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Another award in the bag for Drama for Life

- Wits University

Wits University’s Drama for Life won a bronze award at the Gauteng Premier’s Service Excellence Awards.

The award in Social Transformation in the Education and Skills Development category recognised DFL’s work in bringing about positive change in society and Gauteng communities through their programmes. DFL accepted the award at a ceremony at Emperor’s Palace in Johannesburg on 28 February 2019.

Through applied arts, art therapies, arts research and numerous community projects, DFL has committed to transformation and healing within the African context. The Gauteng Premier’s Excellence Awards acknowledge civil servants, businesses, individuals, and communities for improving the lives of people of Gauteng.

DFL’s award, a cash prize of R12 000,  adds to an impressive list of accolades that DFL has received as a leader in changing education towards human rights and social justice education. Warren Nebe, DFL Director, said, “The award recognises the ground-breaking work DFL has undertaken in arts education, development and therapies, for social transformation and healing. We are delighted by the growing local, regional and international recognition of our arts pedagogy for social change.”

Drama for Life students in theatre

Following the Gauteng Premier’s Award, Nebe said that DFL intends to enhance its position as a new leader in facilitating change dialogues by creating critical and empathic dialogues, to grow a progressive, human rights based culture in South Africa.

“We have been invited by several universities to contribute toward training and dialogue facilitation through our innovative methods. We will build upon our partnerships and networks with universities, colleges and NGO partners here in South Africa and abroad. We are specifically interested in enhancing our research in democratic pedagogies that are cognisant of the need to build empathic and critical thinking. We hope to play a more active role in the democratisation of our university space at Wits.”

 In 2015, DFL collaborated with the Joburg Theatre to develop the Applied Performing Arts and Arts Management (APAAM) programme, a three-year course in community theatre. The programme aims to create educational and theatre opportunities for deserving young people by celebrating and promoting cultural diversity. This programme has been instrumental in preparing community theatre groups to become theatre game- changers.

Lindiwe Sithole, Community and Youth Development Manager at the Joburg Theatre played a pivotal role in promoting the programme to young people. DFL dedicated the award to Sithole, who passed away recently, for her contribution in making the programme a success and for her immaculate service towards the country’s youth.

Wits flutist wins international scholarship

- Naledi Mashishi

Wits flutist and music tutor Khanyisile Mthetwa will perform at the 47th Annual National Flute Association Convention as part of winning the scholarship.

Flutist and Wits music tutor Khanyisile Mthetwa is the recipient of the Myrna Brown International Scholarship

Mthetwa has been awarded the 2019 Myrna Brown International Scholarship valued at $3 000 by the National Flute Association of America (NFA) and the opportunity to play at its convention in Salt Lake City from 1 to 4 August.


She will be performing live at the 47th Annual National Flute Association Convention taking place in Salt Lake City on 2 August where she will present a repertoire comprising South African composers. Before then she will perform a concert in Chicago and another in San Francisco at the end of July.


Head of Music at Wits, Prof Malcolm Nay, said that Mthetwa is the first person from the department to get the award through the University.


“Her getting the award is an extremely good reflection on the department. Of course when she plays in the US she is not only playing for herself but for Wits,” he said.


The 33 year old is originally from Soweto and began playing the flute and the recorder when she was 15 at a Saturday music programme held at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital Nursing College. At 16 she began studying at the National School of Arts (NSA) where she was trained in the flute.


“At NSA, one of my teachers told me to train in flute further because she thought I had potential and so I decided to do it,” she said.


Mthetwa currently performs as first flute with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, has performed solo concertos with the Durban Philharmonic Orchestra, and performed alongside famed Italian opera singer, Andrea Bocelli, during the 2010 World Cup. She has been a Wits music tutor for three years.


The musician applied for the Myrna Brown scholarship after a friend in Brazil had told her she fit the criteria.


“I looked at the website and a part of me thought ‘don’t even bother’ because I saw flutists from places like China and India who were so amazing. But another part of me said try and see what it’s like and work towards being on their level,” she says.


“It was a pleasant surprise when I got the email that said ‘Congratulations, you’ve got it’.”


This article was first pubished by Wits Vuvuzela, a student newspaper produced by Wits journalism students.

Show us your science

- Wits University

Do you have what it takes to explain a scientific concept in three minutes?

The popular international FameLab science communication competition, dubbed the "Pop Idols of Science" will be once again hosted at Wits this year in April. The competition consists of a one day science communication training workshop and one day of presentations for the competitions (called the Heat), where students will compete against each other in presenting their research in a fun, interactive and informative way to the general public.

