Goodbye Prof Matthew Lester – all of SA, Biznews especially, misses you already

Yesterday’s email from the director of Rhodes Business School was like an unexpected stomach punch. Owen Skae wrote that the inimitable Matthew Lester had passed away. The chartered accountant turned tax prof, lifelong Great Dane fan and Biznews columnist had passed away shortly after being admitted to hospital with a chest infection. This shouldn’t have happened. Matthew wasn’t someone you’d expect to die in his mid-50s.

He lived at the coast because he loved teaching young people about tax, Rhodes University, fishing and being away from Joburg, not necessarily in that order. In a piece for us three months ago he admitted spending December mostly sleeping off 2017’s stress. But Matthew entered the new year with his usual abundance of positive energy, quick with a joke to help unpack complex issues for the rest of us.

A member of the Davis Tax Commission, his natural optimism shone through in the passionate argument against an increase in VAT ahead of the 2018 Budget. He also regarded the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as offering a promising new dawn for his beloved South Africa. The new leader seemed to inject fresh life into Matthew’s ample frame, encouraging him to hit the keyboard with renewed vigour, flooding us with contributions.

I will desperately miss my larger-than-life friend from Kenton-on-Sea. The loyal pal who switched his popular Sunday Times tax column to Biznews as a show of support. The possessor of a brilliant mind, forthright opinions and font of creative business ideas who never learnt how to pull a punch. This St Johns old boy was a mensch. In every way possible. Rest in peace Matthew. Your nation is a heck of a lot poorer today.

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