Golden Key Honorary Membership for Law Academic

Golden Key Honorary Membership for Law Academic
Ms Janine Hicks received the prestigious Golden Key Southern Africa 2020 Honorary Membership.

Lecturer at UKZN’s School of Law, Ms Janine Hicks, was one of 28 people to receive the prestigious Golden Key Southern Africa 2020 Honorary Membership at a virtual ceremony on 3 November hosted by the Golden Key International Honour Society (GKIHS).

The GKIHS is the world’s largest collegiate honour society for graduate and undergraduate students, and has strong relationships with more than 400 universities around the world. It invites annual nominations for honorary members from its regional chapters. Hicks was nominated by the President of the UKZN Howard College Chapter, Mr Syethemba Nkosi, who explained that honorary members are individuals who have distinguished themselves in their field of endeavour.

Hicks’ stellar record in community service and support for academic excellence speaks for itself. She is the Chair of the UKZN Gender-Based Violence Committee and a Convenor for the Navi Pillay Research Group - a collective of academics from the School of Law who aim to address critical emerging issues of race, class, gender and disability in post-apartheid South Africa through research, law and policy reform. She is also the Project Leader for the South African Law Reform Commission’s Project 143, which investigates maternity and paternity benefits for self-employed workers and a former Commissioner with the South African Commission for Gender Equality.

Nkosi said: ‘We believe that Ms Hicks is a legal pillar of South Africa and an ambassador for the legal fraternity. Most important is her passion for the emancipation of previously disadvantaged groups in South Africa and leadership that has prevailed over time and remains unshaken.’

Commenting on her recognition Hicks said: ‘I feel honoured to have been nominated, and am inspired by the leadership and social justice activism of our students. I am committed to upholding the obligations required of honorary members, which include promoting high standards of academic achievement, serving as a leader, and upholding high moral and ethical standards.’

Noting that the GKIHS recognises, rewards and encourages its members to surpass expectations, and represents the most accomplished students, graduates and alumni in the world, Dean and Head of the School of Law, Professor Managay Reddi is very proud of Hicks’ recognition. ‘It is a singular honour and a remarkable achievement to be made an honorary member of the Golden Key Society. I am delighted that such an award has been bestowed on the School of Law’s Ms Janine Hicks. Janine exemplifies the attributes of intellectual excellence, academic integrity, and deep concern for critical social justice matters. She is hardworking and driven in her commitment to her students, her PhD studies, and her leadership of important structures like the UKZN GBV Committee and the South African Law Reform Commission’s Project 143. Janine’s accomplishments make her a most worthy recipient of this prestigious award.’

Chair of the Golden Key Board, Dr Michael Sanseviro, welcomed and congratulated the new honorary members based in southern Africa.

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Supplied


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Education Student Selected for Prestigious Writing Residency

Education Student Selected for Prestigious Writing Residency
Master’s in Education student, Ms Fiona Khan.Click here for isiZulu version

Master’s in Education student and accomplished author Ms Fiona Khan has been selected for the 2020 Nanjing International Writers’ Residency Programme.

The programme was established to improve the creative ability and multicultural understanding of talented writers from world cities with rich literary resources (particularly UNESCO Cities of Literature).

Each year, six to eight authors from participating cities are selected for a one-month residency programme in Nanjing, China to learn about different aspects of local culture, better understand local literature, and gain creative inspiration from these new experiences.

‘I am the only writer in the world to hold the residency for children’s literature and adult literature in the same year with two different countries. That alone is mind-blowing. My hard work for the past 30 years in this field has finally paid off,’ Khan said. She was also a part of the selection committee with eThekwini Municipality who chose Nanjing as one of the 10 cities that were selected in 2019 as a UNESCO City of Literature.

During the residency programme, Khan will produce literary creations based on her experiences in Nanjing. She will be given a virtual tour of the city and the libraries, the cultural and historical background and the different dynasties that have existed in Nanjing. It will also focus on Nanjing as China’s first capital city and highlight the nuances and influences in the writing that has emerged from the city and the country.

Khan will also interact with other writers to discuss their books and influences and their style of writing. There will be bookstore tours and discussions on various cultural festivals and their representivity in books.

She will be working on the novel or a short story as a requirement of the residency. Chinese translations of her new works will be published on local media platforms at the end of the programme.

‘This will be a fantastic opportunity to get down to writing through shared experiences, different narratives and approaches to writing and the cultural and historical rhetoric,’ she said.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Law Postdoc Receives Award for Cyber Law Research

Law Postdoc Receives Award for Cyber Law Research
Postdoc in the School of Law, Dr Trishana Ramluckan.

Dr Trishana Ramluckan, a postdoc in the School of Law, received an award from the South African chapter of the international professional body ISACA at a virtual event.

ISACA (formerly known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association) is a non-profit professional organisation that focuses on IT audit and governance, risk and compliance, and more recently information security and cyber security. It has approximately 145 000 members across 180 countries, and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. The South African chapter is the largest in Africa with over 2 000 members, and it established a number of awards to recognise its members for their professionalism and service.

Ramluckan received the 2020 Contribution Award for her research on cyber law and governance, as well as her involvement with local and international professional bodies, and services as a reviewer for local and international journals and conferences. She was also nominated for the Africa Women in Cybersecurity Awards by the African Women in Security Network (AfricanWISN)) in the category Woman Data Privacy and Law Professional of the Year. Earlier this year Ramluckan was listed as one of the top 50 women in cybersecurity in Africa.

Ramluckan’s research focus is international cyber law, international relations and cybersecurity, and IT Governance. This research area is unique within Africa, as most studies emanate from Europe and the United States. Her work assesses the relevance of international cyber laws to Africa, and ensures that the African perspective is visible. The need for such laws and research is increasing due to the rise in cyber-attacks and cybersecurity in geo-political posturing.

Words: NdabaOnline

Image: ISACA South Africa


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Beach Survival in the Face of Sea Level Rise Explored in Nature Study

Beach Survival in the Face of Sea Level Rise Explored in <em>Nature</em> Study
A fixed coastline like that pictured in Durban is unable to respond well to natural sediment dynamics and coming sea level change.

Professors Andrew Green and Andrew Cooper of the Discipline of Geological Sciences at UKZN are among the authors of a paper published in Nature Climate Change that refutes recent suggestions that half the world’s sandy beaches could become extinct by the end of the 21st century.

The international team of coastal scientists from the United Kingdom, France, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the United States were responding to a claim made by European researchers in a paper published in Nature Climate Change in March 2020.

After re-examining the data and methodology underpinning the original study, the authors of the new paper, led by Cooper, an Honorary Research Professor at UKZN, disagreed with its prediction and concluded that, in light of the global data and numerical methods currently available, it is impossible to make such wide-reaching predictions.

A critical issue noted in the new research is that there is potential for beaches to migrate landwards as the sea level rises and shorelines retreat. The key notion behind this is that if beaches have space to move into under the influence of rising sea levels - referred to as accommodation space - they will retain their overall shape and form, but in a more landward position. Given no impediments to their movement, they will ultimately survive.

Researchers say that beaches backed by hard coastal cliffs and engineering structures, such as seawalls, are indeed likely to disappear in the future due to sea-level rise as they are unable to migrate landward. They will first experience “coastal squeeze” resulting in decreased width, and will eventually drown or be eroded.

‘Strongly engineered coasts cannot cope with rising sea levels when, in tandem with wave action, sediment is stripped from beaches, but moved onshore into areas where beaches are not engineered to be,’ said Green. ‘The current Durban beachfront is a good case in point; it is evident that during the windy season, large quantities of sand are blown into the back-beach environments, but there is no place for this to settle as these areas have been converted into roads and hard infrastructure. This is a small subset of what will continue to happen when sea levels rise and coastal squeeze becomes more pressing.’

However, the research points out that beaches backed by low-lying coastal plains, shallow lagoons, salt marshes and dunes will migrate landward as a result of rising sea levels. In these cases, the shoreline will retreat, but the beaches are likely to remain, albeit a little raised in elevation and located landward, rather than becoming “extinct”. Cooper added, ‘As sea levels rise, shoreline retreat must, and will, happen but beaches will survive. The biggest threat to the continued existence of beaches is coastal defence structures that limit their ability to migrate.’

‘Most of South Africa is not heavily urbanised, and as such the areas of the coast that are heavily engineered are relatively small when compared with places such as The Netherlands, making us far less vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels. Cities may not be as lucky given their strongly defined hard shorelines behind the beaches,’ said Green.

The new paper notes that there is currently no information on the global number of beaches that fall into either the extinct or surviving category and, as such, it is impossible to quantify what proportion of the world’s beaches will disappear between now and 2100.

‘Numerical equations and models employed by coastal and civil engineers are often unsuitable without a strong link to geological and morphological observations, and applying these at broad scales can be very damaging to coastal management plans,’ added Green ‘Coastal management needs a broader and more holistic range of inputs to ensure decision making is more resilient.’

The authors of the paper concluded that the removal of coastal seawalls and hard back-beach structures (termed managed re-alignment), together with nature-based solutions such as those experienced in Durban, like beach nourishment, may be the only methods to safeguard the future of urban beaches.

As Green summed it up, ‘it is likely we will need to start looking for sand resources for coastal nourishment as the onshore resources such as river sands and coastal dunes slowly dwindle in volume. One key place is the offshore environment, beyond the beach where many countries from around the world have begun to turn their attention for the future.’

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Professor Andrew Green


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“Who Protects the Protector?”

“Who Protects the Protector?”
From left: Advocate Dali Mpofu, Hon. Chile Igbawua, Mr Werner-Amon, and Mr Leonard Ngaluma.Click here for isiZulu version

In commemoration of Ombudsman Month and to raise awareness of the Ombudsman institution, the African Ombudsman Research Centre (AORC) hosted a two-hour discussion highlighting the threats and challenges facing the Ombudsman institution in Africa and the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) strategy for supporting Ombudsman under threat.

The facilitator was Hon. Chille Wagner Igbawua, Ombudsman of Nigeria, and the speakers included Advocate John Walters, Ombudsman of Namibia; Advocate Dali Mpofu from South Africa; and Mr Leonard Ngaluma, CEO of the Kenyan Ombudsman Office. There was also a pre-recorded video presentation by Mr Werner Amon, Secretary General of the IOI and the Austrian Ombudsman.

Professor Brian McArthur, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Law and Management Studies at UKZN welcomed participants on behalf of the University and Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Public Protector, South Africa, President of African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (AOMA) and Chairperson of the AORC Board welcomed them on behalf of these organisations.

Walters’ presentation raised the fundamental and challenging question: “Who Protects the Protector?” His discussion focused on what would constitute the first and second line of protection. He stressed that the Ombudsman is required to protect him or herself by rising above personal motives and interests and being seen to be unprejudiced and impartial. Their integrity should be beyond doubt and they should not only be seen to be independent, but should “live out” that independence.

Ngaluma focused on four main issues and how they affect the effectiveness of the Ombudsman institution, namely, unresponsiveness, reprisals, resource constraints and the need for the Ombudsman’s office to deepen good governance within Africa. With reference to budget cuts, he recommended ‘mobilising strategic donor funding while maintaining the independence of the office of the Ombudsman.’

Mpofu stated that threats are inherent to the job and are an occupational hazard. He is of the view that the office of the Public Protector should be protected in the same way as that as that of the office of a judge. He stressed that the Public Protector’s engagement with the public at grass roots level is very important as the public can see the benefit of the office and have a vested interest in its survival. In this way, the public will protect the Protector.

Amon noted that assisting Ombudsman under threat has become one of the core objectives of the IOI in recent years. The IOI considers a threat as any action which can put the independent operation and exercise of the Ombudsman institution at risk. He described the various threats and the ways in which the IOI provides assistance. Amon concluded by encouraging all participants to contact the IOI when there is concern about a possible threat to their own institution or to a fellow Ombudsman institution.

Words: Ngomu Franky Lwelela 

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN and NMU Represent SA in Global CYBATHLON Powered Arm Prosthesis Race

UKZN and NMU Represent SA in Global CYBATHLON Powered Arm Prosthesis Race
UKZN and NMU Engineering scholars set to compete in CYBATHLON 2020 with their powered arm prosthesis - Touch Hand 4.5.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in collaboration with Nelson Mandela University (NMU) will proudly represent South Africa in the 2020 Global CYBATHLON Championship to be hosted in Switzerland on 13 and 14 November 2020.

UKZN and NMU, with the support of the Robotics Association of South Africa and the Swiss Embassy, are the only participants selected from South Africa and Africa.

CYBATHLON is an international multi-sport event in which around 60 teams, consisting of persons with physical disabilities, from 20 countries compete to complete everyday tasks using state-of-the-art technical assistance systems.

Organised under the umbrella of public research university, ETHZürich, the event also serves to advance research in the field of assistive technology and to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in everyday life.

The South African team, made up of researchers, academics and postgraduate students is led by lecturer in the Discipline of Mechanical Engineering at UKZN, Professor Riaan Stopforth, who was approached by the National Centre for Competence in Research (NCCR) Robotics in Switzerland and selected to compete in the ARM / Powered Arm Prosthesis Race for the innovative design of the Touch Handa low-cost arm prosthesis that was originally designed by Stopforth and UKZN MSc graduate, Mr Drew van der Riet in 2013. Since then, Stopforth has worked with other scholars to improve the design. The current research focus is to improve on the functionality of the Touch Hand.

Each participating team primarily consists of a technology developer and a person with a disability, referred to as a pilot, who is expected to carry out several predetermined tasks across six stations using the assistance technologyThe tasks in the race are designed to reflect everyday activities that can be challenging for people with disabilities, eg, tying a shoelace, buttoning a coat, slicing bread or opening a tin can. While solving the respective tasks in competition, it is shown how well the developed technology is suited to support the pilot in everyday life.

‘The true purpose of our research and development is to make a difference in a person’s life, not money that is what drives and motivates us,’ said Stopforth.

The team has been developing the prosthesis with the aim of making it affordable for low-income households and countries while still incorporating advanced technologies, ‘CYBATHLON is a good opportunity for us to compare, a benchmark to see where we stand, but we are also happy to celebrate the event and our work. The pilots (persons with disabilities) encounter many barriers, many of which we do not even notice. We often think that we understand what they go through every day, but that’s not the case!’

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, teams will not be travelling to Zurich this year and CYBATHLON 2020 will take place in a new format, in each team’s home country. Teams will set up their infrastructure according to Swiss regulations and film their races. Instead of starting directly next to each other, the pilots will start individually and under the supervision of CYBATHLON officials. From Zurich, the competitions will be broadcast through a new platform in a unique live programme. The organising committee will support the teams remotely and the officials will also act as referees and perform the required technical and medical checks.

As the teams are spread across different locations, they will race at different times. Video footage of the races will be sent in realtime to ETHZürich and spectators can follow all the action on the website www.cybathlon.com. Updates of the team activities will also be available at www.touchprosthetics.com.

The South African Powered Arm Prosthesis heatswill take place at 12h20, 12h48 and 13h16 at the Howard College campus on Friday, 13 November. Each team’s best race time and results will be broadcast on the CYBATHLON YouTube channel later that evening around 18h00 Central African Time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges for the team. Technical manager for this project and lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at NMU, Mr Clive Hands said that having the team separated and working remotely to prepare and finalise the Touch Handfor the big race was no easy feat, ‘The lockdown period had a huge impact and we found ourselves severely compromised; however, we embraced the challenges and are ready to give our best on race day.’

Hands added that team spirit is extremely positive and no matter the points on the scoreboard, they are motivated by the greater goal of making a difference, ‘Our main target is to produce a low-cost prosthesis that can ultimately be used by our pilot amputee, Mr Lungile Dick, and add value to his life. That is our first prize!’

