Aviation Struggles in the Face of COVID-19: Airlines, Airports and the Durban Aerotropolis

Aviation Struggles in the Face of COVID-19: Airlines, Airports and the Durban Aerotropolis

COVID-19 looms as the KwaZulu-Natal province is currently in the implementation phase of the airport city development masterplan for the Durban Aerotropolis. With this pandemic, disruption and uncertainty now plague every aspect of life as we know it. The aerotropolis is an urban development feature centred around an airport to drive industrial and economic development. With the airport being its engine and foundational pillar, the aerotropolis becomes inextricably interwoven with the aviation industry at large and thus experiences all the turbulence and turmoil in its operations.

Currently, the aviation sector is experiencing adverse impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. Airlines are struggling, airports are not getting the traffic to sustain their operations, businesses around airport precincts are heavily affected and confidence in air travel has deteriorated. Institutions such as the International Civil Aviation Organization have also highlighted some of the most difficult questions that the aviation industry is grappling with and these include:

•    How long the pandemic will last and what its severity levels will be?

•    How long the lockdowns and air travel restrictions will continue?

•    How long it will take consumer confidence to be restored in air travel?

•    How long the sector can withstand the current financial adversity?

•    How deep and how long the global recession (which is economic decline due to the pandemic) will last?

These are legitimate questions which ought to find champions for airport-city developments ready as they tackle the realities of a changed landscape upon which their aerotropoli find their feet.

The success of an aerotropolis hinges on good airport planning, business site planning and urban planning. At this juncture, majority of the airport plans around the world are in disarray given the issues and questions raised above. Secondary to this is the inconvenience of business site plans which sees the disturbance in the public and private sectors’ aims to either attract into or retain the investment already in the airport precincts.

We have learnt that despite the G20’s commitment to keep foreign direct investment and international trade going during COVID-19, some countries are placing restrictions on incoming investment. COVID-19 has essentially disrupted all manner of business throughout the world and wreaked havoc within the global economy. Stock markets are plunging, companies are challenged and potential investors are cautious to not commit to significant transactions which would include setting up shop in any country during this time. Lastly, urban plans are affected and project deadlines on construction of some of the world’s biggest aerotropoli are heavily disturbed, eg: Dubai South in the United Arab Emirates.

So what does this mean for a province committed to strengthening the foundation for a 60-year masterplan? How does the Durban Aerotropolis grow when aviation, international trade, the global supply chain and the wider business sector have been adversely affected by COVID-19?

As it stands, King Shaka International Airport (KSIA) is on closure given the restrictions on travel, the terminals are empty and the pandemic is delaying the progress on various construction projects happening around the Dube TradePort precinct. This means that all urban planning with its related infrastructure developments are forced to be placed on hold given the potential compromise of the directive for social distancing. New investment initiatives are also halted in the various zones of the Dube TradePort enclave.

It is now becoming evidently important that our provincial government revisits its plans for the establishment of the Durban Aerotropolis. First on its cards is navigating the realities of a thinned air transportation network in and out of KSIA given the potential airline collapses due to the pandemic. Already in our shores, we have seen South African Airways and its alliance partner South African Express experience insolvency and liquidation respectively. We have also read reports of several other airlines either going bankrupt or finding ways to cut costs to stay afloat. Virgin Australia and Air Mauritius have been placed under administration while Delta Airline which is one of the United States of America’s leading airlines, is selling a portion of its fleet to cut costs. Lufthansa is in talks with the German government about a bailout that would give the state 25% stake in Europe’s biggest airline. It becomes important yet again to underscore that without an extensive flight network, airports will suffer and when airports suffer, all that is anchored around it becomes deeply affected.

The aerotropolis (Durban Aerotropolis) needs an airport (KSIA) to exist and an airport needs traffic to exist. This is traffic in the form of in-coming and out-going passengers and cargo. From these, an airport gains landing fees, aircraft parking fees and passenger service charges. An airport also needs business tenants to pay rental fees. In the absence of passenger traffic, these businesses may struggle to do this and may need to negotiate for rental fee deferral. Without these revenue generating streams, an airport is unable to meet its financial dues in the form of airport taxes which include amongst others regulated charges to be paid to the South African Civil Aviation Authority and Air Traffic and Navigation Services.

Secondly, the government needs to ensure that they rebuild investor confidence post COVID-19 (the zones of the Dube TradePort seek investment across sectors, namely, electronics, pharmaceuticals, aerospace manufacturing, assembling and distribution). Restoration of investor confidence is not an easy feat given the fact that economies around the world have been thrown into a decline. Naturally, investors consider certain indicators to safeguard their investment. These indicators serve as determinants for investment and they include competitiveness of the economy, political stability, exchange rate stability, labour force availability, affordability and flexibility, safety and security, control of corruption and quality of infrastructure just to mention a few. A government which can uphold a promise of all these considerations and more is well positioned to revive its economic development post pandemic. But what happens if our government struggles to make this commitment when state funds have been channelled into the Durban Aerotropolis for over 10 years?

Lastly, the provincial government may need to consider conceptualising innovation clusters with high investment returns to bolster the shock of COVID-19. The set-up of these clusters should not be divorced from the technological revolution that has fundamentally altered the way we live, work, and relate to one another. Perhaps a deliberate targeting of firms and investment on artificial intelligence, robotics, block chain, nanotechnology, the internet of things and mobility technology may boost the productive capacity of the Durban Aerotropolis and the province.

Dr Nomkhosi Luthuli is a lecturer at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership, UKZN. Her research interests are in the area of Regional and Local Economic Development and Leadership Studies.

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UKZN Employee Helps Feed Those Impacted by COVID-19

UKZN Employee Helps Feed Those Impacted by COVID-19
Food parcels handed out by the Mtshalis.

UKZN staff member Mrs Zandile Magwaza-Mtshali, her husband, Bishop Sibusiso Mtshali, and colleagues in the College of Health Sciences are donating food parcels to communities in and around Durban affected by COVID-19.

The couple, who started the project after the national lockdown was extended, belong to the Ethiopian Holy Baptist Church, which has congregations in Durban, Umlazi, Illovo, Doonside, KwaMashu and Hammarsdale.

‘I received donations of food parcels from a Muslim organisation and handed them out to our church members and members of the community who are in need. About 197 families have so far benefited from the project,’ said Magwaza-Mtshali.

The couple decided to extend the distribution of food parcels to all branches of the church through their chairpersons. ‘There are families from the community and the church who are no longer working due to the lockdown and also don’t qualify for UIF,’ she said.

Magwaza-Mtshali said they plan to provide food parcels to at least 1 000 people in different areas.

