South Africa’s leading fertility specialist, Dr Herman Netshidzivhani, was with a group of eight bikers – one of whom was a doctor – when he was killed on the N1 outside Polokwane last Saturday morning.
The beloved gynaecologist, who established the Park Lane Fertility Centre in 1996, was on a day trip to Limpopo and leading the pack of bikers when he was killed on impact by an allegedly drunk driver, who performed a U-turn on the busy road.
He was 59 years old.
Among those who came to pay their respects at Netshidzivhani’s Johannesburg home this week were a number of children of friends and family who were delivered by him and Dr Brigit Bothner, Netshidzivhani’s wife and partner in his gynaecological practice.
Every night this week, the home was filled with mourners. Among the regular visitors was Dr Tshepo Motsepe and her husband, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is Netshidzivhani’s first cousin.
Born in the village of Tshakhuma, outside Thohoyandou, Netshidzivhani was raised in Soweto, where he learnt to speak all of South Africa’s 11 official languages.
He began his medical training at the then Medical University of SA (now the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University) in 1980, graduating in 1985 with an MBChB degree, and in 1993 as a specialist gynaecologist. He studied fertility treatment at the US’s prestigious Yale University and trained at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Washington, DC.
In the early 1990s, Netshidzivhani was the registrar of the gynaecology department at the then Ga-Rankuwa Hospital (now Dr George Mukhari Hospital), and went on to work at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, where he met Bothner, who had come from her native Germany to train, and who he later married. Theirs was an enduring love story.
In a statement read out at his funeral in Tshakhuma yesterday, Bothner said Netshidzivhani was the “love of my life, my soul mate”.
“We shared the same interests and thought the same thoughts, often at the same time.”
The couple’s teenaged daughters, Nadine (16) and Ella Marie (15), recounted how involved their father was in their lives, how he became more excited than they were about their school projects, and how he always kept his cool and never stopped smiling.
They also recalled how he was a keen fan of Formula 1 and recorded all the races, which he never permitted them to delete.
Netshidzivhani kept in touch with his Venda roots, travelling there once a month to consult as a doctor. He also kept a family home in Tshakhuma.
His friends and patients will remember him as a highly skilled, empathetic and enduringly humble doctor.
Netshidzivhani adored his wife, for whom he threw an elaborate surprise 50th birthday party two years ago.
She recounted this week how he did not wish to celebrate his 60th birthday in June, telling his brother that he felt the age was “too old”, and that he was ambivalent about reaching that milestone.
Netshidzivhani is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son from a prior relationship. His memorial service will be held at Sacred Heart College in Observatory, Johannesburg, at 10am tomorrow.
– Staff reporter