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‘Gone but never forgotten’, that was the theme of the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) online Memorial Service held via Microsoft Teams on Tuesday, 12 January 2020, to pay tribute to the members of the DUT community who have recently passed on due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Facilitating the memorial service was Professor Livingstone Makondo from DUT’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)who said the service was held to celebrate the lives of DUT staff members who have recently departed because of COVID-19. 

“I want us to each commit ourselves to God, to cherish the moments that GOD has given us to share with our colleagues. Allow me to read a text that comes quickly to my mind, which we find from the book of John Chapter 14. It talks to a time like this, well it says, let not your heart be troubled. You believed in God, believe also in me. Verse two: In my father’s house there are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you so. I go to prepare a place for you. Verse three: If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am you may be also. This is the living text that I want us to have in mind as we are celebrating the lives of our departed,” said Prof Makondo.  

Ms Sandi Zulu from CELT touched many hearts when she sang her heart out, singing the song titled: I Surrender All. 

Delivering the keynote address was the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teacher and Learning, Prof Nokuthula Sibiya who said the University is extremely concerned by the high rate of infections and the increasing number of fatalities as the COVID-19 continues to ravage the KwaZulu-Natal province and the country. 

“Sadly, members of the DUT community have recently passed on and some have also lost their loved ones to the pandemic. The University conveys its most sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who have departed. May their souls rest in peace. The plan for the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine gives us hope that the country will be able to win the battle against the virus. The President said in his recent message that we do not know how much longer it will last or how much worse it will get, but we know what we need to do to weather the storm. We know what we need to do to protect ourselves and those around us,” said Prof Sibiya. 

She said the University reminds all staff and students that they must work harder to prevent the further spread the corona virus. Prof Sibiya said the second wave of the pandemic has been devastating, therefore people need to ensure that they follow the public health guidelines by ensuring that they wear the face mask, wash hands regularly with water and soap, use a 70% alcohol based hand sanitiser and maintain social distancing. 

According to Prof Sibiya, to date DUT has recorded six COVID-19 related deaths which is five staff members and one student. 

Members of the DUT community who have sadly passed on consists of:  

  1. Mr Surendra Harilal (51) from Bonela whom at the time of departure on 5 August 2020 was appointed as the Laboratory Technician with over 23 years of experience in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism, Faculty of Management Sciences. 
  2. Mr Nhlanhla Vincent Mkhize who was appointed as an Assistant Librarian at Brickfield Library passed away on 17 December 2020. He worked for DUT for 28 years but spent most of his life career at the Brickfield Library. 
  3. Professor Thengani Harold Ngwenya (58) from Pinetown who was the Director for Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) from January 2009 until his departure on 2 January 2021. Prof Ngwenya was involved in higher education as a lecturer, researcher and manager for over 30 years. 
  4. Mr Azwimpheleli Arnold Mudzanani (40) from Limpopo whom at the time of his departure was appointed as the General Assistant in the department of Biotechnology and Food Science. He joined DUT in 2015 as a Laboratory Assistant and passed away in hospital in Limpopo on 8 January 2021.  
  5. Mr Cassius Langa Luvuno from Cedara in Pietermaritzburg, passed on while doing his first year in Master’s degree Biotechnology at DUT. 
  6. Mr Clement Zikalala (65) from Ladysmith who was the former Senior Technician and Chairperson of NTEU at DUT passed away on 8 January 2021. He retired on 20 April 2020, having served 21 years and six months of service at DUT. He passed away within a few months of his retirement after he succumbed to ill health just before Christmas in 2020. 

Paying tribute to his late colleagues, DUT Dean of Students, Dr Maditsane Nkonoane said words fail him in trying to comfort the bereaved families and friends of those that have departed, however he said they remain in his thoughts and prayers during this dark hour. 

“I may not have known Mr Luvuno personally but he was also one of us. In my calling as student services practitioner, every student is my child. Colleagues and friends, the best tribute we can pay to those colleagues and students who have departed is for us to all remain united in our shared purpose, in our quest for turning DUT in the true centre for excellence, it can truly become. We hope and pray our departed colleagues and students will continue to open our eyes to Envision 2030 and all the possibilities that lie ahead before us,” said Dr Nkonoane. 

Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Prof Sibusiso Moyo said the service was a time for the DUT community to mourn and remember those that have been amongst them. 

“We are comforted by knowing that we live in Christ, we die in Christ. We celebrate eternal life in Christ and we just pray that those that have left us, that they rest in eternal peace in Christ. We pray for their families, we pray that we remember these families and just reach out to them during this difficult time. Those who have experience death in their families know that it is much harder when everybody goes away after the mourning period,” said Prof Moyo. 

Pictured: Some of the DUT community members who passed away due to COVID-19. 

Simangele Zuma 

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