Enactus Introduces SmartGro App to Minimise the Spread of COVID-19 Among Students

Enactus Introduces SmartGro App to Minimise the Spread of COVID-19 Among Students
The SmartGro web-based application developed by Enactus UKZN.

With the partial opening of universities under lockdown Level 3, Enactus UKZN is getting geared up to deliver students’ needs with their web-based application, SmartGro Essential Services.

As one of the 14 global Enactus teams chosen as finalists in the Ford Fund COVID-19 College Challenge, Enactus UKZN developed SmartGro to minimise the spread of the virus.

The web-based application allows customers to buy their essential grocery needs and have them delivered from the comfort and safety of their homes. It currently operates in and around the Durban Central Business District and has been operational since the beginning of April 2020.

Primarily developed for students, SmartGro extended its service offerings to households who needed them the most after the national lockdown was announced two weeks before their launch. With the re-opening of universities, Enactus says they are focused on targeting the student market as they return to campuses and student residences. This will prevent large numbers of students from travelling to and from their residences and safeguard them from being exposed to COVID-19 in supermarkets, buses and taxis.

As an initiative developed by students for students, SmartGro will offer a variety of healthy cost-effective meals and bulk purchase discounts. It will enable students to buy food products from other student businesses; share student-friendly recipes; and will provide virtual financial literacy and digital budgeting workshops for financially illiterate students, alleviating poor financial management, which is a contributor to food insecurity. The “buy a student groceries” drive will be launched to enable the University community to support needy students to fight food insecurity.

Managed by eight students, SmartGro ensures that all delivery personnel are equipped with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), putting the safety of their staff and customers first. 

They have also partnered with Wa Azania Aroma to provide products that protect against the coronavirus including 70% alcohol concentrated hand sanitisers, anti-bacterial tea tree hand liquid soap, anti-bacterial shower gel and a lemongrass soap bar. 

To place your order on SmartGro please click on the link https://www.smartgro.co.za/

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Lecturer Honoured with Eugene Weinberg Medal Award

UKZN Lecturer Honoured with Eugene Weinberg Medal Award
Dr Reratilwe Mphahlele.

Development lecturer and PhD candidate in the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health in the School of Clinical Medicine, Dr Reratilwe Mphahlele has been honoured by the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) with the Eugene Weinberg Medal for 2019 for her excellent performance towards obtaining the Diploma in Allergology offered by the College of Family Physicians.

Mphahlele, who works in the Asthma Clinic at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital said she was pleasantly surprised to win the award and is excited by the doors it will open. She was inspired to study for the diploma by the increasing burden of allergy and allergic disorders among South African children, many of whom remain undiagnosed, with no access to treatment.

The Diploma in Allergology is offered by the CMSA’s College of Family Physicians. It is aimed at specialists and non-specialists and assesses competence in general and safe management of common allergic disorders.

Mphahlele said she is motivated by academic-clinicians like Professors Refiloe Masekela and Prakash Jeena and Dr Stanley Thula who encourage her to keep learning, solve problems and be accountable in her work.

‘Dr Ahmed Manjra, the first Eugene Weinberg Medallist in 2003, was our group mentor and inspired me to pass the baton. I have personal experience and identify with millions of South Africans who face challenges due to asthma and allergy. I am motivated to stay updated and find solutions to these rising problems,’ she said.

Mphahlele is currently completing a PhD focusing on asthma in school-going children in KwaZulu-Natal. She has conducted notable research on Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder that causes malnutrition and lung problems. Common in populations of European descent, it has become increasingly prevalent in other populations worldwide, including Africans.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

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DVC Weighs in on the Place of Indigenous Foods in the Curriculum

DVC Weighs in on the Place of Indigenous Foods in the Curriculum
Professor Albert Modi.Click here for isiZulu version

Professor Albert Modi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science recently participated in a webinar on the benefits of eating local, indigenous foods.

The 101 Reasons to Eat Local webinar was presented by VKB and digital news site Food For Mzansi as part of their annual Power Talk series, usually hosted on University campuses but now expanded to an online event in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Event host Ms Dawn Noemdoe was joined by Modi; award-wining chef and cookbook author Ms Nompumelelo Mqwebu; researcher at the Mangosuthu University of Technology’s Institute for Rural Development and Community Engagement Mr Qinisani Qwabe; and vegetable and ornamental plant researcher Dr Willem Jansen van Rensburg from the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).

‘It has become clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed new emphasis on mindful or conscious eating,’ said Noemdoe. ‘Many South Africans are…trying to figure out their own role in the provision of long-term food security solutions.’

The panellists emphasised the need to move away from perceptions that indigenous foods are a “poor man’s food”, and highlighted the wide variety of African vegetable species referred to by this term, as well as their economic, cultural and ecological value.

Modi, who is an agronomist by training and has focused much of his research on under-utilised, indigenous or traditional and crops, advocated for the inclusion of these crops in curricula.

‘We should take advantage of the environmental situation where these indigenous crops are found to ask questions related to the key issues of hunger and poverty, food insecurity, climate change, and even COVID-19,’ he said.

