Sophomore Died in Bedford on Saturday

Cause of Death Is Still Under Investigation

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Kabelo Zwane ’12
Courtesy Experimental Study Group
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Zwane (second from right) and family, during a visit with his MIT Educational Counselor in South Africa before he left for the U.S. in 2008.
Photo courtesy Belinda E. Schmolke

Kabelo Zwane ’12 was found dead on Saturday, Nov. 7, in a wooded area in Bedford, Mass., the MIT News Office reported yesterday afternoon. He was 21.

The cause of death is not foul play but is still under investigation, the News Office reported.

Possible causes of death could include accident or suicide.

The Bedford police detective handling the case and the Middlesex County district attorney could not be reached last evening.

Through diplomatic channels, MIT notified Zwane’s family in his home country, Swaziland, on Wednesday.

In his freshman fall and spring, Zwane took classes with MIT’s Experimental Study Group.

“He was the sweetest guy I’ve ever met … a really kind, soft spoken person,” said Holly B. Sweet, associate director of ESG and Zwane’s freshman advisor. “He was really trying hard in all his classes,” she said.

Zwane worked part time in the ESG office this summer, cleaning and fixing things up, she said. He once gave ESG a presentation about his home country, a small landlocked nation bordered by South Africa and Mozambique.

He was active in the African Students Association and the Campus Crusade for Christ.

“The association as a whole joins his family and the MIT community in mourning his death,” said African Students Association president Carolyne N. Gathinji ’11. “He will be remembered for his kindness and his good hearted personality,” she said.

“He was a strong Christian,” Gathinji said, “and was willing to help members understand Christianity better.”

“I want everyone to know how amazing an individual Kabelo was,” said Kwami Williams ’12, a fellow ESG member also advised by Sweet who was in the CCC with Zwane.

“Whenever things seemed wrong and painful, we would sit down and he would always make me laugh. … He lived a life of love,” Williams said.

Belinda E. Schmolke ’91 interviewed Zwane from Johannesburg by cell phone. After he got in, she hosted him and his family, a few days before he left for the United States.

“This is an interesting student,” she wrote in her interview report, “idealistic, enthusiastic, and once he has warmed up, he was a pleasure to talk to.”

When she talked to him, his dream was to fight poverty with better education systems: “He would go to the source of poverty which in his opinion is the self discipline of the people” by helping people make the best of what they have, she wrote.

Zwane told her that although he had applied to many schools in the U.S., MIT’s academic excellence made it stand out. “He believes that if he gets accepted, he will struggle, and that it will motivate him to deliver his absolute best,” she wrote in her interview report.

He liked volunteering at an orphanage, where he played with children and got to help guide their development, she wrote.

MIT administrators notified ESG of Zwane’s death on Thursday morning. The Tech was not notified by administrators, who referred requests for information to the News Office.

Some MIT students may have learned about the death earlier. On Tuesday at 3:27 a.m., the Facebook status of one of Zwane’s former hallmates on Fifth East at East Campus became “is upset,” and a friend replied that evening “sorry to hear about that kid.”

“Those who feel affected by the tragedy are encouraged to contact Mental Health Service for assistance at 617-253-2916,” the News Office reported. Walk-in counseling is available weekday in E23 from 2–4 p.m.

Plans for a memorial service have not yet been set.

Sweet, Zwane’s freshman advisor, said that he “wanted to dedicate his life to helping others.”

Biyeun Buczyk, Nick Bushak, John A. Hawkinson, Robert McQueen, and Natasha Plotkin contributed reporting.