Words: Ndabaonline

Images: Supplied

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Health Experts Panel Supports Ban on Cigarette Sales

Health Experts Panel Supports Ban on Cigarette Sales
A panel of Health experts has agreed that smoking increases one’s susceptibility to COVID-19.Click here for isiZulu version

The ban on cigarettes sales has slowed the spread of COVID-19 and will ease pressure on the health system, a panel of experts led by UKZN’s Professor Mosa Moshabela has found.

The panel was at UKZN’s Data@breakfast, a webinar hosted by Moshabela - an expert on public health - where the national debate around smoking and COVID-19 came under the spotlight.

Results of a study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) were shared at the gathering.

Moshabela said the ban was to protect smokers from COVID-19, with evidence showing they were more likely than non-smokers to progress to a critical stage of the illness. He said the ban would help reduce the number of cases.

The study found that while cigarettes continued to be sold, a majority of smokers had no access to them, leading to a number of gains against the pandemic.

‘The majority of smokers (88%) were not able to buy cigarettes during lockdown, suggesting the ban was efficient in reducing cigarette access and use,’ said HSRC statistician, Dr Ronal Sewpaul.

Presenting the data collected over two weeks from smokers around the country, Sewpaul said based on the research outcomes, the study found that cigarette buyers were in close physical contact with people outside their homes more often than non-smokers, suggesting less than optimal social distancing, a key component to avoiding contracting the virus.

Those who were able to buy cigarettes during the ban had a significantly higher chance of coming into contact with people outside their homes at 26% than 10% of those who did not. Those who continue to buy cigarettes also came into contact with at least 10 people outside their home compared to those who did not,’ Sewpaul said.

Given that smokers experience more serious COVID-19 outcomes than non-smokers, they needed to be aware of the serious risks smoking exposed them to should they contract the virus.

‘If only 1% of the eight million smokers in South Africa were to contract the virus, 80 000 would be affected,’ said Sewpaul. ‘It is estimated 5% of the COVID-19 infected smokers would require admission to ICU. This would translate to about 4 000 people needing ICU hospital beds and ventilators across the country. Under current calculations, this would exceed the availability of ventilators and place health workers at risk.’

Sewpaul said the study outcomes showed that allowing smoking during this period would be creating an environment conducive to less social distancing and likely to cause a situation where the health system would be overwhelmed.

Executive Director of the National Council against Smoking Dr Yusuf Saloojee said the addiction argument was also not strong enough to put pressure on government to allow the sale of cigarettes during the pandemic. ‘Smokers are likely to have severe symptoms which will overwhelm our health system,’ he said. He encouraged smokers to use the cigarette ban period to quit.

Go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJTiDgNpaWs&feature=youtu.be to watch the webinar.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied

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Call to Protect COVID-19 Sufferers Against Off-Label Drug Side Effects

Call to Protect COVID-19 Sufferers Against Off-Label Drug Side Effects
Professor Fatima Suleman from UKZN’s Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences.Click here for isiZulu version

African countries need to consider implementing a prescription monitoring scheme to ensure their COVID-19 patients being treated with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are protected against the serious side effects associated with these drugs.

This is according to Professor Fatima Suleman, a professor in UKZN’s Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences and former Prince Claus Chair of Development and Equity at Utrecht University.

Suleman contributed to a perspective paper published in the journal American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, titled: Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine for the Prevention or Treatment of Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in Africa: Caution for Inappropriate Off-Label Use in Healthcare Settings.

The paper is in response to the serious health risks the drugs pose if used as a treatment for patients who have not already benefitted from their use. These drugs are commonly used to treat patients with chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and auto-immune conditions. The current mass panic buying of the drugs as a possible treatment for COVID-19 has led to a global shortage of the medication seriously impacting on those who rely on it.

Co-author, Professor Jean Nachega said: ‘Off-label use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine can cause abnormal heart rhythms, including ventricular tachycardia, and cardiac toxicity if either drug is used alone or combined with other medicines that are known to prolong the QT interval, such as azithromycin. Drug-drug interactions between chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine and medications for diseases that are common in Africa, like HIV and tuberculosis, can also, potentially, make the drugs ineffective or toxic.’

Suleman said the team of authors were advocating for pharmacists to dispense these medications with prescriptions for approved indications. ‘If doctors do prescribe these medications, they should have a monitoring system in place in the event of serious side effects and adverse events. As there are no proven, registered therapies for COVID-19, doctors must keep abreast of the literature to examine outcomes from other practices and countries so that, if serious effects are discovered and published, the therapy can be stopped immediately for other patients’, said Suleman.

Suleman also advocates for educational webinars in Africa to educate people on the serious side effects associated with use of these drugs, especially without supervision by doctors. Suleman also emphasised the need for a “collaborative network” in Africa to ensure co-ordinated production, distribution and post-marketing surveillance of any approved COVID-19 drug that aligns with low-cost distribution.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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Water Research Magazine Profiles Head of UKZN’s Pollution Research Group

Water Research Magazine Profiles Head of UKZN’s Pollution Research Group
Head of UKZN’s Pollution Research Group, Professor Chris Buckley.

The March/April edition of the Water Research Commission’s (WRC) Water Wheel magazine features the Head of UKZN’s Pollution Research Group (PRG) Professor Chris Buckley, identifying him as a “water personality” and recognising his more than three decades of leadership in water conservation and pollution research.

Buckley, in partnership with Ms Susan Mercer, leads the PRG’s drive to change the face of sanitation in South Africa and beyond, spearheading the group’s involvement in water-saving, resourceful, innovative, and environmentally-friendly sanitation solutions, particularly for poorer communities.

The Water Wheel is a bi-monthly magazine on water and water research.

With a “knack for numbers”, Buckley attended Westville Boys’ High School before studying Chemical Engineering at the then University of Natal in Durban with a student loan from the Durban Corporation. His fourth-year project involved investigating ways to reduce the volume of industrial dyes in textile effluent, while his MScEng focused on the filtration of sewage sludge and he began a PhD on the filtration of compressible sludges.

Buckley paid back his student loan through vacation work for the municipality in various departments, enlightening him about rarely-seen parts of the city as he collected and delivered water samples for analysis.

True to his philosophy of practicing what he preaches, he installed a toilet design at his home over a decade ago to separate waste and capture it for transformation into other resources.

Over the course of his career, Buckley has supervised more than 100 postgraduate students, and, now aged 70, continues to train a new generation of scientists and researchers.

The PRG, located in the basement of the Chemical Engineering building on the Howard College campus, was first conceptualised in the 1970s and from a handful of staff it has grown to its present complement of about 35.

Buckley, who has led the group since 1985, was appointed full-time in 1987.

The PRG adopted a progressive approach to waste solutions before it was popular in academic quarters and its members are now the resident experts for waste, testing and innovative sanitation solutions. The initial focus of the PRG was on reducing water pollution, and production and energy costs for industries including textiles, metal finishing and processing, mining, petrochemicals, sugar, beverages and power plants. While these are still of interest to the PRG, over the last 10 years the focus has shifted towards addressing sanitation challenges, particularly through supporting the development and testing of innovative “reinvented toilets”.

