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A star performer that brings chemistry in Chemistry

- Wits University

Service Excellence Award winner has earned several prizes including the ‘coach Rassie Erasmus’ certificate.

Khwezi Ndawonde is one of the recipients of the Vice-Chancellors Awards aimed at recognising Service Excellence amongst Wits staff

Khwezi Ndawonde, an Academic Administrator, has been awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Service Excellence for Professional and Administrative Staff, for her invaluable support to the staff and students in the School of Chemistry.  

The award was presented at the annual Council/Senate Dinner and Vice-Chancellors Awards. The prestigious annual awards recognise staff excellence in categories including research, teaching and learning, and professional and administrative services. Winners receive a generous cash prizes.

Ndawonde who joined the University in 2005 and became a member of the School of Chemistry in 2011 has been described as a perfectly professional, invariably calm and yet consistently friendly with staff and students alike, a repository of important facts and a faultless compiler of information.

She performs a great many and varied roles, managing all matters pertaining to the administration of undergraduate and postgraduate affairs in the School, entering marks, organising appointment letters for external examiners, arranging school events (lecture and test venue bookings, workshops, meetings and the catering of School events); coordinating postgraduate tutors/teaching assistant duties and payments, exam time-table, recording the minutes of School Executive meetings; working with donors, capturing publications and is even a shoulder to cry on for staff and students alike.

The School of Chemistry has more than 3000 students and 62 full-time staff who count on her.

The Adjudicating Committee agreed that her nomination, submitted by the School, demonstrated that she is committed to innovation, customer service, accountability and reliability – which are critical in a pressured service environment.

Driven by family and the support of colleagues

Twelve years ago when she was interviewed for the position of admin assistant at the School, one of the questions posed was about her capacity to work with people.

This question has lingered throughout the years and is at the heart of her engagements with staff and students. Over the years she has progressed from being an assistant to taking on a full suite of responsibilities as an Academic Administrator.

“As a front-liner you need a big heart and patience otherwise you won’t survive,” says the mother of three whose office spots several internal certificates such as the TLC award, the ‘coach Rassie Erasmus’ award, to name a few.

On a personal level, Ndawonde says her work ethic is informed by the desire to build a better life for her children. The encouragement of supportive colleagues who have paved the way to more professional responsibilities also keeps her motivated to deliver her best.

“This place is like a second home, we just take care of each other,” she says warmly.

Celebrating people and excellence

- Wits University

Duly deserved honours awarded to Wits staff at the annual Vice-Chancellor’s Awards.

Best of Wits celebrated at the Vice-Chancellor's Awards

The prestigious annual awards ceremony was held on 31 October to recognise excellence amongst academic and professional and administrative staff. The awards are a key feature of the Council/Senate Dinner, where the leadership and stewards of the University converge to mark the end of the year and celebrate staff achievements.

Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Zeblon Vilakazi lauded Wits staff for their commitment to education and for responding to a higher calling.

“Many choose to work here because they have a mission bigger than them. This mission ‘critical assignment’ requires the best of us and is bigger than us,” said Vilakazi, acknowledging the role of staff in building a research-intensive university and developing the next generation of talent.

Taking inspiration from the Springboks, the 2023 World Rugby Cup champions, Vilakazi said the University is full of dreamers and should forge ahead, empowered by a shared vision, and continue to shape the future and give South Africa and Africa a place in the sun amongst great nations.

The Council/Senate Dinner a moment to celebrate the best of Wits

Excellence across categories

The awards kicked-off with the Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Service Excellence for Professional and Administrative Staff, for which all grades of staff are eligible. These awards recognise exceptional customer/service focus, reliability/dependability and accountability, innovation and process improvement.

  • Khwezi Ndawonde, an Academic Administrator in the School of Chemistry won in the Grade 10-13 category for her role in the smooth running of the School of more than 3000 students and 62 full-time staff members. Read more.
  • Julia Mamabolo, an Administrator in the Philosophy Department and Sam Rangata, Deputy Head: Academic Information and Systems Unit (AISU), were named joint winners in the Grade 7-9 category. Mamabolo, who has worked in the Department for eight years, was praised for her organisational prowess – her commitment knows no bounds as she skilfully navigates complex processes. Rangata holds a critical role in the administrative machinery of the University. He has contributed significantly to the development of new approaches to systems aimed at improving productivity and saving time.
  • Harshila Dulabh, Principal Data Scientist in Business Intelligence Services shone in the Grade 5-6 category. The University relies on high quality and well-curated data to function effectively. These data are essential building blocks for many strategic and operational decisions. In her role, Dulabh epitomises reliability and dependability when it comes to meeting the needs of the many stakeholders at the University.
  • The Team Award was made to the remarkable and exceptionally talented team that successfully planned and executed several strategic events such as the Centenary Parade, the Free People’s Concert and the SRC Reunion that brought together multi-generational student leaders to mark Wits’ 100 anniversary in 2022. This includes teams from the Advancement Division (Communications; Functions and Events; Marketing; Alumni Relations; and Development and Fundraising), represented at the Awards by Shirona Patel, Reshma Lakha-Singh, Thembelihle Dlamini, and Peter Maher), and Student Affairs, represented by Tshegofatso Mogaladi, Jabu Mashinini, Kabungo Mubanga, Tshepo Ndlovu, and Mongezi Maluleka (former SRC member).

Award winners (l-r): Lew Ashwal, Nirupa Padia, Noor Nieftagodien, Abdul Hamid Carrim, Cathi Albertyn, Andrew Thatcher and Craig Sheridan

Research, Supervision, Innovation, Citizenship, Transformation, Teaching Awards

Wits University is consistently ranked in the top 1% of global rankings and is internationally distinguished for research, high academic standards, and commitment to social justice. The University recognises outstanding achievements in these areas.

Research Award

Professor Lew Ashwal from the School of Geosciences was named the 2022 winner of the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award, the highest accolade for achievement in research at Wits. The purpose of the award is to acknowledge the achievements of an exceptional Wits scholar who has demonstrated high levels of research excellence over a sustained period.  In so doing, the scholar has contributed to the University’s strategic research objective of producing high quality research with impact. 

Ashwal works on a planetary-scale and studies the origin, evolution and significance of igneous [solidified from lava or magma] rocks throughout Solar System history, focusing on Earth, Moon, Mars and asteroids. In 1993 he published a definitive treatise on anorthosites, i.e., intrusive igneous rocks characterized by their composition. Anorthosites constitute the bulk of the lunar crust, having formed during planetary accumulation of additional layers at the birth of the solar system. This work continues to place Wits University on a pedestal amongst intellectuals.

Academic Citizenship Award

This award recognises an individual’s cooperative involvement, as an academic, professional, and subject specialist, in the community of their faculty, the University, the wider national community, and the international community of scholars, in delivering a service, performing tasks, and making contributions to the functioning, wellbeing and upliftment of these communities. It includes those organisational citizenship activities conventionally classed as ‘administrative duties‘ as well as those related to community service or community participation. This award is open to both academics and professional staff.

The Academic Citizenship Award went to Professor Nirupa Padia, former head of the School of Accountancy who has flown the Wits flag by sharing her expertise on various University platforms, as well as in the profession by sitting as an academic representative on the Auditing Guidance Committee of the South African institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), and on the board of the PwC Business School. She also serves on the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors.

Transformation Award

This award is aligned with the University’s five Transformation Pillars aims to recognise and encourage staff to take an active role in driving transformation at Wits. In terms of the South African Bill of Rights, transformation is the affirmation and promotion of the democratic values of human dignity, equality, and freedom.

Professor Noor Nieftagodien in the History Research Group has made significant contributions to the process of social transformation through his research, teaching and scholar-activism related to histories from communities, archival development, and fostering engagement between the institution and the multiple publics that it serves. His current works exemplify this, and they include the History of the Congress of South African Students; Public Histories; Histories of Non-Racial Sport; and Histories of Soweto, amongst others.

Teaching Award

Professor Abdul Hamid Carrim, School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, has a vision to help students see the beauty of mathematics and overcome the ‘mathematical trauma’ to which many of them were inflicted throughout their schooling. His students concur; as he is also the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Teacher’s Individual Award in the Faculty of Science . In addition to teaching first-year students pure maths, his classes include science, commerce and engineering students with varying levels of enthusiasm towards maths. This is when the magic of undoing maths trauma begins. Carrim embraces teaching large classes of students, as he can lay the foundation for coming years.

Supervision Award

 As a research intensive institution, the University acknowledges that high-quality supervision is foundational to its goal of leading innovation and pioneering knowledge in the Global South. The University thus recognises such supervision at the highest level, through this award.

Professor Cathi Albertyn has a sustained record in postgraduate supervision and has been supervising at this level since the late 1990s, with numbers increasing as more students turn to postgraduate studies. She teaches postgraduate courses on constitutional law and human rights, and is engaged in research on equality, gender, human rights and constitutional law. A holder of the South African Research Chair in Equality, Law and Social Justice since 2018, this position has allowed her to expand her footprint in postgraduate supervision significantly.

Innovation and Social Impact Award

Collaborators Professors Andrew Thatcher from the Psychology Department in the School of Human and Community Development, and Craig Sheridan, the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Water Research, from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies are joint winners of the 2022 Innovation and Social Impact Award.

This award was introduced in 2019 and is now amended to align with the University’s definition of innovation, which is “the successful deployment of new research ideas or methods to benefit society.” In this context an innovation is any positive social impact arising from research findings, and/or commercial impact arising from new knowledge.

This accolade is for the project called URBWAT, which involved co-designing and installing constructed wetlands into an urban informal settlement to deal with the collection and treatment of greywater disposal.

Sheridan led the engineering design and water quality analysis, while Thatcher lead the ergonomic design and social science work. Other team members included Professor Karin Tonderski and Dr Genevieve Metson from Linköping University in Sweden; Dr Uwe Kappelmeyer from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany; Dr Chris Bode-Aluko, a postdoctoral fellow from Wits’ CiWARD; as well as a number of Masters’s and PhD students from School of Human and Community Development (Motshwaedi Sepeng, Boitumelo Malunga, and Hemal Jetha) and from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies (Ruth Stephenson, Michael Wilkie, and Taraz Rawhani).

Creating technology leaders and innovators in Africa

- Wits University

Afretec Faculty Enrichment Program provides an opportunity to learn and share effective teaching methods and approaches.

As part of the now-established African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec), Carnegie Mellon University Africa (CMU-Africa), in collaboration with Wits University held its annual Faculty Enrichment Program in October 2023.

