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Vice-Chancellor Message – 22 July 2022

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Dear UJ Community,

While the University was on the midyear semester recess, I found myself riding a weather rollercoaster as I travelled between South Africa and Europe on a working trip. As many of you might know, Europe is currently in the grip of a record-breaking heatwave, with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius. The sweltering heat has fuelled ferocious wildfires in some countries while causing drought in others, in what is clearly a sign of the ongoing climate change trajectory.

And then, while I was still reeling from that scorching weather, I briefly returned home to a bitterly cold Johannesburg, where the mercury has often plummeted to below the zero mark. Suddenly, summer and winter were clashing in me, quite literally. I am nevertheless pleased that I have remained unscathed so far, with just occasional sneezes far and in between.

I have written extensively on climate change issues, but for purposes of this article, I refer you to this article which I penned earlier this year. I hope that you all had a restful and pleasant recess and that you are reenergised for the second semester and rearing to face it with more zeal and grit. Welcome back everybody!

We could not have asked for a better time for a homecoming to the University, when there is plenty of good news to share all around. Two academics from our University have been named as the winners in the 24th national 2021/2022 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF-South32 Awards), the premier research awards in South Africa.

The awards, known as the Oscars of Science, recognise excellence and outstanding contributions to science, engineering, and technology (SET) and innovation in South Africa. They are the largest, most comprehensive, and sought-after national awards of their kind in the country.

Let’s all stand up for a virtual applause for the Mining Positron Emission Tomography Research Group (MinPET) for being named as the winner in the  Innovation Award: Corporate Organisation. Prof Simon Connell: and Department of Mechanical Engineering Science, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, were the Team Leader. For the leadership Prof Connell took in the development of MinPET, a revolutionary Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) invention which is an online sensor-based detection process of diamonds within mined kimberlite rocks.

In the same vein, let us also salute Dr Banothile Makhubela (Senior Lecturer and Director: Research Centre for Synthesis and Catalysis, Department of Chemical Sciences, Faculty of Science) for being named as the winner in the TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher. She was recognised for her contribution to nano- and organometallic-catalysis directed towards green and sustainable chemical processes. Her research applies such catalysts to converting waste materials like lignocellulose and a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), into sustainable chemicals and fuels.

I also wish to praise Prof Omotayo Arotiba (Professor: Department of Chemical Sciences; and Director: Centre for Nanomaterials Science Research), who was the finalist in the TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher and  NSTF Water Research Commission Award. The same goes for Prof Nonhlangabezo (Bezo) Mabuba (Associate Professor: Analytical Chemistry, Material and Processing Science, Department of Chemical Sciences), who was a finalist in the Engineering Research Capacity Development Award. To be a finalist is a recognition of excellence in itself.

As previously communicated, our various academics and executives continue to get recognition for their expertise and outstanding contributions in initiatives to solve societal problems. Please join me in congratulating Dr Nolitha Vukuza, Senior Executive Director: University Relations, Student Affairs & UJ Sport, and Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, the Director of the Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Study (JIAS), who have been appointed to serve as a Council Member of the Robben Island Museum.

The Museum is a public entity responsible for managing, maintaining, presenting, developing and marketing Robben Island as a national estate and World Heritage Site. It was established by the Department of Arts and Culture in 1997 and declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). As part of her role, Dr Vukuza will provide oversight and strategic direction to the Museum. Her appointment is effective from 1 July 2022 until 30 June 2025.

Another good news is that our incoming University Chancellor and former Executive Director of UN Women, Dr Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, was this past weekend on Saturday, 16 July 2022, awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. This is testament to her outstanding leadership role and her role and dedication to advancing human rights issues, especially relating to gender equity.

Furthermore, and while I was in Milan, Italy, this week – where I joined global experts driving responsible fourth industrial revolution (4IR) – I received the news that Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka had her name unanimously endorsed to be part the African Union (AU) Panel of the Wise, by all member states.

This follows her nomination by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor. The AU Panel of the Wise is an important structure for peace and security to assist in conflict resolution and to prevent and preempt conflict. Congratulations on this endorsement, you are indeed a true role models to us South Africans.

In case you have missed it, I am also pleased to share with you the winners of the 2022 UJ Prize for Creative Writing and Literary Translation in the three categories of isiZulu, Sesotho sa Leboa, and the Literary Translation. The winners are as follows:

  • Ntombenhle Protasia Dlamini and Khanyelihle Mnguni who have been named joint winners of UJ’s main prize for creative writing in isiZulu in 2022. Dlamini for her work Zinoju Zulu and Mnguni for Kusazoba Mnandi.
  • Sandile Ngwenya, is the winner of the 2022 Debut Prize for Creative Writing in isiZulu, for Imali Yezipoki.
  • The 2022 Debut Prize for Creative Writing in Sesotho sa Leboa was awarded to joint winners – Kholofelo Thaba for Sedibeng sa Komelelo and Mahlatsi Maqwenjo for Bohlale bjo foufetšego.
  • The winner of the 2022 Sesotho sa Leboa main prize is Ditsakauma Tša Marumo by PM Mashilo & MT Masha.
  • SJ Naudé, was named the winner of the 2022 UJ Prize for Literary Translation, for his self-translation of Dol heuning into English from the original Afrikaans.


These prizes are administered by the Multilingual Language Services Office (MLSO) of the University of Johannesburg. To read more about the winners and their work, click here. Congratulations to all the winners, well deserved! I hope their work will inspire other students.

Still on literary issues, the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS) invites applications for its Eighth Writing Semester, which will run from 1 February to 31 May 2023. Fellowships are open to any field of expertise, including novelists writing in indigenous languages. Previous fellows have included academics, novelists, scientists, poets, playwrights, independent researchers and journalists. For more information and to apply, click here:

On a different note, I wish the national football senior women’s team, Banyana Banyana, all the best as they prepare to take on Morocco in the final of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations tomorrow. They have been the best team so far in the competition, and I am optimistic that they will bring the trophy home on their return.

Lastly, and while we might have suspended our COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination Policy, we urge you to continue to take precautionary steps to minimise the spread and avoid disruptions to its learning and teaching and sporting and extramural activities.

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.

Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!

Issued by:

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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