As the National Society of Black Engineers South Africa (NSBE SA), we mourn the untimely passing of our founding President, Mr. Cyril Vuyani Gamede. It is a massive loss to us as an organisation, and to society at large, which we are yet to come to terms with.
A powerful legacy
In the early nineteen nineties, a problem of high failure rates among black engineering students was identified at the then University of Natal and a handful of qualified black engineers were approached to intervene. Cyril was among those, as he had by then been in practice for several years and had acquired a master’s degree in engineering (“MSc Eng.”) at the University of Cape Town (“UCT”). It took no persuasion for Cyril to get involved in what was a mission that resonated with his moral consciousness. Cyril worked tirelessly, including on weekends, crafting the NSBE SA founding documents and strategies, which were anchored on the upliftment of black engineers into the mainstream economy. He made an indelible contribution to help us get where we are today. He has shown us the courage that is required to shape the direction of our profession in South Africa and now it is up to the rest of us to carry on his work and legacy.
A well trained and highly competent engineer with a passion for transformation, Cyril touched many people who crossed his path. He would often remind us that, “not everything we do should be motivated by money. We have a bigger responsibility to grow the engineering profession in our communities.” Cyril talked the talk and walked the walk. That’s what earned him the respect of many black engineers that it came as no surprise that he was unanimously elected the first President of NSBE SA.
Many of us benefitted from his interventions even at the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) at a time when it was difficult for black engineers to get registered professionally. When the going got tough, Cyril got going, and he would come back and say, “…the problem has been resolved – bebegoloza nje for no reason”. The example of Cyril’s life is a manifestation that the struggle was indeed fought from many fronts. He had a big heart and the right level of grit and determination when the going got tough.
Today we have lost a brother, a father, a friend, a mentor, and a pioneer of black excellence in the engineering profession. We are grieving but highly inspired by his example, and hopeful for a better tomorrow, that his good works do get carried forward into the next generations of black engineers. More recently, Cyril led the establishment of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of Zululand – a first for the historically black universities. He was the immediate Past President of ECSA and the CEO of the Construction Industry Development Board at time of his untimely death.
The entire NSBE family extends our deepest condolences to his wife Mphamora, the Gamede family, friends and colleagues at the CIDB. Your loss is our loss, and you pain is our pain. For to all those who go to the Lord in prayer, their hearts are soothed, and their burdens are lifted. We say Rest in Peace to our leader. Death be not proud for he is now with God. Until we meet again, Cyril!