Dear UJ Community,
After the plenty of good news that I have shared with you in recent weeks, I had hoped to start this edition on the same note. I was particularly looking forward to that to mark the beginning of Women’s Month, which is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women and the significant role they have played and continue to in our society, with strong, positive women-centric stories.
However, this is not the case. I have been deeply saddened by the events of last week Thursday, when eight women were gang-raped while filming a music video at an abandoned mine dump in West Village in Krugersdorp. These crimes were another grim reminder that the scourge of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) lurks everywhere and that the danger that women face on a daily basis continues unabated. If the national statistics are anything to go by, the sombre reality is that hundreds of women are raped and killed daily.
It is a chilling sign of a society descending into barbarism and ascending into tyranny. It is an insult to the 20 000 women who on 9 August 1956 came together for a mass demonstration at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the unjust passed laws in South Africa that we continue to make our country a living hell for women. The deep-seated structural inequalities in our society, patriarchal dominance and a host of other sociological problems that persist are responsible for us remaining on this never-ending path of violence. We have to do more to tear these structures down.
As a nation, we can never claim to be free when our quest for women’s emancipation remains a pipedream. As celebrated African author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o reminds us, “The condition of women in a nation is the real measure of its progress”. My heart goes out to the survivors of this heinous crime and those who have been impacted by this trigger. The trauma is incomprehensible, and one can only hope for retributive justice. What is certain is that we have to renew our efforts to protect and empower all women across socio-economic lines and effect change.
In commemoration of Women’s Month, our University will host a series of events and seminars focusing on women’s empowerment under the theme, Women’s Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment: Building Back Better for Women’s Improved Resilience. Next week on Wednesday, 11 August 2022, UJ will host two events: a Public Lecture under the theme, ‘The need for multidisciplinary collaboration for addressing gender-based violence’ as well as a webinar (hosted by IPATC), under the theme, ‘Women’s Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa’.
In this month, we also recognise female trailblazers at our University. It was wonderful to see one of our young emerging academics, Dr Whitney Rosenberg, receive an award for her human rights and constitutional community work. She was recently recognised at the 2022 Women in Law South Africa (WOZA) awards, walking away as the second runner-up in the category: Human Rights Activist/Social Justice Activist/Pro Bono Lawyer. Africa is one of few countries that embarked on awards to exemplify women in law. Dr Rosenberg, the recognition is well deserved, well done!
In the same vein, join me in congratulating Dr Kirti Menon, our Senior Director of the Division for Teaching Excellence. Dr Menon has been appointed by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) as the Chair of the Task Team on Online and Blended Learning. The task team will review the current modes of delivery for learning, teaching and assessment, and make specific recommendations on a more sustainable process that enables new modalities for previously accredited programmes but also ensures quality considerations. Dr Menon, all the best with this new endeavour!
I also wish to congratulate Prof Juanitta Calitz, former Associate Professor of Law and Head of the Department of Mercantile Law, who has been appointed as the Vice-Dean for Research for a three years-term, effective from 1 August 2022. This comes fresh after the appointment of Prof Lungile Ntsalaze, Head of Doctor of Philosophy in Digital Transformation at the JBS, as the new Dean: College of Business Economics (CBE). Prof Calitz, I wish you all the best in your new role, and we look forward to your contributions.
More good news is that our UJ team for the Kader Asmal Moot was recently announced as the overall winner of the competition held at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Led by Mr Louis Koen, the team comprises Ms Rethabile Maboko and Mr Unathi Xokiso. They also won the prize for the best heads of argument. Additionally, Ms Maboko was ranked the second-best speaker in the competition overall. Well done to you all!
This particular achievement reminds me of the important message last week by two of our MECs (Members of the Executive Committee), Prof Letlhokwa Mpedi and Prof Kinta Burger, at the national institutional research institute of the South African Association for Institutional Research (SAAIR), hosted by UJ. They both stressed the value that lies in South African universities sharing knowledge and working together.
A concrete outcome of the deliberations at the three-day conference, convened by the Division for Institutional Planning Evaluation and Monitoring (DIPEM), was a decision by SAAIR to create a national platform for engagement between universities that focuses specifically on rankings, in which UJ will play a prominent role. I thought this was an event of national importance and a welcome development. Well done to the organisers and participants.
Talking of working together, I wish to dedicate my latest recognition this week, when I was awarded an honorary doctorate at Caucasus University in Tbilisi, Georgia, to the entire UJ Community. I was among three people who were honoured for innovative research aimed at building better societies. This is something I could not have achieved without the support of UJ’s staff and students. A special thanks to the MEC, our Chair of Council Mr Mike Teke and Chancellor Prof Njabulo Ndebele for their unwavering support through the years.
On a different note, I again wish to thank our University executive leadership as well as the Student Representative Council (SRC) and House Committees for their assistance and support in restoring water at some of our residences at the Auckland Park Bunting (APB) and Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) campus. This followed disruptions in the supply of water by the City of Johannesburg, which affected residences and caused great disruptions.
I also wish to remind you of the second round of the UJ Cleaning Campaign, which started last week across all four campuses, from 12:00 to 13:00. Please note of remainder of the schedule, which is as follows:
- 5 August 2022: DFC (The Student Centre amphitheatre is the converging and endpoint).
- 12 August 2022: APK (Auckland Park Kingsway Campus).
- 19 August: SWC (Lembede Garden is the assembly and final point).
Another important reminder is that the UJ Press and Exclusive Books Rosebank invite you to the launch of This Generation Leads: The Latest Leadership Ideas from South Africa, edited by Mr Muzi Kuzwayo and Mr Mike Teke, on Thursday, at Exclusive Books Rosebank Mall. The book is published on our online UJ Press Open Monograph Press. The launch is scheduled for 11 August 2022, from 18h00 for 18h30, and I urge you to book space in advance to avoid disappointment. You may RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still, on book matters, I wish to invite you to the VC August Hybrid 2022 Reading Group next week Friday, 12 August 2022, at the usual timeslot of 14h00 (CAT), in Room, Level 3, Auckland Park Campus. This time, we will discuss the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. “This extraordinary account shows us that miracle workers, believers, and con artists populate hospitals and churches and that even a science writer may find herself playing a central role in someone else’s mythology”, according to a review by The New Yorker. Prof Sehaam Khan, our Executive Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, will be the respondent.
- To join in the conversation, click here: https://zoom.us/j/94370978121
- In-person attendance: the University of Johannesburg Library, Alan Paton Board
Lastly, and as many of you might know by now, this coming Monday, 8 August 2022 – which precedes Women’s Day on Tuesday, 9 August 2022 – is a University holiday. As such, I wish you a pleasant and peaceful long weekend. Take care!
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone