#04 2023

Remembering Dr Gaynelle Makhubele, a bright star in SAEON’s science education programme

By Joe Sibiya (SAEON), Pulane Mokgalabone and Khensani Mamitwa

In 2008 Gaynelle Makhubele, then a Grade 11 learner at Frans du Toit High School in Phalaborwa, participated in one of the Ndlovu Node’s first science camps. Everyone who met the young learner was struck by her insight, energy and enthusiasm. Joe Sibiya, the node’s science education outreach officer at the time, described her as a “spirited and focused” learner. 

Prior to the science camp, when the SAEON science education programme coordinator asked her about the career she would like to follow, Gaynelle replied with the utmost confidence: “With the abilities and talents I have, I’m planning to study medicine. I will also be involved in the business world.”

These were big ideas from a young girl. They demonstrated her positive attitude towards life and her exuberant confidence in her academic abilities. As a top academic achiever, she was dedicated to her schoolwork but also excelled in athletics. She completed her matric with four distinctions (in Accounting, English, Life Orientation and Mathematics) and enrolled for a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Cape Town in 2010.

In a formal interview, Joe Sibiya asked Gaynelle if her career choice was influenced by her mother, a nurse.  She replied: “I am an asthma patient, and seeing how this doctor helps me through my condition, I thought to myself, I can be a medical doctor too and can help many sick people out there.”

Gaynelle (third from left) at the Ndlovu Node’s science camp in 2008 (Photo: Joe Sibiya)

This dedicated young student kept contact with SAEON throughout her studies. Her dream of becoming a medical doctor came true on 19 December 2015 when she graduated from the University of Cape Town.

In 2016 she began her internship at Letaba Hospital, where she developed an even deeper love for medicine, especially in rural communities. In 2018 she continued her community service at Kgapane Hospital, where she opened her first practice. At the end of her community service in 2019, she moved to Maphutha-Malatji Hospital in Phalaborwa and began working with Marula-Med on a part-time basis in a bid to serve her community. During this time, she identified a gap in her community in the provision of specialised quality medical care.

In 2020, she opened her own practice in Lulekani named Two Summers and dedicated herself and her resources to provide quality healthcare accessible to everyone irrespective of their income bracket. During the Covid-19 pandemic she identified another gap in her community’s healthcare and started working towards a 24-hour specialised quality medical centre while working on her bigger dream of opening a private hospital in Phalaborwa.

On 1 August 2022, her Two Summers 24-hour medical centre opened its doors to the public. She operated the two practices by herself and, in addition, worked with the Phalaborwa Frail Care Centre.

She truly served her community to the best of her ability.

Gaynelle at the Ndlovu Node’s science camp in 2008 (Photo: Joe Sibiya)

Dr Gaynelle Makhubele graduated from the University of Cape Town in 2015 (Photo: Joe Sibiya)

Gaynelle made a huge impact in her community in terms of healthcare and by tackling socioeconomic issues


By Pulane Mokgalabone (former SAEON Educator, Geography Subject Advisor, Mopani East District) 

May the soul of “our” Gaynelle truly rest in peace. We at SAEON say “our” Gaynelle because we were blessed to have her in our ADVENVIRO (SAEON Kids) programme and played a role in raising her in her schooling years. We were not only blessed to contribute to her educational upbringing but blessed to have her contributing (as one of the few young scientists) to the wealth of scientific data we have today.

With Gaynelle, the world was a better place as she embraced her calling and made an indelible mark in the hearts of those she interacted with at our camps. Like sunshine she warmed up the hearts of those who met her. We have no recollection of any wayward behaviour from her.

Parents raise their children with the hope that they will outlive them. So do educators. We teach and coach with the hope of making disciples greater than ourselves and then pride ourselves in having had an opportunity to be stepping stones on the path they walked towards their great achievements in life.

Little did we know that our dreams for our “kid” would be short-lived. However, we believe she ran her race to the full.

Etlela hi kurhula our Doctor.  

Rest in peace, our beautiful doctor

By Khensani Mamitwa, practice manager

Gaynelle struck me as a very intelligent young lady, vibrant and full of life when we met in 2008 at the Ndlovu Node’s science camp. I was very shy, she was very outspoken, but we clicked and became friends instantly. We promised to keep in touch after the science camp, but somehow we didn’t.

A few years down the line we met again, this time as professionals. I worked for her as a practice manager. She was a brilliant boss, vibrant, energetic, the youngest doctor in our town. A very colourful person with a beautiful smile. A passionate and fierce young woman who had big dreams for the Ba-Phalaborwa community.

She achieved a lot in her four years of private practice. She made a huge impact in the community in terms of healthcare and by tackling socioeconomic issues. A golden heart has stopped beating but her hard work will not be in vain. We will continue with her vision. She has laid the foundation.