Gerwel's tenacity will be missed - Zuma

2012-11-28 14:39
Jakes Gerwel in a 1995 photo. (File, AP)

Jakes Gerwel in a 1995 photo. (File, AP)

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Johannesburg - South Africans will be eternally grateful to Professor Jakes Gerwel for laying a strong foundation in the administration of a free South Africa, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.

Gerwel, 66, died in the Kuils River Hospital, in the Western Cape, early on Wednesday morning.

"We will sorely miss the tenacity and dedication of this distinguished academic and leader of our society. On behalf of government and the people of South Africa, we wish to convey our deepest condolences," said Zuma.

He said Gerwel had driven the government's vision of reconciliation by leading heads of departments during a crucial time in South African history.

‘Prof will be deeply missed’

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, which Gerwel chaired, conveyed condolences on behalf of Mandela, the board of trustees and staff to the professor's family and friends on Wednesday.

"We will deeply miss 'prof' as we fondly refer to him," the centre said.

"Our founder [former president Mandela] worked with prof for many years, throughout his presidency and during and beyond his retirement.

"When Madiba stepped down in 1999 after serving one term as president of South Africa, Prof Gerwel, his director general, left the office of the president to join Madiba in his post-presidential work."

The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund said Gerwel would be remembered for the different ways in which he had served his country.

"The academic, public servant, businessman and councillor who created a bridge for solid, common ground-building; for [his] synergistic response to the country's national development challenges, defines the hectic life of man who also served as board chairman of our sister organisation," said CEO Bongi Mkhabela.

‘Loss to the nation’

The United Democratic Movement said Gerwel had struck the right combination of philosophy, discipline and humility.

"He was a renaissance man... former president Nelson Mandela recognised these qualities in him and appointed him as director general in his office," said UDM president Bantu Holomisa.

He said Gerwel's death was a loss to the nation as he had made a huge contribution to the country before and after apartheid.

"He had the ability to quickly identify a problem, craft a solution and saw his work to conclusion," said Holomisa.

The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) said Gerwel had played a significant role in shaping South Africa's political history through his involvement in the Black Consciousness Movement.

"Prof Gerwel will be sorely missed by government, academic circles, and South Africans at large," said GCIS acting CEO Vusi Mona.

The University of the Western Cape said it had lost its most eminent alumni, who had been instrumental in the university's transformation from an apartheid institute into an intellectual resource for a new nation.

"He was an inspiring teacher, pioneering new approaches to his discipline of literary studies. At the same time, he was fully engaged in intellectual and practical ways with the struggle for freedom," said university spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo.

A difficult time

Gerwel became the rector and vice chancellor of the university in 1987.

"His seven years in that role saw an unambiguous alignment with the mass democratic movement and a new edge to the academic project," said Tyhalibongo.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille said the city was saddened by Gerwel's death, as he had played a significant role in establishing a professional civil service in the first democratically elected government in South Africa.

Gerwel had signed the City of Cape Town's Civic Honours Book, an honour bestowed on people who had made a significant contribution in business, academia and leadership.

"On behalf of the City of Cape Town, I would like to extend my condolences to his family and friends, and wish them strength during this difficult time," said De Lille.

Family spokesperson Pam Barron said the family would like its privacy to be respected in the next few days and that funeral arrangements would be announced.

Gerwel was a well-known figure in South Africa's political history and in his later years he chaired and was on the board of major organisations and corporations.

He was married to Phoebe Abrahams and they had two children, a daughter Jessie, a son Heinrich, and four grandchildren.
Read more on:    jakes gerwel  |  cape town

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