The 2023 CMU-Africa Faculty Enrichment Program aimed to support instructors in Computer Science and provide an opportunity to both learn and share effective teaching methods and approaches.

The Program consisted of two parts, with the first virtual 4-day program (9 – 12 October 2023) inviting participants to explore innovative, evidence-based pedagogy and course design practices.

The second part 3-day program took place from 25 to 27 October 2023 where a selected group of 32 participants attended an in-person Facilitator Training event held at Wits to learn to facilitate the workshops at their own institutions.

Participants were from Wits University and all the other Afretec network partners, including the  American University in Cairo, the University of Lagos, the University of Nairobi, the University of Rwanda, and CMU-Africa. 

In exchange for attending the program, each university commits to facilitating at least one workshop at their institution within six months of attending the program.

In Part 2, participants learned how to adapt and facilitate the workshops from Part 1 to their own universities with the aim of increasing impact and building capacity within the network.

Given Afretec’s objective to create technology leaders and innovators in the ICT sector to

drive inclusive digital transformation in Africa, the Faculty Enrichment Program’s target

audience is faculty working in the ICT sector. Each year, the Faculty Enrichment Program will target a different ICT-related discipline.

This year, colleagues in Computer Science (e.g., programming, data structures and algorithms, database systems, software engineering or design, machine learning, etc.) were invited to participate.

In particular, the aim was to build capacity among postgraduate students and junior faculty, who have less than five years of teaching experience. The facilitators of both the virtual and in-person workshops were:

  • Dr Lexi Adams (CMU -Africa)
  • Dr George Okeyo (CMU Africa)
  • Professor Rodney Genga (EBE Wits)
  • Nozuko Makhuvha (CLTD Wits)
  • Dr Nazira Hoosen (CLTD Wits)
  • Fatima Rahiman (CLTD Wits)

Academics and policymakers convene to reshape SA’s education sector

- Wits University

The Wits School of Education (WSoE) hosted the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to re-envision South Africa's education sector.

Wits School of Education Academics at DBE event

Academics, policymakers and educators gathered to discuss and collaborate on the future of South Africa's education sector. This information sharing session aimed to align and streamline efforts to support education, with a strong focus on Early Childhood Development (ECD), The Reading/Language Policy, and the Three Stream Model.

Speaking at the opening of the event, Professor Juliet Perumal, Head at Wits School of Education, expressed her pride for the academics who contributed to the success of policy development. She emphasised the importance of collaboration in shaping the nation's educational landscape.

One of the prominent contributors to the policy developments is Dr Colwyn Deborah Martin, Senior Lecturer, and Head of the Foundation Studies Division at WSoE. Martin's dedication to social justice, transformation, and equity in early childhood teacher education is evident in her contributions to the Project for Inclusive Early Childhood Care and Education (PIECCE).

Martin's contributions were instrumental in developing key elements of Early Childhood Care and Education initial teacher education programs. Her involvement included defining knowledge and practice standards, crafting a play framework for children from birth to age four, and creating support materials for program design, with a particular emphasis on the concept of childhood.

Inside the DBE event hosted by WSOE

The WSoE is committed to increasing access to qualifications for early childhood care and education (ECCE) teachers. They have introduced a Bachelor of Education (ECCE) to support this initiative.

Furthermore, WSoE’s Professor Brahm Fleisch, who worked on a policy document that outlines planning components for the Three Stream Model, said he worked collaboratively on developing a comprehensive model.

“The document outlines 11 areas that required comprehensive planning including the link between subjects and the world of work, costing and financing of occupational subjects, infrastructure requirements, demographic surveys to ascertain geographic distribution of offerings, teachers supply and demand issues related to access to occupational subjects in schools, legal and governance issues, and work place learning.”

In the pursuit of excellence in SA’s education sector, collaboration between academia and key institutions is proving to be a driving force. Professor Lee Rusznyak, Director of the Wits Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) Hub, underscores the importance of such collaboration in strengthening the provision of teacher preparation nationally. Rusznyak worked with the South African Council for Educators (SACE) to develop a national set of professional teaching standards. Following this, she worked with Professor Elizabeth Walton on the PrimTed project to research the development of knowledge and practice standards for inclusive education. 

"The standards that have emerged are the result of collaboration between stakeholders who hold different priorities and perspectives. Reaching consensus on the standards was made possible by robust debate and the commitment of contributors to the process," says Rusznyak.  These standards have informed course development in teacher education programmes and will inform revisions to the policy that governs teacher education, the Minimum Requirements for Teacher Education Qualifications Policy. 

Basic Education Director General Mathanzima Mweli

The Department of Basic Education released the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) results, Early Learning National Assessment (ELNA) and Systemic Evaluation results in 2023. They have done a thorough analysis of the results and drafted a strategy to address shortcomings of these results. In addition, they are designing the Competency Framework that is ready to be shared with these strategic partners.

"This has been an excellent engagement which has been appreciated by all role players. A symposium with all our universities, private and public. We leave this meeting enriched with lots of information, lots of insights, and lots of things that we still need to go back and reflect on. Overall, it's been an overwhelming success, “ said Basic Education Director General Mathanzima Mweli.

This collaboration between academia and policymakers demonstrates a commitment to shaping a brighter future for South Africa's education system, with a focus on early childhood development, literacy, and inclusive education. The strides made in this information sharing session promise a more strong foundation for the country's learners.

Wits football grandstand renamed after legendary administrator, Ronnie Schloss

- Wits University

Schloss honoured for his lifelong commitment to the Wits Football Club and to the sport in South Africa.

The main grandstand at the Wits Football Stadium has been renamed after former Wits football player, administrator and life president of the PSL, Professor Ronnie Schloss.

Grandstand of the Wits Footbal Stadium renamed after legendary football administrator, Ronnie Schloss.

In a renaming ceremony to honour Schloss, who is seen as a true legend in the South African football history, where he was instrumental in playing a major transformative role, Schloss was honoured by members of Wits University, his former colleagues, and leaders in the national football community. The application to rename the stand after Schloss was made by Kabungo Mubanga from Wits Sport Administration.

“Today, we unveil the Ronnie Schloss stand that serve as a beacon of inspiration to all of us who pass through these gates. Let it stand as a testament to the transformative impact that one individual with dedication and determination, kindness and love for this university and this country can achieve,” said Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University.

Schloss started his career at Wits Football Club as a student in 1962, in an environment where rugby and cricket were the dominant sports at the University. With his passion for the sport, he quickly rose to become Secretary and then Chairman of the club, and with a vision of transformation set a new course for the club.

A famous story being told of Schloss is when, after lacking an official coach, and with the club’s finances being in dire straits in 1962, Wits was scheduled to play Bloemfontein Celtic in the National Football League (NFL).

Schloss, then a young quantity surveying student, recalled that at the time, the situation for the club was so bad, that he had to go into the Wits canteen and ask students to sign up for the game, with a promise of a train trip to Bloemfontein.

The team pitched up in a variety of footwear and was thrashed 17-0.

That game, however, was the start of Schloss’ career, and for Wits bid to become a force in South African soccer.

Speaking in a video message, Dr Kaizer Motaung, chairman of Kaizer Chiefs, said Schloss has been serving the football community for over 60 years beyond measure. “I have personally benefitted from many years of collaboration with you,” he said.

Schloss, Motaung and Dr Irvin Khoza, chairman of Orlando Pirates, share a long history going back to the origins of the Wits Football club, where Wits was the first team with white players ever to play in Soweto.

“At the time, we could not enter Soweto with a team of only white players, so Kaizer and Irvin lent us players to make up a mixed team,” said Schloss. One of those players turned out to be South African football hero, Marks Maponyane.

The mixed Wits team faced tremendous hostilities during the apartheid years, and often had to make difficult choices. The black and white players could not travel by train together, or enter a restaurant together. From the onset, the team decided to rent their own bus, and only go to places where they can go together as a team.

“We decided we either go as a unit, or we don’t go,” said Schloss.

“We lived an interesting and different life. We taught people how to mix and appreciate the cultures of the other. That was the strength of our team.”  

Raymond Hack, former CEO of the South African Football Association and lifelong friend of Schloss said Schloss was never a forceful administrator.

“He is a friend of football. We are standing here today because of the massive contribution that Ronnie has made.

At the event, a plaque and the new name of the Ronnie Schloss stand was unveiled. The stand will undergo renovation as part of the upgrading of the Wits Anglo American Digital Dome, that is situated right next to the stand.

“Prof Ronnie Schloss’ journey with Wits FC is not about a tale of past glories, it is a story that continues to unfold. His dedication to our football community remains steadfast. He continues to contribute to the development of South African football, ensuring the legacy of Wits University Football Club, that he leaves in our hearts for our future players and fans,” said Vilakazi.

Wits counts

- Wits University

The sixth annual prize-giving for the Maths Competition is more than a ceremony, it is a celebration of the significant impact that maths can have in Africa.

Wits Maths Competition medal

Wits University hosted its sixth annual prize-giving for the Maths Competition 2023 on 31 October. The competition began in 2018 and aims to promote mathematics at all levels in Africa. The competition has five levels, Middle Primary (Grades 4 and 5), Upper Primary (Grades 6 and 7), Junior Secondary (Grades 8 and 9), Senior Secondary (Grades 10, 11 and 12) and Undergraduate. This year the competition received approximately 11 000 entrants from all nine provinces of South Africa as well as entrants from Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Nigeria and Liberia.

Jonathan Kariv, a Lecturer at the School of Computer Sciences and Applied Mathematics and the driving force behind the Wits Maths Competition 2023, shares insights into the competition's motivations and the unique aspects that set this year apart.

"At the heart of our mission is the desire to uncover and nurture local mathematical talent. We aim to introduce students to the captivating world of competition mathematics, fostering a deep appreciation for the subject and encouraging further exploration, even into the realms of research,” says Kariv.

One significant development this year was the inclusion of Allan Gray as a sponsor, marking a pivotal moment in the competition's trajectory. This partnership enabled the hosting of a July training camp at Wits, where learners who had excelled in the qualifying round immersed themselves in a week of intensive Olympiad mathematics training.

"This initiative was a game-changer, providing a unique opportunity for talented individuals, including those facing socio-economic challenges, to engage with advanced mathematical concepts and elevate their skills," says Kariv.

Reflecting on the impact of this year's competition, Kariv highlights the return to a traditional format with a final round at Wits and regional centres, culminating in a lively prize-giving ceremony.

"This marked the first truly post-COVID year for the competition, allowing us to bring participants together physically, fostering a sense of community and celebration that was sorely missed during the previous year's virtual events."

