Statement from former President Thabo Mbeki on the passing of Prof Jakes Gerwel

Prof Gerwel welcomed guests to the 2012 Annual Lecture earlier this year

Former President Thabo Mbeki and his wife Zanele have learnt with profound sadness of the passing away of Professor Jakes Gerwel, whom they considered a valued comrade and friend.

The former President described Professor Gerwel as an outstanding South African who contributed to the country in a wide variety of fields, including literature, academia, politics, government, business and sport, particularly cricket, while remaining always very humble and self-effacing.

He said he first got to know Professor Gerwel when the latter was “the distinguished Vice Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, in which capacity he made an enormous contribution to position the UWC as what he called ‘the home of the left’, as well as transform the university into a non-racial institution.”

“He therefore stood in the front ranks of those who helped to transform our centres of higher education into institutions which would use their concentrated brain power to contribute to the transformation of our country into a non-racial and non-sexist democracy.”

The former President expressed the hope that “the South African academy will honour the memory of Jakes Gerwel by building on the progressive tradition he established.”

As the first Director General in President Nelson Mandela’s office, Prof Gerwel can correctly be described as a pathfinder and Dean of the post apartheid civil service. Said former President Mbeki: “With his wealth of experience, commitment and selfless dedication to public service, Prof Gerwel still had much to offer our country and people.”

Former President Mbeki said the young cadre of today’s civil servants need to study the lives of people such as Prof Gerwel to draw appropriate lessons in addressing the challenges of the civil service and the masses of the people it is meant to serve.

The former President conveyed his and his wife’s heartfelt condolences to Jakes’ dear wife Phoebe, their children, and the rest of the Gerwel family.

For more information please contact Mukoni Ratshitanga on +27 (0)82 300 3447.