The PRG began working with the eThekwini Municipality in the mid-1990s on solutions including an anaerobic baffle reactor, ventilated pit latrines and urine diversion toilets. With the municipality, they also established the Newlands Mashu Agro-Ecology Hub to test the use of human waste in the development of fertilisers for crop trials.

The recipient of a number of grants and connected to a large national and international network, the PRG has relied on the WRC’s consistent support to sustain its activities and enable it to pursue a long-term vision. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is another key funder - Bill Gates visited Durban in 2004, meeting with Buckley and municipal officials and going on to visit several sites and examine innovative sanitation solutions.

Buckley described how modern engineering solutions can reduce each toilet flush from 10 litres of water to 1.5 litres, a solution especially necessary in water-scarce countries such as South Africa.

The PRG has tested almost 20 toilet prototypes as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, and work at several field sites is ongoing to test new designs and techniques, including communal toilet blocks in informal settlements.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied

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Extended Learning Webinar Explores Immunity, Nutrition and COVID-19

Extended Learning Webinar Explores Immunity, Nutrition and COVID-19
Professor Suna Kassier delivered a webinar on the topic of Immunity, Nutrition and COVID-19.

How nutrition is linked to immunity and the healthy choices individuals can make in the shadow of COVID-19 were outlined in the first of a series of webinars hosted by UKZN’s Extended Learning (UEL) Unit on topics related to nutrition.

The presentation was made by Professor Suna Kassier of UKZN’s Discipline of Dietetics and Human Nutrition.

Kassier, a registered Dietician, Associate Professor, and Academic Leader of Teaching and Learning in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, has focused her research on obesity, infant and young child nutrition, food security, and non-communicable diseases of lifestyle. She is passionate about communicating scientific information to members of the public.

‘The whole concept of what can be done to address immunity under the current circumstances of the pandemic has received a lot of attention, so from a nutritional perspective I’m hoping to give you some insights as to what the current body of knowledge is and whether diet can in fact influence your immunity in this kind of pandemic,’ said Kassier.

Her presentation covered definitions of health and immunity, and she explained that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, being novel to the human body, left people unable to adequately fight off the disease without falling ill.

Kassier explained functioning and disorders of the immune system, and noted that factors such as inadequate sleep and aging also affected the strength of the immune system.

She mentioned factors that leave elderly patients more at risk, saying that 33% of elderly people in industrialised countries have nutrient deficiencies, likely to be considerably higher in South Africa, and emphasised the need to support older, more vulnerable members of society.

Speaking on the role of diet, Kassier noted that there was a lack of evidence regarding specific dietary factors that could reduce the risk of acute infections such as COVID-19, but that eating healthily, being active, managing stress, and getting enough sleep were critical for a strong immune system, with malnourishment resulting in greater risk of infections.

Kassier explained the roles of free radicals and antioxidants, recommending a diet containing foods rich in phytochemicals and encouraging consumption of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables to boost antioxidant intake.

‘Mindset is also vital to getting through this pandemic physically and mentally healthy, so think positively,’ she suggested.

Kassier addressed the value of supplementation and common misconceptions about supplements, and importantly gave guidance on how to spot myths related to COVID-19, such as the use of garlic to treat the disease.

‘If there is a medical breakthrough, you will hear of this breakthrough through announcements from reputable organisations, such as the National Department of Health in South Africa, or the World Health Organization (WHO).’

Kassier suggested several reliable sources of information, including the COVID-19 South African Resource Portal, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, and WHO.

‘From a dietary perspective, the loss of smell in COVID-19 patients is one aspect that has stood out,’ said Kassier.

‘Remember that when you have a viral infection, your nutrient needs are actually increased, irrespective of the origin of the virus,’ said Kassier.

UEL’s Marketing and Communications Manager, Ms Sarah Haffenden noted that UEL was offering webinars in support of and in compliance with the directive of the national lockdown to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘We are embracing the changes and have launched a number of projects aimed at providing free access to learning materials during this lockdown period, one of which is our online learning webinars,’ said Haffenden.

UEL’s webinars will continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout May and June.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied

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Pee Power Project Benefits from UKZN Research

Pee Power Project Benefits from UKZN Research
“Urine-tricity” mini plant in Durban.

A Microbial Fuel Cell stack prototype continuously produced electricity from human urine over a period of eight months powering four LED lights fitted within a previously unlit communal ablution block.

It was part of a project piloted in Durban and made possible by a partnership of research institutions including UKZN’s Pollution Research Group (PRG).

A group of researchers from the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of West England (UWE Bristol) developed the technology for deriving biological electricity from human urine through the Pee Power® mini-plant, created as part of the international Reinvent the Toilet Challenge championed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The mini-plant prototype, consisting of a bank (stack) of microbial fuel cells, was installed at an informal settlement accommodating more than 2 000 people in Durban last year, generating what the team terms “urine-tricity” – direct electric power from urine collected from the urinal stands which successfully lit up the communal ablution block.

Microbial fuel cells contain microorganisms that break down organic material in urine and as a result produce electrical energy. The devices have positive and negative terminals like regular batteries, but unlike lead-acid batteries, their energy production does not get depleted as long as the organisms have a source of waste to decompose - this could be urine or another source of organic waste.

Pee Power developers at the Bristol BioEnergy Centre also hope it will play a role in purifying polluted wastewater flowing into rivers around the world, and that it can be scaled up from its current prototype design to units which could generate even more electricity. They envision this technology being deployed throughout the developed and developing world as a source of free off-grid electricity and wastewater treatment. If connected to wastewater treatment plants, the effluent by-product could be used for the production of biofertiliser, and the cells could also be used on a smaller scale by homeowners to treat wastewater and produce electricity in their backyards.

The device was trialled at the Glastonbury Festival in the United Kingdom and at two schools in Kenya and Uganda. Its development has been funded by the Gates Foundation, United Kingdom’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the European Union.

At the Durban testing site, the aim was to use a smaller prototype plant than had been previously trialled, increase the power output and improve electronics hardware for better interfacing with applications including LED lights and mobile phones.

The PRG, which has collaborated with the eThekwini Municipality for more than two decades, has drawn in several collaborative research projects that have positioned Durban as a leading site for the testing of sanitation solutions that will conserve water, reduce water pollution and the need for intensive wastewater treatment, and valorise human waste products by transforming them into new resources, such as fertiliser.

The PRG’s collaborative research has involved exploration of the production of fertiliser from wastewater treatment works, the separation of urine and faeces in urine-diversion toilets, and redesigned toilets that reduce the volume of water lost to flushing - an important advance especially in a water-scarce country. The PRG is currently testing almost 20 prototypes under the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.

