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Dr Mary Susan Makobatjatji Malahlela (Posthumous)

The Order of the Baobab in

Dr Mary Susan Makobatjatji Malahlela (Posthumous) Awarded for:
Her excellent contribution in the provision of medical services to the oppressed majority of South Africans during the apartheid era. She was the first African woman to qualify as a medical practitioner in South Africa.

Profile of Dr Mary Susan Makobatjatji Malahlela (Posthumous)

Dr Mary Susan Makobatjatji Malahlela was born on 2 May 1916 in Polokwane, Limpopo. Her family moved to Juliwe, west of Roodepoort, Johannesburg. She attended the Methodist Primary School in Juliwe where her father was the headmaster. She qualified as a medical doctor on 21 June 1947.

Dr Malahlela reached many milestones in her meaningful life. She grew up and lived during the time when it was unthinkable that a black man, let alone a black woman, could become a medical doctor. Dr Malahlela proved to be an exceptionally gifted woman. Regardless of the legal and cultural impediments she faced, she became one of the first black female medical doctors in South Africa. After completing her Medical Aid Course at Fort Hare University she was awarded the Native Trust Fund scholarship in 1941 to study medicine at Wits University. She was the first African woman to receive the scholarship.

After finishing her medical studies, Dr Malahlela worked as a house doctor at the McCord Hospital in Durban from 1947 until 1949. She went on to establish a medical practice in Kliptown, Soweto, the first to be established in the town. She opened a second practice at Khazamula Stores at Crossroads in Mofolo South, Soweto. These surgeries served the people of Soweto with excellence; they no longer had to travel long distances to acquire medical care.

The Group Areas Act shattered her as she was forced to close her medical practices because her family was forcefully uprooted from Kliptown to Dobsonville. In 1981 Dr Malahlela collapsed at the rural Oppenheimer Witkoppen Clinic where she was offering voluntary work and was rushed to Park Lane Hospital in Johannesburg where she passed on.