Dear UJ Community,
I wish to start off by thanking our Registrar, Professor Kinta Burger, for holding the fort as the acting Vice-Chancellor while I was away on working trips to the United States of America, Britain and Rwanda over the past two weeks. On this platform last week, Prof Burger shared some insights about the importance of maintaining a good reputation as an institution of higher education, founded on the principles of ethical leadership, accountability and integrity.
I, for one, cannot begin to emphasise the importance of ethical governance, risk management and compliance. In this regard, I would like to extend my gratitude to all our staff members for embracing the new compliance initiative that we were mandated by Council to establish. The UJ Compliance Programme Steering Committee members are Ms. Nolwazi Mamorare (CFO), Prof Burger (Registrar), Mr. Dries Pretorius (UJ Counsel), Ms. Lerato Riba (Executive Director: Financial Governance & Revenue), Ms. Freda Madungandaba (Director: Insurance & Risk Assurance), Ms. Lee-Anne Govender (Director: Corporate Governance), Ms. Priscilla Hlangweni (Legal Advisor), and Ms. Vanishree Pillay (Senior Manager: Corporate Governance).
Feedback from our newly appointed Compliance Manager, Ms. Pheladi Kekana, on her engagement with various faculties and departments since March has been good. We sincerely appreciate that you, together with your nominated compliance champions, have welcomed her warmly and that you have committed to the journey of formalising the compliance management process in the University. This will enhance UJ’s compliance with applicable laws, codes, standard and policies and in alignment with the King IV Report on Corporate Governance™ for South Africa 2016 (“King IV™”). We look forward to a fruitful and seamless collaboration on compliance matters going forward.
Speaking of compliance, I wish to remind you about the upcoming Council on Higher Education (CHE) audit of our University, scheduled between the 16th – 20th May 2022. As communicated last week, the site visit is part of the audit which starts next week. The CHE interview sessions have now been added to the diaries of staff and students and all of these will run online barring those scheduled for the 20th May 2022. On Friday, 20 May, you may see the Audit Panel accompanied by UJ staff as they tour the four campuses. If you have been invited for a session and experience loadshedding, please note that we have venues in Madibeng that can be utilised. These will be clearly signposted.
The interviews provide opportunities for the Audit Panel to ask questions of staff and students which triangulate their understanding of the UJ Self-Evaluation Report. If you have not read the report, you should make the time to do so – it is wonderful to see how much there is in place to support excellence in the core areas of teaching and learning, research and integrated community engagement.
The CHE panel has requested the university to advertise an OPEN SESSION. Any member of the university community may request an invitation to the OPEN SESSION which will be held on Tuesday 17 May 2022 from 16:30 – 17:20. This session is online, and those wishing to attend are required to request an invite from email@example.com. To read more about this, click here.
On a different note, unemployment of graduates, as you would know, remains an endemic in our country. In the third quarter of 2021, for instance, the unemployment rate of graduates rose to a new high of 12.5% (Stats SA). Prior to that, the rate was between 6 and 9%. As a result, the Presidential Youth Employment Stimulus (YES) initiative, spearheaded by the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation and supported by Universities South Africa (USAf), has an initiative that aims to address the problem of graduate unemployment.
All 26 public universities in South Africa were invited to offer formal work-integrated learning opportunities to graduates. The programme will offer opportunities for graduates to gain beneficial workplace skills and improve their readiness for employment. UJ is among the universities that have committed to accommodating 180 of its graduates in the YES programme, for a period of six months, to support the core administration and operations of the University. The first cohort of 40 graduates began this month and the remainder will begin in June. UJ is proud to have been given the opportunity to contribute to the development of its graduates!
Some of you will recall that Professor Siphamandla Zondi was previously appointed as the Acting Director of the Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation (IPATC), one of our University’s Global Excellence and Stature 4.0 flagship institutes. This followed the departure of Prof Adekeye Adebajo last year. I am pleased to announce that Prof Zondi has now been appointed to this role as from 1 May 2022. This appointment will also see him lead the joint Institute for Global African Affairs (IGAA), which is a partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI). Congratulations Prof Zondi, we are optimistic that IPATC will grow in leaps and bounds under your leadership!
In the same vein, please join me in congratulating Prof Nic Beukes, a Professor of Geology and founding Director of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Integrated Mineral and Energy Resource (CIMERA), who has been elected to the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) as an International Member. Founded in 1863, the Academy is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the US on matters related to science and technology. Scientists are elected by their peers to membership in the NAS for outstanding contributions to research. Well-deserved, Prof Beukes – we wish you the best in this role!
Talking of membership, I would also like to welcome two new members to our University’s professorship. This week, Professors Ronit Frenkel and Nnamdi Nwulu delivered their professorial inaugurations. Congratulations to you both, I trust that the journey ahead will be fruitful.
It is not just staff members who excel in their respective fields. Please also join me in congratulating our first-year student and gymnast, Caitlin Rooskrantz, who has won gold at the 2022 FIG Artistic Gymnastic World Cup in Cairo, Egypt. Although our University does not offer gymnastics and some sports codes, there are several students who participate in highly recognised local and global competitions. The BCom Marketing Management student competed in the final of the bar apparatus on 19 March 2022. Her focus has since shifted to challenging for another top spot in the upcoming Africa Championships in May this year. Well done Ms Rooskrantz, we are so proud of you!
As previously communicated, the UJ KZN Floods Relief Fund that we launched just before the Easter long weekend continues to receive support. We will soon hand over the funds to Gift of the Givers, a trusted humanitarian NGO that has been at the forefront of aid during difficult times in South Africa and other countries. We call upon those who can voluntarily lend a hand to rebuild KwaZulu-Natal to do so. Click on this link to donate: https://uj.devman.co.za/devman/online/giving/. If we invest in the rebuilding of KwaZulu-Natal, all of us win.
I once again invite you to join the VC Reading Group today for a discussion on my recommended book, at the usual time of 14h00 (CAT). This time, we will discuss the book Resolved: Uniting Nations in a Divided World by Ban-Ki Moon. Our former colleague, Professor Adekeye Adebajo (formerly the Director of the IPATC and now Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Pretoria’s Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship), will be the respondent. To join, please click here: https://zoom.us/j/97321542592
On COVID-19 matters, you would be aware that South Africa has been experiencing a resurgence in the number of infections in recent weeks. The country has recorded more than 10 000 new Covid-19 cases over the last two days, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). Gauteng accounts for most of the new infections, followed by KwaZulu-Natal. A new Omicron sub-variant has caused this latest surge, according to the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). The body has said this is a warning sign of the fifth wave of COVID-19 had emerged.
In this regard, we urge our employees and students who are yet to be compliant with our University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy to do so. If you have been vaccinated and have not uploaded your vaccination certificate, please do so on https://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac. To read more about this, as well as information on assistance for students and postdoctoral research fellows with difficulty in submitting their vaccination certificates, click http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19. You may also visit the UJ website www.uj.ac.za.
As usual, we appeal to all to adhere to other recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all times.
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.