2 years ago, on april 2, 2018, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, prominent anti-apartheid activist and the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, died. She dedicated most of her adult life to the cause of the people and for this was known far and wide as the « Mother of The Nation ». She waged a courageous fight to liberate Black South Africans from repressive white-minority rule. She was arrested several times for her efforts, including being sent to prison in 1969 for 17 months, where she spent the majority of the sentence in solitary confinement.
1- He lived up to his name: Mandela’s birth name was Rolihlahla. In his Xhosa tribe, the name means pulling the branch of a tree or troublemaker. (The name « Nelson » was given to him by his teacher on his first day of elementary school. It was the 1920s, and African children were given English names so colonial masters could pronounce them easily).
2. He was a master of disguise: When Mandela was eluding authorities during his fight against apartheid, he disguised himself in various ways, including as a chauffeur. The press nicknamed him « the Black Pimpernel » because of his police evasion tactics. « I became a creature of the night. I would keep to my hideout during the day, and would emerge to do my work when it became dark, » he says in his biography, « Long Walk to Freedom. »
3. A bloody sport intrigued him: Besides politics, Mandela’s other passion was boxing. « I did not like the violence of boxing. I was more interested in the science of it – how you move your body to protect yourself, how you use a plan to attack and retreat, and how you pace yourself through a fight, » he says in his biography.
4- There’s a woodpecker named after him: From Cape Town to California, streets named after Mandela abound. But he’s also been the subject of some rather unusual tributes. Scientists named a prehistoric woodpecker after him: Australopicus nelsonmandelai. In 1973, the physics institute at Leeds University named a nuclear particle the ‘Mandela particle.’
5- He quit his day job: He studied law at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and opened the nation’s first black law firm in the city in 1952.
6- In prison, he was highly skilled at secretly passing notes. During his incarceration on infamous Robben Island, Mandela and the other prisoners would communicate by leaving notes in discarded matchboxes, under piles of dirty dishes, and taped in toilet tanks. Using these methods, Mandela and the other prisoners organized a hunger strike and succeeded in their effort to improve their living conditions.
7 . He had a cameo in a Spike Lee film: He had a big part in Spike Lee’s 1992 biopic « Malcolm X. » At the very end of the movie, he plays a teacher reciting Malcolm X’s famous speech to a room full of Soweto school kids. But the pacifist Mandela wouldn’t say « by any means necessary. » So Lee cut back to footage of Malcolm X to close out the film.
8- He probably won more awards than anyone in history. In addition to the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, Mandela has received more than 250 awards, including honorary degrees from more than 50 universities worldwide. In 2001, he became the first living person to be made an honorary Canadian citizen, and he was the last person to receive the Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union.
.9- There’s a global holiday in his honor. In 2009, the United Nations declared that Nelson Mandela International Day will be celebrated every year on July 18 (his birthday). The purpose of the day is to honor Mandela’s legacy and promote community service.
10- He was on the U.S. terror watch list: Mandela wasn’t removed from the U.S. terror watch list until 2008 — at age 89. He and other members of the African National Congress were placed on itbecause of their militant fight against apartheid.
Hamilton Naki was a laborer who became a self-taught surgeon of such skill that Dr. Christiaan N. Barnard chose him to assist in the world’s first human heart transplant in 1967 in Cape Town, but whose contribution was kept secret for three decades because he was a black man in apartheid-era South Africa, died on May 29 at his home in Langa, near Cape Town. The transplant, which took place on Dec. 3, 1967, at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, made medical history. Dr. Barnard began to acknowledge Mr. Naki’s work only after the end of apartheid in 1991. In an interview shortly before his death in 2001, he called Mr. Naki « one of the great researchers of all time in the field of heart transplants. »
Mr. Naki, who left school at 14 and had no formal medical training, spent five decades working at the University of Cape Town. Originally hired as a gardener there in about 1940, he acquired his formidable surgical skills through years of silent observation and covert practice at the university’s medical school. He retired in 1991. In 2003, the university awarded Mr. Naki an honorary master of science degree in medicine.
Although South Africa’s apartheid laws forbade blacks from performing surgery on whites, Mr. Naki’s skills were so esteemed that the university quietly looked the other way. He worked alongside Dr. Barnard for decades as a lab technician, perfecting his craft and assisting in many operations on people. Operating on animals, Mr. Naki also taught surgical techniques to generations of medical students. Mr. Naki learned to anesthetize animals, and eventually to do surgery on them, operating on rabbits, pigs, dogs and even a giraffe. Many of the animal surgeries he performed, including coronary bypasses and heart and liver transplants, helped to perfect techniques that were later used on humans.
« Hamilton Naki had better technical skills than I did, » Dr. Barnard said in an interview quoted in The Daily Telegraph of London this week. « He was a better craftsman than me, especially when it came to stitching, and had very good hands. »
But because of his race, Mr. Naki’s role in the world’s first heart transplant remained unknown for years. On Dec. 2, 1967, Denise Darvall, a young white South African woman, was hit by a car as she was crossing a Cape Town street. Taken to Groote Schuur Hospital, she was declared brain-dead. Her family gave permission for her heart to be transplanted into the chest of Louis Washkansky, a 55-year-old grocer whose own heart was failing.
As a black man, Mr. Naki could not operate on Ms. Darvall even after she was dead. But Dr. Barnard so prized his ability that he drafted him as a member of the team that would lift out her heart.
In a painstaking operation lasting many hours, Mr. Naki’s team removed Ms. Darvall’s heart, washing it repeatedly to cleanse it of her blood before introducing some of Mr. Washkansky’s. On Dec. 3, Dr. Barnard transplanted the heart into Mr. Washkansky, who lived for 18 days before dying of pneumonia. Hamilton Naki was not allowed to appear on photos with the team. If he accidentally got on a picture, the hospital said he was with the cleaning service, making him a secret surgeon. During his years at the university, Mr. Naki lived on the outskirts of Cape Town in a one-room shack without electricity or running water. When he retired, he was paid a gardener’s pension, far less than a lab technician’s. In 2002, Mr. Naki was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe, one of South Africa’s highest honors, for outstanding contribution to medical science.
In an interview with The Guardian of London in 2003, Mr. Naki expressed little bitterness about a lifetime spent working in the shadows. « I was called one of the backroom boys, » he said. « They put the white people out front. If people published pictures of me, they would have gone to jail ». Hamilton Naki died in 2005.