Edendale Hospital’s unique resistance history shared

2014-03-03 00:00

EDENDALE Hospital’s 60th anniversary celebrations this weekend commemorated both the hospital’s medical achievements as well as its unique role in South Africa’s resistance history.

A guest at the event was Robert McBride, who takes over as head of the Independent Police Investigative Directive (IPID) today. McBride’s links to the hospital go back to 1986 when he sprung fellow ANC operative Gordon Webster, who was under police guard, from the hospital. Webster was also at the function.

McBride made the link between the Durban suburb that he grew up in — Wentworth — and Edendale Hospital. He said it was the student doctors studying at Natal University and living in the Alan Taylor residence in Wentworth who gave him his first political education.

McBride said, “Those doctors taught us to see ourselves as the majority and not a narrow minority.” McBride added that the great escape from the hospital as well as work of ANC operatives in the area was possible because of the support from the local community. “I want to say thank you to the people of Edendale valley for giving us love, support and protection during the days of apartheid.”

Fellow ANC underground operatives — Dr Joe Phaala, currently Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture and Dr Mvuyo Tom, vice chancellor of the Univeristy of Fort Hare — who both spoke at yesterday’s event, related their experiences while working at the hospital.

KZN MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said he did not quite make it to serve his internship at Edendale as he was arrested shortly before he was due to start work at the hospital. His trial was held at the College Road supreme court, where he married before being sent to Robben Island.

KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu said listening to McBride and the doctors, he was struck by the richness and the depth of their stories. He said this was a chapter that had to be included in the hospital’s history.

The celebrations started with the premier officially opening the Edendale Nursing Campus, newly renovated at a cost of R40 million. He then went on to open the new R41 million state-of-the-art Communicable Diseases Clinic (CDC) at the hospital.

Mchunu said, however, that communities did not just want good-looking hospitals and clinics. The service from these centres must also be excellent. “This is your people, this is your government. Remember when you were looking for a job and the undertakings you made. Don’t turn around now that you have the post and forget where you yourself have come from,” he urged the large gathering of health workers present.

McBride had said earlier that during the apartheid era there was a great willingness to sacrifice. He said the same commitment was needed to build a democratic South Africa. The controversial newly appointed IPID head declined to be interviewed.

McBride to start post

THE Police Ministry announced on Friday that McBride will take up his new position today.

The IPID has been without a permanent head for more than a year following the departure of former head Francois Beukman.

McBride lost his job as head of the Ekurhuleni Metro Police after he was charged with drunk driving and defeating the ends of justice in 2006. Last year, he won an appeal against a two-year jail term.

McBride was nominated in Parliament last month by an ANC majority to head the IPID. Opposition parties have been critical of his appointment.

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