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16 July 2021
Tribute to the late Professor Louis Scheepers

Image credit Weslander/Netwerk 24

I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Professor Louis Scheepers, Adjunct Professor at the School of Government, on Tuesday 13 July 2021. Professor Scheepers was appointed as Adjunct Professor in 2019, but had a long history with the University of the Western Cape (UWC). 

Prof Scheepers was an activist by nature, not being afraid to speak his truth in the interest of what was right and fair. Louis was a student activist at the time of heightened political unrest, and held a leadership position in the SRC between 1989 to 1990. After completing his studies, he assumed various portfolios at local government level. In 2001, Louis was first appointed as the Municipal Manager at the Saldanha Bay Municipality. He was appointed again in the 2012 to 2016 period. After this period, he worked for the City of Cape Town until 2019. 

He had our University at heart, and this passion exuded through his ideas and engagements at both a Faculty and School level. He was a member of the Faculty’s Advisory Board and was working on ideas to position the School, Faculty and University strategically. He also contributed to the School’s learning and teaching activities through his involvement in several of its professional programmes. 

Dr Gregory Davids, the former Acting Director of the School of Government, described Prof Scheepers as a leading expert, thinker and practitioner in public finance, governance and service delivery, who was an excellent speaker and a natural teacher. Former comrades and colleagues from the Saldanha Bay Municipality shared these views of Prof Scheepers.

The Chief Director: University Policy and Development Support at the DHET, Mahlubi Chief Mabizela, described Prof Scheepers as a fine gentleman. A tall, well-built gentleman who walked with a swag that had confidence written all over his body; always neat and tidy, even in protest t-shirts that were a trademark of the 1980s students. But one could not miss the warmth in his face and eyes behind his always crystal-clear glasses, even in debates of heated disagreements. 

Prof Scheepers has been described as a big man, with an even bigger heart; a loyal and committed local government activist who refused to compromise on his values and principles. Yet another colleague described him as more than a friend, but a brother.

He was a clear-minded comrade who knew well what he wanted from life and, as a leader, what his constituency and country demanded from him. In the milieu of political theories, ideologies and persuasions that defined the Western Cape at the time, Prof Scheepers could clearly find his political path and he carved his standing on it. I do not believe that he needed to be persuaded to find his theoretical and ideological political home, but it was a measure of the clarity of his thinking that he did so anyway. 

Prof Scheepers was no push-over, and used his intellect to determine for himself what political persuasion or theory would best respond to the needs and interests of his constituency. But he was open-minded, and engaged in discussions without any bravado or preconceived idea that his views were absolute and, therefore, correct. He always knew that his ideas could be wrong and that others may have better views, and could be convinced to change his if they would not be a better remedy to the matter at hand. 

Prof Scheepers was dependable, a true and trustworthy comrade that one could trust with one’s life. One colleague referred to his frank and straightforward nature. He was a man who loved his friends and enjoyed socialising, especially on the golf course. 

Still, he was described as being controversial at times, illustrating his strong mind. Another colleague shared an anecdote about the pact he and Prof Scheepers had made to obtain their PhD qualification. While they both obtained their qualifications, it was never about the title, but the work that was to be done. It was about service to the people and being an ethical leader, to stay true to the values of the constitution. 

Local government - and the community - has lost a great spirit: a big man with a big intellect and even bigger integrity. His character was incorruptible, even when in certain instances this unsettled those content with mediocrity and unprofessionalism. He was a man with humour, steadfast in what he believed, but open to persuasive arguments. He was a brother who journeyed with me and enriched my life and that of my family. 

Professor Louis Scheepers, one of the country’s finest, has moved on to his final resting place. May his dear soul rest in peace.