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Targeted talent empowered by BPSA sponsorship

- Wits University

Over 60 Wits students are able to pursue their ambitions due to sponsorship by the BPSA Education Foundation.

The scholarship recipients are graduates of the Targeting Talent Programme (TTP), a long-term Wits flagship programme which prepares academically talented high school learners who wish to study Science, Engineering, and Commerce at university. The Foundation has supported the scholarship programme at Wits since 2015.

The BPSA Education Foundation nurtures talented high school learners by sponsoring their tertiary studies and developing their employment and entrepreneurial skills. 

At an orientation session for the scholarship recipients held on 2 February 2017, Wits Dean of Students, Professor Puleng Lenka-Bula said:

“You are among the very few people who have been bequeathed with this opportunity. Many people aspire to come, and may not have the cognitive abilities or the intellectual capabilities, to come to university. So the responsibility and the onus to do as best as you can is very important, because a lot more people would have loved to be sitting where you are sitting but are unable to. Aspire to excellence so you can be a resourceful citizen of the world.”

Motukuane Mokoena (CEO of BPSA Education Foundation)  Rhulani Baloyi (Trustee of BPSA Education Foundation), Nelson  Sithole (BPSA Education scholarship recipient), Akhona Ntsele and Andiswa Machanyana both from BPSA Education Foundation

BPSA Trustee and award- winning journalist and presenter, Rhulani Baloyi advised the students to stay focused, as their excellent matric results would not determine their stay in the University and successful completion of their studies.

“You need to learn a new way of studying, a new way of committing yourself, a new way of doing things,” said Baloyi, a Wits alumna.  “Wits University is a very good place,” she said, where students learn great life lessons.

“This is where our role in society is shaped. Besides your books, you are going to learn to accept people who think differently from you. You are going to learn that the world is not about South Africa, the world is not about Africa, but the world goes even beyond the planets that we live in. So you must open up your ears to hear, allow yourselves to read. Read as much as you can and allow yourself to receive information that you never thought you would come across.”

Motukuane Mokoena, Chief Executive of the BPSA Education Foundation said at the event that the percentage of TTP graduates who matriculated with a bachelor’s pass had increased.

According to Mokoena, 98% percent of the TTP graduates received a bachelor’s pass in the matric results in 2017 and high quality results have been maintained through the years.

It has never dropped below 90% since I have been involved with the programme. This says something about how the programme selects talent – that it is indeed successful in selecting the right potential,” said Mokoena.

He added that 91% of the first- year students BPSA funded in 2017 had progressed to second-year in 2018.

BPSA scholarship recipient, Nelson Sithole expressed his gratitude to BPSA. Sithole, who is currently pursuing an honours degree in Finance, shared his experience with new first-year students:

“The challenges are there, it is all about how you deal with them. Do the best that you can do because that is the only thing that you can do. I believe we all have the capacity to achieve. Use all the structures in the University. University is quite challenging, I won’t lie, but with the right mind-set and right structures, you can conquer as well.”

Sithole worked at BPSA during the December holidays and described the experience as enriching and valuable for his career.

“Now I don’t only have mentors in academia, but also in the industry,” he said.

The BPSA scholarship covers tuition, accommodation, books, laptops (introduced in 2018) for the first and second- year students, and a living allowance.

Tata in Africa continues to advance education

- Wits University

Tata Africa awards more postgraduate scholarships to Wits students.

The company has awarded 20 scholarships to academically and financially deserving Wits students as part of their  postgraduate scholarship programme.

An awards ceremony was held for the scholarship recipients today, 13 March 2018 in the Senate Room, Solomon Mahlangu House, Braamfontein Campus East. 

In order to help advance the development of higher education in South Africa, Tata Africa began its relationship with Wits in 2007. To date, over 240 postgraduate scholarships have been awarded, in conjunction with other Universities such as the University of the Free, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the University of Kwazulu Natal. Tata has donated over R7.5 million rands to Wits since 2007.

The fields of study by the recipients ranged from Bachelor of  Science with Honours, Bachelor of Education with Honours to Master of Science in Medicine, Master of Commerce, Master of Science in Engineering, Master of Science in Cardiovascular Physiology, Master of Science in Protein Biochemistry and a PhD in Physiology.

“It is our belief that post-graduate education produces better-educated citizens who are equipped to deal with a wide range of challenges and advancements and are more able to compete on a level playing field with countries outside of South Africa. This makes it possible for a higher standard of living and families are empowered as a direct result of increased earning potential”.

