SA academic leader Prof Dan Kgwadi dies, leaving legacy of change
South Africa mourns the loss of Prof Dan Kgwadi, who was known for his dedication to transformation at North-West University and Vaal University of Technology.
Vice-chancellor at NWU Professor Dan Kgwadi on 5 May 2015 in Potchefstroom, South Africa. Photo: Gallo Images/BeeldMario van de Wall
The North-West University (NWU) and Vaal University of Technology (VUT) communities yesterday woke up to the news of the death of Prof Dan Kgwadi, vice-chancellor of VUT and former vice-chancellor and previous rector of the NWU, the institutions announced. He was 56.
VUT council chair Prof Mandla Radebe, in a notice to the university community, said Kgwadi’s family informed them that he died on Sunday night due to an illness.
RIP Prof Dan Kgwadi
In its statement, also issued Monday, NWU VC and principal Prof Mzubanzi Bismark Tyobeka said:
“Dan was reportedly very ill during the past week, he passed away around 10pm [on 30 April]. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this very difficult time.”
Kgwadi was known for his vigorous pursuit of transformation at both NWU and VUT. This made him unpopular among some colleagues at the two institutions.
Having served eight years at NWU, Kgwadi arrived at the Vanderbijlpark VUT campus just over a year ago after he volunteered to fix the troubled institution which was beset by allegations of corruption and lack of transformation.
In February, he told The Citizen in an interview he felt he had accomplished his mission at NWU and it was time to influence change at VUT.
“I felt now NWU was cruising and on automatic and we made good progress on transformation to go to VUT, which was in sharp decline. My task was to take the institution forward,” he said then.
“But VUT was like a tribal university, there was lack of diversity even at governance level. I want to transform it to be a real South African university.”
The price of fighting for transformation
At the time of his death, Kgwadi was on suspension at VUT for unexplained reasons.
But he regarded the suspension as a dismissal that had to do with his demand for transformation at the university.
“I don’t want to speak bad of anyone but leadership there needs experience, they don’t know how to run the university,” Kgwadi said.
He refuted allegations by some that he absconded, insisting that he was on sick leave all along, about which he notified the VUT with a sick certificate.
He often worked from home as he still felt sick after being released from hospital.
At the time, the VUT executive director at the advancement department and varsity spokesperson Tandi Mapukata shared a communique issued by VUT council to the university community, saying Kgwadi was placed on special leave during council’s special meeting on 17 February.
The university’s registrar, Dr Dan Mokoena, was appointed as acting vice-chancellor and principal with immediate effect.
On his Facebook page, Kgwadi’s last post and what has now become his parting shot, is a famous saying by American investor, Warren Buffett:
“An idiot with a plan can beat a genius without a plan.”
VUT’s Radebe, who expressed condolences to the Kgwadi family, friends and colleagues, said after liaising with the family, the university would share the details of the memorial and funeral services when they became available.