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Sunday, May 9, 2021

#FeesMustFall activists blame UCT anti-black environment for professor’s suicide

Staff Reporter

UCT’s new VC Mamokgethi Phakeng says #FeesMustFall protests may have contributed to the death of UCT health dean and world-class cardiology researcher Professor Bongani Mayosi.

Mayosi, 51, committed suicide on Friday.

Addressing the media on Sunday, UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said Mayosi’s office was occupied for two weeks by protesting students in 2016.

“He went on three months’ leave and early this year collapsed because of a psychological attack. Protests in 2016/17 weren’t kind to him as a dean.

“Students were angry at him, called him a coconut – out of anger. He experienced pressure from staff, students and black students,” said Phakeng.

She said the university was aware that Mayosi was suffering from depression.

Phakeng said Mayosi tendered his resignation to then Vice-Chancellor Max Price in November.

“It’s a pity that we as an institution didn’t listen to him then draw on his strength. Make sure he is happy.”

However, student activists say the hostile environment at UCT against black academics and black students should be blamed for the professor’s death.

Chumani Maxwele,South African political activist best known for his involvement in the Rhodes Must Fall (#RMF) and the #FeesMustFall movements wrote on his Facebook post: “Professor Bongani Mayosi is killed by the University of Cape Town”.

He added that, “Professor Mayosi’s passing away comes after more than four black UCT students killed themselves just last year alone. And we knew that the university killed them. It is a well known reality that UCT environment is not friendly to Black people.”

“It must be said that Prof Mayosi worked in the most hostile environment and this is Health Sciences at UCT. This faculty is dominated by old white people largely from the apartheid regime. And it is the least transformed faculty at UCT,” said Maxwele.

He added that in 2015 and 2016 student political protest “did not make it easy for this white old apartheid establishment” and  actively lobbied for Professor Mayosi to take over the leadership of Health Sciences.

“The old apartheid establishment have been avoiding to be led by a Black talented scholar. But as #Fallist we made it clear to White people that they have no choice but Professor Mayosi,” said Maxwele.

Mayosi will be buried on Saturday. The university is yet to announce a date for the memorial service this week.

He leaves his widow Nonhlanhla Khumalo and two daughters.

Read: SA’s top cardiologist Professor Bongani Mayosi has passed




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  1. Beyond the institution, the role of protestors whose zero sum goals refuse to accommodate the sensitivity of the kind of ‘nerds’ who believe in a certain excellence, who are not like everybody else, whose activism is their work, and their focus, who are denied this, and who because they are not screaming the common messages expected of them because of the colour of their skin, are called ‘coconuts’, have their offices ‘occupied’, are publicly humiliated, whose contributions are erased by the strident who demand that only their way or no way at all. Dear Professor Bongani, the country did not deserve you. I wish the rest of the continent and the world had reached out to drag you out of the quagmire that the entitled have made of your country. There is a world and continent that would have cherished you, given you space to excel and heal the human heart in peace, love and gentleness. To you the gentle souls who long to sing a kinder song, hang in there. And remember, there are many other countries to which to belong. I hope you have found your peace, Professor. Sleep well, great man.

  2. Ahhhh…what a waste, what a sadness. And every single person who was involved in hounding this gentle and excellent man is implicated. The discussion should not just stop with that of mental health, but should also include the impact and effects of institutional bullying, the fact of the horrible effects that unconsidered, one-sided, screechings have on those who are built differently. Not every activism should be about riots and the destruction of a person’s life work, minimising and reducing this person just because they do not speak/behave/concur with you. What a tragedy. What a loss to nation and continent and race. What a shame. Cruelty has direct and awful human consequences. What a sadness. Oh dear Professor, what a sadness. So deeply sorry, so sorry.


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