Dick lost his hand following a tragic accident while he was repairing a machine at a boxing company, about 15 years ago. He now works as a trainer at a Volkswagen training facility in Port Elizabeth. As an amputee and person living with disability, Dick says he is excited about the Touch Hand‘I hope that in the future, when the prosthesis is further developed, it will reduce my physical handicap and help others in developing countries.’ Dick has a sporting background as a professional tennis player with provincial colours and he also played table tennis, chess, cricket and volleyball at Varsity level.

The SA Team members are:

- Director and Team Leader - Professor Riaan Stopforth
- NMU lecturer in Mechanical Engineering - Mr Clive Hands
- Primary Pilot - Mr Lungile Kenneth Dick
- NMU Postgraduate students - Mr Daniel Trask, Mr Jode Fourie, Ms Sthuthi Varghese and Mr Zaahid Imran
- Former UKZN student - Mr Kiran Setty
- Backup Pilot/amputee - Mr Darren Hauptfleisch
- Referee and Technical Check person - Mr Charl Rossouw
- Time-keeper - Ms Wendy Janssens

About CYBATHLON

CYBATHLON was initiated in 2013 by Robert Riener, Professor of Sensory-Motor Systems at public university, ETHZürich and the first international competition took place in 2016. The idea for the CYBATHLON was inspired by athletes, such as the first runner with a motorised leg prosthesis to climb the Chicago Willis Tower, and the first runner with lower body paralysis to use an exoskeleton to run the London Marathon.

About Touch Hand

This prosthetic hand is a bio-mechatronic system, integrating the Disciplines of Mechanical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Computer Engineering and Biology. The Touch Handnow in its fourth design iteration, consists of a mechanical exterior with an electronic interior, with the movement of the fingers controlled by an amputee through the use of small electrode pads placed on her/his residual muscles, which sense muscle contractions.

This innovative project has garnered support from FAULHABER, Horne Technologies, Rapid 3D, Axiology Labs, the Swiss Embassy in South Africa, Robotics Association of South Africa, Department of Science and Technology (DST) ROSSA programme, Custom Works Composite Engineering, Axxess, Innovative Dental Solutions, Jendamark, nTopology, BunnyCorp and Volkswagen, to name but a few.

Click to Watch:

- Meet the Team and Touch Hand
- Cybathlon 2020
- Team Prepare for Race Day

Visit www.cybathlon.com and www.touchprosthetics.com for more information.

Follow #cybathlon2020globaledition, #TouchHand #TouchProsthetics, @cybathlon on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Words: Sejal Desai

Photograph: Supplied


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Computational Chemistry Applications may be the Key to Novel Drug Designs

Computational Chemistry Applications may be the Key to Novel Drug Designs
Dr Ahmed Elrashedy (right) with his supervisor, Professor Mahmoud Soliman.

Dr Ahmed Abd Elkader Elrashedy graduated with a doctoral degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry for his novel research on dual targeting inhibition of the BCR-ABL1 protein as a new strategy for the treatment of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML).

Elrashedy’s innovative research conducted through computational paradigms and their applications could advance the design of novel and selective inhibitors as dual anti-cancer drugs with minimal toxicities. Over the past few decades, it has been established that the tyrosine kinase domain of the BCR-ABL protein is a potential therapeutic target for CML treatment. Although the use of first-generation ATP-competitive tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) of oncoprotein BCR-ABL1 has enabled durable responses in patients with CML, issues relating to drug resistance and residual leukemic stem cells persist.

Second- and third-generation TKIs were later introduced to prevent or counteract drug resistance, but they have been associated with more serious side effects and complications. Elrashedy’s research incorporates combinatorial in silico approaches to investigate proteins that mediate chemotherapeutic resistance, coupled with strategic methods for achieving direct and selective inhibition of both catalytic and Allosteric binding sites of the BCR-ABL1 protein.

Supervised by Professor Mahmoud Soliman, UKZN’s top researcher and Dean of the School of Health Sciences, Elrashedy’s findings resulted in 15 published research articles, with another five under review. ‘I am proud of Ahmed’s achievements during his PhD period and having him as part of my team. I believe that his PhD was a fruitful one in terms of his learning and productivity goals. He has achieved outstanding results,’ commented Soliman.

Elrashedy is a research instructor at the National Research Centre in Egypt. He decided to pursue his PhD in order to develop his career and enhance his proficiency in service delivery through the generation of new knowledge. ‘I wish to express my profound gratitude to my parents, and to Professor Soliman who was my greatest inspiration in this programme, as well as the College of Health Sciences that provided the scholarship which allowed me to pursue my PhD,’ he said.

Elrashedy enjoys reading, writing books, traveling, and fishing and hopes to open his own pharmacy in the near future. His immediate plan is to return to Egypt and continue his work as a research instructor.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Hosts Virtual Imbokodo Women in Leadership and Academia Series

UKZN Hosts Virtual Imbokodo Women in Leadership and Academia Series
Panellists at the series, Professor Sarah Mosoetsa (left) and Ms Brightness Mangolothi.

Under the theme, Women in Leadership and Academia in Uncertain Times, UKZN’s Human Resources Division hosted the Imbokodo Women in Leadership webinar.

