SA Makes History by Granting Patent to AI Entity

SA Makes History by Granting Patent to AI Entity
Mr Meshandren Naidoo.Click here for isiZulu version

South Africa shattered legal reality recently by becoming the first country to grant a patent in which an Artificial Intelligence (AI) entity named DABUS was listed as an inventor. The grant of the patent to DABUS in July this year was met with surprise and criticism, however, it signaled to the rest of the world that South Africa had moved away from the idea that only human beings are capable of inventing!

This is according to Mr Meshandren Naidoo (26) - a doctoral candidate and a member of the African Health Law and Research Ethics Flagship Flagship at UKZN who has been at the forefront of the debate on the issue as it is the position he takes in his PhD thesis. His commentary on the matter resulted in him being one of only two South Africans to have their work featured on Patently-O, the leading patent law blog in the United States.

He has since been invited to collaborate with global leaders in patent law litigation and academia, including Professor Ryan Abbott who leads the charge globally for AI inventorship rights. Naidoo’s work has also reached Dr Stephen Thaler himself, the creator of DABUS. 

‘The United States and Europe interpret their patent laws as only allowing humans to be inventors, and that inventorship requires legal personality - something which AI lacks,’ said Naidoo. ‘While no reasons were given by South Africa as to why they differed from the approach followed elsewhere, the move is supported by the broader policy intention posed by the South African government. These policy arrangements hint at increasing innovation and using cloud computing and AI to do so.

‘By allowing AI inventorship, perhaps South Africa has just signaled to the world that we are ready to make decisions that benefit our socio-economic contexts, even if they are contrary to those of the leading countries - a move which can make investing in South Africa and AI far more attractive. Interestingly enough, a few days after the South African grant an Australian Federal Court ruled that AI can be an inventor for the purposes of patent law,’ he said.

Naidoo, who acts as an intellectual property peer reviewer for academic journals on an ad-hoc basis, has given keynote addresses in South Africa, as well as showcased his work at international conferences. Currently, he is writing several articles for publication in various national and international journals - one of which has been accepted for publication in the South African Law Journal (SALJ).

He is due to speak on September 8 at a UKZN hosted discussion of AI in healthcare. The event is free for registration here.

In keeping with democratising and encouraging discussions about the law, Naidoo has published works on other open access platforms, such as The Conversation and MoneyWeb, the World Economic Forum, and Mail & Guardian and has given media interviews on SAFM radio.

Naidoo thanked UKZN, the National Research Foundation, Professor Donrich Thaldar, Mr Bongi Shozi, Mr Seenie Naidoo and Ms Peggy Naidoo (his parents) and Ms Amy Gooden for their unwavering support and guidance.

•    Mr Meshandren Naidoo is a PhD Fellow and a member of the African Health Research, Law and Ethics Flagship at UKZN, specialising in AI and intellectual property law.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Supplied

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KZN Doctor Makes Huge Strides in Fighting TB

KZN Doctor Makes Huge Strides in Fighting TB
Dr Suveer Jhugroo (left) with Dr Tsholofelo Mhlaba.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Suveer Jhugroo greets me with a big smile as I enter his Pinetown practice to present his award from the Connect TB team for submitting the most patient samples for testing since UKZN’s pilot project began in May this year.

Jhugroo is a friendly man who cares passionately about his patients and the evidence is on the faces of the staff and patients in his waiting room. It’s not an easy time to be a general practitioner - in the midst of South Africa’s third wave of COVID-19, patients and staff are anxious, and the recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal has also affected doctors in the area. But it takes more than that to keep this good doctor down!

He shows up bright and early to start his working day. If a patient is coughing, he takes appropriate precautions and asks the patient for more detail because COVID-19 is not the only cause for concern - the eThekwini district has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis (TB) nationally and the illness is the number one cause of death by infectious disease in South Africa.

Similar to COVID-19, a cough is a common symptom of TB, which most often affects the lungs. The disease is also spread through contact between people but differs from the Coronavirus in that it is transmitted through the air only by a cough, and not through contact with surfaces and personal contact such as hugs and handshakes.

TB symptoms also take longer to develop after exposure compared to COVID-19 - it could be several weeks or even years before the disease manifests itself as the bacteria can hibernate in the lungs or other parts of the body for long periods. Other common TB symptoms include weight loss, night sweats, and fever.

Importantly, TB is curable with treatment. The sooner a person is diagnosed and starts treatment the better chance they have of making a full recovery… and that’s where Jhugroo comes in.

In his participation in the UKZN pilot study known as Connect TB, Jhugroo has been able to collect spit samples from patients with TB-like symptoms for free TB testing through the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS). His efforts won him the award for the most samples collected since the launch of the campaign.