Winners at Wits Maths Competition

The success of the Wits Maths Competition is perhaps most evident in the sheer magnitude of participation. With 11 000 eager minds vying for mathematical supremacy, the competition has become a testament to the growing enthusiasm and interest in mathematics within the community. The impact of this annual event extends beyond the competition itself, permeating the fabric of society and leaving an indelible mark on the educational landscape.

As one of the competition winners and grade 5 learner at Norkem Park Primary School, Thandolethu Ngulube,  puts it, "Wits counts, not just in the realm of academia, but in the broader societal context. The Wits Maths Competition serves as a powerful vehicle for transformative experiences, unlocking the potential of thousands of young minds and propelling them towards a future where mathematics is not just a subject but a lifelong pursuit."

A list of 2023 winners is here.

One gold medal and Academy membership for 15

- Wits University

Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) awards Gold Medal to world-renowned HIV expert and inaugurates 15 Wits scholars as new members.

Wits Professor Glenda Gray was awarded the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) Science-for-Society Gold Medal for outstanding achievement at the ASSAf annual awards ceremony held on 9 November.

In addition, 15 scholars from all five faculties at Wits University were inaugurated as new members.

ASSAf annually honours the country’s most outstanding scholars by electing them as members of the Academy. This singular honour recognises scholastic achievement across the spectrum of academic disciplines. Members constitute the core asset of the Academy and give of their time and expertise voluntarily in the service of society.

Gold for Gray

Prof Jonathan Jansen awards Wits Prof Glenda Gray the ASSAf Science for Society Gold Medal

The ASSAf Science-for-Society Gold Medal recognises the scholastic and scientific contributions of Professor Glenda Gray , to HIV research, prevention, treatment and vaccines, as well as her fundamental role in vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gray is a National Research Foundation A1-rated scientist and world-renowned for her research in HIV. She is currently President of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) – the first woman to hold this position – and she remains a Research Professor in the School of Clinical Medicine at Wits University. She is also a Wits alumna, having studied medicine and paediatrics here.

Her clinical research career began in the field of preventing mother- to-child transmission of HIV, focusing on breastfeeding transmission and post-exposure prophylaxis. She co-founded the renowned Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, today a world-renowned research unit focused on HIV prevention and treatment.

For the past two decades, Gray has focused on HIV vaccine development, leading major phase 2b/3 trials of candidate vaccines in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as contributing to the clinical development of South Africa’s own HIV vaccines.

Gray has influenced the marked change in the HIV vaccine field from a US/Euro-centric based scientific programme, to having almost all candidate vaccines designed for the Southern African epidemic and all the critical immunogenicity trials and efficacy trials conducted in this region.

During Covid-19, Gray set the SAMRC research strategy for Covid-19, enabling South Africa to emerge as a global scientific leader on Covid-19 vaccines.

The new ASSAf members from the five faculties at Wits University are listed below:

In the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management:

In the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment:

In the Faculty of Health Sciences:

In the Faculty of Humanities:

In the Faculty of Science:

* Visiting Professor Elizabeth Walton's name was mistakenly omitted in the original count, the addition of which now brings the total Wits ASSAf membership to 16. We regret the oversight.  

Emerging scholar takes top honour for pioneering sustainable housing research

- Wits University

“I wish to advocate that it is the mission of all Quantity Surveyors, local and abroad, to make Sustainability Affordable.”

Malcolm Weaich accepting his award

Malcolm Weaich, a young academic researcher at University of the Witwatersrand, has been honoured with "The Best Overall Youth U/35 Award" at the 13th South African Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession (SACQSP)  International Research Conference. Weaich was recognised for his research on the "Willingness of End-Users to Adopt Sustainable Housing in South Africa," shedding light on the critical role Quantity Surveyors can play in making sustainability affordable.

Weaich expressed humility and gratitude, stating, “I am humbled, honoured, and thankful to God. Being recognised by the SACQSP is a testament to the dedication and hard work I’ve invested in my field of research", after accepting the award from the President of the SACQSP, Ms Nosiyabonga Mgudlwa Mongane.

He acknowledged the support from his Head of School, Professor Samuel Laryea, who encouraged him to join academia and join his team at the Wits School of Construction Economics and Management at the University.

"I am thankful to my School and University for encouraging me to become a researcher for change, and as a young academic researcher, I hope to inspire others,” said Weaich.

"I wish to advocate that it is the mission of all Quantity Surveyors local and abroad, to make sustainability affordable."

Weaich’s research, titled Affordability for Sustainability is a Reality, delves into South Africa's alarming carbon emissions, ranking twelfth globally, and the financial barriers hindering sustainable living. His study aims to inform sustainable material adoption by identifying preferred materials and investment levels among South African end-users providing a novel way to assess what end-users are willing to pay for, and what Quantity Surveyors need to make more affordable through supply chain management. The research reveals that affordability is pivotal to the sustainability aspirations of urban South Africans across all income brackets. Weaich's findings advocate for Quantity Surveyors' expertise in overcoming financial obstacles and promoting sustainable housing.

Professor Clinton Aigbavboa, Research Chair for Sustainable Construction Management and Leadership in the Built Environment, Centre of Excellence, University of Johannesburg, peer-reviewed and nominated Weaich's research. The co-authors, Dr Prisca Simbanegavi and Dr Pride Ndlovu from the University of Witwatersrand, played essential roles in the study.

Weaich's paper, still pending full publication, competes in the conference theme of Digitalisation of the Quantity Surveying Practice: Towards a Sustainable Profession. The research stood out among 40 publications from institutions across Africa and Europe, affirming Weaich's pivotal contribution to advancing sustainable practices in the field of Quantity Surveying. The full paper is anticipated to be published as a conference proceeding in 2024. Awaiting the release of the complete paper, Weaich’s presentation is currently available for viewing and referencing via the ResearchGate online platform.

Medals and fellowships from Royal Society of South Africa

- Wits University

Medals for established and emerging researchers, eminent scholars inducted as Fellows.

Professor Jonah Choiniere, Professor Peter Kamerman, and Professor Shabir Madhi were inducted as Fellows of the Royal Society of South Africa at a ceremony held in Pretoria on 4 November 2023.

The Society also awarded Professor Jennifer Fitchett its 2023 Meiring Naudé Medal, which recognises outstanding early career scientists (under 35-years-old) who have already made a mark in their field and who are poised to become scientific leaders.

Furthermore, Madhi will next year receive the 2024 John F.W. Herschel Medal, the Society’s senior award, while fellow Witsie, Dr Isaac Nape, will then receive the 2024 Meiring Naudé Medal for early career scientists.

The Royal Society of South Africa is the country’s premier multidisciplinary scientific organisation. Fellows are entitled to the post-nominal letters FRSSAf after their names.

L_R Wits Profs. Jonah Choiniere, Shabir Madhi, Jennifer Fitchett and Peter Kamerman at the Royal Society of SA Awards 600x300

Excavating dinosaurs

Jonah Choiniere is Professor of Comparative Palaeobiology at the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) at Wits. His area of expertise is dinosaurian evolution, and he is an expert on theropods (meat-eating dinosaurs), the evolutionary relationships of vertebrates (systematics) and in palaeontological fieldwork. 

Prof. Jonah Choiniere is a Royal Society of SA Fellow_Photo by Brett Eloff 600x300

His current fieldwork is in the South African Karoo basin, where his has been working on figuring out the age and distribution of the dinosaurs that used to live there.

Now a National Research Foundation (NRF) B-rated researcher, in 2019 Choiniere was then only the second NRF P-rated researcher in his field. An NRF P-rating is rare and prestigious, awarded to those under 35-years-old and considered future leaders in their fields, based on their published doctoral work and/or outputs.

In 2021, Choiniere led a research team that published a paper in Science showing that some dinosaurs evolved night vision and owl-like hearing. 

Understanding pain 

Peter Kamerman is a Professor in the School of Physiology at Wits. He undertook his PhD training in thermoregulation and fever, but soon after shifted his focus to studying pain in people living with HIV. Since then, he has led an active research programme in the field of pain.

Wits Prof Peter Kamerman is a fellow of the Royal Society of SA 600x300

The work of his laboratory currently focuses on the epidemiology of pain and the mechanisms underlying painful diabetic polyneuropathy.

Kamerman’s expertise has seen him make significant contributions to developing local and international guidelines for the management, diagnosis and grading, and phenotyping of neuropathic pain.

Climate impact curious

Jennifer Fitchett is Professor of Physical Geography in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies. She works in the field of biometeorology, researching climate change and its impacts on plants, animals and human communities.

Prof. Jennifer Fitchett is the recipient of the Royal Society of SA's 2023 Meiring Naudé Medal for early career scientists

Her research includes reconstructing long-term climatic change over tens of thousands of years, exploring trends in contemporary climate dynamics, and investigating the impacts on changing flowering dates in plants, impacts on the tourism sector, and threats to human thermal comfort and health.

Fitchett’s demonstrable scholastic excellence is evident in her research on the role of climate in Covid-19 transmission, for which she was a member of the Covid-19 Environmental Reference Group formed under the auspices of the Department of Science and Innovation. In 2019, she was a finalist for a TW Kambule-NSTF Emerging Researcher Award at the NSTF-South 32 Awards. In 2020, Fitchett became a member of the South African Young Academy of Science, which elects members who are young, emerging researchers and leaders in their fields. She currently serves as the President of the Society of South African Geographers.

Vaccinating a nation and saving babies

Professor of Vaccinology Shabir Madhi is a paediatrician, infectious disease epidemiologist, and expert in vaccines. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa in 2016 when he was still the Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Since 2021, he has been the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits, where he is also the founder and Executive Director of the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics (Wits VIDA) research unit, and Co-Director of African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE).

Prof. Shabir Madhi inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of SA and will receive the John F.W. Herschel Medal in 2024. 600x300

Madhi will receive the Society's John F.W. Herschel Medal in October 2024. This medal is awarded to those who are outstanding in either multidisciplinary fields of research, or in more than one unrelated field.

The Society’s senior medal recognises Madhi’s major contributions in the field of vaccinology and the related fields of epidemiology, immunology and infectious diseases, and in mother and child health, as well as in vaccination policy and public health.

A National Research Foundation A-rated scientist, Madhi is an internationally recognised expert on the causes, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases in children. As a paediatrician, he led the first African vaccine studies against the leading causes of death in children from pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease, and for research into vaccines to protect pregnant women, foetuses, and infants against vaccine-preventable diseases.

As a vaccinologist, he led South Africa (and Africa’s) first Covid-19 vaccine trails and was an ardent, influential and outspoken advocate for Covid-19 vaccine access and equity during the pandemic.