The two-part series focused on the challenges confronting women during COVID-19.

The first speaker, Professor Sarah Mosoetsa an Associate Professor at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) and the CEO of the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) presented her talk in three parts.

The first part, Femininity versus Toxicity examined how feminine qualities are often overlooked in the workplace. ‘Traits like empathy won’t get you that promotion, but as women we should be able to be both empathetic and good leaders,’ said Mosoetsa.

Tackling issues of transformation, the second part outlined how women still occupy lower end positions in the field of academia. Mosoetsa attributed this to the culture and structure of a system that is still dominated by the “Old Boys Network”. She listed a range of issues that need to be addressed in order for transformation to occur, including insufficient funding, the lack of postgraduate opportunities for women and the absence of a strong women’s network.

Questioning family roles during COVID-19 and how men have fared in comparison to women, Mosoetsa highlighted that men had used this time for themselves while women had taken on multiple roles ranging from child minder to chef, etc. ‘Lockdown saw women in academia publishing less while publications by men increased. This is because for women, lockdown has meant retreating and taking care of their families and children,’ she said. 

The second speaker Director for Higher Education Resource Services South Africa (HERS-SA) Ms Brightness Mangolothi, encouraged women to collaborate and advocate for one another. She urged HR practitioners to develop a pipeline that identifies women leaders so as to provide them with sponsorship, mentorship and coaching.

Appealing to leaders to be authentic and invest in self-development, she said, ‘Know yourself as a leader - your strengths and weaknesses - because when there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do you no harm.’

Highlighting communication and transformation as key factors in uncertain times, Mangolothi said gender equality will not be achieved unless promotion criteria in Higher Education are reviewed.

She stressed the need to make time for wellness and self-care, saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and encouraged everyone to embrace compassion. ‘People will forget what you did for them but not how you treated them.’

Director of Human Resource Development at UKZN Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu, thanked the panellists for their thought-provoking presentations and acknowledged Dr Siphelele Zulu, Executive Director: Human Resources for supporting the programme. She also extended her thanks to the Imbokodo Task Team, the Corporate Relations Division and her HRD team for assisting her in putting the webinar together.

The event was made possible by the HR and Imbokodo Task Team members; Professors Lebo Moletsane, Colleen Downs, and Nobuhle Hlongwa, Drs Gugu Mazibuko and Mariam Seedat-Khan; Ms Normah Zondo and the chair Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied


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UKZN Hosts Webinar on Drug and Substance Abuse Prevention

UKZN Hosts Webinar on Drug and Substance Abuse Prevention
Scenes from the Drug and Substance Abuse Prevention Webinar.

UKZN’s HIV and AIDS Programme hosted a virtual dialogue on the prevention of drug and substance abuse to educate the public on the harmful effects of such abuse.

Dr Rosh Subrayen, a qualified social worker and the Disability Support Unit Co-ordinator for the Edgewood campus focused on the link between substance abuse, mental health and HIV and AIDS. She noted that mental health challenges and substance abuse can increase the risk of HIV infection and complicate the management of HIV and AIDS treatment.

Subrayen identified the psychosocial and economic barriers that hamper individuals from seeking healthcare, noting that stigma is a central challenge. Markers used to identify stigma include feeling unworthy, ostracised, powerless, hopeless, voiceless, isolated and excluded.

Solutions highlighted by Subrayen included screening for and treating mental health issues and substance use disorders to prevent HIV infections; educating the community about the links between these factors and social connectedness.

Ms Candice McCain a counselling psychologist at the Howard College campus examined some of the impacts of drug and substance abuse and the consequences associated with HIV and AIDS. Highlighting the different types of substances, she focused on the four main causes of substance abuse, namely, induced euphoria, to calm or relieve pain, enhance performance and to increase social functioning.

McCain added that, ‘Individuals under the age of 25 are more prone to risky and impulsive behaviour; this is because their brains are still growing. Our brains only become fully developed at the age of 25, so if you’re taking substances from adolescence through to your 20s your developing brain is more susceptible to lasting damage.’ She urged students to contact UKZN’s toll free helpline on 0800 800 017 for support and counselling. 

UKZN alumnus and former peer educator, Mr Anele Mkila focused on recreational activities that can steer students away from substance abuse. He highlighted the need for community awareness campaigns in schools, libraries and churches and noted that religious entities, rehabilitation groups and local support groups are important social structures in dealing with substance abuse. ‘COVID-19 has exposed us to substance abuse because as social beings we aren’t used to being isolated,’ Mkila said.

Professor Fikile Mazibuko, Acting Senior Director for the Student Services Division, thanked the panellists and all those in attendance for engaging in the dialogue. She emphasised the importance of non-judgemental and supportive approaches, meaningful interventions and resolutions and collaborative awareness campaigns.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Image: Supplied


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CCMS Celebrates the Success of PhD and Master’s Graduates

CCMS Celebrates the Success of PhD and Master’s Graduates
CCMS staff and PhD scholars seen on the steps of the Memorial Tower Building on the Howard College campus.

UKZN’s Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) PhD and master’s graduates were lauded for attaining their degrees during a virtual celebration organised by the Centre.

CCMs boasts a record number of 11 PhDs and five master’s graduates for the year.

Professor Ruth Teer-Tomaselli, Professor Keyan Tomaselli, Professor Donal McCracken, Professor Eliza Govender and Professor Sarah Gibson supervised the graduates.

