Mtutuzeli Nyoka was born on 18 July 1960. His father was a medical doctor and his mother, a nursing sister. Although born in Uitenhage, Nyoka grew up in Port Elizabeth. From 1965-1972, he attended Lamani Primary school. In 1973, he began his high school education at Cowan High, where he excelled in sports. Nyoka was a keen athlete and showed talent in sports on the soccer, rugby and cricket teams and was captain of both the rugby and cricket teams when he matriculated in 1978.
After matriculating, Nyoka studied medicine at the University of Natal. He obtained his medical degree in 1984 and, shortly after, he worked as an intern at the Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth. It was during these early years of his career as a medical practitioner that Nyoka experienced the violent struggle against the Apartheid system, through the victims that came streaming into Livingstone Hospital, seeking medical attention for serious injuries and fatal wounds inflicted during violent confrontations and protests.
Between 1988 and 1993, Nyoka furthered his studies in medicine and trained as an Otolaryngology (ENT) surgeon) at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital. He qualified as an ENT Surgeon in 1991 and made history as the first African to become an ENT specialist in South Africa. In 1993, he went into private practice to serve black townships in Johannesburg.
Nyoka started writing his first novel, I Speak for the Silent, in 1998. Writing the book was a cathartic experience for him. He saw the beginning of a new political era after the first democratic elections in South Africa as an opportunity to tell the stories he had witnessed and been a victim of in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. I Speak for the Silent was published UKZN Press in 2004 to critical acclaim. His second novel, A hill of Fools, was published by Picador Africa in 2013. His autobiography, Deliberate Concealment: An Insider's Account of Cricket South Africa and the IPL Bonus Saga, was released by Pan Macmillan in 2015. His works have received a positive reception. A Hill of Fools was longlisted for the 2014 Sunday Times Fiction Prize while Deliberate Concealment was longlisted for the 2016 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for non-fiction.
Nyoka is not only an author and medical doctor. His pronounced creativity, conscientious and pragmatic approach to his work has also earned him a great deal of respect in the sports Industry. Nyoka’s involvement as an executive in sports spans from 1998-2011. He became the first black South African to occupy the position of Chairman on the Gauteng Cricket Board.
Nyoka currently lives in Parkmore, Johannesburg and practises as an ear, nose and throat surgeon at the Brenthrust Clinic.
Some of Nyoka’s achievements in both the medical and sports industries include:
- Senior and Principal Specialist in ENT at the Johannesburg General Hospital.
-Board Member of Thebe Pharmaceuticals (1997)
-Specialist Consultant in the Debt of ENT at Wits (2005-2009)
-International Cricket Committee (ICC) Board Member (2008-2011)
-Africa Cricket Association President (2009-2010)
An extract from I Speak for the Silent:
On a rainy day in my fifth year in prison, I received a note from a Mr John Smith. He wanted to meet with me. I could see the ocean, dark and brooding. The waves undulated as if excited by the falling rain and the clouds hung low and menacing. I was deep in thought, my mind swirling with sad memories. I had received similar requests before. At first they would send a sudden gust, a ripple of excitement, through my body. Later, they became a source of annoyance and irritation.
A young coloured warder brought the note to me. He was very polite. He must have been new. Politeness was rare in prison. The warders mostly believed that to handle animals effectively you must be one yourself. I was consequently terrified of them. Their moods ranged from indifferent to callous, and their behaviour, from strange to downright wicked. The prison jungle that was our home could pollute the mind and soul of even the most decent human being. Some of the warders enjoyed using their batons.
Indeed, much of their authority lay in their willingness to use these weapons. Sometimes they used other prisoners, the most violent, to do their dirty work. The collusion between the prisoners and officials made prison life not only unsafe but also unpredictable.
‘This is yours, meneer,’ the young warder said demurely, as he handed me the neat blue envelope. Like all the mail we prisoners received, it had been opened. Even though my long stay in prison had earned me certain privileges, privacy was not one of them. I read the letter from John Smith with absolute indifference. I did not realise that it marked the beginning of one of the most intimate relationships of my life.
Perhaps, I thought, it was from one of those lazy reporters looking to rehash an old story for tomorrow’s headline. Or was it a student from the university, seeking to impress his professor with an assignment teeming with ghoulish details? Or some idiot simply curious to know what I looked like?
Prisoners have a lot of time on their hands. Often, they welcome visits, even from fools, just to break the monotony. However, I was fortunate and had received many visitors during my prison stay. I was, after all, the famous prisoner – or rather, the infamous murderer of Raymond Mbete; ‘Comrade Ray’, as many called him.
Comrade Ray had been strangled to death. Someone strong – and I am strong – had put his hands around Mbete’s scrawny neck, firmly and long enough to squeeze the life from it. When the police arrived, they found him dead with his face submerged in his own vomit. Like most people who die in this fashion his pants were urine-soaked and soiled.
A fitting finale for a monster. A man as devoid of scruples as of morals.
2004. I Speak for the Silent. Scottsville: UKZN Press.
2013. A Hill of Fools. Johannesburg: Picador Africa.
2015. Deliberate Concealment: An Insider's Account of Cricket South Africa and the IPL Bonus Saga. Johannesburg: Pan Macmillan.