It is with a deep sense of sadness that I write this obituary about my dear colleague and classmate, Roland Edgar Mhlanga – known to all as Eddie – who passed away on Saturday 5th February 2022.
Eddie was born in Acornhoek, Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga South Africa where he received his early education.
He continued his studies at the then University of Natal Medical School (Black Section) in the early seventies and completed his MBCHB in November 1977.
During this period there was a hive of political activity and unrest due to the proposed implementation of a new medical school for blacks, to be known as the Medical University of Southern Africa (MEDUNSA). This, coupled with the planned implementation of Afrikaans as a compulsory language subject at black primary schools by the then apartheid government, led to widespread student protests and political turmoil in the mid-seventies, leading to the unfortunate Soweto riots which claimed the lives of many in 1976.
In-spite of these difficulties, Eddie pursued his studies to achieve his goal to become a medical doctor to serve his people in the rural areas.
He was a very humble and polite human being and showed great respect to all those with whom he came into contact. He was a person with high moral, ethical and human rights values. This, coupled with his strong religious principles endeared him to all those who came into contact with him.
He greeted people with a great smile, with his hands clasped together and his head bowed with respect. There was never a moment when Eddie was upset or angry no matter what the problem was.
He served as a class representative in the early years and as President of the Student Representative Council at the medical school. Post-graduation he worked at McCord’s Hospital and King Edward Vlll Hospital as an intern and Medical Officer, before entering the Registrar programme in the Department of O&G at the University of Natal in 1984.
During his time as a Medical Officer he obtained the Diploma in Maternal and Child Health from the College of Medicine of South Africa. He completed the FCOG(SA) examination in 1987 and worked as Consultant in the Department of Community Obstetrics. This encouraged him to show a keen interest in reproductive health and women’s wellbeing in the rural community. He developed a special interest in the prevention of teenage pregnancy, contraception and safe abortions. He was instrumental in the implementation of the Choice of Termination Of Pregnancy Act (cTOP ACT) and notification of maternal deaths.
He was a passionate advocate of women’s reproductive rights both nationally and internationally and it was not surprising that he was invited as a guest speaker to countries such as Sweden, USA, Angola, Mozambique, Uganda and Zambia.
Eddie served the Department of Health in various capacities, such as Obstetrics Specialist in the Gazankhulu homeland; Director(1995-1999) and Chief Director(1999-2004) Maternal Child and Women’s Health and Genetics, National Department of Health, South Africa; and Provincial Specialist/District Clinical Specialist Teams in O&G in Mpumalanga, from which position he retired in 2020.
In addition to the above, he served as Professor and Head of Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, UKZN, from 2004-2009. He served on several bodies representing Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, amongst them FIGO; as a panel member on the HPCSA regarding professional conduct; and member of the National Committee of Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths, from 1997-2019. He was currently Chairperson of this committee.
During his ward rounds as a Registrar, Consultant and Professor, it was not unusual for Eddie to conduct a prayer service with patients and nurses before he commenced his duties. His voice that reverberated throughout the ward during his religious songs will be no more. I am sure he is now in peace with the Lord.
Not many people knew that Eddie was also a marriage and guidance counsellor and assisted many couples who had problems.
On behalf of the South African Society of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (SASOG), the Department of O&G at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, UKZN and the class of 1977of the University of Natal Medical School, I wish to convey my sincere sympathies and condolences to his wife, Lindiwe and daughters Tsundzukani and Gugulethu.
Remember your loss is our loss.
May his soul rest in peace.
Hambe Kahle Eddie
Dr Siva Moodley
Chairperson Durban O&G Society
Honorary Lecturer, Nelson Mandela School of Medicine