The pilot study is intended to reduce delays in TB testing for patients who first present to the private sector. Previous research has shown that patients with TB symptoms who seek help from private GPs are either sent home with ineffective antibiotic treatment or referred to the public sector to access free TB testing. Both practices can delay diagnosis which contributes to poorer patient outcomes and ongoing TB transmission. The overlapping symptoms of TB and COVID-19 have also resulted in further delays, as patients with coughs are often assumed to have COVID-19.

Signing on to Connect TB has helped local GPs connect symptomatic patients to TB testing without having to leave the GPs office, making it simple to test for both COVID-19 and TB when necessary. Patients who are diagnosed with TB through the study are referred for treatment via SMS, which speeds up the process and reduces the number of healthcare visits. Patients are also supported through six months of treatment by adherence facilitators who contact them regularly by phone to check on their well-being and assist with resolving treatment barriers. Adherence facilitators are then able to give feedback on patient progress to participating GPs, closing the loop when patients choose to receive TB treatment through the public sector.

Recognising the importance of early TB detection and differentiating TB from COVID-19, Jhugroo signed on early to the Connect TB project.

Almost a quarter of the samples submitted by Jhugroo tested positive for TB - a sign that the project is indeed helping to find people with TB who might otherwise have been delayed or lost to the system.

True to form, Jhugroo’s response to receiving the award was to place the focus back on his community: ‘My patients are very happy about the support for testing. I am just glad to be part of this initiative and make a difference,’ he said.

The Connect TB project at UKZN is led by principle investigators Dr Jody Boffa and Dr Tsholofelo Mhlaba, and project manager Dr Buyisile Chibi. It is made possible through a partnership with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, the eThekwini health district, NHLS, and funding from the Stop TB Partnership and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr Buyisile Chibi of UKZN’s Centre of Rural Health is project manager of the Connect TB Study.

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Ramaphosa has Played his Cards Well

Ramaphosa has Played his Cards Well

On Thursday (5 August 2021), President Ramaphosa reshuffled the cabinet amid calls for him to remove ministers deemed incompetent and those prone to scandals.

It took brazen acts of looting and violence - that went on for four days without government taking control of the situation - to convince Ramaphosa that change was needed. 

The embarrassing failure of the security cluster to discharge its basic duty, that is protect citizens, property and livelihoods left Ramaphosa with no other choice but to reshuffle. 

As Ramaphosa moved some ministers around, the lingering question was: what criteria does he use to determine the fitness of a politician for a particular ministerial position? 

In the cases of Ayanda Dlodlo and Stella Ndabeni Abrahams, does it mean that they are going to perform better in the new ministries?

It does not take rocket science to figure out that Ramaphosa had two things in mind when he reshuffled his cabinet: his ability to retain power prior to and after the 2022 ANC conference and then his ability to reassure investors and citizens that South Africa is safe and a good place to do business.

The questions that beg answers now are:

(1) What impact will his reshuffle of cabinet have on his chances to secure a second term at the 2022 elective conference? 

(2) What impact will this reshuffle have on the capacity of the Ramaphosa-led government to “effectively undertake” the three tasks of accelerating the vaccination programme, ensuring peace and stability and reviving the ailing economy?

From the Thabo Mbeki era, ANC presidents have reshuffled cabinets with the aim of solidifying their power and enhancing their chances of getting re-elected at the next ANC conference. This reshuffle is no different. 

Ramaphosa has played his cards well, so to speak, in rewarding his loyalists and trying to maintain some semblance of unity in retaining Ayanda Dlodlo and Nathi Mthethwa. Like his predecessors, Ramaphosa overlooks performance and cases of wrongdoing. 

Even as he makes changes to the security cluster, he retains Bheki Cele as Minister of Police despite the SAPS’ poor handling of the recent unrest. He moves around some ministers perceived as incompetent or immersed in scandals from one ministry to another such as Dlodlo and Ndabeni-Abrahams. 

To all intents and purposes, only one minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, was fired. The embattled and under pressure Dr Zweli Mkhize resigned and Tito Mboweni apparently asked to be relieved of his duties as Minister of Finance. This gave Ramaphosa more space to reward loyalists such as Mondli Gungubele and Enoch Godongwane with prestigious positions in the executive. Ramaphosa also appointed Thandi Modise to replace Mapisa-Nqakula thus ensuring that women remain well represented in his Administration thus keeping the Women’s League happy. 

Ramaphosa has also ingratiated himself with COSATU through the Sdumo Dlamini appointment as Deputy Minister of Small Business. As things stand now, Ramaphosa has ingratiated himself with the ANCYL, ANCWL, and COSATU. He is also making sure that key provinces such as GP, KZN and the EC remain well-represented in the cabinet. In this way, Ramaphosa has significantly enhanced his chances of winning re-election next year.

