Remembering Prof Bongani Mayosi

30 June 2020 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

In a few weeks we will commemorate the second anniversary of the tragic passing of our highly esteemed and deeply loved colleague, Prof Bongani Mayosi. The pain of Friday, 27 July 2018 remains deeply etched in the consciousness of all of us and will stay with us for a very long time. Prof Mayosi was among the best of us and we continue to mourn the sad circumstances in which he was taken away from us. At this time we especially keep in our thoughts the family of Prof Mayosi who live every day with the irreplaceable loss of his life.

But even in our profound sadness we also remember the remarkable life of Prof Mayosi, his towering intellect, his enduring scholarship and the wonderful legacy he has left behind. An internationally renowned scholar and a national treasure. And in our moments of deepest grief we take comfort in that infectious and kind smile which would always light up his face whenever he would enter any room. However tragic the circumstances of his death might have been, we must never forget the compassion and purpose with which Prof Mayosi lived his all too brief life. We will always remember our deep loss but we will also celebrate how he continues to enrich our lives in immeasurable ways.

We are indebted to our Council for establishing an enquiry into the circumstances surrounding Professor Mayosi’s tenure as Dean of the Health Sciences Faculty. The report of the enquiry was distributed to the UCT community on 22 June following the Council meeting of the previous Saturday.

It can never be an easy task to undertake such an enquiry, especially for the family having to relive such unimaginable painful memories.

I want to commend the panel who conducted the enquiry and wrote the report for the honesty, compassion and sensitivity that they brought to such a profoundly difficult responsibility. The report exposes many hard truths, deals with many uncomfortable shortcomings, reflects on regrettable lapses in judgement and points out avoidable mistakes. But it is also a report that contains invaluable insights, teaches important lessons in accountability, proposes recommendations that can make us a better university and provides a bridge for healing. To do justice to the tragic complexity of the circumstances surrounding the loss of Prof Mayosi’s life, I urge everyone to read the report in its entirety and to reflect deeply on its messages of accountability, transformation, agency, healing and compassion, attributes that Prof Mayosi exemplified in his own life that even the tragic circumstances of his death do not change.

For all its wisdom and honesty, there is no doubt that the enquiry and the report would have been a heavy burden to bear for a family that has lost so much and is still grieving.

I therefore wish that as a community we continue to show humility and grace towards the Mayosi family during this time.

On behalf of the UCT community I want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the panel appointed by Council: Chairperson Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo, and members Dr Somadoda Fikeni, Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela and Ms Nomfundo Walaza for the diligence, respect and care with which they carried out their onerous task. We forever will remain indebted to them.

As we continue to grapple with the full details of the report, as painful as this will be, I am confident we will not only find a way to move forward respecting Prof Mayosi’s life but also remain inspired by an incredibly talented, thoughtful and gifted individual.

Even during this dark time, his light as a role model and mentor shines bright. The true measure of his enduring legacy is that it is not in his death but in his life that we forever will find meaning.

With a heavy heart for his death but with deep gratitude for his life.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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