1998 • Community Health Award

>> Back to 1998 Awards


The requirement that all blacks carry passbooks was seen as a major tool of oppression against the African people and Josie Makotoko wanted to see their dignity restored.

At her home in Orlando, Soweto, a meeting was held to discuss what could be done.  A previous attempt at protest involved burning passbooks on a large bonfire but this had little effect on the government.  It was decided, therefore, to mount a campaign where all passbooks were returned to the local pass offices as a way of peacefully protesting the unjustness of the law. 

Whilst this protest took place across the country in a relatively calm manner, the unarmed protesters at Sharpeville's pass office were gunned down and their leaders arrested. 

What angered Josie was that these people had done nothing wrong and their only crime was they were hungry.  Hungry, not only for bread but also for justice, peace and freedom which had been denied them by the passbook laws. 
Josie was on duty as a staff nurse (RN) when wounded residents of Sharpeville were brought to her hospital for treatment.

Despite the efforts of doctors and nurses who worked tirelessly to help the injured, eighty-seven people died as a result of the battle.  Even while the hospital staff were trying to save the lives of those who had been shot, the army tried to disrupt surgery and attempted to retrieve the bullets that the surgeons had removed lest they be used as evidence against them.  At this point, Josie and her colleagues stood firm and demanded that the army respect the hospital as a war-free environment and allow them to continue their work.  This stance was perceived as a crime against the country and the hospital staff were harassed by the officers. 

After Sharpeville, Josie continued to help those in need.

She helped those who were able to influence the world about South Africa's problems and also the young people who wanted to train as freedom fighters in other countries.
Josie's task was to organize and collect clothing that could be used for travelling so that they could move around freely.

  Often used was Shangani clothing and others were disguised as mine workers.  Josie also supplied them with food for their journeys.  Sadly, some of those she helped died in exile. 

Josie was compelled to leave South Africa and took up residence in Canada where she has continued to be a voice against apartheid.  She gives presentations on South Africa in churches, schools and community centers, sharing her experiences with others so that they may better understand the situation in her homeland.  She also assists women in childbirth on a volunteer basis, is involved in race relations, the prevention of child abuse and also in a women's crisis center. 

Having left South Africa as a registered nurse and midwife, Josie now holds a BA Psychology from Laurentian University and a Masters degree in Health from Central Michigan University.