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South African Sociological Association Notice on the passing of Professor Eddie Webster, Umadala we Sociology

SASA Virtual Office – c/o Department of Sociology                                                                                                                                                                                                    University of Johannesburg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      AUCKLAND PARK 2006                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           cc - Nomzamo Portia Ntombela, SASA Secretary 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                6th March 2024

Notice of the South African Sociological Association on the heartbreaking news of the passing of Professor Eddie Webster

It is with utmost heartbreak that we share the news of the passing of umadala wethu, Professor Eddie Webster, on March 5th, 2024. As the South African Sociological Association, we extend our most heartfelt condolences to his family, colleagues, students, comrades, and friends during this difficult period. Prof. Eddie was a towering figure of wisdom, a ‘gentle intellectual’ and a dedicated critical scholar-activist whose commitment to radical social change had immense impact across the world for decades.

Writing on Prof Eddie, Burroway states that “What mark’s Webster’s sociological practice is not just hyper-activity, but the intimate connection between his academic and his public lives: the one inseparable from the other.” (2010;2)

His scholarly writings as an Industrial Sociologist grounded theory in practice, illustrating an intentional effort towards tangible justice for all those who were around him. From his student years to his late career academic roles at various institutions, Prof. Webster remained loyal and committed to the advancement of the public good. At the University of the Witwatersrand, his efforts led to the establishment of the Sociology of Work Programme, as well as the establishment of the Society, Work and Development Institute. Within the South African Sociological field, the depth and reach of his contributions are immeasurable as he was a mentor, colleague, and friend to countless individuals some of whom he had never met in person. Through his countless public engagements and publications, with the most recent being the co-edited book Recasting Workers’ Power: Work and Inequality in the Shadow of the Digital Age, he continued illustrating various continuities and struggles within the sphere of labour.

In July 2019 at our annual SASA Congress he was bestowed with the lifetime achievement award which contained isidanga, a blue beaded necklace often worn amongst amaXhosa elders as a symbol of respect for their work. Indeed, for us Prof. Eddie was umadala with a big heart and a sharp intellect, a distinguished research professor with a hard to miss passion. Prof. Webster radically changed the South African Sociological Association and effectively altered the discipline of Sociology and progressive trade unionism across the world.

This is a profound loss for the intellectual community, his family, friends, colleagues, and the workers and community members with whom he shared the most genuine relations for decades. As resounding lament across the discipline and the world continues the wake of the news, we can only hope that gratitude for the life and work of Prof. Webster resound louder. In tribute, the Association will share an initiative of his that he had intended to have occur at the upcoming South African Sociological Association Congress in July 2024.

Iwile imbewu enkulu bantu bethu! Kubhlungu sithi makaphumule ngoxolo umadala (The great tree has fallen our people! It is heartbreaking yet we say may madala rest in peace).

SASA Council & Executive, 2023-2024:

Jantjie Xaba (President), Bianca Tame (Vice-president), Nomzamo Ntombela (Secretary), John Mashayamombe (Treasurer), Aisha Lorgat, Crispen Chinguno, Claire-Anne Lester, Hlengiwe Ndlovu, Sihle Lamula, Simangele Cele, Siyabulela Fobosi, Tshepo Maake, Percyval Bayane (webmaster), Anne Wiltshire (social media & public relations)