Modi suggested that, if these crops and the indigenous knowledge systems they link to were to form part of decolonised education systems, researchers and practitioners could produce African expertise to contribute to a global body of knowledge and sustainable food systems, and preserve knowledge about them. He emphasised the need for science and education systems to support small-scale farmers producing the crops and improve their lives.

Modi acknowledged UKZN and other research funders including the National Research Foundation, the Water Research Commission (WRC), the South African National Biodiversity Institute, national and local government departments of agriculture, and the ARC for their support of his work over the years, and also expressed gratitude to the rural women with whom he has collaborated on his research.

Specifically, the WRC has funded three* flagship projects on indigenous crops since 2007. A new project focusing on indigenous root and tuber crops, also funded by the WRC, started in April this year.

Jansen van Rensburg, who completed his PhD in Plant Breeding at UKZN, provided insight into the commercial potential of African vegetables, the need for cultivars, the challenges facing production of these crops, notably marketing, and the need to document indigenous knowledge.

Qwabe highlighted the socio-economic value of farming with traditional crops and livestock in South Africa, saying that these foods are unique in society and culture and define the identity and dignity of indigenous people. He also noted the important role they play in agri-ecosystems, and the need for policy to protect these crops.

Mqwebu addressed the importance of the whole agricultural value chain in the promotion of traditional foods, as well as her passion for the inclusion of African gastronomy in the culinary sphere.

Panellists highlighted the positive traits of traditional foods, from their nutritional value to their low input requirements, and resultant benefits for consumers, the economy, and the environment.

http://www.wrc.org.za/wp-content/uploads/mdocs/TT%20710-17.pdf
http://www.wrc.org.za/wp-content/uploads/mdocs/KV362_172.pdf
http://www.wrc.org.za/wp-content/uploads/mdocs/1771-1-131.pdf

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod


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Humanities Student Publishes Book on Finishing Your Qualification in Record Time

Humanities Student Publishes Book on <em>Finishing Your Qualification in Record Time</em>
Mr Sanele Gamede with his new book.

PhD student in Social Sciences, Mr Sanele Gamede hopes that his second book, Finishing Your Qualification in Record Time, a Student Guide will assist learners and students.

‘The book addresses two problems I have been researching for more than eight years, namely, choosing the right career as a learner and finishing your chosen career/qualification in record time. Your career choice influences finishing your qualification,’ said Gamede. ‘The book consists of two parts. Part 1 is for learners and it provides a guide on how to choose a career. Part 2 is directed towards tertiary students and offers suggestions on finishing your qualification in record time.’

Gamede is a Youth Life and a Career Coach, a lecturer at Varsity College, author of The Graduate Pack, A Practical Guide for Job Seekers and the founder and CEO of Ilada Holdings, a personal development and training company. ‘I hope that the government can make two copies available to each public library, especially in rural areas, so that learners and students can access it,’ he added.

The book can be purchased at Pro Visions Books, Adams Booksellers, Van Schaik Bookstore or via www.rurl.co.za/record

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Alumnus and East Coast Radio Presenter Releases New Single

UKZN Alumnus and East Coast Radio Presenter Releases New Single
UKZN alumnus, Ms Minenhle Ntuli.

College of Humanities alumnus, former Idols contestant, and East Coast Radio presenter and musician, Ms Minenhle Ntuli has released her first solo single iNtaba, which is about love.

‘This song is for all those in long-distance relationships and those separated from their loved ones because of lockdown. It is all about those mountains that are separating or hindering couples from being together. It is inspiring couples to stay strong because it will all be over soon,’ she said.

The single is available on digital streaming platforms such as iTunes, Spotify, YouTube and Deezer.

‘This new journey makes me so emotional. I did not know that one day I would be brave enough to release my own body of work. It honestly means the world to me that I can finally give the world what is in my heart,’ said Ntuli.

She thanked the UKZN community for supporting her over the years and offered the following advice to students: ‘Always remember that the minute you decide to quit you stand no chance to win. Never stop doing what you love because no can say no forever... opportunities will come your way.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Student aims to Improve Hospital-Based Cancer Surveillance System

UKZN Student aims to Improve Hospital-Based Cancer Surveillance System
Miss Noluthando Patricia Mbeje recently completed her MMedSci degree.Click here for isiZulu version

Multinational Lung Cancer Control Programme (MLCCP) cancer Registrar in the Discipline of Public Health Medicine, Miss Noluthando Patricia Mbeje’s PhD research focuses on improving the hospital-based cancer surveillance system in KwaZulu-Natal, particularly the completeness and accuracy of cancer surveillance data in hospitals.

She recently completed her MMedSci under the supervision of Drs Nkosana Jafta and Themba Ginindza.

Her study titled: The Burden of Lung Cancer and Associated Risk Factors in KwaZulu-Natal aimed to determine the incidence of all types of cancer in public hospitals in Durban and Pietermaritzburg including the associated risk factors of lung cancer.

