Vice-Chancellor Message – 11 March 2022

Date: Mar 11, 2022 | Vice-Chancellor Messages


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Dear UJ Community,

 

“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.” This was a common remark on social media this week as people tried to make light of the dark spectre (excuse the pun) of load shedding by quoting from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s epic song, The Sound of Silence. As frustration boiled over, other tweets ensued: “How long?”, “At what cost to our lives?”, “This is insane!”

In the latest round of rolling power outages, Eskom announced the implementation of Stage 2 load shedding on Monday, which was ramped up to Stage 4 on Wednesday. The reasons were same old, same old: units at power stations either tripping or breaking down – leading to “extremely high diesel usage”. Stage 4 was lowered to Stage 3 last night, and the expectation was that it would further be lowered to Stage 2 from this morning (Friday) until 05:00 on Monday. But then again, one never knows. This might change yet anytime because the power grid remains precarious.  One wonders what the situation will be like, come winter, when the grid is likely to come under pressure because of the increased electricity usage.

Load shedding has been a common feature in South Africa for more than a decade now, and it is likely to remain with us for the foreseeable future. It is all part of South Africa’s quintessential story, isn’t it? Our academics and experts here at UJ have extensively written about this, because of its cost to the economy. Last year, for instance, Hartmut Winkler, Professor of Physics in the Faculty of Science, wrote an insightful article on why he thinks South Africa’s electricity blackouts are set to continue for the next five years.

In January this year, Seán Mfundza Muller, a Senior Research Fellow at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS), co-wrote an interesting article entitled, South Africa’s energy crisis has triggered lots of ideas: why most are wrong. I have also extensively written on this subject. In the context of the latest rolling blackouts, I refer you to the article I penned in 2020, entitled ‘SA’s power conundrum: Eskom needs imaginative planning strategies,’ in which I explain some of the underlying causes of load shedding and posit possible solutions.

Against this backdrop, you might recall our ongoing initiative for our University to become ‘grid positive’. In 2020, we rolled out a project to install solar panels on the roofs of several on-campus buildings and carports (covered parking bays) across our campuses. The project demonstrates our commitment to environmental sustainability by reducing the electricity demand on the national power grid. This is also in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On the issue of sustainability, I urge you read an article I wrote this week, in which I share my experiences about the nightmarish City of Johannesburg’s billing system. I believe that this is an issue that affects many of you as well.

Dr Bhaso Ndzendze, the Head of Department and Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR), Faculty of Humanities, has also penned an insightful and fascinating article on the Russia-Ukraine war, entitled A war on infinite fronts — Russia, Ukraine and the double whammy of ‘hybrid warfare’.

As is the culture at UJ, each week brings its fair share of achievements. Let us give a virtual round of applause to our third-year law students. These budding lawyers will represent South Africa in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition from 25 March 2022. This follows their win at the South African national rounds of the competition this past Saturday, on 5 March 2022. The team comprised Ms Samantha Smit, Ms Alexis Phelps, Mr Motlatsi Kgosimore, Mr Gideon Van Wyk, and Mr Rufus Ranhlakgwe. The team also won the best memorials prize, while Mr Van Wyk won the best oralist prize. This means that the UJ team won all the awards available in the South African rounds.

Jessup is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from 700 law schools in 100 countries and jurisdictions. This year, students have been tasked with presenting arguments on a range of complex issues in international law, such as the admissibility of illegally obtained evidence and disinformation campaigns in foreign elections. With the continued growth of cyberspace and military operations in this sphere, these questions will hold even more weight in the coming years. Well done to the UJ team, I wish you all the best in the upcoming rounds!

I also wish to congratulate our staff and students who participated in the various events this week to celebrate the International Women’s Day on Tuesday, 8 March 2022. Head of Department of Applied Information Systems within the College of Business and Economics at UJ, Dr Stella Bvuma, was among the speakers at the two-day International Women’s Day Summit from 7 – 10 March. She also spoke in her capacity as the Non-Executive Director and Deputy Chair: State Information Technology Agency (SITA).

On COVID-19 matters, please remember that employees must be fully vaccinated by next week Tuesday, 15 March 2022 or must have been approved for exemption from vaccination. As for students, they are required to be fully vaccinated by 31 March 2022 or have been approved for exemption from vaccination. Staff, postdoctoral research fellows and students can upload their proof of vaccination on http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19 under “COVID-19 Services”, select “UJ Covid-19 Mandatory Vaccine Disclosure Facility”.

I would like to thank staff and students who have taken the opportunity to use our campus vaccination sites, and encourage others to do the same. These sites are open from 9:00 to 15:00 until 30 March. Both the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are available for individuals to choose from. The schedule is as follows:

  • DFC: Mondays – 14, 21 and 28 March – A and B Atrium, John Orr Building (011 559-6544)
  • APK: Wednesdays – 16, 23 and 30 March – Auditorium Foyer (011 559-3837)
  • SWC: Fridays – 11, 18, 28 March – Kopanong Foyer (011 559-5571)

NB: APB will be catered for at APK.

Students can use their inter-campus bus service to these sites.

Please note that the vaccination schedule has been revised as follows:

  • Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine: the period between the first dose and the second dose has been shortened to 21 days.
  • J&J COVID-19 Vaccine: the booster dose can be given 60 days after the initial dose
  • Booster doses of a different vaccine than the one initially received are now allowed.

For any additional information needed please call the numbers provided for each campus.  For more information on mandatory vaccination protocol, as well as assistance for vaccination and downloading of certificates, please visit our University website, www.uj.ac.za.

Last but not least, I would like to congratulate Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo for his appointment as the next Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of South Africa with effect from 1 April 2022. I also congratulate in advance Justice Mandisa Maya, after President Cyril Rampahosa indicated his intention to nominate her for the position of Deputy Chief Justice, once Justice Zondo assumes office.

Lastly, I invite you to the VC Reading Group this afternoon for my second recommended book for 2022, at the usual time of 14h00 (CAT). We will discuss the book Beyond Bitcoin: Decentralised Finance and the End of Banks by Simon Dingle and Steven Boykey Sidley. This is a fascinating take on the redefining and refurbishment of the global financial system we are currently seeing. Mr Simon Dingle will join us as the Special Invitee. Please join here: https://zoom.us/s/95813348675

The University leadership will continue to monitor the national and provincial COVID-19 outlook, and an update will be provided accordingly. This information may be verified by visiting:http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19. Should any of you experience symptoms of the coronavirus, please use the National Hotline of 0800 029 999 or WhatsApp line 0600 123456 or go to the following link for more information: https://sacoronavirus.co.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!

Issued by:

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

 University of Johannesburg             

Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

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