UKZN Awards Academic and Sports Achievements

UKZN Awards Academic and Sports Achievements
UKZN academic and sport scholarships' recipients who attended the Scholarship Awards Ceremony.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has awarded prestigious scholarships and bursaries worth a combined total of more than R156 million to 5 294 top achieving students at the University during the University’s Annual Scholarships Awards Ceremony held at Westville campus’s Main Hall on 23 August.

The awards are in recognition of outstanding academic excellence and achievement in sport.

Scholarships are awarded on a fiercely competitive basis in which merit is the main criterion. The recipients of the awards are the very best among thousands of other hopefuls. These scholarships which are largely funded by the University and by donors demonstrate the calibre of students studying at UKZN.

Congratulating the recipients on their academic and sports achievements, UKZN Vice-Chancellor, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld said: ‘I know you will all excel in your future endeavours as young people. I know you will go out there and fly the flag of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and remember that success in life is not about getting ahead of other people but to be the best that you possibly can.’  

Van Jaarsveld thanked the parents, guardians, families, benefactors and communities for supporting UKZN students to achieve and excel the way they have. ‘We salute you. You are investing in the future of our young people and the future of our country.’

Guest speaker, Chief Executive Officer of the National Research Foundation Dr Molapo Qhobela commended the University for contributing to the national increase of research productivity and graduation rates, and on achieving the recent rankings.

He highlighted the increase in graduation rates by more than 75%, increase in doctoral numbers by 5 000 per year, from a headcount enrolment of 450 000 students in 1994 to 950 000 in 2017, the increase in the number of young women, especially African female students from 53% in 1996 to 70% in 2017, increase from 970 doctoral graduates in 2 002 to 2 500 in 2017. He said the aim is to increase the number of doctoral graduates to 5 000 per year.

Qhobela said the number of permanent academic staff with doctoral degrees has increased from 35% in 2004 to 50% in 2017.

Congratulating the recipients and University staff, Qhobela said: ‘We are privileged to serve you, we work for you. I hope that you will take this as a journey towards your endeavours of being true scholars.’

‘Our personal challenge is to find creativity and making the right choices to find ways of investing in excellent researchers and in particular exceptional young people because it is absolutely necessary to invest in that cohort to ensure our continued survival as universities and knowledge producers of the future.’

The scholarships were awarded in four categories which include people coming in at undergraduate; people already in undergraduate, postgraduate students and the Sport’s Scholarships.

Mr Sizwe Sidaza and Mr Sivashen Reddy were each awarded the Distinguished Student Awards. This most prestigious award is based on nominations from staff or students in the University. It recognises and rewards students for outstanding academic achievement coupled with excellence in community engagement or University service as reflected in the vision, mission and goals of the University.

Two awards are conferred each year to the most talented, caring and exceptional graduates and young leaders from final year undergraduate or honours level who have been judged as being most exemplary in embodying the ideals and attributes that the University seeks to create in every graduate.

The Talent Excellence and Equity Scholarship is being offered for the third time to academic high achievers who intend to pursue an academic career at UKZN. This prestige award made from the University’s own funds enables the University to identify potential talent with the intention to grow the next generation of academics. The seven awards were made to students across the University’s four Colleges.

The prestigious Emma Smith Overseas Scholarship was awarded to two Master of Law students Ms Siddharthiya Pillay and Ms Claire Bronwyn Gillespie. The scholarship, funded by the family of CG Smith and named after Sir Charles George Smith’s wife Mrs CG Smith, provides postgraduate scholarship opportunities for top-performing female students, resident in eThekwini, to study abroad.

The Malegapuru W Makgoba Scholarship, named after the former first Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of KwaZulu-Natal is awarded to five top-ranked undergraduates proceeding from first-year to second-year of study in each of the four Colleges.

The prestige undergraduate scholarships, awarded to the three top-performing undergraduate students in the entire University.

Mr Sanav Singh from the School of Engineering is the top Undergraduate student receiving the Lawrence and Constance Robinson Scholarship which is awarded to the best undergraduate student in the entire University.

Bachelor of Law student Ms Zakiyya Reheman took second place receiving the Brenda M Gourley Scholarship.

Bachelor of Theology student Mr Pakama Plaatjies came in third place receiving the UKZN 100th Anniversary Scholarship.

The 2016 Distinguished Student Award recipient and this year’s Rick Turner Scholarship recipient, Mr James Ndlovu was the student guest speaker at the event.

He encouraged students to change their lives and those of the people around them. ‘It is the company that we keep that will determine the level of success that we get,’ he said.

Words by: Sithembile Shabangu

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Gender Equality takes Centre Stage at Imbokodo Seminar

Gender Equality takes Centre Stage at Imbokodo Seminar
Attendees at the Imbokodo seminar at UKZN.

Gender equality and women in leadership was discussed at a recent Imbokodo seminar at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

Held at UKZN’s Unite building on the Howard College campus, the event was hosted by the University’s Human Resources Division in partnership with Corporate Relations.

Lecturer in the School of Law, Ms Janine Hicks spoke on developments in gender equality and the implications for the University.

