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How scholarships change lives for the better

- Wits University

Quality education, support, and passion transforms lives and changes the world.

It was a fitting ceremony that recognised excellence and high performance over time – a Rhodes Scholar here, a Fulbright Scholar there, and a Rhodes-Mandela Scholar on the platform – talented individuals scattered throughout the Great Hall foyer, their names etched on a Wall of Fame, recognising their individual talents and their contribution to the world.

The unveiling of Wits’ Scholarship Boards, hosted by Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, was held on Saturday, 3 September 2022 in the foyer of the Great Hall, as part of the Wits Centenary celebrations. “It is an honour and my pleasure to welcome you back to Wits during our centenary year. You have all made a significant contribution to society, for which we are grateful,” said Vilakazi.

“We thought that it was an important project because we need to make the achievements and success of our alumni and staff visible; to inspire students, to give recognition to those who excel, and to reflect our standing as one of the world’s great universities,” says Peter Maher, the Director of Alumni Relations at Wits.

The keynote address was delivered by Vincent Spera, the US Consul General to South Africa. He congratulated Wits on its centenary, and elaborated on the importance of investing on education, for example through the 75-year-old Fulbright Scholarship Programme. “Wits is rich, dynamic institution that has character - we look forward to building many more programmes and partnerships between South African and American universities in the coming years,” he said. “We know that this will contribute to the development of the next generation of educators, researchers and leaders.”

Recipients of prestigious scholarships shared their views on how the scholarships transformed their lives, opened up new horizons, intellectual fields and ways of thinking. For others, it moved them into completely new areas of life.

Professor Max Price, the former dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits, and a former SRC leader, said that following the attainment of his medical degree, he was given the opportunity through a scholarship to pursue a degree in philosophy, politics, economics, at Oxford University, which has helped him navigate through some difficult decisions in his life. “This equipped me with the leadership skills which I used when I returned to Wits to champion the Graduate Entry Medical Programme, which is still in existence today,” said Price. “I am appreciative and indebted to Wits for having given me the opportunities which allowed me to become a Rhodes Scholar, to study outside my narrow career path and to broaden my skills set which undoubtedly helped me to further my career and to serve as a leader.”

Mandela Rhodes Scholar, Nosipho Gumede, studied metallurgical engineering and worked in a coal processing plant for five years before she became restless. “I wanted to use engineering to change the world and to do something meaningful, so I quit my job, applied for and was granted the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, and focused on my research. I have now turned my research into an NQF level 5 postgraduate course which is benefitting municipalities and enabling them to advance service delivery.”

Professor Vukosi Marivate, a Fulbright Scholar said that the time that he spent in the US was transformative and changed how he saw the world. His current interests lie in the application of machine learning and how it can be used to improve the society in which we live, especially from the Global South.

Another Fulbright Scholar, Cikida Gcali-Mabusela completed her engineering degree at Wits followed by a postgraduate degree in the US. She has branched into business, leadership and consultancy, and is now a general manager at Uber SA. “We need to change the narrative about Africa, which is under- and mis-represented globally. We must recognise that African can make a contribution globally, just as we did through COVID. Finally, we need to appreciate Africa’s adaptability quotient and our ability to navigate through uncertainty and complexity.”

Civil engineering graduate, Graham Craig, flew in from Australia to attend an alumni reunion. A Rhodes Scholar, former SRC president (1969), and rugby player - his dream was to obtain Oxford Blue colours in rugby which was shattered after a major injury when he reached the UK. He graduated and returned to Johannesburg to work at Anglo American, at one point closely with Gavin Relly (a green space is named after him on the west campus), who said that it was important to contribute meaningfully to Wits, when the University requested funding for the acquisition of the Milner Showgrounds, and that subsequent investments followed. He is pictured alongside, with the current Wits SRC President Cebolenkosi Khumalo.

The vote of thanks was delivered by Fiona Kigen, a member of the Wits Convocation Executive Committee who spoke favourably about her Wits experience. “Being a Wits graduate means that you are a Witsie for life. We are really grateful to all the scholars who are here today and who remain part of Wits. We celebrate all of you today. It’s because of you that this University is where it is today. Thank you for flying our flag so high!” 

Young business minds took centre stage at the Student Entrepreneurship Week

- Wits University

The 2022 Student Entrepreneurship Week got off to a vibrant start as students gathered to learn, conceptualise and share their ideas on good business practice.

Entrepreneur week by the lawns

The Student Entrepreneurship Week kicked off with bright minds and eager young entrepreneurs ready to show off their ideas at Wits University. The programme is part of the Wits Development and Leadership Unit and the Young African Entrepreneurs Institute.

The entrepreneurial and innovative actions of dynamic champions for entrepreneurship at institutions made these campaigns instrumental in raising awareness of entrepreneurship as a career and emphasising the benefits of having the best of both worlds as a student and an entrepreneur.

This year, students were given the daunting task of presenting their ideas on alternatives to combat the ongoing energy crisis in South Africa. They were also treated to presentations and talks from various business owners and their journey to success.

"It is precisely your time at university that you must use to the max to network, to build friendships and build relationships," said Jerome September, the Dean of Students at Wits.

"This entrepreneurship week is to give you an opportunity for you to be, to learn, to challenge yourself and us around your aspirations," said September.

Students were addressed by Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, who encouraged them to be obsessed with problems and to find suitable and successful solutions.

Vilakazi praised the business minds of Theo Baloyi, the CEO and founder of Bathu sneakers, as well as Wits alumnus Adrian Gore, founder and CEO of Discovery Group.

"It's inspiring for me to see young people like yourselves, full of ambition and fun, ready to take our continent and our country forward," said Vilakazi.

However, the wise words of Dr Anna Mokgokong, founder and chairperson of Community Investment Holdings, set the tone for a week of entrepreneurial greatness. The former medical student has received international acclaim for her entrepreneurial ability with widespread experience in healthcare, academia and commerce.

She told her story of her rise to success from when she started trading sandwiches for cash in primary school to when she opened a store in the Ga-Rankuwa complex. After completing her medical studies she opened a medical centrum in Hebron, where she serviced nine villages as the first female doctor and doctor for the community.

"Entrepreneurship is mostly a national, personal and economic catalyst and cornerstone within the economic system," said Mokgokong, adding that it is the key to solving several of South Africa's challenges.

The week ended off with a market on the Library Lawns, allowing students to showcase their businesses on campus. There was a range of different products and services on display from herbal teas and skin care creams to tutoring services for students.

In the spirit of the Wits Centenary, the university is hosting the 4th Annual National Entrepreneurship Gauteng Regionals for Intervarsity 2022 in partnership with the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE). Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation Professor Lynn Morris and Tshimologong CEO Lesley Donna Williams welcomed participants in the EDHE regional student entrepreneurship competition to Tshimologong. The Gauteng regionals are between Wits, TUT, UNISA, UP, UJ and Sefako Makgatho University.

Universities should take a leading role in reforming South Africa’s socio-political landscape

- Wits University

Former Wits Chancellor and Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke says Wits has produced great leaders in the past and must continue doing so in future.

Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Chancellor Dr Judy Dlamini and former Chancellor Dikgang Moseneke a the 2022 Founders Tea.

Universities in South Africa have a leading role to play in the socio-political landscape of South Africa, where a dire lack of political leadership is dragging the country down.

These are the thoughts of former Wits Chancellor and former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, who said on Sunday that South Africans need to “rethink how we relate to the state” and move away from “statism”.

“We need to go back and tach our people how to look inward; how to grow their own vegetables; how to build their own homes; how to paint them when they get dirty; how to pick up their litter, and their dignity will be restored – not by a ruling elite that is ever-evasive and ever-and often unethical,” said Moseneke.

“We must, in other words, cultivate a system of progressive activism, because we have no reason to trust those who call us ‘our people’, and in vain promise us that they will eradicate triple burdens. We have no business in believing in the ruling elite. We have no business to be this gullible.”

Speaking at Wits University’s Founders Tea during the university’s Centenary Celebration, Moseneke said universities must take a lead in the reformation of the country.

“Universities must remain a safe crucible of independent and critical thought. You must remain a bastion of research and new knowledge. You must continue to hone generational succession of leadership that is informed, that is ethical, that is people centric, that is development centric. 

“A true university must be an incubator for social, industrial and financial innovation. A true place of higher learning and teaching must all the time be asking ‘why all the poverty around us? Why is poverty increasing? Why is it so stubborn? Why is it so endemic? Why are there fewer and fewer people who are capable of being innovative – creating new wealth and new ways of better living?’.”

Universities must also be probing the social arrangements that continue to burden the country, like why are our public institutions so fickle, so susceptible to subversion and inaction, and, why is there such a “damning leadership” deficiency in the country?

“If you care to watch the discussion in parliament, you would know just the level – the low, low level – of leadership that we have to stomach and suffer.”

Quoting former Wits Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib who said South Africa’s single biggest bane or curse is a paucity of quality leadership, Moseneke said that Habib should have qualified this statement by saying there is no quality leadership “within politics”.

“Our biggest curse is just not having the kind of leaders that we need most at a time that we have to make the most of our conceptual notions of our just, good democratic society.”

Naming the names of several leaders who came from Wits University, such as Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe and Duma Nokwe, Moseneke said that Wits has produced great leaders in the past, and should be able to produce them again in future.

“So as Wits celebrate’s its 100th year, it must continue to produce more and more special leaders, because that is what we need most.”

Following up on Moseneke’s speech, Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Zeblon Vilakazi said while South Africa has great leaders, they are not in politics. Naming leading academics such as Professors Glenda Grey and Shabir Madhi who helped government mitigate the impact of covid, Vilakazi said you can find many “wellsprings” of leadership in the academic and private sector, and that unlike in the past, you don’t find the top students going into politics anymore.

“The Greek warrior leader Pericles said: ‘If you run away from politics, politics will come to you’, and ‘if you are not interested in politics, you will find yourself being ruled by your intellectual inferior’.”

New podcast reimagines the Humanities from the Global South

- Wits University

The Faculty of Humanities recently launched a new podcast series, The Future in the Humanities - Reimagining the Humanities from the Global South.

Launched during Wits University's centenary celebrations this year - the series tackles critical questions on the role and future of the Humanities.

Click here to listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts

The Future in the Humanities podcast series

The arts, philosophy, anthropology, and literary studies are increasingly perceived as under attack. And yet, in the Global South, these disciplines have never been in a position of greater strength.

Scholars in Africa and South America are displaying unprecedented confidence in challenging frameworks that used to be uncritically adopted from centres of knowledge in Europe or North America. Reflections on race, power, or how we interface with our planet that emerged from societies once perceived at "the margins" are gaining increasing centrality on a global stage.

The series addresses some of these innovations and contradictions, drawing in different voices within and outside the academic world. Each episode focuses on a specific challenge, puzzle, or problem, rather than on a piece of research or a prominent researcher, in ways that display the unique sensitivities and insights that distinguish academia in the Global South.

The Future in the Humanities podcast is written and produced by Andile Masuku and Iginio Gagliardone and co-produced by Brendan "Spike" Ballantine. Hosting and interviews by Andile Masuku. Editing, sound design, audio mix, and mastering by Brendan "Spike" Ballantine.

Find out more about the Faculty of Humanties and The Future in Humanities podcast.

Generations of Wits SRC celebrate formidable leadership

- Wits University

Generations of Wits SRC gather for a night of celebration

SRC event image

An evening of multi-generational leaders and members of the Wits Student Representative Council gathered to reflect on and celebrate the past 100 years of Wits University and its illustrious student leaders. Wits and its student body has played an important role in shaping our country’s socio-political landscape. It has always been an institution that pursues social relevance as well as academic excellence. Wits takes a stand on social matters and shape the voice of society while producing a high calibre of global leaders.

Hosted by the incumbent SRC, the night was spent reflecting on the past 100 years, celebrating Wits student activism, and reaffirming the role student leaders play. Guests celebrated the evolution of the Wits SRC by reflecting on members of the student body who played a significant role in the anti-apartheid struggle and who continue to champion transformation across Wits campuses. They also reflected on those who fought for fair access to quality education for poor and working-class students, as part of the wider process of building a truly non-sexist and non-racial society.

The night was part of the current SRC’s efforts to raise funds for students on campus. Cebolenkosi Khumalo, Wits SRC president, highlighted his teams’ efforts to raise funds for and support students who are on the verge of financial exclusion.  “We teamed up with the private sector to fundraise over R12 million that assisted over 2000 students with registrations” said Khumalo.

Khumalo celebrated his team’s effort to ensure that students get a holistic and equitable university experience by providing those from poor and impoverished backgrounds with reliable, and stable accommodation, food, and academic support.

Kenneth Creamer, lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance and former Wits SRC, reflected on his time as a student and what led to him joining the struggle against the apartheid government. Sharing his hopes for the next 100 years Creamer said, “I would like to see our university continue to be a center of academic excellence in teaching and research.”

The former Witsie applauded past student leaders who established a structure called SASSFE that facilitates intergenerational dialogue and action.

“I would like to continue to teach large diverse groups of students from all races, genders, backgrounds, and nationalities – so that Wits can uplift not just South Africa, but also our African region and beyond,” Creamer added.

