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New Centre at Wits to tackle inequality

- Wits University

Wits launches first Centre for inequality in the southern hemisphere.

The Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, launched on 25 October 2017 at the Wits Club will adopt a multidisciplinary approach in understanding and addressing inequality in the global south.

Speaking on the politics of inequality at the launch, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Adam Habib said that inequality is one of the biggest challenges in the world and is detrimental to political systems.

South Africa faces a widening inequality gap, this problem is not unique to the country and has been linked to instability in communities and driving geopolitics. 

"The real danger of inequality is that it polarises our world. It socially polarises our world and when you have a socially polarized world, your political system gets inevitably paralysed,” said Habib.

"There is a real recognition that we are in a real dangerous situation and we need to know where to next.”

Professor Eddie Webster, Professor Adam Habib, Nicolette Naylor, Isaac Shongwe and Professor Imraan Valodia at the launch of the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies

According to Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduate Affairs, the Centre feeds into the Wits’ 2022 research vision.

“Research into the inequality in the global south, particularly in South Africa is central to our strategies,” said Vilakazi.

Professor Edward Webster, Interim Director of the Centre said that they will examine the various facets of inequality and will study both the rich and the poor.

“Our approach is to study how power reproduces inequality. It is not only how inequality is reproduced, but how it can be overcome, reduced or challenged.  We are looking at sources of power that could challenge inequality, countervailing power. We are interested in identifying what could count as the forces, the instruments, the policies, that would begin to develop a coalition that would begin to challenge inequality,” he said.

With over 24 research clusters and 80 researchers from across various disciplines, the Centre will pull together an alliance of practitioners and intellectuals across national boundaries who will collectively unravel the inequalities in our country.

"Wits was at the center of many of the struggles of the anti-apartheid. This project is about putting Wits as a critical thinker of a more egalitarian society post-apartheid,” added Webster.

The Centre is funded by the Ford Foundation which has an interest in advancing social justice.

Nicolette Naylor, Ford’s Southern Africa Director, said the Centre will enrich global knowledge and strategies.

The Centre fits in line with the Foundation’s mission and inequality themes.

A great teacher who inspired the average student

- Wits University

A new laboratory honours the late Professor Peter King, admired for his rapport with students and for pioneering work in metallurgical engineering.

Mrs Ellen King with her son Andrew at the ceremony

A new laboratory honours the late Professor Peter King, admired for his rapport with students and for pioneering work in metallurgical engineering.

The School of Chemical & Metallurgical Engineering held a ceremony to mark the naming of the Peter King Minerals Processing Laboratory in recogniton King’s contribution to the mathematical modelling of minerals processing.

A Wits alumnus, King was an accomplished metallurgist who served as the head of the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering for over a decade from 1976 to 1990 before accepting an appointment at the University of Utah.

The ceremony was attended by industry, King’s former students, and guests of honour, his wife, Ellen and son, Andrew.

Wits Professor Sehliselo Ndlovu and President of the South African Institute of Mining Metallurgy said the laboratory would ensure the continuation of King’s vision, who was passionate about capacity building and world-renowned for developing useful techniques to quantify mineral liberation.

Metallurgy is key to our economy. For more than 100 years, metallurgy at Wits has been inextricably linked to that of the mining industry said Ndlovu.

“Extractive metallurgy plays a critical in role maximising returns from the processing of mineral resources such as gold, platinum, coal, etc.”

A well-equipped laboratory for teaching and research is essential to continue producing experts in minerals processing.

Former students described King as a great teacher who instilled confidence and a desire for continual progress, especially among the average students.

The Wits graduates who hold key positions reflected on King’s flair with technology. King was among the first to incorporate technology in his teaching methods and provide online courses in response to the modern world.

An all-rounder, professional staff also praised King for his hands-on approach and open door policy.

Bruce Mothibedi, a senior technician at Wits, recalls many moments when King would don an overall to lend a hand in some of the messy pilot plant projects.

“Rarely do you find a man of Prof. King’s calibre sacrificing his time to lend a hand in plant processes, but he gladly did it. Staff development across different grades was also important to him and he would arrange appropriate training for his team, be it at industry, the mines or related fields, so that one could gain more understanding and passion for their work,” says Mothibedi.

King, who was born in Springs in 1938, left Wits and South Africa in 1990 to take up the post in Utah. His involvement with Wits continued across the seas, however, and he and his family funded many engineering students.

“Peter was very proud of the accomplishments of the department and took great interest in the progress of the students once they graduated,” said Mrs King, who continued to give guests a glimpse into personal joys and loves of her husband.

Ballroom dancing, which he took up in the 1960s during a sabbatical, and book-binding were his other passions.

Head of School Professor Herman Potgieter said the lab was a fitting tribute to a "world-renowned member of our family". 