Hicks encouraged all those present to be “troublemakers”, following in the footsteps of women who have made indelible marks in history with acts of defiance and civil disobedience.

She said while South Africa has made inroads in passing laws geared at gender equality, challenges existed with implementation. ‘We keep hearing that South Africa has good laws, but we are not so good at implementing them,’ said Hicks.

She cautioned that gender parity in top management at the University needs to be addressed – while 55% of the workforce at UKZN are women, she said only 27% of top management positions are occupied by women.

She commended the high enrolment of women at UKZN but suggested that women need more awareness and confidence in systems with regards to sexual harassment, rape and gender-based violence.

Independent Media’s Ms Vasantha Angamuthu looked at female leadership in a world of VUCA - volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Angamuthu cautioned against the ‘sticky floor’ - things that hold or pull women back - and encouraged all those present to ‘hook a sister up’ to ensure the development of other women.

The former journalist said she had learned life lessons from her grandmother, including ‘be kind always’ and to ‘step up and do what needs doing.’

Human Resources’ Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu said Imbokodo had been conceptualised to inspire women leaders to achieve greatness while it also serves as a platform to engage on issues and for women at the University to network. Ramabodu led the women present at the event on a moment of silence to acknowledge and remember the scourge of violence against women and children, which seems to be on the rise, saying it has to STOP!

Ramabodu thanked all those who had contributed to the success of the event, including Music and Drama Perfomance graduate Ms Jamie-Lee Simons who entertained the crowd, with musical accompaniment by UKZN’s Professor Chats Devroop.

Words and photographs by: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

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Proposed Collaboration Promises Great Results for Entrepreneurship

Proposed Collaboration Promises Great Results for Entrepreneurship
Participants of the roundtable discussion.

Creating opportunities and areas for collaboration between the Department of Small Business Development and the University of KwaZulu-Natal was the aim of a recent roundtable discussion championed by the School of Accounting Economics and Finance (SAEF).

The meeting focused on the gaps and strengths of entrepreneurship; the evolvement of small business support in South Africa and the upcoming summit on township and rural economies.

The School’s Acting Dean, Professor Mabutho Sibanda, said the University conducts a lot of research in the areas of entrepreneurship and economic development but this does not get to influence policy and legislation as it does not reach the relevant government departments.

‘As a university, we want to get involved in the research conducted by the Department. Academic involvement in research that informs policy is vital; we are the custodians and generators of knowledge and we have the right skills to assist government departments in their research agendas,’ he said.

Special adviser to the Minister of Small Business Development and Head of the National Planning Commission’s Township and Rural Economies task team, Dr Thami Mazwai said the aim  of the meeting was to determine the role of universities in changing and shaping the narrative around entrepreneurship.

‘Entrepreneurs are in universities hence it is important for government to engage with entrepreneurship lecturers. Our students know their lived experience in the townships and rural areas better than anybody else and they should be leading the transformation of their communities with entrepreneurship as the driver,’ he said.

Through his presentation titled: Today’s Student and Entrepreneurship-the Partnership for Development, Mazwai shared insights on education and entrepreneurship. He also announced that the Department is planning on hosting a colloquium to engage with entrepreneurship academics from the country’s 26 universities.

‘We want to know how students see themselves as entrepreneurship champions and what must be done in terms of policy to influence them to be entrepreneurs and wealth creators. It is academics themselves that can tell us how much we have taken issues of the push economies, indigenous entrepreneurship, producing quality and dealing with the human element when it comes to economic development,’ he said.

Moving forward, Mazwai stated that he will submit a report to the Minister on the outcomes of the meeting and suggested that a memorandum of understanding between the Department and the University should be pursued.

Words and photograph by: Thandiwe Jumo

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Talented UKZN Students Make Idols Top 16

Talented UKZN Students Make Idols Top 16
SA Idols Top 16 contestants Ms Minenhle Ntuli (left) and Ms Nomthandazo Xaba.

Two talented UKZN Students, Ms Minenhle Ntuli and Ms Nomthandazo Xaba, have made it to the Top 16 on season 13 of South African Idols.

The 22-year-old Ntuli is a final year Bachelor of Arts (Legal studies) student while 18-year-old Xaba is a Drama and Performance student. Both students described their experiences on the popular contest as a major learning curve.

Ntuli, who hails from New Germany, defines an Idol as someone who’s “ground-breaking and memorable”. She hopes her story will serve as an inspiration and proof that it is possible to live one’s dreams.

During the Durban auditions, guest Idols judge and radio personality Majota “Phat Joe” Khambule surprised Ntuli. He recognised her as a student activist who had confronted him before. Ntuli is the former President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at UKZN.

‘During theatre week, I learned a lot, especially about singing. I learned that my harmonies had to be put to the test,’ said Ntuli. Group rounds taught them that sometimes it is okay to learn from others and lead from the back.

Xaba who is from Southgate in Durban, said she aspires to ‘be a triple threat as a singer, actress and dancer.’ Despite struggling with her voice, she says she is ready to enjoy the experience and draw from her passion in order to make it all the way to the end and beyond.

Both students are prepared to do their best in the competition while they also hope the publicity garnered will boost their musical careers. They advised other students not to give up on their dreams.

