The City of Cape Town’s Naming and Nomination Committee on Tuesday said it had proposed that Salazar Plain in the CBD be named after the late Dr Hamilton Naki – the self-taught surgeon who helped Dr Christiaan Barnard perform the world’s first successful heart transplant.
Following discussions, the committee unanimously recommended to Mayor Patricia de Lille that the City undertake a public participation process for the renaming of Salazar Plain, located between Rua Vasco da Gama and Rua Bartholomeu Dias, opposite the newly constructed Christiaan Barnard Hospital.
Hamilton Naki was a healthcare scientist from Langa who was denied the opportunity for formal medical training due to the discriminating policies of the then-apartheid government.
Naki assisted Dr Christiaan Barnard in his preparations to perform the world’s first successful heart transplant at the Groote Schuur Hospital in 1967.
“Naki’s involvement received very little, if any, acknowledgement at the time. 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of this historic moment, offering the ideal opportunity to celebrate and honour the contribution that Naki made,” said committee chairperson Brett Herron.
The proposal for the renaming of Salazar Plain was submitted by Netcare Limited, owners of the new hospital, and is supported by Naki’s family, who reside in Khayelitsha.
Naki was born to a poor family in the Transkei. He received education until the age of 14 and moved to Langa in Cape Town. Naki was a gardener at the Medical Facility when he was selected to work in the clinical laboratories. Despite his lack of formal medical education, Naki’s technique and surgical skills convinced his superiors to allow him special permission to conduct research in the laboratories.
Naki then enlisted as Barnard’s assistant and contributed to the development of transplant techniques. He was eventually allowed to operate and gave lectures to medical professors, training more than 3 000 future surgeons until his retirement in 1991 on a gardener’s pension.
“Barnard once admitted to documentarian, Dirk de Villiers, that had Naki been given the chance, he could have been the surgeon to do the world’s first heart transplant,” said Herron. Naki received the National Order of Maphungubwe and an honorary degree in medicine after his retirement. He passed away on May 29, 2005, aged 78.
“The proposal conforms with the City’s Naming Policy. Once Mayor De Lille has approved this recommendation, the City’s Public Participation Unit will commence with the process of requesting comment and input from residents and interested and affected parties in the Cape Town central business district,” added Herron.
– African News Agency