Remembering Prof Martin Marivate September 17, 2020

I write this tribute to a gentle giant under whom I served as a student registrar and consultant at King Edward V111 Hospital at the then  University of Natal .

Prof Martin Marivate hails from an illustrious family from Valdezia in Northen Limpopo.

His father was the first Xitsonga Novelist and his late eldest brother Charles was amongst the first batch of graduates of the University of Natal in 1958 who went on to become a well known physician. Later, another brother, the late Russell Marivate, also graduated from the Medical School and practiced as a doctor in Soshanguve and Winterveldt.

Prof Martin Marivate enrolled at the then University of Natal in the late 1950’s, qualifying as a doctor in the early 1960’s.

The establishment of  the Medical School was the brainchild of Medical Missionaries , Dr John Mcord and Alan Taylor whose lobbying with the apartheid government as far back as 1921 was only realised in 1951.

During this period the Marivate brothers bore the brunt of apartheid policies which the newly formed Medical School had to adhere to .

Some of the inhumane policies were: poor living facilities at Alan Taylor Residence in Wentworth; not being allowed to become a member of the all-White Athletic Union of the University and to wear the white University blazer; and seating for parents at the graduation ceremonies always was at the back of the hall.

In spite of qualifying with a Medical Degree the new graduates  found themselves further degraded by the discriminatory policies of the Nationalist Government. The salary scale for the newly qualified

Doctor was based on racial  lines with black doctors receiving the least salary. In addition the environment of the Tertiary Hospital of the University was poor and lacked up to date facilities, unlike the other Medical schools.

The young Martin Marivate overcame these difficult circumstances and was amongst the main work force in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and maternity section at King Edward V111 Hospital . It was not unusual for the hospital to have deliveries of approximately 22 000 babies per annum. The smell of the iJuba factory across from the labour ward permeated through the atmosphere into the labour ward and the medical staff had to contend with this while performing their duties.

The  work overload and the lack of postgraduate training facilities for blacks made it difficult to pursue  a higher degree. After  completing his internship Dr Marivate remained in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology were he initially worked as a medical officer and registrar under Prof Derk Crichton, the first head of the department and later as a senior consultant and principal specialist under Prof Hugh Philpott who became the second head of Department in 1974.

On the academic front his clinical skills and knowledge of practical Obstetrics were outstanding . He mentored and tutored his students and registrars with passion. He was always immaculately dressed and

softly spoken, and his humility and humble personality endeared him to all his colleagues and made him easily accessible to his students.

His main research in Obstetrics and Gynaecology was on multiple pregnancy, especially twin pregnancy. He published several papers in well-known international journals on this subject with colleagues from Australia and the UK. He also contributed to literature regarding Obstetrics in the developing world.

His research findings are still quoted in articles on this subject .

He was the Deputy Head of the Department for several years and served as the Acting Head Of Department  for a period from 1984.  In 1991 he was transferred to the Medical University Of Southern Africa (Medunsa) where he served as Head Of Department until his retirement in 2000.

As a form of relaxation from  the hectic schedule of the labour ward he was instrumental in forming a tennis club in the department, of which he was regarded as the “Chairman”.

He was often referred to as “Chairman” and not Prof Marivate and this became a household name at King Edward V111 Hospital and the Department of Obstetrics And Gynaecology . He was very passionate  about tennis.

On a lighter note a senior colleague recently remarked that if a Doctor applied for a Registrar Post and had tennis skills then this added to his chances of being given a post.

Having recently read about his family and their achievements academically I am sure below his humility and humbleness there was a sense of pride . The degrees that the Marivate Clan have achieved is so numerous that they were regarded by a reputable magazine as one of the cleverest family in South Africa.

We are proud of you Prof Marivate for walking this way and making a significant contributions to the subject of Obstetrics and Gynaecolgy .

To his wife Maud, five children (Makhanani , Basani ,Khensani , Nana and Fana) , 14 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren we extend our  deepest sympathies. Your loss is our loss.

May your gentle soul rest in peace .




Dr Siva Moodley

Durban Obstetrics And Gynaecological Society

Honorary Lecturer Department O&G UKZN

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