Wits student leaders have held not only the institution to account but left Wits to occupy significant roles outside of the University that hold the private and public sector accountable. The love for Wits University, South Africa and the continent continues to unite these formidable leaders for generations to come.  

Waltzing kudus, cheerleaders, and a choir at alumni centenary event

- Wits University

Wits alumni who returned to campus for Homecoming Weekend on 4 September were treated to canapés and cocktails at an Alumni Welcome in Solomon Mahlangu House.

Approximately 700 alumni and their partners took the opportunity to return to campus, rekindle relationships, and network with fellow Witsies.

An informal but upmarket sundowner soirée, proceedings began with an explosion of high-kicking Wits cheerleaders strutting their stuff to thumping beats, before making way for the equally energetic but less acrobatic Wits Choir. The Wits mascots, Kudos Kudu and his sister Mx Kudu, graciously posed for photographs with alumni in between the occasional waltz around the Concourse.

It was predominantly graduates from the past two decades in attendance. Approximately 80% of alumni at this event were aged mid-40s and younger. However, there were a handful – fewer than 20 – ‘veteran’ alumni at the Alumni Welcome, with many looking forward to the Founders’ Tea on the Sunday of Homecoming Weekend. Founders’ Tea is a flagship event specifically for alumni who graduated 40 or more years ago.

After an uplifting performance, Wits Choir conductor and trainer, Dalene Hoogenhout, addressed alumni, saying, “Wits Choir is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. We started in 1962 and have had five of six events – this one being event number five – and event number six will be an alumni braai for [Wits Choir] alumni on 16 October.” The Wits Choir will also perform at the Old Fort at Constitution Hill on 14 and 15 October.

The Wits Choir, which celebrates its 60th in the University's centenary year, performed at the Alumni Welcome event at Homecoming Weekend

The Director of the Office of Alumni Relations, Peter Maher welcomed alumni before introducing the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi. Maher said, “I’ve been travelling around the world with the VC and, I must tell you, there’s something called rankings, I’m sure you’ve heard about it – like academic rankings. There’s no question in my mind that Wits has the best alumni in the world. Ipso facto, we have the best university in the world – please give a warm welcome to the greatest Vice-Chancellor in the world!”

The Vice-Chancellor said, “This is a great University. It has gone through very difficult periods in its history over the last 100 years. In its formation, in 1922, despite all our money being stolen away from Johannesburg and taken to that other city, we protested and said ‘This city of Johannesburg deserves a university!’ And what happened was, reluctantly, Prime Minister Smuts, after a lot of pressure by citizens of Johannesburg said, ‘Alright, yes, I’ll establish a university’ and passed an act. But that day in March was marred by the fact that there was a miners’ strike. So this Milner Park campus became a site for launching artillery to suppress a miners’ strike”.

Wits VC and Principal Prof Zeblon Vilakazi addresses graduates who returned to campus for the Alumni Welcome event at Homecoming Weekend

This is why Wits University has two birthdays, the VC said, one in March and one in October. “The birth of this University came out representing the fury, strength and resilience of your city … I always believed that if you want to go through an easy-going university, then go elsewhere. You came here to be shaped by the crucible of fire. I always believed that the finest sword is the Japanese samurai sword – it has to be beaten 1000 times – this heart of Johannesburg will beat you a million times and give you the sharpest blade that will take you to conquer anything.”

“There’s no other place like this, it’s not an easy place, and it will continue to be what it is. You watched when the Extension of University Education Act was passed in 1959, some of you witnessed the difficult challenges of the 1980s, when the helicopters were flying about. In 2015, we all had a difficult challenge that forced the state to question how you manage fees through #Feesmustfall.”

Vilakazi told alumni that many of them had gone on to become CEOs of fortune 500 companies and that they had “gone on and conquered the world and conquered the edge because you come from the crucible that shaped the finest of the finest.” This includes three CEOs of the top five mining companies globally – Anglo American, Glencore, and Sibanye.

Furthermore, “Forty percent of the CEOs in this city come from here and 40% of law firms’ senior partners and senior counsel at the Johannesburg bar come from Wits.” The VC reminded alumni that it was this institution that was “right front and centre” in responding to the pandemic.

 “It is this place that for the next 100 years – even the next 1000 years, because institutions endure – we’ll always continue giving you the edge, we’ll always continue being a force for good, we will be Wits, for good, not [just] doing good amongst others, but for good, forever. We’ll always be this great university … Tonight is about celebrating you who represent the best in us.”

Student programme prepares the next generation of change-makers

- Kristan Sharpley and Neo Taimo

The Emerging Leaders Programme empowers students with skills to be better leaders in an uncertain world.

The demand for innovative thinking and resourceful ideas has become more pertinent – whether to achieve more with less, break away from archaic solutions, or disrupt existing ecosystems. This has brought innovation to the forefront as a core 21st century competency. As society finds itself at the premise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is more evident than ever that knowledge is no longer the dominant component needed for success. Rather, the next generation of leaders needs to be exposed to holistic development, and be equipped with the skillset to network, connect, form valuable relationships, and shape their problem-solving and adaptability skills, to create solutions and drive innovation forward.

The mission of the Development and Leadership Unit (DLU) in the Division of Student Affairs at Wits, is to produce world leaders who seek to create positive change courageously, in all spheres of life; leaders who contribute to the development of the Global South. This pursuit for a better society, all begins by creating stimulating and vibrant student experiences – on and off-campus – in the hope of an emergent paradigm shift to innovative leadership. We believe that the spaces we all operate in should be empowering and allow for constructive and critical inquiry, and promote responsible and responsive civic engagement. In the post-Covid-19 context, uncertainty is a given, and thus the need to be intentional in incubating leaders for the new societal context.

The DLU recently launched the Emerging Leaders Programme (ELP), a three-month experiential offering aimed at students across all five faculties, leading in different spaces in and outside the university in order to develop innovative leadership.

Emerging Leaders Programme 2022

Emerging leader Qhayiya Mayinje from the Faculty of Humanities, wants to “understand the different aspects of leadership and how to lead effectively in every setting”. Omphile Motsepe, based in the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, has been leading since joining Wits and “believes there is still more to learn”.

The programme is aimed at students who have further aspirations to lead in their relevant communities and beyond. Mahlatse Kgatle from the Faculty of Health Sciences, sees the programme as a bridge for those who “have [a] passion for helping people within [their] community but require skills and knowledge” to help them to become more efficient and effective.