This was achieved by establishing a cancer surveillance system in three public health facilities in the two cities.

‘Hospital-based cancer surveillance was successfully established in the three health facilities that have oncology departments in KwaZulu-Natal,’ said Mbeje. 

She added that the highest number of newly diagnosed cancer cases in 2018 was at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital (65.3%), followed by Greys Hospital with 30.8% and Addington Hospital with the lowest at 3.94%. The most commonly diagnosed cancers for all three facilities combined were breast, cervix, Kaposi sarcoma, lymph nodes, lungs, oesophagus, colon, prostate, endometrium and vulva. The age standardised ratio for all cancers diagnosed in 2018 was 20.2 per 100 000 persons in KwaZulu-Natal.

‘The lung cancer risk factors component of the study which was a case control study found that tobacco smoking and passive smoke exposure are major causes of lung cancer,’ said Mbeje.

‘Increased exposure to occupational and environmental carcinogenic substances also increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Alcohol consumption, and a history of lung disease are also important risk factors.’

This surveillance provided essential information about the incidence of cancer in the public health facilities in KwaZulu-Natal and can contribute to strengthening the national cancer registry legislation.

‘The findings of the risk factor sub-study will inform policy development and the planning of prevention strategies incorporating smoking legislation, and occupational health and safety,’ said Mbeje.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Law Students Represent UKZN in a Virtual Model Legislature Session

Law Students Represent UKZN in a Virtual Model Legislature Session
From left: Team members Ms Siwaphiwe Mathenjwa, Mr Nkululeko Shabalala and Ms Sithembiso Khumalo.Click here for isiZulu version

Ms Siwaphiwe Mathenjwa, Mr Nkululeko Shabalala and Ms Sithembiso Khumalo participated in the inaugural Virtual Model Legislature Session hosted by the South African Institute of International Affairs.

The series, which covered all the country’s provinces, is part of an initiative to encourage the youth to reflect on the impact of COVID-19 in their province and South Africa, and how they can work to support the mandates of the provincial legislature/parliament.

It offers an opportunity for young people to engage in debate and negotiations whilst representing the views of young people in their communities and working together to develop a youth response for life beyond COVID-19. Participants present their conclusions for submission to the provincial legislature.

Mathenjwa, who is the team captain, said that based on first-hand experience, they decided to focus on the impacts of COVID-19 on the education sector.

‘The team and I examined the educational obstacles faced by students with disabilities. There is frustration and fear that these students will miss out on critical learning skills as their parents are not well trained to home school them and do not have the necessary equipment that the school might have had in aiding their development,’ she explained.

To prepare for the debate, the team researched and engaged the following issues:

•    How they envision KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa beyond COVID-19

•    The negative and positive impacts of COVID-19 on the province’s communities and the environment

•    What should be prioritised in crafting a sustainable future for all while trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19?

•    How should the provincial legislature/provincial parliament tackle the climate crisis during and post the COVID-19 pandemic?

•    What stakeholders (youth, community leaders, non-governmental organisations, business, health workers, educators) will ensure successful implementation of legislation?

‘Part of the issue with regard to the education sector is that the last quarter which we were denied by corona is usually spent on assessment. We hence appeal to the government not to rush into promoting students to the next grade because that will increase quantity over quality. We submit that after the pandemic the province should look into changing the education offered in Higher Education Institutions because the demand disciplines are going to decline. For example, we should look at promoting more programmes around health,’ said Mathenjwa.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

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UN Water Analytical Brief Cites Research by UKZN Senior Professor and Alumnus

UN Water Analytical Brief Cites Research by UKZN Senior Professor and Alumnus
Professor Michael Savage (left) and Dr Mussie Fessehaye.

Senior Professor Michael Savage of the Discipline of Agrometeorology and his former student Dr Mussie Fessehaye of the University of Bern, have had their research on fog-water collection referenced in a technical report by United Nations Water on unconventional water resources.

The analytical brief highlights the impact of water scarcity on sustainable development, social unrest and conflict, and human migration, and emphasises the need to explore solutions to water scarcity as the problem is exacerbated by climate change and population growth.

Describing conventional methods of water provisioning, such as rainfall, river runoff and groundwater as being over-exploited, the report explores unconventional water resources to close the demand-supply gap for freshwater in an era of growing water scarcity.

The unconventional water augmentation opportunities covered in the brief include fog-water harvesting; cloud seeding; micro-catchment rainwater harvesting; deep onshore and offshore groundwater; municipal wastewater; agricultural drainage water; iceberg towing; ballast water; and desalinated water. The brief also examines how to address barriers by creating an enabling environment through policy, education, community participation and more.

Savage and Fessehaye’s contribution came from a review that focused on the role of fog-water in household livelihood improvement and economic development.

In their 2014 paper on fog-water collection for community use, published in Elsevier’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Fessehaye, Savage and other co-authors discuss the evidence of fog interception in natural systems and the history of fog-water collection in various countries over time. Fog-water collection has been considered as a potential alternative or supplementary water resource since the early 19th century. They reviewed the climatic and topographic features essential for fog formation and the technology needed to collect it.

