The family of the late Professor Bongani Mayosi says the student-led Fees Must Fall protests had a huge impact on his life and took its toll on him.
51-year-old Mayosi took his own life last week Friday, following a two year battle with depression.
Hundreds of mourners have converged at the Cape Town International Convention Centre to bid farewell to University of Cape Town cardiologist Professor Bongani Mayosi. Among attending the funeral service are academics, friends and government officials.
Mayosi’s sister Advocate Ncumisa Mayosi has paid a moving tribute to his brother. She’s spoken of how her brother loved his wife Nonhlanhla and their children.
“Nhlanhla and Bongani were the best of friends. They remained the best of friends until death did them apart. So Bongani’s life was also dedicated to serving his children. He and Nonhlanhla raised three beautiful, dynamic and self-assured girls – Nosipho aka Nqwi, Vuyi and Gugsi. Put simply he adored them. In turn for the favour the girls worshiped the ground he walked on.”
Advocate Mayosi says her brother’s psychological decline and depression began when he took up the position of Dean of Health Sciences at University of Cape Town (UCT) which coincided with the onset of the Fees Must Fall movement.
“The vitriolic character of student engagements tore him apart, the abrasive do or die scorched earth approach adopted by navigating what was a legitimate cause completely vandalised Bongani’s soul. Put simply this unravelled his soul. To be clear, he supported the students cause, but the personal insults and abuse that was hurled at him without any justification whatsoever; this cut him to the core,” explains Advocate Ncumisa Mayosi.
Mayosi’s brother Thembelani read out a message from their mother.
“My son I wish to thank you for putting the Mayosi family on the map of the world. I hear of the excellence work, nationally, on the continent, and globally. You once told me that the reason that your head is big is because of the big frontal lobe carrying your brains when I thought it was Hydrocephalus. I really thank God that he chose me to bring you to this world such a genius for the world to share. I will miss your smile and giggling when laughing … phumla ke Radebe.”
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Sipho Pityana says there are lessons to be taken from the death of Professor Bongani Mayosi about black excellence. Pityana explains, “If there’s one thing we can take away from the loss of our friend and colleague, our great intellectual, is that success can be a very lonely place. Achievement brings with it the expectations of even greater achievements.”
Oxford University academic, Hugh Watkins, has lauded the late Professor Bongani Mayosi as one of the greatest minds he’s ever known. Watkins was Mayosi’s supervisor when he did his PhD at Oxford in 1998.
His PhD studies centered around the goal of discovering the gene that causes heart disease, but that had to change. Watkins elaborates,
“I could see that he had the intellect; he was tenacious and resourceful. He wanted to discover a gene that was causing heart disease in the family he cared for. We looked at it and I had to be honest – it wasn’t possible with what we knew those days. We had to set it aside. He came back to it later and he cracked it last year. It was a wonderful email to receive; the pride he had that he and his team here had solved the mystery we couldn’t 20 years before.”