VC Newsletter 07-05-2021
Dear UJ Community
Some recent incidents and developments in our beloved country remind me of one of my favourite African proverbs: “It’s out of ignorance that a goat will attend a leopard’s party.” For instance, a colleague recently told me about a funeral he attended that turned into a cleansing ceremony, and by implication, an after tears party – all on the same day. Considering that this happened when South Africa, like many countries in the world, is still in the grip of COVID-19, it can be considered nothing short of suicide.
It is not just at funerals where the COVID-19 safety and health regulations and protocols are being breached. Videos of people dancing the night away have been circulating on social media. Those of you who have been following reports coming from India, which is currently hit by its worst surge since the pandemic began, will know that large gatherings have been super spreaders. This includes religious festivals, overcrowded malls and even political rallies.
It is evident that what is happening in India will find its way to our shores if we do not heed the warning signs and become vigilant. Already, fears of a third COVID-19 wave are rife, with increases in infections reported in parts of KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Northern Cape and Gauteng since last week. In fact, data modelling by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases warns that Gauteng will be the hardest-hit province, and that a third wave would be more devastating than the second.
In this regard, it is vital that all students, staff and visitors feel comfortable, confident and safe on our campuses. You are required to continue wearing face masks when in communal areas on campuses and to maintain physical distancing of at least two meters at all times. The University has a legal obligation to ensure compliance with national health and safety regulations, and it is the responsibility of line managers to make sure that staff members within their respective domains adhere to this. I do not have to remind you about how some prominent world leaders who mocked and underplayed the COVID-19 pandemic ended up contracting the virus, or even dying. If we fail in this, we risk becoming an informed society that dies of ignorance.
On a different and more positive note, I am pleased to announce that four academics from our University have been nominated in the 23rd national 2020/2021 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF-South32 Awards), the premier research awards in South Africa. The nominees are:
- Prof Samuel Oluwatobi Oluwafemi -– Project Leader: Nanomaterials Synthesis and Applications Laboratory, Department of Chemical Sciences.
- Prof Nnamdi Nwulu – Director: Centre for Cyber Physical Food, Energy and Water Systems; and Associate Professor: Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering Science.
- Prof Philiswa Nosizo Nomngongo – Professor and Chair: DSI/NRF South African Research Chair Initiative, Nanotechnology for Water.
- Prof Saurabh Sinha – Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation; and Professor: Microelectronics.
The NSTF Awards were established in 1998 as a collaborative effort to recognise outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology and innovation by individuals, teams and organisations in South Africa across 13 categories. The theme for this year’s award is Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. This is in recognition of the 2021 International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development as declared by the United Nations (UN). I wish all our nominees the best of wishes in the finals. The Awards Gala Event will take place on Thursday, 29 July 2021
I am also pleased to announce that Prof Tankiso Moloi (Department of Accountancy, CBE School of Accounting) was appointed as the Vice Chair of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)’s Africa Regional Advisory Panel. CIMA is a global professional network with over 667 000 members over 100 countries. The panel provides insights and input on local marketplace trends and offers the perspectives of CIMA and AICPA members in management accounting as well as those of students, employers, and key regional stakeholders. Congratulations Prof Moloi, and our very best wishes accompany you!
Our Alumni Office, in collaboration with UJ Library, will this afternoon host a webinar in the first of its “Alumni Conversation Series”, from 16h00 to 17h00. The purpose of these events is to host alumni through online network sessions. This initiative is to showcase alumni talent and success and to support them in their various career and entrepreneurship endeavours. The conversation series will cover a vast array of industries such as Entrepreneurship & Business, Mining & Engineering, Science & Technology, as well as Accounting & Economics and Arts & Culture (Entertainment). To join please register here.
Earlier this week on Monday, 3 May 2021, our Faculty of Humanities, Department of Strategic Communication, in collaboration with UJ Library, hosted a webinar on Press Freedom in the Digital Age: Threats and Opportunities, to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. The event was held under the theme, Information as a Public Good. The secretary of the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) and editor-in-chief of Eyewitness News, Mahlatse Mahlase, delivered the keynote address. She emphasised the importance of a free, independent and pluralistic media where journalists report without fear or favour and in a manner that contributes to the strengthening and deepening of our democracy. Many thanks to the organisers who continually ensure that our University is at the forefront of debates of national and international importance.
UJ is a member of the Universitas 21 (U21) network, which is an international network of research-intensive universities. Together with the International Office (IO) and DVC: Research and Internationalisation, I attended the meeting of the Presidents on Thursday afternoon. This year’s U21 keynote was titled: “Keynote: Legacy and Transformation – How Universities Need to Disrupt Themselves and Adapt for a Changed and Changing World” which delved into the arena of virtual and online education. It was fascinating to hear about the pockets of success and the gaps at other universities and how well we have stacked up.
In other exciting news, UJs pan-African journal, The Thinker, is now an officially accredited journal after being accepted by the Directory of Open Access Journals this week. Please visit www.thethinker.co.za to view the latest issue or for submission information. The Thinker’s current call for papers on “Decolonization” is open until 1 July 2021. My profound thanks and congratulations to the editor of the journal, Prof Ronit Frenkel, from Department of English, Faculty of Humanities.
Something not to be missed next week on Wednesday, 12 May at 18:00 is the UJ Cloudebate™ on Cryptocurrency. Over the past decade, Cryptocurrency has emerged as an asset class that has enjoyed unprecedented returns. Indications are this digital phenomenon is moving towards mainstream use. But is it sustainable? Is it a covert means to hide or launder cash, or is it a genuine alternative to real money? Register here to participate in the debate.
Please continue to visit our COVID-19 portal on the UJ website for valuable information, including health and wellbeing. Only information issued via the University’s official communication platforms is legitimate. This information may be verified by visiting: https://www.uj.ac.za/news/corona-virus//. We appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all times.
Ndo livhuwa, enkosi, baie dankie!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.