Queer community mourns journalist and thinker Eusebius McKaiser

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Eusebius McKaiser, who was a proudly gay man, was known for speaking truth to power

Tributes have poured in for Eusebius McKaiser, one of the South African queer community’s most brilliant minds, who died suddenly on Tuesday at the age of 45.

His manager, Jackie Strydom, told TimesLive that he passed away after suffering a suspected epileptic seizure in Johannesburg.

Initial reports of his death were met with disbelief as he had been tweeting just two or three hours before the news was made public.

“It all happened so quickly. His partner, Nduduzo Nyanda, is at the mortuary with his family,” said Strydom.

McKaiser was an acclaimed author, journalist, political commentator, and broadcaster known for his principled and insightful analysis of topics like race, identity, and sexuality. He was never afraid to speak truth to power or to address uncomfortable subject matters.

Born in Grahamstown, he went on to attend Rhodes University and the University of Oxford, where he studied law and philosophy.

The 2011 World Masters Debate Champion, McKaiser wrote for publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Sunday Times. He also hosted talk shows on Radio 702 for several years and the SABC 3 current affairs program Interface.

McKaiser was openly gay and was unapologetically vocal in defending the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Writing for The Guardian in 2012, he dismissed arguments that homosexuality is un-African.

“Any custom, homophobic or otherwise, that cannot withstand critical evaluation should simply be assigned to the dustbin of historic embarrassments. Since homosexuality is not harmful to gay men and women, or to any gawking bystander, there is no reason to outlaw it in Africa or elsewhere. It is homophobia, rather than homosexuality, that is ultimately an embarrassment for Africa,” he said.

McKaiser recently recounted an encounter at a nightclub with a young man who faced homophobia from his family.

“He thanked me for living openly as a gay man. He told me that he had thought of taking his own life. When he heard me on the radio at nine o’clock in the morning, he felt less dispirited, he said, holding on to the thought that he could live a meaningful or productive life as a queer person, like the voice on the radio, that of that confident, openly gay talk show host. I thanked him, smiled clumsily, encouraged him not to give up, before we went our separate ways,” wrote McKaiser.

“I have never forgotten that interaction. I hope that brave young man may yet read this recollection and maybe even reach out again. I hope his family’s homophobia did not win the war.”

McKaiser released three books during his life: A Bantu in My Bathroom!: Debating Race, Sexuality and Other Uncomfortable South African Topics (2012), Could I Vote DA?: A Voter’s Dilemma (2014), and Run Racist Run: Journeys into the Heart of Racism (2016).

Fellow journalist Gus Silber praised McKaiser on Twitter: “I never once read, saw, or heard anything by Eusebius McKaiser that didn’t make me think, rethink, laugh out loud, or shout at my radio. He was a giant of South African rhetoric, a lover of language, a stirrer of emotions. His voice, booming & mellifluous, was a force of nature.”

Namibian LGBTQ+ rights activist Omar van Reenen wrote: “This is such a loss, and I’m lost for words. Eusebius was a powerful and unapologetic voice in the political space. He inspired me in many ways to stand up for what’s right, just, and what I believe in.”

South Africa is diminished by the loss of this exceptional individual. We extend our heartfelt condolences to McKaiser’s family and partner during this difficult time. Rest in power, Eusebius.

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