At the Dr MV Gumede Memorial Lecture were
(from left) Professor Rob Slotow; Dr Lindiwe
Simelane, Mrs Melodius Gumede , Ms Nana
 Gumede; Dr Nceba Gqaleni and Professor
Lizo Mazwai.

Family and friends of the late Dr Mordecai Vusumuzi Gumede joined the University community as well as traditional healers to commemorate the life and times of the inspirational medical veteran. 

The gathering took place at the inaugural Dr MV Gumede Memorial Lecture held by the College of Health Sciences during African Traditional Medicine week. The lecture paid tribute to a man well known for his work with traditional healers in KwaZulu-Natal.

Gumede played a key role in shaping the recognition and development of African traditional medicine earning him respect among traditional healers at a time when his embodiment of collaboration between traditional and conventional medicine was still anathema to many. The celebrated pioneer was posthumously awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Zululand in 1999.

He was described as an exceptional medical doctor who contributed substantially to the public service in the province. His book Traditional healers: a medical doctor’s perspective, is prescribed by several South African universities.

A special tribute was paid to Gumede on behalf of the KwaZulu-Natal Traditional Healers Group by Baba Sazi Mhlongo and Baba Protus Cele, who spoke about the important role traditional healers played in society, telling the audience there was no ‘short cut’ to becoming a traditional healer.

A key-note address was delivered by Professor Lizo Mazwai, Chair of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Board and Specialist Surgeon: St Mary’s Hospital, Mthatha.

Mazwai referred to Gumede as his mentor and role model, and as ‘a man of firsts who did not hold back, even on the unconventional’.

Mazwai said science could not explain traditional healing; ‘it is mythical in its very nature. It is a reality for those who have the connection’.

‘We tend to look at medicine on the molecular level. There are certain things which are beyond the laboratory that traditional healers understand.  Negative attitudes to traditional medicine are mostly due to ignorance; some might even call it arrogance.

‘Medicine and traditional healing is as old as mankind and recognising its complementary role is a positive step forward,’ said Mazwai.

Professor Rob Slotow, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: College of Health Sciences, said: ‘It is fitting at this time during African Traditional Medicine week, for the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s  College of Health Sciences to celebrate the life and memory of Dr MV Gumede and in particular his contribution to the advancement of traditional medicine and public health in this province.

‘Through this memorial lecture, which will be held annually, we aim to continue his legacy to promote and develop African traditional medicine alongside conventional medicine, through scientific endeavour.’

Gumede’s eldest daughter Dr Lindiwe Simelane, said the family was humbled by the gesture from UKZN and the College of Health Sciences.