The laboratory will be a dedicated, technology-intensive extractive metallurgy laboratory that serves to meet the needs of industry locally and internationally, through training undergraduate and postgraduate students in world-class facilities and by providing the tools necessary for high-level, applied research.

The King family was amongst the first donors and donated R500 000 towards the kitting of the laboratory. To make a donation, please contact the Wits Development and Fundraising Office.

Professor Peter King

About Peter King

Ronald Peter King was born on 12 March 1938 in Springs, east of Johannesburg. He spent his youth in the gold fields of South Africa.

Wits  awarded him a BSc (Eng) Chem cum laude in 1958 and an MSc (Eng) in 1962. Upon graduation, he received a scholarship from Shell Oil to pursue his doctoral studies at Manchester University. He married  Ellen while living in Manchester. In 1963, after receiving a PhD from the University of Manchester, King and his wife returned to South Africa, where they started their family, which soon included Jeremy, Andrew, and Janet.

From 1963 to 1990, King taught at Wits and led a research group at the National Institute of Metallurgy. He was the recipient of many honours during this period, including election as president, and later a life fellow, of the South African Institute of Mining Metallurgy (SAIMM). He was also a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Prime Minister.

In 1991, the SAIMM awarded King its Gold Medal by SAIMM. In 1990, Peter was appointed professor of metallurgy and director of the Generic Mineral Processing Center in Comminution at the University of Utah. On December 19, 1995, he became a US citizen, and in 1999, he was appointed chairman of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Utah. Between 1999 and 2006, he received many additional honours. He was appointed editor-in-chief of one of the most respected journals in his field, the International Journal of Mineral Processing. In 2002, he received the Antoine M. Gaudin Award of the Society of Mining Engineers for his “seminal research in mineral liberation.” In 2003, at the zenith of his career, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in “recognition of the development of useful techniques to quantify mineral liberation and his leadership in Internet education of mineral processing.” That same year, he was recognized with the prestigious International Mineral Processing Douglas W.Fuerstenau Lifetime Achievement Award. 

King excelled in both research and education. His research on the modeling and simulation of mineral processing operations led to the highly successful MODSIM computer software system for the simulation of plant operations. In addition, his pioneering research in mineral liberation represented a quantum leap forward in the accurate, quantitative description of multiphase particles. In fact, his research in mineral liberation provided a basis for collaboration that eventually led to a state-of-the-art micro-CT laboratory in the Department of Metallurgy at the University of Utah. Subsequently, these advances were integrated into detailed comminution models for quantifying the breakage of multiphase particles in complex grinding circuits. King’s recent research was focused on the fundamental analysis of particle fracture and the aspects of this phenomenon that limit efficient energy utilisation during comminution. 

King was truly a “distinguished teacher” in every sense, and he gave other educators in the field a model to emulate. In recognition of his contributions, he received the University Utah Departmental Teaching Excellence Award in 1987(as a visiting professor) and in 1996, 2000, and 2001 (as a regular faculty member).

King’s career was dedicated to education. He was a pioneer in the use of modern engineering methods in the classroom. Students were taught computer-based methodologies, and software was integrated not only into classroom work, but also into traditional lectures so students came away with a confident understanding of advanced engineering procedures. He not only challenged his students, but also provided them with a vision, or goal, and his students usually achieved academic excellence.

With the advent of the World Wide Web, new dimensions in engineering education became a reality. King’s leadership in this new arena of education was exemplified by his

highly successful Internet course, “Modeling and Simulation of Mineral Processing Plants.” In the first year, 44 students enrolled in the course from all over the world (Sweden, Brazil, Turkey, Peru, Australia, and South Africa), ranging from currently enrolled undergraduate/graduate students to university faculty, industrial researchers, and plant engineers.

Another online course, “The Virtual Laboratory,” was created and enhanced under King’s leadership. By simulating metallurgical equipment, processes, and reactions, the Virtual Laboratory environment made it possible for students to perform laboratory experiments easily, quickly, conveniently, and accurately.

King published more than 150 scholarly papers on fundamental aspects of mineral processing. He authored or co-authored five books, the most recent of which are Introduction to Practical Fluid Flow (Elsevier, 2002) and Modeling and Simulation of Mineral Process Systems (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001). Admired by colleagues and students around the world, King was always willing to mentor people who asked for his help, no matter their age or professional level. He and his wife Ellen contributed to the tuition of many engineering students both in South Africa and the United States.

King died at the age of 68 on 11 September 2006. At the time of his death, he was a professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. His accomplishments over his lifetime were truly remarkable.

Adapted from a memorial tribute published in Vol 11: National Academy of Engineering, National Academies (2007).