Developing countries, particularly those in arid or semi-arid regions with conditions that favour fog-water collection, have commenced such collection, and Fessehaye and Savage reviewed the technology of fog collection, saying it is simple, cost-effective and energy-free, yet is also seasonal, localised, and utilises technology that must be maintained. They recommend that technical, economic, social, cultural and management factors be addressed in the planning and implementation of the technology to ensure its sustainability.

The UN Water analytical brief explored various aspects of fog-water collection, the conditions that result in fog, and the systems used to collect it. In a section dealing with economic and financial aspects, the brief cites research by Fessehaye and co-authors on the cost of fog-water collection compared to other water sources, noting the comparative low maintenance of fog-water collection systems and the local, small-scale nature of the systems that connect communities to their land and reduce forced migration.

Fessehaye and Savage’s work was also cited in the discussion on education and capacity-building needs where fog-water systems are identified as community-run systems established with professional support, and as solutions to free up time that would be used for water collection for the pursuit of education and business, particularly by women and girls.

Fessehaye completed his Master’s in Agrometeorology at UKZN in 2003 and his PhD at the University of Bern in 2018, where he is now pursuing postdoctoral research.

Words: Christine Cuénod

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The COVID-19 Pandemic and its Impact on Gender-Based Violence: A Global Review

The COVID-19 Pandemic and its Impact on Gender-Based Violence: A Global Review
Professor Shanta Balgobind Singh (left) and Dr Patrick Bashizi Bashige Murhula.

- By Dr Patrick Bashizi Bashige Murhula and Professor Shanta Balgobind Singh

Around the world, there has been concern about the rise in the number of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases as governments have placed their citizens under lockdown to avoid the spread of COVID-19. According to the United Nations Policy Brief (2020) on COVID-19, GBV is increasing exponentially due to economic and social stress, coupled with restricted movement and social isolation. Many victims are forced to “stay in confinement” at home with their abusers while support services for victims are disrupted or inaccessible.

Despite the scarcity of available data, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, China, South Africa and other countries have reported an increase in cases of GBV since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. In the United Kingdom, there has been a 120% increase in incidents of domestic violence (Grierson, 2020). In China, the number of GBV cases reported in Jingzhou, Hubei Province, tripled in February 2020, compared to the same period the previous year (Allen-Ebrahimian, 2020). In South Africa, a report from the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) states that the number of GBV cases has risen by 500% since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown (Nehawu, 2020).

It is a fact that during pandemics such as COVID-19, measures to control the spread of the disease dramatically change the environment in which victims of GBV live, increasing their vulnerability to abuse, neglect, violence, exploitation and psychological distress. This calls for multi-sectorial services at all levels to be strengthened and enhanced. Victims must have the right to protection and access to services. As stated by Michelle Bachelet, the Head of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR, 2020): ‘Services must be based upon victims’ needs and safety… Services must be effectively co-ordinated in development and humanitarian contexts and include health sector response to gender-based violence including reproductive health, medical and psychosocial support; adequate police and justice response including legal aid to survivors; and economic services… .’

Furthermore, states around the world must increase efforts to raise awareness of the criminal nature of GBV and all services available to victims. Such measures and services should include physical and mental healthcare services, and police and justice services. All cases of GBV during COVID-19 must be effectively investigated and the perpetrators brought to book despite the pressure placed on policing capacity during lockdown.

Dr Patrick Bashizi Bashige Murhula and Professor Shanta Balgobind Singh are lecturers in Criminology and Forensic Studies at UKZN.

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Criminologists Publish Research on the Role and Place of COVID-19 as an Outbreak of Cyber-Crime Vector

Criminologists Publish Research on the Role and Place of COVID-19 as an Outbreak of Cyber-Crime Vector
Dr Sogo Angel Olofinbiyi (left) and Professor Shanta Balgobind Singh have published an article in the International Journal of Criminology and Sociology.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Sogo Angel Olofinbiyi and Professor Shanta Balgobind Singh of the Department of Criminology and Forensic Studies’ article on the novel coronavirus as an outbreak of cyber-crime vector has been published in the International Journal of Criminology and Sociology. T

he article presents a number of the world’s most recent cyber insecurity cases that accompanied the pandemic’s onset.

The disruption of day-to-day business and personal activities resulted in people moving online, presenting opportunities to cyber invaders. The article presents a framework for a safety and emergency management approach to protect citizens and institutions from cyberattacks. The authors call for global sensitisation and awareness programmes on the potential danger of cyber insecurity accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic.

All organisations should ensure that they have appropriate measures in place to respond to a data breach should one occur. Their IT teams and internet security experts should be prepared to respond rapidly to any threat. There is also an urgent need to ensure that all computer systems are resistant to cyber threats. This requires that employees’ cyber hygiene be fortified with powerful anti-virus software that is sensitive to external invasion.

Protecting personal and confidential information should be part of all organisations’ COVID-19 response plan and employees that are working remotely should be updated on what to do in a cyber-emergency.

