During the apartheid in South Africa, a baby girl was born to a single mother. In this era, having a child out of wedlock was considered a taboo, coupled with that child being black and female, the roadblocks were evident. This was Thandeka Mazibuko’s life and the issues she stared down from a young age all while her mother’s salary as a domestic worker made life even more challenging. “My village had not seen a medical doctor, therefore, I had no role models. I was that girl who came home and cooked for the whole family, fetched water from the river and wood from the forest. We had no shoes at times as my mother was struggling as a single parent,” explained Dr. Mazibuko.
Her mother’s belief in education is what spurred her to enroll Thandeka in school and soon Thandeka would choose a different path that would ensure she set an example for young girls who came after her. Growing up in the village of Kwanyuswa, South Africa, Dr. Mazibuko made the impossible possible. She became the first in her family to be literate. “I was the first indigenous black to enter the field of radiation Oncology in KZN, South Africa and I was called a monkey that didn’t deserve an education. I was harassed by White and Indian doctors, they called me names daily,” said Dr. Mazibuko.
Her journey was often filled with dark times and Dr. Mazibuko was once denied access to a research program at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). However, her resilience and persistence eventually paid off as she is now one of the most celebrated medical practitioners in South Africa.
When Dr. Mazibuko’s grandmother died due to poor access to basic healthcare, she vowed to dedicate her time and energy to ensure situations like this would not happen again. It is in this context that her organization, Sinomusa Nothando Community Development Inc. was born. Today, Sinomusa Nothando Community Development Inc. still operates around the world providing essential healthcare services to underrepresented populations in the global south.
Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko is a female oncologist championing quality healthcare around the world and her work has been largely impactful. She has been honored as an Oprah Heroine in 2010, as a KZN Business Women in 2012 in the Social Category, named a Prominent Women of Africa in 2013, and a finalist in the Standard Bank Rising Star competition in 2014.
The outstanding medical specialist, who currently works at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center Radiation Oncology in the United States, has launched an appeal to seek support to ensure the successful implementation of the rural hospital project. According to her, the lack of a functional hospital in her village has resulted in untold deaths of the poor and until that reality is changed, she refuses to rest.