Celebrating outstanding individuals with Ellen Kuzwayo and Alumni Dignitas awards

Date: Nov 28, 2022 | News


This year’s Council Awards were littered with endings and beginnings.

The awards, which are hosted by the Council of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) honours individuals for their outstanding contributions to the higher education sector as well as UJ alumni for their contributions to the growth and advancement of the institution.

This year’s edition held on Friday, 22 November 2022 marked Vice-Chancellor Professor Tshilidzi Marwala’s last awards ceremony before his move to Japan. He will be succeeded by Vice-Chancellor designate Professor Lethlokwa Mpedi.   It was also council chairperson Mike Teke’s last award ceremony as his term has come to an end. He will be succeeded by Xoliswa Kakana in 2023.

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Hon. Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni (South African Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies) is presented with the UJ Dignitas award from Vice-Chancellor Professor Tshilidzi Marwala.

Giving his welcoming address, Prof Marwala said the many lasts that he has found himself doing over the past few weeks have allowed him the gift of reflection.

“This strange murky middle ground I find myself in has not only been an avenue for reflection but has also affirmed many of my views about this institution. Our story is truly remarkable and our success in recent years has been nothing short of extraordinary. When I reflect on the facets that have led us to this point – it is indeed the confluence and convergence of excellence and a commitment to community that have been our great definers,” he said.

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A farewell gift made by Mapula Embroideries – a beautiful hand-embroidered cloth celebrating Mike Teke, outgoing Chair of Council at the University of Johannesburg.

Prof Marwala added that the awards aimed at celebrating the greatness of UJ’s people-both directly and indirectly.

“These awards, beyond a celebration of excellence, signify the honouring of community servers, who are torchbearers in their own right and have carved a space in the world. It is a recognition of excellence,” he said.

The awards are split into two, the Ellen Kuzwayo Awards and the Dignitas Alumni Awards.

Named after anti-apartheid activist Nnoseng Ellen Kuzwayo who was also a community builder. The Ellen Kuzwayo awards recognize outstanding South Africans for their extraordinary contribution to the higher education sector.

Ellen Kuzwayo Awards Recipients:

  • Omar Badsha: For his substantial body of art and photographic work that helped catalyze political resistance for change
  • Rev Dr. Paul Verryn: For his dedicated fight against socioeconomic inequality and poverty

The Dignitas Awards recognise UJ alumni for their contributions to the growth and advancement of UJ. The Latin word dignitas refers to the almost physical aura that surrounds a person once he or she has fulfilled an important task. It therefore has the implied meaning of deserving, merit and worthiness.

Dignitas Awards Recipients:

  • Refilwe Buthelezi: For her passion and tireless contribution to the engineering fraternity.
  • Ms Mamello Matikinca-Ngwenya: For her ambition and excellence as one of the youngest chief economists in South Africa’s history.
  • Ms Khumbudzo Ntshavheni: For her continued efforts to elevate society and to address social injustices.

In his closing remarks, Vice-Chancellor designate Prof Mpedi alluded to Prof Marwala’s words on excellence: “I am certain that our staff and students will continue to find inspiration from your lives, and through your commitment to excellence and community. I leave you with the words of the Kenyan author Shalija Patel. Reflecting on an interview with Kuzwayo in 2006, Patel wrote, “These words seem like the answer… As does the memory of a woman larger than exhaustion, larger than the ignorance of those around her, larger than fear,” he said.

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