“Tertiary education also helps to build skills and grow a healthy economy, which in turn benefits everyone. And that, is what drives our commitment to the post-graduate scholarship programe. We trust that through Tata’s support and investment in these students, the company has helped pave the way in ensuring that sustainability and greatness can one day be realised”, said Len Brand, the Executitive Director of Tata Africa Holdings.

Tata Africa 2018 scholarship recipients

The scholarships have ingrained themselves as prestigious awards in postgraduate academia.  In addition to the scholarships, Tata contributes to the national objective of increasing the number of women scientists in under-served research areas, through the Women in Science Awards (WISA) programme, a partnership with the Department of Science and Technology.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Wits Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduate Affairs, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi said that the University was grateful for the support from Tata.

“Tata has a strong history in doing research in Africa. Tata has long association with science and the pursuit of knowledge. It is not surprising that Tata has generously contributed to this initiative. It is a brand that is synonymous with quality products and ethical business. Investment here is something that we really appreciate. We are very grateful for the generous support.”

About Tata in Africa

The Tata group began its relationship with the African continent in 1977 with the establishment of Tata Zambia. In 1994, the Tata group inaugurated Tata Africa Holdings in Johannesburg, South Africa, which now serves as the group's headquarters in the continent. Tata is present in over 15 African countries. It operates in engineering, services, telecommunications, information technology, chemicals and materials.

Today, Tata is a brand that's synonymous with quality products and ethical business operations in Africa. It is committed to its vision of building and sustaining relationships in Africa with cooperation and trust, creating employment opportunities and making its contribution to the social development of local communities. Tata companies in Africa promote the social and economic development of local communities through education, entrepreneurship and health initiatives.

Is Ramaphosa's ANC managing the challenge from the EFF?

- Adam Habib

The EFF may be more politically adept, but its track record is as populist, corrupt and administratively incompetent as the Zuma camp ever was.

Too many within our society, including within the ANC and perhaps even Cyril Ramaphosa, believe that the EFF cannot be proto-fascist because it comprises young black people and their intemperateness is really a matter of age. But this is a dangerous illusion.

South Africa is in a very different space to where it was a few months ago. Jacob Zuma's departure has created some hope, especially within the ANC. No longer is the ruling party subjected to scandal after scandal, and no longer is it seen as the willing proxy of a corrupt family. Ramaphosa has also been strategic in the way he has enabled both the departure of Zuma and restructured the leadership. In the former, he carried all of the ANC structures with him until even those in the Zuma camp had begun to tire of the political antics of the former President. Only then did Ramaphosa tighten the noose and call for the motion of no confidence. Similarly, his restructuring of the cabinet did enough to send a signal that change is afoot, but had enough continuity to make all of the party factions feel that they had a future.

Of course there are many who are not happy at the speed and the extent of change. But they do not have to ponder the balance required between keeping the party coherent enough to win the 2019 election and portraying sufficient change to inspire a renewed confidence in the political party. Ramaphosa after all is playing the long game which allows him to deal with some of the more immediate challenges now, while deferring others for a later date. He is also in a position to manage some of his internal party opposition through political means – Cabinet appointments, redeployments - while leaving others to be dealt with through the long arm of the law.

The political renaissance in the ruling party has ruffled the leadership of the opposition and destabilized its alliances. The DA is scrambling to retain its coalitions in the big metropoles – Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Pretoria - and redefine its political message. Mmusi Maimane has to first figure out for himself why citizens should vote for him rather than Ramaphosa now that the electoral gift of a corrupt President is no longer available. He has to deal with the perennial problem of the DA; to figure out how to politically sell a message of economic growth with redistribution, and restructuring with inclusion. He also has to unravel from the alliance with the EFF without any of the stink sticking to the DA. After all, there is an element of political hypocrisy in the DA's complaints about the EFF's targeted alignment with the ANC, and its attempts to unseat Athol Trollip in Nelson Mandela. Too many political observers and even supporters cynically respond with what did you expect when you run with the hares and hunt with the hounds?

