Cleopatra Kopaopa: Tribute to a life well lived

It is with deep regret and sadness that we inform you of the untimely death of Ms Cleopatra Kopaopa, who passed away after a short illness on 24 December 2020. Ms Kopaopa was the newly elected SANS executive committee member on the social media portfolio.

Ms Kopaopa was a lecturer in Human Physiology, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). She had been at UKZN since she was an honours student after completing her bachelor’s degree at Wits University.  Ms Kopaopa was a PhD student supervised by Professor Musa Mabandla, a former SANS EXCO member and the Dean of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences in UKZN. In his Eulogy for Ms Kopaopa, he stated that “In the beginning as an honours student, it was clear that Cleo had an aptitude for research.  She had a strong interest in neuroscience, particularly research into the mechanisms involved in the development of prolonged febrile seizures”.

He further reminded us that Cleo had a larger-than-life personality and cared deeply for people, especially the ‘underdog’.  This is exemplified by her taking the lead in mediating between students and their supervisors, her posts on social media warning about the danger posed by COVID-19 and generally being pro-education, particularly registration for postgraduate studies.  She did this in a way that only Cleo could, with comedy and without condescension. Proof of this was the outpouring of grief on Twitter, following news of her passing, from people, many of whom only knew her online.

Cleo was one of a kind and had a bright future ahead of her at UKZN and in African neuroscience.  Anyone who came across her knew that she was destined for great things.

Cleo passed on as she was in the process of writing up her doctoral thesis. She was laid to rest in Pretoria on 31 December 2020. She is survived by her parents and three siblings.

On behalf of SANS we would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.

May her soul rest in peace.