River search for prof

2010-02-23 00:00

A SEARCH was under way yesterday for Professor Steve de Gruchy, the head of the School of Religion and Theology on the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who disappeared while tubing on the Mooi River on Sunday.

De Gruchy (48) was tubing with his son David in the Mooi River in the Middelrus area on Sunday morning when he disappeared. He and his son were about to enter rapids when De Gruchy came off his tube. He waved his son on, indicating he was alright. His son waited for him at the bottom of the rapids, but his father did not re-appear.

The police were alerted a few hours later and began a search. Yesterday the police search-and-rescue unit resumed the search, but at the time of going to press had found no sign of De Gruchy.

Another search party was formed by the Reverend Dan le Cordeur and De Gruchy’s university colleague, Tony Balcomb.

The search party combed the area where De Gruchy was last seen until late last evening.

A source close to the search said they found nothing, adding that it was a difficult one due to the fast- flowing water.

“We covered the area with the fast-flowing water and rapids making it difficult to do the job, but we persevered. The search will resume early tomorrow,” said the source.

A prayer service was held at the university yesterday, according to Professor Gerald West in the School of Religion and Theology. “We also cancelled lectures and briefed the students to quell rumours,” he said. “At the moment we are just waiting and hoping.”

De Gruchy is a minister in the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. He was a chaplain at Groote Schuur hospital and was minister of Gleemoor Congregational Church in Athlone, Cape Town, from 1987 to 1994, before becoming director of the Moffat Mission Trust in Kuruman in the Northern Cape. While working at this historic mission station — the base for Robert Moffat and David Livingstone, and where the first Bible was printed in Africa — he became involved in rural development issues.

De Gruchy was appointed the first full-time director of the Theology and Development Programme at UKZN in 2000.

While a student at the University of Cape Town, De Gruchy served on the Students’ Representative Council and took an active role in the student anti-apartheid movement. He was a signatory to the Kairos Document and a conscientious objector to military service.

While working in the Kuruman area De Gruchy helped establish NGOs working in the field of land rights, small business development, early childhood development, and leadership training. More recently he was involved in research on the interface between religion and health in Africa in the context of the HIV and Aids pandemic, and with a specific focus on Zambia.

On the international stage, De Gruchy was involved with the World Council of Churches’ Justice, Peace and Creation team, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Council for World Mission, the International Congregational Fellowship, and the Church Unity Commission in South Africa.

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