“The NGO was a personal journey. I saw the gaps in the industry and I wanted to support black women who do not know if they should continue doing research, go into the corporate world or start a business,” said Mcunu.
Mcunu was also completing her PhD at Wits University which was funded by the National Research Foundation. In a statement, the foundation said she was an excellent scientist and that it is proud to have been involved in her journey.
“Her excellence was demonstrated by the number of accolades she held, including being selected as a Greenmatter Fellow for her academic research in climate change and agriculture; listed as one of the Top 50 Most Inspiring Women in Tech in SA in 2017 by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and SA; selected as one of the Top 200 Mail and Guardian Young South Africans in 2016 in the education sector; and being selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow in 2017. She was also recently recognised by the Ghana-based Humanitarian Awards Global, as one of the most Distinguished Change Makers: Women in Africa,” read the statement.
Her friend and mentee Anne Chisa said she will remember Mcunu for her trailblazing efforts in science and her vulnerability. “She was going to the top but she wanted us to come too. She was a trailblazer, she made greatness seem possible. She made us feel that if Ndoni could do this, then so could you.''
Mcunu's friend and musician Nandi Madida shared her loss on Instagram. “Going to miss you so much Ndoni. Can't believe you're gone my friend. Love you forever my sister. Rest in peace,” she said.
A memorial service will be held on Friday and she will be buried on April 30 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.