The National Research Foundation (NRF) learnt, with regret, of the passing of Professor Errol Tyobeka, a member of the NRF Board since 2011.
Born in 1953 and educated at Izibuko and Inkamana High Schools, Professor Tyobeka went on to build an extensive track record in research, academia and the public sector. He worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Fort Hare and as a lecturer at Wits and the University of the North. At the latter he went on to become an Associate Professor and Acting Head of the Department of Medical Sciences. During his tenure he establishing the university’s Biochemistry Department, and served as its Head, the only Black person to do so at a South African university. He also served as the university’s Deputy Dean of the Mathematics and Natural Sciences Faculty.
Professor Tyobeka was awarded a number of prestigious scholarships from institutions such as the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the SA Institute of Race Relations and the Medical Research Council and he received numerous research grants from organisations such as the National Cancer Association.
His work earned him various awards such as the Career Development Project Fellowship, the 1981 Mellor Prize for Research from Wits and the United States/South African Exchange Leadership Programme Fellowship. He authored and co-authored 26 articles in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Biochemistry, Blood and Leukemia Research as well as five book chapters.
He also served in the executives of numerous universities in South Africa, including as Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Tshwane University of Technology from 2005 to 2010. Untill his untimely passing,Professor Tyobeka served as the Special Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor at the Namibia University of Science and Technology.
The Minister of the Department of Science and Technology, the honourable Ms Kubayi-Ngubane said: “Prof Tyobeka distinguished himself in his field,and he make an enormous contribution to our national system of innovation. His passing has left a vacuum but the knowledge that he passed on as a lecturer and advisor, among others, will forever live on”.
The Chief Executive officer of the NRF Dr Molapo Qhobela extended condolences on behalf of the NRF Board, the executive and staff members, "We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family, friends, and loved ones of Prof Tyobeka. His tremendous contribution and ideas exemplified the innovative thinking necessary in our national system of innovation. As the NRF, we mourn his loss, and we are forever grateful for his contribution to our organisation.”
Professor Tyobeka is survived by his wife, Ms Palesa Tyobeka, son Silumko and daughter Anathi. He will be buried on Thursday in Pretoria.