Nzimande celebrates the life of Professor Mokgokong

Professor Sam Mokgokong. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane Independent Newspapers

Professor Sam Mokgokong. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 30, 2024


Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande has hailed Professor Mochichi Samuel Mokgokong as the country’s most decorated academic and scholar.

Nzimande joined millions of South Africans and the academic fraternity in mourning the death of Mokgokong.

He said the professor had a long and distinguished academic career in the medical field, which saw him form part of some of the most pioneering surgical teams.

Mphonyana Mathibela lies quietly while her sister Mpho smiles and grasps the hand of a nursing sister. Picture: University of the Witwatersrand

“In his illustrious career, some of the positions he held included Professor Emeritus of the University of Pretoria; head of Tembisa Hospital’s Adult Intensive Care and High Care units; professor, chief specialist and head of the Neurosurgery Department at the University of Pretoria’s Steve Biko Academic Hospital.

“Owing to his commitment to research excellence and outstanding academic leadership, Professor Mokgokong was honoured with a number of national and international awards,” Nzimande said.

He said Mokgokong’s commitment to transform the medical field saw him assuming the role of an activist academic and never missed an opportunity to encourage young black people to enter the medical field.

“The passing of Professor Mokgokong constitutes an incalculable loss to our post-school education and training sector, and I believe we have an obligation to uphold his legacy of research excellence and visionary leadership.

“On behalf of the departments of Higher Education and Training, and Science and Innovation, and on my own behalf, I wish to convey my heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Professor Mokgokong. May his soul rest in peace.”

Sophie Mathibela holds her twins, Mpho (left) and Mphonyana, who made medical history when they were separated at Baragwanath Hospital on May 24, 1988. Picture: University of the Witwatersrand

In honouring the professor, the University of KwaZulu-Natal described him as one of the greatest influences and pillars of strength.

“It is with deep sadness and regret that we received the news of the passing of one of our own alumni, Professor Mochichi Samuel Mokgokong. Mokgokong was the first black neurosurgeon in South Africa and hails from a family of medical giants, including the renowned Professor Ephraim Thibedi Mokgokong, one of the first black gynaecologists in South Africa,” the university said in a statement.

Mokgokong is renowned for being part of the surgical team that separated conjoined twins Mpho and Mphonyana Mathibela, who were born at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital on December 7, 1986.

The professor also held the positions of emeritus professor and acting head of Neurosurgery at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University and Dr George Mukhari Hospital.

The Star

Sipho Jack