On the capacity of the Ramaphosa-led government to “effectively undertake” the task of fast-tracking the vaccination programme, the appointments of Dr Joe Phaahla and Dr Sbongiseni Dhlomo inspire some confidence because of their experience in the medical field. The question is: can they turn around the not-so-healthy public health system and accelerate the slow vaccination programme. The biggest challenge remains that of improving the public health system in rural areas and townships. 

Another question is how the two doctors are going to handle the issue of the National Health Insurance (NHI). As was the case with the appointment of Cele as Police Minister and Shamilla Batohi as National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head, the expectation will be high that Phaahla and his team turn things around. 

The lesson from the Cele and the Batohi experiences in their current positions is that, at best, it can take a very long time for individuals to change the image of the public sector that is perceived to be mismanaged and inefficient. It remains to be seen whether Phaahla and Dhlomo can change the culture and introduce meritocracy and a good work ethic among employees in the public health system. 

The task of ensuring that peace and stability prevail is not going to be easy. It is cause for concern that after a month of riots costing hundreds of lives, thousands of jobs and left massive destruction of property, culprits remain at large. The changes he made to the security cluster are expected to yield immediate results in terms of the successful prosecution of “instigators” and co-conspirators. 

It would not be a surprise if law abiding citizens are still panicking and fearful of another wave of chaos and anarchy as long as culprits go unpunished. In a country where violent protests are common, it is going to be important that Ramaphosa is seen to be in control and that his security cluster is up to the job of keeping peace and security. This may explain why he chose to place the State Security Agency under the Presidency. At the end of the day, the buck stops with the president.

The task of reviving the ailing economy is going to be another tough area for the president. What these riots expose is sheer desperation of the population facing very high unemployment, acute poverty and intolerable inequality. The arrival of COVID-19 in 2020 made an economy that was already in very bad shape worse-off. Then these riots added another dimension to the economic problems facing South Africa. 

What this means is that hundreds of thousands of those losing jobs during this pandemic together with victims of the riots are going to be dependent on the R350 monthly grant. The questions this poses is: are the appointments of Ndabeni-Abrahams as the new Minister of Small Business and Dlamini as her Deputy Minister going to help revive our economy? What expertise and experience do they bring to the new ministry? 

•    This opinion piece was originally published in The Post newspaper on 11 August 2021.

Mr Zakhele Ndlovu is a lecturer in the College of Humanities specialising in politics and public policy.

*The views and opinions expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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UKZN Student Excelling in Technology and Entrepreneurship Space

UKZN Student Excelling in Technology and Entrepreneurship Space
BCom student Ms Ntandokazi Buthelezi.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN BCom student Ms Ntandokazi Buthelezi is passionate about using the power of technology, leadership and entrepreneurship to serve and impact communities positively.

Buthelezi is currently in her final-year of her study specialising in information systems and technology.

‘I was raised by my grandmother who continuously instilled in me the value of a woman having the same work ethic - and more - as that of a man. My choice of career fed into that work ethic and I chose technology because it brings out the creative side in me as well as giving me the ability to continuously discover new ideas and solutions,’ she said.

A young woman in leadership positions, Buthelezi has shown resilience in her role as a Vice-President of Operations for ENACTUS-UKZN championing COVID-19 projects that positively impacted over 1 500 lives, and helping the philanthropic organisation earn the title of 2020 ENACTUS South Africa National Champions.

Buthelezi is also involved in the Women in Tech organisation, an international organisation with a mission to close the gender gap and to help women embrace technology. She leads a development of an AI-based Career Advisor for the youth, working in partnership with the MTN SA Foundation. 

‘I am passionate about uplifting women because I know we have the mental capacity to achieve anything and build anything! If we can give birth, create a warm home, and work to make ends meet, then becoming dominant in big spaces is just another exciting challenge we can conquer,’ she said. ‘Uplifting women in the technology space helps me show them they can be creative and innovative and also become strong leaders in the space.’

She is currently a business partner and digital solution’s strategist at Asante Solutions - a digital solutions agency that is a hybrid of digital marketing and technology business.

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Hosts Public Lecture Series for National Science Week

UKZN Hosts Public Lecture Series for National Science Week
Presenters at UKZN’s public lecture series for National Science Week (from left) Professor Michael Brooks, Ms Tankiso Moso and Professor Andrew Green.

UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) hosted a three-part online public lecture series during National Science Week to contribute to the national objective of promoting awareness of the value that the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields add to everyday life.

Themed ‘What Do Scientists Do? A Look Inside the Ivory Tower’, the series introduced three scientists working in different fields in the CAES with Dr Tanja Reinhardt of the Science and Technology Education Centre (STEC @UKZN) facilitating the sessions.

