Messages from across the UCT community, the medical community, the country, the continent and the world have been pouring in to commemorate and celebrate the life of Professor Bongani Mayosi, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, who passed away on 27 July.
The messages that follow have been published as received. This page will be updated regularly as more messages come through.
To the family and loved ones of Prof Mayosi
It has taken me some time to write this letter to you, as I have struggled to find the words to convey adequately my feelings on the loss of such a special man and mentor. My heartfelt condolences to you all on the passing for what was for me one of the most influential and pivotal figures in my life.
I was a UCT undergraduate medical student between the years of 2000 and 2006. I knew Prof Mayosi from my 3rd year in 2003 and as time went on our paths would continue to cross in various ways, culminating in working closely with him in my final year, as I was at that stage the class representative and a member of the SRC.
Prof Mayosi was an outstanding individual. We all know his accolades and I will not make mention of them as they are well known to you, but on a interpersonal level I struggle to think of a single person who was as sympathetic, as supportive, as approachable and as motivational as him. He seemed to radiate positivity and I struggle to picture him without a smile on his face. Knowing how his life ended seems totally out of kilter with the man I knew him to be.
There are many instances where he took time out to teach me on an individual level and I can still remember exactly what was discussed in those lessons and have tried to apply them in my practice ever since. Things that must have seen so mundane and simplistic to him opened up a whole world to me and planted seeds that have since born fruit.
I have subsequently gone on to study internal medicine and I currently work as a consultant in the internal medicine department at the University of Pretoria. This year I will be 36 years old. The same age Prof Mayosi was when I first met him. What he went on to achieve these last 15 years or so I am sure I will never achieve in the rest of my career, but what I will try to emulate each and every day is his compassion and his desire for each individual student of mine to succeed, achieve and do well.
I would like to share a single story that perhaps best illustrates the reasons for my feelings for the man. In 2007, I began my internship and moved to Pretoria. My then girlfriend and now wife of 10 years was a local Pretorian and had lived here her whole life. I was the newcomer. After only a couple of months of living in Pretoria my wife developed a serious cardiac disease and required the help of an electrophysiologist. I was completely lost and at sea. Her disease was something I knew little about and I had no idea where to turn to get her the expertise she needed. So I called the one person I knew would hear me out and give me the help I needed. His secretary took my message and said she would see if he could call me back. A few minutes later, he called me. He explained the situation to me gave me medical advice and recommended someone for me to take her to. In that moment of panic and helplessness, he managed to provide me with a lifeline and put me at ease. He was under no obligation to call; I was not a close friend or even a colleague really, just an old student. Such was the character of the man. For what he did for me in that instant I will be eternally grateful.
My pledge to you on his passing is not to let Prof Mayosi’s death stop the good he was so relentless in imparting on the world. I pledge to try to uphold his principals, to fight for what is right, to help those in need and to try to make the world that little bit brighter.
May you take comfort in knowing that the ripple he created in his fall will have far-reaching effects and that his death albeit tragic highlights in many of our minds what a wonderful person he truly was.
Wishing you all much blessing and peace
UCT Class of 2006
Dear Mayosi Family,
Please accept my condolences on the loss of Bongani. I knew him as a colleague, a role model and a very kind man. I am deeply saddened that he has left this Earth.
I do not know the loss of a husband or a child or a parent. But I lost my sister suddenly and in her prime some years back, and have lost close friends to suicide. My heart goes out to you in your pain, and I wish for you to come to a place of healing and peace, someday.
With warm regards and sympathy,
Prof Rebecca Rogers Ackermann (PhD)
Director: Human Evolution Research Institute (HERI)
Professor: Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town
Dear UCT Community:
Academia has suffered an irreparable loss in Professor Mayosi. Perhaps, it is time we engaged in some introspection about the pressures that academics work under and give them a greater degree of needed support.
Prof. Mqhele Dlodlo (PhD; F'ZwIE; Pr.Eng(ECZ))
National University of Science and Technology (NUST)
Dear Family, Friends and Entire UCT Community
Professor Mayosi's physical departure leaves an intact spiritual connection of HUMBLENESS full of encouragement. Despite being many kilometers, as far as NAMIBIA we join together in thanking the Almighty GOD for the exemplary role model that Professor BONGANI MAYOSI has left us.