 ELP has three overarching objectives: (i) to support and cultivate a sense of self as well as relatability to others amongst emerging student leaders through emotional intelligence, so that they can reflect and be reflexive leaders when they engage with others; (ii)  to facilitate cross-cultural engagement to enhance their cultural intelligence so that students are agile and adaptive leaders within any given context and be effective team players; and (iii) to equip students to be strategic thinkers and innovators, so that they can be engaged civic agents of change who can challenge the status quo, and identify their unique leadership pathway.

The 2022 ELP cohort consists of 53 students from varying academic disciplines who have an additional task of working collaboratively on legacy projects linked to the African Union Agenda 2063. This is so they can grapple with every-day issues facing the African continent, and develop their agency as an active citizenry. The project requires thorough research and reflecting on the role they will play to steer the African continent forward.

In preparation for the task, the cohort has engaged with leaders of various sectors of society including a visit to the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF). Facilitated by CEO of NMF, Sello Hatang, the students  reflected on how the past has shaped leadership principles in the present, and provided an opportunity for them to think about their role in shaping the future. Student leaders also engaged with Nokubonga Mbanga, award-wining global training and development leader on emotional intelligence; Lesley Baron Witt, a neuropathway coaching and meaning counsellor; Farai Mubaiwa, co-founder of Africa Matters; Happy Ngidi from ProudlySA on leading through agency, Thembelihle Dlamini, Head of Events and Functions at Wits on leading through action and strategic thinking; and Risuna Maluleke, Young African Entrepreneurs Institute CEO discussing leading through design thinking.

In 2023 the programme aims to establish an emerging leaders alumni network, to grow a pipeline of collaborative leadership across universities, and continue building the legacy of innovative leadership!

World’s leading thinkers debate inequality

- Wits University

"We can improve the quality of life if we focus on what works – education, strong institutions, robust legal, social and fiscal systems." - Piketty

Arguably the world’s most prominent economist on inequality, Professor Thomas Piketty, opened the Wits School of Economics and Finance’s (SEF’s) virtual centenary event, presenting critical ideas for understanding the complexity of global inequality, and solutions for meaningful and lasting economic and social change.

Professor Thomas Piketty, French economist

Noting that the theme of Wits 100th birthday is inequality, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Climate, Sustainability and Inequality, Professor Imraan Valodia welcomed Piketty as the keynote speaker, particularly because Piketty has likely done more to reveal the nature of inequality than any other person.

The French-born Piketty’s latest book, A Brief History of Equality, presents a short, sweeping and optimistic history of human progress toward equality. The book dives deeply into capitalism, colonialism, slavery, and the welfare state and their implications for inequality. But the seemingly intractable nature of inequality, notably in countries like South Africa, is not (as history has shown) insurmountable. “We can improve the quality of life for billions of people if we focus on what works – education, strong institutions, robust legal, social and fiscal systems – to make global equality a reality,” said Piketty.

Piketty advises against further nationalism and tribalism in the face of one of humanity’s greatest challenges, and suggests reparations (of rich countries to previous colonies), progressive taxation, and greater distribution of wealth. In his book, he focuses on participatory socialism, which requires “power sharing” and greater voting rights held by employees.

Piketty also supports the potential for a progressive wealth tax and a universal basic income grant in South Africa. However, he notes that the push for redistribution of income (via income taxes and grants) has received more attention than the redistribution of wealth (inheritance and assets), which is a major source of inequality. Options to address wealth inequality include land reform and a ‘minimum inheritance’ for all people at age 25 financed by a progressive wealth and inheritance tax. This would allow young people to avoid accumulating overwhelming debt and to and improve bargaining power for workers.

“The richest 10% own 60-80% of the world’s wealth and the bottom poor own less than 5%. This could change with the inclusion of a universal basic income,” he noted.

Piketty further argued that a reduction in emissions will have to come with a reduction in economic inequality. “We cannot expect the poorest 50% who contribute a fraction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the richest 10% to pay the price of decarbonisation. He suggested a progressive carbon tax as a policy tool to tackle this issue.

Acknowledging the international scale of inequality, Piketty proposes a transformation of the international tax system such that a minimum tax is levied upon multinational corporations in tax havens; this money is then redistributed to countries in the global South. Piketty argued that “every country in the world should receive a share of tax revenues coming from the most prosperous and powerful economic actors in the world, including multinational corporations and global billionaires, in proportion to the population of each country”.

“We must remember that we’re in this together. All people should have the ability to feel in control and have agency over their lives,” he said.

Trade as an instrument for inclusion

A panel discussion followed Piketty’s presentation. The illustrious panel, selected to mark the SEF’s centenary event ‘100 Years of Economics’, comprised Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Trudi Makhaya, economic advisor to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Dr Kenneth Creamer in the SEF, Professor Liberty Mncube in the SEF, and Professor Dorrit Posel in the SEF.

Okonjo-Iweala, who is the first woman, and first African to lead the World Trade Organisation, explained that trade should be an instrument of inclusion, and a powerful way of changing Africa’s fortune would be to double its share of global trade. “The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, for instance, would create a powerhouse continental market for goods and services, boosting investment and innovation.”

Professor Posel noted that currently, Africa contributes only a tiny share (about 3%) to global trade. In addition, the continent’s exports mainly raw materials which are then manufactured elsewhere. An example is the exporting of raw shea butter from Africa, with value then added off the continent. This has been an ongoing concern and further concentrates wealth in developed economies.

Rebuilding trust in South Africa’s public and private institutions

All panellists agreed that there is a trust deficit in South Africa in large part owing to systemic corruption and ‘state capture’. “We have lost so much to corruption”, said Okonjo-Iweala, “and so we have to go back to the drawing board about how to fight it.”

She noted the importance of institutional transparency, particularly in procurement processes.

“Importantly, we need two things: technology and prosecution. This is what defeats corruption. We need to have strong legal systems to prosecute individuals and entities, and robust technology to strengthen our systems overall,” she said.

Makhaya said that trust can be achieved incrementally, and that the private sector has a responsibility to acknowledge its culpability.

Looking forward, Makhaya spoke about the importance of boosting small businesses in South Africa, while Professor Mncube noted that anti-competitive market behaviour undermines growth and investment. In South Africa, investment to boost trade, employment and, growth are at an historic low, said Creamer. “The government must therefore double its investment. So should the private sector,” he said.

Wits celebrates its centenary in Times Square, New York

- Wits University

Witsies gathered in Times Square this week to celebrate the University’s 100th anniversary.

‘Wits. For Good’ was the theme of the gathering that attracted some impactful and prominent alumni who made their way to Times Square to celebrate with the Wits delegation led by Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University.

An alumnus also honoured Wits with an advertising spot on the façade of the Nasdaq building, on which the ‘Wits. For Good’ message was displayed.

