We are devastated to inform you of the tragic passing of Sonwabile Makaula (UIV Hodgson). He was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy in October last year and, after a brave struggle, succumbed to heart failure on Wednesday 4 January 2023.
Sonwabo, as he was fondly known to his friends, joined St John’s in the Pre-Prep, where he is remembered as a sweet boy with a gentle smile and a love for learning. He demonstrated the qualities of a true Johannian in his academic career through the Prep. He had an outstanding work ethic and a wonderful sense of humour. Showing determination and maturity from an early age, he was awarded the Prep Closed Scholarship to the College in 2021. He never settled for anything less than his best and was willing to make great sacrifices to achieve his goals.
His academic performance was exceptional, and his contribution to the Music Department was extensive. An outstanding pianist and music exhibition holder, he sang in the Chapel Choir and Schola Cantorum with dedication and commitment. He excelled at public speaking, producing intellectual and challenging speeches. He thoroughly enjoyed basketball and possessed a confident and entrepreneurial mind. He loved the camaraderie in his boarding house, Hodgson, where he was well-liked and respected by his peers and the staff.
Sonwabile was a young man of great character and integrity who was committed to community service and had an innate desire to help those less fortunate than himself. He may not have lived many years, but he made an enormous impression and made the years he lived count. He will be acutely missed by all who knew and loved him.
Farewell, dear Sonwabo. Your good deeds and love for God and mankind will forever be etched in our hearts. Your family and friends are at a loss for words at your passing. Your memory is a keepsake from which we will never part.
The school flag is being flown at half-mast in honour of his memory.
Sonwabo arrived in my Grade 0 class with a sweet, gentle smile. Within the first few days, he showed that he had a love for learning and was incredibly diligent in all his schoolwork. He had excellent manners and endeared himself to teachers and boys alike. - Elizabeth Eager, Grade 0 Teacher, St John’s Pre-Preparatory
I was Sonwabile’s Maths teacher when he was in Lower III and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him. I had the privilege of witnessing his academic and personal development as he appeared to come out of his shell and find his voice.
We had a great deal of fun that year, and he significantly contributed to creating a happy class dynamic. A memory that stands out is the day I called him ‘Sonny’ in the middle of a lesson. He was equally shocked and amused that a teacher could break the character to share a playful moment.
Sonwabile was a model St John’s student with an outstanding work ethic and a wonderful sense of humour. He will be sorely missed by all who encountered him while with us.
With my deepest condolences. - Mike MacFarlane, Second Master, St John’s Preparatory
I met Sonwabile as an Upper II Music as a Subject student five years ago, during my first year as a teacher at St John’s. It was immediately evident that he was an incredibly dedicated, talented, and conscientious young musician. He was never satisfied with anything less than full marks for his assignments, and he would regularly redo and resubmit them, even if he had achieved a 99% mark. Sonwabile’s passing leaves an emptiness in the musical harmony of St John’s College that cannot be filled, yet we are all immensely richer for having known him. - Hendri Liebenberg, Head of Brass
Sonwabile was one of the most astute students I have ever encountered. He consistently submitted work of precision and insight, revealing much of the mind that was its author. Coupled with this was a smile and affability that drew all who met him into joyful interaction. RIP Sonwabile Makaula. - Cameron Upchurch, Head of Keyboard and Chapel Organist
Sonwabile …to me, this beautiful name resonated with musical lyricism. Sonny, as I came to know him, joined my piano class halfway through Upper I. I was immediately impressed by his maturity, erect bearing, communicative skills, which were open and always honest, and his shining eyes.
During our years together, he entered examinations, eisteddfods and competitions, his playing displaying musical insight and intelligence. He always performed with elegance and ease, bringing credit to St John’s College.
As he developed over the years into young manhood, I admired his strength of personality and ethical values. I believed he would one day be a leader in our country, and I told him so.
He was a special person, lent to us for a short while. I will always regard it as a privilege to have taught and known him, and will always remember him with love. I would like to express my deepest condolences to his parents and family. - Dr Elise Lemmer, Piano Teacher and Accompanist
Sonwabile was an outstanding pianist and a music exhibition holder. He sang in the chapel choir and Schola Cantorum with dedication and commitment. He was loved by his peers and admired by all in the music department for his dedication and excellence. His friendliness and integrity will be remembered. - Dr Ben Oosthuizen, Director of Music
Although Sonwabile was just starting out on his Public Speaking journey, he was a talented and valuable member of our community. Sonwabile started the year in the Junior Prepared Competition with an inspirational speech titled, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”Based on his excellent performance, he was selected for the LIV College Team, which participated in the Speech and Drama College High School's Public Speaking Competition. Sonwabile is remembered as a mature, witty and dignified speaker. He was an excellent team member and was well-prepared for his event. The most impressive aspect of Sonwabile's speech was the clear evidence of a quirky, independent mind at work. He was a thoughtful student who produced intellectual and challenging speeches. - Heather Venables, English Teacher and Tertiary Liaison and Ray Barrow, English Teacher
I fondly remember Sonwabile in the Pre-Prep. He was such a positive, happy child, and he participated actively in my class music lessons. He would gladly play the piano at our assemblies. He was a star pianist, and when he was in Grade 2 he performed at our Prize-Giving function. May his Soul Rest In Peace — condolences to his family, friends and the St John's Community. - Anne Carroll, Piano Teacher
Sonwabile's name in Xhosa means that we are joyous and happy for the coming of this child. This meaning of his name was a true reflection of the life that he lived which was filled with dedication and purpose. I only got engaged with Sonwabile in 2022 when I was in the same debating team as him, and we grew close over time. My memories are endless considering the indelible impact he has had on my life but one thing which stood out to me was on the day of Debating Provincials at Cornwall Hill College. It was early in the morning, and we were all in transit to Cornwall. Along the way, we were all extremely tired because the life of a debater is in getting very little rest and on this journey, Sonwabo assumed the role of a teacher and leader to our team. He made it his own personal mission to check up on the entire team and clarify certain uncertainties around our team strategy and so forth. In doing this, he showed an incredible understanding of those strategies, which also showed his commitment to debating and how much he cared for others. He was an incredibly dedicated man, and that moment was an inspiration to me to be a man of purpose and dedication. As his name suggests, a man of joy, his impact was truly that. - Siza Gule (UIV Nash)
Sonwabo exuded excellence he was young in years but great in impact. This young man had always stood out from the crowd physically and figuratively. His tall stature and gentle nature were only matched by his exceptional manners.
I had the privilege of knowing Sonwabile from pre-prep. Very early on, he stood out because of his personal achievements in academics, sports and music.
I used to call myself his ‘Fan-girl’ because of his exceptional musical talent, which he matched with an equal measure of hard work.
Even though Sonwabile was highly gifted, he remained humble even when he achieved greatly. When interacting with the boys, he would meet people at their level, and he never mocked or talked down to other boys who were not at his level of excellence.
This, I believe, is a testament to his strong family background. Sonwabo came from a home that truly loved him uncontrollably and unconditionally. The dedication of both his parents to him was admirable. His mother and father were always there for him, giving him support and encouragement.
During his illness, Portia showed she had faith to move mountains and gave her everything to be an unconditional support to her precious boy.
It is not through understanding that we process such a tragic loss. We have to accept it even though it is painful. Sonwabo, you have run your race, you may be gone, but you will never be forgotten. Thank you for the memories, thank you for the inspiration most importantly, thank you for being you.
Rise and live among the heavenly hosts as a guardian angel to your parents till we meet again.
We love and hold you dear rest now boy, rest in eternal peace. - Ayanda, on behalf of the Seboni family