Dear UJ Community,
This week, I have the honour to address you as Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, while Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi is in Australia for the U21 AGM and Presidential Symposium. Although my time as Acting Vice-Chancellor has been somewhat brief because of the long weekend, Freedom Day on Friday and Workers’ Day on Monday, it is a wonderful experience that I cherish. It is indeed great working with a diverse group of people who are driven by the desire to exceed expectations, and in an environment where each voice is heard and valued.
Arguably one of the highlights of the week has been the graduation ceremonies, notably the one on Tuesday evening where I presided as Vice-Chancellor. During this event, UJ conferred an Honorary Doctorate on Professor Ibrahim Gambari, a renowned scholar who has played a significant role in the area of diplomacy and conflict resolution across Africa. As I was reading his laudation, I reflected on the stature of Prof Gambari, as well as the other recipients of Honorary Doctorates conferred during this graduation season. To read more about this, click here.
U21 AGM and Presidential Symposium
As indicated, Prof Mpedi is in Brisbane, Australia, for the U21 AGM and Presidential Symposium. He is representing UJ in the event together with Prof Saurabh Sinha, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Internationalisation, Professor Ylva Rodny-Gumede, Senior Director Division for Internationalisation and Dr Ndivhuwo Luruli, Executive Director Research and Innovation. The AGM and Presidential Symposium constitutes an important event in the U21 calendar and brings together the vice-chancellors, senior leaders and cluster representatives of all 28 universities in the U21 network. This year, the University of Queensland is hosting the event and the overall theme is ‘Partnering for change, what role do universities play in achieving a net-zero future?’. This is an important discussion that we envision taking forward internally as well.
As we head into the long weekend, I thought it was important to briefly reflect on the significance of the two public holidays. Friday marks exactly 29 years since that historic day in 1994, when millions of people across the country waited in long queues to cast their votes in the first democratic elections of South Africa. It would be cynical not to acknowledge the progress that we have made as a nation since that day, but the arrival of democracy has not meant that all the problems of our nation are gone.
Many of our people still live in abject poverty and with lack of access to basic amenities. Today, people are struggling under the weight of runaway inflation and joblessness that are worsened by relentless power and water outages. As Nelson Mandela, once said, “As long as many of our people still live in utter poverty, as long as children still live under plastic covers, as long as many of our people are still without jobs, no South African should rest and wallow in the joy of freedom.”
Yet, despite the challenges we still grapple with today, we should appreciate that today is better than yesterday, and hope that tomorrow will be better than today. The challenge for us all is to unite and start initiatives that will help create employment and empowerment for every hard-working person. In this way, we will be contributing towards making our democracy succeed, and our country prosper. At UJ, we have demonstrated this through our various projects that make the University a national standard bearer for transformation, equity, access and Pan-Africanism.
As we gear up to Workers’ Day on Monday, it is important to acknowledge the role our employees play in our University. Much of the outstanding work that our staff has done has been covered by the media, but I want to pay homage to our ordinary employees who are at the coalface of our strategic initiatives, those whose work goes unnoticed. From our library and laboratory staff, our technicians, machine operations, our security personnel, our cleaners and drivers, you are all our unsung heroes and heroines. I wish to thank you for your contribution and sacrifices in supporting our University in fulfilling its core functions of research, teaching and learning.
A happy Freedom Day and Worker’s Day to all our employees and thank you for your tireless and diligent service. Those who will be traveling, please take care on the roads. I hope you come back refreshed and energised for the new month and the remainder of the year as we continue with our work to place the University on the global stage.
Kea leboha, Ngiyabonga, baie dankie, thank you!
Dr Mpoti Ralephata: Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.