Tribute to the late David Sanders

Emeritus Professor David Sanders, founding director of the School of Public Health at UWC, and founding member and co-chair of the People’s Health Movement passed away unexpectedly while on holiday in the UK.

He was not only a well-renowned academic who shaped research and teaching in public health for almost five decades, he was also a consummate activist and commentator, who spoke truth to power – a great public intellectual.His departure is a huge loss, but his legacy will live on in the innumerable lives he touched, in his teachings and his writings.If you have worked with David, been his student, or have been influenced by his life and work in other ways, please share your thoughts and memories here.Our thoughts are with David’s wife Sue, their children Ben, Lisa and Oscar, and all those closest to him.

Collation of tributes received via email, text messages and social media:

Global & National

Hundreds turned out to UWC’s SOPH to pay tribute to the late David Sanders

Just in case you missed it, you can watch the full recording of the live-streamed celebration of David Sander’s life and work.

A tribute from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus @DrTedros, Director-General of the World Health Organization

Saddened by the news about David Saunders’ passing. An enormous loss for the public health community. We will honour his legacy in our continuing quest for #HealthForAll.

A tribute from Jim Campbell @JimC_HRH, Director, Health Workforce, @WHO. Secretariat for Global Health Workforce Network @GHWNetwork & Working4Health @Working4H

So sad to learn of David’s sudden passing. A loss to global public health and South Africa. Condolences to the family from all the workforce team at @WHO

A tribute from National Department of Health- South Africa @HealthZA

Pretoria: Passing of Prof David Sanders: doyen of Public Health in South Africa and globally!

The Ministry of Health has learned with shock and disbelief about the news of the passing on Prof David Sanders. The Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize said that “David lived most his life for Public Health.

We mourn the passing of Prof David Sanders, a champion of economic and social justice and a pioneer of public health, notably the importance of primary health care. He emphasised the importance of involving communities, being accountable to communities and the role of community health workers in promoting health and preventing disease.

Prof Sanders was a fierce critic of the impact of neoliberalism on the health of people. He was not only an accomplished researcher, academic and mentor to many but also a leader of social movements, including the Peoples Health Movement.

It is not surprising that his latest publication in the Lancet entitled “From primary health care to universal health coverage—one step forward and two steps back”, he and his colleagues warn against the “risk of further medicalisation and commercialisation of health care under the UHC model”. This is good advice for South Africa as we design and implement national health insurance.

David was a true internationalist and worked tirelessly, even after his retirement from his School of Public Health at the University of the Western Cape. As we mourn David’s passing we also celebrate his life and his passion for the health of the poor throughout the world.

On behalf of government and the National Department of Health , I wish to express our sincere condolences to his wife Prof Sue Fawcus, his children and his friends and colleagues, said Dr Zweli Mkhize.

May his soul rest in peace.

Issued by the Ministry Health

A tribute from from Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, the Western Cape MEC for Health


A tribute from Thulani Masilela, Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, in The Presidency

It was with great shock and sorrow that I learned of the untimely passing of Prof. David Sanders, one of South Africa’s finest.

I have known David since 1994, when he was pioneering the development of the field of Public Health in our country. He convened together with his colleagues at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the MPhil, as well as Winter and Summer School courses. I attended several of those in 1994 and 1995, and developed a friendship and collegiality with David that lasted until his passing last week.

Many well-deserved superlatives will be used by fellow mourners to describe David. But none of us will fully capture who David actually was. He was too colossal to fit any linguistic description. David was an internationally acclaimed intellectual, thought leader, researcher, scientist and public health activist. He was also a husband and father to his family, and to many disadvantaged students who came to his attention at UWC. To me he was a good friend, who constantly kept me on my toes, despite the 25-year age gap between us.

David spoke to truth to power, and was never a disciple of the dominant discourse. He was a crusader of evidence, and an activist for human and health rights, and the voice of the voiceless. He would deliver very powerful, instructive and seminal papers on what our country had achieved the field of primary health care, public health, nutrition and all other areas of his expertise, but he would also very boldy identify failures and errors of judgment. David always challenged me, and through me the democratic government of South Africa, to redouble our efforts to improve the quality of the lives of fellow citizens. He regarded governance as a very serious matter. And yes, it is. Specifically on issues of nutrition, he was always concerned about the influx of processed foods from the West, which as he correctly asserted, had a negative impact not only on our country’s economy, but also on our health. He wanted to see this trend being curtailed.

David was a non-conformist, the clichéd “rebel with a cause”. But when I rebelled against the peanut butter sandwiches he was serving at every tea break during the Winter and Summer Schools at UWC, he instructed me to conform. “This is good for your health”, he bellowed at me with his trademark coarse voice. Perhaps he was right, as he was most often. That is probably why I am still here, 25-years later, it’s the impact of those sandwiches!!!

A few years ago, I had the honour to preside over a session at the conference of the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA), at which the association conferred its Lifetime Achievers’ Award to David, together with another giant of our country, Prof. William Pick. That evening remains vividly memorable to me to this day. As fate would have it, in May 2019 I was once more asked to preside over a session in a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Health Systems Trust, at which two new Deputy Chairpersons would be elected. David was nominated, but initially declined the nomination, citing his heavy travel schedule as a reason. But we all persuaded him, and he finally accepted the nomination. David became our Deputy Chairperson, albeit for a short period. We feel robbed of the opportunity to work with him further.

David has now joined the revered list of eminent scholars, thought-leaders and struggle stalwarts that UWC has bequeathed on South Africa, who have since been called to celestial duty, including Prof. Jakes Gerwel, Prof. Kader Asmal, Mr. Dullar Omar, to name only a few. Several African countries, including South Africa and Zimbabwe, will claim David Sanders as a son of their soil. Well, he belonged to all of us. He served all our people. His legacy shall endure forever. Hamba kahle Qabane!

A tribute from Jennifer NYONI, WHO Africa Region Health Systems and Services Cluster

The WHO Africa Region team of Health Systems and Services learnt with profound shock and dismay about the passing on of David Sanders.

To the region David was a real advocate and adviser on many public health issues and served with such passion and dedication for decades. He served on various including the then Multi Advisory Group Of Experts on Human Resources Development (almost 20 years ago) and the School of Public health was designated as WHO Collaborating Centre when he was still its Director and it has remained so since then. He remained active in supporting the public health agenda of the region, including at the Astana international PHC Conference. The last where we interacted with him was in July this year at the consultation on governance for health in Africa, held in Kampala, Uganda, where he actively contributing to the public health agenda of the region.

He was and will remain a real son of Africa with a lasting legacy of making health a reality for all Africans.

Our heartfelt and sincere condolences to his family and our WHOCC.

WHO Africa Region Health Systems and Services Cluster

Jennifer NYONI

A tribute from Amir Aman @amirabiy, Minister of Health, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

I am deeply saddened to hear the passing of world-renowned scholar, a great friend/mentor, a big supporter of Ethiopia and an instrumental board member of International Institute Primary Health Care Prof. David Sanders. My Condolences to his families and friends-for all of us.

A world of respect pours out for ‘public health legend’ David Sanders, by Anso Thom



A tribute from Uta Lehmann, Director, School of Public Health

Tribute to David Sanders

A tribute from the People’s Health Movement (Fran Baum, Hani Serag, Bridget Lloyd)

Tribute to David Sanders from the People’s Health Movement

A tribute from Jean Lebel, IDRC President

On behalf of all us at IDRC who had the privilege of knowing and working with him, we share in your profound loss.

A tribute from Alterntive Information & Development Centre (AIDC)

Message of condolences on the Death of Professor David Sanders

A tribute from DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE-FS)

CoE-FS mourns death of Professor David Sanders, a public health icon

A tribute from  Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT

Passing of Professor David Sanders – a giant in the field of child and public health

A tribute from The Colleges of Medicine of South Africa


A tribute from Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) @PublicHealthSA

It is with a deep sense of remorse and sadness that PHASA receives these tidings. He was a giant. It is a great loss to the public health community. MHSRIEP

A tribute from Leslie London at the opening of the PHASA 2019 Conference

David Sanders, whom many of us knew as indefatigable, resolute, pioneering, principled and seemingly indestructible, died in his sleep of a heart attack whilst vacationing in the UK. Trained as a paediatrician, David was a key figure in shaping the practice and the conscience of public health both in South Africa and globally. Over the past three decades, he worked tirelessly to ensure that population-oriented approaches based on social justice and equity were translated into health programmes that would benefit all – and particularly those most marginalised in society – and particularly children in the rural reaches of Southern Africa and in our underserved townships across the country. His contributions to public health, child health and social justice are immeasurable and, not surprisingly, PHASA recognised his Lifetime Contributions to Public Health at its 2014 Conference.

David was born and grew up in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, where he trained as a medical doctor. His family emigrated to the UK where he became deeply involved in progressive health politics whilst specialising as a paediatrician. He returned to a newly-liberated Zimbabwe in 1980, which offered the opportunity to apply his progressive thinking to health sector reform. While working for Oxfam, he pioneered a novel CHW program, the subject of which was explored in many of his publications, including the seminal book, the Struggle for Health. He then moved into academic positions, running departments of community health at the University of Zimbabwe, and then the University of Natal, before moving to UWC to found its School of Public Health, a School which has gone to achieve excellence in its commitment to health systems research, focused on the social determinants of health and building a district-based public health system. The UWC Summer and Winter Schools have trained thousands of cadres of health workers, students, activists and practitioners in a range of areas relevant to health systems thanks to David’s vision and foresight. And one of the ways this PHASA Conference will honour David is by serving at tea times the hallmark peanut butter and/or jam wholeweat bread sandwiches that were characteristic of the Winter and Summer Schools at UWC. Not only should you teach and preach healthy living, but you should live it out by example. Which David did.

Of course, no tribute to David can omit his huge contribution to global health advocacy. He was a founder member of the International People’s Health Council which then gave birth to the People’s Health Movement, for whom David played multiple leaderships roles. He helped to start and maintain a PHM chapter in South Africa which is now one of the most active country groups for PHM in the region. David’s incisive analysis left no doubt that a more just and equal social order was essential for global health. He ruthlessly critiqued the impacts of structural adjustment, development aid and neoliberalism on health – challenging all of us to be more critical in our analysis of what is needed for Health for All to become a reality.

David was a mentor to many, and a mentor to many of mentors. I was a 4th year medical student when I went to visit Oxfam Projects David was running in Zimbabwe in 1981 and his work inspired me, as it has done to thousands of others. Much of what I learned about what a young student in the health professions could do to change the world came from seeing David and his colleagues go about doing exact that – change the dreadful infant mortality and poor child survival in rural Zimbabwe with good quality, basic health care, emphasising Community Health Workers and a focus on the social determinants of health – but all the time recognising that health is political and the upstream determinants linked to poverty and injustice must remain part of our change strategy.

David’s commitment to CHWs as a vital component of Human Resources for Health has shaped PHM SA’s work in many ways. We are partners in a CHW self-organising network with other Civil Society groups thanks to support David mobilised through international networks. PHM runs a short course in the Political Economy of Health, framed as a People’s Health Universities and intended to build activism. The South African Peoples Health University chose to focus on training CHWs over the past few years to develop their skills and agency to address Social Determinants of Health in their communities. So, I can share a second way in which we will be honouring David – through the introduction of an award, jointly run by PHMSA and PHASA, for a CHW or CHW group project successfully addressing the social determinants of health. PHM and PHASA have agreed to develop the criteria and process for this award over the next year and we plan to make the first David Sanders award for a CHW project addressing the Social Determinants of Health at the next PHASA Conference.

However, no tribute to David can ignore that mischievous smile and wicked sense of humour. Those of you who worked with David and knew him socially will know that David’s politics was always accompanied by a dry wit that he could exercise liberally – on others and on himself. He was generous and warm and a legend when it came to the PHASA parties – yes, nobody could dance with quite as much enthusiasm and elasticity as David could. He lived life to its full, but cogniscant of how important it was to care for others – a true African who understood ubuntu in practice.

To his family – Sue, Ben, Lisa and Oscar, we share with you our deepest condolences and thank you – both for your own activism and for sharing David’s activism with the public health community, from which we have all benefited hugely. Let it be some comfort to you that David’s work and his vision will live on in the ongoing commitment of many public health activists across the world and in this organisation to a more equal, fair and healthy world.

And, lastly, to pay tribute to David in another way, we are going to watch a very short video clip. This was a video clip that David wanted to play at a Training of Trainers for Public Servants International on the NHI in July but couldn’t because of AV issues. Let’s hope the AV works out here. You will see why it is a fitting tribute to David because it speaks exactly to the causes of the causes of the causes that David taught so clearly and simply to so many. And the clip is free to download so David’s legacy will also leave you with a practical tool to advance the Struggle for Health – in your teaching, in your training and in your capacity building wherever you might be located in the health system.

Watch here

A tribute from Peoples Health Movement Global @PHMglobal

Our dear friend and comrade David Sanders passed away last night after a heart attack. David has been a stalwart of the struggle for health and social justice for all here in South Africa and globally, making personal sacrifices throughout his life to do what he believes in.

A tribute from People’s Health Movement West & Central Africa

*Tribute to David Sanders: An African giant has gone*

Death has torn from the loves of his family, the people’s health and anti-globalization movement, a baobab creating as results a big emptiness. Tribute to a unique and irreplaceable African who dedicated his life to helping others.

We are speechless to express our gratitude to this faithful friend, this guide that made us hope and believe in people?s health, and who has always been present and committed by our side until his last breath.

We can individually and collectively be proud of one of our intrepid companions. His struggles, David led them with a characteristic firm conviction and openness. He was one of the pioneers of the struggle for health and human dignity in Africa, an activist like all of us are dying to be one day. A real giant of Africa!

If David Sanders did not receive a Nobel Peace Prize, it may be that the world is not yet grateful enough to one of its ??artisans??. But the health movement will still remember that in South Africa, there was not only Mandela or Desmond Tutu, there also was… David Sanders!

*The Struggle for Health: Medicine and the politics of underdevelopment*, *a book of influence*

David Sanders is an influential actor of the public health movement. His book *The Struggle for Health: Medicine and the Politics of Underdevelopment *co-authored with Richard Carver in 1985 (Macmillan: UK) has influenced academics and civil society in the past three decades, including resistance to neoliberalism in health.

In this book, the founder and former director of the School of Public Health at the University of Western Cape first demonstrated that the reduction in illness and premature mortality in UK has resulted from improved living standards and hygiene and only to a very limited extent from specific preventive measures and curative services. He went on to say that transplantation into low and middle income countries of the western health system is part of the broader process of expanding the capitalist system, adding that Western health systems are more concerned with the medical profession and the commercial interests rather than peoples well-being.