L'Oreal-Unesco awards doctoral fellowship to Wits student

- Wits University

Olawumi Sadare, a Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering PhD student at Wits has been awarded a doctoral fellowship by L'Oreal-Unesco.

Sadare was among 14 young female scientists across Sub-Saharan Africa celebrated at the 2017 edition of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Sub-Saharan Africa ceremony held in Johannesburg on 8 November 2017. They were honoured for their work and impact in the scientific field.  

Her doctoral research work is on: Development and Evaluation of Adsorption coupling Bio-desulphurization (AD/BDS) process for the desulphurization of South African Petroleum Distillates.

The aim of her study is to develop and evaluate a hybrid process (AD/BDS) for the desulphurization of South African petroleum products (e.g. diesel) to obtain ultra-low sulphur content. Her research adds on to the few studies that have been reported on the bio-desulphurization of South African petroleum distillates.

Sandeep Rai, Managing Director, L’Oréal South Africa and Olawumi Sadare, Wits PhD Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering student

Since 1998, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation and UNESCO have been committed to women in science and to increasing the number of women working in scientific research. 150 years after Marie Curie’s birth, still only 28% of researchers are women and only 3% of Scientific Nobel Prizes are awarded to them.

For the past 19 years, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme has worked to honour and accompany women researchers at key moments in their careers.Since the programme began, it has supported more than 2,700 young women from 115 countries and celebrated 97 Laureates, at the peak of their careers, including Professors Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Ada Yonath, who went on to win a Nobel Prize. The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Sub-Saharan Africa programme was launched in 2010. 

Sandeep Rai, Managing Director, L’Oréal South Africa highlighted the power of these women scientists and the women scientists who have been celebrated this year. “The world continues to face unprecedented challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, illnesses and food security among other issues.  Only a shared, controlled science, at the service of the world’s population, is able to meet the major challenges of the twenty-first century, and our researchers are the proof.”

About the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation

Accompany, value, communicate, support and move boundaries. These convictions are the core values which drive the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation’s commitment to women every day. A commitment divided into two main areas - science and beauty. Through its’ For Women in Science programme, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation motivates girls in High School to pursue scientific careers, supports women researchers and rewards excellence in a field where women remain underrepresented. Through its beauty programmes, the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation assists women affected by illness, who are economically disadvantaged or isolated, to recover their sense of self-esteem and femininity in order to feel better and to fare better. Its’ actions also include providing training programmes for beauty industry professions.


Since its creation in 1945, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization supports international scientific cooperation as a catalyst for sustainable development and for peace between people. UNESCO assists countries in the development of their public policies and bin building their capabilities in the fields of science, technology, innovation and scientific education. In addition, UNESCO leads several intergovernmental programmes for the sustainable management of freshwater, ocean and terrestrial resources, for biodiversity protection and to promote science’s role in combating climate change and natural disasters. To meet these goals, UNESCO is committed to ending discrimination of all kinds and to promoting equality between women and men.

Four tiers of the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme:

  1.  L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureate Awards: Only five women globally – one leading woman per continent - receive this prestigious award every year and these outstanding scientists are known as Laureates. The award is for accomplished scientists who are honoured for their impact in the field of science. 
  2. L’Oréal-UNESCO International Rising Talents recognises the fifteen best fellows each year selected among the winners of the national or regional fellowships covering each of the five regions: Africa & Arab States, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America.
  3. L’Oréal–UNESCO National Fellowship Programme: These fellowships anchor the For Women in Science programme in 47 countries around the world where L’Oréal has a subsidiary, and thus assures the management and promotion of the programme.
  4. In 2010, the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science partnership started the For Women in Science Regional Fellowships including the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Sub-Saharan Africa Fellowship programme. The objective of the Regional Fellowships is to bring support to young women pursuing scientific careers in dozens of countries throughout the world where L’Oréal does not have a subsidiary.  The Sub-Saharan Africa Fellowship programme covers 49 countries.

Wits Transition Maths 1 course reaches 100

- Wits University

More than 100 maths teachers have now completed the Transition Maths 1 (TM1) course since its inception in 2012.

This year, 39 teachers from across Gauteng completed the TM1 course which is offered by the Wits Maths Connect Secondary (WMCS) Project. An awards ceremony was held at the Wits Education Campus on 8 November 2017 to celebrate this momentous milestone and their achievements.

The TM1 course was developed to address the transition from Grade 9 to Grade 10 Mathematics, and it is now widely acknowledged that greater attention needs to be placed on Grade 8 and 9 Mathematics. “We are so encouraged that the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) is giving far more attention to Grades 8 and 9” said Professor Jill Adler, SARChI Chair in Mathematics Education and Director of the WMCS project.

Wits TM1 Course students

Guest speaker and Wits alumna, Lindiwe Tshabalala, shared findings of research conducted by the GDE in which learners said they had lost interest in Maths in Grades 8 and 9. As a result, there are more Grade 10 learners enrolled for Mathematical Literacy than “pure” Mathematics. Tshabalala said that the GDE wants to reverse this trend.   She encouraged teachers to take their learnings from the course and implement them with passion and commitment in the new year.

Echoing this sentiment, Dr Craig Pournara, the TM1 course coordinator and a Wits senior lecturer commented:  “We want more learners to choose Mathematics in Grade 10, and then to succeed at it. This can only happen if they are well-prepared in Grades 8 and 9”.

Eight teachers received the prestigious Progress Awards in recognition of their remarkable progress since the beginning of the course. Course presenter Dr Moneoang Leshota was delighted to share in the celebrations of the teachers.

 “These are the teachers we really seek to reach in this course. They have worked so hard and we celebrate their achievements” she said.

Mishek Semu, from Villa Liza Secondary in Ekurhuleni South district received a special award for his commitment and dedication throughout the course. He said that the TM1 course has given him greater confidence and he will request his principal to assign him a Grade 10 Maths class in 2018.

The teachers thanked the WMCS team for their dedication, guidance and support in helping them become better teachers of mathematics. Many commented that the course had been demanding but was definitely worthwhile.  

Dr Robin Drennan, Director for Research Development at Wits, commented that this exciting event was a perfect example of what is called for in the new Research and Postgraduate Affairs strategy (2018 – 2022). “It’s research with impact! In this case, impactful research means translational research where the development of maths teachers’ content and pedagogy is the outcome of an extended research programme”.

The course has been approved as a Wits short course and was granted SACE endorsement earlier in 2017. This is an important step in encouraging more teachers to sign up for the course in 2018 and in marketing the course in the future.

Transformation Update


Successes recorded in initiatives implemented to address the University’s transformation challenges, although there is still a long way ahead.

It has been almost two years since the University adopted an accelerated transformation programme which focuses on eight priority areas. Earlier this year, key University constituencies, including staff and students, were provided with the opportunity to critically evaluate the impact of this programme, in order to determine the elements that are perceived to be successful, and to understand the challenges that remain in each category.

A major step forward has been the re-establishment and training of transformation committees at the school, faculty and divisional levels and the determination of their mandate. These committees have a role to play in actively monitoring transformation in their respective areas and raising strategic issues with the relevant Head of School, Dean or Executive. Moreover, members of these committees are expected to actively participate in selection and promotions committees, search committees and recruitment processes, to ensure that managers adhere to the University’s human resources, transformation and related policies and to advise on how the University’s transformation agenda and programmes can be better modified and implemented in a manner that allows the University to progress in these areas.


One of the most significant elements of the accelerated transformation programme centres on the diversification of the academy. A budget of R45 million was committed for making new appointments and allocating grants to enable African and Coloured staff to apply for promotion to the professoriate.

At last count, 28 new appointments have been made (of which 60% are female) to diversify the academy and over 40 enabling grants (of which 40%  were awarded to female academics) have been awarded to academics across the five faculties over the last 24 months. In addition, five more appointments have been made through the Vice-Chancellor’s Equity Fund.

The University is now in the process of evaluating the impact of these appointments on the academy and it is the view of senior management that whilst the implementation of this programme has been successful in that it has effectively started to diversify the academy, it is not enough. In light of this, it is proposed that this programme be extended and funded in 2018.

It is also worth noting that the Vice-Chancellor’s Equity Fund which has been running for over a decade currently supports 10 academic staff across the University by paying their salaries for three years before a School or Faculty takes over, which has largely been successful.  


Another successful component of Wits’ transformation efforts pertains to the insourcing of workers, a cause which was championed by students and some academic staff for several years. In 2017, over 1 200 cleaning, catering, security, transport, waste management, grounds and landscaping staff joined Wits as employees, with full benefits. The Executive Committee of Council also approved the insourcing of 95 maintenance workers and bus drivers. It is envisaged that in total approximately 1 500 workers will be insourced by the end of the process. A Workers’ Charter has been developed to protect the workers of retailers and external service providers based on the University’s campuses.

New staff members have been through a thorough induction and orientation process and have received new uniforms and requisite equipment. As of January 2017, the minimum wage for insourced workers was upwardly adjusted from R 7 500 to R7 860.50 (cost to company), a significant increase in what workers earned last year. [WATCH] a video on the impact of insourcing at Wits.

The Human Resources Development Unit has also offered Wits employees the opportunity to register for a National Certificate in Business Administration in order to eventually empower insourced staff to tap into Wits’ bursaries scheme. More than 55 employees, the majority of whom are insourced employees, are participating in this learning opportunity.

The insourcing programme, including operational and implementation costs, amounted to just over R120 million, which was raised largely through the recommendations made by the Senate Task Team on Trade-Offs - to cut operational budgets by 6% for academic departments and 8% for professional and administrative units, supplemented with funds accrued from the interest of research grants, with the approval of the respective donors. Despite these significant trade-offs, management is of the view that from a human rights perspective, it was imperative for the University to insource staff. The resolution of the insourcing matter also finalises an issue that has divided the Wits community for many years.


In line with the renewed Naming Policy, the revitalised Institutional Naming Committee, with extended representation from a range of stakeholders, has been active in renaming Wits’ places and spaces in recent months. Following the first round of proposals in 2016, the following buildings and spaces were renamed:

Old Name

New Name

Senate House

Solomon Mahlangu House

Central Block

Robert Sobukwe Block

Room  336, Richard Ward Building

Peter King Mineral Laboratory

Alan Rothberg Lecture Theatre

Khanya Lecture Theatre

Physical Education


1 Trematon Place

Afrika House

 A second call for proposals was made in 2017, with a focus on naming after symbolic events and/or evocative descriptions of a particular place, and for naming after women who have played key roles in academia. The Committee has not received appropriate proposals in this regard and is encouraging members of the Wits community to actively participate in the renaming of places and spaces across our campuses. Several people and entities across the University, including the Gender Equity Office, are in the process of developing proposals for naming after women who were involved in the struggle for gender equality.  Council approved the renaming of the following places and spaces this year:

Old Name or Structure

New Name

Mathematical Sciences Building

T.W. Kambule Mathematical Sciences Building

The wall on the 12th Floor of University Corner (Journalism)


A boardroom on the 12th Floor of University Corner (Journalism)

Percy Qoboza Boardroom

The wall on the 9th Floor of University Corner (Wits Radio Academy)

Capital Radio 604

A boardroom in the Journalism Department in University Corner

Christina Scott

A boardroom in the Journalism Department in University Corner

Bessie Head

Road alongside Alumni House

Alumni Lane


There have been several successful initiatives across the University in terms of curriculum reform. A substantial baseline survey was undertaken which focused on submissions from faculties in terms of curriculum renewal; initiatives to increase diversity and inclusivity; curriculum development capacity and quality; and participation in curriculum design and development. The report demonstrates that while there has been a remarkable effort to respond to students’ demands for transformation at the faculty level, with many creative initiatives, and much ongoing critical reflection and discussion, there remains the need to create more effective cross-faculty collaboration and coordination to advance University-wide strategies.

In terms of curriculum renewal, the report details extensive ongoing discussion and critical reflection on how to decolonise the curriculum. In general, it demonstrates that there has been a significant promotion of scholarship of teaching and learning in relation to curriculum renewal, and a move towards a distributed leadership model in terms of coordinating initiatives.

In terms of initiatives to increase diversity and inclusivity, the report details structural changes through biographical questions and first year surveys; curriculum conversations between staff, students and employers; increased student representation on committees and platforms for curriculum reform; reassessment of admissions policies; introduction of flexible degree programmes and provision for part-time evening students.

It further demonstrates content change in terms of diversity and inclusivity through programmes addressing retention issues and barriers to success, including the eco-social and the psycho-social; the construction of common first year courses and the continued bridging courses for learners and evening classes for adults; the integration of counselling expertise in course content or in mediations between students and staff; the inclusion of African perspectives and contributions to modern science, as well as the incorporation of  African languages and cultural narratives into critical thinking courses; and addressing the needs of top learners.

It also reports on implementation initiatives including mentorship programmes; an Enquiry Based Learning pilot, group problem solving initiatives and pedagogies which elicit increased feedback from students and increased use of formative assessments.

With regards to curriculum development capacity and quality, the University provides a range of courses for academic staff development by CLTD. There is now e-learning support through studios in each faculty and a plan to braid e-learning and curriculum renewal, amongst other initiatives.

Lastly, in terms of participation in curriculum design and development, the report shows that there is strong student involvement in curriculum design and awareness to increase student involvement, including on major committees; that students and recent graduates are aiding research into teaching practice through focus groups, and the information received is fed back into curriculum design; that there is an incorporation of the views of potential employers; industry and professional bodies as well as an adaptation of curricula to market and national needs, for example, the SKA, and a collective development of MOOCs.


In 2017 a Language Board was established, comprising of a range of University stakeholders to focus on creating awareness and implementing the new Language Policy, to determine the language requirements of the institution, and to compile a budget that will enable the implementation of the first phase of the plan. This process is underway.

All official University letterheads, business cards and complimentary slips are in the process of being revised with new stationery (print and electronic) reflecting information in three languages – English, isiZulu and Sesotho. The revamping of University signage to include alternative languages is also being replaced, as budgets become available or signs require replacement. 


