Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Life and Death of Dr Abu Baker ‘Hurley’ Asvat, 23 February 1943 to 27 January 1989

by Jon Soske

At the time of his murder in 1989, Dr Abu Baker ‘Hurley’ Asvat was widely revered as ‘the people’s doctor’ based on almost two decades of medical work in Soweto and health projects initiated across the Transvaal as Azapo’s secretary of health. Despite his close relationship with leading African National Congress (ANC) figures and his major role in anti-apartheid medical activism, Asvat’s name rarely appears in histories of the liberation struggle and his life’s work has been almost completely overshadowed by the controversial circumstances of his death. This article reconstructs Asvat’s biography from his childhood in the multiracial Johannesburg neighbourhood of Vrededorp to his medical study and political activism as part of a Pan Africanist Congress (PAC)-aligned student group in Pakistan; from his significant role in non-racial cricket to his emergence as a central figure in Soweto’s life and politics. This article also reflects on the relationship between Lenasia and Soweto as social spaces during the years of apartheid and interrogates the ways in which apartheid racial categories – particularly ‘African’ and ‘Indian’ – continue to structure how historians represent the recent past.

Click here to download this paper in pdf.