Teer-Tomaselli said: ‘We are really proud of our graduates, and we wanted to acknowledge and honour them in a special way through this celebration. By achieving their degrees, their careers as scholars have now begun.’

Dean and Head of the School of Applied Human Sciences, Professor Matshepo Matoane congratulated both CCMS staff and graduates for their dedication and hard work. ‘To the graduates, this is one of your greatest milestones. Go forth, enter the world of academia and inspire greatness.’

A video, created by one of the graduates Dr Marion Alina, was shared during the event that showcased the offerings of CCMS, students’ journeys and the rigorous and critical process of research undertaken by students.

Being part of CCMS not only taught Dr Phiwe Nota and Dr Yonela Vukapi the value of hard work but also the importance of collegiality. Working with this understanding has led to them achieving within the College of Humanities and at international conferences. ‘Among the proudest moments in my seven years at CCMS was receiving all of my postgraduate degrees - honours, master's and now PhD - under my supervisor Professor Eliza Govender,’ said Nota.

Vukapi said the ‘CCMS is an academic space, yet it was “a home-away-from-home” for most of us. I treasure being given the opportunity to grow through practical experience and being nurtured by senior lectures and professors.’

The graduates were thankful for the support they got at CCMS. Through sharing knowledge and learning from astute academics, they all pledged to continue on their journey of growth within academia and their communities.

The list of graduates are below:

•    Brenda Bukowa (PhD)

•    Damien Tomaselli (PhD)

•    Len Rosenberg (PhD)

•    Tigere Muringa (PhD)

•    Marion Alina (PhD)

•    Yonela Vukapi (PhD)

•    Phiwe Nota (PhD)

•    Marchant van der Schyff (PhD)

•    Rhoda Abiolu (PhD)

•    Parkie Mbozi (PhD)

•    Henri-Count Evans (PhD)

•    Benjamin Kazule (Master of Social Science)

•    Sima Bokolo (Master of Social Science)

•    Noluthando Fandane (Master of Social Science)

•    Oluwabunmi Okelola (Master of Social Science)

•    Micha Michele Augustine (Master of Social Science)

The event closed with a musical number by CCMS alumnus, vocalist and UKZN staffer, Ms Thulile Zama.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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PhD Student Publishes in Prestigious International Journal

PhD Student Publishes in Prestigious International Journal
PhD student, Miguel Castañeda-Zárate in the field watching for pollinators.

Mr Miguel Castañeda-Zárate, a Mexican TWAS (The World Academy of Sciences) funded PhD candidate in the School of Life Sciences (SLS), has published results from his research in Current Biology, a journal with an impact factor of 9.601.

In the paper, he and his two co-authors - also from the SLS - present a discovery that solves an evolutionary puzzle about how flowers adapt to a different pollinator.

Castañeda-Zárate’s PhD project focuses on the pollination and evolution of an African orchid species. Most populations of the species are pollinated at night by hawkmoths which are attracted to the white, sweetly-scented flowers with long nectar tubes from which they drink nectar. While researching this species in the Karkloof area of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, he discovered a population with slightly unusual flowers. After spending several fruitless evenings trying to observe moths in this population, he found that the tubes were devoid of nectar. It was during a day-time visit to the population that the real pollinator was encountered. Flowers were visited systematically by female bees, which collected oil instead of nectar from the flowers! Rather than inserting their tongues, they used their front legs to rub the flowers’ inside surface, resulting in orchid pollen packages being attached to their feet.

The surprise observation of a bee pollinating a flower that is, for all outward appearances, adapted for moth pollination, allowed Castañeda-Zárate to investigate how plants shift between different pollinators. It is known that this happened frequently during the evolutionary history of flowering plants, but the lack of intermediate flower types means that pollinator shifts usually cannot be studied as a process. However, here he encountered a case of “evolution in action”.

As expected, chemical analyses confirmed that the flowers pollinated by oil-collecting bees produced an oil-like substance, but much to Castañeda-Zárate’s surprise, he also found small amounts of oil in closely related moth-pollinated flowers. Moth- and bee-pollinated flowers were similar in colour, shape and scent. However, Castañeda-Zárate suspected that not all flower features still function in the same way. To test this idea, he experimentally shortened the floral nectar tubes by bending them upwards, effectively shortening them to half of their natural length. In a moth-pollinated population this dramatically decreased pollination success, but in the bee-pollinated population, spur shortening had no effect on pollination success. Reconstruction of evolutionary relationships based on DNA sequences revealed that bee pollination evolved from a moth-pollinated ancestor, which suggests that floral spurs are retained in the bee form, despite no longer being important for pollination.

The combined evidence from his study shows that in flowers which otherwise look and smell the same, a minor shift from a sugar-based reward to an oil-based one has led to a major shift between different pollinators. The presence of small amounts of oil in moth-pollinated flowers may have facilitated the shift to bee pollination, whereas the long spurs of the bee-pollinated flowers represent a stage of incomplete evolution in the transition from moth to bee pollination.

The results of his study were published online in Current Biology on 5 November: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1c1793QW8Ru9gH

The research team consists of Castañeda-Zárate, Professor Steve Johnson (co-supervisor), and Dr Timo van der Niet (supervisor) from the Centre for Functional Biodiversity in the SLS at UKZN.

