Shock at Rhodes tax guru’s death


In an official statement Rhodes University expresssed deep shock and sadness about the death yesterday of Professor Matthew Lester after a short illness.

A qualified chartered accountant, Lester had worked at South African Revenue Services (SARS), BDO, Department of Accounting, Rhodes University and at the Rhodes Business School where he specialised in the fields of stewardship, governance, taxation and entrepreneurial law. In addition, he lectured throughout South Africa on taxation, national economics, stewardship, governance, and related matters.

In July 2013, Matthew was appointed by the Minister of Finance to the Davis Tax Committee investigating the structure of aspects of the South African tax system. During this assignment, he chaired the sub-committees investigating the Small and Medium Enterprises sector and estate duty.

Widely acknowledged as one of the foremost tax experts in South Africa, Lester wrote regular articles for the Rhodes Business School website (, and published various other extensive journal articles on corporate governance.  For many years, he wrote the very popular column Tax Talk in the Sunday Times.

In 2001, he received the Rhodes University Vice-Chancellors Award for distinguished teaching. In 2009, Lester received the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) Southern Region Honours Tie for his contribution to the continuing education of chartered accountants in South Africa.

Since 2009, Matthew had been developing e-learning and blended learning solutions to supplement lectures and class materials. In 2018, it was anticipated that this material would be developed to a stage where the ‘Stewardship and Governance Module’ of the Rhodes Business School’s MBA programme would become more universally accessible and understandable to all South Africans.

Director of the Rhodes Business School, Professor Own Skae, described Lester as “a larger than life character. He was an extremely dedicated teacher, kind and generous. Notwithstanding the fact that he was one of South Africa’s foremost tax experts, his gift was to explain this in the easiest of terms. Behind all of this was a man deeply committed to social justice”.

“We will miss him in many ways, but most of all his ability to make us laugh,” said Skae.

Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, expressed his condolences on behalf of the University Community to Lester’s family, colleagues, friends, graduates and students.

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