Dr Grace Nomgcobo Sangoni was born on February 20 1956 to her late parents, Margaret Nozizwe Sangoni and Cranmer Zingisa Sangoni, at Mthatha in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
She started her career as a Biology teacher. She taught in rural schools and experienced, first hand, the hardships that defined the lives of her pupils and their families. She was inspired by the situation of those families to do more, to be more.
She left teaching to pursue her studies for a Bachelor of Science in Botany and Zoology at the University of Transkei. Upon completion, she set off to spend a year as a caregiver in Brooklyn in the US.It was during her time in the US that the seed to start the Zingisa Rehabilitation Centre (now Dr Grace Sangoni Memorial Centre) was planted. On her return she studied further, this time to complete her MB ChB,at the Medical University of South Africa near Pretoria.
On completion, she did her internship at Mthatha General Hospital. Ironically, she was born in this same hospital and took her last breath in the very same hospital. Her life came full circle.
During her working life she practiced in Mthatha, Tsolo, Stilfontein, Klerksdorp, Orkney, Leeudoringstad, Viljoenskroon and Potchesftroom. She was revered equally by her patients and her colleagues. She was fondly known as Dr Sangoma because these mining communities felt that she was in touch with the people and cared for each and everyone of them. When she felt it was time to return to her home province, she worked in the public sector at the following hospitals: Frere Hospital, Fort Grey and Cecilia Makiwane. She was also the clinical manager of Malizo Mpehle hospital in Tsolo.
During her final years , she worked full-time at the Zingisa Rehabilitation Centre (now renamed Dr Grace Memorial Centre) which she founded in 1999. She had often described this centre as her purpose in life. It would seem that everything in her life was in preparation for starting the centre and taking it to great heights. She was happiest at the centre and her life literally revolved around her patients and their well being.
She was honoured for her accomplishments with a nomination and emerged as a finalist in the Shoprite Checkers Woman of the Year Awards in 2005.
She departed this world on the 12th September 2016, with a sense of having fulfilled her destiny.
In the word’s of our Board Chairperson, Luthando Vili
“Doc is the first person I have ever known, when I first became aware of my own existence at about 3 years of age, she is the only person who features in my earliest memory. In that memory we were sitting next to the window in her bedroom and she was teaching me a song. That song was based on the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise”. That song turned out to have a lasting impact on her because she was indeed an early sleeper and an early riser, she was wise, she was wealthier than most and unfortunately her health failed her, failed me, failed my siblings, failed her patients and it failed her community.
Doc touched every life she encountered and those of us who were priviledged to have basked in her light carry her in our souls. It would be remiss of us not to share her light with the rest of the country and the world. She was heavily invested in people, she remains the most compassionate person I have ever met. I was the fiercest critic of her compassion because it meant our home always had relatives who stayed with us, she raised other people’s children and attracted many people with dishonourable intentions to her life. I spent my life staving off those of discreditable character who always lingered around her. In hindsight I have realised that it was not completely necessary. Doc was not a vulnerable weakling, she saw through everyone and wanted to help anyway. She would frequently say, “I will always do I feel is right, wrath belongs to God and I will allow God to deal with them”.Giving gave her life, caring gave her joy and sharing gave her gratification. She was Grace, she carried herself with Grace, lived her life with Grace. She was wise!
Doc gave us life, our commitment to honour her memory continues to give us life, and we in turn will breathe life into her legacy. This is the crutch that keeps us going. The biggest lesson I learnt from Doc is resilience and scoffing at the face of adversity. I thank God for choosing her to be my mother. God takes the precious ones first. She went to bed early but this Foundation will continue with her life’s work, we will ensure that her name is remembered for generations to come. Doc was the portrait of a Godly woman and I am convinced that when the roll is called up yonder she will rise early.”