Jeffry Dumo Baqwa was born on 24 July 1949 in Pinetown, Natal. He was the second child and oldest son (two younger brothers were to follow). His father worked as a school teacher while his mother worked as a nurse. He attended schools in Utrecht and Pinetown, andwent to study at St Francis College Marianhill where he matriculated. He then went to Fort Hare University where he studied majoring in Chemistry and Botany with minors in Physics, Maths and Psychology. He graduated with a BSc Degree in 1968. While he was at university Baqwa became involved in politics becoming one of the founding members of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM).
Baqwa then enrolled for his Honours Degree in Biochemistry, but stopped his studying to work fulltime on the National Executive of the BCM as Director of Literacy and Coordinator of Community Programmes.
As a result of his anti apartheid political activities, Baqwa was served with a banning order by the Apartheid government in September 1973. He was restricted to uMzimkhulu village in the Transkei where he was among other things he was prohibited from meeting with more than one person at a time, receive visitors and visit schools. After the assassination of Onkgopotse Ramothibi Tiro in Botswana by Apartheid security forces, Baqwa was asked by the BCM to leave the country and assume the role that was played by Tiro. Subsequently, he escaped from his restriction in the Transkei and moved to Botswana in November 1974. His major task in exile was to “inform the international community what was going on and to challenge them toplay a role in the process of change.” As a result he found himself travelling to Europe and interacting with bodies such as the United Nations and the World Council of Churches amongst others.
In late 1979 he enrolled at the Universiteit des Saarlandes in Saarbruecken in Germany to study for a medical degree which he completed in 1988. Afterwards, Baqwa went to the University of Liverpool where he studied for a Diploma in Tropical Medicine. Upon completion he worked for six months at the Agogo Mission Hospital in Ghana. He returned to Liverpool where he did a Masters in Community Health.
As the process for the dismantling of Apartheid gathered pace, Baqwa was persuaded by Barney Pityana to return to South Africa in 1991 despite being offered a post by the Ministry of Health in Fiji. He first worked and completed a project for the World Council of Churches, and then worked in Alexandra Health Centre in Johannesburg as a clinician for two years.
He then joined the University of Cape Town in January 1994. The following year in May, he became the first Professor of Primary Health Care. During this period Baqwa focused his energy in teaching and developing research within the primary health care sphere of the field of medicine.
Dumo Jeffrey Baqwa died on 2 August 2001 after a short illness.