Words: NdabaOnline

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“It Dusked, it Dawned”: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Lockdown Regulations in South Africa

“It Dusked, it Dawned”: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Lockdown Regulations in South Africa
Mr Luthando Molefe and Miss Yolokazi Mfuto.

- By Mr Luthando Molefe and Miss Yolokazi Mfuto

When the lockdown in South Africa began three months ago, we made jokes about staying at home and doing nothing. We even had challenges on social media where we teased each other, laughed and enjoyed our “free” time. However, students in all institutions of higher learning were engulfed with anxiety and confusion about the online/remote learning they were about to embark on. Many were anxious because in the coming months, they were to be conferred with their hard-earned qualifications.

Although we had confidence in ourselves and knew we had the potential to direct our own learning, many could not fathom out how to study at home, as our homes are not conducive for learning.

We thus not only made jokes and took part in social media challenges, but also lamented the challenges we would inevitably face as a result of the lockdown. Unemployment, gender-based violence and other kinds of abuse threaten our mental and physical stability. We knew that COVID-19 was not only a health issue, but a socio-economic and spatial one. It exposed the economic disparities confronting South Africa, with many households brought to their knees by the pandemic. While the government did increase social grants and accommodated the poor, vulnerable and unemployed, the majority of South Africans live in abject poverty.

As community outreach and development persons who are concerned with providing help to marginalised and vulnerable people, we used this critical period to be a voice for the voiceless. We explored various ways in which we can meet the government halfway, muck in and be of help to people who may need our help.

For us, this was and continues to be directed towards transforming societies in these unprecedented times. With the lockdown rules and regulations in place, we were obliged to stay indoors and offer “distant help” to those in need. We were forced to embark on a journey we have never been on before, which is “online community engagement”.

There is no doubt that the “new normal” will be our normal now. It made us appreciate helping those within our reach. In this “new normal”, we had to resort to hosting events virtually; online career guidance to high school learners and out-of-school youth; online tutoring/teaching and engagement in some helpful online talks. This helped a large number of learners who were on the brink of losing hope. The motivation sessions also made a huge difference. Whether we like the situation or not, with or without the virus, we vowed to be agents of change. We know that the going is getting tough and that things will never be the same again, but positive lessons can be drawn from this. Teaching and learning can take place everywhere and anytime if opportunities are created. Where there is a will, there is a way.

We encourage South Africans to never give up. We should not write ourselves off. Let us go back and rekindle the tips we gave each other during the first week of lockdown. Let us embrace the “new normal” and be active citizens. It starts with you! As the saying goes “kwahlwa, kwasa” (it dusked, it dawned).

Mr Luthando Molefe is a postgraduate student (Teacher Development Studies) and a Research Assistant at UKZN’s School of Education. Miss Yolokazi Mfuto is a postgraduate student (Political Science and International Relations) at the University of Fort Hare’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities.

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The Impact of COVID-19 on Project Managers in the Construction Industry

The Impact of COVID-19 on Project Managers in the Construction Industry
From left: Mr Moses Nyathi, Dr Simon Taylor and Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches.

- By Mr Moses Nyathi, Dr Simon Taylor and Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches

The global COVID-19 pandemic has presented project managers with “unknown unknowns” which will inevitably change the dynamics of risk management. Project managers in the construction industry are usually responsible for more than one project at a time. Construction project managers in South Africa and abroad will have to revisit and update the project risk management plan of each project in their portfolio. These updates or changes will be dependent on the specific project stage but will have to be made in line with COVID-19 disaster management regulations. Construction project managers will therefore have to be particularly cognisant of the updates pertaining to the COVID-19 disaster management regulations.

South Africa currently has five levels of lockdown and each has a different set of regulations. Regulations are updated at the change of each lockdown level. Selected construction project managers in civil engineering were able to operate during level four of lockdown, which ended on 31 May 2020, while others in the building spectrum are permitted to operate in the remaining three levels.

In general, a project life cycle consists of four major stages: project initiation, planning, execution and closure (Frimpong & Oluwoye, 2018). In brief, project initiation entails the approval of the construction project charter, which marks the existence of the project, and typically details high-level project requirements such as the budget, scope, schedule, success criteria and key risks. This is followed by project planning which comprises a comprehensive refined project budget, schedule, risks, scope and any other important project feature requirements. Subsequently, the project goes to tender and project execution, which entails the implementation of the project plan. The last stage of the project life cycle is project closure, when construction has been completed. Updating the project risk management plan will translate to re-examining the overall effects of COVID-19 regulations on all the project stages. 

Based on the aforementioned project life cycle stages, there is a high risk of employees contracting COVID-19 in all construction projects which are currently in the project initiation, planning or execution stages. However, completed projects at the closure stage carry minimum risk. For construction projects which were either at project initiation or planning stage at the beginning of lockdown in South Africa, revised plans which now incorporate current COVID-19 regulations as well as future regulation implications have to be taken into account. For projects which were already at the execution stage, the project plan may have to be updated, taking into account the required person-hours, budget and social distancing regulations. It can be assumed that the majority of construction projects which had reached the execution stage when the lockdown commenced are currently behind schedule. Under normal circumstances, project crashing and fast-tracking techniques can be used to compress project schedule activities in order to meet the overall project timeframe.