According to him, far from improving health, these transplantations maintain the system that perpetuates poor development and health problems. Finally, he appealed to expatriate health workers to make available to their home country what they have learned so that primary health care will become the basis of health care systems and there will be more democracy and transparency in the management of health.

One of the most beautiful tributes to the famous disappeared would be to read (or reread), understand and adopt this book of influence that fueled the anti-neoliberal protest in Africa and around the world.

Pacome Tometissi,

PHM West & Central Africa

A tribute from People’s Health Movement Tanzania @PHMTanzania

Long Live David Sanders. Your works and life is a message to so many people. Rest In Peace our Mentor #DavidSanders

We are sadden with the news of the Lost of Our Father Prof. David Sanders!, May his soul Rest In Peace. we are going to miss you David Sanders

Thank you very much for the Legacy you have left us with. Live long David Sanders!

A tribute from People’s Health Movement Uganda @phmuga

The role #Prof_David_Sanders has played in advancing social justice in health globally is unforgettable. You have build strongly PHM to a great movement anchoring the health for all global strategy. We shall forever miss you in the #PHM fraternity.

A tribute from People’s Health Movement UK @phm_uk

Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our dear friend & comrade David Sanders last night. He has been an inspiration to all in the struggle for social justice & health equity. We will keep his activism & spirit with us as we continue the struggle for the ideals he fought for.

A tribute from People’s Health Movement Sri Lanka

Sad news indeed! Accept condolences of PHM Sri Lanka.  It’s an irreplaceable loss to PHM future activities.

Sirimal Peiris

A tribute from People’s Health Movement Nepal

Dear all

Greetings from Nepal!

Hope this email finds you in good health.

We again suffered from a tragic loss this year… This is a hard time for us to recollect the courage and think about the future of PHM. I feel blessed to learn a lot from David and deeply committed to his spirit, PHM spirit and action….

I am attaching a short video of David. We had interviewed him after the successful accomplishment of 4PHA. It will always inspire us…

Thank you!

In Solidarity,


A tribute from People’s Health Movement Argentina

The People’s Health Movement organizations in Argentina regret the enormous loss represented by the physical disappearance of Prof. David Sanders, a steadfast fighter for HEALTH FOR ALL since Alma Ata up to the present.

We were fortunate to host David in our country last May, some of us for the first time. We were enriched by his words that encouraged us to continue our work and our struggles and we were inspired by his example of coherence and perseverance.

Hasta la Victoria siempre David!

PHM Argentina:


A tribute from The World Public Health Nutrition Association (WPHNA) @WPHNA

Our heart is with the family of our dearest friend, member, excellent public health professional and great advocate for human rights and health. Many thanks for your invaluable work globally, and specially for South Africa and African region. Rest in peace Professor David Sanders

A tribute from Global Health Access Initiative @GHAInitiative

Our tribute to Prof Emeritus David Sanders, global health and development thought-leader, and our inspiration. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

A tribute from International Institute for Primary Health Care – Ethiopia (IIfPHC-E) @IIfPHCE

We are deeply saddened to learn of Prof. David Sanders death. Words cannot express our sorrow. To say Prof. Sanders was a larger than life character would be an understatement.

A tribute from The Institute for Poverty, Land, and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) @PLAASuwc

It is with shock and great sadness that we note the passing of our colleague, Prof David Sanders of @SOPHUWC. The world has lost a visionary leader, a pathbreaking researcher and a tireless campaigner. We have lost a friend. Hamba kahle, David! We will miss you and remember you.

A tribute from Tekano – Health Equity in South Africa @Tekano_SA

Tekano is deeply saddened by news of the passing of its founding Board Member Emeritus Professor David Sanders last night (30 Aug 2019) whilst on holiday in Wales,UK.

David had a heart attack after a fishing trip, one of his favorite and relaxing hobbies. David played an instrumental role in our learning, leadership and activism aspects on health equity.

He was a public health giant who contributed significantly to the shaping of the South African global public health space.

Robala ka khotso (Rest in peace) David.

May your family be comforted by the knowledge that your work in this world has touched millions and that we, your friends, colleagues and comrades hold them in our hearts and prayers.

A tribute from Food Security SA @FoodSecurity_za

An incredible loss to the research community and the nation. A champion of public health, mentor and all round excellent individual. David Sanders was a PI & served on the Steering Committee of @FoodSecurity_za. Hamba kahle, our nation has lost a true hero of social justice

A tribute from The Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) @RHAPnews

RHAP joins the multitude of organisations and individuals in SA and globally in mourning the untimely and sudden death of David Sanders, public health giant and stalwart who will forever remain an inspiration of principle, courage and determination to achieve social justice.

A tribtue from The Researching the Obesogenic Food Environment Project (ROFE) team_Ghana

We do not have the words to express our sense of loss. David we all loved and cherished you dearly. Your insights and valuable guidance will be greatly missed. You led and taught us well. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Thank you for the opportunities you gave us to learn and grow. Thank you for the many meals and laughter. We would miss you greatly.

A tribute from Health Systems Trust

Prof. David Sanders – An exemplary life in Public Health Remembered.

The Health Systems Trust is deeply saddened by the passing of Prof. David Sanders, Emeritus Professor of the School of Public Health of the University of the Western Cape and Trustee and 2nd Deputy Chairperson of the Health Systems Trust Board.

David served as a Trustee of HST for the past two years, but has been a friend of the organisation from the time of its inception, sharing and having helped craft its current vision of “Improved health equity in a healthier Africa”.

In the field of public health, despite his slight frame, David was a colossus, deeply passionate about improving the health and well-being of the people of the African continent, particularly those from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds in society. For over 30 years he has inspired and lit the flame of commitment to public health for generations of health workers irrespective of where they were in their in public health journey.

David’s contribution to health service development in our country, and the region would be almost impossible to measure. From the children whose lives he changed as a paediatrician, his contribution to policy development through research and the inspiration of many public health leaders of our time as an academic, role model and mentor. In his time on the HST Board he wielded his influence as a patient, quiet but determined firebrand, which may sound like a contradiction in terms, but speaks to the manner in which only David could patiently and calmly persuade you to his viewpoint through clarity of thought, evidence for his argument and dogged determination to ensure that the Board’s decisions were very carefully thought through. He will be very much missed. His two years on the Board have left an indelible memory on all those he touched, and his role in helping craft HST’s current vision, and contribution to shaping our strategy for the next few years provides an opportunity for us to remember him through our work and its outcomes.

His accolades are innumerable; and testament to these is his illustrious public health career, his role in public health education in prestigious institutions as varied as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where he has served as Visiting Lecturer and Honorary Professor, and Honorary Professor at the Charité–Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, the University of Bergen in Norway, The Faculty of Health Sciences and the School of Medicine of the University of Cape Town and Flinders University of South Australia. It was therefore fitting that in 2014 he was awarded the Public Health Innovation and Lifetime Achievement Award by the Public Health Association of South Africa.

We were greatly honoured when he agreed to serve on HST’s Board in 2017, especially knowing that he was as busy in retirement with all his global public health commitments as he was at the height of his career. We are therefore humbled that we were able share him with many others, and benefit from his enormous wisdom and experience. At a time when he could have made many choices as to how to spend his time, which he has always given generously to others, we are eternally grateful and humbled that he saw fit to work with HST when invited to join the Board; in his words “an organisation whose work I have admired and respected over the years”. Kind words from someone so accomplished and exemplary a public health and health policy activist, and advocate, who so keenly felt the importance of improved public health as an ingredient of equitable social and economic development. His sudden passing was a truly sad day for the public health fraternity the world over. He will be sadly missed by his colleagues on the Board of HST and indeed the entire HST family. Our deepest condolences to his wife Prof Sue Fawcus, his family and friends.

Dr Flavia Senkubuge                                                                                                       Dr Themba Moeti
Chairperson Health Systems Board of Trustees                                            CEO Health Systems Trust

A tribute from COPASAH Global Secretariat – COPASAH

Dear All,

With deep sense of sorrow, we condole the passing away of Prof. David Sanders, PHM Global Coordinator and a stalwart in building People’s Health Movement. Under his leadership, PHM agreed to be the co-organiser of the COPASAH Global Symposium and was part of our programme planning workshop in Delhi in May 2019. We were in constant touch with him regarding his participation in the symposium in Delhi from October 15-29, 2019.

It is a great loss for all of us in the movement for struggle for health. We extend our deepest heartfelt condolences to PHM secretariat members, his close associates and his family members.

In solidarity,


On behalf of COPASAH Global Secretariat – COPASAH

and Steering Committee COPASAH

A tribute from Centre for International Health/ Global Challenges, University of Bergen

The staff at Centre for International Health, University of Bergen, Norway want to express that we are deeply sorry to hear about the sudden passing of your professor emeritus David Sanders. Professor Sanders has been an important scientific voice at CIH, with his lectures in epidemiology here over many years. We will miss him. Our thoughts are with you, as well as with his family. We are very sorry.


Bente E. Moen


Centre for International Health/ Global Challenges, University of Bergen

A tribute from HealthPovertyAction @HealthPoverty

Health Poverty Action is devastated to hear that David Sanders, one of the founders of @phmglobal & a special advisor to us, has passed away. His death is an enormous loss to the health justice movement.

A tribute from IPH, Bengaluru @iphindia

David Sanders is no more but his inspirational work will continue inspiring us towards #HealthForAll #PrimaryHealthCare #HealthEquity

A tribute from Sama – Resource Group for Women and Health @WeAreSama

A great loss to the public health movement, an irredeemable loss! The struggle for #HealthForAll shall continue! Adios David Sanders

A tribute from SAAFP @SAAFP1

Primary health care has lost a giant. It is with enormous sadness that we have to let you know of the sudden and unexpected passing of @SOPHUWC director, Emeritus Professor David Sanders (74). Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.

A tribute from Federación Argentina Medicina General FAMG @FAMedGral

FAMG manifiesta profundo pesar por el fallecimiento del Dr. David Sanders (Sudáfrica). Valoramos su gran aporte a la salud pública.

A tribute from Association Medicina General Buenos Aires (AMGBA) @AMGBA_1

AMGBA lamenta profundamente el fallecimiento del Dr. David Sanders (Sudáfrica), agradecidos por su contribución a la salud y su importante participación en el Congreso AMGBA 2019.

A tribute from The Nigeria UHC Advocacy Group (NUHCAG)

The Nigeria UHC Advocacy Group (NUHCAG) is deeply saddened by the news of the sudden passing of Prof. David Sanders.

We extend our condolences to everyone who is affected by his departure.

He was a steadfast leader and professional father to us all; and will surely be missed.

Peace to him!
Dr. Uzodinma Adirieje

A tribute from HEARD@UNSW @HEARDatUNSW

Terribly sad to hear of passing of #DavidSanders. He inspired me – nearly 40 yrs since I spent time with him as he led @Oxfam health team in ongoing #struggle4health in postcolonial Zimbabwe. I will miss his wit, intellect, energy & commitment to #right2health & #globaljustice

Very very sad to hear of passing of David Sanders – one of the great campaigners for social justice, equity, and democracy in health and the determinants of health. I will miss his sense of humour, his intellect, and fighting spirit… Vale David

A tribute from IOGT International @IOGTInt

RIP. Our condolences to family and friends including the @PHMglobal.

David will be missed.

A tribute from SAAPA @Saapa7

Such a great loss to our region and global health community. Our heartfelt condolences.

A tribute from QM_GlobalHealth @QM_GlobalHealth

Very sad to hear this news.

A tribute from BroadReach @broadreachinfo

Our deepest condolences on the passing of Prof David Sanders. What an incredible contribution to global public health, he will be missed. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.


From colleagues and students at UWC

A tribute from Emeritus Professor Thandi Puoane

David was a mentor, a colleague and a friend. I have been working with him since I joined the SOPH in 1998. I have learnt a lot from him. Although he was never poor, he was passionate about poor people. He loved working with “malnourished children” He cared for the mothers of malnourished children. He was influential in changing the attitudes of health professionals (nurses and doctors) towards mother of malnourished children. We worked together on both aspects of malnutrition (under and over nutrition) and we were now exploring the influence of food environment of the development of non-communicable diseases.
He was a true African who never arrives at a meeting early “in case he is the first one to arrive”.
Its hard to believe that he is gone.
Lala ngokuthula David.
You will always be in our thoughts

A tribute from Lynette Martin

I feel honoured to have worked with you. Your contributions towards the struggle for health and social justice will never be forgotten. Sincerest condolences to Sue, Ben, Lisa and Oscar.

A tirbute from Tanya Doherty

Remembering David Sanders: a humble, visionary public health activistRemembering David Sanders: a humble, visionary public health activist

A tribute from Marlene Petersen

I am deeply saddened by the sudden passing of David. Yesterday was my farewell from the SOPH where a very endearing message from him was read out since he was unable to be there. David appointed me as his Admin Officer at the SOPH in 1998. May he rest in peace. My sincerest condolences to Sue and the children.

A tribute from Corinne Carolissen, Sean Carolissen and children, Jarred Dale Carolissen and Calsey

Our sincerest condolences to David’s wife and children on his untimely passing and deepest sympathies to his sister, the rest of his family, friends and colleagues too. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. It was indeed an honour and privilege to have worked with David over the last 18 years, especially before his retirement. I am thankful for the opportunities he gave me and the challenges he put in my way, even though the requests were in typical David style, unexpected and last minute and had to be done yesterday! Rest in Peace David, gone (too soon) but never forgotten. May your legacy live on forever!

A tribute from Helen Schneider @schneider_helen

Hard to comprehend this sudden passing of our colleague, still such a vital player in the daily life of our school @SOPHUWC, a truly global figure and indefatigable fighter for social justice.

A tribute from Asha George @ashageorge72

He’s inspired so many across geographies and generations, & truly had impact by illuminating critical thinking and solidarity as key elements of social justice in global health, may we long cherish such courageous change makers and honour them by continuing their work.

A tribute from Prof Richard Laing

I have known David since 1971 when I was a very keen, very young medical student and David was the old experienced Final year talking about the social determinants of health.

Reflecting on this sad news, I realize that David has had a profound influence on me at a number of discrete points in my life. This he did in person and in writing. Immediately prior to independence in Zimbabwe in 1980 David wrote a short pamphlet published by CIIR titled Health in Zimbabwe. This propounded the need for an Alma-Ata Primary Health Care policy for the newly independent Zimbabwe. At the time radical stuff! But then when Independence came he returned to Zimbabwe with a team of Oxfam doctors and put into practice what he had proposed. He also brought a number of public health thinkers of that era to speak at a major PHC conference. These include Prof Ransome-Kuti, David Morley, David Werner, Gill Walt and others. Later he published his book “The Struggle for Health” which encapsulated his comprehensive approach. His second book “Questioning the Solution” provided an alternative radical approach to Selective PHC.