Collaboration takes place with several national and international organisations, institutes and foundations, including the Gates Foundation, the Water Research Commission, overseas universities and research institutes, and several disciplines, units and centres within UKZN.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Academic Finalist for Bioanalysis Rising Star Award

UKZN Academic Finalist for Bioanalysis Rising Star Award
Mr Sooraj Baijnath, Academic Leader: Research at UKZN.

Academic Leader: Research at UKZN, Mr Sooraj Baijnath, became South Africa’s first ever finalist for the international Bioanalysis Rising Star Award when he was selected as one of the six contenders.

‘I feel really honoured to be selected as the first ever finalist from South Africa, especially in a field of internationally-recognised young scientists from countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, India and China,’ said a visibly elated Baijnath. ‘I am grateful to have been able to prove that even if one is from humble beginnings, nothing is beyond your reach with hard work and dedication.’

The Bioanalysis Rising Star is a prestigious annual award recognising the most promising early career scientists in the field of bioanalysis. Sponsored by Waters Corporation, the aim is to promote the work of highly talented researchers offering a springboard to help them get established in the exciting world of bioanalysis.

Baijnath’s prize includes an all-expenses paid trip to the Waters Corporation in the United States to learn about the latest technologies in the field.

‘If I win the award I hope to use the exposure to bring back knowledge that can improve the bioanalytical research we are currently doing at UKZN, to build collaborative networks as well as improve the training of postgraduate students by imparting the knowledge I gain,’ he said.

The six finalists, nominated from the top 26 entrants, are expected to share their profiles and a promotional video created by the organisers with various social media platforms and to their networks to enable voting.

The eventual winner of the award will be determined by a public vote. Voting will be done through the link below: https://www.bioanalysis-zone.com/2020/05/11/bioanalysis-rising-star-award-finalist-sooraj-baijnath_brsa_20/

‘I have been following the Bioanalysis Zone for a while now to stay in touch with the latest technology related to my field of research,’ said Baijnath. ‘I noticed the link for nominations in one of their recent newsletters and decided to enter.’

He said being selected as a finalist was totally unexpected, especially given the quality of other young scientists around the world and the infrastructure they have access to.

‘This field involves the use of analytical techniques to measure and study important biomolecules in biological samples. Currently, my work involves the use of mass spectrometry to study the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic changes associated with the drugs used in the treatment of important neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease, Major Depressive Disorder, opioid addiction, TB meningitis, HIV associated neurocognitive disorder and the use of cannabinoids.’

For Baijnath, the award serves as motivation to continue his scientific endeavours as well as the training of undergraduate and postgraduate students. ‘If I win this, I hope the exposure will inspire me to pursue my dreams, while it gives me the tools I need to hopefully change the world one day.’

He was recently appointed as Academic Leader of Research in the School of Health Sciences and is a senior lecturer in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The holder of a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, he is also an Experimental Pharmacologist who is a Principal Investigator at the Catalysis and Peptide Research Unit.

Plaudits include having 40 publications in international peer-reviewed journals and being the recipient of the 2016 National Research Foundation award for the Next Generation Researcher awarded to the best PhD student in the country.

He has also received research support grants to support his drug discovery research using bioanalytical methods. His work has twice been featured on Medical Briefs and the UKZNdabaonline newsletter, for ushering a new age in pre-clinical drug discovery using mass spectrometry imaging.

Said Baijnath: ‘My parents weren’t always well off but they placed great emphasis on the importance of a good education. It is through their dedication to my education that I have achieved these accolades and I hope that my story motivates other students.’

To help Baijnath win the award, follow the link below to view his profile and then cast your vote:


Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied

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RUNRES Team Adapts to COVID-19 Conditions to Continue Community Engagement

RUNRES Team Adapts to COVID-19 Conditions to Continue Community Engagement
RUNRES team members now have virtual interaction with Vulindlela community members instead of in-person meetings.

An international project working alongside communities to co-design safe, cost-effective and socially acceptable waste management and sanitation innovations to establish a circular economy has continued its work with communities living in Vulindlela on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rural-urban nexus: Establishing a nutrient loop to improve city region food system resilience (RUNRES) project is working with the Vulindlela community to implement sanitation innovations to recover waste in order to strengthen the resilience of smallholder agriculture in the community.

RUNRES is an international research collaboration involving work in four cities on the African continent - Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kigali in Rwanda, Arba Minch in Ethiopia, and Msunduzi in South Africa. Dr Alfred Odindo of the Discipline of Crop Science at UKZN is the Principal Investigator in South Africa for RUNRES, and in this role works closely with community members in the design and evaluation of innovative sanitation technologies for waste valorisation under local conditions.

‘Several community workshops and focus group discussions have been conducted with the support of traditional leadership and ward councillors to define challenges and provide solutions,’ said Odindo. ‘However, we have had to adapt because of COVID-19, and so began using electronic information and communication technologies to reach out to the community.’

Odindo and his team have experienced considerable success, engaging with farmers who have been able to connect seamlessly and join meetings using Zoom and WhatsApp platforms.

Odindo says in addition to valorising waste to create a circular economy and improve resilience, the project team at UKZN is looking at improving food value chains and reducing post-harvest losses through small scale processing in the community.

Farmers in Vulindlela did little in terms of processing, he said, and the methods they employed neither guaranteed product quality nor facilitated commercialisation, resulting in significant post-harvest losses and unrealised potential for increased income through value addition and job creation.

‘The establishment of small-scale processing in the community is a great opportunity to get the youth involved in agriculture. These improvements increase the competitiveness of smallholders through increased resource-use efficiency, value-added production and product diversification, and are necessary in order to facilitate a regional circular economy.’

Through collaboration between academia, the private sector, government, and local communities, RUNRES researchers hope to demonstrate that innovations for value chain development and waste recycling can serve as a catalyst to generate a flow of resources throughout the rural-urban nexus that will improve the resilience of regional food systems.

Odindo has worked with members of the Blessed Agricultural Co-operative in Vulindlela for several years, and their engagement on the challenges they were experiencing with waste disposal inspired his involvement in the RUNRES project.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied

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Lockdown and Protection Against COVID-19: A Mammoth Social Marketing Challenge

Lockdown and Protection Against COVID-19: A Mammoth Social Marketing Challenge
Professor Debbie Ellis from UKZN’s School of Management, IT and Governance.

- By Professor Debbie Ellis

I write this opinion piece as a marketing academic, passionate about the field of social marketing. I am not a medical expert or economist and am grateful not to be our president steering us through these difficult times of the novel coronavirus. My passion, social marketing, is about using marketing theories, principles and tools not to sell products but to change behaviours for social good. My research foci have been on behaviour changes, such as healthy eating or exercise to address the global problem of obesity, or on encouraging eco-friendly consumption to save the planet, or preventing drinking-and-driving.

