Marina Xaba-Mokoena 2018


Professor Marina Xaba-Mokoena was born in Willowvale in the Eastern Cape in 1938. She matriculated from Healdtown Missionary Institution at the young age of 15 after which she attended Fort Hare College where she did a BSc degree. 

A few years later, she began training as a nurse at King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban, passing her final exams with Honours, receiving the South African Nursing Council gold medal for achieving the highest marks in the country. 

In 1964 and 1965, she underwent orthopaedic nursing training in London, where she obtained the highest marks in the whole of England and Wales. Thereafter, she received a scholarship to study medicine in Sweden and after six months of intensive courses in the Swedish language, she began her medical studies.

In 1973, she graduated as a Med.Lic (Medicine Licentiat) from Stockholm University and was registered as a medical practitioner. She went on to specialise in lung diseases, qualifying as a Pulmonologist.

Returning to Southern Africa, she worked as a Physician in Lesotho and then in 1980, became Senior Medical Superintendent at Umtata General Hospital. A year later she was appointed as Deputy Chief Medical Superintendent at the same hospital and in 1982, was promoted to Principal Specialist. In 1983, the International Union against Tuberculosis appointed Prof Xaba-Mokoena as a member of the Scientific Committee on Respiratory Diseases. 

Moving into academia in 1984, Prof Xaba-Mokoena became the founding Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the former University of the Transkei, establishing the country’s 8th medical school with her new ideas and policies of community orientated and community based medical education with the emphasis on primary health care. This was an enormous task and required encouraging staff and students to prioritise service to the community and instilling a philosophy of producing doctors with skills and attitudes to work in the community. Her first pioneer doctors qualified in 1990. During her tenure as Dean, she continued to practice as a Clinician.

After a major back operation in 1993, she resigned from the University and retired to East London where she later worked part-time as District Surgeon before accepting an appointment as both Medical Superintendent and Specialist Chest Physician at the Duncan Village Day Hospital. 

In 2003, she returned to Sweden where she worked as a Chief Physician for a year before coming home to join the East London Hospital Complex as a consulting Principal Specialist where she worked until 2013. She retired professionally at the age of 75. 

Prof Xaba-Mokoena is the author of many articles and papers on Tuberculosis and anti-smoking, and as President of the International Union against TB and Lung Diseases, successfully organised an international conference of the Africa region in 2002. Among many other positions of service, she has served as Vice-President of SANTA (the South African National Tuberculosis Association), Chairman of the Board of the East London Hospice and as a member of Council at MEDUNSA (the Medical University of South Africa) and the former Border Technikon.  

Passing on encouragement to the youth and particularly those in the field of medicine, Prof Xaba-Mokoena recently wrote a book of memoirs entitled “Dreams Fulfilled”. She is involved in the work of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and is a lay-preacher and a Mother’s Union member. From 1996 to 1998 she served as an Executive Member of the South African Council of Churches and from 2015 to date, serves on the Governing Council of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary training ministers of religion.

Prof Xaba-Mokoena is married to economist PE Mokoena and has a daughter, a son and three grandchildren. For her incredible advocacy in involving communities in the training of health practitioners that would later serve them and addressing inequalities in our society, it is an honour for Nelson Mandela University to confer the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) on Marina Xaba-Mokoena.