The EFF is similarly redefining its raison de tat. But addicted as it is to political spectacle, it has become even more prone to a political populism that incites racism, advocates extreme policies outside any evidential base, and creates a militaristic, violent, nihilistic macho-culture. Its strategies and tactics also skirt the very margins of the law - coming close to the advocating of hate speech, threatening individuals, thrashing businesses, violating the rule of law. It claims its rights, but never takes on its responsibilities. In this sense, the behaviour of the EFF is not very different to that of Julius Malema when he was still a foot soldier of Jacob Zuma at the rape trial where he continuously made misogynistic remarks against Khwezi. He may have apologised for that, but his behaviour has never changed. Intemperate was Julius Malema then, and intemperate remains the EFF now. 

In this sense the EFF is very much the creation of Jacob Zuma, even though it may have fallen out with him and assisted in bringing him down. Think of its populist demagoguery and cast an eye back to Jacob Zuma in the Polokwane campaign or his attempts in the last two years, and those of his acolytes including the BFLF, to enable him to remain in power. Think of the corruption of leading lights of the EFF in Limpopo when they still controlled the province under the premiership of Cassel Mathale. Think of the administrative incompetence in the same Limpopo or in the other state institutions where EFF officials had previously reigned supreme. The EFF may be younger and perhaps even more politically adept, but its track record is as populist, corrupt and administratively incompetent as the Zuma camp ever was.

The EFF is also no different from the proto-fascist movements in Western Europe and the United States. Like them it rails against the establishment, eclectically adopts a variety of ideological instruments, and resorts to populist, racist, and cultural demagoguery. There is a belief in South Africa that the EFF's left-leaning policies distinguish it from such proto-fascist movements. But those proto-fascist movements also advocate policies that provide support to and derive electoral nourishment from some of the poor. Think of the Five Star Movement in Italy and its policies for cushioning the poor, or the support that Donald Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminium receives from white workers in Middle America. Similar to the EFF these socio-economic support policies are coupled with racist or anti-immigrant (unlike the EFF) demagoguery directed at further fracturing society. 

Too many within our society, including within the ANC and perhaps even Ramaphosa, believe that the EFF cannot be proto-fascist because it comprises young black people and their intemperateness is really a matter of age. But this too is a dangerous illusion. Proto-fascist movements can emerge across the racial divide. Think of Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India and the fact that many of the proto-fascist parties in Western Europe are also led by young leaders. Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement is only 31 years old and Alice Weidel from Germany's AfD is 38 years old. Both derive their support from younger citizens. The Five Star movement's largest base of support is among young people between 18 and 35 years of age, making it the largest beneficiary in Italy's recent election. Ultimately it is not one's age that defines the progressiveness of one's politics, but one's ideas and behaviour.  It is a lesson South Africans urgently need to learn.

But it is a lesson the ANC needs to learn urgently as well. Ramaphosa's ANC has until now used a mix of appeasement and distance to contain the EFF. Appeasement has involved mollycoddling the EFF by working with it in parliament around legislation associated with land expropriation much to the delight of the Zuma-aligned advocates of Radical Economic Transformation (RET), engaging it on winning over the Nelson Mandela metropole, praising its role as Mcebisi Jonas recently did in airing tough issues, and most importantly, by inviting it back into the ANC because as Ramaphosa phrases it, ‘Julius Malema’… ‘is still an ANC member deep in his heart’. But there is another side to the strategy which is to provide the EFF with sufficient rope so that it politically strangles itself. The ANC thereforeremains silent when Julius Malema embarks on his racist tirades, or it stands aside when the EFF trashes H&M stores or forcibly removes meat products from supermarkets, or has a physical stand-off with right-wing racists in front of young school kids at the Höerskool Overvaal. It is hoped by elements in the ANC that the EFF overplays its hand in these cases and repels the vast majority of South Africans.

The problem with this strategy, however, is the fact that its two elements come into contradiction with each other. The appeasement whether for short-term political gain as is the situation in the Eastern Cape, or to deflect a real demand as in the case of land expropriation, legitimises the EFF and gives it political credence. This same strategy was pursued by the liberal political establishment and its intelligentsia in North America and Western Europe with devastating consequences. The appeasement legitimized these parties with the result that parties that once would receive a fraction of electoral support now are real contenders for the political throne.