Once I was at WHO I was able to reconnect and organize the two courses at UWC in the 90s and then when I was planning my retirement from WHO David was very supportive of my combining work at Boston University with work at UWC which has been a very exciting and satisfying part of my life. His latest Lancet paper enunciates many of my concerns about UHC increasing inequity.

David changed my life just as he has changed so many other lives.  I will miss him.

Richard Laing

Professor, Department of  Global Health

Boston University School of Public Health

A tribute from Christina Zarowsky

Oh what devastating news! What a loss of a great passionate voice and heart for health and social justice! I am so grateful to have known David and his family and am heartbroken.

A tribute from Mary Kinney @maryvkinney

Words cannot express the sadness and loss to the world. David was a treasure to public health and social justice. We just celebrated his birthday @SOPHUWC where he remained engaged in teaching and mentoring so many of us. My thoughts are with his family at this devastating time.

A tribute from Suraya Mohammed

This is how I remember him. My first encounter with him was at his house when he gave a welcoming party for all new students. I thought that was just a wonderful thing to do and immediately endeared me to him. Then as a student the difficult and challenging questions that he used to ask us so that we could think outside the box,  and something I will always strive to do. He was also always concerned about the lack of attention that health promotion was receiving in SA and tried to highlight the importance of HP on any relevant platform possible. Another  memory which  Ebrahim  reminded me of and was so humbled by was the day David received a special award from UCT (can’t remember which one) and our son graduated cum laude with his masters at the graduation where he received award. David was part of the academic procession when they left the stage but left the procession to congratulate us sitting in the audience and then joined the procession again. I remember how concerned he was us moving from the prefabs to the new building that there would not be much opportunity for passage chats as we passed each, which he was so fond of doing, as the new building was too big! I will always remember his passion for and dedication to social justice and this will always be an inspiration to me. May his soul rest in peace.

A tribute from Vera Scott

David Sanders was an inspiration and a mentor to many health workers.  I met David in 1998 when I was a young, but already burnt-out, doctor wrestling with how to do meaningful work in the then fledgling district health system in South Africa. He gave a lecture that literally changed how I saw my work and understood my identity as a health worker. He challenged us to look beyond a biomedical model of health, and recognise the political economy driving the increasing burden of disease. For the first time I understood that young children die of diarrhoeal disease, not because of germs, but because of the lack of adequate water and sanitation which gives rise to circumstances that allow germs to be transmitted. I began to see the extent to which ill-health is socially engineered. David was a gifted teacher. He took complex concepts and conveyed, in eloquently simple ways, the liberating essence of the idea and its practical implication for change. This was one of his greatest skills as a revolutionary, and he combined it with a deep love for social good and for people.

I joined the staff of SOPH in 2003 and worked with David in research and teaching on Primary Health Care, and health equity for 15 years. David was a world leader who understood the importance of global influences on the health of local communities. He understood the power of multi-national companies dictating nutritional policies and tariffs, but also the power of a mother choosing to breast-feed her baby, and the power of a community mobilising to access their right to land. He understood that the struggle for health lies beyond what the health sector can achieve and so he used his medical knowledge to build bridges to work with other sectors. He was as comfortable speaking with community health workers in a small clinic as he was addressing powerful decision-makers on the international stage. He was selfless in his passion for change, and mentored and challenged generations of activists. Conversations were often edgy and awkward when David entered a room, because he understood the power that each one of us has to bring about change, wherever we are positioned in society, at whatever level. He wasn’t looking to reinforce comfortable circles of agreement, but to challenge all of us to engage with the uncomfortable politics of ill-health, and to take action, now, with the urgency needed to promote social justice and health equity.

The tributes that are flowing in to the School of Public Health, which David founded in 1993, bear testimony to the enormous and diverse number of people that David influenced and mentored. David believed that the struggle for health called for the committed action of diverse activists working in different settings in different ways: empowering communities, challenging the structural drivers of poverty, establishing a fairer economic order, creating enabling policy, ensuring the delivering of all basic services, promoting health. This was his vision for social mobilisation. He worked in ways that were inclusive, creating opportunities for all sorts of people to be involved in the struggle. David was an egalitarian, who treated all with respect and demanded all to consider what they could do to further social justice. At School of Public Health this meant that whether you worked in admin, or did teaching, or were a researcher, or a student, or attended a short course – there was an opportunity for you to bring your influence and particular skills to bear in fighting for health equity.

A tribute from Tshilidzi Manuga

David was one of the few people who knew and could pronounce my name with ease, I’m glad I got a chance to learn from you and dance with you. Our last chat was when I said you look 18 and you said you just turned 21, day afteryour birthday. Rest in peace David. Sincere condolences to the family

A tribute from Di Cooper

David made the most profound African and Global impact on Public Health and equity. His passing leaves me and us all with great sadness. I will miss hearing his voice in the next door office, chatting to him and hearing his fiery and outspoken defence of equity in health. Hamba Kahle, David – your spirit will live on. I am away in Namibia next week and can’t be at the memorial. Thinking of you, Sue, Ben, Lisa and Oscar and also all his friends, colleagues and comrades. Di Cooper

A tribute from Tanya Jacobs

Reflections on David

Dearest Sue and family

I express my heartfelt condolences at this time of immense loss and sadness and hold you in my heart.

I am adding to the many voices from around the world that reflect and share on the impact David has had on our lives and am adding to that collective. My first interactions with David were in 1995 while attending Summer School and exploring areas for further studies as at the time there were no post-graduate public mental health programmes in South Africa.

Engaging with David’s vision and passion for health as political, about power relations and a site of struggle, inspired me to register for a Masters at the Public Health Programme, as it was known then. I found a space to explore and amplify my interests and passions that addressed the social, structural and political determinants of health, especially mental health and gender-based violence, in the bigger context of the early days of our democracy.

The prefab buildings discussions, the engagement and networking with other students and academics ……and the peanut butter sandwiches became very significant parts of my life and an important foundation from which to grow and contribute.

It was also in David’s teaching, engagement (and wry sense of humour… ) that I was able to find my space for academic development and activism and grow my work and collegial relationships, especially with colleagues in the Eastern Cape, where I then worked for 15 years.

Given these foundation and connections, the School of Public Health was the obvious ideological and academic place to return to for PhD studies, with a strong team of passionate academics (in a slightly fancier building but still with peanut butter sandwiches) that are making significant contributions, both nationally and globally. It was so meaningful to engage with David again in this context and I particularly appreciated his attendance and participation at my presentation at Journal Club on his last birthday, 5 August, where we talked about the social and structural determinants of adolescent health, and how power relations and inequalities intersect and compound each other. We missed him at PHASA this week, especially with debates about NHI, but I know he also lives on in those whose lives he has touched….growing so many younger academic and activists.

David has shaped my thinking in significant ways, grown my activism and I commit to taking his work and struggles forward. Aluta continua!

Rest in Power David

With love

A tribute from Katie Pereira

I am sure that this is going to be a challenging time for you, to lead the School of Public Health through the end of an era of Professor David Sanders being involved, while going through your own personal and grieving process.

I just wanted to send you my sincere condolences, it is going to be a difficult time for everyone. I feel very sad for his family.


A tribute from Lucy Gilson, SPHFM/ UCT and SOPH/UWC

Dear Chesai family

I write on behalf of the UCT team to express our shock at today’s very sad news about David.

As he was the founding Director of the UWC SOPH this will be a very difficult time for all those in the UWC CHESAI team – and we extend all our thoughts and wishes to you all, and to the wider UWC SOPH staff and student team.

I still remember reading ‘The Struggle for Health’, David’s Zimbabwe book, for the first time. The copy on my shelves note it was February 1987 in London. Alongside the work of Robert Chambers, Struggle for Health deepened my, then, emerging health policy and systems’ consciousness, offering powerful insights into the political economy of health. Insights that remain so vital today.

My abiding memory of David – across multiple national and international settings – will be his persistent and awkward questioning of those ‘in authority’ (all forms of authority): ever provocative in the fight for social justice. And indeed, this year’s David Sanders’ lecture with Adila Hassim was a potent and fitting reminder of the need to challenge and to speak out in the fight for health systems that contribute to social justice.

‘A luta continua’ rings so many chords, again.

Our sincere condolences to the CHESAI UWC family.

Lucy and the UCT CHESAI team

A tribute from Andries du Toit

The untimely death of David Sanders, who was an inspiring colleague and a valued comrade to all of us at PLAAS, is a shocking and sad loss. Many will of course remember David for what he contributed to his field and to this continent: his tireless contributions to the cause of a health system that worked for all, his engaged scholarship, and his generous mentorship. But what I will remember most of all is the kind man I slowly got to know over the years: his mischievous sense of humour, his personal generosity, and his deep respect for the mothers and primary caregivers he worked to support.

A tribute from Andries du Toit @abdutoit

What a man. Tireless, exacting, passionate, incisive, kind and generous.  He was always a staunch colleague and  fierce campaigner for a health system that serves the many, not the few.  I shall miss him. Hamba Kahle David Sanders 😢

A tribute from Ben Cousins

David’s death comes as a shock to me – he was still in the prime of his life, it seemed, as active as ever. This is a massive loss to progressive forces fighting for freedom and justice, and I knew David from the mid-1980s in Zimbabwe, where we participated in various left-wing discussion groups. These focused on trying to understand current realities in the subcontinent, and also the prospects of mobilisation in support of liberation. David always tried to balance realism and against inequality and oppression, in Southern Africa and elsewhere, in the health sector and also more broadly.

A tribute from Lucy Alexander

I am deeply saddened by David’s death – and it will remain difficult to grasp for a long time to come. David was a most generous mentor and guide, an academic passionate about education, and a truly fair employer, who took human interest in his employees as well as in their work and careers. It was a privilege to work with you David. My heartfelt condolences to you Sue, Ben, Oscar and Lisa.

A tribute from Ernie

What a huge loss for Public Health Nutrition. His legacy will however live on.

My condolences to his family.

A tribute from Jose Frantz

Our condolences to his family.

A tribute from Lisa Wegner

How devastating to hear about the passing of David Sanders. It was such a shock – I too thought he would just always be around! I remember how articulate he was, and how passionate about health and justice for all. I learnt such a lot from him, and am so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with him for all those years. My condolences to his family, to you and everyone at the SoPH. Thank you for the wonderful tribute you wrote for David.

A mighty tree has fallen.

Best wishes,

A tribute from Premesh Lalu

Very sad to hear the news. My condolences to friends and colleagues.

A tribute from Marquard Simpson

My sincere condolence to his family. The health fraternity will greatly miss him and we all are very greatful for his huge contribution to UWC health sciences 🙏

A tribute from Nondumiso Ncube

Totally heartbreaking! Sincere condolonces to Prof Fawcus, his children and the UWC SOPH family. Goodnight Prof😞

A tribute from Firdouza Waggie

So sad! David Sanders will be missed indeed!

A tribute from Weliswa

Sending my deepest condolences. This is so so saddening. He was wonderful to work with, and a brilliant man overall. May his precious soul rest in eternal peace. Keeping his family in prayer. I can imagine how sad it is at the SOPH. I really know exactly how it is to you guys. May the good Lord comfort you in this period.

A tribute from Nafeesa Jalal

Sending my deepest condolences. This is so so saddening. He was wonderful to work with, and a brilliant man overall.

A tribute from Arthur Heywood

One of the greatest public health visionaries the world has been priveliged to host … a remarkable man has left us

A tribute from Claudette Ruiters

David was my Director for many years and I was just a young girl in the presence of great intellectual. But he never made you feel that you where less than him. To the contrary he went out of his way to make you feel special. I always admired his passion for primary health care to the point that my career was influenced and hence I’m serving the Department of Health. I always love going into his office for I have never seen organised chaos like that. He knew exactly where what was eventhough there was stack of books and papers everywhere. He had the best laugh and liked making jokes and teasing me. He was sincere and a very caring and passionate person. I felt so great when he was at my wedding and treasured that caring nature. I was just an employee but he treated me like a colleague. He invited us into his home, this reflected that he had no colour boundaries no cultural boundaries. He was just David a very special man. He was so passionate about his work that I thought he will never retire. I surely have very fond and warm memories. Rest in Peace David

A tribtue from Gloria Mutimbwa Siseho

Dear families, friends and colleagues of Prof . David Sanders,
It is with a heavy heart and unbelief that I learnt of the passing of Prof. David Sanders. As a UWC student, I met him during my Masters in Public Health vacation schools 15 years ago. What an experienced academic being he was. I have since been following and reading his writings/articles… His teachings remains in my memories forever. Will forever miss you Prof. David Sanders. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
from Gloria M. Siseho- PhD in Public Health candidate

A tribute from Bvudzai Magadzire

Hearing of David’s passing was very sad. There are many things I remember about David, from when we began working together in 2010 and the years that followed which combined working with him, being taught & supervised by him. No doubt he was a scholar of note. I always admired how he was able to apply his mind to any topic and give sound advice, how he stood for what he believed in – in matters of life, public health and politics. I appreciated who David was as a person – deeply caring for people, how he often gave up his privileges for the sake of others and how he elevated those he mentored, providing them with opportunities to grow and talked about his students’ work in a manner that was deeply inspiring to both the student and the other listener. I spent a significant amount of time with David working on projects and on my PhD. Throughout that defining moment in my career, I appreciated his mentorship, how he cultivated excellence yet his expectations were realistic. I’ll also remember how he kept an open door, his sociable nature, hilarious stories and airport dramas when he was late, dance moves wherever dance was found, and his simplicity in lifestyle. It was an honour to be mentored by such a great man. May his family that he so adored and often spoke about be comforted at this time.

A tribute from Andy Bulabula

Social Determinants of Health – Learnt that from him, may his soul rest in peace! A big loss

A tribute from Moselinyane Letsie

He is the Boss of primary health care i learned a lot from him.

A tribtue from Olutuase Victory

During one of his talks he said and I quote ” We often confuse primary health care as primary level of care. But it is primary health care across all levels.” So sad to have lost him.

A tribute from Walla Bin Walla

I I’ve learnt not to use the term ” diseases of lifestyle ” may this be made clear on the 19th so that paradigm shift can start snowballing in the health sector and other stakeholders of the department of health

A tribute from Jacqui Habana

A committed public health activist and academic . I remember him dancing with the team after a day of strategic planning.

A tribute from Hani Serag

I learned from David that we can break the barriers between academia and activism.

A tribute from Chiti Bwalya

David made me appreciate the fact that you can only make significant reduction in disease burden if you fight poverty. He emphasized the importantance of social determinants and how we change and improve the environment where people live, then you will reduce the burden of diseases. I also loved his passion for life style diseases and the importance of a good diet and the impact of these on NCDs.

