Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe, South Africa’s Surgeon General, teed up his ball at Pretoria Country Club’s par-four second hole in Tuesday’s Tshwane Open pro-am – ahead of the R18,5-million tournament itself beginning on Thursday – and smacked a low screamer down the fairway.
“Great shot,” smiled playing partner Hein Engelbrecht, acknowledging Sedibe’s contribution to the team. “You’re a union member, a real worker.”
And Sedibe certainly has been a worker all his life. A medical doctor, he served in Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the military wing of the ANC during the liberation struggle, and transferred to the SA Defence Force when MK was incorporated into it in 1994.
After the uprising of 1976, he was forced to join the MK in exile and completed his military training from 1977 to 1979 in Mozambique, Angola and the Soviet Union. He then did his medical studies in Germany, completing his internship in 1993. He returned to South Africa in 1994 to join the South African Military Health Service and before being appointed Surgeon General in 2013, was the Chief Director, Military Health Force Preparation.
Now he’s a golf nut, playing off a 16 handicap but he used to be a much lower handicap and once shot a par-busting 68. So how did he develop a love for the game? “Well, I grew up in Soweto and we used to play on an open stretch of veld with sand greens. We’d tee off, play our approaches and putt often with just one club, say a seven-iron or something we’d made ourselves. My uncle, Edward Johnson Sedibe, started out as a caddie and was a really talented golfer who won competitions both here and in England, before he moved to Germany and opened a driving range and music shop and stayed there for 20 years.
“As far as golf goes he was my inspiration and I started playing the game again in 1998. Today golf is my therapeutic method of killing stress. My job is a stressful one and the struggle years weren’t easy but now the golf course is a place where I can totally relax, forget about all the pressures of life and focus on this small, little white ball,” chuckles this larger than life character.
Sedibe attended Orlando West High School but left for foreign lands in his matric year because the pupils were forced to write exams in Afrikaans. “It wasn’t that we objected to the language per se, but we felt that if we wanted to further our studies overseas or even in South Africa we needed to be proficient in English.”
So the learning years in exile proved to be fruitful years and the best thing Sedibe could ever do for himself and – as it turned out – for South Africa too as he now plays a valuable role in today’s Rainbow Nation.
He’s a real worker, a union member.
And he hits low screamers down the middle of the fairway.