Quantum info processing

Dr Isaac Nape, a Lecturer in the School of Physics at Wits, will receive the Society’s junior award for young, emerging researchers, the John F.W. Herschel Medal, in 2024.

Dr Isaac Nape is the recipient of the Royal Society of SA 2024 Meiring Naudé Medal for early career scientists 600x300

Nape has made influential contributions to quantum and classical optics, which have garnered global acclaim. His research has featured prominently in journals like Nature Photonics, Science Advances, and Nature Communications.

Notable accolades include the 2023 Jubilee Silver Medal from the South African Institute of Physics and recognition as one of South Africa’s top 200 young innovators by M&G (2023).

Currently serving as the Wits-IBM liaison, Nape is actively engaged in advancing photonic computing technology and pioneering quantum computing algorithms for photonic information processing.

A fourth-year fine arts student wins Wits Young Artist Award

- Wits University

Rumbo Mercy took first place with her multimedia installation.

Rumbo Mercy

Titled: Platform Omega: Awaiting The Twilight Train, the artwork combines mixed media, sound, video, and sculpture, and features a chapter from a book series, Into The Insula, that follows the journey of the outcasted entity, Space Kid.

Mercy’s artwork showcases the point of the story where Space Kid arrives at Platform Omega to embark on the Twilight train toInsula. Space kid is on the the threshold of a new journey at the station, that enters a metaphysical liminal space of introspection. As she awaits her departure, she begins to float, exploring the freeing feeling of the possibilities of yearning to belong, but rather embrace that which makes her unique.

Space Kid reflects, “She was a fish in a tank of air. The quietness became markedly louder, as if her ears could be deafened by silence. Before her eardrums could crack under the pressure of nothingness, a voice over the intercom sounded.”

Mercy's artwork

Mercy's artwork

Mercy was also shortlisted for the Wits Young Artist awards last year and this time around she had hoped to secure a place but never thought she would win. “I decided to submit my exam artwork this year, but I was not that confident this time around. When I got the email that I had been shortlisted and would showcase it was the most surreal and confusing experience.  And then to win, is an amazing feeling. I felt so honoured to have the ability to share this piece because of what it means to me. It represents more than Space Kid, it represents all the ebbs and flows of the creation process that I encountered, it wasn’t all for nothing. It has marked a good end, to the end of my Wits schooling career,” says Mercy.

The runners-up in the Wits Young Artist Awards and Merit Award recipients were Puseletso Masemene for her video installation work Ts’ilo le ho Sila, and Khulekani Magudulela for his terracotta vessel titled Igoqo.

The other artists shortlisted for the Wits Young Artist Award included Khulekani Magudulela, Olivia Pintér, Ntokozo Mudau, Puseletso Masemene, Katleho Habi, Zukhanye Zuzu Ndlaleni, Rirhandzu Vermeulen, Relebogile Malaza and Chuma Adam.

The Wits School of Arts and The Point of Order hosted this year’s event on the 20th of July 2023, to acknowledge and give exposure to new critical works by the senior students in the Department of Fine Arts at Wits.

Entomologist takes on mosquitoes, malaria, wins award

- Wits University

Professor Lizette Koekemoer has won the Women in Vector Control (WiVC) Excellence Award in the Senior Career category.

Koekemoer is a Research Professor and the co-Director of the Wits Research Institute for Malaria (WRIM) at Wits.

She received the award from the Pan-African Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA) at the 9th PAMCA Annual Conference and Exhibition held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 21 September 2023.

Wits Prof. Lizette Koekemoer LEFT receives the PAMCA Women in Vector Control Award from Dr Helen Jamet of BMGF 600x300

As an entomologist, Koekemoer studies insects – specifically mosquitoes that are vectors of malaria. Vectors are living organisms that can transmit infectious pathogens between humans, or from animals to humans. The Anopheles mosquito is the vector of a parasite that causes malaria.

The award recognises Koekemoer’s “astounding work” in the field of vector-borne diseases (VBDs), her leadership, and keen understanding of the important role she plays in science and in her community.

Koekemoer says, “This award celebrates and reflects all the hard work of a conglomerate of postgraduate students, collaborators, funders, and co-workers – and I also salute them”.

With more than two decades of research experience, Koekemoer has led multiple projects focusing on malaria vector systematics, insecticide resistance and the molecular mechanisms involved, and transmission-blocking strategies.

Major projects include:

  • Reduction of malaria transmission in the mosquito through drug discovery
  • Research to reduce malaria transmission from outdoor biting mosquitoes through zooprophylaxis (the use of wild or domestic animals, which are not the reservoir host of a given disease, to divert the blood-seeking malaria vectors from human hosts)
  • Increasing knowledge of vector biologicals and genetics
  • Bionomics of malaria vectors (bionomics is the relationship between organisms and their environment).

Anopheles mosquito mating male on left and female on right_Melika Hajkazemian Emami Lab 600x300

Koekemoer has published 108 papers and has supported malaria control programmes across South Africa's provinces. She has provided in-country support of malaria control programmes in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Nigeria, and Namibia.

Over her 25-year career, she has supervised/co-supervised or hosted 74 students and trained numerous scientists, colleagues, and students in molecular species-identification and morphological identifications.

She is a member of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa, Health Professions Council of South Africa, Molecular and Cell Biology Group, and she is the South African Malaria Elimination Committee Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (London).

African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) sponsors R20 million into research at Wits

- Wits University

ARM Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme to support research into water, energy and digitalisation in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.

South Africa is facing three key challenges: energy shortages, water scarcity, and the lack of skills in digitalisation. A new collaboration between African Rainbow Minerals (“ARM”) and the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (“Faculty”) in the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) aims to develop the high-level skills required to address these issues.

Wits ARM Building

Dr Patrice Motsepe, Founder and Executive Chairman of African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), a Wits University alumnus and recipient of an honorary doctorate degree, said: “ARM is proud to partner with Wits University which is a globally respected academic institution. Partnering with South African institutions of higher learning is paramount in our pursuit of knowledge, innovation, skills, and sustainable development. Public-private partnerships are crucial in addressing the socio-economic and environmental challenges confronting our communities and country. ARM works with several top universities across South Africa, supporting young people from undergraduate to post-graduate studies, helping them to realise their dreams. Some of these students come from communities neighbouring our mining operations. We also contribute to the development and upliftment of poor rural and urban communities in South Africa by educating students from these communities.”

Wits VC Zeblon Vilakazi and Patrice Motsepe at the ARM launch

The ARM Postgraduate Fellowship Programme at Wits University aims to develop and sharpen a critical mass of skills in South Africa through supporting a new cohort of postdoctoral fellows who will specialise in Water Resource Management, Digitalisation, and work towards a Just Energy Transition. ARM will sponsor a R20 million endowment, which will be invested into perpetuity. The investment return on the endowment will be used to support research in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.

“We recognise the importance of digital transformation in the mining industry, and the necessity to develop the critical skills needed to advance our economy,” says Prof. Zeblon Vilakazi (FRS), Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University. “This investment is firmly located in the Wits University Mining Precinct and dovetails with our broader initiatives in quantum computing, fintech and innovation. We are confident that through more private sector partnerships like the ARM Postgraduate Fellowship Programme, Wits University can help make a real difference in developing the critical skills and research needed to secure the long-term sustainability of the mining industry.”

Prof. Thokozani Majozi, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment adds: “The Faculty recognises the urgency of transitioning to a more sustainable and just energy system. Research and promotion of accessible, affordable, and socio-economically just renewable energy solutions are our top priorities. Water is a critical resource, and we aim to contribute to the sustainable management of water resources through research, education, increased awareness and community engagement. This includes addressing challenges related to water scarcity, pollution, and climate change.”

Phillip Tobias, Chief Executive Officer of ARM said: “The ARM Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme is a testament to our commitment to addressing critical challenges in water, energy, and digitalisation facing our business and the country as a whole. This initiative is about creating a pipeline of future critical skills that will cater for future business needs. We believe that through this collaboration, we can make a significant impact and leave a lasting legacy that will provide innovative and sustainable solutions that will benefit not only the mining industry but broader South African society as well.”

Renaming of the Chamber of Mines Building to the African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) Building

The partnership between ARM and Wits University will see the current Chamber of Mines Building on the Braamfontein West Campus facing the M1 highway being renamed the Wits African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) Building. The Wits African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) Building is a central and crucial component of the University of the Witwatersrand's academic and research infrastructure. This building was opened in 1989 with the fourth quadrant completed in 2012. It houses the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment’s administration, the School of Mining Engineering and the School of Electrical and Information Engineering. The building is also home to the multidisciplinary Wits Mining Institute, a DigiMine and two other research entities.

Partnership unlocks cloud computing opportunities

- Wits University

BCX, Alibaba Cloud and Wits University have partnered to empower students to foster skills for the digital economy in Africa.

The Alibaba Cloud Academic Empowerment Programme is designed to infuse digital excellence into academic institutions worldwide, and Wits is the first university partner to adopt the programme for third-year students in the School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics.

The programme includes Alibaba Cloud certifications as part of their BSc Computer Science qualification with the primary intention of equipping graduates with industry sort-after skills and certifications, making them more employable.

The programme officially launched on 22 November 2023 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by all the partners, and the start of the first Wits, BCX & Alibaba Cloud Holiday School programme (22 – 27 November 2023) for the students that will be taking place at Wits.

"Wits is excited to partner with BCX and Alibaba Cloud to bring this opportunity to our students,” says Associate Professor Richard Klein from the School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Wits University.

“With the cloud holding many of the emergent 4IR technologies, equipping our graduates with the skills to manage such infrastructure is essential. Furthermore, addressing the digital divide in Africa by driving digital transformation is one of the key strategic priorities for the University in the next decade. To achieve this, working with partners in industry and across sectors to accelerate the learning curve for students and equip them with highly sought-after skillsets is vital.”

The top students from the Academic Empowerment Programme will become a feeder into the BCX Alibaba Cloud graduate programme resulting in the development of a talent pipeline of Alibaba Cloud Engineers for South Africa and Africa as a whole.

“This collaboration is ushering in a new era of innovation and skills development. By introducing Alibaba Cloud as part of the prospectus for BSc Computer Science students, we are not just embracing innovative technology, but also cultivating a generation of forward-thinking individuals equipped with the skills and ability needed to thrive in the digital landscape,” says Jan Bouwer, Chief Solutions Office at BCX.

 “This collaboration symbolises our commitment to empowering students with real-world, industry-relevant knowledge, ensuring they are well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Together, we are shaping the future of technology education and fostering a community of innovators ready to lead in the dynamic world of cloud computing," he adds.