Project crashing refers to an allocation of extra resources such as personnel and machinery to shorten the project schedule (Feylizadeh, Mahmoudi, Bagherpour and Li, 2018; Ballesteros-Perez, Elamrousy and González-Cruz, 2019). In the construction industry, it is usually achieved through an expansion of the workforce. On the other hand, project fast-tracking translates to parallel or simultaneous execution of project activities, which would previously have been executed sequentially to compress the project schedule, and applies to activities that can be overlapped (Feylizadeh et al., 2018; Ballesteros-Perez et al., 2019). Similar to project crashing, project fast-tracking will require more people to be on site to execute different project activities. In the current situation, both project crashing and fast-tracking techniques contravene COVID-19 disaster management regulations’ subsections associated with occupational health and safety, such as social distancing and curfew requirements. Therefore, construction project managers have very limited options, if any, or more likely no options, at their disposal to rectify lockdown repercussions associated with project schedule overruns. 

There is a positive relationship between project schedule overruns and project costs overruns (Larsen, Shen, Lindhard and Brunoe, 2016; Plummer-Braeckman, Disselhoff and Kirchherr, 2019). The more the project is delayed, the more money will be spent on it (Larsen et al., 2016; Plummer-Braeckman et al., 2019). Some construction entities have been remunerating full-time or short-term contract employees during the lockdown, while the project that they were involved in remained static. When employees resume work, they will not complete the project on time, thereby implying that they will be contracted to the project for an additional period of time at an additional cost. In general, the majority of construction projects have been severely impacted by the global pandemic, and the reality is that there will be project schedule overruns as well as budget overruns. Inevitably, some construction projects will have to be terminated due to lack of funding because some project sponsors’ sources of finance were negatively affected by COVID-19. Therefore, construction project managers, project sponsors and consultants will have to re-plan, re-think, re-learn, adjust and adapt to the volatile diverse factors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in order to achieve project objectives. 

References 

Ballesteros-Perez, P., Elamrousy, K. M., & González-Cruz, M. C. (2019). Non-linear time-cost trade-off models of activity crashing: Application to construction scheduling and project compression with fast-tracking. Automation in Construction, 97, 229-240. 

Feylizadeh, M. R., Mahmoudi, A., Bagherpour, M., & Li, D. F. (2018). Project crashing using a fuzzy multi-objective model considering time, cost, quality and risk under fast tracking technique: A case study. Journal of Intelligent & Fuzzy Systems, 35(3), 3615-3631. 

Frimpong, Y., & Oluwoye, J. (2018). Project management practice in groundwater construction project in Ghana. American Journal of Management Science and Engineering, 3(5), 60-68. 

Larsen, J. K., Shen, G. Q., Lindhard, S. M., & Brunoe, T. D. (2016). Factors affecting schedule delay, cost overrun, and quality level in public construction projects. Journal of Management in Engineering, 32(1), 1-29. 

Plummer-Braeckman, J., Disselhoff, T., & Kirchherr, J. (2019). Cost and schedule overruns in large hydropower dams: an assessment of projects completed since 2000. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 1-16. 

Mr Moses Nyathi is currently enrolled for a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership, UKZN. His doctoral research study focuses on “Managing stakeholder complexities: A model to curb project costs overruns in the construction industry in South Africa”. He holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration, Bachelor’s Degree in Project Management and a Short Course in Construction Management. He is also registered with Project Management South Africa (PMSA).

Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches, is an associate professor at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership and lectures at postgraduate and masters level in Leadership Studies.

Dr Simon Taylor is Project Manager at UKZN’s Regional and Local Economic Development Initiative, which is affiliated to the Graduate School of Business and Leadership.

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Academic attends Webinars hosted by Cambridge University Press amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

UKZN Academic attends Webinars hosted by Cambridge University Press amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Dr Andrisha Beharry-Ramraj.

Dr Andrisha Beharry-Ramraj of UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, attended a series of online workshops hosted by Cambridge University Press amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a time when the world came to a standstill, the academic world continued to slowly progress, tapping into somewhat unknown territory for most institutions as it became essential to adapt and adjust. Academics from every continent were selected from approximately 16 000 applications. Beharry-Ramraj said she felt privileged to be selected and to interact with some of the best-known academics in the world.

Beharry-Ramraj believes that academic passion comes to the fore in times of crises and turmoil. ‘COVID-19 has presented many challenges and raised much confusion worldwide. As academics we chose to soldier on despite all odds. Achieving the desired outcomes and being victorious calls for careful preparation,’ she said. Attending online workshops of this nature can add value to overall online teaching and learning at UKZN.

Adjusting to the current situation is not easy, and many are still transitioning into what seems to be the new norm for the near future. ‘Online learning is proving to be very effective and as academics at UKZN we must take on the challenge with pride thereby creating opportunities for our students as well as for ourselves.

