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Vice-Chancellor Message – 01 March 2024

Dear UJ community,

Since March last year, following my inauguration as the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, I have had the honour of hosting several distinguished authors to discuss their books at the High Tea with the VC event. The event has since grown in popularity, drawing large audiences that engage in riveting discussions about critical themes raised in the books pertaining to contemporary issues in our country and beyond its borders.

Today, it will be a particularly special event, as we will be discussing my book, From the Baobab to the Mosquito: Rethinking Leadership Through African Sayings, published last year. And there is more. The inimitable Thebe Ikalafeng will join me as the discussant. Mr. Ikalafeng is an award-winning founder of BLG, a multi-disciplinary group at the intersection of strategy, creativity and intellectual property law. We will meet at the UJ Arts Centre, Keorapetse William Kgositsile Theatre, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus. The event starts at 14h00 (CAT). For in-person attendance, click here. To join us virtually via Zoom, Click here. You can also watch it live on UJTV.

Reliving the African dream

This week, our University hosted guests from international universities and the government. Before the High Tea with the VC event, I had the honour of hosting Professor Emmanuel Ohene Afoakwa, a Food Science and Technology Professor and currently the Vice-Chancellor of the Ghana Communication Technology University (GCTU), Tesano-Accra. He is also the Chief of Fiapre Traditional Area in the Bono Region of Ghana under the stool name Obrempong Professor Kyem-Amponsah II. As many of you would recall, I have a special relationship with the people of Ghana and its people since I was bestowed as a Chief in the Abeadze Kingdom last year, so it feels special to be meeting someone from that country.

Celebrating 30 Years of Democracy in SA

Yesterday, I opened an event to mark 30 years of democracy in our country. The event is a partnership between our University and the Canadian High Commissioner in South Africa. Hosted at our Soweto Campus under the theme, Canada UJ 30 Years of Democracy Celebration – Skills for the Future, the event aimed to highlight the strengthening relationship between Canada and South Africa, and especially Canada’s role in youth development through an expanded partnership. South Africa’s relationship with Canada has grown since establishing diplomatic ties in 1939, and I hope we continue to expand into further collaborations and strategic partnerships.

UJ spreading its wings in the Land of the Rising Sun

Earlier on Tuesday, I hosted a delegation from Tohoku University in Japan, comprising Prof. Akiyoshi Yonezawa (Vice Director of the International Strategy Office and Special Advisor to the President at Tohoku University) and Prof. Atsuki Komiya (from the Heat Transfer Control Laboratory at the Institute of Fluid Science). At UJ, we have a longstanding partnership with Tohoku University through our Faculty of Science, and this week, we discussed ways to take our partnership forward and strengthen internationalisation through a greater cultural understanding of Japan and, South Africa and the African continent.

Consolidating UJ’s footprint in the USA

Furthermore, I had the great pleasure of hosting colleagues from University of Cincinnati (CU) in Ohio, United States of America, as part of our efforts to strengthen relationships with strategic partner universities. I am truly grateful for my colleagues from both CU and UJ, who continue to work on various research projects as well as student and staff exchange programmes. Special thanks to CU’s Vice Provost of International Affairs, Prof. Raj Metha, and his colleagues, Ms Jenni Sutmoller (Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships), and UJ’s Ms Anisa Khan (Director Academic Services) and Mr Lebethe Malefo (Director Study Abroad), who work so diligently on our partnership!

Transformative Innovation for Sustainable Development

Earlier on Tuesday, I had the pleasure to open the Transformative Innovation for Sustainable Development (TRCTI) conference at our Johannesburg Business School (JBS). Held under the theme Transforming Africa: Innovating Our Way Towards Sustainability, the conference explored innovative solutions for Africa’s sustainable development journey. It brought together a wide array of thinkers, leaders, innovators, and change-makers from across the globe. Among the distinguished guest speakers were Ambassador Jacquiline Kenani (Deputy Head of Mission at the Kenyan High Commission), Ambassador Antony Phillipson (British High Commissioner), Dr Phil Mjwara (Director-General of the Department of Science and Innovation), and renowned economists Professor Carlota Perez and Professor Marianna Mazzucato.

Deputy Minister Buti Manamela visits UJ

I also had the pleasure of hosting Deputy Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology, Hon. Buti Manamela, and his Media Liaison Officer, Mr Mandla Tshabalala, over lunch. I was joined by colleagues Professor Bongani Ngqulunga and Dr. Nolitha Vukuza from the University Relations, Student Affairs and UJ Sport Division. We had wide-ranging and fruitful discussions about issues in the higher education sector and other related matters.

2024 First Semester Campus Engagements

I wish to thank our colleague who attended the 2024 first in the series of first semester VC Campus Engagement events at our Auckland Park Bunting (ABP) campus this past Tuesday. Next week, we will have two of these events – first on Tuesday (5 March 2024) at the Soweto Campus’ VIP Lounge, and then on Thursday (7 March 2024) at the Doornfontein Campus (Exam Centre Room on the second floor, JOB). I will again briefly discuss our University’s Strategic Plan 2035, a blueprint document to chart our future. Please be there so you do not miss this! We will meet at the usual time of 12:00 to 13:30. If there are any specific issues you would like to have addressed or have a question for me, please send these to bernicem@uj.ac.za.

Call to nominate a member to become part of the Executive Committee of Convocation

I remind the UJ Convocation members that they are invited to nominate one member to form part of the Executive Committee of Convocation. It is strongly recommended that nominees have a minimum of five years of experience in a senior management position in the corporate sector/business environment or academia. Nominees should also have access to extensive networks that could assist in enhancing the profile or stature of the University. Please note that only online nominations will be accepted. Nominations close on  6 March 2024 at 23:59. For more information on this, including the role of the Executive Committee and eligibility criteria, please click here: Nomination Form UJ Convocation

Note of congratulations

Please join me in congratulating our colleague, Ms Miemie Geya (Director Centre for Student Health and Wellness), who has been appointed as a Council member of the Lebone College of Emergency Care by the Gauteng Provincial Health Department. Her appointment is for a period of three years. Well done Sister Miemie, well deserved!

Note of condolences

I am deeply saddened by the death of our student, who was caught in crossfire during a shooting incident in Braamfontein yesterday. Another student is recovering in hospital. The two were among the students who were travelling in a bus from the university to their places of residence in Johannesburg City Centre. Condolences to the family of the student who passed away. I wish the injured student a speedy recovery. For more on this, visit our website, www.news.uj.ac.za.

Thought leadership

Lastly, I invite you to read my latest opinion piece that appeared in the Daily Maverick on Wednesday, titled African nations need to develop clear policies to combat the growing scourge of sextortion. In it, I shed light on the link between gender-based violence (GBV) and corruption as well as the alarming cases of sextortion and its profound impact on our societies.

Ke a leboha, ngiyabonga, thank you, baie dankie!

Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi: Vice-Chancellor and Principal

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

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