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Broadcaster, analyst and journalist Eusebius McKaiser (45) dies, sending shockwaves around the country

Broadcaster, analyst and journalist Eusebius McKaiser (45) dies, sending shockwaves around the country
Political analyst, celebrated journalist and author Eusebius McKaiser. (Photo: Gallo Images / Oupa Bopape)

Although McKaiser’s journalistic legacy is undeniably complex, he will be remembered as somebody who was utterly fearless in holding politicians’ feet to the fire when he believed they were guilty of wrongdoing.

Eusebius McKaiser (45), journalist, broadcaster, analyst extraordinaire, a razor-sharp intellect, a progressive liberal and much more, died suddenly at his Johannesburg home on Tuesday, May 30.

His manager, Jackie Strydom, told Daily Maverick McKaiser had suffered a suspected epileptic seizure.

“I am afraid it is true; he passed away this afternoon, at his Johannesburg home. That is all we can confirm right now. I am distraught, his family, friends and colleagues all are.”

McKaiser’s death sent shockwaves across South Africa, particularly as he had been active on all his social media platforms hours before the news was confirmed. In one of his last tweets, McKaiser shared a video performance of a South African amputee dancer based in the UK, Musa Motha, who lost a leg because of childhood cancer and blew away the judges with his talent.

“Stop what you’re doing. Right now. You need to watch this. Wow. I … am speechless & ran out of tears.”

At the time of his death, McKaiser was a regular contributor to TimesLIVE.  “Eusebius provided the sort of thought leadership our platform and our country needed. He was lucid, erudite and his synthesis of the issues much deeper than what we see elsewhere,” said TimesLIVE editor Makhudu Sefara.

McKaiser was proudly gay. He was a strong advocate of the LGBTI community and educated the public about gay rights and the immorality of crimes committed against homosexuals, according to his biography on the Rhodes University website.

“As a political activist what matters to him is getting to grips with the social and political topics that impact on our lives, and making people sit up and take notice of this,” the website said.

Final podcast

Although McKaiser’s journalistic legacy is undeniably complex, he will be remembered as somebody who was utterly fearless in holding politicians’ feet to the fire when he believed they were guilty of wrongdoing. He spent the night before his death working on a podcast titled, “Is there a viable alternative to the ANC?”

In the podcast, he opined: “The effects of blackouts aren’t random, natural events. They are the foreseeable consequences of corruption, State Capture, technocratic ineptitude, and unethical and ineffectual leadership by the ANC-misled government.

“Make it a habit to tie the story of Eskom to the ANC.”

During his career, he occupied a number of top positions and contributed to SA and international media outlets including The New York Times, Radio 702, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Sunday Independent, City Press, Newsweek International, BBC Focus on Africa, The New Republic, Financial Mail and Destiny Man.

Although McKaiser was best known by the wider public as a broadcaster, his abiding passion was debating. He was a debate champion in the 1990s and in 2011, he was the World Masters Debate Champion.

One of his most enduring friendships was with Stephen Grootes, a broadcaster and a senior contributor at Daily Maverick. Grootes first met McKaiser in the late 1990s at Rhodes University’s debating team.

“He was fresh out of school, and immensely clever, literally off the charts clever. We travelled together to Greece when he was still a teenager for a World Debating Championship — you could see how he was sizing up the world and preparing to take it on.

“Later on, at Radio 702, he had such an impact on listeners. I can’t think of another broadcaster who has had such an impact, who has been able to generate such intense emotions. So many people hated him, so many people loved him.

“There were times when he irritated me incredibly, there were times when we fought huge battles in the trenches together. I was always so glad when he and I were on the same side in a fight.

“In the process, he really increased the level and quality of debate in our society, he was able to force people to think [about] their biases, their unspoken assumptions, I think he created a space for us to have conversations that we couldn’t have anywhere else. Looking back now, I think that showed incredible levels of bravery; I don’t know anyone who could have done it as he did.”

A warm and generous friend

McKaiser’s friend of 20 years, Rebecca Davis, author and senior Daily Maverick journalist, said: “Eusebius was a public figure who frequently polarised opinion. Many people thought he was arrogant, and he was well aware of that. But the truth is that he simply knew his worth, as one of the smartest public intellectuals this country has ever produced.

“He wasn’t prepared to hide his intellect in any situation, and sometimes people resented him for it. But on a personal level, you could not find a warmer or more generous friend. His loyalty to his old friends was really remarkable and never faltered, no matter how much his fame grew. I loved him very much and I will miss him deeply.”   

Tributes poured in for McKaiser. EFF national spokesperson Sinawo Tambo 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 marginalised. His passing is a loss, regardless of where one lies on the political spectrum.”

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba wrote: “Eusebius’ death has shaken me. Such a bright young man taken so soon. He recently attended one of my breakfast sessions & as usual the debates were robust & intellectually stimulating. He was someone I knew would play a vital role in fixing this country. May he rest in peace.”

IOL chief editor Lance Witten wrote: “Culturally coloured, politically black. RIP Eusebius McKaiser, an intellectual giant, an incisive mind, an outspoken and fierce defender of truth and justice.”

In the days to come, much will be written about McKaiser’s career, and some of it will be uncomplimentary. McKaiser would undoubtedly have shrugged it off. As Davis put it: “Many people thought he was arrogant, and he was well aware of that. But the truth is that he simply knew his worth.” McKaiser is survived by his life partner Nduduzo Nyanda and many family members including his “Dad”, his “aunt Helen and cousin Gail”.

‘Huge contribution’

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) said it was “deeply saddened” by McKaiser’s death.

Sanef chairperson Sbu Ngalwa said McKaiser will be missed for his sharp intellect and contribution to the thought leadership discourse in South Africa and beyond.

“He held very strong views that he could actually back up. You just had to admire his mind whether you agreed with him or not.

“He was not shy to challenge anyone, including journalists – pointing out double standards and raising ethical issues. He really made one to sit up and take notice or to check their blind spots. He made a huge contribution to the South African media landscape. We are poorer without him,” said Ngalwa.

Glenda Daniels, Sanef Gauteng convenor, who knew him, said: “Besides the huge loss of his democratic and fearless mind, which South Africa needs so much, I will miss going to his book launches, ones he wrote, and to his other events where he was the discussant; he was a great supporter of other local writers, and he gave the biggest and warmest hugs imaginable.”

Moshoeshoe Monare, group executive for news and current affairs at the SABC, said he felt devastated and heartbroken by the news of McKaiser’s death.

“Eusebius was one of South Africa’s public intellectuals who contributed to the public broadcaster’s mission to reflect the diversity of opinions and our culture of openly debating our differences. We will remember his courage to express unpopular views,” said Monare. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • betsy Kee says:

    The death of some one with Eusebius’s intellect and passion is a huge loss to our country. We need more men and women to stand up and challenge our biases and make us think critically.

  • Nico Brandt says:

    Rest in piece

  • Roslyn Cassidy says:

    Utterly devastating. The loss of a giant at 45 years of age. Amongst other meanings Eusebius had for me was his ability to use one complex argument to explain another. Give yourself a gift – be brave and read Run Racist Run. He brilliantly uses the experience in his family of origin of being an oppressor (a man) who benefits from societally-condoned male preference to illustrate white preference. Sexism, male domination, racism and white domination explained in one short but eminently readable book. I cry for our loss, for Eusebius’s loss of his precious life. But I urge you to watch what he tweeted about hours before he died. (DM rightly doesn’t allow embedded links so you will have to find it yourself.) It’s on youtube and is about Musa Motha on Britain’s Got Talent. Let Eusebius’s legacy be your feelings of joy and hope about the indomitable human spirit.

    to explain

  • Dhasagan Pillay says:

    Thank you guy.

  • Justin Hall says:

    What a loss, but we only know that because how much he contributed. Thank you Eusebius

  • mbarends says:

    Met him once and he made an immense impression, just to view the world from sharper angles. Very sad loss at this time in SA where we need strong independent voices.

  • Joe Schlabotnik says:

    A massive loss to all in this country – including the misguided misfit who expressed in this forum his “happiness” the Eusebius was gone

  • rahlabi Mehlape says:

    RIP, till we meet again

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    One of the great minds of our time and an unapologetic fighter for justice, whatever the battle. I didn’t always agree with his views of style of debating, but could always see the merit in what he was trying to get across. Eusebius will be sorely missed.

    • Alley Cat says:

      Well put! as did sanef “He held very strong views that he could actually back up. You just had to admire his mind whether you agreed with him or not.”
      I can remember being so irritated at times listening to him, but never lost respect for him. What a loss for our country, people like him are so needed right now.

  • Paul Savage says:

    In Eusibius’s last podcast he expresses the view that in order to shift voters away from the ANC, opposition parties should not simply concentrate on pointing out how useless the ANC and government is. Everyone who votes for the ANC already knows how bad the organisation is. But which opposition party genuinely goes out of its way to present a viable alternative? Which opposition party explains how it plans to fix the load shedding, poor education outcomes, failing SOE’s, etc. It is perhaps not the best podcast Eusibius ever put out, but worth listening to, especially if you are in opposition, hoping to knock the ANC vote below 50%. RIP Eusibius, always worth listening to and reading.

    • Thinker and Doer says:

      Thank you for highlighting that point that Eusebius made, it is indeed very pertinent, and opposition parties certainly do need to pose a positive and coherent platform of reform, otherwise they will always remain in “opposition”,

  • Louise Wilkins says:

    I feel totally devastated at Eusebius’s death. What a terrible shock for everyone. I feel for his friends and family. Rest in Peace, Eusebius.

  • Caroline de Braganza says:

    I read read the news today, oh boy. I cried. What a devastating loss to the arena of intelligent and incisive debate. RIP.

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    This is indeed very sad and shocking news, and is a great loss for journalism, public debate, and the country. I first encountered Eusebius in 2000 in Grahamstown, when I ended up attending a student debate evening at Rhodes University where he was debating. I was extremely impressed by his performance, and I was very pleased to see his subsequent contributions as a public intellectual and journalist.

    • Annette Lansink says:

      The untimely passing of this great young journalist is indeed shocking and very sad news. Eusebius had such an incisive mind – we lost one of the sharpest intellects in SA. I felt so devastated hearing the news. Such a great loss to family, friends and the country! Now we are a country without Karima Brown and Eusebius McKaiser – both such sharp and fearless analysts. Hamba kahle Eusebius

  • Epsilon Indi says:

    Contrary to some opinions many of us will not miss his infantile politics, his clearly racist and anti-white attitudes, his petty criticisms and his radically pro-woke stance. It was only his pocket sycophants that considered him an intellectual giant, the rest of us felt he was somewhat more lowbrow.

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