Professor Hoosen Jerry Coovadia was a medical and political genius

President Cyril Ramaphosa has described late Professor Jerry Coovadia as a pioneer in science. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has described late Professor Jerry Coovadia as a pioneer in science. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Published Oct 6, 2023


Dr Ela Gandhi

I first met Jerry in the 1970s. This was a time when my husband, Mewa Ramgobin began to mobilise the community in Natal to revive the Natal Indian Congress. Meetings of the Overport branch were convened in Jerry’s home. I met Jerry and his wife Zubie at the various meetings. Jerry was elected vice president of the Natal Indian Congress and later as an executive member of the UDF. He served on many community professional and political organisations.

Jerry was not only a dedicated cadre of the movement, but also had the ability to sharply and scientifically articulate political issues confronting us, in South Africa. He had the ability to explain in simple yet scientific terms the issues confronting the community and locate them within the international context. His contributions to the political discourse from those early days of the struggle were highly valued.

His analysis of the situation was logical and scientific. He was a prolific reader and applied his scientific, historic and political knowledge to further the organisational goals of the political movements of the time. Indeed, he was a humble yet a giant among the leadership of the organisation. He never sought positions and never refused to share his expertise and knowledge to further the goals of liberation struggle.

He voluntarily gave his services to the Mahatma Gandhi Clinic at the Phoenix Settlement. Here he was instrumental in encouraging students from the Medical College of the Natal University to come and serve the community on Sundays. His passion was in children’s health care and his approach was to combine preventive measures with curative health care. Dr Jinabhai and Dr Ginwala worked with him in the setting up of the first primary health care centre at the Phoenix Settlement and introducing primary health care in the medical curriculum of the University of Natal, as well as formal Programme in Community Health..

Jerry’s research findings earned him many accolades from all over the world. A whole room at his home is covered with certificates, awards and medals that he received for his outstanding work in the promotion of health care.

But the pride of his medical career was the setting up of a dedicated Children’s Hospital in Durban after he had made a promise to former President Nelson Mandela that such a hospital will be established in South Africa. He had worked rigorously on the building of this hospital, meticulously designing the facilities to ensure that they were conducive to the social, emotional and health care needs of the children.

As a person, his warm caring and compassionate personality complemented by his most adored wife Dr Zubie Hamid endeared him to many activists. His life spanned across his professional expertise, his political involvement and his friendships built up during his leadership as a student, both in South Africa and abroad, and his dedicated and fearless political contribution to the liberation struggle. He excelled in all these spheres of his illustrious life. He will be missed by many people locally and internationally.

*Dr Ela Gandhi is a peace activist

**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL