Vice-Chancellor Message – 11 August 2023

Dear UJ Community,

For a few years, colleagues from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) have regaled me with stories about some of the 4IR projects they have been working on at Gwakwani village in the Vhembe district of the Limpopo Province. So last week, as South Africa marked the beginning of Women’s Month, I travelled all the way to this remote village to see for myself. Professor Sehaam Khan (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic) joined me on the inspection-in-loco mission, to use legal language. As is the case with many projects where our University is involved, we were incredibly impressed with what we saw.

Innovation for societal impact and sustainability

What started as a small bakery catering to residents of the tiny village now serves several other villages. This has led to other groundbreaking, large-scale projects. Gone are the days when residents waited in long queues for water trickling from a few diesel-powered borehole pumps. They now get fresh water from three solar powered boreholes. When night falls, Gwakwani residents do not have to be afraid of the dark. The village is now illuminated by solar streetlights.

About 5km from Gwakwani, three brightly painted mobile containers adorn the entrance to Matatani, which is the village where the local chief resides. One serves as an early learning centre, another as a clinic and the other as a storage room, all thanks to our FEBE team. I cannot begin to emphasise the importance of early education and accessible healthcare, so you can imagine how pleased I am that our University is contributing significantly to these spheres and well-being of the community. A special thanks to the Executive Dean, Professor Daniel Mashao, and his team led by Profs Johan Meyer, Sune von Solms and Charis Harley. Well done, colleagues!

Learning Resource Centre for an under-resourced school

I also had the opportunity to unveil a brand-new Learning Resource Centre at Hanyani High School, about 10km away, near Musina. The school caters for learners from a cluster of villages stretching as far as 15km away. The Centre is a partnership between UJ and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). It is equipped with modern technology, including uncapped Wi-Fi connectivity, computers, printers, educational software, and other learning material. This reflects our shared vision to address the digital divide and promote equal access to quality education. I want to thank our colleagues in FEBE and SAJBD for their outstanding work, and I look forward to launching these groundbreaking projects later this year.


The struggle for gender equity and an inclusive society continues. 

It was pleasing to see the country united in Women’s Day celebrations on Wednesday, as we collectively paused to reflect on and celebrate the significant role that women from all walks of life have played and continue to play today. Watch a video below in commemoration of Women’s Month.

Here at UJ, just a day after we celebrated Women’s Day, we gathered to add our voice to this celebration and sound a call for a wider change. Through an event hosted by the Men’s Forum, we expressed our appreciation of women and discussed reframe masculinity to challenge the prevailing and pervasive status quo.

Helen Joseph Memorial Lecture

Also, yesterday, our Faculty of Humanities hosted the annual Helen Joseph Memorial Lecture. She was one of the brave women who led a women’s march to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 to protest against the oppressive pass laws, along with the likes of Lillian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams- De Bruyn. It was fitting that our very own Chancellor, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, was the keynote speaker at this year’s event. Her commitment to issues of gender equity resonates deeply with the legacy of the 1956 generation. Her contribution was an impactful and insightful contribution to the fight for gender equality.

2022 Stakeholder Report Launch

Next week on Tuesday, 15 August, we will host the hybrid 2022 Stakeholder Report Launch. This is an important event on our University calendar where we pause to reflect on the achievements and challenges of the past year. The event will take place at the Ubuntu Council Chambers, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus, between 17:50 and 18:30. Watch our website and circulars for the relevant link to join in remotely.

High Tea with the VC

As communicated last week, I invite you to the next edition of the hybrid High Tea with the VC book discussion on Friday, 18 August, at the usual time of 14:00 (CAT). We will be joined by Nicky Verd for a discussion of her book, Disrupt Yourself or be Disrupted: Escape Conformity, Reinvent Your Thinking and Thrive in an Era of Emerging Technologies and Economic Anxiety. Verd is a leading thinker on driving innovation through personal disruption and a human-centric digital transformation consultant focusing on people and culture.

As usual, we will meet at the UJ Library, Chinua Achebe Auditorium, Level 6, at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus. For in-person attendance, kindly RSVP here. For virtual attendance via Zoom, please click here.

Morale boosting victory for UJ Football team

Lastly, I congratulate our University football team for registering their first win in the 2023 edition of the Varsity Cup yesterday when they defeated Vaal University of Technology (VUT) at the UJ Soweto Stadium. I hope this win serves as an impetus for more outstanding performance in the remaining fixtures of the competition.

Kea 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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