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Vice-Chancellor Message – 23 February 2024

Dear UJ community,

Like many South Africans, I listened intently as Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana tabled his 2024 Budget Speech on Wednesday. As expected, the budget pointed to a gloomy outlook, with the economy expected to grow by only 1.3% this year. Rotational power cuts were among the reasons cited for this rather sluggish economic growth forecast, along with low commodity prices and risks from potential spikes in the global oil price. It was pleasing to listen to many UJ experts providing valuable insights into the budget across various media platforms.

Electric Vehicles

As a University that is continually reimagining the future, UJ unveiled two brand new Electric Vehicle (EV) buses last year, to ferry students to and from our various campuses. With this in mind, I welcome the Minister’s announcement that the government has reprioritised R964 million over the medium term to support the production of New Energy Vehicles. This is part of the government’s plan to transition the automotive industry from primarily producing internal combustion engine vehicles to a dual (hybrid) platform that includes electric vehicles by 2035.

More pleasing was the Minister’s undertaking that the government will introduce an investment allowance to encourage the production of electric vehicles, effective from 1 March 2026. This will allow producers to claim 150% of qualifying investment spending on electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles in the first year.

UJ student wins the 2023/2024 Budget Speech Competition

Still on the 2024 Budget, it was with immense pride that four of our students in the College of Business and Economics (CBE)’s School of Economics made it all the way to the finals of this year’s Nedbank & Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition. The UJ finalists, who formed part of our 2023/2024 Budget Speech team are Sandile Mbatha, Delisa Simelane, Kabelo Rabaloyi, and Mziwanele Maxakatho.  Sandile also emerged as the competition winner in the postgraduate category.

Congratulations to Sandile and all our finalists; I am incredibly proud of your achievement. Well done! Being named a finalist is quite a feat because students are selected from thousands of applicants across the country. I also appreciate the Economics UJ Budget Speech team’s sterling work in preparing our students for the competition. To read more about this, click here.

UJ secures EU Grant to lead digital transformation in TVET Colleges

As you know, UJ is among the leading universities driving the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). To this end, I am pleased to share with you that UJ has secured a €400,000 (approximately R8.1 million) European Union (EU) grant to lead a digital transformation initiative in South African Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. Funded by the Erasmus+ Program under Capacity Building in Higher Education, this initiative reflects UJ’s dedication to driving societal impact through innovative educational initiatives.

I wish to thank all our colleagues in the School of Accounting in the College of Business and Economics (CBE) and the Johannesburg Business School (JBS) for leading this project and securing substantial international funding for a project that aligns with our Technology for Societal Impact strategy. The project leaders are Ms Rachel Khoza (project coordinator), Mr Kgabo Masehela, Ms Lonah Mbhalati and Kabelo Morake (Department of Commercial Accounting), and Prof Tankiso Moloi (Director: Academic at JBS). Well done, colleagues!

Top 200 Young South Africans Call for Nominations    

Each year, for the past 17 years, the Mail & Guardian hosts South Africa’s premier event, the 200 Young South Africans Awards. The awards feature exceptional young South Africans in all sectors who are having a positive impact on society. This event celebrates the leaders of tomorrow and the agents of change today.

I once again urge our staff and students to help celebrate the distinguished service and accomplishments of our University Community by nominating staff, students or alumni of UJ. To be eligible for this recognition, nominees should be aged 18 to 35 and be committed to the development of South Africa in 17 categories that including sport, agriculture, financial services, governance, justice, arts and entertainment, health and technology. The deadline for nominations is 29 February 2024. To nominate someone, click here.

2024 First Semester Stakeholder Engagements

With the 2024 Academic Programme now in full swing, it is that time of the year when I host the VC Campus Engagements. This is an opportunity for staff across our respective campuses to engage with me and other UJ Executive Leadership Group (ELG) members on important matters pertaining to our beloved University. At this semester’s events, I will briefly discuss our University’s Strategic Plan 2035, a blueprint document to chart our future. Please be there so you do not miss this!

The first of these engagements will occur next week, Tuesday, 27 February 2024, at the Auckland Park Bunting (APB) campus, Sun International Auditorium. We will meet at the usual time of 12:00 to 13:30. If there are any specific issues you would like to have addressed or have a question for me, please send these to bernicem@uj.ac.za.

The rest of the sessions are scheduled as follows:

  • Tuesday, 5 March 2024 – SWC – VIP Lounge
  • Thursday, 7 March 2024 – DFC – Exam Centre on the second floor, JOB.
  • Tuesday, 19 March 2024 – APK – UJ Sanlam Auditorium.

Call to nominate a member to become part of the Executive Committee of Convocation

I remind the UJ Convocation members that they are invited to nominate one member to form part of the Executive Committee of Convocation. It is strongly recommended that nominees have a minimum of five years of experience in a senior management position in the corporate sector/business environment or academia. Nominees should also have access to extensive networks that could assist in enhancing the profile or stature of the University. Please note that only online nominations will be accepted. Nominations close on  6 March 2024 at 23:59. For more information on this, including the role of the Executive Committee and eligibility criteria, please click here: Nomination Form UJ Convocation

High Tea with the VC

Lastly, we resume our High Tea with the VC book discussion next week, Friday, 1 March 2024, at 14h00 (CAT). I am thrilled that we will kickstart this year’s series by discussing my book, From the Baobab to the Mosquito: Rethinking Leadership Through African Sayings. Thebe Ikalafeng will join me as the discussant. Mr Ikalafeng is an award-winning founder of BLG, a multi-disciplinary group at the intersection of strategy, creativity and intellectual property law. Through Brand Africa, he advocates for a brand-led African renaissance. We will meet at the UJ Arts Centre, Keorapetse William Kgositsile Theatre, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus. For in-person attendance, click here. To join us virtually via zoom, Click here. You can also watch it live on UJTV.

Ke 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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