JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Lt. Gen. Davidson Themba Masuku, the first black surgeon general of the South African military, has died at age 60 after an 18-month battle with cancer.
Masuku joined the anti-apartheid struggle in 1965 and receiving military training at African National Congress camps in Tanzania and medical training at Kiev Medical School and Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow. He then worked as a doctor at ANC camps in Angola, where conditions in the war-torn country were brutal.
A civil war was being fought there at the time between the Marxist Angolan government and right-wing rebels backed by apartheid South Africa and the United States. The ANC camps were under constant threat of attack, the Sunday Times, a Johannesburg newspaper, recalled.
Masuku rose through the ranks to become a member of the ANC’s health committee and was made head of health services for Spear of the Nation, the ANC’s armed wing.
He was appointed surgeon general of the integrated South African armed forces after apartheid ended in 1994, and made the military’s health services more accessible to civilians. Under Masuku’s leadership, cooperation between military and civilian health departments increased, resulting in effective inoculation programs against measles and polio, the Sunday Times said.
Thousands of mourners, including Defense Minister Mosiouoa Lekota and South African National Defense Forces chief Siphiwe Nyanda, gathered Saturday in Pretoria for Masuku’s funeral.
Masuku is survived by his wife Annie and three children.