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SU mourns the passing of Dr Japie van Zyl and Dirk Mudge

Article by Corporate Communication and Marketing

Stellenbosch University (SU) is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of two foremost Namibian SU alumni, Dr Japie van Zyl, one of the world’s leading space scientists, and the politician and “peace broker”, Dr Dirk Mudge. The fact that Van Zyl and Mudge passed away on Heroes Day in Namibia (26 Aug) shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Van Zyl recently retired from NASA’s esteemed Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where he inter alia helped design the radar system that enabled the robot Curiosity to land on Mars in 2012. SU honoured Van Zyl with an honorary doctorate in 2015 “for his contribution as driving force behind many a successful space project, ambassador for Africa and Stellenbosch University in probably the most advanced technological environment globally, and an inspiration for young scientists on his home continent”. Despite his many successes overseas, the soil of Africa and the potential of the continent remained close to his heart. As extraordinary professor in SU’s Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department, he ploughed back into the next generation of engineers and scientists at his alma mater.

SU honoured Mudge with an honorary degree in 2016 for his “ingenious yet humble leadership in service of his country, extraordinary change management abilities, and his role in facilitating independence for Namibia and reconciliation between white and black Africans as a broker of peace and dealer in hope on the continent.” As peacemaker and creator of hope for the continent, he made his mark as transformation leader by helping to guide the former South West Africa to independence, and reconciling white and black. 

SU salutes these two brave sons of Africa and expresses its deepest condolences to their immediate families, work colleagues and the broader Namibian community.

Photograph: Dr Japie van Zyl, alumnus of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Stellenbosch University.