However, no other challenge facing the global population has necessitated such an immediate, simultaneous, and widespread social marketing initiative as COVID-19 has. Governments around the world have used various voluntary and involuntary strategies to get citizens to lockdown in their homes to prevent the spread of the disease.

The behaviours being asked of South African citizens during the lockdown are to stay at home and only venture out when absolutely necessary. When we do, we need to wear the necessary precautionary equipment such as masks, and possibly gloves, and we need to practice regular and appropriate hand washing. We need to look for new ways to stay healthy, educated, stimulated and sane. Every single person in the country is required to make these behaviour changes in order for us to protect ourselves against the virus and to slow the spread so that our health systems can cope.

From a social marketing perspective, global organisations such as the World Health Organization, along with governments across the globe, have had a mammoth task of putting together social marketing strategies to achieve this behaviour change. ‘Social marketing seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviors that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good.’ (French & Gordon, 2015, p. 5).

Marketing guru Philip Kotler says social marketing aims to stimulate the target audience, us as citizens of this country, to ‘accept a new behaviour, … modify a current behaviour, or abandon an old behavior.’ (Kotler, Roberto, & Lee, 2002, p. 5).

Not only must we adopt new behaviours such as regular hand washing and staying at home, but we must stop hugs and kisses in greeting, and modify our social distancing to one to two metres from each other. Thus while governments need to devise the new behaviours and communicate these to us and provide the necessary tools to make this possible - eg decreasing the cost of data so we can access education online, or make the masks and hand sanitsers available - each citizen has a role to play in meeting this behaviour change challenge.

Key to a successful social marketing strategy is the application of sound marketing principles and processes. Like all marketing strategies, a social marketing strategy requires a consumer orientation. This means it must be fundamentally focused on us as citizens, whose behaviour needs to change. In ideal situations, the social marketing strategist would spend time researching the target audience(s) to identify the competing behaviours (the behaviours we’re trying to change), what motivates and inhibits the new behaviours, and what factors such as cultural, technological, economic or demographic factors, might influence the achievement of the desired behaviours. In the coronavirus pandemic context, there has unfortunately, been limited time for such detailed research, but such factors must still be identified and taken into account. For example, a competing behaviour to staying at home in lockdown, is to visit friends. The social marketer needs to understand what drives people to do this, eg tensions from too many people in a small space at home, inability to communicate with others, the need for some exercise etc. If we can understand the drivers of these “wrong” behaviours, then we can start to put plans in place to address them.

Do we need social services like social worker help lines that people can call when they are feeling stressed, and/or do we need to provide cheaper data so people can use technology to stay in touch, and/or do we need to show people ways to exercise in limited spaces. I am acutely aware that these examples oversimplify far more complex lockdown challenges but they serve to illustrate how important it is for the social marketer to understand the different target audiences (citizens facing different circumstances) and to develop tailored strategies to reduce barriers to the desired behaviours and to increase the barriers to the undesirable behaviours, such as providing information to people on how dangerous and contagious the virus is, or imposing fines on people being out without a valid reason.

Another core principle of social marketing is that there must be overall societal benefit. The benefits must outweigh the costs. Producing healthy food products that are packaged in single-use plastics, for example, may have a net negative effect on society in the long run. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, this principle presents a major challenge to the social marketers and we have seen growing discontent and even anger around the lockdown related to this principle. Again I reiterate, I do not envy the balancing act that government needs to perform. On the one hand, they need to prevent the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve” and on the other they need to ensure that people don’t starve due to lack of income.

Unlike some governments, ours appears to be relying on scientific facts, consulting experts across numerous disciplines, and developing a well-researched and considered approach to the lockdown decisions. But this is not an easy task, and communicating enough of the rationale for people to have confidence and trust in government’s decisions while at the same time not overloading the population with information, nor causing fear and panic, is by no means an easy task.

There is much that we as academics and researchers in this area of marketing, can research and learn from this global social marketing challenge. Is it better to use the stick (fines and jail terms) or the carrot (incentives to stay at home, eg cheaper data, TV channels to educate and stimulate children) approach? 

How much information and in what format is needed to communicate the desired behaviours? Which restrictive measures assist with behaviour change and which just fuel other social problems eg was a ban on cigarettes a good thing? My students and I have already begun several research projects. We are all affected by this social marketing challenge and can thus contribute both to the debates on these issues as well as to the success of the social marketing strategies. I welcome engagement on these topics and hope that you will play your role in assisting the social marketers to achieve the greatest social benefit in the context of this global challenge.

French, J., & Gordon, R. (2015). Strategic social marketing. Los Angeles, USA: Sage Publications.

Kotler, P., Roberto, N., & Lee, N. (2002). Social marketing: Improving the quality of life. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Professor Debbie Ellis specialises in Marketing in her position at UKZN's School of Management, IT and Governance.

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COVID-19 Responses in Africa: Implications for Peace, Security, and Public Health

COVID-19 Responses in Africa: Implications for Peace, Security, and Public Health
A stock image of a man wearing a face mask as Africa and the world battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

- By Johannes John-Langba and Vivian Nasaka John-Langba

During a nation-wide address on April 13, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria warned Nigerians about the danger posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In his words, “This is not a joke; it is a matter of life and death.” To underline the seriousness of the situationhe announced the extension of regional lockdown measures by an additional 14 days within the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja (FCT), Lagos, and Ogun States in a bid to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.1

In December 2019, China identified and notified the global public health community about the emergence of a novel coronavirus among patients at health facilities in the Hubei province of the country. This novel coronavirus was identified as the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and its attendant illness as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).2 Within weeks, the virus had spread rapidly across Wuhan, the Chinese city where it was initially identified, and to other parts of Asia, Europe, and the United States in epidemic proportions. The World Health Organization (WHO) later declared this a pandemic on March 11, 2020 as the new coronavirus continued to spread across the globe with devastating outcomes for lives, livelihoods, and economies.3

As of April 20, 2020, over 2.4 million people have been infected globally and 168,500 have died from COVID-19.4 Although the worst affected countries remain outside the African continent, both in terms of infections and fatalities, the number of infections and deaths continue to rise in Africa. The likelihood of health systems on the continent becoming overwhelmed as the virus spreads is high, given the weak and fragile state of public health systems in most African countries.5 The most recent Covid-19 statistics provided by the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) indicate that out of the 55 African countries, 52 have reported coronavirus infections amounting to 22,513 cases and 1,126 deaths, with the Union of the Comoros, Lesotho, and Western Sahara as the only African countries that have not reported COVID-19 cases.6