But the second element of the state's strategy is also problematic. On the face of it, the ANC's distance and silence in the cases of political spectacle creates the impression that it is politically paralysed and has no alternative strategy to address the very real challenges that the EFF is highlighting. It is worth stating in this moment that the critique of our economic policy or the reconciliation associated with the Rainbow Nation is not new. I recall authoring an article as early as 1996 entitled The Myth of the Rainbow Nation where I questioned the possibility of building reconciliation without justice, and Vishnu Padayachee and I authored in 1999 a critique of what was then our neo-liberal economic policy. We were not the only ones undertaking these kinds of critiques. Many academics and activists warned of the neoliberal direction of our economic policy, and the social consequences thereof, long before many in the EFF did so. Indeed, many of the leadership of the EFF were still within the ANC and would respond in the most Stalinist of fashions to any semblance of critique. To be honest it is a practice that has not changed within its ranks. Nevertheless the point to highlight is that the EFF is not incorrect when it speaks about the exclusionary character of contemporary South Africa. Indeed it is largely accurate in this regard, but as a party it does not put forward a sensible political strategy to address this challenge.

This is where Ramaphosa's ANC needs to advocate a coherent programmatic agenda to address the exclusionary character of South Africa's contemporary political economy. It needs to clarify how it can correct for the state's institutional failures to redistribute land,or to grow the economy in an inclusionary manner so that it not only increases employment, but also reduces inequality and poverty simultaneously. It needs to programmatically demonstrate how justice can be part of a reconciliation agenda or how the building of a cosmopolitan nation can simultaneously be compatible with our collective African-ness coming to the fore. This requires not an appeasement of the EFF, but a demonstration of how to address the challenges they highlight in a programmatic and sustainable manner. It requires Ramaphosa's ANC to lead, rather than to co-opt the EFF, or stand aside and hope that its political contender stumbles. 

Perhaps the best way to articulate the distinctiveness of the two paths is to refer to a movie currently making waves on the cinema circuit, Black Panther. One of largest box office hits in the Marvel series, the movie seems to have generated an ardent fan base because it is centred on a fictional black country, Wakanda, which avoided the perils of colonialism and as a result was able to use its natural resource, Vibranium, to develop not only a successful economy, but also a scientific and technological powerhouse. But perhaps the more useful political message of the movie is centred in the interaction between the hero, T'Challa, and its villain, Erik Killmonger. Both are advocates of a transformation of the world. T'Challa believes that this needs to be done through an engagement with the world and its transformation through a series of structural reforms. Killmonger on the other takes over the kingdom only to deploy its advanced weaponry against the world in order to take revenge for the centuries of oppression and exploitation that black people have suffered. “It’s our turn to rule,” he says, and brings to the fore the dangers of “victims becoming killers,” to paraphrase the title of Mahmood Mamdani's book on the Rwandan genocide. T'Challa sympathises with Killmonger and the circumstances that make him what he becomes, but he nevertheless not only disagrees with him but also challenges him with an alternative path to transforming the world. He defeats him and in a memorable line, T'Challa says: “In times of crisis the foolish build barriers, but the wise build bridges.”

The NEC of the ANC should see this movie, and then internalise its political message, for it holds a strategic lesson that a thousand of its organisational pamphlets will not impart. But it is also a movie that the EFF leadership should also see (which I would be willing to pay for) and they may yet learn something from it if they can suspend their ideological blinkers long enough to consider its central political message. If both actually did this, and grappled with its central political tension, which perhaps is one that confronts all oppressed communities in their struggle for freedom, not only would these parties be strategically the sounder for it, but South Africa itself may benefit from the outcome.

Adam Habib is the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University. This article was first published on the Daily Maverick.

First executive programme in Digital Business

- Wits Business School

Wits Business School (WBS) is excited to have launched its first executive education programme in Digital Business, the first of its kind in South Africa.

The programmes, which kicked off in March, will be rolled out during 2018 for digital solutions company BCX, a subsidiary of the Telkom Group.

“The programmes have been designed to equip businesses with skills, knowledge and insight into the future world of work, specifically training managers to lead on all fronts in an era of rapid and unpredictable digitalisation,” says Professor Brian Armstrong, Head of the BCX Chair in Digital Business at WBS.  “This is an exciting venture for WBS, the Chair of Digital Business and Executive Education. It is a privilege to work with BCX in creating this new programme,” he concludes.

WBS took a proactive step in 2016 when it established the first Chair in Digital Business in Africa, through funding by Telkom, with the overarching aim of helping South African businesses thrive in the digital era.

An important focus of the Chair is the generation of new research in an area which, until now, has not been a formal area of study. Research will lead to the further development of academic curricula, including a Master’s degree in Digital Business, as well as various short learning programmes and executive courses.