They urged the University community to support them on their Idols journey. ‘I would love students to be fully behind us because we are UKZN products. We are doing this for them, our success is also theirs,’ said Ntuli.

Words by: Nomcebo Mncube

Photograph: Mzansi Magic

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JOMBA! Recognised as a Place of Memory on Opening Night

JOMBA! Recognised as a Place of Memory on Opening Night
JOMBA! Opening Night.

UKZN’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre was packed to capacity for the opening night of the 19th JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities.

JOMBA!, one of the few remaining contemporary dance festivals in South Africa, features performances over two weeks and also offers dancers, dance-makers and the interested public an opportunity to engage in workshops, discussions and master classes.

Artistic Director and Performing Arts Lecturer at the University, Ms Lliane Loots, delivered the keynote address that reflected on the inception and prolonged success of JOMBA! and the country’s politics of memory.

‘In our desire to correctly rewrite racist, colonial and exclusionary histories, the fervour to retell and rewrite our nation’s stories, has also had the synergistic effect of leading us to a place where history and memory are being vanquished,’ said Loots.

She lamented the lure of developmental progress, the commodification and corporatisation of artists and their art spaces, where layers of history and memory are eroded.

‘Instead we are told to “brand ourselves” and to imagine ourselves - as artists, academics, activists, workers - as inventing the new. We have entered a time in our own political landscape where things are falling apart not because of a struggle or a political imperative, but because of a dedicated (and often rewarded) loss of memory.

‘We are right in the middle of our own war in the struggle of memory against forgetting. I too am left wondering how to fight against institutional and artistic neglect that is the most dangerous by-product of this sanctioned “forgetting”,’ said Loots.

She argued the value of society’s artists, saying ‘They are that memory that can take hold of history, of sadness, of love and be the voices that are the struggle of memory against the neglect of forgetting.’

Loots described JOMBA! as a place of memory, seeing the Festival as the work of the contemporary dancer, the choreographer and the arts administrator that she feels makes space for this war against cellular forgetting.

According to Loots, JOMBA! makes a dedicated effort to invite and partner with organisations, artists and dance companies who are using the voice of their physical dance art, to break down stereotypes, to address embodied histories and memory, who physically deconstruct socially and culturally defined ways of being inside one’s skin.

‘There are no “clean slates” in contemporary dance, only the fascination of the historically layered stratification of body politics,’ she added.

JOMBA! opened with a historical collaboration between two continents and two choreographers; South Africa’s Gregory Maqoma and Germany’s Helge Letonja in a work that echoed Shakespeare’s “time is out of joint”.

Six dancers met in a furious game of difference where the dance is a Babylon of physical co-existence with dancers exploding into centrifugal power, paralysis, fear and the rebellion of both the individual and the social body. 

JOMBA! runs until 3 September at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on the Howard College campus. Tickets are priced between R45 and R60 and are available at Computicket or at the venue an hour before the show. For more information and a full downloadable programme, visit

Words by: Melissa Mungroo

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National Science Week Celebrated with Lecture on Wildlife and Urbanisation

National Science Week Celebrated with Lecture on Wildlife and Urbanisation
Professor Colleen Downs.

Professor Colleen Downs presented a public lecture about the persistence of wildlife in urban areas in KwaZulu-Natal. The lecture which was part of the National Science Week celebrations was presented at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus on 11 August.

Downs spoke in the context of the current Anthropocene era, wherein humans manage three quarters of the land mass, and increasing urbanisation is causing loss of natural habitats for animals. Extinctions and losses characterise this era, as well as changes in animals’ past and current distribution.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) sponsored the event, which was attended by guests from the University and wider public. Geoff Nichols, who was instrumental in setting up the Durban Metropolitan Open Space System (D’MOSS), was among the notable guests at the event.

Downs is the South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, and is consistently rated the top-published female researcher at UKZN.

Downs and her postgraduate students have worked on about 20 bird, herp and mammal species that despite the generally negative impacts of urbanisation, appear to be thriving in suburbia. The effects of changing land use her research dips into, explained Downs, are not well documented in South Africa. Many cities have relatively few green areas, but some species have been able to thrive nonetheless.

Downs spoke particularly about the research of five of her postgraduate students, Manqoba Zungu, Craig Widdows, Preshnee Singh, Shane McPherson and Vuyisile Thabethe. They work on forest habitat fragmentation, large-spotted genets, hadedas, crowned eagles and woolly-necked storks respectively.

She addressed the issue of urbanisation making it difficult for mammals to move, the pressure on green forest areas, the range of species found in urban areas, and whether they avoid or exploit urban environments.

Downs spoke about animals changing their behaviour, especially breeding and feeding habits in adapting to the urban environment. Some species’ numbers have increased with urban development, as some have made use of the mosaic urban landscape, and the anthropogenic structures and food sources there.

Negative consequences for those animals include changing diets resulting in deficiencies, human-wildlife conflicts, and threats from power lines and pets.

‘Many of these urban exploiter species could decline quite quickly if we removed either the food or breeding sites they have successfully used in urban areas,’ said Downs.

