Eusebius McKaiser was a luminary of the intellectual world, dazzling audiences with his brilliance and captivating them with his insights. He was a veritable superstar of the mind, inspiring awe and admiration wherever he went. The grim reaper, being the cunning thief it is, silently infiltrated our existence and robbed us of a brilliant mind. It crept up on us like a shadow and snatched away a formidable and exceptional soul.

By Staff Reporters

The country has lost a true gem in the form of Eusebius McKaiser (45), a multifaceted journalist, broadcaster, and analytical genius. His razor-sharp intellect, progressive liberal views, and a myriad of talents were unparalleled. Sadly, he passed away unexpectedly at his Johannesburg residence on Tuesday, May 30th, leaving a void that will be hard to fill.

The news of McKaiser’s passing reverberated throughout South Africa, leaving many in a state of disbelief. What made it even more surreal was the fact that he had been actively engaging with his followers on social media just hours before the confirmation of his demise. In one of his final tweets, McKaiser shared a captivating video of Musa Motha, a South African amputee dancer based in the UK who wowed the audience and judges on  Britain’s Got Talent show with his exceptional talent despite losing a leg to childhood cancer.

With brevity as his ally, he penned a succinct message: “STOP what you’re doing. Right now. You need to watch this. Wow. I … am speechless & ran out of tears. Also, share this post so Musa Motha becomes a household name in SA and not just a star on a UK show. This is the inspiration you needed for this week.”

When McKaiser passed away, his written musings were a constant presence on the digital pages of TimesLIVE.

Makhudu Sefara, the editor of TimesLIVE and the person who managed Arena’s relationship with McKaiser, expressed his utter devastation at hearing the news: “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 Sefara.

In what would turn out to be his last podcast, titled “Is There a Viable Alternative to the ANC?” he expressed his opinion as follows: “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 the podcast, McKaiser spoke about how opposition parties contribute to creating and maintaining the sense of hopelessness among voters that is prevalent in our nation.

He concluded the analysis with a helpful suggestion on how opposition parties can change their approach to appeal to voters who are dissatisfied with the current state of politics.

McKaiser is remembered by his friends.

Stephen Grootes, a senior contributor at Daily Maverick and a broadcaster, had a long-lasting friendship with McKaiser. They first crossed paths in the late 1990s when they were both part of 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 and 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 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,” Grootes told the Daily Maverick.

According to Rebecca Davis, a senior journalist at the Daily Maverick and author who has known McKaiser for two decades, he was a prominent public figure who often elicited divergent views. While some individuals perceived him as conceited, McKaiser was cognisant of this perception. However, Davis contends that his self-assurance stemmed from his recognition of his intellectual prowess, which she believes makes him one of the most astute public intellectuals to emerge from South Africa.

“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 remarkable and never faltered, no matter how much his fame grew. I loved him very much and I will miss him deeply,” Davis told the Daily Maverick

In a telephonic interview with 702’s John Perlman, Karyn Maughan, a well-regarded legal journalist, paid a teary tribute to McKaiser, whom she described as an upright professional who genuinely cared about South Africa and its people: “He was a subverted optimist, he wanted the best for this country.”

“Eusebius was not apathetic, he cared deeply for this country, and he understood the plight of the vast majority of people in this country. A lot of his fight and rage was about this is not good enough, he cared deeply,” Maughan told 702.

Maughan also conveyed to Perlman that despite McKaiser’s assertive and incisive demeanour, he exhibited a level of reverence towards people: “Even if he didn’t agree with you, he respected your view, and that’s one of his legacies that he never allowed things to get personal, undermine you or have cruel remarks, he genuinely wanted to get to the heart of issues.”

Pule Molebeledi, the MD for news and media at Arena Holdings, couldn’t help but gush about the sheer brilliance of McKaiser, whom he deemed an intellectual rockstar.

“I am gutted. We have lost an analyst extraordinaire. This is a major blow for the company, not only TimesLIVE for which he contributed his solid analysis of our politics, economy, race relations and life as we know it. We had many plans which involved the use of his varied skills. And now, this. Yes, death will happen to us all, but we had hoped we would be able to continue working with him for much longer,” Molebeledi told TimesLIVE.

According to the Rhodes University website, McKaiser was a political activist and an associate political and social analyst at the Wits Centre for Ethics, where he participated in research examining the relationship between civil society and the state in the policy arena, especially in light of the shifting post-Polokwane political landscape.

McKaiser who was born into a family of limited financial resources in Makhanda commenced his academic journey at Rhodes University in 1997, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Law and Philosophy. Subsequently, he obtained an Honours and a Masters degree in Philosophy, both of which were awarded with Distinction. He was then granted a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.

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