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Vice-Chancellor Message – 08 September 2023

Prof Khan

Dear UJ Community,

It is an honour to address you as the Vice-Chancellor and Principal (Acting) this week, while Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi is away on a working trip in Belgium. As has become customary, I wanted to start on a positive note but as fate would have it, circumstances dictate that I begin on a sombre note. It was with profound sadness that I learnt of the passing of Raymond Ackerman, who developed the Pick ‘n Pay supermarket chain into the phenomenal success it is today.

Raymond Ackerman’s entrepreneurial spirit shines brightly at UJ.

Mr Ackerman was not just a remarkable businessman; he was also a philanthropist par excellence who made immense contributions to the betterment of society. He firmly believed in equal opportunities for all South Africans and was a strong voice calling for the release of Mr Nelson Mandela in the late 1980s. In 2014, the Ackerman Foundation’s Raymond Ackerman Academy partnered with our University’s Centre for Entrepreneurship to establish and implement a groundbreaking initiative aimed at nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit of young individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Through his generous support, the academy launched the Youth Entrepreneurial Development Programme, which has since impacted the lives of over a thousand young South Africans. As we mourn the loss of a visionary leader, we also celebrate his enduring legacy. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Expanding the UJ global footprint 

Last week on this platform, Prof Mpedi mentioned that we hosted 39 Rectors and senior leaders from across the Brazilian Association of Rectors of State and Municipal Universities network. This is part of our efforts to foster relationships with strategic partner universities and other organisations. As alluded earlier, he has been in Belgium this week, where he led a UJ delegation to a European Regional conference on labour and social security. The event was hosted by Ghent University and the Belgium Society for Labour and Social Security Law.

The UJ team comprised Professor Ylva Rodny-Gumede (Senior Director: Division for Internationalisation), Elmarie Fourie (Associate Professor and HOD: UJ Public Law), Amanda Breytenbach (Vice-Dean, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture), and Ilse Prinsloo (HOD: Department of Interior Design, FADA). We had the opportunity to engage in productive sessions with colleagues from Ghent University, who were led by the Dean of the Faculty of Law and Criminology, Professor Michel Tison and Prof Rick van de Walle. We also had other engagements with the faculties of Arts, Design and Architecture from other universities that were in attendance.

UJ Student Leadership

Dr Nolitha Vukuza (Senior Executive Director and MEC member) is leading a delegation of UJ’s Student Leadership comprising the Central SRC and Chairs of House Committees. They are on a Global Student Leadership Program at the Appalachian University in North Carolina. She is accompanied by Mr Godfrey Helani and Mr Mhlobowethu Hoyi from Student Affairs as well as Ms Lisle Du Plessis from our Internationalisation Division.

Google Africa Internet Academy comes to UJ

So much has been said about Google as a leading search engine technology company and its focus on artificial intelligence (AI). But for all the hype around this, not much is known about how AI works and what exactly it does. And most importantly, what economic opportunities does AI present? Conversely, how do we curb the spread of illegal and harmful content with unfair bias and abuse?

These are some of the topics that will be discussed when our University hosts the Google Africa Internet Academy, one of the premier annual events on the continent. The event is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday next week, 11 – 12 September 2023 at JBS Park. Other topics include the collection and use of personal information, people’s ability to understand and control how their data is used, as well as the impact of data-driven technologies on people and society. I urge those of you who can, to attend this important event.

Bonne chance Amabokoboko!

I wish the Springboks, our senior national Rugby men’s team, the best of luck at the World Cup. The tournament kicks off today with the host nation France taking on New Zealand. Both the Springboks and New Zealand are aiming to lift the Web Ellis Cup for a record-extending fourth time, ahead of Australia and England. Bring it home, Amabokoboko!

High Tea with the VC

On behalf of Prof Mpedi, I invite you to the next High Tea with the VC book discussion on Friday, 22 September 2023, when we will discuss the book Awakened to My True Self, by Nonkululeko Gobodo. Nonkululeko is the CEO of AWAKENED Global, a social initiative, and was the first African woman to qualify as a chartered accountant in South Africa in 1987. She is also the former Chairman and founder of SizweNtsalubaGobodo, now SNG Grant Thornton, the largest black auditing and accounting firm in South Africa. We will meet at the UJ Arts Theatre at 14h00 (CAT).

Lastly, I invite you to read Prof Mpedi’s latest article, titled A gold watch and shackles for your chain – importance of long service awards in 4IR era.  As the title suggests, Prof Mpedi explains that a long service award isn’t merely a clocking of years spent at an institution. It represents employees’ role in moulding an organisation and shaping its story.

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

Professor Sehaam Khan: Vice-Chancellor and Principal (Acting)

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

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