The focus of the competition is to explain a scientific concept (or research) in three minutes to a general audience.

Student competing in the FameLab competition

The Wits FameLab workshop is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, 3 April 2019, in Senate Room, 2nd Floor, Solomon Mahlangu House Braamfontein Campus East and the Heat will take place on Thursday, 4 April 2019, also in the Senate Room.

The training is free of charge and will contribute to the personal and professional development of entrants. The semi-finalists of the Wits Heat will go through a regional competition, after which they might advance to the national Heat, and stand the chance to represent South Africa in the international finals. Semi-finalists of the regional competition will also receive additional training in a communications master class, presented by experts in communication techniques in order to train them in oral expression to improve their communication skills.

Who is eligible to enter?

The competition is open to students between the ages of 21 and 35 (more focused on postgraduates, but can also be undergraduates). The focus of the competition is on the communication of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), so anybody in that field will be allowed to enter.

This promises to be an opportunity for entrants to gain great experience and skills in communicating their research.

Should you wish to enter, please send your details to Kelebogile Tadi at by Friday, 22 March 2019. Please include the following information:


Date of Birth:

Discipline / Field of expertise:

Study level:

Email address:

Telephone number:

More information on the competition can be found on the FameLab website.

Father of Green Chemistry an Honorary Royal Fellow

- Wits University

The Royal Society of Chemistry has admitted Professor Roger Sheldon as an honorary fellow.

This rare distinction recognises Sheldon’s contributions to biocatalysis, green chemistry, and catalytic oxidation.

The 175-year-old organisation is the oldest chemistry society in the world. Its mission is to advance excellence in the chemical sciences. Sheldon joins just 116 honorary fellows.

"It is a very select group and I am honoured and thrilled to be part of it," says Sheldon, who is a globally recognised authority on green chemistry and renowned as a founding father in this field.

Biocatalysis is the use of natural substances to speed-up (catalyse) chemical reactions. Catalysts promote chemical reactions due to the participation of an additional substance. By using biocatalysts to improve the production of chemicals, Sheldon has made major breakthroughs in green chemistry, including developing magnetised enzymes, which could be recycled out of liquids (and re-used), by separating the magnetised enzymes from the liquids.

In February 2018, Sheldon co-published a paper entitled “Role of Biocatalysis in Sustainable Chemistry” in the high-impact journal, Chemical Reviews.

Sheldon was awarded an A-rating by the South African National Research Foundation in September 2018. An A-rated researcher is recognised by peers as a leading international scholar in the field for the high quality and impact of recent research outputs. 

Sheldon is also Professor Emeritus of Biocatalysis and Organic Chemistry at the Delft University of Technology.

Wits Choirs sing to #SaveADegree

- Wits University

The 2019 Wits Choirs’ Welcome Concert will lend a hand in the #SaveADegree fundraising campaign.

The Wits Choir and the Young Wits Choir presents a musical celebration to officially welcome the year 2019 in song. In true embodiment of Ubuntu, and in keeping with the choir’s motto, Excellence through diversity, the choirs are proudly collaborating with the 2018/19 Wits Students’ Representative Council (SRC) to lend a hand in the #SaveADegree fundraising campaign.

This important campaign – spearheaded by the SRC – aims to raise funds in aid of financially challenged students to enable them to successfully enrol and be afforded the opportunity to complete their degrees or at least complete another year towards attaining their qualifications. Heeding the call to help save a degree, all proceeds from the Wits Choir Welcome Concert will be offered to this fund. Wits SRC President, Sisanda Aluta Mbolekwa has asked people to support this initiative. In a recent Facebook post, she urged: “All proceeds go to the SRC #SaveADegree campaign and Humanitarian fund. Please buy tickets and go support.

Wits Choir

The concert, which takes place on Thursday, 14 March 2019 at 19:30 in the Wits Theatre, promises to offer a colourful, unforgettable evening to choral music lovers. Audiences can expect a vibrant show with an exciting repertoire that includes music from various regions around the African continent. In true Wits Choir style, the songs are sung in many African languages, including isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, Swahili and Sesotho, to name but a few. A special surprise performance can be expected at the concert. Tickets are available online at Webtickets at a cost of R70 and R40 for students and pensioners at the door for R75 and R45 for students and pensioners.

