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Farewell to a great friend and mentor

Werner Myburgh (Peace Parks Foundation CEO) and the late Boetie van Zyl (right), at a Peace Parks function held in Stellenbosch in 2019.

It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to a stalwart of Peace Parks Foundation this week. Surrounded by his family, Johannes Jacobus Marthinus van Zyl, best known as Boetie, passed away quietly on Saturday morning, 19 December, after a long and hard battle against cancer.

He was not only a founder board member since 1997, but also an integral and much beloved part of the Peace Parks family. In addition, he was a very generous donor, providing key support through the Foundation to, amongst others, the SA College for Tourism, the Southern African Wildlife College, and the development of Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.

Boetie qualified as an engineer (Pr Eng, B.Sc. Eng (Mech)) from the University of Cape Town. He joined Naspers as a director in 1988, where he served until 2015, also as chairman of the company’s audit and risk committee. From 1995 to 2007, Boetie took on the position as Director at Sanlam and Sanlam Life Insurance Limited. At the same time, he served on the boards of Media24, Myriad International Holdings, Atlas Properties and Murray & Roberts.

His colleagues and friends describe him as having a big heart, and an even larger brain – he was extremely intelligent and applied these cognitive capabilities to help others solve anything from engineering to business and even social challenges. Nature, and specifically Africa’s wild splendour, was one of his great passions. Driven by this great love he gave much of his time to conservation, not only supporting Peace Parks, but also serving as a trustee for WWF South Africa.

Boetie (left) in Zimbabwe a few years ago, helping to catch impala that were to be rewilded to Zinave National Park in Mozambique.

Werner Myburgh, Peace Parks Foundation CEO, spoke fondly of Boetie, whom he worked with for two decades: “In his role as board member for Peace Parks Boetie was always available to provide advice, share words of wisdom and assist in guiding others to see things the way they really were. He was modest, visionary, intelligent and a pillar of strength to those around him. Never known for standing on the side-lines, he frequently visited the Peace Parks projects and when the first impala was translocated to Zinave National Park, he was on the ground and participated in the capture. He was a wonderful mentor and friend.  May his dedication to the conservation of nature continue to inspire us all.

We extend our sincerest condolences to his wife, Caroline, his son Johan, daughter, Laura, daughter-in-law Lee, and two grandchildren, Emily and Sophie.

He was a great man, and will live on in our hearts and our work.

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