‘Green corridors and gardens are important, but with increasing pressure people do away with gardens, build closer houses and chop down the large trees often important for nesting or hiding away,’

Downs emphasised the importance of citizen science for long-term monitoring benefits.

‘A lot of our data is collected by people like you; each of you can make a contribution in understanding how these animals are surviving this Anthropocene, particularly in urban areas.’

Additional research is needed on topics like genetic adaptations in urban explorers, the effects of climate change, and of invasive species and animals’ use of environment.

Downs closed by thanking her postgraduate students, family and collaborators for their support.

‘Keep your curiosity going, work hard and keep persevering, and you will discover exciting things,’ she advised.

Words by: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Sally Frost

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UKZN’s GSB&L claims Third Place in PMR Ranking

UKZN’s GSB&L claims Third Place in PMR Ranking

The Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) has once again lived up to its reputation of  being amongst the world’s best business schools as it has been rated 3rd in the annual national survey of Accredited Business Schools in South Africa conducted by the Professional Market Research (PMR).

The GSB&L scored 8.00 out of 10 putting it in second place, three places up from last year’s fifth place which means that it will receive a the Silver Arrow Award at the 2017 PMR Awards ceremony.

The survey respondents (employers) rated the MBA graduates and students in the workplace representing accredited Business Schools in 19 attributes/criteria including academic knowledge, application of knowledge in the workplace and entrepreneurial skills, capacity and abilities.

GSB&L’s Dean and Head Professor Theuns Pelser said the PMR rankings needed to be taken seriously as they reflected the quality of the MBA that a business school offered and were a reliable barometer of which schools were held in high esteem.

‘I would like to take the opportunity to thank my staff (academic as well as support) for their commitment and camaraderie in helping us to reach this position. Many challenges persist, but with the support from various stakeholders, the GSB&L will be able to pull its own weight in this very competitive market,’ he said.

Words by: UKZNdabaonline

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Art Meets Science in Plant Breeder’s Story

Art Meets Science in Plant Breeder’s Story
Dr Julia Sibiya’s story will inspire greatness in budding scientists.

To show support for National Science Week and National Women’s Month during the month of August, the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science is honouring its Wonder Women in Science through a series of articles. These are passionate, pioneering and persistent heroines who are "making waves in the field of Science".

Dr Julia Sibiya describes her plant breeding work as a blend of art and science, and herself as a plant improvement artist. ‘Like an artist, I create an image of the optimal plant variety and then use science to produce it. I find plants with desirable traits and cross pollinate them with plants that need improvement,’ she says.

She found her love for science in high school but chose it as her career path for two reasons. Firstly, she was intrigued by how science connected both the abstract and concrete in amazing ways. Secondly, all her science and maths teachers were women. ‘This helped me to get past the preconceived notion that women are not good in these fields. This made me believe that I could make it as a female scientist,’ she recalls.

While studying at the University of Zimbabwe, Sibiya was awarded  the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) fellowship to study for her Masters degree in America. ‘Having grown up in a township, this was huge for me and my family,’ she said.  ‘You can imagine the pride we felt. It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.’

Sibiya is currently a senior lecturer at the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences. Her work has taken her to 18 countries, through funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), for the Masters and PhD programmes she’s involved with. One such programme is the Improved Masters in Cultivar Development for Africa (IMCDA) programme that trains plant breeders using modern breeding technologies.

She is currently conducting research on sweet sorghum for biofuels on behalf of eThala Management Services. The company will be contracting farmers from the community of Bizana in the Eastern Cape to grow the sorghum for their factory.

Sibiya admits that it’s hard to be a woman in any field. ‘I read somewhere that to be a woman, you must think like a man, act like a lady, look like a young girl and work like a horse. I find this to be true, as I have to balance being a lecturer, researcher, manager, wife and mother,’ she said.

She acknowledges two role models that have shaped her career path. The late Dr Desiree Cole was her mentor and assisted Sibiya in getting her RF fellowship and research grant.

She also looks up to Professor Rita Mumm, from the University of Illinois, for her achievements in the field of plant breeding.  This is in line with her definition of inspiring greatness, which she describes as, being a role model to the younger scientists.

‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito. Do not doubt your ability to do big things because you are a woman. It’s your secret weapon, so use it to chase your dreams,’ she says.

Sibiya has her heart set on sharing her knowledge and programmes with the rest of the world. ‘I would like to be one of the facilitators of the University of California’s Davis - African Plant Breeding Academy, which trains professional plant breeders in Africa.  This will help me to keep abreast with the latest developments in plant breeding,’ she said.

Sibiya’s story paints a picture of a researcher whose work is part art and science. Her legacy will be a masterpiece that will marvel and inspire generations.

We asked Sibiya to create a ‘super hero profile’ for herself. This is what she came up with.


Q. What would your superpower be and why?         

A.  As a mother, I feel that I already have super powers.  As long as I can take care of my family at home and function effectively at work, I feel like a superhero.

Q. What would be your theme song?

‘You raise me up’ by Josh Groban, because of the line, ‘You raise me up to more than I can be.’

