Start main page content

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.


Giving to Wits

School of Public Health Building

Whether you invest in a promising young student, or contribute towards vital research or new buildings and facilities – giving to Wits brings great personal satisfaction and lasting results you can be proud of for years to come.

Give to Wits