Tributes pour in for Rhodes chancellor

Michael Kimberley

TRIBUTES have poured in from across the country following the death of Rhodes University chancellor Prof Jakes Gerwel.

Eastern Cape-born Gerwel, 66, died yesterday after heart surgery in Cape Town.

He was chairman of Media24 and was former president Nelson Mandela’s right-hand man after the 1994 elections.

Family spokeswoman Pam Barron said the funeral details would be made known soon.

Gerwel was born in 1946 in Somerset East and matriculated from Paterson High School in Port Elizabeth. He grew up on a sheep farm in Somerset East and went on to become a renowned academic, executive and multi-award winner.

His awards included the Order of the Southern Cross from Mandela, the Order of Good Deeds from Libya, and the Freedom of the Town from Somerset East.

In 1967, Gerwel graduated from the University of the Western Cape with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and completed his honours a year later.

His early life’s work was mostly as an academic in roles which included rector of the University of the Western Cape.

Rhodes University lowered its flag yesterday. Gerwel served as chancellor for more than 13 years.

Rhodes vice-chancellor Dr Saleem Badat said: “He will be fondly remembered and greatly missed.A gentle man with a lively mind and intellect, he was always a source of wise counsel.”

In 1991, Gerwel was elected as a member of the ANC’s Western Cape regional committee.

President Jacob Zuma said: “South Africans will remain eternally grateful to Gerwel for laying a strong administrative foundation, concretising the new ethos of a free and non-racial South Africa.”

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University vice-chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz saluted Gerwel’s legacy. Gerwel received an honorary doctorate from the university in 2008. “His personal and intellectual modesty, and deep sense of what it means to be human in an age of violence [will be remembered],” Swartz said.

South African film producer Anant Singh said Gerwel was a true son of South Africa and a servant of the people.

Gerwel also served as chairman of Life Healthcare, and was the chairman of the board of trustees of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. Western Cape premier Helen Zille said: “He made an enormous contribution … to the struggle against apartheid.”

University of the Free State vice- chancellor Prof Jonathan Jansen tweeted: “Rest in peace Prof Gerwel. You inspired a generation by linking academic excellence to political activism in ways that enhanced both.”

Married to Phoebe Abrahams, Gerwel had two children and four grandchildren. – Additional reporting by Sapa

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