Words: Timo van der Niet

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN hosts World Planning Day Virtual Event

UKZN hosts World Planning Day Virtual Event
The World Planning Day virtual event.

The School of Built Environment and Development Studies within the College of Humanities hosted a World Planning Day virtual event under the theme The Paradox of Planning Implementation across the Globe.

This was a pre-congress event for the 56th International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) Virtual World Planning Congress on the Post-Oil City. The sub-themes were Spatial Planning, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Smart Cities, and COVID-19 and Urban Design.

UKZN partnered with several stakeholders to organise the event, including eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, the South African Council of Planners (SACPLAN), South African Cities Network (SACN), South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE).

Academic Leader for Planning and Housing, Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu said, ‘World Town Planning Day aims to advance public and professional interests within the planning profession and is dedicated to recognising the ideals of community planning, which brings professional planners and communities together.’

Dean and Head of the School Professor Ernest Khalema said, ‘We are proud to be co-hosting this important event where we are able to engage and learn more about urban resilience, and smart sustainable cities. It enables us to actively explore solutions that help to build more inclusive and resilient communities and learn how the private and public sectors are working together to create sustainable cities.’

Speaking during the event Professor Piotr Lorens of ISOCARP spoke to urban planning, urban resilience, climate change, and COVID-19. ‘Reinventing urban design is an important issue for local and regional development policies that should assist in bridging the gap between policy makers and urban designers. The physical quality of space should be of the utmost importance for future development. Given the pandemic, we should get ready in terms of planning and livability for future design.’

Addressing the sub-theme of COVID-19 and town planning, SACPLAN chairperson Mr Khetha Zulu said, ‘This pandemic forces planners to reassess the way we do planning. The rapid spread of the disease is also because of the densities within our cities. It poses a challenge to physical planning norms and requires measures for sustainable development. Even more challenging is how do we address areas with limited resources to address this issue of density?’

The opening panel discussion featured local and international speakers, Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina (Smart Cities); Mr Ashraf Adam (Spatial Planning); and Mr Joe Ravetz (United Kingdom) with facilitation by Mrs Prashina Mohangi.

The panellists looked into “lived experiences” of a contextual nature across the world for spatial planning implementation strategies, providing further insight on how planners can contribute to the achievement of smart cities based on lived global experiences. They also focused on detailed experiences of implementing elements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, innovations that can be used in planning across the world and the opportunities and challenges that it presents.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Image: Supplied


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Campaign Against GBV in Public Transport

Campaign Against GBV in Public Transport
UKZN academics with the taxi industry role-players.Click here for isiZulu version

In collaboration with the Ayanda Msweli Foundation, the Commission for Gender Equality and the minibus taxi industry, UKZN launched a campaign against gender-based violence (GBV) in the transport industry at Durban West’s Pinetown taxi rank.

The Phepha Thembeka Vikela Against Gender-Based Violence campaign aims to engage the taxi industry - associations, owners and drivers - as well as other key stakeholders to promote respectful and non-violent behaviour towards commuters, prevent sexual and gender-based violence and harassment, particularly manifestations of sexual violence, and promote gender equality and the safety of women and children within the taxi industry.

‘The campaign aims to identify behaviours that denigrate women, enhance respect and dignity for women commuters and mitigate any behaviour that may perpetrate GBV in the industry,’ said College of Health Sciences Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Busi Ncama.

UKZN’s Professor Gugu Mchunu said public transport is an essential part of daily life for many South Africans, and that taxi ranks have always been viewed as a safe haven from criminal activities. She emphasised that taxi ranks should be health promoting environments.

‘Gender-based violence in public transport has become a common occurrence. Incidents may range from the relatively “mild” to the “very serious”. The dangers women face in public transportation include catcalling, unwanted attention, inappropriate physical contact, derogatory language, and branding, and a range of other invasive sexualised behaviours,’ said Mchunu. ‘In order to holistically address GBV in the country, we saw a need to focus on public transport, starting with the taxi industry.’

Both professors have worked on a number of projects involving the taxi industry.

‘As SANTACO we are saying not in our name,’ said South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) Durban West chairperson Mr Mathula Mkhize.

Road safety ambassador, Mr Ayanda Msweli said the campaign will start by identifying stickers and branding that are derogatory to women. The aim is to eliminate these from the industry. He emphasised that taxi drivers are doing a sterling job in the community and encouraged them to continue to protect women and to make them feel protected in taxi ranks.

Words and photograph: Nombuso Dlamini


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UKZN Academics Among the First to Receive New Cybersecurity Professional Designation

UKZN Academics Among the First to Receive New Cybersecurity Professional Designation
Mr Barend Pretorius (left) and Dr Brett van Niekerk.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Brett van Niekerk, senior lecturer in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science and Mr Barend Pretorius, PhD candidate, are among the first 15 recipients of a new cybersecurity professional designation, known as the Information Security Management Professional (ISMP).

This was introduced by the ISACA South Africa Chapter to confirm the knowledge, skills, and experience in the field aligned to the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) processes.

The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) South Africa Chapter is the largest in Africa, with approximately 2 000 members. Formerly known as the Information Systems Audit and Controls Association, it has approximately 145 000 members globally and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019.

