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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.

Wits SRC stands on the formidable shoulders

- 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