“Wits University has over 200 000 talented alumni scattered across the globe who have played a key role in supporting Wits,” says Vilakazi. “These are innovators, change-makers, and catalysts who impact society, for good. They include Nobel Prize winners such as Nelson Mandela, CEOs, leaders in foundations and trusts, and individuals. We look forward to partnering with many more alumni, donors and entities in the USA, in years to come.”

The Times Square moment forms part of the University’s centenary celebrations, which include alumni reunions in several major cities in the USA, and meetings with key donors and friends of Wits, including the Wits Fund Inc., chaired by Stanley Bergman, who is the CEO of Henry Schein Inc.

Wits alumni and staff who happened to be in New York at the time made it to Times Square and congratulated the University on its centenary and shared their views.

Robbie Brozin, the CEO of Nando’s, who is also spearheading an important Wits-Bara project, says: “This is a beautiful, iconic moment for Wits in Times Square. Wits is going into a new dimension now and I am so excited to be part of it. This is the start of a new partnership and I look forward to working with Wits on the Bara Digitisation Project [a project to systematically digitise records at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital]. This will bring new hope for South Africa. I am so excited and privileged to be a South African and a proud Witsie.”

Mpumi Zikalala, the CEO of Kumba Iron Ore, part of the Anglo American Group, adds: “I am a proud Witsie and it is so amazing being here in Times Square celebrating Wits. Wits has made such a significant difference to many people’s lives, including producing many leaders like that of Duncan Wanblad, the Global CEO of Anglo American. We are looking forward to continuing with the celebrations and to shaping the future of people both in South Africa, and around the world. Witsie for life!”

Professor Helen Rees, Executive Director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI), also a Wits alumna and researcher in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits, says that the University has a very strong reputation in health sciences research across the globe, and particularly with regards to the role it played during the Covid-19 pandemic, looking at vaccines, therapeutics and epidemiology.

“It has been an extraordinary set of visits but the most important aspect that we have all realised is about African leadership. There is a true call in our region saying that we have got the scientists and centres of excellence across our region. Let’s reach out and strengthen African leadership,” says Rees. “Wits is in a premier position because we are already a leader in the field. We need to build on that with the celebration of 100 years. So to all the Witsies out there: thank you very much! We can be very proud of Wits as an excellent African institution, an excellent South African institution and what we can offer to our country, to the region and to the world.” ƒ

“I am a proud Witsie!” says Dr Thembisile Xulu, the CEO of the South African National Aids Council. “We are in New York celebrating 100 years of Wits. I am also here for the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment. I got my Master’s in Public Health specialising in health policy and health management from Wits. I learnt management and leadership skills at Wits. Congratulations Wits! We are proud of you for the academic excellence and the leaders that we have become.” 

Wits alumnus Sherwin Charles adds his voice: “I am so honoured and proud to be a Witsie and to be part of this celebration in Times Square. Wits set the ground for my life, for my success, and it is where I found my lifelong friends. Happy birthday, Wits!”

The celebrations continue as does the Wits100 fundraising campaign. Wits aims to raise R3 billion in funding for research, innovation, infrastructure, teaching and learning, and students as part of the Wits Centenary Campaign, which focuses on eight priority areas. Look out for more information on Wits’ Global Giving Day on 4 October 2022, the University’s official birthday. 

Countdown to Fak'ugesi Festival 2022

- Wits University

Happening from 13 - 21 October, this year's digital innovation festival returns to its home at Wits' Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein.

Fak'ugesi Festival 2022

The 9th edition of the Fak'ugesi Festival is a celebration of young Pan-African talent in the digital sphere to its fullest.

The festival is rooted in showcasing and developing skills in technology, art and culture in Africa.

Founded in 2014 as a collaboration between Wits University's Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct and the Wits School of Arts' Digital Arts Department, the festival takes as its starting point the idea that for innovation with technology to succeed, a strong connection needs to be made between African cultural practices and creative encounters.

This year's theme, #FromNowOn, aims to showcase the creative climate of a new age after the positive (and negative effects) of the Covid-19 pandemic. it calls for a moment to pause and reflect where we are today and takes a look into Africa's digital future.

Splitting the theme into "FromNow" and "NowOn", the Festival will firstly look at how we arrived at our current context and how we got here, and then the latter will investigate how we use what we know of the now and respond energetically with creative solutions to our new perspectives on problems and opportunities in society.

Fak'ugesi continues to bring industry, researchers and African creators together to celebrate how technology enables creativity while zooming in on the ways this relationship shapes our lives.

Says Lesley Williams, CEO of Tshimologong: “The intersection between creativity and technology provides an innovative lens of understanding the world and crafting new solutions to problems. As the home of Fak’ugesi, we curate an innovation ecosystem where the convergence of hardware, software and content takes place. We proudly convene Africa’s leading talent in creative innovation each year and look forward to seeing what their imaginations will construct this year #FromNowOn.”

This year Fak'ugesi also has a new Creative Director at its helm, Eduardo Cachucho, a creative programmer, artist and ex-architect.

“Fak’ugesi has been the place to find rising African creatives working in digital from across the continent since 2014. In 2022 we welcome you back in person and online to meet trailblazing creatives, innovative organisations and brilliant makers," says Cachucho.

Programme overview

Fak'ugesi 2022 promises a jampacked programme, with some exciting new editions to its menu, including the much-anticipated inaugural Fak’ugesi 2022 Awards for Digital Creativity taking place on the last day of the Festival, 21 October 2022.

Also, don't miss these events:

  • Virtual and in-person Conference (14-15 October) for anyone - from beginners to experts - with a passion for digital innovation.
  • Expo (14-16 October) - exhibitions showcasing Africa’s leading digital innovation.
  • A family-friendly interactive Maker Day (16 October) filled with collaborative creative activities for makers to meet artists and learn from them during walkabouts and screenings.

For programme details and to buy tickets, go to: 

Download the first issue of the new Fak'uzine - Fak'ugesi's now digital magazine.

Fak'ugesi Festival 2022

A BASA Award 2022 for Tshimologong and Fak'ugesi

At the recently held Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) Awards 2022, Tshimologong in collaboration with Wits Digital Arts won the coveted Chairperson's Awards for hosting Fak'ugesi since its inception in 2014. 

The award was granted for the recognition of Tshimologong's commitment to the arts in South Africa in the form of advocacy and awareness initiatives and/or direct support of the arts in collaboration with Wits Digital Arts. Tshimologong defines “digital innovation” as the intersection between hardware, software, and content. As a university-based incubator, entrepreneurship is at the centre of its operating practice making it the perfect base for the Fak’ugesi Festival, its attendees, creatives and makers.

