Dr James Sebe Moroka

Dr James Sebe Moroka
16 March 1892
10 November 1985

In summary: Medical doctor, AAC Treasurer, President of the African National Congress from 1949 to 1952.

Dr. James Sebe Moroka was the great grandson of Chief Moroka I of the Barolong, from Thaba Nchu in the then Orange Free State.

Moroka was born on 16 March 1892, in Thaba-Nchu. He attended the Wesleyan Church school in the Ratlou village until he passed standard 4. Thereafter he attended high school at the Lovedale Institute in Alice in the Eastern Cape, where he met Mr MacDonald,a church minister from Scotland. MacDonald was planning to educate young Black students in Scotland, and although Moroka’s parents were not keen to send him overseas, MacDonald convinced them that it would be a great opportunity for their son.

Moroka then had the task of finding money to fund his overseas education. At the time, he was the owner of a farm which he inherited from his grandmother. Piet Steytler, a friend, agreed to take care of the farm and gave Moroka £800, and Moroka left Cape Town for Southampton in 1911 on the Caledonian Castle, under the care of MacDonald.

In Edinburgh, Moroka was examined at a local school to ascertain his level of education, and the results showed that he did not have the knowledge necessary to be accepted at medical school. MacDonald came to his rescue by securing the assistance of a local graduate Mr Fairweather and his wife to tutor the student. The ‘crash course’ lasted for two years, after which Moroka passed his Matric exam, and became eligible to enter medical school.

Moroka excelled at medical school at the University of Edinburgh and passed his final examination in 1918 with ease. With no family members able to attend his graduation ceremony, fellow South African Silas Modiri Molema, who was a student at Glasgow at the time, accompanied his friend.

Before returning to South Africa, Moroka worked as an assistant in a country practice in England. Although he was offered a partnership, Moroka returned to South Africa soon afterwards.