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Student volunteerism and leadership celebrated

- Wits University

They go about their lives like all other students but stand out for touching lives and leading for a better society.

Students recognised for service to society at the annual Student Leadership Awards

Wits students who serve communities and take up social challenges were honoured at the 2019 Wits Student Leadership Awards. Hosted by the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs, the awards celebrate students who exhibit excellence within the spheres of volunteerism, innovation, academic excellence and ethical leadership.

The event was graced by Wits’ top brass, and guest speaker Dr John Kani, the legendary artists and cultural activist, who praised the students for their servitude.

Jerome September, Dean of Student Affairs, whose office supports students in their various pursuits, particularly in the second curriculum, spoke about the importance of volunteerism and the aspirations of the University for its graduates.

“Activism is part of our DNA at Wits and the students who selflessly give of their time help us to fulfil our mission of advancing society. Wits wants to produce well-rounded graduates who will be able to add value the community, the economy and continent. The leadership awards are our way of saying thank you.” 

Over 20 awards were handed on the night. Read the citations detailing work conducted by these change agents.




Most Outstanding Student Leader in a Society

Thamsanqa Mahlangu

Most Outstanding Society Project/Initiative

South African Union of Jewish Students

Most Outstanding Society in the Religious Cluster

Uplifted Life

Most Outstanding Society in the Cultural Cluster

South African union of Jewish Students

Most Outstanding Society in the Social Cluster


Most Outstanding Society in the Academic Cluster

Association of South Quantity Surveyors, Wits Student Chapter

Most Outstanding Society in the Business Cluster

Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (ABSIP)

Most Outstanding New Society

MOOT Court Society

Most Outstanding Faculty Council

The Medical School Council

Most Outstanding School Council

School of Economics and Business Sciences Council

Most Outstanding House Committee

Ernest Oppenheimer House Committee

Most Outstanding Student Leader at a University Residence

Botsisang Sebakeng

Sports Student of the Year

Sasha Nzvathu

Champion of Service Award

Khathutshelo Nemadidi

Persley Lefaphoma

Social Innovator Award

Sophia Haddad from Wits Amnesty

SRC Presidency Award to the Most Outstanding Society

History Makers 

Most Outstanding Contribution made by an SRC Member

Sisanda Mbolekwa, Palesa Mofokeng, Sibongile Sibeko, Faatima Laher

Change Maker of the Year: Innovation and Entrepreneurship


Musa Maluleka

Change Maker of the Year: Social Activism

Keitumetse Moutloatse

Vice-Chancellor’s Student Leader of the Year Award

Sisanda Mbolekwa

Abe Bailey Award

Mikaela Oostehuizen

Special Nominations

  • 2018/2019 Golden Key Wits Chapter Committee
  • Emerging Leaders Programme
  • FORBES 30 UNDER 30 (Sakhile Madonko)
  • Global Citizen for Social Justice


Maptek donates laser scanner to keep Wits at leading edge

- Wits University

The new laser scanner adds to the modern technology available to mining engineering students at Wits.

(l-r): Prof Fred Cawood, director of the Wits Mining Institute and Nick Venter, outgoing general manager – Maptek Africa

Maptek Africa, one the leading producers of mining technology has donated the I-Site 8800 Laser Scanner in support of the development of the next generation of mining professionals.

Maptek’s General Manager Nick Venter says the equipment will give students valuable insight into how this technology can assist in functions like survey, geology, geotechnical and mining.

The laser scanner was presented to the School on 4 November 2019 and is valued in excess of R6 million, including all its auxiliary hardware and software.

Expanding on the equipment’s capabilities, Venter says it “uses technology that combines long range laser scanning hardware with processing and modelling software for the mining industry. It can be used in both open pit and underground environments."

Data collected by the scanner can be applied in various duties, including: stope and drive survey; drive mapping; rock bolt identification; geotechnical analysis; stockpile volumes; mine modelling; and identifying tailings dam deformation. The equipment scans a large number of cloud points very quickly, providing detailed data that can be analysed with three-dimensional modelling and analysis software.

WMI Director Professor Fred Cawood says that real-time visualisation of underground environments for risk management is very important for safe mining. 

“The ability to scan complex scenes and then add risk management content to the point cloud, allows for a ‘realness’ that other forms of augmented reality are not capable of,” says Cawood. “It is in this context that the Maptek scanner will be put to very valuable use by the Wits Mining Institute.”

The Wits Mining Institute which received the equipment also hosts the Sibanye-Stillwater Digital Mining Laboratory (DigiMine), the Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry (CSMI) and the Centre for Mechanised Mining Systems (CMMS).

Head of the Wits School of Mining Engineering, Professor Cuthbert Musingwini has welcomed this contribution.

