surgeon banishing apartheid security officers from Mr Sobukwe’s ward “as if they were 12-year-old schoolboys”, and Mr Sobukwe’s polite decline to Professor Barnard’s invitation to take part in an interview with international journalists.

During the interview, which was recorded last year, Dr De Nobrega describes taking the anti-apartheid hero for a drive to help relieve the boredom of his recuperation.

“We get into the car and I say, ‘Where do you want to go?’ and he said he wants to go to Signal Hill. He got out of the car and I said, ‘What do you want to do now, Robert?’ ‘I want to see Robben Island’. I didn’t say a word,” Dr De Nobrega relates in the recording.

Dr Friedland notes that the interview clip is a treasured relic of a man whose actions from decades ago continue to shape South African society today.

“Through Dr De Nobrega’s words, something of the character of this great man, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, comes to life again. It is an immense privilege to have this material in our collection at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, and we share it more widely because his contribution to our country should never be forgotten,” he concluded.

Follow this link to play audio, click here


Issued by:    Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Limited
Contact:    Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney and Meggan Saville
Telephone:    (011) 469 3016
Email:        [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]