WATCH: Dad accepts son’s degree after his death

The Madela family accepted the posthumous award on behalf of Thabiso Madela at the DUT 2024 autumn graduation. Picture: Mnqobi Ngobese

The Madela family accepted the posthumous award on behalf of Thabiso Madela at the DUT 2024 autumn graduation. Picture: Mnqobi Ngobese

Published May 26, 2024


Durban – A father whose son made him promise he would attend his graduation accepted his dead son’s degree earlier this week.

Instead of watching his son walk across the stage and accept his degree, Xolani Madela took to the stage and accepted his son’s Durban University of Technology (DUT) degree last Monday.

A visibly emotional Madela, 52, from Lamontville, accepted the degree of Bachelor of the Built Environment in Geomatics, which was awarded posthumously to his son, Thabiso Madela, at the DUT 2024 autumn graduation ceremony.

DUT senior director of corporate affairs Alan Khan said Thabiso, 22, died in hospital in January after a short illness.

Madela revealed that when Thabiso realised he would not recover from his illness, he asked him to attend the graduation on his behalf.

Madela kept the promise he made to his son and walked on the graduation stage after his son’s name was called from the podium. He was accompanied by a family member onto the stage.

Khan said the two were in tears as they walked on the stage and saw the big screen displaying Thabiso’s photograph when DUT awarded his degree posthumously.

DUT vice-chancellor and principal Professor Thandwa Mthembu spoke briefly to Madela and family and passed his sincere condolences to the family.

“My son, Thabiso, passed on earlier this year, on January 31. His illness was strange. He complained about a severe ear ache as if something had entered his ears. It was very painful to us to see him in such pain. We tried to rush him to hospital but he sadly passed on,” Madela said.

He also revealed his son had predicted his death. While he was in hospital, Thabiso told his father that he would not recover. Thabiso told him that the illness was severe and that he would die soon.

“Before his death, Thabiso requested that I attend his graduation ceremony to collect his qualification. He pleaded with me to not make the mistake of not attending his graduation. He made me promise that I would attend the graduation on his behalf.

“Hearing him speak like that was painful but I had hopes that he would recover and attend the graduation himself. He had worked hard to obtain this qualification and it would have been great to see him on that stage bearing the fruits of his sleepless nights. Unfortunately, God had other plans for him,” Madela said.

Thabiso was a young man who was loving, caring and dedicated to his academics, Madela said.

When Thabiso died, he was serving his internship at Toyota South Africa.

Madela added that he was looking forward to seeing his son prosper in the engineering field.

Khan said DUT extended its heartfelt condolences to the Madela family and friends, to the Geomatics Department and to the Faculty of Engineering at the Built Environment.

He said the university wished the family strength, peace and comfort during this challenging time.

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