A Tribute to Sawubona Columnist @MzansiGirl, Meruschka Govender


Meruschka Govender (aka @MzansiGirl), a columnist for Sawubona and popular travel blogger over at mzansigirl.com, sadly passed away after a battle with cancer.

We loved sharing space on our pages with this dynamic woman and her stories always resonated with us and our readers. Thank you @Mzansigirl for bringing your light and talent to publication and so many more. We will miss hearing your stories and following your travels.


Read the last 2 columns Meruschka wrote for Sawubona here:

How the Travel Bug Bit

Changing Perceptions


Across the world tributes have been pouring in to this inspirational woman, and to honour her, and to celebrate her life, we’ve rounded up some of the beautiful photos and touching tributes below…


To @Mzansigirl


From Caspar Daniël Diederik (@caspardiederik)

From Ingrid Jones (www.mikatekomedia.co.za)

RIP Meruschka Govender. The times we worked together were always a pleasure.


From Lauren Manuel Macshane (www.thetravelmanual.com)

Meruschka Govender, you will be so missed! Your passing has come as such a shock to all of us who travelled alongside you, called you friend and watched in awe as your trail blazed in the Travel blogging industry and inspired a passion for everything Africa in everyone you encountered. You are one of a kind my friend. You were one of very few South Africans who started Travel blogging 8 years when we did and we’ve been living and loving this crazy, beautiful space with you ever since. I am heartbroken at another loss of such a young, vibrant and talented soul to cancer. May your next adventure be sweet xx Here we all are together, only this past September, working and loving every minute of it 


From Dee Lou (www.thegoodholiday.com)

Want hierdie dag is heilig;
soos vir ewig
en altyd
tot in alle Liefde.



From Iga Motlyska (www.eagerjourneys.com)


From Vaughan Macshane (www.thetravelmanual.com)

Meruschka was one of the most infectious, bundles of energy you have ever met. She was always rocking a smile, ALWAYS ready to party, and held the African continent and it’s people close to her heart. I loved going on trips with her, I was privileged to travel with her through South Africa, Turkey and most recently, Mozambique (where the above photo was taken) with her. Girl you leave a huge hole in our hearts and in the South African blogging industry. Lauren and I feel like we’ve lost a comrade, one of our fellow South African travel blogger pioneers. We’re so sad that your life was taken so soon, but we’re SO GLAD that you lived the hell out of it. When I think about how you lived your life the motto “One Life, Live It” comes to mind. I feel like you had that tattooed on your heart. Thanks for your friendship and see you on the other side my friend!


From Keith Jenkins (www.thevelvetescape.com)

A wonderful soul, gone too soon. Meruschka, you brought light into our lives with your smile, humor and endless positivity. It was a privilege to have known you and traveled with you. You will be missed. Rest In Peace dear Meru. My thoughts are with your family and friends. Lots of love & hugs to all who were touched by our Mzansi Girl. ❤️❤️❤️


From Heather Mason (www.2summers.net)

Meruschka’s impact on the African travel community was — and is — too big to explain in words. Soon after I heard the news last night, I started making a list of all the adventures we’ve had over the years. The list was longer than I realized.

Read Heather’s Blog Post: For Meruschka


From Kate McCulley (www.adventurouskate.com)

She was pure joy, always with a smile on her face, and a proud advocate for all things South Africa. “One of the first things people notice about me is my laugh, it’s deep, hearty and loud AF 😂 As a teenager, I was embarrassed about it, it’s definitely not a cute giggle and often makes me cry (in the best way). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to love my laugh, it’s is one of my defining features – unique and distinctively me. Yes, I’m loud, and I love life, get over it! Life is seriously better when you’re laughing.


From Kathryn Rossiter (www.becomingyou.co.za)

Everyone who met Meruschka instantly felt her warmth. She had an infectious energy, a generosity of spirit and a wide smile for everyone she met. The tributes pouring in on social media are evidence of this. She was one-of-a-kind. A dynamic bundle of energy that shone the light for South Africa, Africa and Travel Bloggers around the world. Everyone who met Meruschka will miss her! Travel safely @Mzansigirl x


From Mariette duToit-Helmbold (www.destinate.co.za)

There are far too any memories and crazy good stories to share, but one thing is sure, you were never just passionate about travel and this country, you were fierce about it, unwavering in your mission to share its stories with the world.

