Vice-Chancellor Message – 27 August 2021

vice chancellor message

Dear UJ Community,

Yesterday morning, as the sun streaked across Auckland Park, students from our University streamed into the SABC precinct, where a kaleidoscope of gazebos had sprung up along the corner of Artillery & Henley Road. This was as they braved the early morning cold to be vaccinated against COVID-19, during the launch of the Pop-Up Vaccination Site at the SABC. The site is dedicated for UJ and Wits University students amongst other institutions of higher learning in the area.

The vaccination drive is the initiative of the Office of the Premier of Gauteng, in partnership with the SABC and the Johannesburg Health District. The campaign, which runs from the 26th to the 28th of August 2021, is being conducted as a drive-through and a walk-through site (walk-ins will be accommodated). I was impressed by the enthusiasm with which our students responded to the call. Just as myself and some of my colleagues in the UJ Executive Leadership Group found when we visited the Liberty Life vaccination site in Braamfontein on Wednesday, chatter and laughter could be heard from a distance, as students excitedly waited to be vaccinated.

As communicated on Tuesday, as many as 100 UJ students and staff can now get vaccinated a day at the Liberty Life Centre. UJ has secured dedicated spots for staff and students, with vaccinations scheduled between 14:00 and 16:00 daily. Click here to read more about this, including the registration links and information about the bus services that have been made available to ferry students from the various campus residences and the shuttle services for staff to and from the site. If you’re on Facebook, you can add a UJ picture frame and opt to display your vaccination status. The idea is to encourage others.

On a different, and rather sombre note, this week has been a cruel reminder of how persistent the scourge of GBV (Gender-Based Violence) is in our country. I am haunted by the gory images that have emerged from the Eastern Cape of the University of Fort Hare student, Nosicelo Mtebeni (23). As has been widely reported, her dismembered body was found stuffed into a luggage bag and placed on the street of East London’s Quigney suburb on Thursday last week. The incident has once again reminded us the extent of violence against women, which shows little sign of abating. We must continue to speak up against social injustices without fearing the consequences of standing by the truth. My deepest condolences to Mtebeni’s family and friends; may her soul rest in peace.

On Tuesday, the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the second quarter of this year, released by Statistics South Africa, painting a rather grim picture. According to the stats, the unemployment rate in South Africa has hit a record high of 34.4% (7.8 million jobless people). This is the highest unemployment rate recorded since the survey started in 2008. The official unemployment rate for women was 36.8%, compared to 32.4% for men. This was a stark reminder that we need to dig deeper if we are to revive our ailing economy.

Against this backdrop, I will join an array of esteemed panelists, including the former president of South Africa, Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe, in a two-day virtual conference to be hosted by the UJ Department of Politics and International Relations, from the 31st of August to the 1st of September. The conference will be held under the theme, Good Governance, Participatory Democracy, and Social Justice: Civil Society as an Agent of Change and Innovation in Africa. Amongst other pertinent points, it will consider where we are as a continent and take stock of what remains to be done to achieve Africa’s lofty ideals, while also reflecting and celebrating the accomplishments of civil society actors. Click here to register.

I am pleased to see that UJ continues to make strides in its endeavours for excellence in education. According to the Shanghai Ranking consultancy’s 2021 Academic Ranking of World Universities, UJ, one of nine SA universities listed in the league table, retained its standing and was placed in the 601 to 700 rank internationally. Most notably, our School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH) in the College of Business and Economics (CBE), is ranked 18th in the world.

Notwithstanding, our academic robustness was also recognised with other globally ranked subjects. These top subjects are: Chemical Engineering (301 to 400); Physics (301 to 400); Earth Sciences, Geography and Education (201 to 300); Public Administration and Sociology (101 to 150). These are noteworthy achievements, and my warmest congratulations go to the staff and Executive Deans of the respective faculties.

I am happy to announce that our University recently became the first academic institution to join the South African Plastics Pact as a supporting member. The pact members aim to accelerate the move towards a circular plastic packaging sector in South Africa. Our Process, Energy and Environmental Technology Station (UJ PEETS) colleagues were instrumental in initiating our University’s involvement. The pact reflects the holistic approach of co-creation and systems thinking that we will also apply through our various projects. I am confident that this pact will contribute towards a sustainable future. We are excited to walk this journey with Pact. Click here read more about this.

As communicated last week, I remind you to join me for the VC Virtual Reading Group today at the usual time of 14:00. My chosen book is Noise by Cass Sunstein, Daniel Kahneman and Olivier Sibony. The book has received rave reviews, including by Adam Grant, the author of Think Again and the host of the TED podcast WorkLife. Click here to join in the conversation.

Please inform us about your vaccination 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 check uLink. Please 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.

Please 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

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