A tribute from Regien Biesma Blanco

RIP David- you are a great inspiration!

A tribute from Jeannine Uwimana-Nicol

Dear Uta,

I am shocked and saddened by the early departure of David, please receive my sincere heartfelt condolences, to his family and the SOPH. What a loss that one can’t comprehend… A great teacher and mentor is gone but not forgotten. I will dearly cherish his teachings and counsel and jokes…

May he rest in eternal peace. Will forever remember him.

May God comfort his family and the entire SOPH during this difficult time.

Kind regards,


A tribute from Juvencio Matsinhe

It was shock for all of us. I perasonally considered prof. Sanders as a GoD of public health and research. He will still be in our memories Forever.

From colleagues at international partner institutions

A teacher, a role model, a good laugh …..

A tribtue from David McCoy

Like many public health practitioners, I first got to know David Sanders through his book, ‘The Struggle for Health’. I read it in 1991, six years after it was published. I still have that book, and it sits in my current office.

At the time, I was a junior doctor in England, not knowing that I would end up working in South Africa and eventually meet David.

When I read the book, I was already steeped in political economy and activism. I had spent six months at the University of Sussex in the School of African and Asian Studies (with half-baked plans to give up medicine); and had been involved in land rights struggles in Indonesia; and in a global health charity called Medact that worked on the underlying determinants of global health.

David’s book was a joy to read. Here was a doctor showing the link between medicine and the politics of under-development; and demonstrating how doctors and other health workers could (and should) combine their clinical skills, professional mandate and social power to treat both disease as well as the causes of disease. It helped me decide to stay in medicine, and a year later I was doctoring in a rural district hospital in northern Kwazulu in South Africa.

If I remember correctly, I met David in 1995, a year after South Africa’s first democratic elections. By then I had already met David’s wife, Sue Fawcus, an obstetrician and maternal health expert who taught me on the University of Cape Town’s M-Phil programme on Maternal and Child Health that had been set up by Marian Jacobs.

Over the next seven years, I worked with and learnt from David on a wide range of health policies, projects and programmes in South Africa, but also internationally. And when I returned to the UK in 2002, I got very involved in the Peoples Health Movement (which David had helped establish), and was therefore constantly in touch with David.

The last time I saw him in person was in London last year (2018) when he generously made time to speak to the global public health unit at Queen Mary University London. I wanted my global health colleagues to hear from David – not just about his work, but also about himself and his personal journey through medicine and public health.

I wish I had recorded his account of life as a medical student in Harare and as a junior doctor in London, and his early experiences of bridging the schisms between medicine, public health and politics. Typically, he also felt it important to describe the celebrations that marked the independence of Zimbabwe from colonial rule and his glee at finding himself downstream from Bob Marley and his crew, who were imbibing in certain herbs known for their mellowing properties.

And the last time I was in touch with David was only a few weeks before he died because I wanted to see how my department could access some of the teaching materials that he and others had developed at the School of Public Health (SoPH) at the University of the Western Cape. There is so much about the teaching and learning at SoPH that is important to health in Africa, and the fact that David’s legacy and efforts at SoPH are in such good hands is also a testament to his ability to attract such good colleagues.

It is now very, very weird to think of David no longer being around – especially given how active, vital and involved he was with so many things. For many people, he was so valued because he gave voice to so much that is important. There is a need to fill the gap that he has left behind, so it’s worth describing what made him so unique.

One of his major attributes was the combination of deep intellect and an ability to communicate effectively. He was brilliant at explaining the links between disease, illness and political economy. He was a superb exponent of the principles and logic of Alma Ata; and the breadth and depth of his knowledge and expertise across each of the three levels of UNICEF’s conceptual framework on child mortality and malnutrition was pretty unique.

He was able to describe and explain the many long and complex causal pathways of disease and illness in a way that was clear and compelling. The Struggle for Health and Questioning the Solution (which he wrote with David Werner) were masterpieces. They are both highly analytical and complex books – combining science with passion and polemic – and written to be accessible to as many people as possible. He was unapologetically political, and I have a particularly fond memory of him explaining why the distinction between social democracy and democratic socialism was important to public health.

This is connected to a second attribute of David’s: his commitment to education. He always seemed more concerned with teaching and empowering ordinary health workers than with publishing in peer-reviewed journals or engaging in theoretical and academic discussions. He saw teaching as an essential and important part of being an academic. Today, as universities bend to the demands of private financing, markets and defective university ranking systems, David’s commitment to an academic ethos that truly serves society and the public interest (and in particular, the needs of the people of Africa) is something that will be missed.

A third attribute of David was his non-elitism and ability to get on so well with ‘ordinary folk’. He was very much a man of the people. He certainly dressed like one. You could see this in the way he was willing to rough it out, whether it was sharing a room in a low cost hostel in Geneva so that he could represent the Peoples Health Movement at the World Health Assembly, or sleeping in a cold and damp rondavaal in the Transkei to conduct research on household food security. Today, as distance and disconnect with liberal elites are used to fuel the rise of populist authoritarianism across the world, highlighting David’s commitment to the building of bridges between academics and professionals on the one hand, and civil society and the general public on the other, is not just of sentimental value, but also of practical importance.

Indeed, a fourth attribute of David’s public health approach was his insistence that real public health involved mobilising communities – not ‘saving lives’ through top-down programmes that would deliver healthcare to passive recipients. This attention to bottom-up social mobilisation was informed by the knowledge that politics shapes the distribution of power and health in society, and is fundamental to addressing global problems of poverty and premature mortality. He devoted huge amounts of time and energy to the values and principles of the Peoples Health Movement; but also supported other social movements such as the Treatment Action Campaign. And he also made the valiant effort of standing for election as a candidate for the African National Congress in local elections for this reason.

Furthermore, he did all this with humour and wit – the fifth and final attribute to highlight. No doubt, this was part of David’s popularity. But it was also an important part of how he got things done; and inspired so many others to also get things done. Although he was also famous for his complaining and whingeing, this was always conducted with charm and good nature. A mutual colleague of ours wrote this to me when she heard of David’s death: I just heard that David Sanders has passed away.  It took my breath away.  I haven’t been in touch with him for years but he was a great person with a true heart for social justice.  And also a bit of a curmudgeon!!, which also made him endearingSad.  But he lived a full life and left an amazing impact in Zim, SA and more generally. 

However, David would also be the first to acknowledge that ‘no man is an island’. And in paying tribute to David, it’s necessary to also pay tribute to all those who supported him and helped sustain his work and impact. These would include: a) his colleagues in South Africa, especially in the School of Public Health at the University of the Western Cape; b) his friends and comrades in the Peoples Health Movement, many of whom display the very same attributes listed above; and c) his family, and in particular Sue who deserves a big slice of all the complements and plaudits that have been directed at David.

Thanks for the inspiration and memories, David.


A tribute from Fran Baum @baumfran

Vale David the best friend and comrade – we will continue the struggle for health in your name – you worked tirelessly now rest well my dear friend

A tribute from Louis GR @LouisGeorgeVonB

Devastating news. Hamba kahle David. We will miss you greatly but the struggle you devoted so much of your life to will continue. Aluta continua!

A tribute from Anthony Costello @globalhlthtwit

OMG. My hero. A brilliant man who stood for the highest principles of equity and health. I was about to message him about his Lancet commentary. RIP. And love to Sue and the family.

A tribute from Anthony Costello

David Sanders, the child and community health professor at the University of the Western Cape, and a long-standing political activist who inspired so many people, died just a week ago. He wrote this book [The struggle for health: Medicine and the politics of underdevelopment] as a junior doctor in the 1970s, which brought to our attention the ‘causes of the causes’. He was a great mentor and a founder member and advocate for the Peoples Health Movement. His acerbic contributions to international conferences were a joy to behold, and through his warm provocation he held many of us to account. I shall miss his humour, his insightful criticism, and his dynamism. Last year I spent a week with David and Sue in South Africa when he regaled me with stories of fly fishing with George Melly, Trotskyite activism in Britain in the 1970s, and child nutrition in south Africa.

A tribute from Dr. Mary T. Bassett @DrMaryTBassett

I am shattered at this news. I met David over 30 years ago when I began my years in Zimbabwe and, like so many, owe much to him for friendship, political analysis and support. He never faltered. A terrible loss.

A tribute from Bridget Lloyd

David has been a stalwart of the struggle for health and social justice for all here in South Africa and globally, making personal sacrifices throughout his life to do what he believes in. He has been my mentor and friend and just so hard to believe that his larger than life presence is no more. I know everyone will be feeling the same sense of loss. Its just too soon after Amit.

In solidarity


A tribute from Tara Brace-John

Tribute to a fierce health warrior: David Sanders, 1945–2019

A tribute from Adila Hassim

Such a shock. What a loss. My condolences to Sue and the family.

A tribute from Carlos A. Monteiro, Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of Sao Paulo

This is the Brecht statement that made me remember David.

There are men who struggle for a day and they are good.
There are men who struggle for a year and they are better.
There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still.
But there are those who struggle all their lives:
these are the indispensable ones.

Professor Carlos A. Monteiro
Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of Sao Paulo

A tribtue from Irene Agyepong @IreneAgyepong

What a loss to Public Health. The struggle for health was one of the public health books burnt in my menory. Condolences to his family friends and UWC SOPH.

A tribute from Benita Mayosi

The Public Health Activists Community has lost a giant. David spoke his mind and challenged government on health inequalities that exist in the country. I worked with him to establish Water and Sanitation Task Team in Khayelitsha. He was instrumental in establishment of strong partnerships between government, researchers and community members. Together with the School of Public Health we created a model for the City of Cape Town on how to implement Water and Sanitation programmes for informal settlements in Cape Town. May his spirit of Ubuntu continue to motivate all South Africans. Rest in peace

A tribute from Naomi Levitt

David Sanders served on the CDIA Governing Board from our inception, initially as a member and then as Chairperson for the last 5 years. In this role he was valued enormously. He always sought to constructively challenge any existing paradigms. He encouraged CDIA to have a broader research and policy agenda to encompass engagement in the upstream determinants of health. He was a fierce supporter of UWC and promoted the growth and development of junior researchers. Despite his busy travel schedule he always found time to attend our annual meetings, engage with our students and offer invaluable support including acting as Chairperson of the Advisory Board on one of our major studies. In our ongoing commitment to making the world a better place through our research and engagement, we will always remember and honour David.

I will be thinking of you all

Dinky `Levitt

A tribute from David Werner

David Sanders, pioneer of Health for All – as remembered by David Werner

When David Sanders died suddenly of a heart attack on August 30, 2019, it was a great loss. But his many friends and colleagues around the world can take heart that his passing did not leave a vacuum. To the contrary, David left a legion of fellow travelers around the world who, thanks to him, are today more strongly committed, better prepared, and have a greater sense of solidarity to continue the uphill struggle for health. After his passing, the huge outpouring of appreciation for his exemplary contribution worldwide makes it clear that his contagious spirit, boundless energy, and unflinching honesty in the face of power lives on in the vast spectrum of people – from community health workers to international movement organizers – who had the good fortune to know him.

Indeed, so many fine tributes have already been circulated in praise of David Sanders that it seems there is little more to add. Therefore, I will focus on my own personal interaction with him, which began over 40 years ago.

I first met David in the late 1970s in London, where he was working for Oxfam. At that time, David was in exile from his homeland in Rhodesia, where he’d been a strong proponent for that country’s independence from Great Britain’s colonial rule. As a pediatrician in that land, David had an early exposure to the devastating impact that entrenched inequalities of power had on the wellness of the subservient population. Thus, in the pursuit of health and social justice, he’d become an avid activist in the grassroots movement for Rhodesia’s independence. Faced with threats to his life, he went into exile to the UK, where he continued his advocacy for Rhodesia’s independence.

On one of my trips to London during that time, to present a paper on “Health Care and Human Dignity”, David Sanders invited me to his circle at Oxfam. He’d used my books Where There Is No Doctor and Helping Heath Workers Learn in his community health promotion in Rhodesia, and in our Hesperian newsletters he’d read about Project Piaxtla, the villager-run health program in western Mexico I’d helped start. He told me of his goal, once Rhodesia was liberated, of helping the newly independent country set up a national health program based on Comprehensive Primary Health Care, in which local community health workers – chosen for their commitment to the common good – would be agents of change in the promotion of a more equitable, just, and thereby healthier society.

No sooner did Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe – in May 1990, win its independence from the UK, than David Sanders at once returned to his homeland, where he was recruited to play a key role in forming the new Ministry of Health.

In that early realm of independence, David Sanders invited me to visit Zimbabwe, both to witness the new, people-centered mobilization that was underway, and to share some of my experiences of community-based health promotion in Mexico and elsewhere.

Part of David’s motive in bringing me to Zimbabwe was for me to give presentations and exchange observations with key honchos in the new health ministry, some of whom were still wedded to the conventional model of Western (i.e., colonial) medicine, with its hierarchical pecking order and its focus on sickness rather than health.

For a while, David and his cohorts made good progress with the new, more holistic, community-centered initiative, along the lines heralded in Alma Ata as “Primary Health Care”. The nation’s top decision makers – still imbued with the revolutionary spirit of newly won independence– made space for this more democratic, people-empowering approach to health care. But sadly, as so often seems to happen in human history, those who had been heroes in the fight for liberation, once they rose to power, gradually became oppressors themselves. As wealth again began to concentrate at the top and the state became more authoritarian, priorities shifted. The egalitarian, more empowering community-based approach to health promotion advanced by David and his colleagues fell out of favor with the controlling class – especially with the conventional medical establishment. His detractors began to hit below the belt, lambasting David as a “white colonial” who was trying to impose second-class services on what he viewed deep-down as second-class people.

This was painful for David who was deeply committed to health and fair treatment for all. In time the barriers to advancing universal primary health care in Zimbabwe became so great that David decided to move to South Africa. At that time South Africa was still under apartheid rule, with a huge gap in wealth and health between the white elite and the black majority. But it was not without hope for change. There was a strong and growing resistance led by the African National Congress (ANC) and others. Even the medical establishment itself was divided. After the mainstream Medical Association of South African (MASA) defended a doctor who had overseen the torture of Steven Biku, an outspoken leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, a portion of MASA’s members split off in protest. They then formed NAMDA (National Medical and Dental Association), which took a united stand for racial equality. NAMDA also introduced a network of community-based health care in shantytowns, providing training and backup for local, relatively unschooled, but socially committed health promoters.

As part of the coordinated effort to promote international awareness and solidarity in support the South African struggle against apartheid, David Sanders and his colleague reached out to the global health community. Among other actions, David arranged for NAMDA to invite me to visit the mushrooming shantytowns outside Johannesburg and to engage in an educational exchange with its field organizers. While there, we shared experiences and methods for implementing CBHC (community-based health care) in marginalized communities, and encouraging people to analyze the social and physical determinants of health and to work together to improve their situation.

