Pantsula-dancing Dr Qwabe remains an internet sensation

Dr Sandile Qwabe has gained more followers since criticism about his conduct on many of his social media posts became topical. Picture: Facebook

Dr Sandile Qwabe has gained more followers since criticism about his conduct on many of his social media posts became topical. Picture: Facebook

Published Mar 12, 2023


Durban - Newcastle’s pantsula doctor’s social media videos continue to be the subject of scrutiny, but he is seemingly unfazed by the negativity as thousands, including his patients, have rallied behind him, praising him for breaking stereotypes.

Dr Sandile Qwabe’s last video, where he is seen spinning around in an office chair with his legs crossed, stethoscope on the neck, sliding back and forth and calling himself the manager of the hospital, has garnered more than 2.4 million views.

Some of those who have cheered him on are from Zimbabwe, Kenya and Namibia.

Qwabe who refers to himself as Dr Phara (hobo), holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBCh) and works at Madadeni Provincial Hospital. He has become a s sensation on TikTok, a social video platform, but has also been recently criticised for his behaviour, which some would not associate with or expect from a doctor in public.

He has faced criticism for, among others, photos of himself smoking, his casual dress sense which includes a knit cap, associated with township style, and for allegedly playing around and dancing with a music speaker in hand.

His behaviour was labelled by some as “inappropriate and unprofessional” for his profession.

Dr Vusumuzi Nhlapho, CEO of the South African Medical Association (Sama), said although their focus was on the professional delivery of service by their members, the code of conduct of the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) provided guidelines on the use of social media by health-care professionals.

He said the booklet requests healthcare professionals to be on the side of caution when using social media. “Sama is of the opinion that doctors should be held to the highest standards in terms of ethically acceptable behaviour. Employed doctors also need to be cautious that their conduct doesn't breach the terms of their employment contract and the applicable policies of the employer.

“However, the association is of the view that doctors are free to dress and behave in a manner that expresses their individuality as long as they present themselves in the manner that does not harm themselves, their patients or the public and is within the terms of their employment contract.”

HPCSA spokesperson Christopher Tsatsawane said the organisation had not received any complaints against the doctor and that it did not regulate dress codes. The KZN Department of Health did not clarify if it had found any wrongdoing in Dr Qwabe’s videos or whether there would be consequences.

Legal and policy researcher Jamie Mighti questioned why it was allowed for “white professors” to be eccentric, have long hair and walk barefoot, while a narrative that black intelligence required back door and shortcuts based on clothes was created.

“The reason why this doctor is fascinating on the internet is because he dresses like the regular man in the township, embraces kasi lingo and from what I see enjoys living amongst the people.

He looks like a regular South African and that’s good because everyday South Africans are brilliant people who were failed by Bantu education and its close cousin created by the ANC.”

One of Dr Qwabe’s patients said the doctor’s boldness had encouraged other doctors to come out of their shells, to show their true personalities, while another thanked him for challenging stereotypes about the profession.