By Anga-Anganda Bushwana
One of Makhanda’s most prominent public intellectuals and social activists, Eusebius McKaiser, died suddenly on 30 May at the age of 45 from a suspected epileptic seizure.
McKaiser’s cousin, Ashwell Adriaan, told Grocott’s Mail that the family was deeply saddened by McKaiser’s death and they would miss his vibrancy, his debating abilities, but most of all his ability to reach out to the different communities across the spectrum. “He was not afraid to put his position on the table for what he believed in and what he stood for” said Adriaan.
McKaiser was a giant in the media space and had worked for the New York Times, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Sunday Independent, The New Republic, Financial Mail, and Destiny Man. He was a former talk show host on Radio 702 and wrote the books ‘A Bantu In My Bathroom’, ‘Could I Vote DA?’ and ‘Run Racist Run: Journeys into the heart of racism’.
Born on 28 March, 1978 to working-class parents, McKaiser attended St Mary’s Primary School and went to high school at Graeme College, where he became Deputy Head Prefect and matriculated in 1996. He completed an undergraduate degree in Law and Philosophy at Rhodes University, and then stayed on at Rhodes to complete an Honours degree and a Masters degree in Philosophy, both with distinction. McKaiser was then selected for the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in the United Kingdom. He also lectured philosophy at Rhodes University.
In a world that makes it so hard to be yourself, McKaiser was unapologetically and openly gay. He wholeheartedly defended the rights of the LGBTQI+ community on all platforms at his disposal.
“This is a particularly sombre moment to hear about Eusebius McKaiser’s passing and to talk about Eusebius in the past tense. Eusebius was not only a graduate of Rhodes University; but he was a passionate member of our alumni network,” said Dr Luzuko Jacobs, Rhodes University’s Director of Communication and Advancement.
Luyanda Bheyile, manager of Alumni Relations and Stakeholder Engagement at Rhodes University described McKaiser as a true ambassador of the university.
“Every time we reached out to him for him to assist us at our events, he was always willing. He was always there. He did a superb job, out of the kindness of his heart. He wasn’t paid anything and he also made contributions to our fundraising campaigns and to education because he believed very strongly in the value of education,” Bheyile told Grocott’s Mail.
McKaiser was given the coveted Distinguished Alumni award in 2012 at the young age of 34 for outstanding contributions to the university, his profession and to the community. “Since he got that award, his involvement with the university never stopped, which is not common,” Bheyile said, adding that McKaiser also supported the university’s campaign to eradicate period poverty and worked with the RU Community Engagement Office.
According to Bheyile, McKaiser was very close to his father and celebrated his Dad. He also loved his long-term partner Nduduzo Nyanda very much, said Bheyile.
“My heart goes out to them during this terrible time. I pray that they find strength. Eusebius leaves a very strong legacy for the McKaiser family,” Bheyile added.
Graeme College principal Kevin Watson described McKaiser as a student and man with a brilliant mind, a compassionate advocate, a fearless seeker of truth and a passionate soul, who was “a remarkable individual whose presence illuminated the halls of Graeme College”.
“Eusebius was not just a former learner; he was a beacon of intellectual prowess, compassion, and unwavering dedication to the pursuit of truth” said Watson, adding that in McKaiser’s speech as Deputy Head Prefect at the final prize giving, he said “One must remember that the path towards success can often be long and arduous. It is there that a positive attitude and frame of mind become essential attributes. Only the positive thinker can see the invisible, feel the intangible and achieve the impossible”, McKaiser said in 1996.
Makana Municipality executive mayor Yandiswa Vara also offered her deepest condolences to the McKaiser family. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult period. Rest in eternal peace Eusebius, you will always be remembered for your insightful commentary and your great contribution to the South African media industry”.
McKaiser was also a leading light on the Rhodes University debate team. His friend and fellow Rhodes University alumna Amy Shelver, described how he trained her and her team mates in Oxford-style debating, and they went school-to-school across the Eastern Cape, to the most privileged and under-resourced schools to teach the craft.
“It changed my life; and those of everyone around me. It gave me some of the best friends I have; and delivered a nugget of confidence and self-belief that’s enabled me to surmount just about any hardship I’ve encountered. His mind and method was also exotic and exquisite”, Shelver said this week.
McKaiser was a very rigorous and vibrant critic of most political parties in South Africa. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who he often critiqued, said “McKaiser was not only a journalist, but he was an activist who believed in social justice and the rights of all human beings to be respected, particularly those of the most marginalized. His passing is a loss regardless of where one lies on the political spectrum,” the EFF stated.
The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) said McKaiser’s untimely death had “robbed his family and his audiences of someone who lived life large and who was a forthright public voice against discrimination, inequality, prejudice and corruption”.