The successful roll out of the pilot programmes for BCX will allow other organisations to benefit from the close working relationships between the Digital Chair and BCX, as well as Executive Education, says Dr Timothy Hutton, Acting Director of Executive Education at WBS.

“We designed the programmes in close collaboration with BCX, creating content that suits the needs of the company. It has been an immensely exciting process, and also a big learning curve for all involved,” says Dr Hutton.

A total of 205 managers at BCX were selected to take part in the programmes which are aimed at junior, middle and senior managers. The programmes, Future Leaders in Digital Business, Digital Business Management and Digital Business Executive Programme are on average around 24 days in duration, completed in study blocks. Graduation is set for the end of February 2019.

“The beauty of the BCX programme is that it can be refashioned to address the needs of any organisation. Just as financial considerations cut across all business, so too does digital,” notes Hutton. “The programme can be structured to highlight specific aspects and pull out desired learnings. Within a rigorous academic framework, there is a lot of flexibility.  For example, one of the modules is currently being re-designed as a stand-alone programme to be launched in the middle of this year.”

The BCX programme will be offered in various formats in the future, including online and contact, in-house and open enrolment, for both companies and individuals wanting to enhance their understanding of digital business.

“Working in the digital world does not only mean how to develop new strategies or market digitally and understand the financials of digital; it also means how, fundamentally, we and our customers remain human, how we anticipate and mitigate social consequences of digitisation, and how we understand the environmental costs and benefits of the digital world,” says Professor Armstrong. 

“The rollout of the BCX Executive Education programmes is a very exciting step forward in preparing business leaders in South Africa, not only for the future world of work, but indeed also the rapidly changing current world of work. We are not always aware of this ‘digital presence’ in our daily lives. This programme will open eyes, ideas and innovative opportunities around this very fact.”

When great minds meet

- Wits University

Professor David Block accompanied Stephen Hawking to meet former President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.

When Professor Stephen Hawking, considered one of the greatest minds in living memory and who died this week at the age of 76, visited South Africa in 2008 to launch the Next Einstein initiative he was accompanied by Wits Professor David Block.

Block, a renowned astronomer, still remembers that day clearly when he and Hawking met with former President Nelson Mandela and former minister of foreign affairs, Pik Botha. He also remembers the live television interview during which Hawking asked Block three questions:

Question 1: Why are we here?

Question 2: Where do we come from?

Question 3: Where are we going?

These questions have remained the central during Hawking’s remarkable career as a theoretical physicist.

Professor Stephen Hawking meeting with former President Nelson Mandela, former foreign affairs minister Pik Botha, and Professor David Block from Wits University in 2008. © Nelson Mandela Foundation

“The legendary Stephen Hawking was a gentle man and undoubtedly one of the greatest minds of all time. His intellectual genius surpassed it all,” Block said this week from Norway.

He added that he was touched by Hawking’s humanity, genius, and foresight. “He was a unique man. He resounds with the everlasting legacy to never, never give up. He never did give up. Despite the most severe of medical challenges he never gave up. I found him to be so warm, so welcoming.”

Block said Hawking was “the greatest mind to have lived since the epoch of Albert Einstein”.

Read more about this visit on the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s website:

#GuptaLeaks team wins SA’s biggest journalism award

- Wits University

The team that exposed the extent of state capture in South Africa has been awarded the country’s biggest investigative journalism award.

Journalists from amaBhungane, Daily Maverick and News24 who exposed Gupta corruption

The team, comprising 19 journalists from AmaBhungane, the Daily Maverick and News24, won the 2017 Taco Kuiper Award for their excellent investigative journalism into the Gupta email leaks, also known as the #GuptaLeaks.

Judges commended the unique collaboration, which brought together a wealth of skills and experience.

“This unusual collaboration between three very different outlets brought together amaBhungane’s investigative skills and experience, Daily Maverick’s editing and online presentation skills and News24’s reach and impact – a formidable combination,” said the judges.

“They pieced together disparate pieces of information in a massive trove of emails to prove the case of state capture and find new links and evidence of how systemic this corruption was. It took highly skilled, meticulous and dedicated work to do this, and present it in a user-friendly manner. This story, together with other works by this team and others, has had remarkable, long-term and still unfolding impact on the politics of the country,”   the judges commended.

The team was awarded R200 000 for their work.