The programme is structured for students to learn, experiment, and accelerate through online learning, online labs, classroom training, and certification.

The benefits to the students are:

  • Industry recognised certification which would attract the attention of potential employers.
  • Highly sought-after skillsets required by the industry (Cloud Computing).
  • Exposure to the newest Alibaba Cloud technology via courses and our events.
  • Continuous self-paced learning via the academy portal, where there are short videos introducing the latest technologies.
  • Student Servers to allow real life experience on mini projects on the cloud; and
  • Opportunities to upskill and participate in an international competition where participants may come from different countries.

Harvard awards Wits professor for building advanced research capability in rural SA

- Wits University

Professor Stephen Tollman has received the 2023 Alumni Award of Merit from Harvard University.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health awarded Professor Stephen Tollman for his outstanding contributions to population-based health research across Africa.

Wits Prof. Steve Tollman on right receives the Harvard Alumni Merit Award from Dr Bernard Lee Chair of Alumni Awards Committee

Tollman is the founder and Director of the South African Medical Research Council/Wits University Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), integral to the work of the Wits Rural Campus. Here he leads a world-class Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS)  that supports multidisciplinary research spanning the life course.

At Wits University, he is a Research Professor in the School of Public Health and Head of the School’s Health and Population Division in the Faculty of Health Sciences. He is a faculty member of the Harvard Center for Population & Development Studies.

Tollman received the award at Harvard's Alumni Weekend, on Friday, 29 September 2023, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Alumni Merit Award is the highest honour bestowed on alumni of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health by their peers.

Jane Kim, Interim Dean of the Faculty and Dean for Academic Affairs at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, wrote to Tollman: "This award is a well-deserved recognition of your accomplishments in public health and the important contributions you have made to health and socio-demographic surveillance and advancing research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa. I commend you on your impactful and timely work."

An alumnus of Harvard, Oxford, and Wits universities, Tollman studied public health at Harvard; philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar; and medicine at Wits. He said: “Such recognition through the Harvard Chan School Alumni Award is an exceptional honour."

Agincourt was established after Tollman, with Kathleen Kahn, returned to South Africa in the early 1990s. He moved to rural Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga Province, confronting pervasive challenges of poverty and inequality coupled with complex health transitions. Over decades, he has built a globally leading research institution, bringing the best science to bear where needs are greatest.

The versatile research platform – covering a ‘whole population cohort’ of some 120, 000 people living in over 30 rural villages – supports diverse observational and interventional studies, including policy evaluations investigating critical transitions along the life course, their implications, and context-appropriate responses.

Tollman was a founder and elected first Board Chair of INDEPTH (2002-2006), an exceptional research network led from the Global South. As principal scientist he provided strategic direction overall, notably to multicentre efforts in cause-of-death, ageing, migration and health, and cardiovascular research. INDEPTH is the International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health.

It’s about people…and excellence

- Wits University

Wits Advancement Division wins 11 awards at the Marketing, Advancement and Communication in Education Excellence Awards.

Wits University's MACE Award winners

The new Wits Anglo American Digital Dome, the R250 million Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex, the Sibanye-Stillwater Innovation Bridge, the new African Rainbow Minerals Building, a Homecoming Weekend comprising of seven events including a concert and centenary parade, and a William Kentridge production are only some of the major projects that made up the Wits Centenary Campaign.

Whilst many events were hosted across the University, a dedicated team was responsible for driving the Centenary Campaign. This comprised a major R3 billion fundraising campaign, a tailored alumni relations campaign spanning four continents, a visible marketing and communications campaign, and an ambitious events calendar that saw over 100 events being hosted. 

These initiatives saw Wits reaching millions of stakeholders, both directly and indirectly. Some of these efforts resulted in awards at the Marketing, Advancement and Communication in Education (MACE) Excellence Awards in 2022 and 2023.

“The Wits Centenary Campaign was only successful because of the dedication of our people and their commitment to excellence. Members of the Advancement Division committed their expertise, experience, time, and made an exuberant effort to ensure the success of the Campaign,” says Shirona Patel, Head: Communications and Coordinator of the Advancement Division. "They were ably led by the heads of these units, who provided the guidance and encouragement for them to achieve excellence, as is reflected in some of these awards.”

Wits was honoured with awards for its publications including the Wits Review and Curios.ty 100, a Wits100 video, Wits in 60 seconds, the staff portal on the Wits website, a mining stakeholder engagement programme, feature writing for the Anglo American Digital Dome, the Wits Wellness Week, amongst others.

“Congratulations to all those who participated in the Wits Centenary Campaign, and the MACE Excellence Awards. Your efforts are recognised and appreciated. Well done!” concludes Patel.

Wits University’s 2023 MACE awards:

Division 1 – Campaigns

  • Bridging the gap between mining and people: New high-tech digital dome catapults Johannesburg Planetarium into the future (Silver)
  • Wits Staff Wellness Week 2023 (Bronze)

Division 2 – Media

  • Wits in 60 Seconds | Episode 20: Your weekly Wits News digest (Gold)
  • WITSReview (Silver)
  • Wits centenary video (Silver)
  • Wits University case for support (Bronze)
  • Profiling our academics (Bronze)

Division 3 – Skills

  • Curios.ty Issue 14 and Curios.ty 14 (#Wits100): A century of doing good (Gold)
  • WITSReview (Silver)
  • New high-tech digital dome catapults Johannesburg Planetarium into the future – Wits Anglo American digital dome media pack (Silver)
  • Alumni homecoming weekend: Email campaign 2022 (Bronze).

Feeding the robots

- Wits University

The 19th African Investigative Journalism Conference sees hundreds of investigative journalists getting to grips with the new AI.

Feeding the robots generic photo

The 19th African Investigative Journalism Conference, hosted at Wits from November 20 to 22, brought together investigative journalists from across the world  to delve into the evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI) in journalism. The conference shed light on the pivotal role AI tools play in investigative reporting, with a focus on the importance of accurate communication with these technologies.

Michael Salzwedel, a Digital Media Specialist from Internews, who was one of the speakers at the event, underscores the significance of clear communication with AI, drawing a parallel between human relationships and interactions with AI.

"If you say you are in a relationship with someone, and you are unhappy with something, if you do not explain yourself properly, they will not understand you. The same goes for ChatGPT; you can't just tell it 'make a graph’. You have to indicate what the graph should be about, and what must it look like. So, you have to tell it clearly, the same with relationships; it's a lot about what we give than what we want," says Salzwedel.

The conference explored the intersection of journalism and AI, highlighting how AI tools such as ChatGPT are becoming integral in investigative reporting and data analysis.

One key takeaway from the conference is the emphasis on feeding AI accurate and healthy information. The workshop showcased practical applications of AI in journalism, moving away from traditional data-driven methods that require extensive training. The goal is to empower journalists to leverage AI for more accessible and engaging storytelling, irrespective of their technical background.

The Generating Change report from JournalismAI, presented by Tshepo Tshabalala, Project Manager and Team Lead of JournalismAI, during the conference, highlighted the evolving role of AI in newsrooms in 2023. The report delves into how generative AI has changed the way newsrooms perceive technology, addressing questions about its impact on journalistic practices.

The immersive exploration of generative AI's potential in newsrooms reveals its capacity to handle tasks ranging from automated data analysis to uncovering hidden patterns in public records. By harnessing the power of generative tools, journalists can streamline their workflow, allowing more time for focused storytelling.

The conference emphasised that high-quality data is paramount for deriving accurate insights from AI and machine learning. The key takeaway remains clear communication and providing AI with the right information. As Salzwedel puts it, "It's about what we feed AI more than what we want from it”. As AI continues to shape the future of journalism, fostering a healthy and communicative relationship with these technologies is essential for unlocking their transformative potential.

Journalism in a time of great instability

- Wits University

African investigative journalists gather to empower change through knowledge exchange and tech innovation.

Hundreds of journalists, media professionals, academics, and publishers attended the annual African Investigative Journalism Conference (AIJC) held at Wits University from 20 – 22 November 2023.

In its 19th year, the three-day conference held at the Wits Science Stadium is a gateway for journalists to engage with the most prominent experts in investigative journalism to gain insight into the industry so that it can equip them with the latest tools and techniques to refine their skills.

African Investigative Journalism Conference 2023

Packed with over 140 speakers and 80 sessions, the major themes for this year were Artificial Intelligence, Health, Data Journalism, Keeping Journalists Safe; and the Future and Sustainability of Investigative Reporting. Lectures covered, among others, how to use AI; how to unlock WhatsApp’s potential for journalists; how to find African climate data for reporting; how to cover LGBTQIA+ justice; and how to work with whistle-blowers.

African Investigative Journalism Conference 2023

This is also the last conference to be headed by its founder, Anton Harber, Caxton Professor of Journalism (Adjunct) at Wits University. Beauregard Tromp is taking over as convener for the AIJC in 2024. Tromp is a veteran investigative journalist and editor who is excited to take the AIJC into the next few decades.

“We have already started talking about what else we can bring to the conference, because it should be a necessity, and not a nice have to attend the conference. There is an urgency for journalism,” says Tromp. 

Thrilling holiday reads for children

- Wits University

A reading list for children, tweens and teens from a Wits academic, writer and founder of Jozi’s Books and Blogs Festival.

Dr Zaheera Jina AsvatThe December holidays present us with an opportunity to recoup, catch up on reading, and spend quality time with loved ones.

Wits Communications asked children's book author and mathematics lecturer at Wits, Dr Zaheera Jina Asvat, to suggest books for young readers to help unwind during the holidays and enrich reading shelves.

As an academic juggling responsibility with three young children aged 6, 9, and 13, reading is a significant aspect of her family life.

"I consistently seek books that provide meaningful content to read to my children, emphasising the importance of literature that goes beyond mere entertainment. I’ve discovered that books featuring beautiful illustrations and rhythmic prose are particularly well-suited for engaging young children," says Asvat.


Dr Asvat's Reading List

Early readers

How many ways can you say helloRefiloe Moahloli’s How many ways can you say hello? is a book that deserves a place on the bookshelves of every home.

The story follows Sara on her first day at school, where she discovers the diversity of greetings. The most significant surprise is realising that greetings can be expressed in various ways. During the holidays, Sara goes on a hot air balloon adventure across the country to learn different greetings in Tshivenda, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, siSwati, isiZulu, Xitsonga, isiNdebele, Setswana, Sepedi, and Sesotho. This enchanting narrative, conveyed through rhythmic verse and complemented by captivating illustrations, is highly recommended for young South African children.



