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UJ honours outstanding achievements at Annual Council Awards 2023

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) Council presented the annual Ellen Kuzwayo and Alumni Dignitas awards on the evening of November 24, 2023. Also referred to as the Council Awards, this ceremony honours individuals for their exceptional contributions to the higher education sector and recognises UJ alumni for their impactful contributions to the institution’s advancement and development.

The 2023 edition of the awards marked UJ Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi’s first awards ceremony at the helm of the University. Prof Mpedi reflected on this, and the various changes the institution, the country and the world have experienced over the last year in his remarks.

Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi – Vice-Chancellor and Principal (UJ)

“As change engulfed the University of Johannesburg (UJ) this year, there was a mix of emotions. Excitement was tempered by trepidation and fear of the unknown. As we draw to the end of what has been an eventful and exciting year, it is wholly necessary to take stock of the year that has been. Perhaps the most daunting prospect at the beginning of this year was the breadth and scope of senior management changes. John F Kennedy once declared, “Change is the law of life.” This is certainly a truism,” he said.

Prof Mpedi added that surviving these changes has made the university stronger.

“For many, we represent hope. And through these sweeping changes in the last year, we have certainly emerged stronger. It is no secret that we have become known in recent years as the quintessential fourth industrial revolution (4IR) University on the continent and more recently, we have begun to align our research, teaching and learning with the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Our emphasis on societal impact now represents the convergence of these interests.”

The awards are split into two, the Ellen Kuzwayo Awards and the Dignitas Alumni Awards.

Named after anti-apartheid activist Nnoseng Ellen Kuzwayo who was also a community builder, the Ellen Kuzwayo awards recognise outstanding South Africans for their extraordinary contribution to the higher education sector.


This year’s Ellen Kuzwayo Awards Recipients are:


Yvonne Chaka Chaka: For her extraordinary impact as both a Musical Icon and a Compassionate Humanitarian.

Nomali Letta Mbulu Semenya: For her lifelong dedication to Music and Social Justice.

The Dignitas Awards recognise UJ alumni for their contributions to the growth and advancement of UJ. The Latin word dignitas refers to the almost physical aura that surrounds a person once he or she has fulfilled an important task. It therefore has the implied meaning of deserving, merit and worthiness.

This year’s Dignitas Awards Recipients are:

Lebogang Letsoalo: For her outstanding contributions to the Supply Chain Industry and her advocacy for Diversity and Inclusion.

Thabisile Charity Phumo: For her distinguished career in Communication and Social Performance, and her commitment to uplifting women.

Prof Mpedi closed off the ceremony by congratulating the awardees, and he emphasised the importance of celebrating members of the UJ community and individuals who do good.

“It is thus crucial to honour those who serve as ambassadors to our community. Once again, hearty congratulations to all the award winners tonight. You represent the very spirit of UJ. As we sit in each other’s company a little longer, I leave you with a Moroccan proverb. As it is said, “There is no beauty but the beauty of action.” May the feats described tonight, and these words embolden you to reimagine the future – with societal impact. Our world is crying out for it.”

Watch the video of the awards ceremony here:


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