Q. Who would be your sidekick and why?      

A. My husband, children and Dr Rufaro Madakadze are my sidekicks because they cheer me on, provide support and help me to remain grounded.


Q. Where would your secret lair/ hideout be? 

A. My office, because it’s when I can reflect on things, plan my day and just connect with my spiritual being.  It energises me for the rest of the day.

Q. What is your kryptonite (weakness)?

A. I am a reserved, soft but caring person and I tend to empathise a lot with people. I feel that people sometimes take advantage of my good nature.

Words by: Sashlin Girraj

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Umbhali Wezindaba Odumile uDkt Gcina Mhlophe uchaze izethameli ngezingoma ezihlaba umxhwele

Umbhali Wezindaba Odumile uDkt Gcina Mhlophe uchaze izethameli ngezingoma ezihlaba umxhwele
UDkt Gcina Mhlophe (owesithathu kusukela ngakwesobunxele) nabasebenzi beSikole sezeNkolo, ubuNzululwazi nezaseMandulo.

Click here for the English version

Emcimbini wokugubha inyanga yabesifazane, iSikole sezeNkolo, ubuNzululwazi NezaseMandulo sihlele inkulumo yokukhuthaza esihloko sithi: Indlu Yomculo Nomthandazo ebithulwa isihlabani sombhali wezindaba saseNingizimu afrika uGcina Mhlophe.

Emva kokwethulwa yiDini neNhloko eyibamba yeSikole sezobuCiko uSolwazi Nobuhle Hlongwa, uMhlophe ubingelele izethameli ngengoma emnandi ekuyiyo elungiselele inkulumo yakhe.

Inkulumo beyigxile eqhazeni nendawo yabesifazane kwezenkolo (yobuKrestu) emphakathini ophethwe abesilisa. Lokhu ukukhombise ngokuxoxa ngokukhula kwakhe ekhaya lapho umthandazo nomculo kwakuyinsika.

Abesifazane ekhaya (omama) babebaluleke kakhulu ekukhuleni kwakhe, izifundo azifunda lapho zahlala naye impilo yakhe yonke. Abesifazane, ubathatha njengabanakekeli, abakhulisi futhi nabafundisi bezingane. Badlulisela izimisompilo nenqubo yokulunga kwabasakhula.

UMhlophe uyakubonga ukuba umuntu wesifazane. Ugcizelela nokuthi abesifazane banelungelo lokuba ngabafundisi bezingane zabo kuqala, ‘Bayizinqolobane zemvelo zothando'. UMhlophe uhamba umhlaba wonke kodwa akazikhohlwa izimfundiso zikamama wakhe.

Ukhale kakhulu ngokuqhakambiswa kwezibonelo nezimpawu zabesilisa (oMose, Pawulu) ezindabeni zenkolo nasezinkonzweni. Ukhulume ngokudingeka kokuhlonishwa kwabesifazane abafana noRibhekha, Esta, Ruthe njll. Ukuhlonishwa kwalezi zimpawu zabesifazane kuyabadlondlobalisa abesifazane.

Inkulumo yakhe bekungeyona nje eyezifundiswa kuphela kodwa ibigqugquzela abesifazane abasebasha ukuba basukume bathathe indawo yabo emphakathini. Amazwi kaMhlophe anobunkondlo abephelezelwa umculo ohlabe umxhwele izethameli. Izethameli zisale zigquqguzelekile futhi ziqine idolo ekuhlaleni zifuna uMdali ngezikhathi ezimnandi nezinzima.

Obhalile: Ziphezinhle Silindile Biyela and Nomcebo Mncube

Isithombe: Nomcebo Mncube

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Student Turned Lecturer Enjoys the Fruits of Her Labour

Student Turned Lecturer Enjoys the Fruits of Her Labour
Dr Alaika Kassim is a pioneer and role model in Bioresources Engineering.

To show support for National Science Week and National Women’s Month during the month of August, the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science is honouring its Wonder Women in Science through a series of articles. The women are considered passionate, pioneering and persistent heroines who are ‘making waves in the field of science’.

This week the spotlight falls on UKZN lecturer Dr Alaika Kassim from the School of Engineering:

Dr Alaika Kassim’s interest in Science started in a Physics class, during high school practicals. She remembers vividly the moment she decided to become a scientist. ‘The moment that convinced me to study science occurred during my first look through a microscope,’ she recalls. At that moment, she did not realise that the seeds had been sown for a flourishing career.

Kassim blossomed into a dedicated and hardworking student at university, choosing to pursue Bioresources Engineering at UKZN’s School of Engineering. The fruits of her labour paid off this April, when she graduated with her PhD. Her research focused on developing a post-harvest citrus treatment unit for the kumquat fruit, to alleviate green and blue mould.

Kassim is now a Bioresources Engineering lecturer, who teaches and supervises students up to Masters level. She also wants to establish herself as a researcher but admits she has a long way to go.

Kassim can be considered a rare species, as she is a pioneer in her field and at the University. She is the first female chairperson of the South African Institute of Agricultural Engineers (SAIAE), a regulatory body in the industry. She is also the first female lecturer in the discipline of Bioresources Engineering at UKZN. She considers these to be her proudest achievements in academia thus far.