The transformation of the University’s institutional culture remains a challenge. Whilst tremendous efforts have been made through conducting climate surveys and hosting dialogues and focus group discussions across the University, some serious discrepancies in how we engage with and relate to one another remain. The University remains a segmented community, where diversity is sometimes not celebrated. Some members of minority groups feel silenced on campus, whilst a culture of gender-based harm and the intolerance for people living with disabilities remains a reality. Racial tensions are also sometimes exploited to divide the community.

This is an area of transformation that requires the reflection, engagement and action of the entire University community. Following an institutional culture survey undertaken in 2016, the Transformation and Employment Equity Office designed a programme comprising of dialogues and focus group interviews. This programme has now been transferred to faculties and support divisions should, so that tailored programmes can be developed with the appropriate assistance from the Transformation and Employment Equity Office.

The Vice-Chancellor is also engaging with students, academics and professional and administrative staff members through a series of discussions across the University, including all transformation implementation committees.


The Dean of Student Affairs supported by the Head of Campus Housing and Student Life and the Student Development and Leadership Unit have implemented a range of programmes to promote diversity and to explore the experiences of students in residences. One of the major discrepancies that has been detected pertains to the chasm in the experiences of resident and day students, which requires attention. Day students are often unable to participate in enrichment or leadership programmes and activities after hours or over weekends, as they are not physically on Wits’ campuses. A day house has been established in the DJ Du Plessis Centre to fill this gap, and to enhance cohesion amongst students across faculties, years of study and interest groups, in order to establish informal supportive structures for day students.

On a separate matter, over 95% of occupants in Wits’ residences are Black students. In this regard, management supports Council’s decision to postpone diversification of the residences in the short-term, until the sector can adequately meet the demand for accommodation.


Wits University is committed to the principle of access to quality, free higher education for those who cannot afford it. Wits’ student population is largely Black, although significant funding challenges and throughput incongruities remain.

The University has also made several concessions over the last two years, which has enabled a greater number of students, including international students, to register. The clearing of historical debt by the state for certain groups of students and the University’s waiver of the first fee payment in January, has also led to increased access for students. All students are able to ascertain their progression status, regardless of whether they have outstanding debt. All students who owe R15 000 or less and who are eligible to graduate are allowed to graduate, provided that they sign an Acknowledgment of Debt to repay the funds.

The University also made a comprehensive submission to the Heher Commission on Higher Education Funding, as did Wits students and student leaders. The Commission’s report has been released, but the University is still waiting on the state to put forward recommendations in this regard.  

The University administered over R1 billion in financial aid, scholarships and bursaries in 2016 and is participating in a pilot project this year targeted at the “missing middle” group of students who do not qualify for financial aid from the state and who are not wealthy enough to pay their own way. This is a joint effort between NSFAS and the private sector and is meant to serve as a template for rolling out funding to missing middle students across the sector in 2018. There are 5 675 Wits students receiving financial aid from NSFAS in 2017, up from under 4 000 in 2016. It is also estimated that about R178 million was allocated to Wits students in the “missing middle” in 2017, through a range of bursaries and scholarships, aside from NSFAS. 

Apart from the attempts to lower the financial barriers to access, the University has also extended its part-time offerings through the WitsPlus platform. New part-times programmes like the BA Law and BCom Law have been introduced. Over 25 students have registered for the new part-time BSc Engineering programme and students who wish to transition from a normal degree into the Graduate Entry Medical Programme can now access a bridging programme via WitsPlus.

A further innovation to improve both access and throughput has been the introduction of repeat modules for first years in certain faculties, which can be taken in the second semester of the year as a part-time course to allow students a second chance to complete and pass the year.

Numerous student support programmes have been instituted by faculties and the Dean of Students, including identifying and addressing students at risk and the implementation of at least three programmes to ensure food security for students.


It is imperative for all members of the Wits community to reflect on the role of the University in society today, and in the future. As an institution, there is a need to think about the graduates that we are nurturing to lead in the decades to come. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming society, the way we teach, how we undertake research and how the world of work will change in fundamental ways. The University must remain agile and at the frontiers of new knowledge creation, in order to lead in the global knowledge economy. 


Transformation remains an imperative focus for the University and whilst institutional programmes are stewarded by the executive, transformation must be embraced by every member of the Wits community, if it is to be successful. The Senior Executive Team is pleased that some of the initiatives that have been introduced have successfully begun to address the University’s transformation challenges, although there is still a long way ahead.


27 NOVEMBER 2017

New Energy Leadership Centre another first for Africa

- Wits Business School

Wits Business School has launched a new African Energy Leadership Centre (ELC), a first for South Africa and the continent.