The choirs, whose diverse membership is drawn from a multitude of cultures, nationalities, occupations and ages, understand the value of hard work and discipline. The Wits Choir and Young Wits Choir are dedicated to the advancement of a spirit of reconciliation, transformation and collaboration in South Africa. Through the example they set, choir members serve as ambassadors of Wits University and South Africa both when at home and abroad.

The Wits Choirs bring the music of South Africa and of our continent to audiences everywhere. It is their undertaking to show the beauty, intricacies, diversity and complexity of the music in our world.


The Wits Choir is now in its 56th year of existence. It was originally called The Witwatersrand University Choir, founded by students from two diverse student bodies. The first was The University Choral Society and they decided to use the profits from their 1961 production of Oklahoma to buy choral music and start a choir. At the same time, a group of students on the Students’ Engineering Council also decided to form a choir. Towards the end of that year, the two groups combined, and the Wits Choir was formed.

During the last 24 years of the newly-constituted Wits Choir, there have been many highlights. To mention a few:

  • The choir had the honour to sing at three occasions for Nelson Mandela. They also had the honour of singing at his memorial service at Wits University. The message of Ubuntu that he lived by, is one that Wits Choir strives to emulate.
  • The extensive outreach programme for the advancement of choral music and conducting through mini-tours to the Cape Platteland, Mpumalanga, and Northern KwaZulu-Natal amongst others, has afforded the Wits Choir the opportunity to work with local choirs and conductors furthering music education and forming meaningful partnerships. The choir also regularly holds choir festivals and workshops involving singers and conductors from church, school and community choirs.
  • The Wits Choir has often had the privilege to perform on television, with the last one being on Morning Live on SABC 2 to celebrate Freedom Day, which is commemorated on April 27.
  • The Wits Choir has spread the magic of South African music and culture through tours to Namibia (1998 and 2015), Kenya (2001), Argentina (2003), the Czech Republic (2006), the Seychelles (2009) and in 2011 to the USA and Canada. They performed on the Fringe of the 2008 and 2010 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
  • Wits Choir wowed audiences with their performances in Austria, Germany and France during their tour in 2017. They received standing ovations at every one of their 14 performances.
  • The Young Wits Choir was established in 2013 and it is an extension of Wits Choir with its focus being on music education and skills training, and its motto is Yearning, Willing and Committed - a worthy younger sibling!

Another move up world rankings for Mining Engineering

- Wits University

The global standing of the School of Mining Engineering has been boosted by another step up in the QS World University Rankings – to 13th place in 2019.

Students in lab

Last year, the school had also moved upward in these rankings, reaching the number 15 spot from its 22nd place in 2017. The latest achievement allows it to retain its position as the highest ranked school at Wits University; it is also the only mining school on the African continent to feature in the top 50 mining schools worldwide.

"This QS ranking means that as a school we provide an internationally competitive mining engineering curriculum,” said Professor Cuthbert Musingwini, Head of School. “This is based on the work of our high-quality academics who produce impactful research, and our graduates who enter their careers with skills relevant to the mines of the future."

The QS World University Rankings use six performance indicators with different weighting to assess universities. The most important indicators are academic reputation, student-to-faculty ratio and research citations per faculty member – followed by employer reputation, proportion of international faculty, and proportion of international students.

New NRF ranking for mining school

- Wits University

The National Research Foundation has bestowed another accolade on the School of Mining Engineering by awarding a C2 rating to Professor Rudrajit Mitra.

Wits Mining Professor Rudrajit Mitra awarded a C2 by the National Research Foundation

Mitra, who is Associate Professor and Centennial Chair of Rock Engineering, is now one of four academics in the school who hold this level of professional recognition. All four are based at Wits Mining School, making it the only mining school in South Africa with NRF-rated academics.

“I feel really honoured to be rated at C2 level by the NRF, especially in my field of rock mechanics,” said Mitra. “I am humbled to be in the company of great academics in rock mechanics such as Professor Dick Stacey, for instance.”

Professor Stacey, Professor Cuthbert Musingwini and Professor Fred Cawood are the other three NRF-rated researchers at the Wits Mining School.

His award comes on the strength of 112 research outputs over the past eight years – including five book chapters, 37 journal articles and 49 conference papers. As a lecturer, he has also supervised or co-supervised 11 PhD students to graduation, two (2) Masters students and sixty seven (67) Honours students.