During her time in Industry, she cites her gender and age as the main challenges she has faced as a female engineer. ‘As one of few women in my field, I had to prove my worth to my male counterparts. However, even female colleagues gave me a hard time because I was younger than they were.’

Kassim could have retreated but she was motivated to persevere by her lecturer and supervisor, Professor Tilahun Workneh. ‘Prof Workneh inspired me to remain in research and pursue my academics,’ she says.

Kassim believes that more women in science are needed to change the status quo. ‘In the past, there were a few women like Marie Curie who made scientific breakthroughs. However, today we have many opportunities for women in science. We need to use these opportunities to showcase our capabilities,’ she says.

Her words to budding female scientists are practical and personal. ‘I would say the same thing that I would say to my younger self: Always work hard for what you are passionate about, and you will be rewarded with more than you put in.’

She defines inspiring greatness as changing lives for the better, which is something she tries to do in her life. She has been involved in personal feeding and donation schemes, and has given career talks at high schools.

Like the sun is to plants, it is hoped that Alaika Kassim’s story will spawn the next crop of scientists who can bask in her light.

We asked Kassim to create a ‘super hero profile’ for herself. This is what she came up with.


Q. What would your superpower be? 

A. To alleviate hunger.

Q. What would be your theme song?

A. The Wonder Woman theme song of course.

Q. Who would be your sidekicks and why?    

A. I do not depend on a sidekick. I am all I ever need.

Q. Where would your secret lair/ hideout be? 

A. In my lab, but don’t tell anybody.

Q. What is your kryptonite (weakness)?

A. I’ll have to get back to you on this one.

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Criminology and Forensic Studies Present Research at CRIMSA Conference

Criminology and Forensic Studies Present Research at CRIMSA Conference
Front row: Ms Vuyelwa Maweni, Dr Sazelo Mkhize, Professor Shanta Balgobind Singh and Dr Witness Maluleke. Back row: Mr Nkosingiphile Mbhele, Mr Ephraim Sibanyoni and Mr Siyanda Dlamini.

Staff and students from the Discipline of Criminology and Forensic Studies within the School of Applied Human Sciences (SAHS) recently presented research papers at the Criminological and Victimological Society of Southern Africa (CRIMSA) International Biennial Conference in Gauteng.

The conference’s main theme was: Regulating crime and Victimisation in an Age of Mobility, Mass Movement, Migration and Governance at a distance.

Mr Siyanda Dlamini presented a joint paper (Maluleke, W; Mkhize, SM Dlamini, S and Maweni, V) on Betrayal of a Post-Colonial Ideal: The Effect of Corruption on the Construction of Low-cost Houses in South Africa.

The purpose of their paper is to ensure the appropriate management, capacity and technical support for the allocation of low-cost houses. They discussed the implementation of support programmes that prevent corruption in the human settlements sector as agreed with sector partners (provinces and municipalities) in line with the national sector-wide Anti-Corruption Strategy.

Ms Vuyelwa Maweni then presented a joint paper (Maluleke, W; Rakololo, M.W; Dlamini, S; Maweni, V.K and Mkhize, S.M) on the: Causes of Identity Document Theft in South Africa. The research explored the causes of Identity Document (ID) theft in South Africa, particularly in Polokwane Central Business District (CBD), Bendor Park and Flora Park.

‘Conceptual understanding of this crime (ID theft) can play a pivotal role in addressing the manifestation of this crime to a large extent as the nature and extent can be established. The use of technological means also contributes to ID theft, this is linked to individuals’ (victims’) ignorance,’ said Maweni.

Mr Ephraim Sibanyoni also presented a paper titled: Children as Victims of Sexual Molestation. The focus of his study was on the parents’ perspectives and experiences of having a child that is a victim of sexual molestation in Mthatha, Eastern Cape.

The objectives of the study was to explore whether parents of children reported sexual molestation to the police in Mthatha. While determining the factors predisposing children to be more vulnerable to sexual molestation; the predominant perpetrators that molest these children and the impact of sexual molestation of these children and parents in Mthatha was explored.

Masters student Mr Nkosingiphile Mbhele together with his supervisor Professor Shanta Balgobind Singh presented a paper on the Victimisation in Nightclubs and bouncer’s reaction towards Patrons.

They noted that the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA), which was established in terms of section 2 of the Private Security Industry Regulation Act in 2002, is responsible for regulating and monitoring the private security sector.

‘Nightclubs in South Africa have relied heavily on private securities to protect their property and ensure the safety of patrons during busy nights. While alcohol and violence has been proven to have a link, it is important to understand the relationship of bouncers and patrons as well as the role and competence of bouncers in this relationship as they are the key players in maintaining safety and security,’ said Mbhele.

The study further investigates the extent of violence and aggression from the perspectives of both bouncers and patrons in their relationship respectively.

Words by: Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Law Students and NPO Facilitate School Debate

UKZN Law Students and NPO Facilitate School Debate
The Great Debaters event organised by the Thuto Pele Organisation.

