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Farewell Professor Adam Habib

- Wits University

Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib, will leave Wits University at the end of December 2020.

“It has been an honour and a pleasure to serve at the helm of this great institution for the past eight years. I have great faith in the collective Wits community – during difficult times you have always made the right decision and empowered me to act in the best interests of Wits University. I thank you for your support and your trust,” says Habib.


Habib is leaving the University after eight years and will join the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) based in London. Top nuclear physicist Professor Zeblon Vilakazi will succeed Habib as the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits from 1 January 2021.

Tributes have been pouring in for Habib from academics, employees, students, staff, alumni, donors, ministers and fellow vice-chancellors from within and beyond South Africa’s borders, some of which are reflected hereunder.

The Chairperson of Council, Mr Isaac Shongwe says: “Adam has been one of the most vociferous leaders of this great University, and indeed the entire higher education sector. He is a courageous leader who speaks truth to power, who holds the state to account, and who calls out threats to society when others are afraid to do so. We will miss his leadership and all that he has done for Wits and our country.”

During Habib’s tenure the University has recorded significant achievements. Wits’ research output has increased, it has expanded its footprint in international journals and throughput rates are steadily rising. Wits’ finances are stable and it has strong, independent governance structures in place.


Tributes from various constituencies

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande thanks Habib for his contribution to the higher education sector and describes him as a “fiery character who is not afraid to enter the fray not just as an academic, but also as a political commentator and an intellectual activist”.


Student leaders and student deans pay tribute to Habib in this video, saying that Habib is passionate about education, sometimes controversial, but always willing to engage with students even when they disagreed (often robustly) on matters.


Tributes flowed in from donors and alumni, and Witsies across the world, including from Stanley Bergman, John Teeger, former Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Bundy and hundreds of others.

In his own words

In one of his last interviews, Habib answers questions about what lessons he has learnt at Wits, the greatest hurdles that he has faced over the last eight years including #FeesMustFall, gender based harm and the coronavirus. He speaks on social justice and what he will most miss when he leaves South Africa. He describes Wits as a national treasure, and explains how research with impact establishes the foundations of a common humanity.

He describes Wits students as robust, cosmopolitan young people who seek social justice. Watch until the end to find out about people who asked him to resolve personal issues, why he wanted to play the guitar during #FeesMustFall, why his voice is hoarse, which South African dishes he will miss, why he likes Bruce Springsteen and other artists who speak to his soul. And he says let the Wits dassie roam around freely.


Farewell Professor Habib, you will truly be missed. We know that Wits will always occupy a special place in your heart. Hamba kahle!