“The School of Mining Engineering deeply appreciates the Maptek laser scanner donation to the Wits Mining Institute because it will be beneficial for both teaching and research in geospatial techniques. This aligns well with our re-designed curriculum – which focuses on Mining 4.0,” Musingwini.

At the handover, senior lecturer as the Wits School of Mining Engineering, Huw Thomas, highlighted the value of raising technological awareness and competence among students.

Venter noted that Maptek has maintained a long and healthy relationship with Wits, recognising the importance of strong partnerships between academia, the mining sector and its technology suppliers.

Maptek 8800 Laser Scanner increases the modern technology available to mining engineering students at Wits.

Outcome of the investigation into the Educ226a Life Skills Exam

- Wits University

Report from the University regarding concerns around the Life Skills examination paper.

Following allegations that the EDUC226A Life Skills examination paper had been “leaked” last week, we instituted an investigation into the matter, and received a report this week, the key elements of which are summarised hereunder.

At no time was any examination question or paper “leaked”. Different communications around the structure and form of the examination were shared by two individual lecturers on separate occasions and independently of each other with students in class, via Sakai, and via email. The integrity of this examination was maintained but given the uncertainty that these practices may have created, the School will continue to explore ways through which examination briefings are given to students in order to prevent any perceptions of unfairness.

Following a meeting with concerned students on the day of the examination, it was agreed that an alternative examination would be written as a “take-home” assessment, as discussions around this matter had already cut into the time for which the said examination was scheduled. The integrity of this examination was fully maintained.

Importantly, the evidence obtained as part of the investigation does not support the allegations of racism made by some students. Whilst there may have been mixed communications from different individuals around the structure and form of the examination, the investigation reveals that the lecturers were consistent in how they responded to students – irrespective of race. 

While allegations of racism could not be upheld in this particular case, it is important to emphasise that the University maintains a zero tolerance approach towards any form of racism, discrimination and unfair practices at all times.

It is unfortunate that the immediate reaction of some students was to racialise the incident on social media, without any investigation or subsequent evidence. 

Social media and the media is increasingly becoming a first resort for individuals and student societies to highlight their concerns in the public domain. When such actions are undertaken without evidence, this sometimes leads to people being unfairly criticised and vilified. Whilst students have a right to raise issues, they should do so through the University’s formal structures and in line with the University’s escalation policy. 

Students are reminded that all complaints must be investigated in line with the University’s policies and rules. Complaints should be reported to the relevant Head of School or should be escalated as appropriate via the relevant institutional channels. This includes allegations of prejudice, discrimination and bias against which the University firmly stands.

The Dean of Students will meet with the relevant individuals, students, student leaders and staff members who were involved in this incident. Students are reminded that they are accountable for their actions and words, both within the University environment, in the media and on social media. 

All members of the University community are bound by a common commitment to follow due process pertaining to the investigation of complaints. Any student or staff member who feels that their rights have been infringed through this incident, may lay a formal complaint. 

Where staff and students feel unfairly victimised, they are entitled to lay a complaint which will be fully investigated and acted upon, in line with the University’s rules, policies and procedures. 

The University considers this matter closed. We wish all students well for the remainder of the examinations.


15 NOVEMBER 2019

Soccer boots made for township diski

- Wits University

Young entrepreneur in the spotlight during Global Entrepreneurship Week running from 18 – 24 November 2019.

Musa Maluleka a student entrepreneur produces soccer boots suited for African soccer pitches

Dusty fields and gravel grounds punctuated by youngsters kicking ball are common sights in South Africa's townships. For many people this is just about the game; but for 19-year-old Musa Maluleka, the dusty fields are where his business idea was born.

Maluleka, who has developed Disktjie, a South African soccer boot brand with innovative features, has won several awards for his unique business. This year he received the Change Maker of the Year: Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the annual Wits Student Leadership Awards, won the  General Business Category (Category 4) of the first national Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Competition along with R10 000 and season 3 of the Unbreakable Entrepreneur competition walking away with R100 000 to invest on his business.

The second year BComm student, beams with pride as he talks about his childhood. "All of this started when I was in Grade 1. After complaining to what appeared to be deaf ears of my mom about my small daily allowance, I asked her to keep it for me instead." His mother then encouraged him to take a packed lunch to school instead of splurging his daily allowance. "Neither my mother nor I were aware of it at the time, but all of this subtly instilled discipline in me over the years."

Throughout his primary and high school years, his mother was consistent in saving his pocket money for him. By the time Maluleka enrolled for his first year at university, the money had built up to R60 000, enough to invest and start a business. He quickly adds that the money he received from his scholarship and on the stock market also fuelled the desire to start his own business, as did being a top achiever at school, which, he says, exposed him to many opportunities.

"I know that I am not an ordinary boy," says Maluleka who played for Wits’ second team in his first year and has scaled down to playing inter-residence soccer representing Wits Junction where he resides.