This exchange – instigated in large part by David – took place (I believe) in 1992. The growing anti-apartheid tide was then being countered by a ruthless escalation of repression, curfews, and arrests of activists. Many in the struggle grew discouraged. But David and other leaders of NAMDA were confident that the racist regime was planting seeds of its own demise. Its draconian clampdown on protest only triggered greater resistance. … And sure enough, in an attempt by the ruling class to quell the rising storm, Prime Minister F.W. de Klerk agreed to hold South Africa’s first all-race, democratic election. In May 1994, Nelson Mandela – who had been freed after 27 years in prison – became South Africa’s first president of the nation’s post-apartheid era.

Much of the more recent history of David’s indefatigable role in promoting health-for-all and social justice – in South Africa and worldwide – is well known to his contemporary friends and colleagues. Many have given tribute to his on-the-ground research and service-oriented training of students, which he spearheaded for decades at the University of the Western Cape. I will therefore focus here only a few more of my own undertakings with David, with which some of his younger colleagues and admirers may be less than familiar.

Everyone is aware of the seminal role that David has played in the formation and ongoing pursuits of the People’s Health Movement (PHM). But fewer may be familiar with his previous key role in the International People’s Health Council (IPHC), which in many ways was the precursor of the PHM.

The International People’s Health Council was launched in Managua, Nicaragua, in December 1991, at the closure of a small international symposium on “Health Care in Societies in Transition”. The symposium and the IPHC that grew out of it were conceived and organized by several of the same pioneers in Primary Health Care who, nine years later, in 2000, would be instrumental in midwifing the first global People’s Health Assembly (PHA) and the People’s Health Movement that grew out of it. These key players in launching both the IPHC and the PHM included Zafrullah Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Mira Shiva (India), David Sanders (South Africa), Maria Zuniga (Nicaragua), and myself. The idea for the symposium had initially been conceived several years before, during the Sandinistas’ heyday in Nicaragua, when revolutionaries, backed by a diverse workforce of brigadistas de salud (community health brigadiers), had overthrown the tyrannical Somoza government and set up a people’s republic. In a few short years, the fledgling government – backed by strong community involvement – had achieved spectacular improvements in health. Inspired by this success story, our motley group of health activists decided to hold the transitions seminar in Managua. We saw Nicaragua as a shining example of a society in transition to achieving better health. Ironically, however, we delayed too long in getting our symposium off the ground. In 1990, after years of ceaseless attacks by the US-financed “Contras” and of infiltration by the CIA, the weary population voted the Sandinistas out of power and voted in a coalition government that was puppet to US imperial interests. Rapidly the people-supportive agenda of the Sandinistas was rolled back, the gap between the rich and poor grew wider, and the population’s health once again began to deteriorate. Sadly, Nicaragua was not alone in this pattern. Similar reversals in democratic process and in the health and welfare of the people were then taking place in many countries, spurred by economic globalization with its structural adjustment mandates and so-called “free trade” agreements. So our transitions seminar, initially planned to learn from societies transitioning to better health, ended up discussing transitions that were endangering and worsening the health of societies. Our seminar’s challenge was to explore possibilities for reversing this retrograde process. (All this is written about in David Sanders and my book, Questioning the Solution – see below.)

We felt our seminar’s analysis of the current social and political determinants of health, and possible action for coping with them, were important enough they should be recorded and shared. So Maria and I and others put together a booklet of the proceedings, which we titled Health Care in Societies in Transition (published by HealthWrights in English and by CISAS in Spanish). We also thought the dialogue we had begun should be continued, with more health activists participating. Hence we launched the IPHC, which grew in size and had subsequent international meetings. The most notable of these events took place in Palestine and in South Africa – the latter adroitly organized by David.

After a few years, PHM – with a much larger cast of players – took over and expanded the role of the role of the IPHC, whose mission it continued. David was a wise and dynamic spearhead of both.

David Sanders wrote over 50 groundbreaking papers and several books. His first book, The Struggle for Health: Medicine and the politics of underdevelopment, published in 1985, was a bombshell. It likely did more than any other publication to awaken the international health community to the fact that a population’s health is determined more by the distribution of power and resources than by health services per se.

Over the years David and I realized we shared similar perspectives on health and social justice. In the mid-1990s we started writing a book together, which we eventually titled Questioning the Solution: The politics of Primary Health Care and child survival. I visited Cape Town and he visited California to complete it. This book is lengthier than The Struggle for Health and contains a lot of examples from Latin America (most extensively Mexico, Nicaragua, and Cuba). As a case-study, the book explores in-depth the worldwide promotion of ORS (oral rehydration solution) for the treatment of diarrhea. (For this reason, with tongue in cheek, David and I titled the volume Questioning the Solution. The idea for the title was David’s.) Undoubtedly, the vast promotion of mass-produced packets of ORS has substantially lowered child mortality from diarrhea. Yet, as Questioning the Solution points out, other solutions – namely homemade cereal-based drinks – may have saved even more children’s lives – and done so less expensively, more quickly, and more effectively, with less dependence on a distantly-produced commercial product that may not always be available. Yet the economic leverage by Big Pharma on WHO and UNICEF to promote their commercially-produced ORS packets (which rapidly became a multi-million dollar business) stacked the deck in their favor. So it was that the less ideal but more profit-generating option has been universally promoted, sidelining less costly, more quickly available, and potentially more effective home solutions. The consequences of this grand-slam marketeering may have cost millions of children’s lives – and still does.

David felt very strongly about this exploitation of children’s health and the myriad other ways in which Big Pharma, Big Sugar, Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Water, Big Media, and other corporate superpowers put profit before people – and before sustainable life on the planet.

Sadly, our companion David Sanders is no longer with us in person. But his struggle for “health for all” lives on in the minds and hands of the countless friends and students and activists whose lives he so deeply touched. We all owe it to David to indefatigably keep his action, his vision, and his passion – and his wry sense of humor – alive.

A tribute from Carmen Baez

I met David Sanders in South Africa in the period immediately post-Apartheid when we were building a new universal health system for all. I remember the first years listening at conferences and meetings to his clear and powerful message about the strategy of Primary Health Care, community participation, intersectoral approach, social determinants of health and other concepts. I had arrived from Mozambique with experience of a socialist health system based on PHC with very little knowledge about other systems beyond my own experience.

In those days I was working for the Gauteng Health Department and my boss and comrade, Dr. Rafik Bismilla, offered me the opportunity to attend a meeting in Cape Town related to the “progressive“ approach to health. I got to understand a while later that this was a preparatory African meeting towards the foundation of the People’s Health Movement. I was delighted to meet people who, on reflection today, influenced my life forever: David Sanders who had already impressed me as I said; David Werner who wrote “Where there is not doctor”, a book widely distributed in Mozambique; and Zafrullah Chowdhury, who wrote a book about the politics of drugs in Bangladesh, an issue that I did not fully understand at the time.

The 3 day meeting made a huge impact on me because, for the first time, I was understanding clearly the power struggle in the health field. After the meeting, I took on the task of mobilizing organizations and individuals to go to the meeting in Bangladesh. I differed with Dave on some issues; he was not very convinced to bring on board government officials although they had been anti-apartheid activists before. In retrospect, he was right; most of them were absorbed by the system and did not support the PHM work for long.

In December 2000 in Bangladesh, a quite small South African delegation was part of the first Peoples’ Health Assembly. There I was able to appreciate the role of David as a global activist; every time he spoke I observed people identifying with his messages about the contesting power structures, the medical hegemony, the importance of defending the PHC principles of Alma Ata, and the arguments for building a movement from the bottom up.

From then on we were comrades in a newborn global health movement and continued to be until his passing. Back home, both of us started to build up the PHM in SA; he did it through his academia and other networks, and I by distributing the PHM Charter in every work meeting where I could try to recruit new sympathizers. I believe that the PHM today is a strong and respected civil society voice in SA thanks to his persistent and visionary work.

The following years we became also colleagues with David, sharing joint projects between HST were I worked and SPH team led by him. His professional experience as a pediatrician in rural areas treating malnourished children enriched his academic inputs on these projects to improve the life of children.

At the same time, I decided to do my MPH at UWC at the School of Public Health newly founded by David and others and I enjoyed each subject and appreciated the methodology and the progressive approach taught. The winter and summer schools of the distance course were crucial to reach more people and provide them with the tools and knowledge to convert them into public health workers and managers. This was the essence of David’s vision, so practical and appropriate in this phase!

He became the tutor of my mini thesis about the Cuban medical mission in SA, he played this role with the impartiality and scientific rigor characteristic of David.

Recently we had the pleasure of a visit by David to Argentina again, this time invited by one the member organizations of the PHM Argentina, the Family Doctor’s/PHC doctors Association, to their annual congress. The Argentinian participants at the last PHA in Bangladesh in 2018 were impressed by him (like me many years ago), and were very kind to have him here with us. So, I was asked to facilitate his participation. It was difficult to find dates but finally he came and he even went to Patagonia for a couple of days for some trout fishing, one of his passions.

We were happy that young participants, amongst them my son Pablo Rall, who acted as his translator, had the opportunity to get to know one of the icons in the struggle for health for all in the world and heard his strong message to keep aloft the banner and continue to defend the principles and vision of Alma Ata, not UHC. We adopted the Alternative Declaration of Astana and will take it forward as his legacy.

Without knowing it, this was our farewell to Dave.

With deep sadness and still in shock, I would like to say to my comrade, colleague, professor, tutor and friend:

A luta continua for health for all!

Amandla ngawethu!

Hamba kahle David!

Carmen Baez

A tribute from Stelios Comninos

David was my prime fishing partner for more than 35 years – in the dams and streams of the Nyanga Mountains and on farm dams in Zimbabwe; and more times than I can remember on the Zambezi River at Mana Pools. In South Africa we fished the UMzimkhulu and Bushmans rivers in KZN, the Western Cape streams as well as the rivers in Rhodes in the Eastern Cape. We also fished as far afield as Ireland, Patagonia and Venezuela – and we were in the process of planning a trip to Slovenia next year. The last time we were together we resolved to fish at least one exotic location per year. I liked it that our families were friends: our kids knew each other from early childhood, and Sue and my wife Julie were good companions, especially while David and I fished.
Of course David fished in many other places while he travelled the world doing his primary health care thing, like I fished in post-conflict countries in Africa while consulting! David was the only person I know who was a match to my angling obsession and who always travelled with a rod and was willing to go anywhere to catch even the tiniest of fish.

Fishing with David was not just about fishing. It was filled with lots of banter about each other’s fishing abilities and techniques. Although his techniques and fishing gear was sometimes rudimentary and suspect, he did catch a remarkable number of fish! And of course jokes were very much part of our trips. He was able to tell jokes perfectly with perfect accents were – especially Jewish ones. David humorously created our fish size classification table as follows: nephews, fathers, uncles and grandfathers. Even when I am fishing without David, I mentally apply that classification.

It was very difficult getting David off the water in the evenings, particularly on the Zambezi where we still faced a long upstream canoe paddle through hippo infested channels back to our camp. There was always one last cast, and then another… It got to the point where I used to throw the bait into the water to stop him fishing. He never understood the danger of the hippos intercepting us at dusk! Nor was he concerned about crocodiles lurking in the pools where he waded to catch bream – his favourite Zambezi quarry.

I remember one evening in Ireland where I was feeling a bit under the weather with severe flu and needed to get back to our B&B to rest, but David refused to get out of the river. He eventually took pity on my condition and drove me back to the B&B – and immediately returned to the river to fish on his own in the dark until 2am! I lay in my bed unable to sleep, thinking what I was going to tell Sue if he got lost!

Of course, politics was always an essential part of our fishing time together. Whether it was David trying to get me to toe his line (so to speak!), or providing me with his analysis of the past, present and future of Zimbabwe and South Africa. I must admit, he was almost always right. My favourite quote of his is “South Africa is like Zimbabwe – instant replay but fast forward!”.

He was always wanting to know what was happening politically, socially and medically where ever we fished – no matter how remote the location. He spent time in discussion with the camp guards, workers, guides and ghillies that we fished with. He was particularly attached to our constant companions at Mana Pools: Gift and Orchid who were game guards there. They visited us every night for a beer and tots of whisky and an occasional meal. We fished with them on their off days – always leaving a rod or two, hooks and things on our departure.

I will miss fishing with David – and having him as my friend. He would understand why I am not here in person today, because I am fly fishing on the Orange River – with him in in my thoughts.

A tribute from Max Kroon

Dear Sue, Lisa, Ben and Oscar

I am so sorry for your loss.

It’s been more than 2 weeks since I heard and I still cannot belief that David is gone. His voice was so strong and upbeat when he phoned on the morning of his departure to the UK to check that my fishing cottage had not burnt down and to proudly inform me he was going to buy himself a “fishing Zimmer frame” at Hardy’s in London.

On a recent fishing trip, David confessed to 2 addictions: Fishing and Work but I know his family was closest to his heart. David and I fished together more than we worked together and he pushed me beyond my comfort zone in both.

He made me go as far upstream in considering the determinants of neonatal health and paediatric HIV as he did with fishing: dragging me into the 2006 Burden Of Childhood Illness project, convening a Child Health Policy course and to the remote Mana Pools on the banks of the Zambezi surrounded by crocodiles, hippos and elephants (a place where he had learnt to fish) or fishing late into the early hours on the Kromme estuary because the tide was right. He was even prepared to get up ridiculously early, in the cold, to head out on the river after his usual double caffeine hit of freshly ground Kenyan coffee and Jasmine tea.

David was not a fishing snob being equally at home fishing with earthworms for Bream on the Zambezi as with prawns for Grunter in the Eastern Cape or with a dry fly for trout on the mountain streams of the Western Cape or on the rivers of the UK, Argentina, Norway and New Zealand. He was excellent and entertaining company being as comfortable with my wacky family as with my children who took a great shine to the old man “with the purple nose”. David’s culinary skills surprised, being able to turn even a humble Blacktail into quite the tastiest fish dish I have ever tasted!

He pushed his fishing addiction to the very limits: Happy to continue bream fishing amongst the Zambezi hippos and crocs with the sun setting and a considerable paddle back to camp, the only way to stop David fishing was to take away his bait while we still had enough light. When we were late off the streams he would say “Max, my boy, we’re going to get cold tongue for supper tonight” and, if he did not catch much, he would accuse the fish of being anti-Semitic!

Sitting now on the banks of the Kromme, struggling to find the words for this, I can see David waist deep determinedly drifting a prawn for Grunter in the pushing tide, I can hear his excited shout – “Maaax!” – floating up from the river when he caught something big. (Proud expert ”tiddlers” catcher that he was.)