Reading can enhance race relations

- Wits University

Reading begets more reading and helps to counter the poison from dinnertime conversations, says acclaimed author Mandla Langa.

Cultural activist and award winning novelist Dr Mandla Langa has decried the poor reading culture in South Africa, describing it as “an enduring tragedy of our country.”

In his view, “the culture of reading should be as mandatory as carrying a pass”, intimating that a more systematic approach to literacy is required to engineer a better South Africa.

Langa shared his views at the 2022 Nadine Gordimer Lecture at Wits where he delivered the keynote address. 

The role of reading in enlightening minds and eradicating prejudices was one of the running threads of his address, titled The Vocabulary of Witnesses.

A celebrated author, Langa revealed that it was through reading that he, as a revolutionary youngster with little regard for white people, discovered Gordimer and her writing. This encounter subsequently challenged his view that “white people were incapable of introspection. For them, I believed, there wasn’t that possibility of doing what James Baldwin calls, ‘wrestling with the conscience in the snarling loneliness of the midnight hour’.”

In his speech, Langa ventured into the race domain by answering the question on why celebrate a white writer [Nadine Gordimer] and dissected the Nobel Laureate’s novels, which reflect witnessing South Africa in the dark days.

On race, Langa said:

“Given the history of our country, with its hideous past – a past that still flexes its muscle in the present – and its racial nightmare, a question can arise: Why celebrate a white author? What is so special about Nadine Gordimer? The question of race – a social construct – is something that flavours our dinnertime conversations and sometimes causes speech to stutter and becomes the elephant in the room. It has been exploited by shrewd and unprincipled politicians of every stripe. The logic behind the question is that Nadine’s route to literary success was pre-ordained by her birth and social standing, which warranted access to the best research facilities, etc. But whiteness alone does not necessarily endow a person with the magic wand, which suddenly gifts the owner with wisdom and talent. Like muscles that must be trained, those qualities must be worked for if the person, black or white, will become a writer of integrity.”

He argued that Gordimer was a distinguished conscious writer, who possessed qualities of “integrity, of empathy that one as a writer makes a conscious choice about in their writing or in the production of any creative work.”

Indeed, the respondent to the keynote address, Masande Ntshanga, award-winning author and the 2022 Mellon Writer-in-Residence in the Department of Creative Writing at Wits, agreed that Gordimer had unique attributes.

“She had the ability to balance nuance with her personal convictions, even though these were contentious,” he said.

“She was able to take a stand that could cut through both sides of a matter and remain consistent with a particular vision that she had of a better and safer world. 

Watch the lecture  by Langa below. To the engagement between Langa and Ntshanga, click here.

About the Nadine Gordimer Lecture

The Nadine Gordimer Lecture was established at Wits University d to pay tribute to a great South African writer. Gordimer (1923–2014) was active in the anti-apartheid movement and sought to reflect the painful realities of life in South Africa through her many short stories and novels. She received international acclaim, winning major literary awards. 

Though Nadine Gordimer and Mandla Langa were born thirty years apart (Gordimer’s first novel was published when Langa was only three years old), they share an important part of the literary and political history of South Africa. Langa was imprisoned and then went into exile in the tumultuous and terrible year of 1976, by which time Gordimer had published nine collections of  stories and six novels. Langa wrote his first novel, Tenderness of Blood while in exile and in MK training camps in Angola, and its publication in 1987 coincided with that of Gordimer’s novel A Sport of Nature. In an interview with Allison Drew, Langa observes that, ‘White writers, no matter how well meaning they may be, cannot fully understand the experience of black South Africans. But some have the humility to understand that they must deal with the subject in a manner that shows a recognition of this.’ He goes on to say that, ‘What redeems writers like Gordimer is that she understands that she is not in her terrain when dealing with black characters, and she chooses to express what she sees through white characters.’

Despite their different experiences of South Africa, however, what Gordimer and Langa share is a deep love of literature, a respect for each other as writers, and a conviction that in order to tell stories that are not simply reports on the status quo, one must, as Langa has said, breathe life into characters.

Acclaimed author Mandla Langa delivered the 2022 Nadine Gordimer lecture.Author Masande Ntshanga, gave an insightful response. Ntshanga is a 2022 Mellon Writer-in-Residence in the Department of Creative Writing at Wits

Small steps on the road to true empowerment

- Wits University

Big smiles as staff celebrate passing the first level of many, on the road to upskilling themselves.

Staff from the Services Department elated at completing course

Joyce Khumalo is elated and walks with confidence these days when she visits the bank. Nowadays, she no longer needs assistance to complete paper work or help to understand the letters that she receives from her children’s school.

Khumalo is one of 47 staff members under the Services Department that recently completed courses on basic literacy and numeracy skills. The group embarked on the road of learning in 2019 but were dealt with setback when the pandemic struck, leading to the suspension of classes. As a result, what should have been a one year course ended up stretching over three years. The stop and start, amongst other factors, proved to be too much for the adult learners who started as a group of 70 people.

Passing this level “feels like a giant leap”, says Khumalo who works at the Highfields Dining Hall, Parktown Education campus.

To mark this milestone, the Services Department and the Human Resources Development Unit (HRDU) held a celebratory event to recognise the staff.

Services’ Director Israel Mogomotsi, praised his team for persevering adding that the Department recognises this achievement and understands the difficulty that comes with studying while working.  

Many of the Services staff also spend many hours on the road commuting to work by public transport and still have to tend to their families.

Mogomotsi emphasised that education brings true freedom and hopes that the group will continue to the next level once funds have been secured.

The HRDU, a key partner in developing the appropriate skills for the University played a critical role in this success. Working in partnership with Services and Media Works, the Unit conducted a pre-assessment of approximately 600 staff members in Mogomotsi’s department to gage the literacy levels of staff who had been insourced. This move enabled the partners to introduce appropriate educational programmes. This transformation project has also contributed to the self-image of members.

For Mbavhelelo Mashapa, he says he longer uses What’s App language to mask spelling challenges. The opportunity to study has inspired him to take himself seriously and has introduced him to many resources that aid professionalism.

HRDU has been instrumental in providing development opportunities to various levels of staff.  In addition to the above training, the HRDU also provided staff with opportunities to pursue the Learnership in Business Administration and language training in English, IsiZulu and South African Sign Language, to name a few.


Machines will not replace humans, yet!

- Wits University

Expert calls for development of a new kind of AI that is provably beneficial to humans

AI - Machines will

While the advances made within the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have made human life easier, the threat of it taking over has been a topical issue amongst experts since the 1950s when it was first developed.

But a Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, Stuart Russell said there was currently no indication that human life would be completely replaced by machines.

