Paying Tribute to Gregory Van Rensburg

by James Tayler


Since the passing of our colleague Gregory Van Rensburg this past weekend there has been an outpouring of heartfelt condolences from across the SDI network and beyond. These expressions of sadness and sympathy are testament to Greg’s warm spirit and dedication to his work. Some of these tributes have been included below.

It is in deep shock that I write to you all to inform you that our dear friend, colleague, comrade, Gregory Van Rensburg, passed away this morning after a short illness. The SDI family has lost another stalwart whose hard work, open heart and deep commitment is going to be sorely missed. Our feelings go out to his wonderful family in this time of sadness. For many of us in South Africa Gregory was a very close friend. We will miss him dearly.

Joel Bolnick, SDI Secretariat 

To Sandra and family, we would like to send our sincere condolences for the loss of Gregory your dear husband, father and friend.

Greg will be dearly missed by the Utshani Fund staff in the Cape Town office. We had a very close working relationship with him although he was based in the Johannesburg office. He was an inspiration to all of us and was always admired for his calm and gentle manner in which he dealt with everything. He always treated us with the utmost respect no matter what the circumstances were. He quickly became not just our boss and colleague but also a true friend that we could converse with on many levels both personal and work related.

We will always remember his passion for the work we did and the dedication he showed to the Alliance as a whole. We feel that we have lost a mentor, a leader and a good friend.

Our hearts are very heavy with the loss of such a great person and his passing will no doubt have a huge impact on Utshani and the Federation, but we will continue to work towards our goals always remembering the leadership and compassion he showed for our course.

Hamba Kahle Tata Gregory Van Rensburg.

Rest in Peace, 

Pam, Nuraan, Vanessa and Kim

Utshani Fund Staff, Cape Town

May His Soul Rest In Peace.  Condolences to the family, friends and colleagues he is leaving behind.

Patience Mudimu, Zimbabwe SDI Alliance 

I understand the pain and sorrow the family is going through. However, this is also a moment of reflections. Reflecting on the good things he did for uTshani Fund and the alliance. The sense of humor during he had as an individual. We enjoyed having him around during our meetings and discussions. Someone who was very simple and yet who could comprehend issues and analyse them like nothing else. A very articulating  man who always wanted the people around him to clearly understand his point of view without misinterpreting him. 

We will really miss his strength on his eloquence during our meetings. I learned a lot from him because I would most of the time particularly when I was writing to the funders, sneaked into his office and say “Hi Greg, can I quickly have your attention for a minute please?” Because I probably wanted to hand him a document to read and edit with his smooth and yet complex English words and he would agree and if he didn’t have time by then, would still do it at later stage. But I would find him having changed some words and used those that one might need to use dictionary to understand them. 

It is everyone’s route chief as I used to call you, and it is just because you left while we were still expecting to mingle with you for years to come. Sandra and children, let us enjoy the beautiful moments and memories he shared with all of us.

Rest in Peace Gregory Van Rensburg.

Walter Monyela, SA SDI Alliance

It is with great sadness that I write this farewell to a real stalwart of the SA SDI Alliance. I will always remember Greg for his awesome smile and always calm approach to the most challenging of circumstances. The shock to the system is unbelievable and in this time of sorrow we can all draw strength from the memory of a man who loved his work, went beyond the extra mile to serve communities and through it all managed to maintain a positive attitude.

Greg, you will be dearly missed but we know the legacy of your hard work will live on in the lives of so many. In this time we send prayers to Sandra and family – we have been shaken, but we will persevere and the memory of Greg will live on.

Charlton Ziervogel, SA SDI Alliance 


Greg and Patrick Maghebula Hunsley, who passed away last year.

Dear Colleagues

Very much unbelievable to hear of the sad news. We wish his family all the strength in this time of difficulty. Sithi lala ngokuthula Greg uzohlala ukhumbuleka sonke isikhathi.

May God be with the family all the times.

Blessing Mancitshana, South African SDI Alliance 

Hi Joel,

Thanks for updating us and we are all shocked by Greg untimely death. Our condolences on behalf of the entire Malawi alliance. We will keep his family in our prayers.

Sungani Busisi Chalemba, Malawi SDI Alliance 

My deepest condolences to Sandra and family. I wish you courage and comfort to overcome your temporary sorrow and pain. We are sharing your loss and pain as Greg was a friend to many of us.

 God bless,

Seth Maqetuka, SDI Secretariat 

My deepest sympathies to Greg’s family, comrades and friends. I wish you all strength in these difficult times. 

Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat 

This is really sad !!! I somehow thought  Greg   was  going  to pull through and get back to work. My  heartfelt condolences  to Sandra, the family, the South African Alliance and the SDI family. Greg  was like my  brother and  I remember he would discuss with me South African capital projects with a real passion. I will miss  him dearly.  My  dear brother, my friend and colleague may your soul rest in eternal peace.

Getrude Mazvimavi, SDI Secretariat 


May his soul rest in perfect peace.My deepest condolences to the family.

Francis Anthony Reffell, Sierra Leone SDI Alliance 

Condolences Sandy and Children and the rest of your family, just a while ago we were celebrating your 50th and for you to be taken away so young is very sad. May the Lord be with you during this trying time

Siku Nkhoma, Malawi SDI Alliance 

Dear Sandra, Kim and Tom

The notice is very shocking. I had so good experiences with all of you!

I had see so many times the tremendous dedication of Greg checking the land of the Methodists, helping the members to complete their unfinished houses. He was unique.

I offer my prayers for him and blessings for all of you

Fr. Jorge Anzorena

Dear Bunita, Joel and Wilma,

I just heard the shocking news of Greg’s passing away.

I am deepheartedly sorry for the loss of your friend of a lifetime and so many battles for the cause of the poor whom he served humbly all the time.

I suddenly feel the impressing wave of power of his kindness all the time, of his genuine commitment to work in harmony with everybody and selflessly (I know what it means to work at night to try to meet proposals’ or reporting deadlines).

I will miss him so much but I know you will more, since you have shared so much and for so long with him and his family).

I will contact Sandra at a later stage.


Stefano Marmorato 

Dear Bunita

I am so sorry for your loss. I am sure the SA alliance is in deep mourning. 

Best wishes,

Diana Mitlin 

Such a shock.

My condolences to Sandra and the family.

Jhono Bennett

This is so shocking! So sad!

Spending time remembering his wisdom and quiet gentle spirit!

It is well!!

Irene Karanja

Deepest condolences.  I recall putting up in Greg’s house and the unequalled hospitality and warmth extended me during my stay with his family .

May Sandra and kids have the heart to survive this trying moments.

Farouk Braimah, Ghana SDI Alliance 

RIP Greg!! This is a big shock to Ugandans and Entire SDI family..condolences to Sandra and entire Greg family.

Medie Lutwamma, Uganda SDI Alliance 



Jockin and I are trying to get hold of you to find out what happened with Greg, and to comprehend how all this tragic event occurred. Please convert our deepest sympathies to Sandra and their families.

Call when you can

Sheela Patel, Chair of the SDI Board 

Dear Joel

My deepest sympathy to Sandra and kids and all in the Sdi family. Greg will be missed dearly.

Beth Chitekwe-Biti, Zimbabwe SDI Alliance 

Deepest sympathy to Greg’s family and his comrades in SDI near and far. May you stay strong and find peace at this sorrowful time.

Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat 

So hard to say goodbye!  Ever since I came to know Greg he always was a calm, humble, nice and always smiling.  He always treated people with respect regardless of their backgrounds. Communicating with him in person or through telephone, he always was the same humble, smiling person. We hold dear his dedication to the struggle of the poor, his massive contribution to the alliance. We will always remember him. Hambakahle Greg, you will never be forgotten! Ulale ngokuthula!

 Samke Patience Phewa, SA SDI Alliance

Gregory was indeed  a close friend to  all of us,may his soul rest in peace.  

Nelson Ncube, Zambian SDI Alliance 

We saddened and we shall always vividly remember Gregory for his good works.

He will remain vivid in our minds as he has left and indelible mark on SDI activities.

May his soul rest in eternal peace. 

Dave Khayangayanga

Principal Housing Officer,

Republic of Uganda

My sincere condolences. This indeed a huge loss and my thoughts go to his family, relatives and friends as well to the whole slum dwellers community who will miss Greg a lot.

Let his soul rest in peace in our Africa motherland.

Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi

Secretary General, UCLG Africa

Very sad news.

We are very shocked to hear the news.

We pray for his soul in peace.

Quazi Baby



What a great loss!  Not only to his family but to SA SDI Alliance and to all the thousands of poor people’s lives impacted by our organisation.  Greg was a key player over many years and his contribution was clearly massive although, being the unassuming man that he was, I have no recollection of him ever “blowing his own trumpet” about what he had accomplished.  Amongst all the other positive attributes friends and colleagues have noted, I would therefore like to add that of humility which, to my mind is the mark of a great leader – of the calibre of the Gandhis and Mandelas of this world!  He will be sorely missed by all of us.  Heartfelt condolences to Sandra and his children and thank you for sharing him with us. 

