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.