The first Black woman to register as a medical doctor in South Africa, founder member of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YMCA).
Mary Susan Malahele-Xakana was born in Polokwane (then Pietersburg). Her father had been ostracized by the BaPedi for becoming a Christian and for refusing to have his twin children put to death, as the birth of twins was believed to be a curse.
Malahele-Xakana became the first Black woman to register as a medical doctor in South Africa in 1947, after becoming the first recipient of the Native Trust Fund to study medicine. Medical studies had been open to Black students from 1941 at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), and the first Black doctors had qualified in 1947.
Malahele-Xakana was also a founder member of the YWCA, a member of the Women’s Peace movement and a member of the Fort Hare University Council. She was involved in community work for 34 years of her life.
In 1982, she collapsed and died while doing voluntary service for anti-apartheid activist and Mandela family physician, Dr Nthato Motlana. She was 65 years old.
• “Soweto” supplement, p.6, The Leader
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