In Memorium: A Doctor Of Principle And The People by Jon Soske

Article brief

At the time of his murder in 1989, Dr. Abu Baker ‘Hurley’ Asvat was widely revered as ‘the people’s doctor’ based on almost two decades of medical work in Soweto and over a dozen health projects initiated across the Transvaal as AZAPO’s Secretary of Health. Yet despite his close relationship with leading ANC figures like Albertina Sisulu and his significant role in major political events, Asvat’s name rarely appears in histories of the liberation struggle and his life’s work has been almost completely overshadowed by the controversial circumstances of his death.

We revisit Asvat’s biography as a way to reflect on the relationship between Lenasia and Soweto as social spaces during the years of apartheid and interrogate the ways in which apartheid racial categories—particularly ‘African’ and ‘Indian’—continue to structure how South African historians represent the recent past.

Reading List

  • Gerhart, G M & Glaser, C L 2010 ‘From Protest to Challenge, Volume 6: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882—1990’, Challengeand Victory, 1980–1990, Volume 6. Indiana University Press, Indiana
  • Sisulu, E 2003, Walter & Albertina Sisulu: in our lifetime. New Africa Books
  • Meersman, B 2007, Primary Coloured. Human & Rousseau
  • Mandela, W 1985, Part of my soul went with him. Norton
  • Ndebele, N S 2003, The cry of Winnie Mandela: a novel. New Africa Books
  • Praeg, L 2000, African philosophy and the quest for autonomy: a philosophical investigation. Rodopi
  • ‘A tribute to Dr Abu-Baker Asvat.’  LEARN and TEACH, number , 1989
  • ‘Frank Talk’, The Azanian Peoples Organization (AZAPO), KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. 1984-1990 <>

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