The runners up – Jacques Pauw, author of The President’s Keepers, and Hennie van Vuuren who penned the book Apartheid Guns and Money – were awarded a joint prize of R100 000.

The judges also noted the range of topics entered, which included stories about Cape Town’s organised crime; consumer and safety issues; farm labour conditions; youth alcohol abuse; the national lottery; meat sellers who faked sell-by-dates; pauper burials;  and delayed health pay outs to former mineworkers.

Rana Ayyub, author of Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover-Up delivered the keynote address. The Mumbai-based and multiple-award winning independent journalist shared details of her eight-month undercover work to reveal the complicity of prominent politicians in the 2002 Gujarat killings. Her reporting put an Indian Minister of Home Affairs in jail in 2010.

Ayyub urged fellow journalists to continue the pursuit of truth despite adversity. 

About Taco Kuiper:

Taco Kuiper was a highly successful South African publisher who left a significant part of his estate to the promotion of investigative journalism. As a business journalist and publisher, Kuiper knew that exposing matters of public concern –  which those scrutinized would not want to see disclosed – was an enterprise. As he himself did not shy away from taking on public institutions and profiteers of apartheid policy, he thought it important to foster and reward investigative journalism in South Africa.

It was for this reason that Kuiper, shortly before his death in September 2004, set up a fund for investigative journalism within The Valley Trust. The Trust has partnered with the Wits Journalism Programme to carry out Kuiper’s wishes and to administer the Taco Kuiper Award and Fund. 

Wits Oral Health sinks its teeth into World Oral Health Day

- Dr Mpho Molete

In South Africa, over 60% of primary school children suffer from dental decay and more than 80% of these children remain untreated for the disease.

Oral Hygiene

Ninety percent of the world’s population will suffer from oral diseases in their lifetime. World Oral Health Day (WOHD) is celebrated annually on 20 March. WOHD celebrates the benefits of a healthy mouth and  promotes global awareness of the issues around oral health and the importance of oral hygiene for all. WOHD is a platform for the dental and oral health community to reduce the overall disease burden.

Cavities can impair school performance

The most common oral diseases, such as dental caries [tooth decay and cavities] and periodontal [gum] disease are amenable to prevention and yet they continue to affect the quality of life of individuals of all ages. Oral health is integral to general health; poor oral health affects general health and the wellbeing of individuals as a result of the pain and the disability it can cause. It affects the ability to speak, eat, and carry out daily activities.  Evidence has shown dental caries to be associated with poor school performance amongst children.

In South Africa, over 60% of our primary school children suffer from dental decay. More concerning is that over 80% of these children remain untreated for the disease due to the overburdened oral health system and poor healthseeking behavior. In terms of  the elderly residing in Johannesburg, the prevalence of missing teeth is 85% and approximately 33% of these people are edentulous [lacking teeth] and in need of dentures [removal artificial teeth].

COHOP puts its dentists where the mouths are

The Community Oral Health Outreach Project (COHOP) is a flagship community-based programme in the School of Oral Health Sciences at Wits. COHOP has addressed the oral health needs of communities in and around Johannesburg for over 30 years. Programme activities have been provided through teaching, research and service delivery – an approach that has shown to be beneficial to both the University and communities in terms of objectives achieved.

Wits dental students exposed to the programme not only gained a broader clinical experience but have widened their world view.

“I gained a vast amount of clinical experience treating this patient. It did, however, teach me much more than this. This case taught me to assess the community and their needs as a whole and then to modify my advice according to their needs and available resources,” wrote a fourth-year BDS student, reflecting on a case study in Diepsloot.

“Diepsloot made me realise that South Africa still has a very long way to go in the fight against poverty and HIV/AIDS. While some are on Discovery medical aid, some can’t even afford a toothbrush,” wrote another.

COHOP has conducted and published research ranging from oral disease prevalence surveys, through quality of life studies to programme evaluation research. The results from the studies have helped inform planning and policy development for the Department of Health and strengthened and improved the quality of services and programmes COHOP offers to local communities.

COHOP delivers its services from a mobile dental unit equipped to provide oral health screening for common diseases; emergency dental care; primary health care; and oral health promotion interventions. Partnerships have been formed with the Department of Health, local schools, and NGOs for people living with physical or learning disabilities. This ensures that the most vulnerable in our communities have access to oral health care.

