Graça Machel pays tribute to 'shining star' Mayosi

02 August 2018 - 14:59 By Tanya Farber
Professor Bongani Mayosi, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, whose “legacy will serve as motivation for generations to come”.
Professor Bongani Mayosi, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, whose “legacy will serve as motivation for generations to come”.
Image: UCT

Buckling under the loss of its health sciences dean‚ Professor Bongani Mayosi‚ the University of Cape Town community has been grappling with who or what might be to blame.

The nature of his death — a suicide six days ago — has in many ways eclipsed the loss of a legend.

The university’s chancellor‚ Graça Machel‚ steered clear of these conversations and went to the heart of the tragedy: the immeasurable loss of a national treasure.

In a letter of condolence to vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng‚ she said: “I was shocked to learn that such a brilliant researcher‚ cardiologist and dedicated member of our academic community had been taken from us so unexpectedly.

“He made an indelible mark with his youthful and dynamic leadership as dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences here at UCT‚ and his sharp intellect and dedication to his students will not be soon forgotten.”

With no reference to the debates about the effects of Fees Must Fall‚ and the culture of the institution itself‚ on Mayosi’s mental health‚ she went on to highlight his outstanding achievements.

“As a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa‚ a former president of the College of Physicians of South Africa‚ and an A-rated National Research Foundation researcher‚ with specialty in rheumatic fever‚ tuberculosis pericarditis and cardiomyopathy‚ he was an incredible asset to not only UCT but the broader academic‚ medical and scientific circles of South Africa‚” said Machel.

“A recipient of South Africa’s highest honour‚ the Order of Mapungubwe‚ Professor Mayosi was a shining star and one that we can all be proud to call our own.”

She called on SA to focus on the inspirational nature of his work and leadership skills and on the future‚ rather than aspects of the past that might have contributed to his demise.

“I know his exemplary career path and his contributions to the health sciences community will serve as an inspiration to the faculty and students who were fortunate enough to have benefited from his leadership. I can say without hesitation that his legacy will serve as motivation for generations to come‚” she said.

Honorary UCT professor Jenni Case‚ now at Virginia Tech in the US‚ said she was moved by how Machel had exemplified how “we must not lose sight of his achievements and legacy‚ and the loss of a man who changed so many lives”.