Prof Wesley Kotze

It is with sadness that we inform staff members of the death of Professor Emeritus Wesley Kotzé, former head of the department of Mathematics, Rhodes University.


Professor Kotzé passed away at his home in Somerset West on Wednesday, 3rd May, 2017. He was 79 years old.


Wessel Johannes Kotzé was born at Williston but grew up and attended school in Tulbagh, the only son of a music teacher as mother and the Town Clerk as father. After a brilliant matriculation pass, he attended Stellenbosch University and obtained B.Sc. (majoring in mathematics and chemistry), B.Sc. (Hons) and M.Sc. degrees in mathematics, cum laude. He was awarded his Ph.D. in mathematics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada where he taught for a while before returning to South Africa on accepting a post at UCT.


In 1983, he was appointed by Rhodes University as head of the Department of Mathematics (Pure and Applied), a post he held until retiring at the end of 2003. During his time at Rhodes University, Prof Kotzé also served as the first Dean of Research, as University Orator and became the founder of the Rhodes University Mathematics Education Project (RUMEP). He was awarded a medal for the Advancement of Mathematics in South Africa by the South African Mathematical Society. He also served as the Managing Editor of Questiones Mathematicae, the accredited journal and official organ of the South African Mathematical Society. He was a prominent researcher achieving an NRF B rating. 


Starting out as a “crisp” mathematician in the field of functional analysis, in which he had some good publications, his interest turned to “fuzzy” mathematics, especially fuzzy topology. At Rhodes University, he established a school of fuzzy mathematics in the department which became one of the top research institutes in the field. As a former student and colleague, Professor Mike Burton relates that “He knew every established fuzzy mathematician in the world. Literally. His many connections and organisational abilities rapidly grew the school and it produced many MSc and PhD graduates”. Some of these are prominent mathematicians such as Prof Burton himself and Drs Tomasz Kubiak, Venkat Murali, Babington Makamba and Pavel Lubczonok. Dr Phetiwe Matutu-Mabizela, the first black woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in mathematics in South Africa, did her Master’s degree with Prof Kotzé. His reputation also drew many prominent international mathematicians to visit Rhodes University.


Prof Kotzé also had a great love and knowledge of classical music and fine art. He was a long serving chairperson of the Grahamstown Music Society. Renowned for his discernment, he had a fabulous collection of paintings, prints, sculpture and ceramics of prominent South African and international artists as well as a superb collection of books and furnishings.


After retirement, he returned to Cape Town and settled in Marina da Gama. He pursued his love of mathematics by teaching at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and of music by contributing to Classical Music Radio. During the last two years, he lived in Somerset West. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease, but died suddenly, probably of a heart attack while in the company of dear friends who could assist and comfort him in that extreme hour of need.


A liberal man of many gifts, Prof Kotzé made a number of close friends, some of whom were or are prominent artists, musicians and writers. He also, famously, was quick to perceive slights and did not suffer fools gladly: a recipe for a number of choice enemies as well.




Last Modified: Wed, 17 May 2017 14:26:43 SAST