Last year, close to 2000 patients received primary health care services in Diepsloot and tooth brushing programmes have been initiated at two local primary schools. Oral health preventative programmes were conducted for children with Down syndrome, autism and HIV/Aids.

Much still needs to be done to continue improving the oral health experience of communities. Many oral diseases can be avoided with increased governmental, health association and society support, and funding for prevention, detection and treatment programmes.

New African Centre to study the US

- Wits University

A new Centre at Wits University has been established to serve as an intellectual hub for the study of the United States.

Named the African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS), the Centre will generate new knowledge of the US in Africa and produce applied knowledge for different sectors.

Wits University and partners held a conference to mark this development on 8 March 2018 at the Wits Club, Braamfontein Campus East.

Professor Tawana Kupe, Wits Acting Vice-Chancellor and Vice Principal said the Centre has been in the making for two years and fits with the University’s vision.  

The new Centre is aligned to the Wits Vision 2022, a strategic framework which aims to solidify the University’s position as aleading research intensive University.

“Part of the strategic objectives of ACSUS is to establish an African-based hub for critical thinking and analysis, create a vibrant multi and inter-disciplinary home for collegial and collaborative explorations,” says Professor Gilbert Khadiagala, Director of ACSUS.

Furthermore, we want to build strategic partnerships with think-tanks, civil society organisations and universities in Africa and the US and provide a base for visiting scholars researching and teaching in relevant areas,” adds Khadiagala.

The Bergman family, the US Embassy in South Africa and the Ford Foundation are some of the early supporters of the Centre.

Speaking at the conference, Chargé d’Affaires Jessye Lapenn said that the US Mission to South Africa supports ACSUS because “Africa matters.”

She noted six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are in Africa and that progress towards opening markets for free trade and foreign investment has spurred economic growth, development, and tremendous opportunity across the continent. 

Prof. Gilbert Khadiagala, Prof. Tawana Kupe, Moeletsi Mbeki, Jessye Lapenn and Dr Marion Bergman at the African Centre for the US study conference

“The United States is very much engaged in Africa today and ACSUS will be a platform to develop the understanding that will advance both American and African priorities,” noted Lapenn. 

Philanthropist and American based Wits alumna, Dr Marion Bergman was in attendance. She commended the inclusive nature of the Centre.

“There are many things that I like about this Centre. ACSUS is inclusive. It is not a Wits Centre, but an African Centre. That is very attractive for me,” said Bergman.

Dr Bergman is married to Stanley Bergman, a Wits alumnus and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc.

Speaking on behalf of Bergman, David Kochman Vice President for Corporate Affairs at Henry Schein says that their involvement with the Centre is enlightened by self-interest.

“We, as a company, firmly believe that the success of the global economy is closely linked to the growth and development of the new Africa and Wits is a dynamic shining educational beacon of the entire continent. There is certainly no question that Africa’s progress is truly extraordinary and that Wits graduates are global leaders that are unlocking Africa’s potential.

Moeletsi Mbeki, Deputy Chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs and the first private funder of the Centre took delegates down memory lane recounting the shared history between the two countries.  

“We solved the problem of apartheid with the intervention of the US especially in the 1970’s and the 1980’s.”

As old partners in eradicating inequality, South Africa and the US have lots to share as they confront modern day challenges, such as economic inequality.

ACSUS will officially be launched later this year.

Research collaboration to embrace resilience of deaf youth in SA

- Wits University

Wits University partners with the University of Manchester for an innovative research collaboration to embrace the resilience of deaf youth in SA.

A research project by the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Manchester (UK) will use community based film methods to explore issues of vulnerability and resilience that deaf youth face in South Africa.

Deaf children and youth face discrimination and exclusion from society. They are not given adequate opportunities for acquiring language, building meaningful relationships, receiving specialised healthcare and receiving equal education. All this vastly decreases their life-chances and infringes their human rights. A multi-disciplinary international collaboration, supported by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Medical Research Council and the Global Challenges Research Fund, brings visual anthropology, social research and deaf studies together to enlighten and positively shift social attitudes towards deaf children and youth.


The University of Manchester’s Social Research with Deaf people group (SORD) and the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology (GCVA) in partnership with the Centre for Deaf Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand (CFDS), will over the next eighteen months, explore how to research and represent deaf life worlds through a sensorial and phenomenological approach to film/filmmaking.

