Vice-Chancellor Message – 27 October 2023

Dear UJ Community,

This week, I have been in quite a nostalgic mood. Tomorrow is the World Cup Rugby Final match between our national team, the Springboks, and New Zealand’s team, the All Blacks. Memories of the euphoria of that day 28 years ago, when the Bokke defeated the All Blacks by a narrow 15-12 score to claim the coveted William Webb Ellis trophy, have come hurtling back. Flashbacks of Nelson Mandela presenting Francois Pienaar (the then captain) with the trophy in front of a jubilant crowd at Ellis Park Stadium remind me of the excitement that gripped the nation on that historic day.

The unifying power of sport  

In a match played against a backdrop of politics, when South Africa was emerging from its dark history of apartheid, the Springboks victory became a symbolic moment of national unity. The Springboks, for long seen by many black South Africans as a symbol of oppression, subverted this narrative and became the symbol of unity. In a deft act of statesmanship, Mandela used the occasion to foster unity and national pride. His slogan ‘One Team, One Country’ is synonymous with the events of the day.

As Pienaar aptly put it, “We didn’t have 60,000 South Africans [at the stadium], we had 43 million South Africans.” In one of his famous quotes, Mandela drew parallels between the event and national cohesion: “It [sport] has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does… Sport can create hope where there was only despair.” Of course, the euphoria did not last forever, but the events of that day remain etched in our minds.

Sterkte Bokke and Proteas

Now, the Springboks have an opportunity to do it all over again tomorrow when they lock horns with the All Blacks. Both teams, ranked first and second, will be vying for their fourth trophy in the premium rugby tournament. The Springboks’ last games against the host nation France and England have been nail-biting affairs, but it doesn’t get tougher than the All Blacks. And so, we will be watching with bated breath, rooting for our national team tomorrow. Go Bokke, bring it home! Similarly, we also wish our national cricket team, the Proteas, the best when they play Pakistan today and New Zealand on Wednesday this coming week.

UJ student-athletes on national duty

On the home front, I congratulate some of our football student-athletes who have been called to represent national sporting teams. Talented youngsters Ayesha Moosa and Adrielle Mibe and our staff member and football video analyst, Oriel Takalani Bagani have been called to represent Banyana Banyana and the national Under-17 teams, respectively, in the Paris Olympic Games qualifiers from 20 October 2023 until 1 November 2023. Banyana Banyana will be playing in the Paris Olympic Games qualifying matches, while the national Under-17 team will camp for the two friendly games against Morocco in preparation for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers between 20 October and 1 November 2023.

UJ Sport Conference

Our Sport Division will welcome our sporting heroes in the medical sports field during the 4th UJ Sport Conference next week Tuesday and Wednesday. To be held under the theme, Integrating Science and Practice: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Sports Medicine, Rehabilitation and Performance Enhancement, the conference will feature a wide range of panellists, including some of the sports stars and medical professionals from the Springboks and the Proteas. Topics covered will be valuable to our students in sports and medicine as well as researchers, athletes, coaches, managers, and administrators. Attendance is free. Click here to register.

Call for Mother’s Day submissions

Mother’s Day is an annual occasion when we take the time to honour the incredible women who have shaped our lives through their love, support, and guidance. In celebration of Mother’s Day 2024, UJ will publish a unique anthology that pays tribute to the strong mother figures who have left an indelible mark on our hearts and minds, showcasing their unwavering strength, resilience, and love.

To this end, we invite our academic and professional support staff to share their personal stories and reflections on the powerful impact of maternal figures in their lives. By sharing these stories, we hope to celebrate the strength, resilience, and love embodied by mothers and mother figures everywhere. Through this anthology, we aim to foster a deeper appreciation for the women who have shaped our lives and to provide a platform for the UJ community to reflect on the profound impact of maternal figures.

All entries must be submitted by no later than 31 January 2024 with the title ‘Mother’s Day Anthology [Surname]’ to For more information about this, including the submission guidelines, selection process, publication guidelines, etc, click here.

End-of-year exams and assessments 

The end-of-year examinations and assessments started on Wednesday this week. I encourage our students to remain focused and maintain the same spirit they have shown throughout the year. Remember that should you ever feel anxious or overwhelmed, please do not hesitate to contact our Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development (PsyCaD). PsyCaD is here to support students in various ways. Whether you prefer a walk-in service, individual counselling sessions, or need immediate assistance through our 24-hour Crisis Line (082 054 1137), help is readily available without needing an appointment.

High Tea with the VC

Finally, I thank everyone who attended my last High Tea with the VC event of the year this past Friday, when I was joined by Xoli KaMadlala for a discussion of her book, The Peri Menopausal Globetrotter. It was such a fascinating discussion on an important issue that is rarely touched on.

Watch the High Tea with the VC here:

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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