Vice-Chancellor Message – 22 April 2022

Date: Apr 22, 2022 | News, Vice-Chancellor Messages


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Dear UJ Community,

It has been heartening to see that the UJ KZN Floods Relief Fund, which we launched just before the Easter long weekend, is receiving immense support. Yesterday, for instance, the President of UJ Convocation, Professor Tumi Diale, announced that she has donated R2000,00 to this noble cause. As Prof Diale said: “Over the weekend I was challenged by the contribution made by our Vice-Chancellor Professor Marwala and Chairperson of UJ Council Mr. Mike Teke of R120 000 towards the KZN disaster. Let us rally behind our leaders…”

As I explained during interviews with various media houses this week, our University decided to set up this Fund to invest in the rebuilding of the flood-hit areas in KwaZulu-Natal. The humanitarian aspect of the disaster is too hard to ignore, and it is clear that rebuilding that province is going to require additional resources, skills and much more robust leadership.

At the last count, at least 450 people were reported to have lost their lives while thousand others have been displaced. A preliminary assessment report from the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements indicated that more than 13,500 households were affected, 3,937 houses were destroyed, and 8,039 homes were partially destroyed. As indicated, our University will hand over the funds to Gift of the Givers, a trusted humanitarian NGO that has been at the forefront of aid during difficult times in South Africa and throughout the continent.

As I reiterate in my latest article, the State, civil society and private sector must mobilise after KZN’s humanitarian disaster. We call upon those who can voluntarily lend a hand to rebuild KwaZulu-Natal to do so. Click on this link to donate:  https://uj.devman.co.za/devman/online/giving/. If we invest in the rebuilding of KwaZulu-Natal, all of us win.

As highlighted in my article recently, this weather pattern in KwaZulu-Natal speaks to the many climate disasters we have been seeing more regularly in Southern Africa and across the globe. It is therefore very apt that the 2022 series of Cloudebates will delve into the issues of climate change. Produced by the Marketing and Brand Management Unit within University Relations, the first Cloudebate of the year took place on 13 April, with local and international experts unpacking how 4IR tech impacts clean energy production and battery storage. You can watch this discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfmZdxXKzz4.

The Marketing and Brand Management Unit has also been working on a marketing project to position UJ as a leading voice in 4IR for the past four years. The team recently entered a campaign, which won various local awards last year, into the African and International Chapters of the International Association for Business Communicators (IABC) competitions. I have now received the news that the campaign has won a few really prestigious awards.

These are the IABC* International Gold Quill Excellence Award for the ‘4IR Website’, the IABC Africa Silver Quill Excellence Award for ‘The future belongs to those who reimagine it’ campaign, as well as the IABC International Gold Quill Merit Award for theBeyond Imagining’ ezine series.

The feedback from the judges has been inspiring: “This is a world-class entry, and shows the use of the global standard in action. It was a brilliant entry to review, and we commend the team for their innovation, implementation and strategic results.” Congratulations to the team, led by Ms Lesmarie Bentley-Steyn under the leadership and guidance of Dr Nolitha Vukuza, Senior Executive Director, University Relations, Student Affairs and UJ Sport.

On the topic of 4IR, you might recall, a few years back, UJ was the first SA institution to offer digital certification and a virtual qualification verification system that enabled our graduates to access qualifications digitally. This not only allowed graduates to securely view, and order lost or damaged certificates but also gave them access to share their certificates securely with third parties or employers, at no cost. Now, UJ has enhanced these certificates by adding blockchain-based security features to it. The new blockchain-based features enhance the security of these certificates.

Certificates issued from this year have QR codes printed on them, which anybody can scan with a smartphone to verify whether the information on the certificate is correct and has been issued legitimately by UJ. Third parties can now validate the awarded qualifications for UJ graduates by scanning the QR code on the certificate and best of all, at no cost – without having to contact the University or having to go through a verification agency.

This strategy to use cutting-edge digital technology, encompassed by the 4IR, is at the heart of our Global Excellence and Stature (GES4.0) catalytic initiative. To our Registrar, Prof Kinta Burger, Senior Director of Central Academic Administration Dr Tinus van Zyl and the team, well done!

Speaking of excellence, I am pleased to have learnt that nine of our staff members have been nominated for the 2021/2022 NSTF-South32 Awards. The awards recognise outstanding contributions to science, engineering, and technology (SET) and innovation by individuals, teams, and organisations in South Africa. The UJ nominees are as follows:

Awards for individuals in research and management Lifetime Award

  • Prof Heidi Abrahamse – Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) / National Research Foundation (NRF) South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair: Laser Applications in Health; and Director: Laser Research Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences.
  • Prof Elizabeth Henning – DSI/NRF SARChI Chair: Integral studies of Learning Language, Mathematics and Science in Primary School, Faculty of Education.

TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher

  • Prof Omotayo Arotiba – Professor: Department (Dept) of Chemical Sciences; and Director: Centre for Nanomaterials Science Research.
  • Prof Samuel O Oluwafemi – Project Leader: Nanomaterials Synthesis and Applications (NANOBEW) Laboratory, Dept of Chemical Sciences (formerly Applied Chemistry).

TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher

  • Dr Banothile Makhubela – Senior Lecturer and Director: Research Centre for Synthesis and Catalysis, Dept of Chemical Sciences, Faculty of Science, and also in the Special Annual Theme categories*.
  • Dr Nomali Z Ngobese – Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head: Dept of Botany and Plant Biotechnology.

Engineering Research Capacity Development Awards

  • Prof Nonhlangabezo (Bezo) Mabuba – Associate Professor: Analytical Chemistry, Material and Processing Science, Dept of Chemical Sciences.

Innovations Awards

  • Mining Positron Emission Tomography Research Group (MinPET) – Team Leader: Prof Simon Connell; and Dept of Mechanical Engineering Science, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, also in the Special Annual Theme category*

Communication Award

  • Prof Habib Noorbhai – Associate Professor and Director: Biomedical Engineering and Healthcare Technology (BEAHT) Research Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences.

Special Annual Theme Award: Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development

  • Dr Banothile Makhubela – Senior Lecturer and Director: Research Centre for Synthesis and Catalysis, Dept of Chemical Sciences, Faculty of Science
  • Mining Positron Emission Tomography Research Group (MinPET) – Team Leader: Prof Simon Connell.

The finalists will be announced in May 2022, and will be followed by the announcement of the recipients in July. Best of wishes to all the nominees in the next rounds of the awards!

This week, we had the opportunity to welcome Dominique Uwizeyimana (College of Business and Economics) to UJ’s Professorship. He delivered his professorial inauguration lecture that highlighted the historical, socio-economic, and political factors beyond the 7-C protocol that can influence the success or failure of public policy implementation in Africa. Welcome, Prof Uwizeyimana, I trust that your insights will enrich the University and the broader public as you embark on this new journey.

On a different note, from today we will kickstart the UJ Cleaning Campaign that will take place simultaneously across all four campuses on Fridays, from 12:00 to 13:00. This will take place on 22 April, 6 and 20 May 2022, which coincides with the UJ Culture period. As a global University, we host a wide array of local and international guests, and we want our grounds to continue to reflect the status of a world class university, which we are renowned for.

I have been informed that many of our students have committed to participate in this noble cause, through our Community Engagement Unit, within the University Relations Division. I urge other students and our staff members to support this initiative. The meeting points are follows:

  • APB: Student Centre is the meeting place and final point.
  • APK: The lawn next to Student Centre is the starting and final point.
  • DFC: The Student Centre amphitheatre is the converging and end point.
  • SWC: Lembede Garden is the assembly and final point.

On COVID-19 matters, I wish to remind all our employees and students who are yet to be compliant with our University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy that they still have a grace period to do so. This grace period (which will apply until further notice) has been informed by, amongst other factors, the lifting of the National State of Disaster. During this grace period, students and staff who are not yet vaccinated, will be allowed to access campus, subject to presenting a negative PCR test not older than 7 days at the point of entry.

Our University, in collaboration with the Solidarity Fund and the Department of Health, is providing further support to the University community. COVID-19 vaccinations will be taking place once more on 26 April 2022 at the Kopanong Foyer from 09h00-15h00 at the Soweto Campus. For any additional information needed please call: 011 559-5571. If you have been vaccinated and have not uploaded your vaccination certificate, please do so on https://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac.

To read more about this, as well as information on assistance for students and postdoctoral research fellows with difficulty in submitting their vaccination certificates, click http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19. You may also visit the UJ website www.uj.ac.za.

Lastly, the Chair of UJ Council, Mr Mike Teke, invites you to his virtual recommended book read today, at the usual time slot of 14h00. His recommended book for this session is Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future by Austen Ivereigh and Pope Francis. A short extract from the book reads as follows: In the COVID crisis, the beloved shepherd of over one billion Catholics saw the cruelty and inequity of our society exposed more vividly than ever before. Pope Francis urges us not to let the pain be in vain.” Click here and join in the conversation: https://zoom.us/j/99246618821

I urge you to continue to wear your masks when in your office spaces indoors or inside communal areas. We also appeal to all to adhere to other 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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