The first work package, Inspiring Futures, begins in March 2018 and aims to enhance positive self-esteem in deaf youth and alter society’s attitudes to what is possible for deaf children in South Africa. The second, Keeping Safe, will focus on addressing issues of vulnerability and risk that deaf children face. The work has been planned and will be delivered in close partnership with NGOs HI HOPES and THRIVE and is endorsed by the Department of Health, South Africa. In all aspects, parents of deaf children, Deaf and hearing people will collaborate to achieve this ambitious programme.

“Resilience is about bouncing back in the face of adversity. Deaf young people face very particular challenges in achieving their potential and becoming full citizens. As visual people, they also have unique resources on which to draw. Through the use of community based film methods, this project tunes in to those latent strengths as visual learners with the capacity to develop new resiliencies given the right opportunities. The work is pioneering”, says Professors Alys Young and Andrew Irving, University of Manchester.

“We are thrilled to be launching this multi-disciplinary research collaboration in the year that the Wits Centre for Deaf Studies celebrates its 20th anniversary”, says Professor Claudine Storbeck, Director for the Centre of Deaf Studies, University of the Witwatersrand.

Wits, Sibanye-Stillwater join hands to make mining digital

- Wits University

The launch of DigiMine advances the application of digital technologies in support of safer and more efficient mining operations.


In a technology-focused partnership that will help make mines safer and more productive, the Wits Mining Institute (WMI) at the University of the Witwatersrand and leading mining company Sibanye-Stillwater have launched the Sibanye-Stillwater Digital Mining Laboratory (DigiMine).

DigiMine is a simulated mining environment in the Chamber of Mines building on the West Campus of Wits University, whose facilities now include a vertical shaft in a stairwell, a tunnel and stope in the basement, and a range of communication and digital systems to enable research that will create the mine of the future.

With a total investment of R27,5 million from Sibanye-Stillwater between 2015 and 2020, Wits University is supporting students, strategic projects and growing the DigiMine programme, which leverages a growing range of on-site facilities with multi-disciplinary research that draws on expertise from other departments at Wits University, and from partners locally and abroad.

Sibanye-Stillwater CEO, Neal Froneman, highlighted the importance of the mining industry harnessing the fourth industrial revolution and fully benefitting from advances in digital technology through close ties with research institutions. He remarked, “the launch of DigiMine establishes a unique programme that is instrumental for the application of digital technologies in support of safer and more efficient mining operations.”

This sentiment was echoed by Professor Tawana Kupe, Wits Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal: “The DigiMine speaks to the University’s strategy of integrating technology, teaching, learning and research in academia. This development ensures that that we can continue to develop specialised skills and knowledge as we move into the fourth industrial revolution.”

“This partnership between WMI and Sibanye-Stillwater paves the way to develop digital technologies that will reduce risk in the mining environment,” said WMI director Professor Fred Cawood. “Safety and competitiveness are cornerstones of a sustainable mining sector, which can contribute to the National Development Plan by reducing poverty and inequality.”

DigiMine will also host the Chair in Digital Mining and Mine Automation, which will advance digital innovation relating to the mining industry as part of a larger Wits initiative to establish Wits and Braamfontein as a digital innovation precinct. 

“Our exciting research agenda already includes projects on systems for underground communication, risk-monitoring, positioning and navigation similar to what is achieved above ground with GPS – as well as automated abnormality-detection to manage mining risks,” said Professor Cawood. “Our interventions will explore any innovations that can apply real-time digital solutions for reducing mining risk and increasing mining efficiency.”

As a Wits flagship programme dealing with Mining 4.0 and its Future World of Work initiative, DigiMine will conduct testing, research and development to transfer surface digital technologies to underground operations. It will also be providing the skills required to operate technology-intensive mining operations of the 21st century; this will include developing a modern skills-set for mines at the level of artisans, technicians and professionals.

“Our DigiMine programme fills a vital role alongside the other complementary divisions within the WMI – the Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry (CSMI) and the Centre for Mechanised Mining Systems (CMMS),” he said.

Some world-first initiatives currently underway include visual integration of mining technology systems, multi-purpose WSN systems for real-time communication and positioning, and underground remote-sensing through UAV and scanning applications.

In a week-long programme to celebrate the launch of the DigiMine, a two-day seminar showcased the work of some postgraduate research students and partner organisations, while keynotes on the digital mining theme were delivered by Sibanye-Stillwater and the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) in Pakistan.