Vice-Chancellor Message – 17 September 2021

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content_no_spaces”][vc_column][vc_column_text]{!{types field=’upload-hero-image’ title=’%%TITLE%%’ alt=’%%ALT%%’ size=’full’}!}{!{/types}!}[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Dear UJ Community

This week, in a WhatsApp chat with a friend I studied with in the US, he repeated what he told me last year, following the outcome of the elections.

“I still can’t believe that we were stuck with Donald Trump for a couple years,” he said. He went on to say that although the tide had turned and Joe Biden was now president, he was full of regret because he had failed to vote.

This gave me quite the jolt, and I immediately remembered that tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday – 18 and 19 September 2021 – have been declared voter registration weekend in South Africa, ahead of the 2021 local government elections which will be held on the 1st of November. With all the socio-economic and political challenges besetting South Africa today, it may be tempting to ask, “Why even bother voting?”

If you share this view, I am afraid that it is self-defeating and self-sabotaging. It is exactly what those intent on voter suppression hope for. Ultimately, voter apathy is where democracy dies, quite literally. Remember that if you do not vote, you are willfully surrendering your constitutional right for your voice be heard.

If you have not registered, I urge you to do so, so that you can cast your vote on November 1. Voting is more than just electing a particular individual as a public representative; it is your chance to choose how your taxes are spent – such as funding for social services, healthcare, education, housing, and public safety. Local elections, in particular, have the power to impact your everyday life. Please vote for yourself, for your family, for your community, and for your country.

Similarly, the process to elect Student Representative Councils (SRCs) for the 2022 term across institutions of higher education has started. At UJ, we will have our SRC Elections between 4 and 6 October 2021, following the successful conclusion of the nomination of candidates. You might have noticed the vibrant canvassers from clad in their colourful regalia campaigning around our campuses. Get involved, participate in the elections, and vote for your SRC!

On the topic of leadership, one of our internal publications, The Thinker, which has explored Pan-African issues across diverse fields and times over the last decade is making strides with its new editor, Prof Ronit Frenkel. Prof Frenkel plans on maintaining the Pan-African scope of the journal while increasing its coverage into areas such as books, art, literature and popular cultures. Herewith is the latest issue of The Thinker, guest-edited by Dr Bhaso Ndzendze, Senior Lecturer and HOD: Department of Politics and International Relations, and Gift Sonkqayi, a Master’s degree graduate in Education from Wits University.

In previous years, UJ recognised multilingualism with creative writing awards in English and Afrikaans language categories. In a first for our institution, and in keeping with our Pan-African currency, we have introduced and awarded the UJ Prize for Creative Writing in isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa and for Literary Translation. It is with a great sense of pride that I announce the winners of the following three newly instated prizes:

2021 UJ main prize for Creative Writing in isiZulu with a monetary value of R70000.00: EDM Sibiya for his work entitled Isibusiso Nezinyembezi (Blessings and Tears).
2021 Debut Prize for Creative Writing in isiZulu with a monetary value of R35000: Mbusiseni Bhenya for the drama UGovana kaGovana (Discontentment).
2021 main prize for Sesotho sa Leboa with a prize value of R70000: Kobate John Sekele for Madimabe a Lešoko (The heartache that comes with having children sometimes…)
2021 UJ Prize for Literary Translation with a prize value of R50000.00: Michiel Heyns for his translation of Buys by Willem Anker as Red Dog in English.
The 2021 UJ Literary Prize for the Translation of Youth Texts with a prize value of R35000.00 is awarded to Nathan Trantraal for the translation of Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds as Lang Pad Onnetoe.
More exciting news is that Thabiso Mphelane, a BA (Extended) graduate majoring in Development Studies in the Faculty of Humanities, UJ, recently completed a Master of Law in China Studies at Peking University in the prestigious Yenching Academy. He completed the degree as one of the top students with the degree awarded Summa Cum Laude. He attained 10 distinctions out of 12 Courses/Modules. Congratulations, Thabiso and well done!
Since the inception of the UJ Missing Middle campaign in 2016, your selfless contribution has helped us raise a total of R916 million to date. This could not have been achieved without your generous contributions, and for that, we are immensely grateful. Most of our students are first-generation graduates in their families and thus play an important role in breaking the poverty cycle. I implore you once again to support our efforts towards alleviating our students’ outstanding debt by pledging your support through payroll or alternatively donating by deposit/EFT to the University’s bank account, below:
Bank: FNB
Account name: University of Johannesburg-Main ACC
Branch name: Client services, Branch code: 210554
Account number: 62615873149, Swift code: FIRNZAJJ
Account type: Current
Reference: SOD2021
Remember that your generous contribution counts in your favour for tax rebates. Please click here to complete the pledge form.
Given the growing importance, particularly during the COVID-19 period, of data ethics, we have launched the Centre for Data Ethics (CDE), Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS); congratulations to Prof Tapiwa Chagonda, Faculty of Humanities, who will serve as the founding director.
As communicated earlier this week, the University Management has resolved that 60% of staff must return to their workstations on campuses and other University sites on a rotational basis per domain, as from this coming Monday, 20 September 2021. This follows government’s decision to move the country to a COVID-19 Adjusted Alert Level 2 from Level 3. Rotations will be managed by the relevant ELG member. As of this date, all ELG members/invitees and their Personal Assistants will also return to their respective offices. When an announcement is made to move the country to Alert Level 1, all staff should return to work. To read more about this and other related matters, click here.
The status quo remains with regard to the academic programme delivery: all students will continue to be supported through remote teaching, learning and assessment for the remainder of the second semester. In fact, this week, the StuDocu World University Ranking 2021 survey conducted by the StuDocuhigher education edtech platform based on responses from university students found that UJ was performing exceptionally in our efforts to enable remote learning. The University notched up a high ranking with an impressive score of 9 out of a possible 10, indicating the best performance in the country alongside North-West University. This is the impact of the great effort of our staff and students!
We will have the first of our second semester virtual VC Campus Engagements at the Soweto Campus next week on Tuesday, 21 September 2021, from 12:00 to 13:30. As explained previously, these are important engagements for us to have a sense of our University’s standing, in the face of the ongoing challenges in the COVID-19 era and how we continue to navigate that to ensure the sustainability of our business model. If there any specific issues you want addressed or if you have a particular question, please email
Lastly, on a sombre note, I wish to pay tribute to Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Professor Hlengiwe Buhle Mkhize, who passed away yesterday, at the age of 69. She was a passionate public official who dedicated her life to the service of humanity, from her maiden years in politics when she was one of the commissioners on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and later through the various portfolios, she has occupied in government and NGOs. My sincere condolences go out to her family, friends and comrades, may her soul rest in peace.
We again remind you to please inform us about your vaccinations status via the link: Enter the information after your first vaccination, and where relevant, update it after your second vaccination. The survey takes less than one minute. We use the numbers (and not your personal details), to inform us on the vaccination statistics of the UJ community. The statistics will guide us in our response to the COVID-19 situation and the implementation of our re-integration plans. You may also use this link 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.
The University leadership will continue to monitor the national and provincial COVID-19 outlook, and an update will be provided accordingly. This information may be verified by visiting: Should any of you experience symptoms of the coronavirus, please use the National Hotline of 0800 029 999 or WhatsApp line 0600 123456 or go to the following link for more information:
Please also 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: We appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing ( at all times.
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, 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.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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