Our hearts are broken. Your life is a beautiful testimony and reminder to live with arms and hearts wide open with wonder. We will never forget you Meruschka 💔

Read Mariette’s Blog Post on Traveller24: A tribute to Mzansigirl – A fierce pioneer of Africa’s Digital Travel Tribe


From Kate Els (www.indikate.net)

Meruschka, I don’t have the words right now. But I promise I’ll find them.

Read Kate’s blog post: Aweh Meru


From Dlala Nje

This week the world lost a bright light… Meruschka Govender you are gone too soon – even though you life was fuller than most could ever dream of. Meruschka was one of the first people to believe in Dlala Nje and was instrumental in getting us off the ground right from the very beginning in 2012. We have lost a true comrade… We will never forget you… Hamba kahla Sthandwa Sethu ❤️


From Linda Markovina (www.movingsushi.com)

Wonderful women and a pioneer in the travel blogging space in South Africa and beyond. Going to miss our catchups over endless bloody Mary’s for the day after the day after. One of the first in this space to take the time to chat to a newbie when I started out and not to big to invite a naive new writer to sit down as a friend and not because we needed something work wise from eachother. I’ll never forget that and always will try to do the same for another. That and dancing till god knows when at the burns when everyone else was to tired and went home, my fellow dance floor sista❤️ Always laughing and always the beacon of the party. You will be so missed dear Meru Meruschka Govender RIP you beautiful soul you.


From Ishay Govender-Ypma (www.foodandthefabulous.com)

Fly, you are free. We’ve lost a pioneer, a leader, a compassionate visionary. How will we thank Meruschka Govender for what she’s left behind? I recall the start of her solo career, her jumps, her passion for music, people. “Aweh!”, she’d exclaim. Many have succeeded because #MzansiGirl led the way. Even for those who didn’t circulate in her very inner circle, Meru has always formed an essential part of the progressive and compassionate community we share. ✊🏾 Rest in Power and sincere condolences to her friends, darling parents and family


From Jessica Elliot (www.howdareshe.org)

Meru was a true ambassador for travel, South Africa and the continent. I met her at an event in Swaziland and we immediately connected. She even had me at her house so I could stay in Jozi longer. I’m crushed. She was vivacious, joyful, generous, smart, brilliant, everything. May her passion live on and she rest in peace


From Di Brown (www.theroaminggiraffe.co.za)

Dear Meru,

Going through my photos and in every one you are laughing. It’s so hard to find the words that do justice to the impact you made.

You were the legend, the ninja, the rockstar of the travel community and yet, in an industry full of huge ego’s, you remained so humble.

You just did what you did and in your own inimitable way, had a blast doing it.
That was the public, jumping, fun loving Meru that the world saw.

Behind the scenes though, you did even more.

Serious destination marketing, raising awareness for things that mattered to you like responsible tourism, equality, community projects, animal rights, Fair Trade practices and more.

You put your name and platforms behind so many good causes for the betterment of everyone.
Your generous spirit made time for everyone, and you treated everyone with the same respect.

You never missed an opportunity to do something new and turned ordinary things into extraordinary adventures, like our visit to check out Zeitz Mocca on one of you flying visits to Cape Town, and it turned into a hilarious tongue in cheek photo shoot.

I loved my country even more as seen through your eyes, and became a Capetonian who is a diehard Jozi fan thanks to you and Heather showing me your city.

You made endless multi day road trips a laugh a minute and I never heard you complain, not even after 8 hours in a van with no stops for a smoke break.

You sure packed a lot of living into your 38 years on earth and you did it with joy and passion.

You set the bar high for travel bloggers, but if we strive to emulate you the world will be a little kinder for it.

Goodbye Meru, thanks for the memories, the laughs, lessons and the inspiration, they will stay with me forever.


From Gail Scott Wilson (www.dizzylexa.wordpress.com)

I was privileged to have known you, always smiling with such a passion for life, you sure did live it too the fullest. I’m sure you are jumping from one cloud to the next with the Angels. You will be missed by so many. My thoughts are with your family and friends.