For tweens

A cherished tradition in my household involves spending an entire hour getting into bed with my children and reading to them. This ritual, which has endured as my older son is now thirteen-years-old, has allowed us to share the joy of reading numerous books together.

Arabella - the Moon and the Mongongo NutWe particularly liked the Fudge series by Judy Blume. We experienced genuine laughter as we immersed ourselves in the delightful world of Judy Blume's five Fudge books. The irrepressible wit of Peter Hatcher, the mischievous antics of Fudge, and the unyielding confidence of the know-it-all Sheila Tubman contribute to the humour and charm of these beloved stories. These books are recommended for children between the ages of eight and twelve.

We found delight in reading both the Arabella series by Hamilton Wende and the Nisa Qamar series by Shafinaaz Hassim. Set in Johannesburg, the Arabella series includes two books: Arabella, the Moon and the Magic Mongongo Nut as well as The Secret King & The Amulet From Timbuktu. Recommended for ages 11 to 13.

Arabella's life undergoes a profound change in her typical Johannesburg suburb following her father's death, leading to a profound sense of sadness. However, the discovery of a magical world concealed in her garden brings a transformative experience. Ukhozi the eagle delivers a special mongongo nut from the Kalahari, granting Arabella the ability to transform into a butterfly and explore the starlit skies.

Holiday reading suggestions for kids - Nisa Qamar and the Rainbow Healer's Society is a must have in your homeYet, challenges emerge as adversaries in the form of the hadedas, led by their king Ozymandias, aim to acquire the mongongo nut for malevolent purposes. Arabella takes on a leadership role, uniting the small creatures of the garden to thwart the hadedas and their sinister agenda.

From the Nisa Qamar series, the second book Nisa Qamar and the Rainbow Healers Society stands out as an excellent choice for tweens and teens, offering valuable lessons for them to embrace.

In this book, eleven-year-old Nisa experiences the significance of true friendship when she befriends Jihan, leading to an invitation to join the Rainbow Healers Society. Collaboratively, Nisa and Jihan strive to bring hope to the children of Jozi.




Two Tons of FunAs a mother to a teenager, I consider Two Tons of Fun by Fred Khumalo to be a significant read for young adults in present-day South Africa. Reading it aloud to my 13-year-old allowed me to navigate through parts which I considered inappropriate for him.

Set in Alexandra township, this coming-of-age novel follows Lerato Morolong, age fourteen, as she helps an injured truck driver involved in a collision. Lerato's life intertwines with the Ngobese family, revealing the dynamics of her quick-witted, beer-loving mother, June-Rose. The story explores family, revelations, and Lerato's journey toward understanding and self-discovery.



About Dr Zaheera Jina Asvat

Asvat teaches mathematics at the Wits School of Education. She is the editor of three books (Tween Tales, Saffron and Riding the Samoosa Express) and the author of Surprise! Tears of the Weaver is her debut collection of fiction short stories. She is the founder of Jozi’s Books and Blogs Festival (Jozisbbf), a non-profit organisation that aims to cultivate a culture of reading and writing in South Africa through various literary events. She lives in Johannesburg with her husband, three sons and many in-laws.

Books for the festive season

- Wits University

Wits staff suggest local and international books covering a range of genres to explore these holidays.

Veronica Klipp, Publisher, Wits University Press (WUP)

I’ve only recently read George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the 2017 Booker Prize. It is one of the most unusual, inventive novels I’ve read, about life and the slow acceptance of the reality of death, in this case the death of Abraham Lincoln’s young son. With surprising lightness and humour, it deals with important ethical questions about the purpose of life and the responsibility one bears for how one has lived it.

Veronica Klipp, Publisher, Wits University Press (WUP)

Selecting only one Wits Press book feels unfair to the others! But I strongly recommend Visualising China in Southern Africa: Biography, Circulation, Transgression (edited by Juliette Leeb-Du Toit, Ruth Simbao and Ross Anthony). This innovative book explores the important China–Africa encounter, both historic and contemporary, through the lens of visual arts and material culture. With its quality artwork and high production values, it also makes an excellent gift.

Kemantha Govender, Communications Manager, School of Governance

Running with my parents’ shadows is authored by the dynamic and powerhouse of an academic, writer and speaker, Dr Thelela Ngcetane-Vika. Thelela’s memoir is an epiphany that depicts how she traversed life’s challenges and leadership avalanches. While honouring and paying tribute to her parents and family, she wanted to honour African leadership in shaping families and societies in general.

The value of this memoir is knowledge creation, curation, preservation and celebration of life from different angles, in particular – a celebration of traversing life’s tragedies and triumphant living that epitomises the foundational tenets manifest in her parent’s shadows.

Kemantha Govender, Communications Manager, School of Governance

For My Country - Why I Blew The Whistle On Zuma And The Guptas by former government spokesperson Themba Maseko, is a book of courage and what it means to stand up for what’s just and right. Maseko refused to divert the government's entire advertising budget to the Guptas and was then removed from his position and forced to leave the public service. Currently the Acting Head of the School of Government, Maseko represents a generation of activists-turned-civil-servants whose commitment to the Constitution and service to the people superseded everything else. 

Caster Semenya – The Race To Be Myself. South African icon and Olympian has had to fight in courts and governing bodies to compete in athletics. This book is about her life and is written in true Caster style, smart, witty and funny. It allows you to get to know the person and the elite athlete. You may not want to run the 800m but you will feel like getting up and starting your goal or dream. A painful but inspiring book.

Roshan Cader, Commissioning Editor, WUP

I would recommend Steven Friedman’s Good Jew Bad Jew as a non-fiction read that will shed light on how language gets distorted in the service of racism and maintaining power regarding the Israeli and Palestinian matter. An erudite analysis by one of South Africa’s most insightful and measured academics. Available via WUP.

Roshan Cader, Commissioning Editor, Wits University Press

For fiction, I would highly recommend Joanne Joseph’s Children of the Sugarcane. A heartachingly told historical fiction told through the perspective of female protagonist, Shanti, who escapes an arranged marriage in India and comes to the Natal colony as an indentured labourer. The novel is incredibly moving and gives emotion to a painful history of slavery and violence of British colonisation in South Africa and India. 

Kirsten Perkins, Production Editor, WUP

Corrupted by Jonathan Jansen, is an insightful look at the dysfunction and corruption in South African universities to unravel the root causes and restore their academic purpose. A must-read.

Kirsten Perkins, Production Editor, Wits University Press

The novel Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson, is a deep family story and mystery about two siblings who piece together their mother’s history after her death.  A moving read following their family in multiple places: the Caribbean, California and London. Perfect to get stuck into on holiday.

The historical fantasy Babel by RF Kaung, covers student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of language and translation as the dominating tools of the British Empire. It’s a fascinating look at the power of language and is perfect dark academia reading.

Corina van der Spoel, marketing coordinator, WUP

Two of my favourite authors have got new novels out. From Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole, the author of Open City, comes his third novel, Tremor. A book about art, music and literature, race and history and living a meaningful life. Questions that the book considers: As our understanding of history changes, how do we re-evaluate, interact with and enjoy art? How do we create new art that remembers but is unburdened by the past? I can’t wait.

Corina van der Spoel, Marketing Coordinator, Wits University Press

And from Canadian poet and writer Anne Michaels, writer of my favourite novel, Fugitive Pieces, comes after a long time a new novel, Held. In this novel she revisits themes of history, memory, the effects of trauma and grief in her wonderful lyrical and dreamy style of writing.

And I’ll be reading Wits Press author, uMbuso weNkosi’s ground-breaking sociological study of forced labour and violence in the potato fields of Bethal, Mpumalanga, in the 1950s: These Potatoes Look Like Humans: The Contested Future of Land, Home and Death in South Africa, for its unique understanding of the intersection between land and labour, dispossession and one’s connection to the land. Mbuso frames the chapters from the perspective of the eye. Who is looking, the workers’ eyes, the spiritual eye, also the potato’s eye - the sprout/tuber - all witnessing the violence on South Africa’s farmlands. Available via WUP.

Successful ageing in Africa

- Wits University

Decade-long partnership researching ageing in rural Mpumalanga awarded major multi-year NIH grant to expand nationally and focus on dementia, cognitive health.

Wits and Harvard are partners on the HAALSI study researching ageing in Africa_Pic Its hard out here for a 600x300

Researchers at Wits University in partnership with Harvard University, along with the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the South African Population Infrastructure Network (SAPRIN) in South Africa, and Columbia University in the US, received the grant from the US-based National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The funding will enable continuation – and national expansion – of the SA and US partners’ collaborative programme, Health and Aging in Africa: A Longitudinal Study in South Africa (HAALSI), which began in South Africa in 2013. 

HAALSI is an ongoing multidisciplinary population-based study with longitudinal data on social, economic, biological, physical and mental health factors in a cohort of 5 059 individuals, aged 40+, drawn from rural communities in the Agincourt-Bushbuckridge sub-district, South Africa.

Agincourt is both a large grouping of villages in Bushbuckridge sub-district in rural Mpumalanga province in South Africa and refers to the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)/Wits University Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit, the setting where HAALSI first began.

The SAMRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit is the research centre where more than 30 villages comprising 21 000 households and some 120 000 individuals have participated in public health and transitions research since the early 1990s. This Unit, integral to the Wits Rural Campus, is the research centre where more than 30 villages comprising 21 000 households and some 120 000 individuals have participated in public health and transitions research since the early 1990s.

Living longer but not healthier

HAALSI research addresses the critical question of successful ageing in vulnerable communities where older persons play vital roles supporting child development and schooling, and sustaining household economies. Work focuses on exploring the interrelationships between physical and cognitive functioning; Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias; lifestyle risk factors; household income and expenditure; depression and mental health; social networks and family composition; HIV infection; and cardiometabolic disease.

Stephen Tollman directs the SAMRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit and is Research Professor and Head of the Health and Population Division in the School of Public Health at Wits University. As Co-Principal Investigator (PI) of HAALSI, Tollman works closely with PI Lisa Berkman and co-PI Thomas Gaziano at Harvard, Murray Leibbrandt at UCT, and Wits School of Public Health colleagues Chodziwadziwa Kabudula, Xavier Gómez-Olivé,  Kathleen Kahn, Nomsa Mahlalela, Ryan Wagner and Jacques du Toit.

Wits Prof. Steve Tollman of MRC Wits Agincourt Unit is a commissioner of the Lancet Commission of migration and health, launch in SA on 1 August 2019

Tollman says, “South Africa is one of many African countries whose population experienced a boost in life expectancy thanks to the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy in response to the HIV epidemic, as well as general socioeconomic and health care improvements, including the older persons’ grant."

