Dear UJ Community,
Today, I have the honour to address you for the first time as Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal of our University. For this, I am grateful to the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, who entrusted me with this task before his term of office ends next week, Tuesday, 28 February 2023. I have many good things to say about Prof Marwala and the exchanges we have had in recent months and long before, but I will reserve these for a later stage and for other relevant platforms. For now, and as I am sure you would agree, let me simply say that he is an accomplished scholar, academic, author and a truly incredible leader, and he leaves behind an indelible mark on the history of this University. Above all, he is a great human being!
I will outline my vision for the University at the Vice-Chancellor Inauguration Ceremony on 10 March 2023. I can assure you that we will continue to consolidate and build on the progress made in recent years, which has been anchored on the technological advancements of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). As we do so, we will ensure that our approach is not only innovative but also human-centric. As a University, we must be mindful that technology is only relevant if it has a positive and transformative impact on people.
As with all advancements, we should also be alert to some of the pitfalls associated with modern technologies. In my latest article, titled AI holds promise of great good and great harm – global ethical and legal standards are needed, I argue that while artificial intelligence (AI) has paved the way for great advancement, the caveat is that it is also increasingly being used for harm. As we continue on our journey to lead in the 4IR space, we should be mindful of using these advancements for the betterment of the societies that we serve. On Tuesday I also appeared on #SAfmViewPoint to discuss the law and the pursuit of justice in South Africa. You may listen to the interview here.
As a valuable case study, our Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering within the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) will today launch the 4IR Experience Lab, in partnership with Schneider Electric and the Schneider Electric Foundation. The partnership has been recognised as the best Business Collaboration between France and South Africa for access to education in the F’SASEC network (a French Southern African Schneider Electric Education Centre).
The purpose of the lab is to inspire scholars, students, industry, and researchers and outline the benefits of 4IR. It provides interactive demonstrations showcasing the potential and impact of 4IR technologies and the various ways it can benefit society at large. Keep an eye on our website for detailed information about this latest innovation that demonstrates our agility and tenacity in the 4IR space.
March ushers in the start of Autumn. In keeping with what is traditionally known as the season of harvest, we will commence with our Autumn Graduations on Monday, 27 February 2023. This graduation season comprises 46 ceremonies spread over seven weeks, during which we will confer more than 10 400 undergraduate diplomas, undergraduate, as well as postgraduate degrees – including almost 370 masters degrees and 63 doctorates. Congratulations to all our graduates, well done!
I reiterate my appreciation to those of you who have responded to our ‘Double our Future Impact’ campaign aimed at financially supporting the Missing Middle students to register for their degrees and diplomas in 2023. As you will recall, this is our initiative to ensure that at least 10 000 students are assisted. We have already received donations of more than R3.5 million from major donors, including a donation from the Motsepe Foundation. Donate Now!
In the same vein, I received heartening news that our colleagues in the Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management (IPPM) contributed almost R730 000 in bursaries towards the registration of deserving students. I am told that the Acting Head of Department, Professor Crystal Hoole, personally drove a social impact campaign to assist undergraduate students with registration, contributing R110 500. She also facilitated 20 external bursaries to the value of R 400 000 to 15 IPPM students and five Engineering students. Her colleague in the Department, Prof Wilfred Ukpere, contributed R50 000. A special thanks to both of them and the rest of their team for this generous contribution. It is really inspiring to see the compassion and commitment demonstrated by our staff.
In other news, I listened intently to the Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana’s Budget Speech on Wednesday, in which he reminded us about the importance of green technologies and how the deployment of low-carbon solutions is accelerating this. Of course, this is something we have long embraced at UJ, as demonstrated by, amongst others, projects such as the installation of solar panels on our on-campus buildings and carports (covered parking bays), and more recently, the unveiling of Electric Vehicle (EV) buses.
We welcome the Minister’s announcement of two tax relief measures to encourage businesses and individuals to invest in renewable energy and increase electricity generation, in the face of unabated loadshedding. As from 1 March, businesses that take advantage of this in the next two years will be able to reduce their taxable income by 125% of the cost of the investment in renewables. With regards to household incentives, individuals who install rooftop solar panels in the next 12 months will be eligible for a 25% rebate on the cost of the panels, up to a maximum of R15 000. This will go a long way to creating more sustainable practices.
Lastly, I look forward to engaging with our employees when myself and other members of the University Executive Leadership Group (ELG) embark on the 1st Semester VC Campus Engagements. The first of these engagements takes place next week Wednesday at the Auckland Park Bunting (APB) campus. As usual, we will meet at the Protea Auditorium, Kerzner Building, School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH), from 12:00 to 13:30. If there are any specific issues you would like to have addressed, or if you have a question for me, please send these to email@example.com. I look forward to engaging with you on matters that are important to our university. The rest of the sessions are scheduled as follows:
- Soweto Campus (SWC): Monday, 6 March 2023
- Doornfontein Campus (DFC): Wednesday, 8 March 2023
- Auckland Park Kingsway (APK): Monday, 13 March 2023
Kea leboha, Ngiyabonga, baie dankie, ria livhuwa, thank you!
Prof Letlhokwa Mpedi: Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.