From Bongani Mathebula

May your soul Rest In Peace.

From Shivya Nath (https://the-shooting-star.com)

Rest in peace Meru, Mzansi girl, you beautiful soul 💚 It was inspiring to know you, travel with you and share a little bit of life with you. You’ll continue to live on in all our hearts.

From Sheena Kretzmer

One of the benefits from social media is that you mostly stay informed. One of the downfalls is that you could be merrily scrolling along sipping tea and find out that someone you’ve known since your teens is no longer on this mortal plane. Oh, Meruschka. A life well lived, but still too short. I’d say RIP but you never really rested anywhere long enough with your adventurous soul, so rather, Explore in Peace. You will be so missed.💔 ❤️ Love and kindness to your loved ones.

From I Love Gauteng (facebook.com/ilovegauteng/)

Gauteng Tourism expresses its profound and deepest condolences at the news of the passing of South African travel blogger, influencer and Joburg enthusiast, Meruschka Govender popularly known as Mzansigirl. She was a great ambassador for travel who captured both the spirit and essence of the #GPLifestyle. Her passion for adventure and contribution to tourism will be sorely missed. Our heartfelt sympathies go to her family, friends and colleagues.

From Ofentse Mwase (@unclescrooch)

Can’t believe this. Mzansigirl has left us. This is such a trying time, the Travel and Photography industry took a hard knock. We will miss you dearly Merushka, the life of the party. Rest in Power

From Lilith Kiya Pasztor

When someone passes, people always talk about how amazing and special they were. Meruschka truly was. She was the first person I met in South Africa, and she hosted me for a week in Jo’burg last year (a stay which I kept on extending upon her invitation). She took me almost everywhere she went, and I learned to see and love Jo’burg through her eyes – the music, the art, the amazing creativity and friendliness of the people. Everywhere she went, she was loved. I was in awe of her charisma, her intelligence, her beauty and her easygoing, friendly confidence. It was a true privilege to know her, and it is a tragedy for the world that she’s gone. My heart goes out to the family. All my love to you, Merushka, wherever you are now.


From Jacqui Cooks (www.thejaxblog.com)

After following her blogs and on social media I will never forget the first time I met Mzansigirl at ETAS summit in JHB. Such a warm friendly soul, welcoming and encouraging. She was one of the most down to earth, supportive, caring, loving human beings as well as an incredibly talented creative and authentic person I’ve ever met. So incredibly sad to hear the news of her passing today  You will be missed my friend!   


From Ryan Enslin (www.mylimeboots.co.za)


Yip: lɛdʒ(ə)nd.

Defined as a famous or notorious person by those in the know, my heart aches at the news of the passing of my friend Meruschka Govender. Mzansi Girl.

To me she was a bit of both – famous and notorious. Famous (a bad word to use by anyone who works in the social media space that we share, because if you believe this about yourself you’ve actually lost the plot – Mush would never have classified herself as famous, yet just about everyone knew her) and notorious because she owned that space, of being honest about who she was, whether you liked it or not. Gotta love a woman with strong convictions.

And she was all woman.

We shared many conversations. Sometimes behind the wheel of a Mustang on a road trip through Lesotho, with no-one in the back seat (because there is no actual back seat) and other times in a Kuga, through the backroads of the Eastern Cape. Strangely, these situations allowed for somewhat serious levels of introspection. There’s nothing like the open road and another three hours of driving at 15h00 on a Thursday afternoon in the Free State to facilitate bearing your soul; your very humanity. To someone who may be on the same journey, this is priceless time spent with a fellow human being.

I miss those times already.

And then there was starting a session of Car-Pool Karaoke on the two-way radio system that operates (for emergencies only, we were both later to find out) between fellow road trip members. “Brown Eyed Girl” will forever be emblazoned on my memory whenever I enter the rustic artists haven of Clarens. Funny, I never sang in the car with my ex Johann, and we were together for five years, but Mush and I were instant karaoke champs from the get-go. She brought that out in me, a sense, and celebration, of self. We need more Mush’s in the world.

I certainly do.

We also discovered on the Clarens trip that one should not drive with a GoPro mounted on the bonnet of the vehicle, when your speedometer passes the 140 km/h mark. We giggled like school girls when said GoPro went flying, nerves getting the better of us both.