David may be gone but his memory is with me now and will be into the future.
Fishing will not be the same without him. I am a better person for having met him.


A tribute from  Simon Metcalfe

I first met David Sanders in 1969. I was a first year student at the University of Rhodesia, David was five years older, a senior medic student and a student leader. I969 was the year the Rhodesian Government held referendum to form a republic and entrench the position of the white minority. The university was unique in the country as being a multi-racial institution was entrenched in its charter. I remember a protest march one night from the campus to the community hall in the suburb of Mount Pleasant. David was with the student leaders, wearing a white lab. coat. While Ian Smith addressed the white folk in the hall we students flooded the foyer and sang ‘Ishe Komborera Africa’ (God Bless Africa). Ian Smith responded by singing ‘Bobbejaan klim die berg’ (Afrikaans song – ‘Baboon climb the mountain’).

I witnessed David Sanders as a social activist then and there. We were all escorted back to the university by the police, white and back, flanked by their Alsatian dogs. David may have been arrested at this time with other activists, but I can’t remember exactly.

I met up with David again in 1980, just after Zimbabwe’s independence, following a bitter bush war. David was the Oxfam Medical Director and I worked for Save the Children Fund (UK) (SCF). David was responsible for recruiting several highly motivated doctors to work as District Medical Officers, well placed to lead the roll-out of a new radical new primary health care (PHC) programme. The Alma Ata Declaration of 1978 had emerged as a major milestone in the field of public health and had identified PHC as the key to the attainment of the goal of ‘Health for All’. The Oxfam programme David led was primed from the outset to help the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe to pilot and implement the policies and projects involved at the cutting edge district level and below to the wards and villages. It was an incredible five years of PHC implementation – Village Health Workers, Immunization, Diarrhoea Disease Control, Nutrition, Water and Sanitation etc.. David was very interested in the Under Fives’ Well Baby Clinic and Road to Health cards, analysing nutritional ‘wasting’ and ‘stunting’.

From this nutritional analysis a programme evolved – The Child Supplementary Feeding Programme (CSFP). The CSFP was designed, planned and driven by David Sanders. All interested NGOs, international and national, coordinated with the MOH’s Department of Nutrition, chaired by David. The scope reached out across some 55 communal districts in the entire country. Some agencies, including mine, advocated we used a nutritional drink called ‘mahewu’, which was commonly used in the pre-school children’s play groups. Mahewu was a locally manufactured sorghum based powder. You could buy bags of it, transport it anywhere, and just add water – ‘done and dusted’.

David tore down that approach saying it was a quick fix that fuelled commercial food producers, with no sustainability and no inherent and redeeming health awareness raising aspect. Instead he pushed for and forced through a massive, complex and detailed programme. Mothers and children around the country would come together and be taught to mix peanut butter, cooking oil, mealie meal, and beans together. They would benefit immediately from the protein and energy and would learn the value of so doing. In addition all the mothers’ group would be encouraged and helped to set up gardens, near water sources, where they would grow groundnuts and beans.

No more details, just a salute to a Herculean effort to do the right thing for the nutrition of all the young children in an entire country.

Another potent story from the days when David Sanders was the Oxfam Medical Director, as well as university teacher and a MOH advisor, concerned the genocide in Matabeleland and the Midlands of Zimbabwe. Oxfam had several DMOs in these area. When news started filtering in of the intimidation, beatings and killings occurring around 1983, some Oxfam doctors were front line witnesses. David’s ears were burning and he tracked down all the information he could glean, including from the provincial surgeons – the facts and the photos.

I attended a meeting of the national and international NGOs to receive the feedback from David and others like the Catholic agency for Justice and Peace. The outcome was that the local NGOs, being vulnerable, asked a group of international NGOs to make representations to the Zimbabwe Government. I may not remember them all but they definitely included Oxfam (UK), SCF (UK), Novib (Netherlands), and American Friends (USA Quaker). I was then the SCF Field Director and with the NGO reps, under OXFAM leadership, attended a meeting with the Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, and his security ministers. David didn’t attend as the Oxfam Field Director, Michael Behr, led our group. But, the knowledge and the investigation was strongly driven by David, as well as the follow up.

We sought reassurance from Mugabe that what we were witnessing and hearing of was either not true, not by his authority, or would stop immediately. Mugabe asked what evidence we had. Actually, we had evidence but, tactically, we said we had not come to accuse the government with evidence on hand; we had come for an assurance that the beating and killings would stop. At that point Prime Minister Mugabe went into patronizing mode and gave us a long lecture on how the political party, or faction, ZAPU, had renegades who were threatening then new democracy and had to be stopped. I won’t say more for as many of you will know the history of the Gukurahundi massacres.

Over the years my wife, Debbie, and I met David and Sue Sanders socially, sharing many mutual friends from both Zimbabwe and South Africa. At a recent social lunch, the Gukurahundi story came up, which David had been following ever since. He told me he wanted to write up and publish all the knowledge he had on it. He had tracked that the expiry of the British Act on ‘official secrets’ had revealed the complicity of the UK and the western governments to the genocide. David was not a man to let social injustice be forgotten!

I remember partying with David and Sue at the millennium New Year. The party was at my place so I was DJ ‘numero uno’. I vividly recall being approached by David saying “you can’t dance to this … just play some rock-n-roll – Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones, sixties and early seventies music”. Once he got his way he hit the dance floor with gusto jiving away with Sue or any person who could rock and roll as well as he could!! I also enjoyed days at Newlands watching cricket with David.

David was a great joke teller, many of them emanating, to my mind, from his ethnic Jewish roots – quite sardonic: A) would you like to have a long marriage, or B)……..B,B,B, Be! I laughed but not as much as he laughed. Sue laughed too. I wasn’t sure if she was laughing at the joke, or just happy to see David laugh.

These are some of my memories David.

My sincere condolences to Sue who has witnessed it all, and to his children Ben, Lisa, and Oscar. I hope they treasure the good memories of David for ever.

A tribute from Dr Raman Gokal, Emeritus Professor of Medicine

UCRN and UCR Medical School- My recollections 1963-67

A tribute from Nancy Krieger

When I was newly entering the field of public health in the mid-1980s, I was greatly influenced by David’s book “The Struggle for Health: Medicine and the Politics of Underdevelopment” (London: MacMillian, 1985) – and the dedication (which I am reminding myself of now, as I hold his book in my hands) says much about his lifelong commitment to health justice: “This book is dedicated to the children of the poor in Zimbabwe and their mothers who made me learn something about the struggle for health.” Ever since, I looked to and learned from his ceaseless work & his critical contributions at meetings […]

A tribute from Tim Evans

What a tragic loss! David has been an indefatigable advocate of justice and equity in health forever — his legacy serves as an inspiration for us all everywhere. May he Rest In Peace.

A tribute from Dr. Samuel Oti

Really sad news about David’s passing. He was a titan in the public health field and an inspiration to generations of researchers, students and colleagues. It has been an honor working with David and experiencing his vast knowledge, unexpected humor, and great insights about virtually everything from research methodology to wine tasting. He will truly be missed. My condolences to his family and the wider UWC community. May his soul rest in peace and may his legacy live on.

A tribute from Claes-Goran

Dear Thandi,

I am indeed very sad after getting to know that David suddenly passed away. I only met him a few times, but immediately found him as a very kind person being extremely initiated in several scientific fields related to our SMART2D project. I greatly enjoyed our discussions, regardless if we talked about diets in general, or more specifically about Stellenbosch wines during the visit with dinner he arranged for us in this area.

My thoughts also go to his wife, although I never had the opportunity to meet her.

Best regards,


A tribute from Brian Oldenburg

Dear Thandi and Public Health Colleagues in SA,

I’ve just head that David has “passed away”; this is so sad and I can imagine that you and many others are feeling so much pain and grief at the moment with the passing of one of the world’s truly great public health heroes and a wonderful man. I just wanted to say HELLO and to let you know that myself and many others around the world will be thinking of the public health community of South Africa at this time and your/our world’s great loss.

Best wishes and thoughts from “Down Under” Australia,


A tribute from Judith Head

It is hard to imagine that Dave is no longer around. A few weeks ago when I saw him last he was relaxed, enjoying having more time with Sue, enjoying his fishing but still full of energy and as driven as ever to make a difference. Like Rudolph Virchow, for Dave public health was politics and he lived and breathed politics and the politics of public health. Dave was one of the generation of liberation support activists working in London, where I first met him, in the late 1960s and through the 1970s until he returned home to independent Zimbabwe in 1980. I got to know him when he and Sue and the children moved to Cape Town and our families grew close. The Struggle for Health opened a whole new world for me. It revealed the class dimensions and health consequences of poverty and inequality. I started to attend Winter and Summer Schools and then applied to do the Masters in Public Health. It was a wonderful experience and informed my own practice as an academic. David was always generous with his time and would make space in an incredibly busy schedule to give a talk to first years or lead a seminar with Masters students. He was a brilliant teacher and loved teaching. His lectures were awe-inspiring. He managed to explain complex and challenging ideas in accessible and amusing ways and his millions of slides, which were legendary, were always riveting. As I think about him and see the outpouring of respect and affection for him I am reminded that the down-to-earth, modest and unpretentious Dave that I knew was a great man. It is very sad to try to imagine a world without him; his friendship, his jokes, his comradeship and commitment, his inspirational leadership and his absolutely unwavering struggle for social justice and socialism. I shall even miss having to change seats several times in the cinema to avoid the pop-corn eaters when he came to watch a film with Sue and I.

A tribute from Sandy Lazarus

I am so very sad at our loss of David. I would like to pay tribute to David – particularly as a longterm UWC colleague and his role as a leading public health activist.
I have many memories of working closely with David, in and through various academic activities. I have also followed his numerous contributions to public health debates and practice.
I have always been struck by his longterm commitment to the health of and for all and, in particular, his courageous fight for equity and social justice. His persistent contribution to a critical public health perspective has played a central

A tribute from Wanga Zembe, South African Medical Research Council

I met David through Tanya Doherty in 2005 when I was an intern at HST. Since that initial meeting he played a huge role in my career development. He was instrumental in my decision to study in Oxford in 2008, he encouraged me to consider studying there because of a group of researchers that he knew in one of the departments who were working in my field. He proceeded to link me up with those researchers and wrote a glowing reference for my application. And that’s what really characterized his mentorship of me: always letting me know of any opportunities that related to my area of interest whether that was project funding or a key person in the field that he thought would be helpful in my career development or co-presenting with him and co-authoring writing projects. He was always available to give input on anything I was doing, he was always encouraging and supportive. He had a shocking dry sense of humor, shocking because looking at him one didn’t expect him to have any funny bones in him!

He taught me about research activism. He didn’t conduct research for its own sake, to him it was a means to an end and that end was social justice and equity. He was a fiery, fearless socialist and when I told him I was a somewhat budding socialist he said “Really!? Then you must join the People’s Health Movement!”. And I did. I read his seminal book The Struggle for Health. He taught me that politics is in everything: health is political, poverty is political, policy making is political. I miss him dearly and I will remember his booming voice “Wanga!” whenever we would meet. He was humble; able to rub shoulders with high level scientists, academics and policy makers as well as ordinary people, community workers and community members.

What a loss for the field, for his family, for all of us. I aim to honor his input in my life by committing to research activism, by never forgetting “the causes of the causes”, and by following his mentoring model when supporting young researchers within my sphere of influence. I hope to be as fearless as he was in confronting injustice.

A tribute from Vundli

As Isaac Newton once mentioned, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” I have seen further because of Prof. Sanders and will forever be grateful for the light he shed in my career. May he rest in peace.

A tribute from Dr. Akbar Yusuf Badat

Deeply saddened to hear the loss of our distinguished Prof David Sanders. My condolences to the wife and children.
It was such a great honour for me to have known such a great person: an Academic-par-excellence. As my MPH thesis supervisor, was always available to guide despite local/national/international commitments.
May his soul rest in eternal peace

A tribute from Ken Dzama

David, we are shocked and at a loss of words on your sudden departure. You have touched many lives in Southern Africa and beyond. We will miss you.

A tribute from Stephen Bezruchka

I was profoundly influenced by the statement below in the preface to The Struggle for Health “Some readers might object to the use of the world ‘underdeveloped’ to describe the countries of the ‘Third World’. This book takes the same approach as John Berger:
‘The term “underdeveloped” has caused diplomatic embarassment. The word “developing” has been substituted. “Developing” as distinct from “developed.” The only serious contribution to this semantic discussion has been made by Cubans, who have pointed out that there should be a transitive verb: to underdevelop. […]

A tribute from Terri Barnes

Although South Africans have justifiably taken David Sanders to their hearts, I think it’s important to remember that he was a Zimbabwean. His fierce dedication to always seeing and working with the political aspects of health care and policy, was honed in and with his connection to liberation in Zimbabwe. That was the basis of a truly global vision for his work. I don’t think a historian ever did a proper interview with David about his political history but it was deep and substantial and I am so sad that many of his stories and perspectives will now not be shared. […]

A tribute from Mario dal Poz, Rio de Janeiro State University, Brazil

Dear Uta,
I just learned about David’s death. This is a moment of great sadness for global public health, but more importantly , to the SOPH community.  I feel very sad.
Please, send my  condolences to his family and friends.
Best regards

A tribute from Hugo Mercer, Universidad Nacional de San Martin

Dear Uta and colleagues

I share the feelings of loosing David, he was one of the most distinguished scholars in the field of Public Health at global level. At the same time a honest and compromised intellectual.

He will rest in peace after a very productive live.

A tribute from Sue Godt, formerly International Research and Development Centre, Canada Sharmila told me the news about David Sanders. Am so sorry to hear. It is the passing of an era and a person whose commitment and vision inspired many. His legacy is so great. Please pass on my condolences to his wife, family, friends and colleagues. Thinking of you. Sue

A tribute from Steven Knight, University of Kwazulu-Natal

“So sorry to hear this sad news. We interacted with him lots at Limerick (The Network Towards Unity for Health 2018 conference) last year. I hope he will be acknowledged at the conference this year. I think he was on the executive committee at some point.  I will make sure that the organisers know. He was a great guy.” The network annual conference happens next week in Australia.