Can South Africa Afford to Provide Free Higher Education to Students - was the topic of choice surrounding the Great Debaters 2017 event held at Magabheni Community Hall in Durban.

Thuto Pele Organisation (TPO), represented by third-year University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Law students Ms Zinhle Khoza and Ms Lungile Maluleka facilitated the event. The two students head the TPO’s debate club.

The non-profit organisation was established to demonstrate that poor academic performance can be reversed if all students are given adequate support and guidance that focuses on their academic needs.

Judges who attended the debate were UKZN Law Lecturers Mr Zwelethu Sibiya and Mr Maropeng Mpya, and UKZN Bachelor of Arts graduate Ms Thabile Buthelezi.

The TPO debate team was made up of pupils from Sidelile High School (in Magabheni) and Mcothoyi High School (in Mgababa) who showcased their public speaking and communication skills as well as their ability to formulate arguments.

‘The topic was designed to make the students aware of what they might have to encounter after the completion of their matric studies. We wanted to challenge them to become innovative and creative in researching ways that our country can possibly be able to afford free Higher Education,’ said Khoza.

‘We believe that the debate is a positive contribution to the discussion which is on-going in the country regarding free Higher Education,’ she added.

One of the questions posed by Mpya was if South Africa has a high unemployment rate, won’t free Higher Education damage its economy?

Grade nine learner Ms Ayanda Mabuza answered that free Higher Education will be healthy for the economy as graduates could become entrepreneurs and enter into professions that could create jobs for the unemployed thus reducing the high unemployment rate.

‘Graduates would be able to also pay taxes and this will be a positive contribution to the country’s economy,’ she added.

TPO is an organisation that aims to grow, encourage and motivate high academic standards amongst high school learners not only in KwaZulu-Natal but the rest of South Africa. This can only be achieved with the support of potential sponsors and donors. For more information contact

Words by: Sibonelo Shinga

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SAEF Academic attends Research Panel Discussion

SAEF Academic attends Research Panel Discussion
Dr Gerry Bokana.

Assessing grant applications for aspiring researchers was on the agenda at the Economic Management and Actuarial Sciences (EMAS) Advisory Panel Meeting attended by Applied Economics Lecturer Dr Gerry Bokana recently.

The aim of the meeting, hosted by the National Research Foundation (NRF) in Pretoria, was to unite scholars from different South African universities, who can use their expertise to assist the NRF in reviewing, assessing, evaluating and recommending applicants for funding.

Having been part of the forum in 2016, Bokana was able to execute his role as the Chairperson with ease as he was able to ensure a healthy and active discussion regarding each and every application while allocating adequate time for each one.

Bokana emphasised the importance of such discussions and explained that the NRF has three highly competitive discipline based funding instruments which support both basic and applied research as the foundation of knowledge production.

‘The three funding instruments that govern this assessment process are Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (CPRR), Competitive Support for Unrated Researchers (CSUR) and the Research Development Grant for Y-rated Researchers which all achieve the mandate of the NRF which is to support and promote research through funding and human resource development,’ said Bokana.

‘These NRF funding instruments encourage transformation and equity as all applications have student financial support. Therefore, these funding instruments benefit students as they will participate in their research whether as fieldworkers, data capturers, data analysts or become formal researchers as honours, masters, doctoral students or postdoctoral fellowship’ he added.

When asked about how he finds time to balance being a lecturer and attending events such as the panel meeting, Bokana acknowledges that it is within an academic’s responsibility to be involved in community engagement initiatives and that the NRF was effective in communicating with the panel members enabling him to plan out his day to day activities.

‘My aspirations are mainly to improve my research profile and my supervision capacities and skills, specifically for the masters, doctoral and postdoctoral levels, with the view of becoming an NRF rated researcher. Being involved with the NRF encourages knowledge transfer and creates opportunity for research collaboration,’ said Bokana.

Words by: Sibonelo Shinga

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AMAL-SC hold Successful LLB Seminar

AMAL-SC hold Successful LLB Seminar
From left: Ms Janine Hicks, Mr Musa Mthembu, Mr Talha Kazi, Ms Zaynura Jehan Dolley and Mr Huzaifa Kader.

The Association of Muslim Accountants and Lawyers Student Chapter (AMAL-SC) recently hosted the first in a series of law-based seminars at Howard College. The seminar titled: Alternative Careers with an LLB degree apprised students on careers within the fields of Law, Commerce and Two Chapter 9 institutions, namely, the Commission of Gender Equality and as an Investigator within the office of the Public Protector.

Speakers in attendance included, Mr Musa Mthembu, senior investigator at the Public Protectors office; Ms Janine Hicks, Lecturer at the School of Law and former Commissioner of 10 years with the Commission for Gender Equality and Mr Talha Kazi, currently a governance specialist with Albaraka Bank.

The programme also included presentations by AMAL- SC President, Ms Zaynura Jehan Dolley and Vice-President, Mr Huzaifa Kader. The Seminar, held on 16 August, was a resounding success.

Words by: Zaahirah Bassa

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The UKZN Griot. Of Scholarly and Not Scholarly

The UKZN Griot. Of Scholarly and Not Scholarly

Recently, I had to clear out 40 years of accumulated documents, books, journals, dissertations and correspondence, from a UKZN office to make room for new occupants.

