Dec 01, 2021 Last Updated 1:57 PM, Nov 30, 2021

South Africa: A tribute to doctors and nurses martyrs

Categoria: I Nostri Dicono
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{mosimage} Paediatrician Doris Becker, who devoted her entire adult life to the poor of South Africa, knew it was risky working in the rural areas around Ladysmith (KZN). Her close friend, also a doctor, Elizabeth Thalmeier, and her own sister, Dominican Sr. Sandra Becker, both warned her against going into the rural communities. But the 58 year old German born doctor told them both the same thing: “If you could see the suffering, you would do the same. I cannot stay away. I have to take the risk. The people need me”.

But on Thursday afternoon, 1st February 2001, after the popular paediatrician and primary health care worker was returning to the Ladysmith provincial hospital from the Mteyi clinic in the Umhlumayo reserve (one of the eleven in which she worked) tragedy struck.
A man suddenly jumped out of the bush and open fire on the car in which Becker was a passenger. She was hit in the back, and by the time her companion, Sister Mavis Hlongwane, had rushed her to the Ezakheni police station for help, the doctor was dead.

“It is terrible to think that someone who gave her life to the poor, gave it in every way to the point of death,” said her sister. The Ladysmith and provincial medical community are shocked and devastated by the murder, and rural community is said to be outraged. “She fought for the community and loved”. “Working for the poor was her mission in life and she was the voice of the poor”, said Sr. Becker. “My sister would go to any authority to get what they needed, from ambulances to food parcels. No one will ever know how often and how deep she dipped into her own pockets for them. And if people were too sick to go to the clinics, she would walk over the hills to go to them”. Becker could have made a fortune in a private practice, “but she felt that the poor people in South Africa needed her more. Riches and material things meant nothing to her”.

The caring doctor with a passion for children had worked in several hospitals in South Africa, since 1972, especially we remember her with the children of the Glen Grey District, where she was called “Lulama” (the one who is loved much). In the mission hospital of Nkandla (KZN), where she went with her mother, her foster sister and the little boy, Michael, whom she adopted while in Germany for specialization. She never marred because her answer to follow God’s call came first and unless a possible marriage partner had the same attitude he would not be the right one for her.

Then she worked in St Rita’s Hospital in Glen Cowie, in HF Verwoerd Hospital and since December 1998 in Ladysmith. There she started working in rural areas, which had not had a government doctor for twenty years. Concerned about the growing number of AIDS orphans left to fend for themselves after their parents died, she had also been working on a project for training centre for AIDS orphans and home based care givers. The plan included organic farming and handcrafts training.

“If you could see the suffering, you would do the same. I cannot stay away. I have to take the risk. The people need me” (Dr. Doris Beckers)

(This is part of a tribute to the known and unknown doctors and nurse martyrs of our time in Africa. If you would like the whole text, write to:

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