UJ’s new Chancellor Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka calls for a culture of ethical and innovative leadership
Former deputy president of South Africa, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was officially inaugurated as Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Thursday, 29 September 2022. She becomes the third Chancellor of UJ, taking over from Professor Njabulo Ndebele whose term of office ends on 30 September 2022.
Speaking ahead of the inaugural event, Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka said the face of higher education and the way in which universities should be managed has changed significantly in recent years. “This responsibility of Chancellor at one of the greatest and pioneering universities in South Africa is a huge honour for me. I will be building on the success of Prof Ndebele and his guidance that saw the institution becoming the national standard bearer for transformation, equity, access, Pan-Africanism and global excellence.”
In her address, Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka applauded UJ’s visionary leadership and resilience that enabled the Institution to weather the Covid-19 storm. “Nothing could have prepared institutions like universities for a pandemic and disruption of this magnitude. We live in the most trying times and amid a constant state of flux and disruption that has demonstrably offset our trajectory. UJ has demonstrated that it has the agility, curiosity and responsiveness to deal with our current age of uncertainty and it is not naive to the challenges that come with this ambition. This is part and parcel of the University’s transformation story.”
- Read Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka full address
Dr Mlambo Ngcuka also reflected on the importance of education as an indispensable tool that has the power to develop and instil an ethical framework. She said this is vital to strengthen democracy and to save society from the failures of apartheid and from a slippery slope to a failed state. “Many of us have lived under apartheid, fought against its injustices, and seen the emergence of the democratic project, worked in a free South Africa, seen state capture and the destruction of progress the country has made. We now also carry the regrets from the mistakes committed in our new and democratic South Africa. In a tiny frame of our history, our hard-won victory and years of painful triumph seem to erode before our eyes. We cannot be bystanders and must do everything to use what we must defend our hard-earned democracy in the same way institutions like universities fought apartheid.”
She added: “We need to consider placing more emphasis on the teachings of Ubuntu, responsible behaviour, good governance, and ethical leadership. Now is the time to think about what we can do to instil an ethical framework pre-graduation and post-graduation. I believe that good governance and ethical leadership are the values that must be instilled in all our students even before they qualify.”
She stressed that education is also key to managing climate change because, for the first time in our planet’s history, we (humans) are threatening the climate, water, ocean, and others. This was vital to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “If this is a moment to pause and redefine our path forward, it is painfully apparent that a lot more is needed from us to achieve the SDGs goals and our desirable national objectives. This is a challenge that will stay with us, and the generation of green energy will be the task of our students.”
Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka said another pandemic in South Africa is Gender Based Violence (GBV). “Gender Inequality in education is one way in which patriarchy thrives from generation to generation and is weaponised. The education of young men about positive masculinity is an important investment to make as the gender complexities require us to work with both men and women.”
UJ’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala said that the University was honoured to have a person of the calibre of Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka as its Chancellor. “Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka has an impeccable reputation as a stateswoman, human rights, and gender-activist, all of which fit into the UJ’s values. The Chancellor is the ceremonial head of the University and is elected according to the Statute of the University. Part of her role as the Chancellor is to confer degrees at graduation ceremonies in the name of the University and performs other functions. We look forward to her leadership and guidance.”
Among the dignitaries who attended the inaugural event will various cabinet ministers such as Minister of Basic Education, Ms Angie Motshekga and her counterpart in Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi, and the executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Dr Mpho Phalatse. Also in attendance were ambassadors of various countries such as Singapore, Venezuela, Switzerland, Japan, China, and Zimbabwe.
Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka concluded: “My journey with this University begins today. It is with exhilaration and excitement that I join UJ in the reimagining of our future. UJ’s story is exemplary and is rooted in the transformation agenda of our country. I leave you with the words of former President of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara who once said, “You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness… we must dare to invent the future.”