MSc. OT student
Condolences to the Manyosi Family. May God give you strength during this difficult time.
Lethabo C. Mashiloane
I only met Bongani only a few times, usually at University functions. I always enjoyed his energy and readiness to laugh, but his intelligence and vision were what truly impressed. He is a great loss to various facets of the institution, to the country and to his discipline. May his loved ones nonetheless find peace.
Lala kakuhle ngqanga ehlala ehlathini nentsiba zayo.Your legacy never be annihilated you achieved a lot during your lifetime
It is not okay, I am deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Mayosi. Go well Hero of the Medicine fraternity, you inspired me to reach for my dreams and will continue to strive for success because through you I saw it is possible for a South African to shine on a global scale, a life well lived and a journey well led. Rest in peace my Professor. We will dearly miss you.
My sincere condolences to the Mayosi family and friends for the loss of a superb man. I will remember Prof Bongani Mayosi as a true gentleman who, although he had an extremely busy schedule, would give everybody time. He was genuinely interested in his staff and was a leader that the staff could not only admire and respect but could trust wholeheartedly. UCT has lost a giant who will be remembered with love.
May your Soul Rest in Peace Prof Extraordinaire. Your contribution to Medicine will forever remain. Thank you for being an inspiration to all.
My name is Sim Kyazze.
I never knew Prof. Bongani Mayosi. But being familiar with the history of South Africa, I can only marvel at the level of his academic achievement at such a young age (and no, 51 is not old at all!)
I need not be a fellow heart surgeon to know that he was an inspiration to many young black men who crossed paths with him at UCT and elsewhere he went.
It’s a tough loss for UCT.
All I can say to his family, his friends, his colleagues, and the entire UCT community is: be strong; be strong.
Dear Nonhlanhla, Sivuyile and Camagu,
Our very sincere condolences on the loss of Bongani. He was simply one of the brightest and best trainees I have ever had and one of the smartest clinician academics I have known. He transformed and reinvigorated the Cardiac Clinic and his contribution was immeasurable.
More than that as you know his character, personality and care for people was exceptional and we shall always miss him and his wonderful smile. Our children noted his passing and contacted us immediately with messages of support and condolence. That is pretty unusual as most children do not know who their parents work with. On the few occasions they had met Bongani (mostly official occasions) he so impressed that they felt compelled to express their condolences.
Our best wishes for strength in this most difficult time.
Pat, Anita and family
What a very kind and sweet man he was. Thanking him for his great contribution.
Grace and peace to his loved ones left behind
There’s no word that can express how sorry we are to hear about the death of your Prof Bongani Mayosi . We were very stunned to hear this news and still can’t believe that it really happened. During this difficult moment, our thoughts and prayers are always with you. We love you. Please give his family a huge embrace from us. May his Soul Rest In Peace ☹
“LALA NGOXOLO MTHIMKHULU, RADEBE, NDLEBENTLE-ZOMBINI, MALUME WAM, UGQATSO LWAKHO ULUFEZILE YAYE UYA KUHLALA USEZINTLIZIYWENI ZETHU!!!”
Bongani Mayosi: Head and Heart in Africa
Professor Bongani Mayosi had his head and his heart in Africa. With intensity, he pursued a highly productive academic medical career in the spirit of a clinician-scientist, and took pride in having been educated in the best tradition of both the science and practice of medicine. His dream was to extend to others the benefits he had enjoyed and was applying in practice, to advance medicine and the health of all in Africa through developing new generations of scholar-practitioners capable of addressing the diseases most prevalent in our continent.
While immersed in the best of western medicine and capable of interacting respectfully with those of different backgrounds and traditions, he retained a deep commitment to being an African, proud of his cultural heritage and language. He enjoyed the respect and admiration of all his colleagues across many diverse boundaries. My collegial interactions with him over two decades spanned his time as a registrar in internal medicine, a consultant cardiologist, ten years of distinguished leadership of the Department of Medicine, and his Deanship of the Faculty of Health Science. He envisioned progress towards achieving greater equity in health and health-care in South Africa and Africa, with both optimism and deep insights into the complexity of challenges for the future.