Given the challenges that many African countries face with weak health systems, the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health, peace, and security on the continent are dire. The linkages between public health, societal wellbeing, politics, and the performance of the national health systems are well documented in Africa, particularly in post-conflict countries as well as those experiencing protracted conflicts.7 While the United Nations (UN) Security Council has not yet formally determined the Covid-19 pandemic a threat to international peace and security, as it did in the case of the 2014 Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic in West Africa,8 the African Union (AU) has expressed concerns about the likelihood of the Covid-19 pandemic impacting negatively on the continent’s stability.9 At its 910th meeting held on February 13, 2020, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council noted that the COVID-19 outbreak is a public health emergency that “could constitute a threat to peace and security on the Continent.”10

Public health responses to the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa have varied from one country to another, but reflect a general trend towards declaring states of emergency followed by restrictions of movement (mostly lockdown and shelter-in-place restrictive measures), except in instances where access to essential supplies such as food or medicine are required. In addition, most African countries have adopted other WHO recommended mitigation strategies including quarantine, social distancing, self-isolation, and improved water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices. Others include mass coronavirus testing and contact-tracing at the community level. Although these strategies for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 have proven effective in “plateauing the curve” in China and South Korea,11 they have been accompanied by limited or no measures to address the unintended consequences of the mitigation strategies given the realities of unacceptably high unemployment, inequality, and economic informality in most African countries. It is not surprising that concerns have been raised by the AU and various UN agencies about the implications of the aforementioned COVID-19 response strategies on peace, security, and public health in African countries. The implementation of mitigation and containment strategies have resulted not only to the perpetuation of existing poverty and inequalities, but also heightened security-related problems.12

Across Africa, incidences of violence perpetrated by security forces deployed to enforce curfews and confinement measures are being reported.13 Deaths and injuries resulting directly from actions by State security personnel have been reported in a number of African countries including Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and South Africa.14 The UN has also reported that violence against women – in particular domestic violence – has intensified in countries where lockdown or stay-at-home orders have been implemented.15 This notwithstanding, evidence from the 2014 EVD outbreak in West Africa indicates that public health emergencies can exacerbate the multiple forms of violence that women and girls already face.16

Lessons from the West African EVD response also indicate that the outbreak contributed to the loss in traction for immunisation programmes against tuberculosis, measles, and yellow fever.17 While data is currently limited on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child-health service provision, the WHO and UNICEF have raised concerns about the suspension of immunisation interventions18 as several countries including Nigeria have halted vaccination programs,19 which will certainly have an impact on the prevention of outbreaks of common childhood diseases such as polio, measles, rubella, and acute respiratory illnesses with implications for public health, peace, and security. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stands out as a country that is on the precipice of disaster. It has been battling three epidemics; EVD, measles, and cholera, and is now faced with the additional challenge of dealing with Covid-19 with a fragile health system due to on-going armed-conflicts in parts of the country.20

Other conflict-affected or post-conflict African countries, including Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Libya, Somalia, and South Sudan, have all reported cases of COVID-19. Should these governments redeploy their troops to deal with public health crises as a result of the coronavirus, disruptions are likely to occur with respect to counterterrorism activities and contribution of troops to peacekeeping missions. Another concern is the possibility of troop deployment becoming another channel for transmitting Covid-19 within countries and across borders. This factor lends itself to the need for a regional African approach to address the pandemic. The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is well positioned to provide technical tools and measures that can be adapted to ensure that the contextual dynamics in individual African countries are taken into account in all COVID-19 mitigation responses to address its adverse effects on populations already facing severe socio-economic inequalities. It is also important that measures for ending the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa include measures that ensure equitable and sustainable access to good quality healthcare facilities and treatment. Finally, COVID-19 response measures must also incorporate social policies that transform the socio-economic conditions of the people taking into account the precarious peace and security situation in Africa.

1. Libby George, “Nigeria to Extend Coronavirus Lockdowns for 14 More Days: President Buhari,” Reuters, April 13, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-nigeria/nigeria-to-extend-coronavirus-lockdowns-for-14-more-days-president-buhari-idUSKCN21V1US.

2. WHO, “WHO Timeline – COVID-19,” accessed April 24, 2020, https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen.

3. WHO, “Coronavirus,” accessed April 20, 2020 https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1.

4. Johns Hopkins University, “COVID-19: Dashboard by the Center of Systems Science and Engineering,” https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html.

5. Mario J. Azevedo, “The State of Health System(s) in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities,” in Historical Perspectives on the State of Health and Health Systems in Africa, Volume II. African Histories and Modernities(Palgrave Macmillan: Cham, 2017), 1-73. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-32564-4_1.

6. Africa CDC, “COVID-19: Latest Updates on the COVID-19 crisis from the Africa CDC,” accessed April 20, 2020, https://africacdc.org/covid-19/.

7. Johannes John-Langba, “National Health Systems and Unmet Need for Antiretroviral Medication and HIV-related Healthcare in African Countries Emerging from Conflict,” International Peacekeeping20, (2013): 427-438. doi:10.1080/13533312.2013.846134.

8. “Resolution 2177 (2014): Adopted by the Security Council at its 7268th meeting, on 18 September 2014,” United Nations Security Council, accessed April 10 2020, http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/S_RES_2177.pdf.

9. African Union, “The 910thMeeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) on Ebola and Coronavirus Outbreak- (Africa CDC), 19 February 2020,” accessed April 10, 2020, http://www.peaceau.org/en/article/the-910th-meeting-of-the-au-peace-and-security-council-psc-on-ebola-and-coronavirus-outbreak-africa-cdc; “COVID-19,” African Union, accessed April 19, 2020, https://au.int/en/covid19.

10. African Union, “Press Statement: 910thMeeting, 13 February 2020 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia PSC/PR/BR (CMX),” accessed 10 April 2020, https://www.peaceau.org/uploads/psc.-910.press-statement.ebola-coronavirus.13.02.2020.pdf.

11. Biao Tang et al, “Lessons drawn from China and South Korea for Managing COVID-19 Epidemic: Insights from a Comparative Modeling Study [Submitted],” Bulletin of the World Health Organization, (April 2020). http://dx.doi.org/10.2471/BLT.20.257238.

12. UN WOMEN, “COVID-19 and Ending Violence against Women and Girls,” accessed 11 April, 2020, https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/issue-brief-covid-19-and-ending-violence-against-women-and-girls-en.pdf?la=en&vs=5006.

13. News Wires, “Security forces use violent tactics to enforce Africa’s coronavirus shutdowns,” France24, April 1, 2020, https://www.france24.com/en/20200401-security-forces-use-violent-tactics-to-enforce-africa-s-coronavirus-shutdowns.

14. Ibid.

15. UN WOMEN, “COVID-19 and Ending Violence against Women and Girls,” accessed 11 April, 2020, https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2020/issue-brief-covid-19-and-ending-violence-against-women-and-girls-en.pdf?la=en&vs=5006.

