Ziyo, South Africa

Dear Maria

I was deeply shocked and saddened to learn that Oupa’s brave and determined battle against cancer had come to an end yesterday morning; this feels so untimely and must have been a huge blow for you and the family. Read more…

I therefore send you the deepest sympathy of all my colleagues at Ziyo, and all my family, who have joined the battle in their spirit, their thoughts and their prayers.

A message such as this must, I feel, always come in 2 parts – the outreach to close family and friends whose pain and grief must be almost unbearable and the tribute to someone who has contributed so much and whose contribution will be greatly missed.

To you, Maria, and all the family, I wish comfort and strength in your grieving; despite Oupa’s recent ill-health, his passing must have been a great shock to you and you must now allow your feelings to find expression, despite the fact that there will be a lot of practical things to attend to at this time and that you will want to be strong for one another.

To a depleted world, we must hold on to the many things that Oupa has taught us so that we can continue the struggle to recognise the contribution and value of all and so that all can have the opportunity to be properly educated and so fulfil their true potential – what a clear and challenging thinker and activist Oupa has been and I trust that Khanya College will stand firm and take forward his vision and thinking for generations to come.

From a personal perspective, you will rightly hear many glowing tributes for Oupa from those who can write and express their feelings much better than I can but I have to share with you how much my valued, albeit “periodic”, relationship with Oupa has meant to me and has spurred me on in my own contribution towards equity and justice in our unequal society in the nearly 20 years I have known him. At an intellectual level, Oupa has contributed a great deal to my understanding – in particular, I recall so clearly Oupa’s moving, powerful and well-argued address to a meeting of all South African partners of BfdW in Nordhoek some years back; but I have also been deeply touched at a personal level by the way, in our fractured and somewhat suspicious society, Oupa always warmly greeted me and respectfully exchanged news and received my inputs without ever leaving me to feel that I was valued any less because of my privilege, my whiteness and my “colonial” heritage – this is true privilege and has meant a great deal to me.

In closing, there is nothing better than music to rouse my emotions (although my choice of music would not have been Oupa’s choice as he would have seen the “gap” in my knowledge of jazz!); on my drive to work this morning, while still trying to come to terms with this sad news, my playlist offered me the beautiful “Brothers in Arms”, by a favourite band called Dire Straits, which has a hauntingly beautiful theme of losing a brother (better expressed for me as a comrade) that is echoed in the lead guitar – I have been in tears ever since! This is because you, and we all, have lost a brilliant and passionate man, father, friend, thinker and leader whose mark on our society will remain indelible despite his earthly passing. May the God of mercy, of justice and humility welcome Oupa to eternal rest and comfort you in your grieving and your loss.

With deepest sympathy,

Paul Tyler

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