In the midst of a national lockdown and a global pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa recently called on other public office bearers and executives of large companies to follow the example of his cabinet ministers, who will be taking a one-third cut in their salaries in support of the COVID-19 support strategy. This portion of their salaries will be donated to the Solidarity Fund.
In response to this clarion call by the President, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, has pledged 33% of his salary to the COVID-19 relief fund.
Prof Marwala said it was an easy decision to take as the crisis requires leadership and personal sacrifices. “The pandemic is, without doubt, a defining global crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced in a long time. South Africa, like many other countries globally, has been left with no option but to impose drastic measures such as large-scale quarantines, travel restrictions and complete lockdowns. In a country fraught with inequality and poverty, with an almost 30% unemployment rate, the stakes are considerably higher,” he said.
“While the measures taken have been necessary, they have also seen economies ravaged, unemployment rise, and resulted in unprecedented levels of social upheaval, uncertainty and anxiety. Every day, people are losing income, with no way of knowing when normality will return. For the virus to ultimately abate and pass, and for the situation to improve, it requires leadership and personal sacrifices. It is in this context that I pledge a third of my salary to the COVID-19 relief fund,” he said.
Prof Marwala praised people on the frontline of the fight against the pandemic, who are helping those who have contracted the virus. “I express my sincere gratitude to our courageous and selfless doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who have been at the frontline of the pandemic, risking their lives daily to treat those infected with the coronavirus,” he said.
Prof Marwala added that it was for this reason that UJ’s Library Makerspace team has recently been using 3D printing to produce reusable surgical face shields to meet the growing need for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof Marwala also expressed gratitude to the essential service workers who often go unrecognised. “Our country keeps ticking as essential workers throughout the country report for work despite the difficult and dangerous circumstances.”