A tribute from Professor Sylvia Tilford

To Professor Uta Lehman and all at the School of Public Health

Like so very many others I was so shocked to  hear about David’s sudden death and   the  very sad loss for his colleagues, family, friends and the global health community.  Please can I extend my most sincere condolences to all of you at SOPH and to David’s family. David’s ‘Struggle for Health’ was a key influence on me when I first entered  Health Promotion, many years before I met him at UWC.  He was someone who, for me,  held  the right values  said the right things  but, of great importance,  was also actively  engaged in  making  things better.  Few of us can leave such a legacy behind.  I mainly met David as part of the UWC link with Leeds Metropolitan University. Although I wouldn’t claim to have got to know David  very well during that time  I  have many good memories  of him.  He always gave me things to think about  and  was kind and considerate to me as a visitor.   Personally, and I speak also on behalf of colleagues at Leeds Met, I felt privileged to be able to work, even for a short period of time in SOPH.  He was someone I expected to see  involved in the things he cared about for a long time yet.   I hope he understood how much he was respected and was an inspiration for others.   It seems fitting that he died doing something  that I remember him enjoying so much .  I am with you in spirit at this time.

Yours very sincerely

A tribute from yogan pillay @ygpillay

A true internationalist and champion of primary health care. See his publication warning about  Medicalization and commercialization of health under UHC in August issue of the Lancet

A tribute from Delanyo Dovlo

A wonderful man and dear friend! We flew together from a Kampala mtg in July! Never thought it would be the last I’d see him. Rest In Peace Guru.

A tribute from Robert Marten @MartenRobert

David @PHMglobal was the epitome of a stalwart; he was also warm, approachable and fun. He challenged and inspired and will be dearly missed at many #globalhealth meetings and beyond.

A tribute from Stefan Peterson @stefanswartpet

Thx David for keeping us sober and focused over the years!

A tribute from Martin McKee @martinmckee

This is awful. I’m so sorry. We first worked together over 21 years ago on a study in his native Zimbabwe and I’ve valued his commitment, insights, and humanity ever since. A real public health hero.

A tribute from Dr Flavia Senkubuge @flavia04

RIP my dear friend David, you were the tree under whose shade we rested.

A tribute from Don de Savigny @Don_de_Savigny

Oh no. What a loss. He has been such an inspiration to so many of us.

A tribute from Remco van de Pas @Rvandepas

David, you have been an inspiration and will be dearly missed. My path would have been different if i wouldn’t have met you and all other inspiring PHM folks. Your dedication to social justice, solidarity, your passion and your perseverance have touched many! La lucha continua

A tribute from Kesete Admasu @KeseteA

Oh dear! The world has lost a brilliant mind and champion of primary health care. Great man! RIP Prof David Sanders.

A tribute from Godelieve VanHeteren @GoVanHeteren

Very sad news. David was always there and stood firm for people and health for all. May he rest in peace.

A tribute from SarojiniSama @SamaSarojini

For many of us he was a mentor, an outstanding teacher, friend and a tall intellectual.His demise is without doubt an irreparable loss not just for PHM, but to the entire global health movement.

Adios, comrade David!

A tribute from Rakhal Gaitonde @rakhalgaitonde

What a great loss…. What a great life… Inspiration… Conscience keeper…. Friend… Will miss your powerful voice and mischeivous smile…. Rest in power David… Hasta Siempre!!

Dear comrades in South Africa even as I struggle to make sense of this loss… My thoughts and solidarity with all of you at this time of grief.

A tribute from Mia Malan@miamalan, Editor-in-chief: @bhekisisa_MG

I loved David Saunders’s humanity.  This is such a sad loss. RIP.

A tribute from Barbara Stilwell @bathebrit, Executive Director, Nursing Now Global Campaign

Vary sad to read this news. David Saunders was a colleague for more than 20 years. Respect Dr Saunders. You fought the good fight.

A tribute from Kent Buse @kentbuse

Let us all redouble our efforts to pursue social justice & health for all to honour David’s commitment to the structural transformation he called for: just last week he pushed us to go further on a rights-based approach to healthy diets.

A tribute from Renier Coetzee @reniercoetzee

Condolences to family, friends and colleagues of Prof David Saunders. He will be dearly missed at the School of Public Health UWC and globally in the field of public health. May he rest in peace.

A tribute from Oliver Johnson @ossjohnson

So sad to hear about the death of David Sanders, a fierce and principled advocate for social justice in global health, who has always been who an inspiration and role model for me.

A tribute from Benjamin Tsofa @TsofaB

This is really sad news to the Global/Public Health fraternity. RIP David!

A tribute from René Sparks @rene_sparks

What a great loss 💔

A tribute from Noma Rangana @Gcaleka

So long David Sanders! A fighter for social justice and access to quality health care for all, an academic and an advocate for change. Rest in peace!

A tribute from Sridhar Venkatapuram @sridhartweet

The passing of an inspiring and productive colleague in #globalhealth. An fierce advocate for people centred #globalhealth and equity in the process and outcomes.  I wish those who seek to carry on his work and vision much luck and courage.

A tribute from Bruno Meessen @bmeessen

A very sad news. David was somekind of a political and moral pillar for the whole global health community. We will all miss him a lot. All my affection to his many friends and @SOPHUWC Colleagues.

A tribute from Maylene Shung King @MayleneSK

David seamlessly and effortlessly combined activism, tirelessly so, and academia, eloquently so. A rare combination in a unique and extraordinary man. We shall miss your insights and wisdom very much David!!

A tribute from Damaris O Kiewiets @KLONGKIE

So true, I am the Health activist that I am because of him. My mentor in Public Health for many years. His last contribution in my life was his encouragement to show case my work in New Delhi in October. Rest well Prof

A tribute from Dr Shakira Choonara @ChoonaraShakira

Hearing Prof Sanders #revolutionary presentation @ev4gh to how he chaired my meetings recently (hilarious) & how he promoted always as a young expert, this is heartbreaking but indeed a contribution like no other to our field.

A tribute from Nasreen Jessani @NasreenJessani

Stunned and saddened. Rest in peace Prof. Sanders!

A tribute from Miriam Mitchell @MMitchellNZ

Such a sad loss of @DavidSandersSA. Grateful to be influenced by his humble leadership and advocacy in #PHC.  Condolences to his family and the @SOPHUWC community.

A tribute from Sara Causevic @SaraCausev

I was so fortunate to get a chance to meet him last summer at @SOPHUWC. What a great and kind man. Truly a big loss for #globalhealth community.

A tribute from Su-Ming Khoo @sumingkhoo

Thank you for this tribute. May David’s legacy stay with us when we ‘always “Question the Solution” in the search for equity and social justice’.

A tribute from daktre @prashanthns

Will miss you David Sanders; will cherish your wisdom, your compassion and continue to be inspired by your commitment to #HealthForAll; your words and deeds live on…

A tribute from zohair maazi زهير ماعزي @zohairmaazi

A public health hero passed away in south Africa. We will remember you dr David Sanders.

A tribute from Carina Vance Mafla @CarinaVanceEC

You will be greatly missed dear David Sanders. The struggle to achieve the right to health for all has lost one of its most talented, knowledgeable, and passionate leaders. Rest in peace. We will follow your lead.

A tribute from Jesse Bump @JesseBump

Very sad news: Legendary advocate for primary health care David Sanders of @PHMglobal and @UWConline has died. He will be missed, but many of us will continue his work and sustain the fight.

A tribute from Kumanan Rasanathan @rasanathan

David Sanders was a keeper of the PHC flame, and one of the most inspiring people in public health. He was my mentor, as to a whole generation of public health workers. What a tragic loss for his family, for @PHMglobal, and for all of us. #HealthForAll NOW – in his memory.

A tribute from Nontokozo Mponda @urbanruralistZA

In the few moments I shared with Prof Sanders he made me realize that change will not come if we wait for it. We must bring the change and people will follow. #RestEasyProf

A tribute from Jess Rohmann @JLRohmann

One of the first movements that drew me to public health… David Sanders will be greatly missed!

A tribute from Kindeya G.hiwot, Prof @DrKindeya

RIP Prof David Sanders!

A tribute from Dr Flavia Bustreo @FlaviaBustreo

Thanks David Sanders @PMHglobal for your powerful voice and relentless struggle to ensure #health is a #right for every one. RIP

A tribute from Majdi Ashour @Majdiashour

Very sad news about the passing away of  David Sanders! The  South African  advocate for  the right to health and the Jewish comrade who eternally supported the  Palestinian strugle for peace and justice. You will be missed. Rest in peace, David!

A tribute from Jennie Popay @Popay100

The sudden death in London yesterday of South African doctor, academic & health campaigner David Sanders will sadden all who knew him. In these dark times with social and health inequities growing the loss of his commitment to global health justice opens up an enormous chasm.

A tribute from Vivi MartinezBianchi @vivimbmd

David Sander, leader of public health movement, dies at 74. Sad to hear of his death. It was an honor to have met him at @who always working for #UHC.

A tribute from Godfrey Philimon @Sentipensares

We have lost our Founding Father, all time Mentor and friend and just so hard to believe that his larger than life presence is no more. Everyone is feeling the same sense of loss. Its just too soon after Amit 😔.

A tribute from Nonhlanhla Nxumalo @Nonhlnx

We have been inspired by your passion & authenticity. Hamba kahle David. Rest in peace.

A tribute from Hannah Brinsden @hannahbrins

This is very sad news and a loss to global health. His passion will live on through all the people he inspired over the years. RIP x

A tribute from Taufique Joarder @taufiquejoarder

Rest in peace my public health icon.

A tribute from Equitableaccess @russ421

Glad you got in some fishing . Will miss you !!!!  You ran a good race and your legacy will continue.

A tribute from Nana Yaa Boadu @nanayaa_boadu

Sad to hear this! Definitely a hero in the eyes of many established and emerging public health, health and social justice heroes!

A tribute from Raman VR @weareraman

Met him in 99, friended by 2004 as part of PHM peoples health assemblies. He later visited us to study Chhattisgarh’s Mitanin CHW program, got us to write about its uniqueness, and took us to UWC and SA which eventually led to my MPH there. Several memories. Sad adieu, David!!

A tribute from Elevanie NYANKESHA @ElevanieN

Your legacy stays with us David. May you rest in eternal peace

A tribute from Tara Ballav Adhikari @NepalChirp

Saddened by the sudden demise of our dear comrade Prof. Sanders.

He has been a champion of the struggle for health and an inspiration for the many young aspirants in the global health community. He will always be in our thoughts, and forever in our hearts and action.

A tribute from Rifat Atun @RifatAtun

What a great loss to us all. A great leader of global health with a passion for equity, David inspired so many of us. May he Rest In Peace

A tribute from Kenneth Munge @kenneth_munge

Very sad news

A tribute from Anuj Kapilashrami @AKapilashrami

Very sad news and a great loss for all of us. He’s been a true inspiration for all of us in the health movement.

A tribute from Derek Yach @swimdaily

Terribly sad, huge intellectual loss

A tribute from Brian Ruff @brian_brianr

A huge influencer in my life for 40 years; so sad. A terrible loss for the activist health community.

A tribute from Kelley Lee @profplum8

David recently co-authored a chapter for our forthcoming book. We’ve known each other for many years and I’ve always deeply respected his commitment to integrating excellence in research with social justice. We will miss you David.

A tribute from Bulela Vava @ruraldentistSA

What a loss to the global health movement. He was a champion for the marginalised a leader. We take up the baton and continue where you left. Ugqatso lwakho ulufezile. Rest in eternal peace


A tribute from Mbulawa Mugabe @MbulawaMugabe

Oh No… David! a veteran of public health in Southern Africa May his soul rest in eternal peace. His contribution to public health will always be remembered by some of us who had the honor to know and work with him. Such a dignified and pleasant personality.

A tribute from Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) @globalgapa

Very sad news. A big loss for the global public health community.

A tribute from Professor Clare Bambra @ProfBambra

Was privileged to meet David earlier this year, a great advocate for public health, rest in peace

A tribute from Dr Arun Gupta @Moveribfan

So sad to hear about David passing away and just recall as we met in January this year at Bangkok! Such an inspiration he had been !

A tribute from Su-Ming Khoo @sumingkhoo

Terrible news. A sad loss to his family and the @PHMglobal family. Rest in peace, David and thank you for your lifetime efforts, your gifts to advance global #healthequity

A tribute from Dr Melissa Mialon @MIALONMelissa

Very sorry to hear this. I am grateful to have kno health wn him. One of the person who truly inspired me.

A tribute from Dr Ritu Sadana @RituSadana

A great loss to all in global health – David was key in shaping the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, civil society engagement, to be meaningful, authentic and impactful.

A tribute from Mike Rowson @MikeRowson2

Such sad news. David kept the goal of comprehensive primary health care on the agenda in difficult times when narrower visions dominated. He knew that political change was what would achieve ‘health for all’ and created social movements to demand it. What a loss.

A tribute from John Gillies @JohnGillies6

His books in the 80s & 90s were very important in orientating me and many many others to the need for effective primary health care in Africa and beyond. RIP

A tribute from Maisam Najafizada @Mayysam

I have read and referenced him so many times that I feel like he was my personal friend. His latest commentary on PHC and UHC was with me in my trip with a highlighter. You will be missed, David.

A tribute from Owain Williams @whanbam1

A truly great man and intellect. So sad to hear this

A tribute from Rachel Julia Thompson @racheljuliathom

RIP David

✨ We bonded over many things including our mutual heritage  – the shtetls of Lithuania. I vow to honour your life and work through my own efforts towards equity in health and beyond  ✨

A tribute from Katherine Rouleau @RouleauK

Heartfelt Condolences to his friends and family. David brought an important and consistent voice to the global discourse on justice. He will be missed.

A tribute from Derek Yach @swimdaily

Just last week David was highlighting the value of PHC as UHC rhetoric takes off. Recall our discussions in Harare so well in the late ’80s.

A tribute from Charles Apprey

Sad to hear about the passing on of David.
He has been such an inspiration to all of us on the ROFE project and has always had a great sense of humour any time we met as a Project team. Sad he did not live to see the end of this Project. Rest in perfect Peace David.

A tribute from Anne Langdji

As a former student, I was impacted in so many ways by Professor Sanders, as so beautifully shared by colleagues, students and collaborators. The nature of the School of Public Health at UWC is that it forms students and research to be engaged in health work for the most vulnerable in the most effective ways and that is his legacy. He was welcoming and encouraging to us. He brought us together and made sure that workers and researchers and activists knew they were part of a community that could bring about transformation. My sympathy to his family, friends and colleagues.

A tribute from Tolib Mirzoev

Really sad news. These things never come in time. My sincere condolences to your family David. Your colleagues, friends and the wider academic and policy community will miss you greatly. May your soul rest in peace.

A tribute from David Werner

David Sanders, pioneer of Health for All – as remembered by David Werner

When David Sanders died suddenly of a heart attack on August 30, 2019, it was a great loss. But his many friends and colleagues around the world can take heart that his passing did not leave a vacuum. To the contrary, David left a legion of fellow travelers around the world who, thanks to him, are today more strongly committed, better prepared, and have a greater sense of solidarity to continue the uphill struggle for health. After his passing, the huge outpouring of appreciation for his exemplary contribution worldwide.