‘Plato once said, never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow,’ she added. Beharry-Ramraj is of the view that teaching students how to learn is far more important than teaching them what to learn. Future learners need learning strategies. Lifelong learning is imperative and comes naturally in times where many students have to grapple with content themselves as they stay home.

COVID-19 has created opportunities for self-learning with students across the world relying on online material and short interactive Zoom lessons. In an informative webinar, Professor Simon Lind of Cambridge University Press noted that, while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to online teaching and learning, interaction and engagement are crucial to stimulate thought processes, transfer knowledge in an understandable manner, and nurture creative minds.

‘This means adapting and adjusting to student needs,’ said Beharry-Ramraj. ‘Stronger students are less demanding and self-able while weaker ones require more assistance and a lesser load.’ Formative assessment should be continuous during this time as it aids the learning process, and effective feedback and real time response must be guaranteed. ‘As academics, we must plan our lessons according to our students’ needs and continuously appreciate their efforts,’ she concluded.

Words: NdabaOnline

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Webinar Explores the Rapidly Changing World of Work

Webinar Explores the Rapidly Changing World of Work
Ms Emma El-Karout.

Ms Emma El-Karout, the Founder of One Circle explained why remote working might be our new normal and how we can best approach it in her presentation titled: The End of Work as We Know It… Infinite Possibilities and a New World of Work, at a webinar hosted by Professor Ana Martins, interim Dean and Head of the Graduate School of Business and Leadership, as part of its webinar series.

The series aims to empower postgraduate students, alumni and business partners with information that will enable all stakeholders to navigate the extraordinary challenges that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic, which have affected everyone across the globe.

El-Karout noted that the shifting nature of work has moved to the top of global leaders and professionals’ agenda, as they adapt to remote working and consider how to best prepare themselves and their organisations for a future that is increasingly hard to predict. ‘This time forces employers to trust that their employees will deliver on the work and trust that business will still run smoothly.

‘While the workforce structure as we know it is disturbed, through this new norm we have access to networked talent, meaning we have the ability to work out a new ecosystem with our existing teams but also to plug in freelancers and independent contractors. We need to have an open talent mind-set,’ she said.

El-Karout added that although remote working is an alien concept, it will enhance equality and inclusion. Regardless of gender, age, location or social standing, people can now use their specialities to work for international companies in the comfort of their homes without contractual restrictions.

Attendees found the presentation insightful but some questioned how the new ecosystem will work for the university structure, with new graduates arguing that flexible employment will only work for people who are experienced and are experts in their field. Fresh graduates do not have specialist skills as they have not received proper mentorship. This is a scary time, especially with South Africa’s unemployment numbers on the rise.

El-Karout agreed that this will not be an instant change, but argued that it is a great opportunity for universities to invest in technological knowledge, to prepare graduates with open talent mind-set, so that when they leave university, they leave knowing that they can find a job anywhere around the world. ‘Today we have virtual internships; university bodies can look at introducing these to their students as a solution to this new ecosystem,’ she said.

The End of Work as We Know It… Infinite Possibilities and a New World of Work webinar can be viewed by clicking on this link: https://youtu.be/yEL9QGTB6Js

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga

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Leadership in a Post COVID-19 Era

Leadership in a Post COVID-19 Era
Dr SMA Ako-Nai.

- By Dr SMA Ako-Nai

Leadership matters in the success or failure of an organisation. It plays a major role in organisational performance and the achievement of strategic goals. Effective leadership is driven by an appropriate leadership style. Such styles refer to the traits and behaviours exhibited within environmental contexts and contingencies that enable an individual to assume the leading role and act effectively within the prevailing and arising situation.

In today’s erratic, dynamic and competitive business environment, leadership has become more prominent than ever in the success of an organisation. Continuous advancements in technology, heightened government regulations and evolving business models, present significant challenges to organisational leadership. The current pandemic has highlighted the need for appropriate leadership in the post COVID-19 era.

What type of leadership would be required in the post COVID-19 era? For those organisations that survive, a recovery strategy will be the priority. Leaders with grit will be needed not only to drive and implement the recovery strategy but also to navigate the fragile post COVID-19 economic environment. None of the existing leadership styles would be a perfect match. It will require exceptional leadership with a repertoire of traits and extraordinary approach to leadership.

Leadership Styles

Amidst the diverse, numerous leadership styles and traits, Mujahid Hussain and Hamid Hassan’s work on The leadership styles dilemma in the business world offers sage advice. The fundamental assumption is that a leader should be ethical, have integrity, rely on considerable input from subordinates, and should enhance employee welfare. The study reviews and classifies existing leadership styles within the literature into four categories: Transformational, Democratic, Authoritative, and Pacesetting. The names reflect the dominant trait in the category as well as lesser but related traits.

