South Africans are mourning the loss of Dr. Sindi van Zyl, a medical doctor, radio personality, social media influencer, and health activist who died aged 45 on Saturday from COVID-19.
The physician was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the beginning of the year and she was hospitalised in February, after she reportedly had trouble breathing. News of her death came on the afternoon of April 10 and was confirmed in an official statement by her family.
“It is however with profound sadness that we confirm the passing of our Wife, Mother, Sister ,and Daughter, Sindisiwe van Zyl,” the statement said. “Affectionately known by her friends and family, she was a great doctor, true friend, and sister. Her love for family, friends, work, and community is well known.”
“Sindi always offered support and great advice to educate those around her,” the family statement continued. “Not only was she a beacon of love and light on her Kaya FM show Sidebar with Sindi and all her social media platforms, but she genuinely loved and gave endlessly to all she knew with grace and kindness.”
Dr. Frans Skosana who was part of the medical team that cared for van Zyl at Netcare Olivedale Hospital in Johannesburg took to Twitter and said: “I’m truly humbled. What a selfless and caring doctor. Now I understand why she spent days whilst on life support, referring her patients to other doctors.”
Her death has left a hole in South Africans’ hearts, while also leaving a gap in the health care and media industries for someone who could provide accurate and accessible information in a caring and compassionate tone.
Following her passing, Kaya FM, the radio station that hosted her radio show Sidebar with Sindi released a statement in tribute to the physician, in which the station touched on her shining personality and showed appreciation for her knowledge and expertise as a health care provider.
“We will not forget her openness, the long conversations in the hallways, and her laughter, which reverberated across our studios,” the statement said. “Most importantly, we will not forget the mark she left on our society as a health care worker.”
“Even before the scourge of the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Sindi made herself accessible to people from all facets of life seeking medical counsel,” the Kaya FM tribute continued. “She changed the lives of many, especially those who struggled with information and access to our health care system.”
As the global pandemic steadily began to sink its teeth into life as we knew it, van Zyl became a trusted voice to turn to, who busted myths and answered queries, who comforted citizens and openly related to their concerns.
Just a week before her death, South Africans came together to showcase their appreciation of the radio personality. After her husband, Marinus van Zyl, made a call out to citizens asking for contributions to a fundraising campaign to help with his wife’s high medical bills. South Africans shared the call on social media and gave what they had to help.
This fundraising effort quickly trended with the hashtag #GiftSindiLife on Twitter, leading to donations from celebrities such as television presenter Maps Maponyane and rapper Cassper Nyovest, and well-known companies such as Nando’s and Woolworths.
Health care workers such as van Zyl have been the most at risk of COVID-19 due to the nature of their jobs. In a national address in December last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that over 38,000 health care workers had tested positive for coronavirus, and nearly 5,000 of them were admitted to hospitals. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed in January this year that South Africa has officially lost 339 health care workers to COVID-19.
Thousands of tributes to van Zyl have been circulating on ocial media and South Africans have continued to share their memories of the health hero.
Former Editor of Glamour Magazine
In 2018, when my team and I sat to select a Glamour Woman Of The Year winner in the Health category, @sindivanzyl was a no brainer. I pray for God’s healing hand over her life and renewed strength for her beloved family. #PrayForDrSindi#GiftSindiLife#DrSindiVanZylpic.twitter.com/RtlUIthwrf— Asanda Sizani (@AsandaSizani) April 10, 2021
TV Personality and Model
Miss Universe 2019
The way we all feel like we knew Dr Sindi personally. The way it feels like we just lost a close loved one speaks volumes on the kind of person she was. Kindness personified! What a lovely human being. What a beautiful life lived. My heart goes out to her family. #RIPDrSindi 💔— Zozibini Tunzi (@zozitunzi) April 10, 2021
South Africa’s Minister of Transport
Dr Sindi’s passing leaves all of us cold and sad. She lived an exemplary life of giving, selflessness and grace. To her family, especially her kids she - condolences. We share your loss. pic.twitter.com/vPON26Ovv1— |Mr Fix (@MbalulaFikile) April 10, 2021
Fellow South Africans
Thank You Mama 🤍— M M A M O H U M I 💫🤩 (@GaMorolong) April 10, 2021
Thank You for Loving every single one of us in a special way. I pray that we all become so much more to the Caramellos because you taught us how to be present in people’s lives. It hurts. But Thank You. We love You. #SindiVanZyl#NewProfilePic 🤍🕊🕯 pic.twitter.com/zzaUKHbGk9
Dr Sindi van Zyl was magnificent.— Madeleine Fullard (@mfullard2) April 10, 2021
When my tenant witnessed the deaths of her friend & children in a car accident, Dr Sindi arranged counselling for her & even paid for a session.
COVID has dealt an utterly cruel blow. We must support Manie & their kids the Caramellos #RIPDrSindipic.twitter.com/OKjskHfxZI