Vice-Chancellor Message – 01 April 2022
Dear UJ Community,
Memories of my early secondary school days came hurtling back on me this week, following the release of the latest unemployment data by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). The stats, which showed a record rate of joblessness since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in 2008, reminded me of when I was introduced to Queen Marie-Antoinette’s infamous response to the French peasants, upon hearing that they did not have bread to eat. “Let them eat cake”, she said nonchalantly. One of my teachers would often regale us with his favourite quote from the president of the USA during the time, John F. Kennedy. “We don’t want to be like the leader in the French Revolution who said, ‘There go my people, I must find out where they are going so I can lead them.’”
I will not bore you by repeating the stats that I am sure you are all now uncomfortably familiar with. What troubles me is seeing how often our government’s response to unemployment resembles the indifference shown by the French government in the 18th century. President Cyril Ramaphosa does address the nation on this matter, but what needs to be done is to completely overhaul our economy considering that the forces of competition have changed. We have to deal with the cost and capability of labour. We have to adopt technology as a force of competition. We have to open the African markets. Lest we forget, the release of the stats comes against the backdrop of rising costs of basic foods such as rice, maize, sugar, and milk. This demonstrates just how profound the malaise in South Africa’s economy has become.
Yes, the crisis might have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the reality is that South Africa has been staring at a disturbingly high unemployment level for over two decades. And as we know, it is mostly young people, especially women, who feel the sting of unemployment even more sharply. Sadly, as the politicians fiddle, the crisis continues to reach alarming proportions. I recently shared my insights on this in an opinion article entitled Youth unemployment is a national crisis – government must eliminate corruption and promote investment to address it.
You might be aware that annually, our Council bestows the Ellen Kuzwayo Award on individuals who demonstrate sustained and exceptional contributions beyond teaching and research to the promotion of the well-being of the society in a manner aligned to UJ’s vision, mission, core values and strategic goals. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we were unable to honour the 2020 Ellen Kuzwayo Council recipient and are thus recognising the 2020 recipient with the 2021 cohort.
I am pleased to announce that we will recommence with the event this evening. The 2020 edition of the Ellen Kuzwayo Council Award will be presented to Dr Sindiwe Magona for her excellence and contribution to the literature. The 2021 Ellen Kuzwayo Council Award recipients are Ms Ela Gandhi and Ms Deborah Terhune. Ms Gandhi is recognised for her outstanding work as a human rights and community-based activist, and Ms Terhune for her unwavering commitment and contribution to youth and community development. To all the Ellen Kuzwayo Award recipients, UJ is proud to be associated with you!
At the same event, we will bestow the Dignitas Award to recognise the contributions of our alumni to UJ growth and advancement. The 2020 Dignitas Award recipients are Ms Funeka Montjane and Mr Len Wolman. Ms Montjane will be recognised for her contribution to women empowerment and community upliftment, and Mr Wolman for his outstanding contribution to the hospitality and tourism sector. The 2021 Dignitas Award recipients are Ms Sharmla Chetty, Dr Leila Fourie and Ms Usha Seejarim. Ms Chetty is recognised for her contribution to leadership development through academic and entrepreneurial excellence; Dr Fourie for her contribution to the finance and banking sector; and Ms Seejarim for her outstanding contribution to the contemporary arts. Congratulations to all!
Our University continues to prove its status as a leading institution of higher learning across various fields. The latest results of the Initial Test of Competence (ITC) of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) have reaffirmed UJ as a leader in Accounting Education in South Africa. The results, released on 25 March 2022, have also confirmed that UJ is an institution of higher learning leading the Transformation narrative in Chartered Accountancy. ITC is the first of two professional examinations which candidate Chartered Accountants (CAs) are required to pass in order to register with SAICA. Congratulations to Professor Ben Marx, Head of the Department of Accountancy at UJ, and the 177 students that have passed the ITC, well done! Click here to read more about this outstanding achievement.
Still on achievements, please join me in congratulating one of UJ’s alumni, Lieutenant Colonel Lucky (Nhlanhla) Zuma, who became the first black commander of 80 Air Navigation School. He completed his BCom in Transport Economics in 2016 and graduated in 2017. Lieutenant Zuma joined the SA Air Force as a Radartrician and eventually qualified as a Navigator. His career highlights include being the first black Navigator Instructor (January 2010), becoming the first black instructor on the C-130BZ Hercules (2011) and his appointment as the first black Officer Commanding of 80 Air Navigation School (October 2021). Congratulations on this magnificent achievement, you are a truly an outstanding UJ ambassador!
On a different note, I am pleased to announce that President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the keynote address at the webinar to launch the Oxford Handbook of the South African Economy on Wednesday, 6 April 2022. Professor Fiona Tregenna, our DSI/NRF South African Research Chair in Industrial Development, Prof Arkebe Oqubay and colleagues at the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS) at the University of the Witwatersrand will host the launch event. This is the first comprehensive handbook of the South African economy, published by Oxford University Press, and has been informed by several experts. It offers an in-depth examination of strategic issues in the country’s key economic sectors and brings together diverse analytical perspectives.
To Professor Fiona Tregenna and the team, your work (and editing endeavours) has not gone unnoticed. I trust that the wide-ranging set of original, detailed, and state-of-the-art analytical perspectives will contribute to well-informed scientific knowledge and productive discourse on the South African economy. I urge our UJ community to register, in advance for this webinar launch.
UJ takes issues of gender-based violence seriously, especially at the workplace. It is pleasing to see that our Transformation Division has launched a gender-based violence (GBV) online reporting system. The reporting system is designed to provide the survivor, victim, and witness with the option to stay anonymous while retaining all key information pertaining to the reported matter. Once the report has been successfully completed, it provides a randomised and unique reference number to enable future follow-ups on progress and gives the option to submit additional information and attachments. The reporting system is available on internal UJ online platforms (uLink: https://ulink.uj.ac.za/Staff; intranet: https://ujac.sharepoint.com/SitePages/ProjectHome.aspx) and has been developed to ensure compatibility with mobile browsers.
Lastly, yesterday (31 March 2022) was the deadline for students to be fully compliant with the University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy and Implementation Protocol. However, as the University will be on a mid-semester recess as from tomorrow 2 April 2022, the University has decided to give our students and postdoctoral research fellows who are yet to comply to our vaccination policy another opportunity to do so. This means that such students should have uploaded their proof of vaccination when the University reopens on Monday, 11 April 2022. You can upload your proof of vaccination on http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19 under “COVID-19 Services”, select “UJ Covid-19 Mandatory Vaccine Disclosure Facility”.
Assistance for students and postdoctoral research fellows with difficulty in submitting their vaccination certificates, can be requested from +27 11 559 4555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Students who have lost their vaccination code should report at any vaccination site to receive a new one or call 0800 029 999 for assistance. For more information on the mandatory vaccination implementation protocols, click http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19. You may also visit the UJ website www.uj.ac.za.
As usual, 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.
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.