Transformational leaders create a high-energy environment with a strong sense of mission. Their leadership traits include charisma, continuous and intense interaction between the leader and subordinates, defined short-term goals, coaching (motivation, inspiration) and a high level of integrity (morals and ethics). As the dominant trait, this leadership is effective in organisational transformation and drives change to effect organisational growth. Transformational leadership is thus suited for a settled organisation that requires a new way of thinking and doing things.

Democratic leaders exhibit consultative traits, solicit buy-in to the vision (or mission), align skills and competences to roles (teams), enhance communication and aligns tasks to goals. This approach drives innovation and creativity, adaptation to change, and a task-oriented approach to the achievement of goals. Its weakness is time. In an environment where changes are quick and an immediate response is urgent, this leadership creates frustration within the organisation and weakens its competiveness.

Authoritative leaders’ dominant trait is control. They are strongly driven by a sense of vision and achievement. Their traits include coercion, a task-oriented structure, and transactional performance systems. This type of leader is thus suited to mission critical organisations, those that produce specialised products/services and environments where there is minimal innovation and creativity. Authoritative leaders created a motivated environment for employees in favour of independent work and performance rewards. However, the organisation may suffer from burnout employees, poor communication and stifled growth. It is therefore not suitable for organisations in a dynamically changing environment.

Pacesetting leaders are driven by innovation and out-of-the box creativity. They may include entrepreneurs with disruptive ideas, or products/services that are novel, and are driven by a strong sense of belief and authenticity. Such leaders are at the forefront of start-ups and spin-off entities within organisations. Their key differentiating trait is that, they become less motivated after the successful launch of the product/service/spin-off to market. They are therefore suitable in a research and development environment and spin-off entities but not fit for leadership in a going concern.

The Post COVID-19 Era

In the post COVID-19 environment, the key challenge will be how to restart operations after the lockdown. Whilst most organisations may have completed an impact analysis of the lockdown and formulated scenarios and recovery options, the initial opening and operational plans are critical. Most organisations will be unable to open at full capacity. Initial opening plans should include adequate resources to support start-up operations, favourable arrangements with creditors and debtors, collaborative support from employees, legal advice, etc. These initial plans must then extend into a long-term recovery strategy that must be comprehensive and stringent. The key components would include assessment of key products/services, target markets/customer segments and financial position. The supporting components will include a review of the organisational structure, a skills audit and defining new skills and competences, infrastructure assessment and acquisition of new technologies, and a renewed internal business environment and culture. It will not be business as usual; hence, a paradigm and cultural shift is imperative. The journey of recovery will be a mission critical one and will require a leadership style that aligns with and is successfully able to navigate the turbulent terrain.

The Post COVID-19 Leader

A tough and resolute leader is required to provide strategic direction for the organisation and set a solid foundation for recovery. Such a leader should be able to:

•    lead by example and participate actively in the process

•    identify sources of finance, lead negotiations and make strategic deals

•    identify and solicit new collaborative relationships

•    identify and engage best fit skills and competences for the task at hand

•    consider innovative ideas that are quick to implement

•    instill confidence and a can-do attitude in employees

•    motivate and create high energy within the workplace

•    establish clear and unambiguous communication mechanisms

•    set the pace and tone for implementation of prompt decisions

Once the organisation is on the path to recovery, the leadership should endeavour to institutionalise the newly evolved business culture; the “new normal” in business leadership in the post COVID-19 era. Renewed reward systems that reward and celebrate innovation and significant achievements should be implemented. The new normal should bring value to all stakeholders of the revived organisation.

How do you classify such a leadership style? Maybe just EXCEPTIONAL LEADERSHIP!

Bibliography

1. Brown, Gabrielle. "The Trait & Style Approach to Leadership." Small Business - Chron.com, http://smallbusiness.chron.com/trait-style-approach-leadership-21103.html. Accessed 26 April 2020.

2. Cote, R., 2017. A comparison of leadership theories in an organizational environment. International Journal of Business Administration, 8(5), pp.28-35.

3. Hussain, M. and Hassan, D., 2016. The leadership styles dilemma in the business world. International Journal of Organizational Leadership5, pp.411-425.

4. John S. Ahlquist and Margaret Levi, 2011. Leadership: What It Means, What It Does, and What We Want to Know About It. Annual Review of Political Science 2011 14:1, 1-24

5. Kelloway, E.K. and Gilbert, S., 2017. Does it matter who leads us? The study of organizational leadership. An introduction to work and organizational psychology: An international perspective, pp.192-211.

6. Nawaz, Z.A.K.D.A. and Khan_ PhD, I., 2016. Leadership theories and styles: A literature review. Leadership, 16(1), pp.1-7.

7. Owusu-Bempah, J., 2014. How can we best interpret effective leadership? The case for Q method. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 5(3), p.47.

8. Probert, J. and Turnbull James, K., 2011. Leadership development: Crisis, opportunities and the leadership concept. Leadership, 7(2), pp.137-150.

9. Silva, A., 2016. What is leadership? Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 8(1), p.1.

10. Smith, A., 2016. Authoritarian leadership style explained. Small Business Chronicle.

Dr SMA Ako-Nai is a lecturer at the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus.


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