Russell was speaking under the theme “Provably Beneficial Artificial Intelligence”, at the 71st Dr Bernard Price Memorial lecture that was hosted virtually by the South African Institute for Electrical Engineers (SAIEE) in partnership with Wits.

The lectures are named after Dr Price for his contribution as an engineer to the South African power supply industry. As a technical expert who had a passion for the sciences, Price established the Bernard Price Institute for Geophysical Research and the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research at Wits.

Humans capable of AI?

At the lecture, Russell explored the possibility of what the creation of AI systems that could quickly learn to outperform human beings in tasks where the human intellect is relevant   (General Purpose AI), would look like for the human race.

Should computer scientists be able to create general purpose AI systems, it would be the most significant technological event in the history of humans and one of the positive impacts of this would be the improvement of the global living standards.

“Because general purpose AI systems would be extremely low-cost and can be multiplied as many times as you want, they could provide high quality individualised health care, education for every child and could also be used to accelerate the rate of progress in science,” said Russell.

He however believes that this kind of technology is not available nor is it imminent in the near future despite suggestions that it currently exists or is being developed.

The training of deep learning networks from large amounts of data, which is currently the popular approach in AI, was also unlikely to create general purpose AI systems.

And because these deep networks were essentially circuits rather than computer programs, they were restrictive and required large amounts of pages even for simple pieces of knowledge that could be written down on a single page.

Russell explained, “We still have a long way to go before reaching human level artificial intelligence. We do not really know how to build systems that actually understand language as opposed to being able to produce the appearance of being able to understand language as current systems do.”

The path to provably beneficial AI

When computer scientist Alan Turing developed AI, he had predicted that humans would lose control over machines that would eventually exceed human capabilities. But Russell argued that Turing was wrong to think that doom was inevitable.

This is despite the development of apps that have the ability to predict and manipulate the preferences of users.

Russell called for the development of new models where machines are beneficial to achieve the objectives of human beings.

Based on these models, machines would rely on a mathematical framework that would give them access to these objectives. 

"That is one possible answer to Turing’s concern that we actually have to rebuild AI on a completely different foundation. We have to get away from this idea that we begin with a fixed objective that the algorithm is going to optimise,” he explained.

According to Russell, this different approach to AI, where systems know that they do not know what the objectives of humans are, the idea of provably beneficial AI being a desirable form of technology can be proved.

While computer scientists are looking at these systems of the future that he described as better technology, Russell warned about the problems that could arise where these provably beneficial methods could be misused for evil motives or overused where AI systems run successfully to an extent where humans would end up being “infantilised” and “feeble”.

The last word: Benedict Vilakazi

- Wits University

The late Zulu poet, novelist and linguist Benedict Wallet Vilakazi achieved many milestones and taught at Wits University.

Benedict Wallet Vilakazi (1906–1947), affectionately canonised as the father of Nguni literature and the founder of modern Zulu poetry, was the first Black person in South Africa to receive a doctorate in Literature. He was also the first Black person in the then Union of South Africa to teach at a white university. He has a street named after him in Soweto. Yet, outside his body of literary and academic work, little is known about the man behind the words.

Professor Benedict Wallet Vilakazi, Father of modern Zulu poetry

In search of Vilakazi

Khulani Vilakazi, the poet’s grandson, said in a 2006 interview with the Mail & Guardian that his family was still trying to understand more about their grandfather. ‘The family does not know him that much, he died when my father was about four years old (and) my father died when I was three. So, it is difficult for us as a family to produce personal anecdotes about what type of man he was. (He) never had enough time with his family.’[i] What is clear is that Vilakazi was on a personal quest to preserve and develop the Zulu language. ‘He saw himself as being sent by the ancestors (for this purpose). His poem Ngizwa Ingoma speaks to that notion, of a person anointed,’ said Khulani.

Indeed, Vilakazi cut himself off from his birthplace, family and ancestors when he moved to Johannesburg at the age of 29 to pursue his academic career and he would lament this in much of his poetry. Part of his poem Wo, Ngitshele Mntanomlungu describes the move:

Ungiletheleni lapha? (Why have you brought me here?)

Ngingen’ amadol’ angisinde (I enter with heavy knees)

Ngicabang’ ikhanda lizule (I think and my head spins).

Vilakazi’s childhood was spent herding cattle and, until the age of 10, attending the local mission school. He then transferred to a co-educational Roman Catholic secondary school. After completing his schooling, he trained as a teacher and then taught at the Ohlange Institute in Phoenix near Durban. Studying on his own, he earned a BA degree in African Studies with distinction from Unisa in 1934, with special work on the Zulu language.

He was initiated as an imbongi, a traditional composer, in the Zondi clan. His birthplace of KwaDukuza, close to the main headquarters of the nineteenth century Zulu King Shaka kaSenzangakhona, provided Vilakazi with imagery for his poetry. He was determined to cement the Zulu language as a mighty force – as King Shaka did with his people.

Ground-breaking work

Wits University Press (WUP), which is the oldest university press in South Africa (established in 1922) published Vilakazi’s first book of poems, Inkondlo kaZulu, in 1935. By then, he was already well known as a poet and a writer and his works had been published in various journals and newspapers such as The Star, UmAfrika and The Bantu World. Coincidentally, Wits was looking for an assistant in the Department of African Languages at the time, and Vilakazi was appointed as Language Assistant to Professor Doke, head of the department, that same year.

WUP published Vilakazi’s second volume of poetry, Amal’eZulu (1945), as well as the first Zulu–English dictionary, which Vilakazi compiled in collaboration with Doke. In 1946, he received a doctorate in Literature from Wits.

Vilakazi also published three novels in the 1930s: Noma Nini! (Marianhill Mission Press), Udingiswayo KaJobe (Sheldon Press) and Nje Nempela (Marianhill Mission Press). His volumes of poetry and novels are all on the list of required reading in Zulu Literature courses.

Through his writing, Vilakazi became a spokesperson for his people, though he was never overtly political. He often articulated social issues that remain relevant today, including the safety of Black miners, the plight of the poor, and the impact of industrial advancement on human values. These are still societal challenges that the University is tackling today, for example through the Wits DigiMine, the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, and the use of new digital technologies to advance humanity.

Continuous struggle

Despite his success, Vilakazi faced discrimination and critique. His appointment at Wits was opposed by conservative whites who could not come to terms with an African man lecturing white students. He was also scorned and ridiculed by Black people, who wrote letters of discontent to newspapers condemning Vilakazi for consenting to be used by whites through such a ‘collaborationist appointment’, as Dumisane Krushchev Ntshangase wrote in a 1995 paper for the Wits Institute for Advanced Social Research.

