Vice-Chancellor Message –30 September 2022

VC

Dear UJ Community,

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” These words, by the Roman philosopher and statesman Seneca, came to mind yesterday as we welcomed Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka as the new UJ Chancellor. Her inauguration marks the beginning of a new chapter for our University. In about five months’ time, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Professor Letlhokwa George Mpedi, will take over the reins as the new Vice-Chancellor and Principal of our University. And Prof Bettine van Vuuren will in April 2023 assume the role of Registrar, taking over from Prof Kinta Burger. We will in the not-so-distant future also announce the new Chair of Council who will take over from Mr Mike Teke.

On the face of it, these changes in the University’s leadership are unsettling. However, just as we have proved in the past, change provides an opportunity to reimagine ourselves and strengthen and improve on the gains of the past years. As the author Mandy Hale once observed, “Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing.” As an ambitious and futuristic University, we could not have asked for a better person than Dr Mlambo Ngcuka to lead UJ into another chapter in its developmental path and growth trajectory.

Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka is a well decorated and astute leader who has previously served as the Deputy President of South Africa, former Under Secretary Executive Director of U.N. WOMEN, among other high-profile roles. Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka has an impeccable reputation as a stateswoman, human rights and gender-activist, all of which fit into UJ’s values. UJ is honoured to have a person of her calibre as its Chancellor, and we look forward to her leadership and guidance.

Unsurprisingly, the announcement of her inauguration earlier this year attracted a lot of media interest, with a flurry of news articles across various platforms. Of course, she gave us a taste of her leadership yesterday in her inauguration speech. In it, she regaled us with numerous apt and useful insights on contemporary problems besieging the world and the role that universities can play in solving them. There were many salient points, but I was particularly intrigued when she sounded the warning that due to a collapse of ethical governance and wide-spread corruption, we are at risk of allowing our hard-won freedom to go to waste.

As she put it, “We are on a slippery slope and sleepwalking ourselves to a failed state, which would hurt all the good work done by our universities. If our state fails, it affects all of us, so we cannot be bystanders. We have to use what we have to defend our democracy in the same way universities fought apartheid.” I do not wish to repeat or recite her speech, but I want to echo her observation that the future belongs to those who can reimagine it and those who take the time to reflect and make the necessary changes.

This resonates with our University’s mission and vision to be an international University of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future. Indeed, as Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka rightly put it, “Our University has demonstrated that it has the agility, curiosity and responsiveness to deal with our current age of uncertainty and it is not naïve to the challenges that come with this ambition. UJ’s story is exemplary and is rooted in the transformation agenda of our country.”

Lest we forget, her inauguration comes after a successful reign by Professor Njabulo Ndebele, who leaves us with a legacy of excellence, during which the University soared to greater heights in global and national rankings. As Prof Mpedi beautifully summed it up, Prof Ndebele’s is “a leading intellectual, his credentials as a former Vice-Chancellor and his powerful literary oeuvre have been a source of constant referral and inspiration. His deep understanding of the complexities of higher education, particularly as the power dynamics nationally shifted, has framed much of this approach.” But as Prof Ndebele reminded us, “Unfortunately what must start must end, but some endings are wonderful with fewer regrets”.

On a different note, decisions about finances and personal financial management can influence many aspects of our lives. Research confirms that financial stress can have a severe impact on us. To this end, the Department of Finance and Investment Management in the School of Management within the College of Business and Economics, in collaboration with the Centre for Academic Technologies (CAT) within the Division of Academic Development and Support (ADS), has identified the need to introduce financial education at UJ. As a result, the collaboration has led to the development of a new short learning programme in financial literacy called Be Money Wise.

The programme is designed to equip interested persons with effective and practical strategies to manage their money. By completing the financial literacy module, they will acquire the necessary skills to manage their personal finances through conscious decision making and specialised money management techniques. Congratulations to the department and everyone involved in the launch of this important programme!

Finally, next week on Tuesday, 4 October 2022, we will have the second of our Vice-Chancellor Staff Engagement sessions. This time, the session will be at the Auckland Park Bunting Road Campus (APB) conference room 1 & 2, Sol Kerzner Building, STH, from 12:00 to 13:30. Once again, I remind you that if there are any specific issues you would like address or if you have particular questions, please email bernicem@uj.co.za.

Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

University of Johannesburg             

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

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