My UKZN graduate assistant helped me to digitise hard copies, and we contributed tons of paper to the recycling mill.  She was astonished at the sheer volume of paper that we had amassed since starting my Kalahari project in 1995.  Amongst those documents were thousands of pages of open-ended transcribed interviews that I and my students had conducted with our research participants, especially in the Kalahari.  These interviews were done before the new ethical requirements came along in 2013 that require the destruction of data after five years, a monumentally stupid legalist requirement that flushes useful data through the shredder.  As if information, like baked beans, has a sell-by date!  How would the world look had Aristotle’s writings been trashed? Along with this indigenous knowledge cleansing goes history, memory and the personalities that populated these forms of tracing.

In rereading some of the interviews conducted, in many cases, tears came to my eyes, as I scanned transcripts with characters with whom we had worked for nearly 20 years, many of whom have passed away, in communities where the death rate is way higher than the birth rate.  The causes are many: old age, HIV, substance abuse, malnutrition, domestic violence, the winter cold, and homicide.

Whatever the cause, I experienced a sense of real loss as we trashed these transcripts.  Here were the stories and thoughts of individuals who wanted to be on the academic record, to whom we had retuned hard copies of interviews, but who had nowhere to archive them.  These same individuals played international roles in movies, human rights movements and in research.

Here were individuals whom we came to know well, who always welcomed us into their communities, whose sense of self-significance was captured in our published work.  But much of that work is discounted by our peers who dismiss it as ‘not scholarly’.

To this our Kalahari hosts would counter-argue that they are transdisciplinary:  they work with geneticists, zoologists, botanists, archaeologists, astronomers, linguists, anthropologists, pharmacists, historians, literary scholars, development researchers, etc.  They redefined the nature of the research encounter:  they claim to be the professors and position all these visiting professors as their students – why else would they be consulting them?  How many academic careers did they make for visitors like us?  And yet, what they told us has to be trashed, now for ethical reasons we are told.  Who benefits from this documentary vandalism I keep asking myself.  Certainly not the folks who gave us permission to talk to them.  Nor the organisations that represent them.  Nor their children who want to remember them.

Science is not just survey work, then abstracted, sanitised, and discussed in terms of statistical significances.  In these forms of encoding personalities are eliminated, feelings discounted, and hopes lost as the academic factory processes the human experience into explanations often unrecognisable to those who provide the data, the stories and the information. That’s the nature of the academic enterprise, however.  But it is often an alienating one for our hosts.  They think that we academics have lost the plot somewhere.

Remember the ballyhoo in the mid-1980s when a group of American museumologists questioned a life-size diorama of “Bushmen” displayed in the Cape Town SA Museum which exhibits mainly natural history.

The diorama was “archived” in 2001 to allow reinterpretation but ethical considerations insisted that the life-casts should be treated as human remains and therefore not exhibited.  The diorama will be dismantled in September 2017 after a cleansing ceremony with traditional healers has been held to dispel any negative forces.  The leaders of various Khoisan groups want their history and culture to be shown in the Iziko SA Museum which they regard as the most appropriate place for the story of the “first people” to be told.

Kruiper, the traditional leader of a re-constituted group that came in the 1990s to be known as the #Khomani, whose land and heritage was, in July this year, declared by UNESCO as a natural heritage site, told my team that when he died that he wanted to be part of that diorama.    Political correctness would not allow his wish.  But his death in 2013 was attended by 2 000 people, amongst whom were non-community members and opportunistic dignitaries who used his international prominence to polish their own marbles [1].  They bulldozed a section of the communal land claim farm for a huge tent and two car parks, graded the road, installed portable toilets, served themselves a hot meal, made frothy speeches and gave take-aways in polystyrene containers to the community, many including the Kruiper clan. The rest were told to sit in the sand and sun outside the marquee.  Now, you tell me what’s ethical and what is not.  I won’t paraphrase the Kantian categorical imperative here.

The printed transcripts, now shredded, had outlasted many software programmes:  Wordstar, Xywrite, ASCII, Wordperfect, all lost in translation, often faded in dot matrix print format, vanishing before our eyes.  Dawid and his clan have outlasted the opportunists who sought to abuse his memory for their own ends. Many academics have worked in partnerships with such communities to help restore dignity and trust, to enable mutual benefit, and the establishment of archives.  But this work is not easily recognised by the academic enterprise. University Press’s continue working within archaic assumptions about what is “scholarly” and what is not.  Higher Degree Committees impose their own positivist prescriptions.  SAQA roots syllabi in fixed moments.  Classroom auditors demand banking education rather than critical pedagogy.

And, don’t get me started on performance management except to wonder why it is the managers who assess academics while the academics are not permitted to assess their managers.  Now, that would be a game-changer.

We can learn from the First People about reversing observer-observed relationships.


1. See Grant, J. 2012. A Hollow Sound of Lamentation.

- Keyan G Tomaselli is a UKZN Professor Emeritus and Fellow, known as “Die Prof”, amongst the #Khomani, and currently Distinguished Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the author’s own.

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