A boot for African conditions

Back to Maluleka's soccer boot business. The name Disktjie is a combination of the word diski -- which is what soccer is called in the townships across South Africa, and the Afrikaans verkleinwoord suffix -tjie. "I came up with this name because, growing up, I realised that football knows no race, even though in South Africa we like to distinguish between black and white. With the name, I aim to show that even in our diversity, we share many similarities." He goes on to say that "once we are on the field, all of us are the same."

His soccer boot brand is the first of its kind on the African continent, made to withstand all kinds of conditions. Maluleka spent a significant amount of time thoroughly researching on what it would take to manufacture his durable boot, and most importantly, where the manufacturing would take place. The conceptualising process started with him finding competent designers.

After he got the first batch manufactured, he donated some samples to a few players in the township to try them out. He admits that it took some persuasion and convincing to get the first few pairs sampled. Eventually, the players reported being happy with the product.

“It is durable and has better balance suited for the gravel soccer pitches,” he explains.

Disktjie has received orders from as far as Congo, fuelling Maluleka's bigger dream of becoming the name behind a prominent worldwide sports merchandise. "I want Disktjie to be more than just a pair of boots. My hopes are to expand the range. Although we now also have a soccer ball, my dream is much bigger than this. When I find problems in the African context, I want to solve them."

Balancing school and business

Maluleka is currently enrolled for a BCom in Accounting and says that his studies have helped him to better manage and build his business. He shares his secret: "I sacrifice a lot of things, and I don't do the things that I like doing. I have had to think a lot about what is priority and not so much about what brings me pleasure". He feels confident that his study programme is preparing him for the future and is expanding his horizons. "Building a business requires a certain level of expertise and I am getting exactly that at Wits. There are dynamics that I would not have understood if I wasn't studying accounting." These include marketing and finance, which Maluleka believes are the two most important business functions every entrepreneur needs to know, both as a start-up enterprise and for long-term sustainability.

He adds that he is also learning how to take his business to scale and to sustain it into the future. Disktjie has thus allowed him to put into practise what he is learning. He sees the brand also allowing him to make mistakes and learn from them, a luxury not available to all entrepreneurs.

In order to raise awareness of entrepreneurship as a career, Wits University announced the launch of Student Entrepreneurship Week (SEW) in 2017. This took place within the auspices of the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Programme, an initiative of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) being implemented in partnership with Universities South Africa at all 26 public universities. EDHE aims to increase the focus on entrepreneurial education at universities so as to develop entrepreneurial students, academics and universities and encourage students to start their own businesses and create employment as opposed to aspiring only to be employed upon graduation.

Maluleka acknowledges Wits efforts to build a culture of entrepreneurship in the institution. But he believes that students should play their part for Wits to succeed in this regard. "No one has ever achieved anything singlehandedly; there's got to be a concerted effort by all stakeholders involved." He closes off by encouraging other student entrepreneurs to enter the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity. "It was all worth the effort," Maluleka concludes.

The original article first appeared on the Universities South Africa’s website.

Scholarships enable postgraduate research with impact

- Wits University

Funding postgraduate studies enables TATA Africa to continue upholding its commitment to uplifting communities.

Nineteen postgraduate students at Wits University were awarded scholarships by TATA Africa to complete their studies. The awards ceremony took place in the Senate Room, Solomon Mahlangu House on 7 November 2019 and was attended by the scholarship recipients and their families as well as representatives from TATA and Wits.

Improving health and healing society

The TATA postgraduate scholarships have enabled students like William Mokone, a second-year PhD student, to pursue research in nanotechnology. Mokone became interested in this field whist completing his master’s. With his research, he hopes to apply nanotechnology in renewable energy, solar energy, and technologies like solar cells.

“It is work that is going to make a huge contribution to South Africa and some of the challenges that we are facing as a country,” says Mokone. He thanked TATA Africa which began funding him during the second year of his master’s. This degree focused on drug design and on how to improve current HIV drugs.

“If it was not for that funding, I wouldn’t be able to register for my PhD, because I had a bit of debt,” says Mokone. “I appreciate that we are able to pursue the things that are of value.”

2019 TATA Postgraduate Scholarship recipients

Pride Nombulelo Ngcobo was grateful for the TATA funding, which enabled her to do research that delves deeper into some of the societal ills in the country, such as rape culture. Ngcobo is studying towards a master’s in Applied Drama and Therapy. Her research, Critical analysis into the efficacy of oral theatre as a sexual right – education for black adolescent boys in South Africa focuses on young black boys in townships who are rape victims.

“Rape belittles you and men feel they cannot talk about it, that is why they bottle everything inside and take it out on us women,” says  Ngcobo. “I would like to thank TATA for giving us an opportunity to further our studies. This thank you does not only come from my heart – from my single mother at home, she is saying thank you. My future is saying thank you. The boys I work with are also saying thank you.”