A tribute from Craig Nyathi

Prof Sanders really altered my view of what was required to improve the health of my people. His passion for nutrition i will never forget. His ability to factually dispel myths surrounding public health was second to none. There won’t ever be one like him. Go well David. I am grateful for everything I learnt from you!

A tribute from Mirna Lawrence


It was with shock and grief that I learnt of David’s untimely passing.

I had seen David the previous week, and chatted with him via WhatsApp on the Thursday, 29th August…and then, so shockingly and tragically, he was gone.

To me, David was a beloved ‘cuzzie’; the extent of his influence in the world of social health, unknown to me. His achievements have only became evident to me since his passing, in reading the luminous praise heaped upon him by his colleagues, students and friends, for his sterling and innovative work in health care. It is a measure of the man that in the lifetime I have known him, David was always self-effacing, humble and never self-aggrandising, to the extent that only now do I realise what a giant of a man he was, not only as a person, but in the legacy he has left South Africa, and the world. His humility camouflaged his remarkable achievements.

The David I know was always gentle, kind, generous with his time, family orientated, and open hearted. That is how I shall remember him always. It is a privilege to have known David as a person, and humbling now to realise that additionally, he was also a giant among men. A Great Tree has fallen.

We shall remember David always, with deep affection, respect and gratitude that he enriched our lives in that gentle way of his.

All our love and comfort to Sue, Lisa, Ben and Oscar.

Mirna, Ayanda and family

A tribute from Desderius Haufiku

David was academic giant, he shaped many of us. May his soul rest in peace.

A tribute from Ravi Ram @ravimram

David’s passing is a huge blow to all of us. So good to see good memories of David with each of us being shared today.  His spirit and passion live on through the movement that he was so instrumental in founding.

A tribute from Unni Karunakara @UnniKarunakara

A terrible loss for the health community. First Amit, now David. annus horribilis.

A tribute from Tracey Perez Koehlmoos @DrTraceyK

I am greatly saddened to read this. A loss for global public health. An example to us all.

A tribute from Ptinnemann @ptinnemann

RIP David. Every thought exchanged with you was an inspiration!

A tribute from Andrew Harmer @andrew_harmer

Oh, this is such sad news. I’ll miss those devastating questions from the floor, delivered with that disarming, critical drawl of yours. A laser mind that cut through all the crap! Rest in peace, David.

A tribute from Iftikhar @dociftee

What a inspiring person he was, great contributor in Global Health Care.

A tribute from Chepng’etich B @cheptich

David Sanders taught us at the Charite Universitätsmedizin Berlin. He taught us to always question everything. Words many of us still work by. A great loss.

A tribute from Rima Afifi @rima_justice

What a huge loss. David was so committed to issues of justice. May he rest in eternal peace.  Condolences to his family, the PHM family, and the public health community around the world.

A tribute from Marielle Bemelmans @marielle_wemos

What a sad loss of such an inspirational leader in global health. He will be greatly missed!

A tribute from Mao Torres T @MaoT99

It is very sad when loss us a comrades, more when are special comrades as David. David leaves us as legacy his intelligence, compromise and happiness for the struggles to right to health for the people.

Adiós querido compañero David.

A tribute from MoonL @MaroubraSky

It’ so sad to hear this news on #DavidSanders

We won’t forget his great contribution to health of people in the world.  May he rest in peace.

From Tokyo.

A tribute from TJ Theepakorn @Jithitikulchai

My deepest condolences for the sudden loss of the remaining family members and friends. We will carry on the struggling humanity mission to promote equitable health quality for the most miserable people. Peace be with you.

A tribute from Ravi Ram @ravimram

May his soul be granted a well earned rest, and may we all continue the mission that he inspired us with.

A tribute from Mmusetsi Mokwatsi @mmuso_12

May his soul rest in eternal peace. A champion for NHI implementation. A resource person for the country. I have just read his article published in HST. A giant has fallen.

A tribute from Elvis Kama @elvis_kama

A great loss to the global health community. Very sad 😔. I hope his family find the strength to cope with such a massive loss.

A tribute from Kerry Cullinan @kerrycullinan11

Hamba kahle, David Sanders. Thanks for your big heart, generosity with knowledge and time and passion for improving the health of all – and relentless campaigning against all the world’s exploiters!

A tribute from Apprey Charles @DrCharlesApprey

Sad to hear about the demise of David Sanders!, The ROFE Ghana team will miss you. Rest in Peace David

A tribute from Ranasaleh91 @Ranasaleh91

What a loss to the global health community! My condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues! RIP

A tribute from Opio Geoffrey Atim @geoffopio

Sad 😔, he inspires many, and may his spirit continue to propel advocates on  to struggle for health and social justice. MHSRIP

A tribute from David Oginga @DOginga

Sanders has fought a good fight, he has finished the race. May his soul rest in peace.

A tribute from Austin Liu @austinlsliu

Very saddened to hear this. David’s dedication to public health and social justice has been very inspirational. May he rest in peace.

A tribute from Patrizia @pat_fracassi

Very sorry to hear this sad news and privileged to have met him in person and being inspired by his passion for justice

A tribute from Boyd Swinburn @BoydSwinburn

This is sad news. What a champion over so many decades in a continent with so many needs

A tribute from Joshua Munywoki @joshuamuithya

May we keep it alive, that which he stood for during his life

A tribute from Amanda Banda @Anamajengo

What a  sad and sudden loss to the public health and social justice movement! Thank you for your contribution!

A tribute from Michael Ssemakula C @ClainsKM1

I remember his last engagement with us in Uganda last month during #PHM_Uganda meeting, inspired me to stand boldly and firm for what is right even in the face of compromise.

Surely we have lost an irreplaceable academic & global health activist guru. May his soul rest in power.

A tribute from Ellen ‘t Hoen @ellenthoen

This is such sad news. He was an inspiration to all of us in the health movement.

A tribute from Klim McPherson @KlimMcPherson

A truly lovely guy who I have admired for decades.  What a loss.

A tribute from Shuaib manjra @ShuaibManjra

RIP David. You’ve inspired an entire generation of healthcare workers and others in a quest for accessible and affordable healthcare for all.

A tribute from Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy @gailtomblin

My prayers are with David’s family and the School of Public Health and all who have had the privilege to know and to learn from David.

A tribute from Blanche Pitt

Very sad news indeed. I learnt so much from David while teaching at the SOPH during the infant years of what evolved into a remarkable program. Sincere condolences to Sue and family.

A tribute from Mboneni Tshuma

My condolences to the family, friends and UWC. He will be always remembered for his sterling work in trying to find possible solutions to Public Health challenges in whole of Africa. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

A tribute from Kate Tulenko

A tribute from He is a great man who has left an incredible legacy. May his memory be a blessing!

A tribute from Oumiki Khumisi

Sad indeed. He ran the race! Condolence to the family and MHSRIEP!

A tribute from Virginia Azevedo

Very sad to hear of his passing! A very special person that still had so much to share with all of us…

Condolences to his family

A tribute from Ramone Keenan Comalie

Condolences to the family, he will forever be remembered for the legacy left behind in Public Health

A tribute from Dessy Hishakenua Haufiku

Prof Sanders, go well you left your legacy, you shaped minds, you contributed to humanity and health. My his soul rest in peace.

A tribute from Stef Slembrouck

Very sorry to hear this sad news. My condolences to family, friends and colleagues. David was an academic giant and played a very important role in the establishment of the SoPH – and the DBBS-project.

A tribute from Cornelia Fester

Such a shock! Spoke about him on Friday! Heartfelt condolences to the family and the SOPH.

A tribute from Khushie Sambesiwe Nxusani

My condolences to his family and the Public health community. He will forever be missed🙏🏽

A tribute from Omosh Miruka

So sad. Fare thee well Prof. Sanders. You had a great impact on child health and imparted knowledge on many. I am a beneficiary.

A tribute from Tania Chandler-Oppel

O how sad. Condolences to the family

A tribute from Heidi Sauls

This is such sad news! Wishing his family all the strength and comfort during this time.

A tribute from Weliswa Binza

So sad to hear these news,rest in eternal peace Prof. We will keep the family in prayer during this difficult time.

A tribute from Zimkhitha Stuurman

A Great man indeed. May His soul Rest in Peace. I’ve learned alot from Him

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A tribute from Tajiri Khatiti Pupuma

Shocking news. As the public health community we are indebted to this gentleman who was indeed selfless and hardworking. May his soul rest in peace.

A tribute from Umesh Bawa

Strength to the family and his colleagues during this time of grief.

A tribute from Omondi Oketch

Heartfelt condolences to the family and the entire UWC fraternity. May his soul rest in eternal peace

A tribute from Moselinyane Letsie

So sad a giant tree has fallen, MHSRIP

A tribute from Lisa Wegner

So very sad. My condolences to his family. May his soul Rest In Peace

A tribute from Tian Johnson

What a tragic loss. Rest in power Comrade! ✊🏿

A tribute from Russel Piquer

Sincere condolences to Prof. Saunders’ family and the UWC SOPH fraternity.

A tribute from Farai Kevin Munyayi

This is sooo sad! Rest In Peace Prof. 😢

A tribute from Laureen Bertin

This is the greatest loss. It has been a huge privilege for me to be in meetings with Dr Sanders – a giant intellect, a man of the greatest compassion and principle. Condolences to all who knew and loved him.

A tribute from David Oginga James Sanders.

You will remain in our hearts for forever. May your soul rest in peace.

A tribute from Walla Bin Walla

Condolences to his family and UWC SOPH friends and family. He ran a good race improving health systems and social sciences.

A tribute from Itai Josh Rusike

Rest in POWER. The Gentle Giant!!!

A tribute from Beverley Sebastian

So sorry to hear this. Condolences to David’s family

A tribute from Nonkqubela Mabece

Oh no this is sad and shocking news indeed. What a loss to the nutrition fraternity not only in South Africa but in Africa and the world at large. He lived, breathed and walked and advocated for improved nutrition interventions for infants and childre…

A tribute from Lionel Green-Thompson

I am deeply saddened at this news. Just the other day I had the privilege of engaging him in the proposals for a new HRH plan. Lala ngoxolo, qhawe.

A tribute from Kelvin Vollenhoven

Condolences. Big loss for public health movement of South Africa.

A tribute from Stephen Mupeta

Ooh! What a tragic loss of this galant son of Aftica!! Yes, a galant son of Africa! He will be missed dearly by millions of us that he inspired. MHSRIEP

A tribute from Charlyn Langenhoven

Goliath Thinking of his family and colleagues in this difficult time.

A tribute from Azubuike Nwako

May his soul RIP. He convinced me to do MPH in UWC when we met in one of the AU technical meetings on nutrition

A tribute from Thuli Hlophe

Your work will live on Sir. Thank you for the contributions made in the Public Health sphere in Africa and beyond. ❤

A tribute from King Kayalendlovu Gacula

Sad news indeed. He will forever be remembered as a Public Health champion.

A tribute from Thembi Zungu

Sad day indeed for the public health fraternity and UWC as a teaching institution. Rest in Power Prof

A tribute from Chantell Witten

The Father of Public Health Nutrition😪 has left a void in many heart. Lala kahle Prof Sanders. May our Heavenly Father comfort your family during this time of morning.🙏🏽

A tribute from Baheya Najaar

What an icon. Will always be remembered

A tribute from Odhiambo Mak’Otieno

Quite a man who shaped my public health thought processes

A tribute from Patrick van Dessel

A baobab has fallen

A tribute from Oluyinka Adejumo

Sad to hear. May his soul rest in perfect peace

A tribute from Fatima Peters

Sincere condolences to the family and friends 😔Such shocking news…

A tribute from Desalegn Tegabu Zegeye

Professor Sanders made immense contributions to Primary Health Care globally. A great loss for all of us. May you rest in Peace.

A tribute from Anikamadu Michael

The late Professor David Sanders was a force to be reckoned with. I had the chance to study under his tutelage at the Universitiet van Wes Kaap’s SOPH. He was an authority on health matters and very versatile in social affairs. He left a vacuum that will be hard to fill. I join his former students and admirers in wishing him a safe repose, while commiserating with the family over the irreparable loss.

A tribute from Shafick Hassan

I had a close working relationship with Prof David Sanders from the early 90’s with the Kellogg’s funded community partnership project. A school of public health without walls. Condolences to the family.

A tribute from Chantell Witten

Beautiful said Uta. Thank you, David. Aluta Continua!

A tribute from Olayinka Esther Ayodeji

What a beautiful and graphic tribute… made David Sanders so real …..His contributions to the health sector….His students…His community… Zimbabwe…cannot be forgotten… his documetries…write ups…slides…and his intellectual investment in the health sector will continue to be a blessing to this field of human existence……

A tribute from Lillian Nyambura Gitau

Oh so sad to learn of the loss of the legend of Public health. My condolences to the family and the UWC fraternity

A tribute from Ati Jals

Condolences to His family and the UWC fraternity

A tribute from Patience Shipalane

so sad my condolences to the family and friends.

A tribute from Laureen Bertin

A great human being.

A tribute from James Kruger

He was a Great Fearless Warrior. His memory and contributions 📝 will live on through the ages… Hamba Kahle Comrade David

A tribute from Kama Baku

He will be greatly missed.

A tribute from Anafi Mataka

Sad loss indeed

A tribute from Linda Garises

My Prof shame, such an academic bullet. It’s a big time loss… We shall never forget him, he made an impact in our lives. MHSRIP!

A tribute from Elizabeth Asiimwe @ElizabethAsiimw

Oh no-Prof. Sanders. I remember him from the World Nutrition Congress in 2016 at UWC. Very knowledgeable and friendly Prof. I can’t forget the delegates social outing at Panama Jacks lobster and sea restaurant where he pulled off his cool dance strokes. RIP Legend

A tribute from Dr. Mohammad Ali Barzegar

I was shocked to hear the sad news of demise of Dr. David Sanders. He was a believer of Health For All and a challenger for social justice.

With deep griefs and sorrow I condole his family, and colleagues in PHM, and wish his soul rest in Peace. With sympathy and solidarity.

A tribute from Reza Haque

Sorry to hear about the demise of David Sanders.

In solidarity,

A tribute from Nonkqubela Mabece

Fondly referred to as David by everyone who he touched his/ her life; he might be gone, unbelievably so but his work and teachings will remain. We all have stories to tell about how he inspired each and everyone of his students, colleagues and or professional associates. Fair Thee well Prof!!!

A tribute from Boniface Hlabano

Tragic and very sad😪
Fondly remembered for his forthrightness when it comes to social justice in the Health sector