The ELC will be a hub of teaching and research aimed at addressing the issues of energy shortages in Africa as well as the skills deficit in an industry which is of vital importance to economic growth on the continent. 

“Africa has vast untapped energy potential and will be one of the fastest growing regions for power demand in the next decade. And yet the region’s development is hampered by energy shortages,” said Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs at Wits University, in his opening address at the launch of the ELC at the Wits Business School (WBS).

Among those attending the launch was Maurice Radebe, Deputy Vice President: Energy and Sustainability at Sasol and Norman Ndaba, Partner: Africa Power & Utilities Sector Lead: Advisory Services at EY, both of whom were key drivers of the initiative from an industry perspective.

“There is a scarce skills crisis in the energy sector which must be addressed. The energy workforce is aging, and fewer young skilled workers are entering the industry as access to energy training and education is limited. In fact, many have to go overseas to receive training which is very costly,” said Dr Rod Crompton, newly-appointed Director of the ELC. 

“Energy in Africa is increasingly being provided by the private sector and we need to equip future leaders to manage the challenges of this burgeoning sector, an environment which is becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent,” he said. 

Crompton explained that the ELC will offer both a Postgraduate Diploma and a Masters degree in Energy Leadership, as well as executive education short courses and seminars, and that the Centre will engage with historically disadvantaged research universities across Africa.

Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Wits University, sits together with Raakshani Sing, Executive Manager at CHIETA during the signing ceremony of Africa’s first Energy Leadership Centre (ELC), officially launched at the Wits Business School. They are flanked by Dr Rod Crompton, newly-appointed Director of the ELC (on the left) and Maurice Radebe, Deputy Vice President: Energy and

“I am honoured to be the first director of the first African Energy Leadership Centre and thank all those who have worked hard to get to this day, including the Wits Business School for having the vision, and to our funding partners, the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) who have generously given R5 million towards the Centre," he said.

Raakshani Sing, Executive Manager at CHIETA said, “We are very excited to embark on this partnership with WBS which is in line with our mandate to provide world class education and training in the energy and chemicals sectors. We hope for a long and mutually beneficial partnership towards the growth of the African energy value chain through innovation, transformation and research.” 

Professor Imraan Valodia, Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management at Wits said he was thrilled to witness the first step in an ambitious and exciting plan. “I thank Mr Radebe and Mr Ndaba for their commitment to WBS and for freely offering their time and expertise, our partners, CHIETA and to Rod Crompton for accepting the challenge of leading the ELC into the future. He has the drive, knowledge and intellectual gravitas to ensure that the Centre plays a critical role in African energy research and thought leadership.”

Wits committed to transformation


Wits University committed to transformation but won’t compromise on the quality of education.

The University of the Witwatersrand is committed to transforming at all levels including through diversifying the academy, increasing access to higher education, renewing the curriculum, implementing a new language policy, insourcing, reforming institutional culture and renaming Wits’ places and spaces. This plan was adopted about two years ago and progress on this plan is monitored monthly with regular reports to the community. The latest update is available here:

Despite these institutionalised efforts, there are often public remarks about our failures to engage in transformation by stakeholders who do not engage on the basis of the facts. They refuse to read the updates and make assertions at the rhetorical level without considering the issues in-depth.

One such example pertains to the allegations of racism made by small groups of students who have not performed. These groups suggest that they are being failed simply because they are Black, without presenting any evidence to support their assertions.

In recent months, we investigated two such cases. In the School of Accountancy, an external academic reviewed all assessment programmes in the School in order to determine whether there was anything untoward in the assessments. The prognosis is that all assessments in the School are in line with local and international standards of research intensive universities.

A second set of assertions has emerged in the Faculty of Health Sciences where a small group of students claim that racism is practiced, largely related to assessments and examinations. The University instituted a comprehensive enquiry that lasted three months, which was undertaken by a senior scholar from a separate faculty, who interviewed all stakeholders, including the students. The report found that no charge of racism could be upheld. The report did find administrative and communication weaknesses, which are being addressed. The findings were shared with the students, some of whom chose not to accept the findings of the inquiry, even though they participated in drafting the terms of reference.

It is worthwhile noting that the Faculty of Health Sciences has been pursuing a substantive transformation agenda over the last few years. In 2015, the admissions policy was revised to ensure that talented learners from poor and marginalised backgrounds were granted access. Whilst access is still based on merit, about 40 seats are allocated to high performing learners from quintile one and two schools and 40 seats to learners from rural areas. This policy provides learners from disadvantaged backgrounds with the opportunity to access the faculty to study medicine, thus balancing meritocracy with the commitment to transform. Compared to similar universities, Wits has a greater proportion of students from poor and marginalised backgrounds with the majority of Black students passing without issue. A full assessment of our pass rates in this Faculty, demonstrates that overall, over 80% of students pass, boding well for transformation not only within the University, but also for the sector.

