UCT professor Bongani Mayosi hailed as a dedicated man, as friends and family say goodbye

Over two thousand people paid their final respects to the dean of UCT's faculty of health sciences, Professor Bongani Mayosi, who took his own life during a battle with depression on Friday, July 27.

A world-renowned cardiologist, 51-year-old Mayosi was granted a Special Provincial Funeral on the instruction of President Cyril Ramaphosa, with the service held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Mayosi's death triggered an outpouring of tributes from around the world, and the country's flag was flown at half-mast on Saturday in the Western Cape out of respect for a man who had made so many positive contributions to his country.

READ: Professor Mayosi was 'black excellence' - UCT vice-chancellor

Speaker after speaker took to the podium and spoke of a man who was dedicated to his profession, an academic, leader and visionary, as well as a dedicated family man.

These included childhood friend Dr Fundile Nyati; Groote Schuur Hospital CEO Dr Bhavna Patel; UCT head of medicine Professor Ntobeko Ntusi; chairperson of the UCT council Sipho Pityana; UCT paediatric cardiologist Liesl Zuhlke; UCT head of cardiology Professor Mpiko Ntsekhe; and British cardiologist Professor Hugh Watkins‚ who works at the universities of Oxford and Harvard.

His sister, Ncumisa, spoke of Mayosi's funny, contagious laughter and easy smile and about his jovial nature and love for teaching.

"My brother was a giant. He may have been short, but he was a giant of the best kind," she said.

Motsoaledi offer 

She said the family asked themselves what they had missed and what they could have done to better support him. She said Mayosi's battle with depression had begun when he became dean of Health Sciences at UCT.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said he had been reading a lot of stories about Mayosi and his involvement at the University of Cape Town since becoming dean.

"It was painful to me that some called him a coconut and a sell-out, while others on the opposing spectrum said he was reckless in his position of leadership, for listening to students and even marching with them.

"I am here to tell you today that the Bongani I know was none of those," he said.

Motsoaledi said he had approached Mayosi to head up the Medical Research Council, but the professor had turned him down.

"He looked at me and said, minister, you have two choices, either I come over, or I stay at UCT and continue to help produce many more black graduates.

"He looked me straight in the eye and said, please understand, if I leave UCT, many black students won't graduate."

Cape Town mayor, Mayor Patricia de Lille also extended her heartfelt condolences to the family.

"It is indeed a great loss for our country. He was well known in many circles, and he will be remembered as someone who cared deeply for the poor.

"This immediately struck me when I met him two years ago. He told me he would like to work with the City of Cape Town, especially in the poorer areas," she said.

Mayosi was cremated.