Professor Jakes Gerwel died in at the Kuilsriver Hospital in Cape Town after he underwent heart surgery.

Jakes Gerwel was a well-known figure in South Africa's political history and in his later years, he chaired and was on the board of major organisations and corporations. His early life's work was mostly as an academic in roles which included educational adviser to the SA Students' Organisation, as a lecturer, as chancellor of Rhodes University, and later as rector of the University of the Western Cape. He was also director general in the office of former president Nelson Mandela.