The People’s Doctor, Ramathesele, Loves To Treat The Nation And Others

Dr Victor Ramathesele, is most famous for being the first team doctor of Bafana Bafana (South African Men’s soccer senior national team) from 1992 when South African football was re-admitted with the international football community.

South Africa had been isolated from international sport among other sectors, as a result of the oppressive Apartheid regime, which came into full force after the Nationalist Party of South Africa came to power in 1948 further and severly oppressing the non-whites in SA.

Dr. Ramathesele started media work in 1988 when he was persuaded by Mr. Koos Radebe to host a weekly medical show at Radio Metro, now (Metro FM).

Ever since, he has hosted healthcare talk-shows on Lesedi FM and Ukhozi FM.

Ramathesele also pioneered a television health talk-show on the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s three OR SABC3 which he co-hosted with Bertha Charuma in 2002.

The good doctor also writes the occasional Sports Medicine column for The Sowetan newspaper.

Ramathesele worked in the Soweto clinics in the late 1980s before setting up general practice in Katlehong and later Tembisa until 2000, when he joined the private sector.

In between these engagements he was the team doctor of South African premier league soccer side Jomo Cosmos and subsequently served in the same capacity for Bafana Bafana (the South African national soccer team) from 1992 to 2000.

He joined Human Dynamics, a corporate wellness company, as a medical consultant in 2000 which paved the way for tenure as Pharmaco-economics Manager at Novartis Pharma in 2002 and was later appointed as Market Access Manager.

In late 2003, he assumed his current position of Chief Executive Officer of a medical technology company.

Dr Ramathesele has served as Sports Medicine Instructor for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) since 2000 and is also part of the South African Football Association (SAFA) Medical Committee.

He also represents the sports sector in the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).

Dr Ramathesele was shot in the leg while attending a wedding party on 24 March 2002, when two masked gunmen opened fire on the wedding in Soweto.

The target of the attack – businessman Keith Sekhukhune “Rhoo” Motapanyane – was wounded and died later in hospital.

South African soccer legend Doctor Khumalo, was also hit in the leg and had to have surgery to have the bullet removed.

In a May 1998 report in the CITY PRESS newspaper, it was noted that the medico Victor Ramathesele did not only look after Bafana Bafana’s medicinal needs during the 1998 World Cup in France he also provided entertainment for the players.

A music fundi and disc jockey for the team when in camp, Ramathesele enjoyed spinning discs to soothe the players while on the road, especially during pre-training and pre-match activities.

For a medico, his music taste is varied.

His tastes ranges from kwaito and gospel to rythmn and blues. Favourite artists include Amadodana Asewesile, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Ntokozo and Sharon Dee.

The doctor had admitted to being a consummate “joller” when spending time with the team but he still values whatever free time he gets to be with his wife and two children.

“Brian Baloyi often brings his own collection along and we play the best tracks from our musical archives,” Ramathesele was quoted at the time.

Players often visited Ramathesele’s room to chat over a few soft drinks, rather than to seek treatment.

“And I never serve alcohol,” the doctor had hastily added.

His life now is perhaps not a far cry from his hellraising days as a student at the University of Natal in the early 1980s.

Dr. Ramathesele, gained fame as one of the best DJ’s in Durban when he used to moonlight for a local club so as to earn some extra cash.

“My parents only got to know about it when I graduated with a medical degree in 1995.

“One of the people in the audience shouted in amazement, `Don’t tell me that this DJ has now become a doctor’!

“I was really quite embarrassed,” he admits.

Ramathesele’s affinity to soccer was inevitable, having grown up with a father who owned a soccer club.

Although he never played, he pursued his interest through other avenues by joining Jomo Cosmos and later studying sports medicine.

“Sports medicine was a fairly new concept in 1992.

“Now a lot has changed and the approach has become much more professional. Players are much fitter and they are now educated to look after themselves.”

He adds that South Africa has developed into one of the world’s top five leaders in sports medicine.

Whereas England often sends its national squad members to Germany to be treated, “We treat our players right here”.

Although soccer had come a long way in this respect, Ramathesele still thinks medical care in the game could improve.

“Very few teams do a proper screening of players or keep good records. Only a handful have physiotherapists, let alone doctors.”

This state of affairs, the doc explains, hampers a team’s progress. It also makes it hard to monitor national squad players, he says.

“If I can get a full medical report from overseas based players clubs faxed to me within hours, why do I have to struggle to get something similar about locally based players.”

And that’s not all.

There is no proper medical care at league games.

He says things are only likely to change if soccer officials make it statutory at all games to have proper medical care “and not just merely Red Cross personnel”.

Ramathesele had said there were already a pool of 15 doctors from the SA Sports Medicine Association who were willing to render their services, for a nominal fee.

As chairman of thse Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Medical Committee, he says countries in sub-Saharan Africa “should combine” to become world leaders in sports medicine.

Currently, he hosts the Bonitas House Call on SABC 2, Saturdays 8h30 – 10h00.

This is a medical TV talk show that has been on air since 2008. The show brings the doctor to the viewer’s lounge, discussing topics that seek to educate, inform and advise on health matters.

This live, weekly programme offers free medical advice and tips, as well as focusing on specific medical issues that are in the public domain. The show focuses on medical issues across the board.

Ramathesele is usually accompanied by a panel of experts to discuss the subject of the day, ranging from heart disease, diabetes, HIV and AIDS, influenza, hospitalisation etc.

The show is interactive with viewers’ calls and SMS’s, responded to by Dr Victor and his panel of experts.

Dr. Ramathesele graduated with MB ChB from the University of Natal in 1985. He later obtained M Phil in Sports Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 1998 and completed the Management Advancement Programme (MAP) at the Wits Business School in 2002.

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