16. UNICEF Helpdesk, “GBV in Emergencies: Emergency Responses to Public Health Outbreaks (September 2018),” 2, accessed April 11, 2020, http://www.sddirect.org.uk/media/1617/health-responses-and-gbv-short-query-v2.pdf

17. Peter Beech, “The COVID-19 Pandemic could have Huge Knock-on Effects on Women’s Health, says the UN,” World Economic Forum, April 2, 2020,” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-hit-women-harder-than-men/.

18. UNICEF, “More than 117 million children at risk of missing out on measles vaccines, as COVID-19 Surges: Statement by the Measles & Rubella Initiative: American Red Cross, U.S. CDC, UNICEF, UN Foundation and WHO, April 13 2020,” accessed April 13, 2020, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/more-117-million-children-risk-missing-out-measles-vaccines-covid-19-surges.

19. Sarah Newey and Anne Gulland, “Measles and Polio May Come ‘Roaring Back’ as Global Vaccination Programmes Shut Down: Experts Warn of a Resurgence of Childhood Diseases as Essential Services are Disrupted by the Coronavirus Pandemic,” The Telegraph, March 31, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/measles-polio-may-come-roaring-back-global-vaccination-programmes/.

20. UNICEF, “Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at Risk from Killer Measles, Cholera Epidemics: COVID-19 Latest Challenge Facing Battered Health Services: Press Release, March 31 2020,” accessed April 11, 2020, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/children-democratic-republic-congo-risk-killer-measles-cholera-epidemics.

Johannes John-Langba, PhD, MPH, is an Associate Professor of Social Work and the academic leader of Research and Higher Degrees in the School of Applied Human Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in Durban, South Africa. A recipient of the SSRC’s Africa Peacebuilding Network (APN) Individual Research Grant (IRG) in 2015, his current research focuses on mental health, migration and health, health systems strengthening, sexual violence and exploitation, social policy and development, and the intersections of public health, peace, and security.

Vivian Nasaka John-Langba, LLM, is an independent human rights consultant and a doctoral candidate in Public Law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. She previously worked as a research advisor at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her research interests include refugee rights, statelessness, the African human rights system, and gender, health, and human rights.

This article was first published by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), an independent, international nonprofit that mobilises necessary knowledge for the public good by supporting scholars worldwide, generating new research across disciplines, and linking researchers with policymakers and citizens.

Click here to view the original article: https://kujenga-amani.ssrc.org/2020/04/30/covid-19-responses-in-africa-implications-for-peace-security-and-public-health/

Photograph: Chadolfski / Shutterstock.com

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Lecturer Wins CNN African Voices Changemakers Award

Lecturer Wins CNN African Voices Changemakers Award
Dr Lliane Loots and members of her FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY who won international acclaim.

Lecturer in Drama and Performance Studies in the School of the Arts, Dr Lliane Loots, has won international recognition for being a changemaker in Africa.

Loots and her work with the FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY caught the attention of the global news TV network CNN which runs a series called African Voices Changemakers, highlighting African trendsetters who create their own subcultures in areas such as travel, fashion, art, music, technology and architecture.

Hosted by Nigeria’s Arit Okpo, the programme honours creative folk finding new ways to positively impact communities by making cultural contributions on the African continent.

Loots was singled out for the work the FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY does, and selected as one of 2020s African Voices Changemakers.

Said Loots: ‘I was a little shocked when I got the call as I was not even aware we were on the radar for this type of honour.’

While Loots and FLATFOOT have travelled extensively within the African continent sharing skills and engaging cultural and dance partnerships, the work now being honoured involves the vast amount of arts community engagement done in both township and rural areas in the KwaZulu-Natal region.

Loots’s unique and evolving pedagogy of using dance as a methodology for life skills learning and what FLATFOOT calls ‘education towards a living democracy’, is what caught the attention of CNN.

Operating outside of formal education spaces, Loots and FLATFOOT work with about 800 young people a year in programmes now in existence for more than 16 years. This work connects with Loots’s own teaching and learning at UKZN as her recently achieved PhD was an exploration of these journeys towards finding new paradigms for dance education in South Africa that democratise historic access and inclusivity. Many of her honours students also get to participate in these programmes as part of their onward journey to connect praxis to research.

CNN began filming the work of Loots and FLATFOOT in January, and the short documentary created has recently just been aired on CNN. It is available online: https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2020/03/26/african-voices-changemakers-dancegod-flatfoot-ghana-south-africa.cnn

‘The onset of COVID-19 has meant that all our township and rural arts programmes are suspended – for the first time in 16 years!’ said Loots. ‘The arts in Africa are particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 lockdown as much of the embodied and somatic work we do is not easily transferable to on-line platforms. We remain deeply challenged to find solutions!’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied

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Education Academic Made Editor of Journal of Education

Education Academic Made Editor of <em>Journal of Education</em>
Professor Carol Bertram, the new Editor of the Journal of Education.

Click here for isiZulu version

Associate Professor in the School of Education, Professor Carol Bertram, has been appointed Editor of the SA Education Research Association’s prestigious Journal of Education.

Bertram’s key role is to take the journal forward on an online submission system that is open access.

‘We use a free open access software known as Open Journal System, which is hosted by UKZN,’ she said. ‘I am passionate about the importance of making academic articles open and accessible, and not locked behind paywalls.

‘The academic journal publishing business is a multi-million dollar profit-making industry, where publishers essentially take the work of academics (whose salaries are paid for by the public purse) and copyright it and sell it back to academia for huge profits.’

Her vision as an editor is to manage a quality journal that is not for profit, which charges a reasonable article publication fee, where the copyright of the article remains with the author, and the article PDF is available to anyone online.

‘I am proud that the Journal of Education is indexed with Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO SA), which means that it meets a range of quality criteria,’ said Bertram. ‘The journal is also indexed with the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) - an online directory that indexes and provides access to quality open access, peer-reviewed journals.

‘Special thanks to Faith Magwaza of the UKZN Library who is also committed to open access publishing and to a Scholarly Publishing Programme at the Academy of Science of South Africa which has amazing staff who are committed to supporting open access publishing in South Africa!’ added Bertram.

The journal can be accessed at https://journals.ukzn.ac.za/index.php/joe

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

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You Risk Getting a Criminal Record by Contravening Lockdown Regulations

You Risk Getting a Criminal Record by Contravening Lockdown Regulations
Ms Nozibusiso Masondo, candidate attorney and LLM in Business Law student.

- By Nozibusiso Masondo

In support of South Africa’s fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, the Minister of Corporative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on 29 April, 2020, gazetted Level 4 lockdown regulations in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002.

These regulations came into effect on 1 May.

Regulations under Level 5 of national lockdown section 11B (1) had restricted the movement of people, stipulating that during the period of lockdown ‘every person is confined to his or her place of residence unless strictly for the purpose of performing an essential service, getting an essential goods or service, collecting a social grant, or seeking emergency or chronic medical attention.’

