News & Media

The Basdeo we all knew - A tribute by Prof Puleng LenkaBula

On Tuesday 6 July 2021, the Basdeo and Unisa families and friends will converge both physically and virtually to pay our last respects and bear witness as the remains of our beloved Prof Vinesh (Dr) Basdeo are interred.

Prof Billy Gundelfinger of Gundelfinger Attorneys, with Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, and the late Prof Vinesh Basdeo, Executive Dean of the College of Law at Unisa

As we bid farewell to this great Unisan and South African, it would be exactly five days since we learnt of his untimely passing on the morning of Friday 2 July 2021. Granted, we had known about his illness and hospitalisation, and we had hoped and prayed for his speedy recovery so that he could rejoin us in our quest to recreate and reimagine the Unisa we all agreed that our people deserved. Hence, the news of his passing pierced painfully through our hearts and left all of us devastated.

To this day, the Basdeo and Unisa families are still reeling from the pain of losing a husband, father, brother, uncle, colleague and friend. All of us whose paths crossed with his in one form or another are ad idem about the credentials of this intellectually towering, yet humble, South African.

Though my own encounter with him was brief, he left an indelible mark in my own life. I quickly came to the conclusion that he was a wonderful human being whose knowledge, work and interface with us and our students was meaningful to the advancement of the academic agenda.

None can dispute the fact that he was an accomplished academic, NRF-rated researcher, respected manager, servant leader and an unapologetic proponent of transformation within and outside Unisa. Indeed, he led from the front to ensure that transformation was anchored in the university’s academic project and its broader affairs. His sharp intellect and dedication, exemplary career path and contribution to South African jurisprudence is second to only but few.

Prof Basdeo was a true Unisan, who boasted the rare credentials of having been both a longstanding student and employee of the university. This is a feat that only a few can claim to have achieved in their lifetime. In his own words, he said: "The university is a large part of my genetic make-up. I have completed five degrees and a diploma at this noble institution which I call home. I started studying at Unisa at the age of 18. I completed all of my qualifications on a part-time basis, and I am highly indebted to Unisa for affording me this life-changing opportunity."

I dare say that such rare exposure and experience – both as a student and an academic – put him in the league of those who fully comprehended the concept of open distance learning and are a valuable resource to the university, our students and the higher education sector in general.

As the Executive Dean of our College of Law, he was at the forefront of the transformation agenda at both college and institutional level. His belief, though, was that "excellence without transformation is not sustainable, but transformation without excellence has no integrity at all".

A true servant leader, he believed that integrity, authenticity and leading by example are the cornerstones of servant leadership. "This is the ground on which I stand," he said in one interview. It is therefore not surprising that during his tenure as Executive Dean of the College of Law, the college was guided by the core values of Inclusion, Collaboration, Integrity and Excellence in its work and interaction with students, staff and stakeholders. He led a student-centric college where he supported student participation in governance activities.

A scholar of note, Prof Basdeo published extensively in criminal justice and criminal procedure locally and internationally in accredited journals and books. He held visiting appointments at various institutions, including the distinguished University of British Columbia, New York University and the Indira Ghandi Law University. He also served on local and international editorial panels, and acted as referee for numerous articles and applications for NRF ratings. He was indeed a true ambassador for Brand Unisa.

To honour his memory, it is incumbent upon every Unisan to emulate the example set by this great Son of the Soil and gallant crusader of transformation and academic excellence. If we set ourselves on a path to produce many more Basdeos, I have no doubt that our mission to reclaim the stature of our great institution, Unisa, will be a resounding success.

I am of the considered view that such courage and academic leadership as he ably demonstrated are the necessary ingredients for a university such as ours, with multiple and contentious challenges that have the potential to undermine the success of the university.

Prof Basdeo, you will be sorely missed, but, in your honour, we will soldier on with the mission to transform Unisa.

Rest in Power!

Puleng LenkaBula
Principal and Vice-Chancellor


Publish date: 2021/07/05