Cape Town in bid to honour self-taught animal surgeon

2017-01-11 22:52


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Cape Town - Cape Town’s naming and nomination committee has recommended that mayor Patricia de Lille start a public participation process to rename Salazar Plain after self-taught animal surgeon doctor Hamilton Naki.

If De Lille agreed, residents and affected parties in the area would be asked for their input, committee chairperson Brett Herron said on Wednesday.

Naki, who grew up in the Eastern Cape, began working as a gardener at the University of Cape Town.

In 1954 he was asked to help Robert Goetz at the university’s medical facility. He initially took care of laboratory animals and later performed anaesthesia and transplants on them.

When Goetz left, Naki started working for doctor Christiaan Barnard, who performed the world’s first successful heart transplant in 1967.

There were claims that he helped Barnard in this procedure.

The Economist and the New York Times published articles supporting this claim after his death in 2005. However, they were retracted once evidence emerged that he did not participate in the surgery.

Herron was not immediately available to comment on this controversy.

Naki was nonetheless an acclaimed surgeon, despite not having any formal education. He was particularly praised for performing transplants on animals.  

 “Barnard once admitted to documentarian Dirk de Villiers that had Naki been given the chance, he could have been the surgeon to do the world’s first heart transplant,” Herron said.

He believed Naki received little recognition during his life and it was time to honour and celebrate his work.

Naki’s family, who live in Khayelitsha, supported the decision to rename Salazar Plein in his honour.

Salazar Plein is in the city bowl, opposite the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, between Rua Vasco da Gama and Rua Bartholomeu Dias.


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