Professor Humphrey R Raikes, the then principal of Wits, personally wrote a letter to Vilakazi to explain his position at his new job. He would be a junior academic staff member, would look after the ‘Native library’, and would take care of African students only. He would not be allowed to teach, grade or supervise white students unless they asked for help in their Zulu courses.

In a letter in the Wits Archives, dated January 1947, Doke wrote to the Human Resources department that ‘the time has now come to end any discrimination in my department on the grounds of race or colour’, requesting that Vilakazi’s status be changed to that of lecturer.

In October that same year, Vilakazi died suddenly of meningitis. He was survived by five children, who attended his funeral at Marianhill along with thousands of people.

In their collaborative dictionary, published a year after Vilakazi’s death, Doke wrote: ‘(The) sudden death of Dr Vilakazi, cut off amid further research and literary activity, has deprived the African people of a brilliant son, one who not only achieved high academic standing but whose life and personality gained for him a lasting place in their affections. This dictionary of his mother-tongue – the language he loved – will stand as a monument to a great African.’[ii]

This article is featured in the book Wits University at 100: From Excavation to Innovationpublished to celebrate the University's Centenary.


The contribution of SRCs to Wits

- Cebolenkosi Khumalo - Outgoing SRC President

We must be reminded about the evolution of SRCs, about how past SRCs contributed to the struggle against apartheid, brought consciousness and transformation.

As you would know, Wits University was one of the first Anglo institutions that permitted the admission of black students on their campuses in 1939, just nine years after it’s founding, becoming  what was known then as an 'open university'.

Unfortunately, there was an abrupt shift to this mission because of the Nationalist victory in the 1948 election, and their policies enforced apartheid. As a result, the university never evolved into a fully ‘open’ university until our eminent victory against the apartheid system. Its policy of ‘academic non-segregation and social segregation’ was under constant political threat. As expected, these threats harmed the production of afro-centric schools of thought, resulting in further marginalisation of the black community.

History informs us that it’s taken so much for all of us to have the privilege of being students and for me to be the Wits SRC President in the centenary year. Before I indulge in the simple delights or pains, of our history and envision the future and promises of our alma mater, it is important to note that the Wits Centenary SRC has ushered in revolutionary methods of student governance and paved a higher standard for the next 100 years. It is only fair that I use this platform to share with you some of the victories the current SRC enjoyed on campus.

Cebolenkosi Khumalo, 100th SRC President

Following the fees crises experienced every year on university campuses across the country, we teamed up with the private sector to fundraise over R12 million that saw more than 2000 Wits students who were on the verge of financial exclusion be allowed to register, and our campus enjoyed a peaceful registration process for the first time in seven years. We took to the ground through various initiatives, to ensure that all students on these hallowed grounds have a holistic and equitable university experience by providing those of us who are from poor backgrounds with reliable, and stable accommodation, food, and academic support. We made a strong attempt to make student life on campus more vibrant, welcoming, and robust by hosting intellectual conversations focused on freedom, equity, and empowerment throughout the year.

SRCs transformed the University

It is no coincidence that I stand here, armed with the power and grace of my parents and forefathers who named me Cebolenkosi – which loosely translates to “God’s plan”, and I believe this is the reason why I am the President today. We must be reminded about the evolution of SRCs, about how past SRCs made it possible for black students to be recognised, how they contributed to the struggle against apartheid, how past SRCs brought about consciousness in the early 1960s and 70s, how past SRCs forced the institution to build residences for students, how the past SRCs forced the institution to build more libraries and 24-hour libraries and computer labs for students, how the past SRCs forced the institution to build unisex toilets, how they forced the conversation of inclusivity intersectionality and transformation to be of paramount importance within the institution, how the past SRCs forced the university to insource the workers who are our parents, to be recognised as staff and  have the staff benefits like any other staff member that exist within the institution, how we fought  for free education And clean governance in the country. Today, I honor you all.

It is only befitting that as the 100th SRC President, I give a dignified preamble to the next century and how we can all work together to make Wits the best, for good. Many of you will know that Wits University is the microcosm of our society, the intellectual hub of the African continent that has produced high-caliber change makers, business leaders, politicians, and a dependable civic society — however that is a privilege only enjoyed by the few of us who were lucky enough to toil upwards in society using education as a key. We must not forget about our brothers and sisters, parents, and relatives who didn’t enjoy the same fortunes that we have and take it upon ourselves to further strengthen the ideals that were adopted in our constitution at the founding of this Republic, strengthen our experiment in self-government and ensure that all people can share in the economic fruits of this here land that many sacrificed their  lives for.

We can no longer look the other way, and keep a stiff upper lip when our country is a ticking time bomb and the poor are ready to eat the rich. We ought to be bold, as those who were in power when they made Wits University an open University after its founding. Now, as a nation, we don’t promise equal outcomes, but we were founded on the idea everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed. No matter who you are, what you look like, or where you come from, you can make it. That's an essential promise of democracy. Where you start should not determine where you end up.

We cannot in good conscience, look away when our people live through the worst energy crisis ever experienced, when we have the joint capacity to provide solutions. We cannot ignore the high unemployment rates when the people  have the means of capital to assist our graduates in starting their small businesses. We cannot sit idly and watch as our people lose hope in the promise of democracy and abstain from the only power they have — voting. The systems of governance in our country have continually failed the majority of our people, we have an immense ability to change that for them, and I implore you to.

To paraphrase President Barack Obama, “We, the People, recognise that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy.” Yes, we all come from different backgrounds, but we’re bound by the blue and gold of this mighty institution that flows through our veins. We can no longer afford to produce conveyor-belt graduates who are only trained to perform a particular role, but rather those who are multidimensional by offering interdisciplinary degrees based on the evolving needs of the economic markets. Our graduates must be prepared to take center stage in strategic roles and be ready to make a consequential impact on society. Africa is our home, and we have to drive her growth.

Further, I ask that you give back to our community by investing in the #PavingTheNext100 fund and the technology innovation fund that is currently in the pipeline and will see Wits University become the Silicon Valley of the Continent. I ask that you promote and strengthen the Wits brand, speak positively about our institution, that you tell people we’re leading intersectionality and inclusivity dialogues on campus and in the country. That women are empowered in our university and so is the queer community. Tell them that if there’s to be any change and reform in our country it will most certainly come from Wits.

We must always remember, It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get to where we are today, but we have just begun. This year’s SRC began the work of making sure that the world we leave the next generation is a little bit better than the one we inhabit today.

Cebolenkosi Khumalo is the 2021/2022 SRC President. He is pursuing a Masters degree in Governance and Policy. He also holds a Bachelor of Laws degree and Bachelor of Art degree  from Wits.