While overriding the short but significant mortality impacts of Covid-19, South Africa experienced a serious loss of the parental generation – hence the central role of older persons.

“These gains in life expectancy, unevenly spread, meant that the region also experienced unprecedented levels of chronic non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and emerging dementias, among its newly ageing population.” 

Cognitive health crisis affects Africa disproportionately

Cognition refers to the thought processes that take place in the brain, including thinking, attention, language, learning, memory, and perception – all essential to effective functioning.

Dementia, usually preceded by cognitive impairments that become more evident, involves progressive decline in cognitive function and behavioural ability, to the extent that it interferes with daily life, relationships, and activities.

Although Alzheimer’s Disease tends to be the most common type of dementia, there are many lifestyle-related causes. Work in Agincourt to date confirms that education, literacy, work, and social networks are all influential in delaying the onset of cognitive decline and dementias at a population level.  

There is currently no cure for dementias, adding urgency to the need to research its prevalence, causal pathways, prevention, and management, particularly in Africa.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of people suffering from dementia globally is projected to rise from 55 million (with over 60% living in low- and middle-income countries) to 78 million in 2030, and to 139 million by 2050.

“In this newly funded phase, we plan to expand the focus on cognitive ageing and dementias. The resulting evidence from HAALSI will not only convey insights from a region of the world where ageing is not well understood, but can be harmonized with other studies of dementia and ageing in low-, middle-, and high-income countries, helping to shed light on the nature of ageing within a global context,” says Tollman.

For the national expansion, the HAALSI team will actively engage South African policymakers and public health researchers including the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit at the UCT, SAPRIN, and the SAMRC.

Professor Glenda Gray, outgoing President and CEO of the SAMRC, was amongst the signatories who endorsed the grant proposal. She says, “The expansion of the HAALSI programme from rural Mpumalanga to the rest of South Africa is critical for us to deepen our understanding of cognitive health in Africa. This significant grant recognises the importance of prioritising rural public health and the burden of non-communicable diseases affecting increasingly ageing populations on our continent.”

Graduate exhibition showcases fine artists

- Wits University

NEWWORK23 is an exhibition of work by young artists in fulfilment of a Wits BA Fine Arts degree.

The NEWWORK project is a year-long collective experience of interventions, installations, exhibitions, fundraising events, and performances that culminate in the graduate exhibition.

The NEWWORK23 Graduate Exhibition features all fourth year and Honours students in the Department of Fine Arts in the Wits School of Arts.

These 48 artists work in a range of media including performance, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, multimedia installation, and interactive events. 

The exhibition took place on Thursday, 23 November, at Wits Art Museum (WAM), The Point of Order, and Arthouse Studios in Braamfontein.

Wits Fine Arts NEWWORK23 Class Prize winner Ntsako Nkuna on left and merit awards to Noa Hall in middle and Rethabile Padi

Here Ntsako Nkuna won the Class Prize, which is awarded to the student with the highest marks, while fellow students Noa Hall and Rethabile Padi received merit awards.

As with every graduating class of Fine Art students, their work implicitly and explicitly responds to the world in which the works are made. Every generation has sets of issues that inform them. This cohort had to grapple with a post #Feesmustfall university ecosystem, further exacerbated by a global pandemic, which arrested and re-arranged their course of study significantly.

In conversation with informative design

Class Prize winner Ntsako Nkuna says the inspiration for her body of work stems from the intricate world of design, both in its virtual and physical realm. “Design acts a ubiquitous presence in our daily lives. It’s something we interact with daily, and I think it has a lot of information embedded in it,” she says of her installation, in which she most appreciates “how the materials speak to each other visually and conceptually.”

Ntsako Nkuna won the Class Prize for the highest marks in Fine Arts at the NEWWORK23 graduate exhibition 600x300

“I think NEWWORK is a way to realise and share my efforts towards making a body of work to a bigger audience, and the fact that we could do this collectively adds more depth to the experience,” says Nkuna, who plans to practically explore the art world after graduating, and ultimately explore design and film and how these media can work together.

Installation by Ntsako Nkuna Class Prize winner Wits Fine Arts NEWWORK23 600x300

Navigating omissions in representation

Merit award winner Noa Hall is “curious as to how images hold the human body in its various iterations, and the performativity present within this relationship and action.” Drawing from material online, social media, the internet, film, and the tool of the smartphone as a documentation device, she “fragments images as a line of inquiry.”

Noa Hall merit awardee Wits Fine Arts NEWWORK23 600x300

“As an image-maker a concern that I have is around how one creates meaningful images in the contemporary moment of image proliferation?” explains Hall. “How does one navigate the omissions present in representation, and respond to images ethically, when it becomes increasingly difficult to do so because of their multitudinous nature?”  

Hall says she feels grateful to be validated by the School of Arts in her creative endeavours and to have had the opportunity to showcase her work. “Increasingly it feels like the work really only is activated when people interact with it,” she says.

Art by Noa Hall Wits Fine Arts merit awardee at NEWWORK23 600x300

Negotiating presence in public spaces

Merit awardee Rethabile Padi’s body of work Re Tla Kopana Ko Khoneng (We Will Meet at The Corner) explores the street corner in Johannesburg as a site and marker of exchange within the human and spiritual experience.

Rethabile Padi Wits Fine Arts merit awardee NEWWORK23 600x300

“My weekly routine of commuting with local taxis, Gautrain, or occasional e-hailing services around Jozi's inner city and outer suburbs, deeply influenced my ways of seeing and analyzing the landscape beyond the concrete infrastructure,” says Padi, who is constantly negotiating her existence and presence in public spaces. Through her work, she seeks “to interrogate what it means to occupy public space as an African woman.”

Padi says she’s grateful to have won a merit award because this acknowledges her potential. “The Wits Fine Arts Degree has pushed me to learn how to prioritize time, trust my intuition, my strength, and challenge myself in achieving more than I’d think I’m capable of despite any circumstances.”

Art by Rethabile Padi Wits Fine Arts merit awardee NEWWORK23 600x300

Collaboration, holding space, incubating excellence in arts 

Zen Marie, Academic Lead on the NEWWORK project and a Lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts, said, “There are subject matters that are incredibly difficult and challenging at times. It’s really not an over-statement to say that ‘anything goes’ on a programme like this. The task of managing this programme is incredibly intense and holding the space for this is not something I do by myself – it’s absolutely a collaborative effort. All of the academic staff in the Department work to supervise and mentor the fourth year and Honours group of students. That in itself is an incredibly intense, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic layer that all of my colleagues do, and I’d really like to give them all a huge thank you for supporting the students the way that they have done over the past four years.”

Marie paid tribute to the Department’s “incredibly talented support staff who work in areas of printmaking, photography, sculpture, and much more.” He acknowledged NEWWORK23 curator, Reshma Chhiba, who “gracefully, sensitively, and patiently curated Gallery 1.”

Marie concluded: “Lastly, I’d like to thank the stars of tonight – the class of 2023, whose labours over the past four years have been really incredible to see. It’s been a cold and arrested degree, but through that we’ve managed to come back to the spaces we’ve occupied, the studio spaces and the gallery spaces. A huge, huge thank from my side, from the staff of the Wits Department of Fine Arts to the class of 2023.”

The NEWWORX23 exhibition is on now at WAM until 10 February 2024. Participating artists include: 

  1.  Abigail Holloway 
  2. Abigale Calisse 
  3. Allister Bios 
  4. Art Nkosi 
  5. Assya Agbere 
  6. Bafana Masango 
  7. Bethany Leaman 
  8. Bonolo Molefe 
  9. Buqaqawuli Nobakada 
  10. Christopher Lindes 
  11. Chuma Adam 
  12. Deyna McDonald 
  13. Falzur Phillips 
  14. Joshua Alexander 
  15. Kaydon Minaar 
  16. Khaya Tshabalala 
  17. KhulekaniSiswe 
  18. Kuyasa Kela 
  19. Lara Da Rocha 
  20. Lazilizwi Dana 
  21. Lebogang Mashigo 
  22. Masindi Mbolekwa 
  23. Maxine Maistry 
  24. Mbali Mdikane 
  25. Megan Rumpelt 
  26. Mzwanele Tshishonga 
  27. Nhlahla Keele 
  28. Noa Hall 
  29. Nonhlanhla Dipuo 
  30. Ntsakisi Neluheni 
  31. Ntsako Nkuna 
  32. Olivia Pinter 
  33. Puseletso Masemene 
  34. Rethabile Padi 
  35. Rirhandzu Vermeulen 
  36. Roitwavholugaho Matamela 
  37. Rumbo Mercy 
  38. Sam Ngcobo 
  39. Sara Amir 
  40. Sichumile Adam 
  41. Simangaliso Sibiya 
  42. Sudhata Jurakan 
  43. Tiisetso Banda 
  44. Tiisetso Doubatla 
  45. Tshepo Bopape 
  46. Uthimna Gqangeni 
  47. Whitney Peterson 
  48. Zuzu Ndlaleni

Table treats from Dining Hall staff

- Wits University

Staff from Wits Dining Halls share dishes for the festive season as well as budget friendly meals for January.

Cresan Ramjathan, Executive Chef: Wits Dining Halls

Cresan Ramjathan, Executive Chef of Wits Dining Halls, has simple recipes for the festive season. Ramjathan, who joined Wits in March 2023, oversees the operations of all dining halls on campus and needs to ensure that food served powers students to success. The former Blue Train and Sun International gastronome is familiar with serving discerning palates and thrives on creating unique and sensory experiences.

Wits Communications put asked the culinary wizard to share easy and affordable dishes for this season. Try the Beef Roast and budget friendly chicken curry and cheesy mince bake.

Veronica Lephalala, Operations Manager at Wits Dining Halls.

Veronica Lephalala, Operations Manager at Wits Dining Halls joined Wits in 2012 as the operations administrator, working in the Retail Section under the Services Department with the responsibility of overseeing all retail stores on campus. This includes those at the Matrix student complex, Solomon Mahlangu House, Origins Centre, Wits Art Museum and all Parktown campuses. She was appointed into her current role in April 2021 and manages the overall operations of the dining halls, and staff and HR related matters - all with the aim of ensuring that service delivery is at its best, especially Wits students and conference visitors.

She is passionate about food safety and that HACCP principles are followed in all dining halls to provide #EATSAFE Campus as the “catering industry involves a huge risk and a lot can go wrong if proper procedures and processes are not followed and managed,” she says.