An enduring partnership

The relationship between TATA and Wits began in 2006 and to date TATA has donated almost R9 million towards student funding at Wits. Speaking at the scholarship awards ceremony, CEO of TATA Africa, Len Brand said the principle of their business is uplifting communities.

“As we do business in communities, we must do it in such a manner that we sustainably uplift that community. We cannot just go in communities and exploit them. When we are in them, they must get better – that is what we have to do, and in a sustainable manner.” He urged the recipients to help others in future and to be social leaders in their communities. 

Professor Robert Muponde, Director for Postgraduate Affairs at Wits said the scholarships will elevate “graduateness” at Wits and “will raise the ground upon which our students walk into the future”. The scholarships not only nurture talent but also invigorate transformation and aspiration, he said. “The human factor in development is at the core of TATA’s giving and Wits’ teaching. Together TATA and Wits bring the distant mountain to our feet and help inequities to be flattened so that the very summit of a seemingly daunting distant mountain becomes the playground for all.”

Visitors flock to architecture exhibition

- Wits University

The Solomon Mahlangu concourse has been transformed into a platform for visionary works.

Exhibition showcases talent of students from the School of Architecture and Planning

The School of Architecture & Planning is hosting an ‘All School Exhibition’ in the Solomon Mahlangu Concourse. The work of the architecture and planning students will be on display from 17 November to 5 December 2019.

“This exhibition showcases not just the variety of work undertaken in the School but also the expertise and talent that students have brought to bear to produce it. The projects are displayed together from different years, scales and mediums in order to celebrate the entire output of the School during 2019,” says Ariane Janse van Rensburg, Associate Professor and Architecture Programme Director.

The installation was curated by staff and students and they left no loose ends in presenting a professional exhibition.  

The stands upon which the work rests were fabricated by a team of talented staff and students, and give sculptural and spatial effect to the work on exhibition.

Keen on promoting collaborative work that simulates the work environment, the assembling of the stands drew on the most junior to senior students working alongside academics.

“Work began on a Sunday and was a great learning experience. The creative energy was essential to the success of this exhibition,” expands van Rensburg.

Intentional in design and purpose, the stands were created with recyclable materials that students can use in their design, structures and construction courses in 2020.

The School of Architecture and Planning will celebrate its centenary in 2022, the same year that Wits marks its 100th birthday.

Its contribution is embedded in the built environment of Johannesburg which began as a mining town. Its contribution and relevance continues as it evolves with the changing times.

Potential students interested in a career in the disciplines offered by the School are encouraged to enrol for the free online course titled What do Architects and Urban Planners do? The course if offered through Wits EdX and starts in March 2020.

Wits mourns the passing of Sir Donald Gordon

- Wits University

Statement from Wits University on the passing of Sir Donald Gordon.

The University of the Witwatersrand mourns the passing of Sir Donald Gordon, a successful businessman, a global philanthropist, a Wits alumnus, and one of South Africa’s most distinguished leaders.

A chartered accountant by profession, Sir Donald founded Liberty Life in 1957 and Liberty International PLC in 1980. He was awarded an honorary degree in Economic Science, the University’s highest honour in 1991 for his contribution to the University and to society.

Sir Donald has left an extraordinary legacy in his wake, and his generosity and that of his family, continues to positively impact on the lives of South Africans, and on members of the Wits community in particular.

One of the University’s largest benefactors, Sir Donald and his family donated R120 million to establish the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Parktown -  South Africa’s first private teaching hospital, which delivers world-class patient care and advances specialist training and research. Through the generosity of Sir Donald and his family, Wits was able to purchase the Kenridge Hospital in 2002, with Mediclinic joining as a shareholder later in 2005.

In 1993, Sir Donald also opened the Donald Gordon Auditorium located in the Donald Gordon Building on the Wits Management Campus in Parktown. The auditorium and building are named in honour of Sir Donald for his generous contribution to building world-class facilities to accommodate and train members of the public service administration, many of whom were returning from exile as apartheid was dismantling.

Sir Donald was the brainchild behind the development of Sandton City, one of the most successful shopping centres in the world. He was also a director of the Guardian Royal Exchange Group for 24 years and chaired their South African subsidiary, the Guardian National Insurance Company.

In June 2005, Sir Donald was knighted in recognition of his services to the arts and business. The Grand Tier at the Royal Opera House as well as the main auditorium of the Wales Millennium Centre are named after him. These are just a fraction of his many accomplishments and contributions to society.

Sir Donald was a global visionary leader who has left an indelible mark on society. His legacy is seen, felt and lived in our midst every day and will continue to inspire members of the Wits community for decades to come. We commiserate with Sir Donald’s family and friends, and those who knew him well but we know that you are comforted knowing that he has lived a life for which many will strive, but that only a special few will emulate. Please accept our deepest sympathies during this difficult period. May his soul rest in peace.