I shall long remember him with a combination of affection as an exceptional colleague, and with great sadness at the void he leaves for his loving family, UCT, many colleagues and patients.
Solomon Benatar MBChB, DSc (Med), FRCP
Emeritus Professor of Medicine
University of Cape Town
Dalla Lana School of Public Health
University of Toronto
Dearest Family of Prof Bongani Mayosi,
I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences on the tragic passing of your husband, father, son. He was a remarkable man of endless talents and I remember so vividly that his appointment as a Dean brought me hope that transformation is possible in a positive, inclusive, kind way, whereas before I always felt I can only be in the wrong as a white foreigner. I loved listening to his wise words and see him smile and he truly was a beacon of hope in very harsh and difficult times. His passing and the circumstances are deeply troubling and tragic. I want to salute you on your bravery to be honest about his mental health and I truly hope his legacy will shine on and bring more kindness and understanding that we are all human needing nourishment and support.
Thank you for sharing him with all of us, even though it came at a terrible cost. He is free of pain and suffering now and will continue to guide in many ways. I wish you love and strength in this very difficult time.
I struggle to put my thoughts into words, expressing my gratitude that Prof Mayosi shared his life and passion with so many of us, but I found this poem I would like to share with the Mayosi Family:
From Robert Bly "home in grass''
We did not come to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves like the trees
And the trees that are broken
and start again,
drawing up from the great roots
With much love
Dr med F Schulte
MD, FCPsych, Cert Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist
Senior Lecturer, UCT, Department of Psychiatry
The Employees Union of the University of Cape Town wishes to, on behalf of its members, convey our most sincere condolences to the family, close friends and colleagues of the late Bongani Mayosi, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. Indeed, a great tree has fallen.
The Professional, Administrative and Support staff (PASS), represented by the Employees Union, particularly those in the Faculty, are all still reeling from the shock and sorrow upon hearing about his passing. A silence you could almost touch was upon staff and students during their first gathering to mourn his passing and commemorate his life. There are still those among us who are still at a loss for words. Know this, however, we all know the sadness that comes with the passing of a beloved relative and the hugs and gestures if support and sympathy, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
During the student protests (Fees-must-fall), Professor Mayosi, as head of the Health Sciences Faculty, played a pivotal role in the withdrawal of security personnel from the Health Sciences Faculty due to staff and students’ concern about the militarisation of the faculty. As the EU, we wish the Mayosi family to know that as dean, Professor Mayosi did not hesitate to act when he was made aware of the circumstances under which the newly insourced staff had to spend their tea and lunch breaks. In a matter of days, the matter was resolved due to the dean’s swift actions, making the space more welcoming and user-friendly to staff and thus affirming their human dignity as part of the faculty community.
Much has been said, and will continue to be said, about the role Professor Mayosi had played in the lives of many. As the Employees Union, we were one of many who have sought relief from the harsh sun in the shade of the tree that was Bongani Mayosi. We encountered him as a person with a huge heart, always doing his best to welcome those who sought out his shade, only to find that a branch will be extended to each and every one – to lift them higher, to enable them to see more of the African landscape in which soil he had been planted.
The Faculty of Health Sciences, the University of Cape Town, has lost one of its true sons of the soil – someone with deep empathy and respect for those he met on his journey through this existence. Let us remember him as an intellectual, a brother, a father, a son, but most of all – that fellow traveller through this journey called life who would not just show you the way but walk it with you, beside you. This was particularly evident during the protests when Professor Mayosi refused to let the faculty be turned into a “concentration camp” and when he marched with the students during the process.
It is the EU’s pledge to actively work towards an accelerated change in institutional culture for staff and students, placing the mental health and wellbeing of everyone at UCT, irrespective of class and race, on the bargaining and negotiation table. Borrowing and building upon the words of tata Madiba, “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another…”, the EU’s task is clear – to never, never again let this beautiful university lose one of its own to the weight to despair.
We salute Professor Bongani Mayosi and will miss his voice during deliberations to transform the University of Cape Town into a workplace of deep respect, inclusivity, humility and social equality.
Employees Union Executive
University of Cape Town
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