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Vice-Chancellor Message – 16 July 2021

Dear UJ Community,

When we went on the mid-semester recess on the 25th of June 2021, we could not have imagined the devastating events that would soon unfold in parts of our country. In one of the rarest developments in democratic South Africa, a former head of state was imprisoned for contempt of court after failing to appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture. The verdict of incarceration by the Constitutional Court, which has made national and international headlines, has widely been hailed as an affirmation of the rule of law and our constitutional democracy.

What followed soon thereafter were distressing scenes of rampant looting and destruction of property. It is estimated that at least 117 people have lost their lives. The State President, H.E Cyril President Cyril Ramaphosa is on the record as saying that much of the violence was ethnically mobilised and an economic sabotage. In my latest article earlier this week, I reflect on the dangers of ethnicity. You may click here to read about this.

We add our voice with others in condemning these acts with the strongest terms possible. While many businesses have started counting their losses, the scale and gravity of the violence will hit home as unemployment rises further and basic food commodities become scarce. Our economy, still in a state of fragility and reeling from the COVID-19 lockdowns, will also take a further battering when more investors shun South Africa.

vice chancellor message

UJ calls for calm and restraint, and for a return to law, order and peace. The University sympathises with all those who have suffered losses. We express our condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones. To read more about our University’s stance on the looting and destruction of property, click here.

Back home at our University, the second semester has begun after the winter recess with this week kicking off the research period. As we have previously communicated, the decision to maintain the country at an COVID-19 Adjusted Alert Level 4 means that the status quo remains unchanged for our University and its operations. Only essential activities will be allowed on campus subject to extreme precautions.

As such, we urge our staff members across all faculties, divisions and units to continue to work remotely. We also remind our students that teaching and learning will continue to remain online for the second semester, with a few exceptions, e.g. practical/clinical sessions and a few assessments. To read more about this and information on the supplementary assessments, reduced UJ Library hours, and students in campus residences, click here.

As many of you are undoubtedly aware by now, the government extended the COVID-19 vaccination programme to people over the age of 35 from yesterday, Thursday 15 July 2021. We encourage our students and staff who are in this category to take advantage of this opportunity and get vaccinated. Following registration on EVDS, you may alternatively use the private sector vaccination rollout option. Based on your geolocation, the link proactively enables onsite appointments.

Please join me in congratulating Prof Claude-Hélène Mayer from the CBE School of Management, Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, who has been elected a Fellow of the International Academy for Intercultural Research (IAIR). IAIR (https://www.intercultural-academy.net) is made up of scholars from multiple disciplines including Education, Anthropology, Management, Communication, Psychology, Sociology and Policy Science. The Academy publishes the International Journal of Intercultural Relations (the leading journal in the field founded in 1977), convenes a biannual international conference, sponsors scholarly books and hosts several activities to boost interdisciplinary research. Well done Prof Mayer, you have done UJ proud!

More good news is that the UJ Facebook page has made it into the Top 200 Facebook University Ranking, otherwise known as the uniRank Facebook University Ranking. The ranking aims to provide a non-academic League Table of all world universities based on the popularity (number of likes or fans count) of their main Facebook page. UJ was ranked at number 80, beating some of the world’s biggest universities. This is a rare achievement for a South African university. Congratulations to our Marketing and Brand Unit, within University Relations!

The Marketing and Brand Unit also hosted a very topical Cloudebate™ on Wednesday evening, unpacking the topic of ransomware. Ransomware attacks have become more frequent in the Covid-19 era, with a seven-fold increase between 2019 and 2020. Panellists at the Cloudebate included Dr Jaco du Toit, UJ senior lecturer at the Academy of Computer Science and Software Engineering (ACSSE) and deputy director at the Centre for Cyber Security and Professor Joey Jansen van Vuuren who heads the Computer Science Department at the Tshwane University of Technology. You can view the Cloudebate™ here.

Some experts have argued that ransomware attacks are akin to cyber terrorism, which does not only affect big corporations and banks but also individuals. Being cyber-savvy is therefore essential to all of us. A huge shout-out goes to our colleagues at ICS for the valuable cyber security awareness campaign they are running.

Another tool in UJ’s 4IR arsenal is the e-zine Beyond Imagining, also produced by the University Relations Division. The sixth edition has just hit the cyber shelves. Don’t miss this issue that focuses on Communication in 4IR.

Lastly, as the month of July 2021 started, you would have received a number of POPIA messages. I remind you, that like all other organisations, we are bound by this new legislation. Thank you for also following the UJ circulars regarding this.

As usual, I remind you to notify our campus clinics if you have tested positive for COVID-19, or if you know of a colleague or a student who has tested positive. Please continue to visit our COVID-19 portal on the UJ website for valuable information, including health and wellbeing. Only information issued via the University’s official communication platforms is legitimate. This information may be verified by visiting: https://www.uj.ac.za/news/corona-virus/. We appeal to all to adhere to the 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, ngiyabonga, ndi a livhuwa!

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg

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

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