Jeff Thomas  

Dear friends from Shack Dwellers International, dear friends from uTshani Fund, dear Sandra,

What a sad notice! It was a real shock for all of us at MISEREOR who knew him that our estimated friend and long-time activist of the South African SDI Alliance, Gregory Van Rensburg, passed away on Saturday. Even if our contact was not as fluent any more over the last years, we always admired his restless commitment and his energy in the struggle to improve life conditions and to build up a strong alliance of shack dwellers in South Africa. My thoughts are with you, Sandra, and with all those he worked with and who share the grief about this immense loss.


Klaus Teschner

Massive condolences to the family – Greg was a special character who was always cheerful, a glass half full type of guy in all situations – his passing comes as a shock and jolts us into a refreshed perspective of how fragile, fleeting and precious life is.

He will be greatly missed and forever remembered.

Jeremy Bean

Its hard to think we will never see Greg again. May his soul rest in peace.

Condolences to Sandy and the family.

Bukiwe Matakane, SA SDI Alliance 

The passing of Greg is indeed a indeed a sad day for the SA alliance and the SDI network. Greg has been a strategic person in the new alignment of Utshani and his valuable input in taking the SA alliance into a new dimension will be sorely missed.

Greg has been a friend for a long time a his hard work in an extremely challenging environment and his contribution to the poor will always be remembered.

May his soul rest in peace and my deepest condolences to Sandra and the family.

Cogi Pather, SDI Secretariat

It is an awful tragedy! Gone too soon!  My thoughts are with Sandra and her children in this heart-wrenching time. 

I will always remember Greg’s smile, laugh, sense of humor and practical mind. My condolences to Sandra, her family and to the SDI network.  

Andy Bolnick, iKhayalami

Dear Sandra, 

I am so sorry to hear of Greg’s passing. Sending you and your family my heartfelt sympathy. In the few encounters I had with Greg, I was struck by his commitment and his approachable, friendly and generous personality . I have particularly fond memories of the time Father Jorge Anzorena and I stayed with you and Greg in Johannesburg, the welcome and warmth I felt around dinner – listening to you and Greg tell many stories of your experiences and encounters in the Alliance. Thinking of you all and keeping you in prayer. 


Yolande Hendler, SA SDI Alliance 

To Sandra and the rest of the Van Rensburg family; words seem inadequate to express the sadness we feel about Greg’s death. We are here to support you in your grieving process. 

With sincere sympathy,   

Kwanele Sibanda, SA SDI Alliance 

Greg was a humble person, you would have never find him angry no matter what the situation was. For me he was the ideal professional person to work with the poor. He always handled things with care. When it comes to his relationship with Sandra, it was more than a couple, they were like twins, so rest in peace Greg you have done a lot for our struggle. We hope and pray that you will continue to do more for the SA SDI alliance on the other side.

Rest in peace,

Mamkhabela, SA SDI Alliance 

Really sad news, 

So Sorry Sandra and for your loss. I know it is not easy to lose a loved one, and this time no type of message or talk will make you feel better, but hold on and cry when it hurts, as the pain of losing a loved one comes and goes, instead of asking why? pray for understanding and accepting although it hurts, please find peace in knowing that Greg is in a much better place where no pain and sorrow can cause him harm. 

Embrace the beautiful moments you shared together, and share those moments with your family as you are all going through the struggle of coping with losing a loved one, cry together and pray together asking for peace and understanding, it’s not easy and most likely it wont get easier anytime soon, but time will heal you if you allow it.

May Greg’s soul rest in peace. I will definitely miss his humble and cheerful spirit. In the the times I got to work with him I learned a lot about being relaxed in the hardest times, through the crazy nature of our work at times. He was truly a  teacher and a role model to us young professionals and he will be dearly missed.

Hamba Kahle, bra Greg, pass our greetings to the others on the other side like bra Pat, and many other heros, Umzamo ohle uwuzamilo, elakho igqatso ulifezile, and Thank you for all your lessons and dedicated hard work. 

Kind Regards

Sizwe Mxobo, SA SDI Alliance 

I only had the pleasure of being in Greg’s company on few occasions. During those brief encounters I could sense this was no ordinary man. His quiet and unassuming way of being left a presence. Reading all the amazing tributes to this humble and compassionate being, I have no doubt the spirit of Greg will remain with us forever. To Sandra and the children, condolences on your lost and wish you strength always! 

Hamba Kahle Greg!

Moegsien Hendricks, SA SDI Alliance