These regulations were repealed by lockdown Level 4 regulations which are more flexible, with Chapter 3 aimed at lifting lockdown restrictions mainly for economic activity.

However, movement of people is still restricted by Section 16(1) and (2) which states that ‘every person is confined to his or her place of residence. A person may only leave their place of residence to perform an essential or permitted service, as allowed in level 4; go to work where a permit which corresponds with Form 2 of Annexure A has been issued; obtain services that are allowed to operate as set out in Table 1 of the regulations; move children as regulated by the Department of Social Development; and walk, run or cycle between the hours of 06h00 to 09h00 within a five kilometre radius of their place of residence provided that this is not done in groups’. Gatherings and movement between provinces and districts remain prohibited under Level 4 lockdown, except gatherings for funerals and in the workplace.

Section 16(3) further stipulates that ‘every person is confined to his or her place of residence from 20h00 until 05h00 daily, except where a person has been granted a permit to perform an essential service or attend to security or a medical emergency.’

Section 31(2) states that ‘for the purposes of this chapter, any person who fails to comply with or contravenes the provisions of regulations 16(1), 16 (2), 16(3) and 16(4) commits an offence and on conviction, is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both the fine and imprisonment.’

What does this mean for everyone in South Africa? It is very clear that Regulations 16 (1), (2), (3) and (4) amounts to offences created and failure to adhere to the new legislation may result in punishment, ie any person who contravenes these regulations can be arrested and if convicted jailed and/or required to pay an admission of guilt fine.

So what options are there for people who break these laws and get arrested? Most people arrested for contravening the lockdown regulations are given an option to pay an admission of guilt fine. However, what they are not informed of is that because of paying that fine they risk getting a criminal record.

Section 56 of the Criminal Procedure Act regulates the admission of guilt fine giving an arrested person an option to pay a fine.

Section 57(6) of the Criminal Procedure Act states further that where an arrested person has paid an admission of guilt fine in terms of Section 56, that person will be deemed to have been convicted and sentenced resulting in a criminal record.

Being arrested during lockdown may be a stressful and frightening experience and as a result many people in that situation may elect to pay an admission of guilt fine to be released from police custody unaware of possible consequences down the line.

In most cases, the police do not explain to an accused that the payment of an admission of guilt fine can result in a criminal record.

What are your rights if arrested? Legal practitioners are classified as essential workers under lockdown regulations and thus allowed to operate so getting legal representation/aid is an option. It is advisable to contact an attorney for legal advice before paying a fine.

Taking all of the above into consideration, payment of an admission of guilt fine may be a quick and relatively simple way of getting released from police custody, however the consequences may impact on a person’s life for many years.

A criminal record stays valid for 10 years with possible inconveniences of the blot being difficulties in getting a job or acquiring a travel visa.

Said Masondo: ‘I was encouraged to write this article due to an increase in the number of people who have been arrested and already paid admission of guilt fines without being aware of the consequences.’ Masondo also recognised Mr Bayabonga Zulu for his encouragement and support.

Nozibusiso Masondo (23), an LLM in Business Law student at UKZN and a candidate attorney at Austen Smith Attorneys, holds Bachelor of Social Sciences (Law and Politics) and LLB degrees from UKZN.

Photograph: Supplied

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FLAIR Fellowships a Boost for Three UKZN Researchers

FLAIR Fellowships a Boost for Three UKZN Researchers
From left: Dr Jaclyn Mann, Dr Clinton Veale and Dr Samuel Iwarere.Click here for isiZulu version

Three UKZN scientists are among 30 early career researchers in Africa to receive support for their investigative work from the Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR) programme.

They are Dr Clinton Veale of the School of Chemistry and Physics, Dr Jaclyn Mann of the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (SLMMS), and Dr Samuel Iwarere of the School of Engineering.

FLAIR programme support is aimed at helping develop independent research careers in African institutions and ultimately for individuals to lead their own research groups.

The Flair Fellowships, awarded for the second time, are a partnership between the African Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund to support talented African researchers for two years to undertake cutting-edge scientific research that will address global challenges facing developing countries. The Fellowships, worth US$391 500 each, are part of an effort to grow and retain scientific talent in Africa to improve the continent’s scientific output and sustainable development.

Selected from a pool of more than 700 applicants, the 2020 FLAIR Fellowship cohort conducts diverse research in a wide range of areas of particular relevance for Africa, from sustainable agriculture to health to clean energy storage and more. Researchers are drawn from diverse African countries including Sudan, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Cameroon, Uganda, South Africa and Ghana.

Veale, a senior lecturer and researcher in Organic Chemistry, received the Fellowship for a project that will develop mass spectrometry based models of key Protein-Protein Interactions (PPIs) as novel targets for neglected diseases. This research forms part of a UKZN flagship project working in collaboration with KRISP, Rhodes University and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

‘This technology will allow us to efficiently identify inhibitors of these targets in the search for new medicines for unmet drug needs,’ said Veale. ‘We are currently exploring the PPI between the chaperone HSP90 and co-chaperone HOP, as a target for triple-negative breast cancer, a disease that disproportionally affects women of sub-Saharan African origin and currently has no targeted therapy.’

Veale received his MSc in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry from the University of Edinburgh, followed by his PhD in Chemistry from Rhodes University, joining UKZN in 2018 where he has focused on the application of synthetic organic and biophysical chemistry methods for the design of biologically active compounds.

Mann, a senior lecturer and researcher in the SLMMS who is also a faculty member of the HIV Pathogenesis Programme and senior researcher and supervisor in the Sub Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence, will explore the issue of cells that act as HIV reservoirs but are unaffected by antiretroviral treatment, presenting a barrier to curing HIV through this therapy. By investigating the currently unclear mechanism by which these reservoirs endure treatment in a dormant or slowly mutating state, Mann hopes to inform future cure strategies.

Mann, who completed all her studies and training at UKZN and who joined the University as a senior lecturer in 2013, said she was honoured to be awarded the fellowship.

A researcher in the Thermodynamics Research Unit (TRU) in Chemical Engineering, Iwarere is working on research which seeks to harness the power of non-thermal plasma (NTP), an emerging water treatment technology, to develop an innovative low-cost water purification module suitable for low-income communities to combat the challenge of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa drinking from untreated water sources.

Iwarere, who did his masters, PhD and postdoctoral research at UKZN, completed his undergraduate and honours degrees in Industrial Chemistry at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria.

‘It was the most intense funding process that I have engaged in,’ said Iwarere. ‘It is a great honour to receive international recognition for my research effort, and I am most grateful to God for His grace, to my colleagues who assisted with comments and feedback on my proposal during my application and interview preparation, and to the TRU.’

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied

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