As part of the ISMP, candidates are required to have qualified as a Certified Information Security Manager by acquiring the CISM certification, which is offered by ISACA, in addition to relevant work experience. Van Niekerk received the award for having the third highest marks in South Africa for the CISM examination. The qualification provides candidates with essential knowledge in information security spanning information security governance, information risk management and compliance, the development and management of security programmes, and security incident response.

Globally and nationally, cybersecurity skills have become imperative for every industry. Internationally, information security and cybersecurity have been recognised as scarce skills. Qualifications such as the CISM skill recipients with knowledge in this unique field and help to close the skills divide while providing individuals and their organisations with the necessary tools to protect their systems. The ISMP designation identifies those who have acquired and proven these skills in the South African context.

Van Niekerk and Pretorius recently presented a paper at the virtual ITWeb Security Summit, where they focused on cybersecurity for the industrial internet of things. van Niekerk also presented at a UKZN Big Data breakfast, where he discussed recent cyber security incidents in South Africa.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photographs: Supplied


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Service Delivery Protests - A Mechanism to Delegitimise Nonperforming Community Leaders

Service Delivery Protests - A Mechanism to Delegitimise Nonperforming Community Leaders
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I have come to understand service delivery protests as a mechanism through which marginalised communities delegitimise nonperforming leaders. The association of violence and protest reflects deep-seated anger and the frustration of vulnerable community members, recently exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, corruption, and the absence of local leadership. Many regard such protests as violent, spontaneous, unco-ordinated demonstrations of people consumed by a sense of entitlement to free services. However, an alternative interpretation is that they are a mechanism to capture the attention of the public and the higher levels of government leadership in the absence of a legitimate leader.

The recent violent protest at the Quarry Road informal settlement near the M19 in Durban lived up to the American maxim, “the streets are talking”. The fact that a community of around a hundred people should be forced to share a single toilet, should be of major concern to Ward 23 councillor, Mr Xolani Nala and should be at the top of his to-do-list. Instead of Nala speaking out on this issue, Mr Mbongeni Jali, a local resident took it upon himself to alert the public about what was happening through an interview with Mr Dasen Thathiah on eNCA. Jali mentioned illegal electricity connections and acknowledged the wrongness of their actions, but noted that the community has no choice, as they also need electricity. In a country where the power utility is struggling to deliver on its mandate, with more than 10 municipalities owing Eskom R43.9 billion, as stated by the Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, the need for power has never been as urgent.

EThekwini Municipality’s Energy Unit visited the area to disconnect illegal connections in order to reduce the city’s expenditure. The absence of Cllr Nala during the disconnections fuelled an already volatile situation. Being missing in action at a decisive moment when people need a leader is the death knell of one’s political career. Thathiah stated that he had tried to reach the councillor to no avail. His actions speak of a leader who no longer enjoys the support of the community and who has lost legitimacy and credibility.

Legitimate leaders serve their communities. A leader who is afraid of his people demonstrates that he has lost legitimacy, control and recognition. What other means are there for communities to express their frustration? Generally, they draw public and media attention in the hopes that national leadership will intervene. Frustrated communities are putting out a clarion call to say that current local leadership is illegitimate and no longer represents them. There have been many service delivery protests where ward councillors have failed to respond to media queries, forcing residents to speak on behalf of the community. 

While at face value, the protests seem to be about service delivery, they are also extremely political. The Municipal IQ reports that service delivery protests tend to increase in the run-up to elections. With the 2021 Local Government Elections fast approaching, those vying for leadership positions seek recognition and support from the masses. They use protests to create visibility. It is no surprise to witness an increase in service delivery protests at this juncture across South Africa. Recently, the community of Osizweni, Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal embarked on a violent protest due to poor waste collection and the expulsion of waste collectors who claimed that the municipality owed them overtime payments. When Mr Mlondi Radebe, SABC News journalist, asked Mr Bandile Msibi the organiser of Newcastle Deserve Better what the aim of the protest was, he responded: ‘It is a [call on] the ANC Provincial leadership to [intervene] in this matter….to remove the mayor of Newcastle.’ This is just one of many examples of protest as a way of delegitimising sitting leadership.

Allegations that some ward councillors hoarded food parcels meant for vulnerable families during the COVID-19 pandemic, or distributed them according to political affiliations have exacerbated the predicament of poor communities. It would not be surprising if such communities engage in protests that, in the words of community activist, Mary de Hass, ‘boil over into overt violence.’ Thus, violent protests are the result of deep-rooted issues that are not addressed by those mandated to do so. Since nature does not allow for a vacuum, factions within communities capitalise on the shortcomings of local leaders and attempt to fill the void. While community leaders are sometimes sabotaged by political opponents, they are equally capable of shooting themselves in the foot through non-performance and corruption.

Public officials especially ward councillors, need to always be aware of community perceptions and engage in self-reflection on how well they are serving their constituencies. While opposing forces might try to seize power, when the people who elected a leader remain confident in him/her, his/her legitimacy is guaranteed. The measure of a leader is always based on the ability to serve. When people rise up against the state, a leader must remain visible, take charge of the situation and drive a noble narrative. Local leaders can only retain their legitimacy by displaying exemplary conduct and truly serving their people.

Mr Siyabonga Ntombela is a lecturer in the International and Public Affairs (IPA) cluster in the School of Social Sciences at UKZN.

*This Opinion-Editorial was originally published in the Sunday Tribune on 1 November 2020.


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