These are just some of her favourite quick and easy to make recipes and not expensive. These include breakfast options such as vegan french toast and standard french toast, honey glazed gammon, dessert and budget-friendly tinned fish meals.

Safety and security tips from CPS

- Wits University

Wits' crime prevention expert wants Witsies to stay safe on and off campus, especially during the holidays. Read his advice to minimise incidents.

As South Africans prepare to unwind and spend time with family and friends, it is important to remember to take care of yourself and your family.

Sylvan Changuion, Crime Prevention & Liaison Manager at Wits Campus Protection Service (CPS) shares tips and resources to keep you and your family safe at home, on the road and while having fun this joyous time of year. Changuion has a long history in crime prevention having worked within the corporate and private sector in roles specifically aimed at assessing risk and developing measures to mitigate risk. He spent considerable time with the Child Protection Unit as an investigator as well as providing close protection services to 'at-risk individuals' and high nett worth persons.

Sylvan Changuion, Crime Prevention & Liaison Manager at Wits Campus Protection Services

Free Emergency Mobile Panic Button

Wits has teamed up with mySOS to help students and staff when faced with an emergency on and off campus. Download the mySOS app onto your smartphone and have instant access to 24/7 emergency services nationwide. mySOS is free of charge and available from the App Store and Google Play. For more information on how mySOS can help you, click here. 

Wits mySOS App offers

Advice to keep your home safe include:

Keep your home safe during the holiday season. Follow these tips to ensure your home is protected for any potential criminal attacks.

  • Arrange with your neighbours to take out the postal mail. Unattended mail says that nobody is home.
  • Make sure you have good lighting. Don’t leave the outside lights on during the day.
  • Don’t let too many people know when you are going on holiday, only those you trust.
  • Make sure your doors lock properly and that you have burglar bars.
  • If your house is broken into, notify the police and armed response company (if applicable) immediately.

If you are going on a road trip:

Many holidaymakers will be traveling on South Africa's roads this holiday season use the following road tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey for you and your family.

  • Buckle up.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Keep a safe following distance.
  • Always be aware of your immediate surroundings as you approach or leave your vehicle.
  • Plan your trip, the route you will travel and where you will stop and rest overnight.
  • Make sure your car is road worthy.
  • Make sure you have a spare wheel and that it is in good condition and a jack.
  •  Make sure your luggage is in the trunk and that is closed properly.
  • Don’t approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area.
  • Keep all of your car doors locked and your windows closed while in or out of your car. Be sure to set your alarm or use an anti-theft device.

If you are travelling at night:

  • Try to avoid driving alone or at night.
  • Get enough sleep the night before a long trip, at least six hours.
  • Stop every two hours, taking 15-minute breaks. Pull over at a safe stop and rest for a little while.
  • Avoid driving between 01:00 am and 5:00 am.
  • Be on the lookout for suspicious-looking people or vehicles.
  • Know where you are going, do not use unfamiliar routes to get home.
  • Lock your doors and close your windows.
  • If you are bumped from behind, head to the nearest police station or place of safety.
  • Never leave keys in your ignition to open gates.
  •  Don’t wait for your passengers, drive around the block, or get out of the car and lock the doors.
  • Beware criminals now pretend to be hitchhikers.
  • Do not get out to assist someone who seems to be in trouble. Inform the police by dialling the national emergency number 112 on your cellphone.

To ensure your safety while shopping:

Shopping centers are always a buzzing during the holiday season and sadly, crime increases during this time of the year, so it’s important to take the necessary steps to keep you and your family safe during shopping trips.

  • Never put your purse in the boot before entering a store. It doesn’t work, and thieves watch for you to do this in parking lots. It’s better to take the purse with you and carry it safely.
  • Never carry large amounts of cash. If you must, put it in your front pocket and try not to display it when paying at the till.
  • Ensure your money is not visible, especially large amounts.
  • Never leave gifts or anything of value visible inside your vehicle.
  • Don’t leave valuables in the trolley.
  • Hold your child’s hand and be alert of them at all times. Always accompany them to the bathroom.
  • If you must shop at night, park in a well-lit area – avoid parking in areas that do not have lights.
  • Park as close as you can to your destination and be sure to note where you parked.
  • Do not leave your car unoccupied with the motor running or with children or pets inside.

Water safety tips:

The risk of drowning tragically increases with hot weather, and drowning can occur anywhere and to anyone. It is important to constantly assess any potential risks around water, particularly where children are concerned.

  • Ensure children have an adult present when swimming.
  • When you are entertaining a group of children or adults, have a designated water watcher who is responsible for keeping track of everyone.
  • Never leave children unattended in or around pools - not even for a second.
  • Only swim in a public pool or ocean if there is a lifeguard on duty.
  •  Never dive into the water unless the lifeguard says it is safe to do so.
  • Never run along the edge of a swimming pool or push people in.
  • Stay away from diving boards when in the pool.
  • Always keep chairs and tables away from the pool fence to keep children from using them to climb over the fence.
  • Do not allow anyone of any age to swim alone - drowning happens to adults too.

Campus Protection Service numbers

CPS is available at these numbers 24/7. The numbers below are also available at the back of your access card.

  • East Campus: (011) 717 4444 / 6666
  • West Campus (011) 717 1842
  • Health Sciences Campus: (011) 717 2222 / 2232
  • Education Campus: (011) 717 3340
  • Management School: (011) 717 3589
  • External Office Corner De Korte and Station Street (011) 717 6192

Sources: Wits Campus Protection Service, SAPS, Department of Transport, SANRAL and City of Johannesburg.

Balancing Finances

- Kaelo

December is a month of excesses and can burn a hole in the pocket. Avoid Janua-Worry through these tips.

Exercise discipline and avoid overspending by budgeting carefullyKaelo Lifestyle, administrators of Wits University's Employee Assist Programme, offers suggestions on how to manage finances this season.

One word that can help protect your financial well-being this festive season is discipline! Year-end is a notoriously expensive time with holidays, festivities, gifts, entertainment, and transport all eating into your wallet.

Getting swept up in festive fun may tempt you to blow your budget and splurge, but that will only make New Year and January become Janu-Worry. Resist the temptation to break the bank and rather use your money to reduce your debt and prepare for a healthy financial year in 2024. Here are some tips to keep you on the straight and narrow…


If you’re lucky enough to get a bonus this December, use it to pay off your debt – like your mortgage bond, your credit card, store accounts or your car loan


If you’re fortunate enough to be debt free, use your 13th cheque or bonus to save for the future – earning compound interest or investing in a tax-free savings plan can help you beat inflation and grow your future nest egg


The best gift you can give your family is a stable financial future. Avoid expensive gifts and holidays you can’t really afford. Rather consider small and personal items – home-made things like framed photos, bath salts, sugar body scrubs, festive wreaths, sweet jars and spiced oils, vinegars, jams and pickles


Prepare a holiday budget taking into account the things you need to buy in January, like higher insurance fees, school uniforms, stationery and related fees – be realistic and stick to your budget!

Remember AskNelson advisors are available to help Wits employees with any financial matters, counselling, legal advice or coaching needs. Counselling services are available free of charge, in all South African languages and can also be used by family members including children and other dependents. 

Tel: 0861 635 766 or dial *134*928#

Send a 'please call me' to 072 620 5699




Wits Business School and Absa launch a Chair in Future Energy

- Wits University

The Absa chair in Future Energy to enable the development of a new energy modelling laboratory.

Wits Business School and Absa launch a Chair in Future Energy

Wits Business School (WBS) announced a ground-breaking collaboration with Absa. The newly formed Absa Chair in Future Energy will house the laboratory, which will model real-time impacts to energy systems and value chains of a range of factors, such as technology disruption, climate change and changes in consumption patterns. The aim is to understand, predict and adapt to changes in energy supply and consumption from multiple sources.

Speaking at the launch of the Absa Chair in Future Energy at WBS, Professor Lwazi Ngubevana, Director of the African Energy Leadership Centre (AELC), said: “WBS and the AELC are committed to finding sustainable, long-term solutions to Africa’s energy crisis. We are extremely grateful to Absa for their funding of the Chair in Future Energy. This is a significant move forward in our quest to find ways, through research and data analytics, to optimise and balance energy supply and demand for the future wellbeing of our country and continent, especially given the region’s growing population.”

The R6 million funding from Absa will be directed over the next three years towards research into future energy modelling as well as access to computing resources to perform the complex modelling required. Work has already begun on this project and the first research paper, written by Prof Ngubevana and Post-doctoral Fellow, Dr Mgcini Tshwaku, titled “Energy Forecasting Models in developed and developing countries: A literature review,” was submitted to the WIREs Energy and Environment Journal.

According to Steven Zwane, Managing Executive of Corporate Citizenship at Absa Group, the funding reinforces Absa’s commitment to being an active force for good in everything that it does. “This investment is just one of the ways in which we are contributing to finding solutions to some of our country’s major challenges. By helping to strengthen the research capacity of WBS, we are supporting the institution’s ability to enable innovation in the energy sector, which will ultimately support efforts to create jobs and grow our economy, while addressing the energy crisis,” he said.

“Absa is proud to collaborate with WBS on this initiative,” said Justin Schmidt, Head of Manufacturing, Renewable Energy, Transport and Logistics at Absa Relationship Banking. “The energy sector in South Africa and Africa is changing ever so rapidly and has significant potential to make a meaningful contribution towards job creation and economic growth. The research through WBS will assist the private and public sector to make the most of technological advancements in energy, which is key for the localisation of the sector to increase at pace.”

“Absa looks forward to using this research – not only to create more enriched value propositions for clients, but to also advance the industry as a whole and bring further growth opportunities to the country,” Schmidt added.

The benefits of the research will be a deeper understanding of the impact of technological change, regulatory lags, climate change and climate-based market intervention, and social instability on energy supply and demand. Previously, these impacts had to be modelled in isolation, which reduced the accuracy of predictions.

The findings of the research will have application for government, agencies, researchers and the private sector to help to ensure that future energy supply is more resilient, more closely aligned to customer demand, more environmentally sensitive and more cost-effective for the consumer.

“As a business school, it is vital that we add our voice to the conversation around the energy mix in South Africa. Through the AELC, we are developing a pipeline of effective leaders who can manage the sector’s multiple challenges and now, through the Absa Chair in Future Energy, we are able to use data to help build an integrated plan for the country’s future energy mix,” says Prof Maurice Radebe, Head and Director of WBS.

The Absa Chair in Future Energy will provide numerous opportunities for post-doctoral, PhD and Master’s students at WBS to contribute to research and analysis of energy modelling. The research outputs will be made available to other African researchers working on similar problems.