John McCutcheon is the former Medical Superintendent of the Donald Fraser Hospital, Vendaland, South Africa
Mission activities came late to Vendaland, a backwater beside the Limpopo River in the far north of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek, later the Transvaal Province of South Africa. Medical services for this remote rural area were of the most rudimentary until the founding of the Donald Fraser Hospital in 1930. Nineteenth-century opposition to the oppression of blacks by the government of the Boer Republics was led by Christian ministers of religion, in which Rev William Mpamba had a significant role. The expectation was that the British victory in the South African War would lead to improved conditions, but this hope was dashed. Rev Mpamba had a remarkably balanced view of racial issues, unlike the founders of the Ethiopian Church in South Africa. He recommended the appointment of a white missionary, Rev D A McDonald, for Vendaland. This was a region until then neglected in the mission activities of the Church of Scotland. McDonald saw the need for medical services for this area, in which he served for 26 years. The arrival of Dr R D Aitken in 1933 led to the building of an effective hospital. The period of the Great Depression meant a constant battle for funding to build and maintain the hospital. Aitken had to press for funding from multiple and competing government departments as well as the Church of Scotland and other donors. Dr Aitken’s vision of policies to promote health were far in advance of his time. His review of the first 11 years provides an insight into the challenges faced. These advanced policies were realised years later, then were lost again with the dramatic changes in the new democratic South Africa.
All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but booking is required.