The NRF’s C2 ranking recognises “established researchers with a sustained recent record of productivity in their chosen field” and who are judged by their peers as having produced “a body of quality work … which … attests to ongoing engagement with the field.” In a rigorous process involving the applicant, the university, the NRF and a range of international reviewers, the impact of the research generated by Professor Mitra was assessed by experts from around the world.

“It is not the volume of research outputs that is important, but rather the impact on fellow researchers and the discipline or industry in which you operate,” he said. “The reviewers must be satisfied that the research is valuable, and that it contributes constructively to the discipline. Are other researchers reading it, are they referencing it, and does the industry benefit from its content?”

White-collar crime and corruption reporting win investigative journalism award

- Wits University

Journalists from News24 and amaBhungane are joint winners of the 14th Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism.

Susan Comrie of amaBhungane (the Centre for Investigative Journalism at the Mail & Guardian), and Kyle Cowan of News24 were named joint winners at a ceremony held at the Wits Club in Johannesburg on Friday, 30 March 2019. Pauli Van Wyk of the Daily Maverick’s Scorpio was runner-up and Zanela Miji of amaBhungane received a special mention.

Wits Journalism and The Valley Trust host the annual award, which recognises the best exemplar of investigative reporting in South Africa. The 19th Taco Kuiper Award elicited 18 entries, shortlisted to eight finalists, and ultimately a joint winner and one runner-up. The prize money is R235 000 for each winner and R65 000 for the runner-up.

Wits Prof. Anton Harber on left with Taco Kuiper Award winners Susan Comrie and Kyle Cowan with Justice Tom Cloete of The Valley Trust on right

Comrie’s work exposed Regiments Capital Trojan horse role in wheeling R600m out of state-owned enterprises. Cowan broke the story of the Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson's R500 000 covert "donation" to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC presidential campaign. Van Wyk’s series exposed the devastating effect of Tom Moyane’s reign at the head of SARS. Miji was recognised for her two papers on land, 'Those graves were our title deeds’ and ‘Cradle of Conflict’.

Anton Harber, convener of judges and adjunct professor in Wits Journalism said Comrie’s was a story with major impact and showed the value of sticking to a story when others move on. Cowan’s “was brave work, tackling some of the most powerful political figures, executed with thoroughness” while Van Wyk’s work was “authoritative, compelling, comprehensive.”

“I think you will see from the material we look at today that we continue to enjoy some fine work – but there is little doubt that the need to encourage and build the pool of investigative reporting is more important than ever,” said Harber.

“I want to pay special tribute to the whistle-blowers, those who risk their lives and their livelihoods to speak out against wrongdoing, often with little reward. Without them, many of these stories would not be done, and we – and the whole country – owes you a gigantic thank you.”

Taco Kuiper Award winners Susan Comrie and Kyle Cowan with runner up Pauli Van Wky on right

One such whistle-blower was Daphne Caruana Galizia. She was a Maltese journalist, writer, and anti-corruption activist. On 16 October 2017, Galizia was assassinated in a car bombing. Her son, Matthew Caruana Galizia, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a software engineer, delivered the keynote address at the Taco Kuiper Award.

Galizia grew-up in the world of journalism his mother inhabited. Journalism in Malta 30 years ago was limited to reporting facts and no public discourse. An “exasperated” Daphne wrote to the newspaper, which astonishingly published what was effectively an op-ed, with a by-line, and paid her. Thus began Daphne’s career as an investigative journalist who was not only young and female but also dangerously opinionated.

Taco Kuiper Award winners Susan Comrie and Kyle Cowan with runner up Pauli Van Wky and guest speaker Matthew Caruana Galizia, on right

Galizia says his mother was as popular as she was isolated because of her rigorous reporting. She was frequently labelled a witch and the corpse of the family dog appeared on their doorstep with its throat slit. Two other pets were subsequently poisoned and shot. The front door of the family’s home was set on fire – a traditional warning in Malta. Another arson attempt almost burned their home to the ground, but was thwarted when Galizia’s brother returned in time to quench the fire and save his sleeping brother’s life.

“My mother used to say ‘you’re either a fighter or you’re not’,” says Galizia, whose mother did not live to fight but had to fight to live amidst the “mind-bending power of corruption”. She was a relentless reporter who said she would stop only if a contract was taken out on her life. She was dead several months later, murdered while investigating a cocaine operation.

Galizia said his mother inspired generations of Maltese women and men. On the 16th of every month, activists hold a vigil for Daphne. Galizia paid tribute to South Africa’s investigative journalists assembled at the Taco Kuiper Award who “absorb the blows” for society.