Despite the implementation of these new policies, an outlying group of students still maintains that Black students are prejudiced by the Faculty’s assessment procedures and processes. The University’s previous investigations in this regard finds otherwise. This small group of students also ignores the fact that all the University’s assessments are externally examined and independently verified to ensure that quality is in no way compromised. The examination papers are also anonymous – containing only the student number and no names. 

The University will not accede to the attempt by a small group of students to try to bypass assessment processes through political means. Rather, we encourage them to follow the example of the many others, of all races, to study diligently. It is imperative to recognise that when students graduate as medical doctors, they hold people’s lives in their hands, and it would thus be irresponsible of the University to allow students to graduate if they have not met the requirements of the programme for which they have studied.

We have seen in the public domain that there are some who want to see transformation fail and who will see this debate as a lever to argue against transformation. We caution against such opportunism – transformation is a fundamental value of our Constitution and is a central value of Wits University. We need to transform and maintain quality – these are not mutually exclusive strategies which we have implemented for years and which we will continue to pursue in the future.

We took the unprecedented step of making this statement to reiterate that the University will not compromise on the quality of the degrees it offers. If we do so, we will compromise the integrity of the University, which will impact negatively on students and alumni, and ultimately undermine the society that we serve.



Pravin Gordhan joins Wits School of Governance

- Wits University

The former Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan has been appointed as a Visiting Professor in the Wits School of Governance as from 1 December 2017.

“It gives us great pleasure to welcome Pravin Gordhan to Wits. He has played an integral role in South Africa’s history and we believe that his strong experience, sound public financial management and principled stand on good governance and transformation of the economy will add substantial value to the academic programme,” says Professor David Everatt, Head of the Wits School of Governance. “Gordhan’s strong views on corruption and financial mismanagement are well known – these are the values that we want to impress upon our students, many of whom serve in the public sector.”

Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, Professor Imraan Valodia concurs: “This is a substantial appointment that will bode well for the Faculty. Mr Gordhan will join the likes of Nhlanhla Nene (Interim Director of the Wits Business School), Max Sisulu and Tito Mboweni, all whom have held leadership positions in government. This is another step forward in strengthening the Faculty’s cohort of stalwarts whose knowledge, energy and experience will no doubt inspire the next generation of leaders.”

Through his long and distinguished career, Gordhan has obtained first hand practical knowledge of sound corporate governance and public sector management.    

Professor Adam Habib, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal says: “Pravin Gordhan has a very successful track record in management of the public service. The skill sets that he has acquired through his years of managerial experience will be the basis of rich learning for the University and its students”.

Gordhan embodies the values of Wits University and the School, Faculty and administration look forward to engaging with him in the near future.

About Pravin Gordhan

Mr Pravin Gordhan has been instrumental in building and leading key institutions in South African and is highly respected by man in the public and private sectors.

He has served South Africa in many capacities over a long and distinguished career starting in his youth. He was actively involved in student politics whilst studying for his degree in pharmacy at the University of Durban-Westville. He was appointed as an executive member of the Natal Indian Congress in 1974 and was subsequently involved in building civic organisations and promoting non-racialism through campaigns on civic and political issues. He is a stalwart of the anti-apartheid struggle through the ANC and SACP underground and the UDF through the 1970s and 1980s.

When negotiations for a democratic South Africa commenced, Mr Gordhan was appointed to the Steering Committee charged with steering CODESA. He also serves as the Co-Chair of the Negotiating Process for the Interim Constitution and as Co-Chair of the Transitional Executive Council set up in late 1993 to prepare the country for democratic elections in April 1994.

He was elected a Member of Parliament for the ANC in 1994 and chaired committees of the Constituent Assembly and the National Assembly, where he played a critical role in setting up the foundations for legislation and policy, including drafting the White Paper on local government.

Mr Gordhan was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the South African Revenue Services (SARS) in 1998 and then Commissioner in 1999. Internationally, he served as Chairperson of the World Customs Organization (WCO) and was also the Chairperson of the Forum on Tax Administration (FTA) within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) from 2008.

On 10 May 2009, President Jacob Zuma appointed Mr Gordhan as Minister of Finance. He was replaced as Finance Minister in 2014, becoming Minister for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. He was reappointed to the Finance Ministry in December 2015 and was again controversially replaced in March 2017.

He remains a member of parliament and has become a vocal critic of all entities who have fallen short of the high standards of performance, governance and integrity expected of them.

About the Wits School of Governance

The Wits School of Governance (WSG) is a leading School in governance on the continent and attracts top scholars and experienced leaders from the public sector. The School is firmly located in the hub of national political discourse and partners with a number of key institutions, including the OR Tambo and Thabo Mbeki Foundations through several social leadership programmes.