Meruschka was never one to shy away from an adventure. Monster Rolling down the sun kissed hills of Afri Ski during the summer months, was one such adventure. Who needs snow, ski’s and gluhwein when you have rock hard, um, rocks, a Verimark-esque scooter (beefed up in true Joburg South style with fat “tekkies”) and coffee. The result? Laughter ’till my long lost abs hurt and stories to share, well, with you, right now.

I spent some time in June last year interviewing Meruscha for my SoapBox Radio show. It really filled my heart with happiness to watch the interview again, catch it here to recall the essence of this truly remarkable young lady – http://bit.ly/2te2LCw

To the original “social media influencer” (Mush would hate me using such foul language), from whom I learnt so much about my craft, and more importantly, more about myself, may you rest in peace.


From Rach Andpokes

💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔 absolutely heart broken. I am so grateful to have known you and travelled with you. I loved seeing what you were achieving. Such an inspirational and beautiful soul, gone too soon. Much love to your family right now. Rest In Peace, fly high and shine your light in your next adventure xo


From Cindy Naidoo

Today is such a sad day for me. I opened fb and the first thing on my newsfeed was the shocking news that my friend Meruschka Govender was no more. I only met her a few times in different parts of the country and for the bushfire festival in Swaziland, but the impact she had on my life was gigantic. Her beautiful smile and sparkling personality was infectious. She was my inspiration in the travel world and today my heart is just breaking. What a tremendous loss to the travel industry. RIP Mzansi girl. You will be missed very very much my beautiful darling girl. 💔💔💔💔


From Yannick van Winkel

Throwback to some of the best 36 hours of my life! It deeply saddens me to say that this picture was taken not even a year ago at Mieliepop. :’( Or should I say Pieliemop? Meruschka Govender, it sure says a lot about you as a person and your legacy that you are one of the few people I heard a lot about before meeting you in person. I even feel like I kinda knew you already from before I befriended you. Somewhere in June 2015, I was staying at a backpackers in Cape Town. I got into a spontaneous conversation with the hostel owner. We found ourselves chatting about traveling in Africa when she suddenly mentioned ‘You know, if there’s one African travel blogger you should follow online, it’s Mzansi Girl!’. I took up her good advice and started following you online. Fast forward to almost to a year and half later in Nov or Dec 2016, when we were introduced through mutual friends at a busy bar in Braamfontein in Johannesburg. I didn’t immediately realize but when I did, I shouted ‘WAIT A MINUTE, YOU ARE MZANSI GIRL!’. Lots of nights out in Jozi, festivals, hikes and brekky, lunch and dinner meet-ups followed after that up until the moment I left SA a couple of months ago. This is going to sound soooo f*** cliché but I mean it from the bottom of my heart. I’ve been telling a lot of our mutual friends since I got the devastating news that if I had to name one person that really lived ‘life to the fullest’ and lived ‘every day as it was their last’, it was you. Your love and passion for (African) travel, music, festivals and for getting everything out of this life was truly an inspiration. I’m going to miss you, Meru. Take care.


From Marlize Stander

Travel people in shock today… An amazing human gone too soon. We were blessed to see and experience South Africa through her eyes, words and passionate spirit. RIP Mzansigirl 🌍


From Gerald Garner

Dear Meruschka,

You were the most upbeat, bubbly and warmly-welcoming person I knew. I so clearly remember meeting you quite a few years ago when you came on a tour with several journalists and bloggers. You looked beautiful. Your personality was radiant with sparks in your eyes. You were so enthusiastic about Joburg, about the inner-city’s tourism potential and about South African as a whole. You travelled widely. You achieved so much. You inspired a whole industry of travel, tourism, blogging, photography, eventing, marketing and writing. I admired you greatly. Thank you for everything you did. Last night this city was overwhelmingly quiet as we all learned of your departure. We will miss you dearly. In fact, so many of us here have a common bond because of you. You have made us all one big Jozi-South-Africa-tourism family.

We salute you, Merushka. Your radiance will carry us.


From Neil Jannson (neiljansson.com)

You were all of these things.
Travel safe, catch up with you at the next stop

Main image: Iga Motlyska


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