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Vice-Chancellor Message – 30 October 2020

Dear UJ Community

While I wrote this newsletter yesterday evening, the Minister of Finance, Hon. Tito Mboweni’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement speech remained stark in my mind. I believe many of you would have also reflected on this because of our country’s grim economic outlook that our country finds itself in and the implications for our University and our livelihoods. News that our government is currently borrowing at the rate of R2.1 billion a day is enough to make us shudder. Minister Mboweni outlined a raft of measures aimed at pulling the country out of the quagmire it finds itself in. We can only hope that the government has the willpower and conviction to implement these interventions.

On another note, last weekend, the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) released its report on how to steer South Africa forward in the context of the 4IR. I had the privilege of serving as Deputy Chair of this Commission, and the report is available here:

Coming back to our University, the year-end examination/assessment periods started yesterday. While this is a stressful time for many of our students, I trust that the perseverance you have shown throughout this year will continue to provide you with momentum over the next three weeks. Should any of our students feel overwhelmed or anxious, you may consult our psychological support service units at any of the four campuses, free of charge. The Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development (PsyCaD) offers assistance to students (and to staff in times of crisis) in numerous ways. This includes a walk-in service, individual counselling sessions as well as an emergency response through our 24-hour Crisis Line (082 054 1137). You do not have to make an appointment to receive help.

An integral part of our academic journey are external reviews which are key to our continuous improvement as a University. Last Friday, the Council on Higher Education (CHE) concluded a 4-day review of our doctoral programmes. This external reflective review was led by Prof Shajila Singh, University of Cape Town. We expect the outcome of this review towards the Christmas period. Much appreciation goes out to our staff for the intense institutional coordination and support for this important activity.

In another historical moment for us, UJ launched its Online Press this week. The UJ Press will publish journals and monographs in an online format. Manuscripts published in this format will be interactive with hyperlinks to related literature and other resources that speak to the topics dealt with in an article or book. Indicative of our 4IR stance, the press will not publish print copies of books and journals. The UJ Press already publishes five journals on its online open access (OA) platform: https://journals.uj.ac.za/

Recently, on this platform, I highlighted the importance of awards and achievements by our staff and students, which demonstrate our ambition in the academic space, individually and collectively. I mentioned that they show our University’s unique attributes and strength in building a positive reputation, nationally and globally. This helps to build our reputation and to position our University in strategic relationships and partnerships with other universities as well as the public and private sectors. In this regard, I am delighted to share with you that the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has appointed Prof Jace Pillay to serve a five-year term on the new Professional Board for Psychology in the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), effective from 1 November 2020. Prof Pillay is the SARChI Chair in Education and Care in Childhood at UJ. Together with his team, they have contributed valuable insights through research, and have recently launched a web-based mental health screening system, in collaboration with the Gauteng Premier’s Office. Prof Pillay, congratulations on your appointment and thank you for flying the UJ flag with pride!

Please also join me in congratulating Dr Bongani Ngqulunga Director: Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Study (JIAS) and Prof Diane Abrahams, Director: School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH), on their appointments to serve on the national advisory panel to review the White Paper of 1996 on Tourism. Dr Ngqulunga has been appointed to Chair this review. Congratulations, your work hoists our UJ brand high, congratulations!

And there’s even more! Prof Hassina Mouri Bent Ali, Department of Geology, Faculty of Science has been elected Vice President (2020-2024) for the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), one of the World’s largest scientific organisations, and a member of the International Science Council (ISC). She was nominated for this position by the National Research Foundation (NRF), in South Africa, and elected by the Council Members of the IUGS.

It does not end there. In an article published by the Mail & Guardian this week, our Visiting Professor, Justice Redson Kapindu, was announced as one of the five judges of Malawi’s High Court who were awarded the 2020 Chatham House Prize. This was in recognition of their “courage and independence in the defence of democracy” in Malawi, following their decision in February this year to nullify the country’s presidential elections. Malawi became the second country in Africa — after Kenya — and only the third in the world, to nullify a presidential election. The Chatham House Prize is an annual honour awarded to the person, persons or organisation who are deemed by the institute’s members to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year. Prof Kapindu, well done on this noble achievement, the UJ community is proud of you!

On Thursday afternoon, through the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study, we launched the book “Constructing Hegemony: The South African Commercial Media and the (Mis)Representation of Nationalisation” by Dr Mandla J. Radebe. Guests included, among others, Hon Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology.

On a different note, I am pleased to inform you that the constituting of our new Student Representative Council (SRC) Campus and Central SRC process was successfully concluded on 26 October 2020. The allocation of seats has also been concluded through votes, and as such it is pleasing that the outcome has produced an equal gender parity among the 48 SRC members, with 24 female representatives. The term of the newly elected SRC will commence on the 1st of January 2021. Please join me in congratulating the newly elected UJSRC President, Mr. Simphiwe Methula, for his new role at our University. Mr. Methula, I wish you well in this important leadership role.

As we welcome Mr. Methula, I also wish to thank the outgoing Interim President, Mr. Xolani Sifundza, for his service to UJ students and the University at large during a period which was largely tough for students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Sifundza, I hope the experience you gained during your leadership tenure will be invaluable in your future roles and that you will continue to lead with the integrity you have demonstrated.

Finally, we appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary COVID-19 measures, hygiene and physical distancing at all times. 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 the UJ COVID-19 Updates at https://www.uj.ac.za/news/corona-virus//.

 

With my best wishes,

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

Vice Chancellor and Principal

University of Johannesburg

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