Associate Professor Michael Brooks, head of Mechanical Engineering and co-founder of UKZN’s Aerospace Systems Research Group (ASReG) where he directs the Phoenix Hybrid Sounding Rocket Programme, delivered the first lecture titled: #WEFLYROCKETS! The Why and How of Aerospace Propulsion Research at UKZN.

‘The NewSpace small satellite launch market is exploding and that is the reason ASReG is doing the work that it does because we have commercial ambitions but you have to start small to understand these very complex machines and you have to develop the people as well,’ said Brooks.

‘We do this research because we are in the middle of a new space race, and rocket engineering is in high demand once more,’ he said. ‘Rocketry isn’t just something that is nice to have, it’s already something that’s integrated into our lives. A lot of what goes into society comes from these various science programmes.’

Following Brooks, Ms Tankiso Moso, graduate engineer in training at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory and UKZN alumnus, spoke about Mysterious Marion Island: Developing and Testing Radio Astronomical Equipment in the Cold.

Moso visited Marion Island while at UKZN’s Astrophysics Research Centre, and in 2020 was invited by McGill University in Canada to develop and test radio astronomical equipment on Marion Island as part of a collaborative effort between McGill and UKZN.

‘The project has the final goal of laying the groundwork for exploring the dark ages and exploring the first formation of stars,’ said Moso. ‘We’re trying to see what we can observe from this mysterious island and its skies.’

Moso described the establishment of autonomous stations to map the skies from Marion Island and also spoke on the demands of spending time on the island during experiments.

The final lecture was presented by Professor of Marine Geology and Sedimentology Andrew Green, who described Lifting Back the Waters: Adventures in Southern African Marine Geology. He noted that UKZN’s interest lay in investigating sea level, coastal deposits and coastal evolution over thousands of years.

‘Understanding the shape of the seabed is a particularly important facet of marine geology - not only the shape but also the structure of what lies beneath that; each one of those layers is interesting to a geologist because they mark a step back in geological time,’ said Green.

‘We’re allowing ourselves to walk back in time and look at each individual layer as a change in earth history. As a geologist that’s exactly what you want to see, because we are interested in examining and understanding a dynamic earth.’

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied

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Border Crossings Theme of JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

Border Crossings Theme of JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience
The 23rd JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience opens next week.

The Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities hosts the landmark 23rd JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience in its second digital edition from 24 August to 5 September.

‘The festival has Border Crossings as its theme, turning the spotlight on dance-makers, dance companies and performance-based artists who, in some articulated way, resonate with the ideas of Border Crossings - be these geographical, emotional, physical, spiritual or performative,’ said UKZN Dance lecturer and Artistic Director of the show, Dr Lliane Loots.

‘We are proud to host a digital space that nurtures and supports a serious artistic engagement with South African, African and international contemporary dance and dance makers.’

Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Creative Arts at the University of Cape Town Jay Pather features as the 2021 JOMBA! legacy artist and will open this year’s festival.

To complement this, Durban photographer Val Adamson offers a digital photographic retrospective exhibition of her work with Siwela Sonke featuring over a 100 photos.

The South African Crossings platform features The Garage Dance Ensemble who presents Gat innie Grond, Wond in my Siel (Hole in the Ground, Wound in my Soul), choreographed by the remarkable young dance-maker, Byron Klassen.

Cape Town’s Yaseen Manuel is the UKZN’s School of the Arts/Mellon Foundation’s Artist in Residence who will work in conjunction with JOMBA! and the Drama and Performance Studies Programme to create two screen dance films with Durban’s much-loved Flatfoot Dance Company.

JOMBA! is also collaborating with the Vrystaat Arts Festival, Georgina Thomson and New Dance Festival as well as presenting films by Sylvester Thamsanqa Majela (NEVERLAND) and Sizakele Mdi (Dust to Dust).

Said Loots: ‘One of JOMBA!’s key mandates has been, and continues to be, connecting with our continent in offering partnerships and collaborations with some of Africa’s most prominent, cutting edge and inspiring dance makers. In this edition we are delighted to have commissioned screen dance films in our African Crossings platform from Marcel Gbeffa of Benin, Gaby Saranouffi of Madagascar, Robert Ssempijja of Uganda, and Bernardo Guiamba (aka Pak Ndjamena) of Mozambique.’

The European and American Crossings feature the historic New York-based Limón Dance Company as well as the Birmingham-based ACE Music and Dance with their essence of flamenco, kathak, martial arts and ACE’s inimitable Afro-fusion style. Hannah Ma (hannahmadance) of Germany presents ONDA - Into the Unknown, a magnificent research type performance and art space production.

Sweden’s Cullberg presents a remarkable screen dance film On Earth I’m Done - Mountains, which is Part 1 of anarchaic-futuristic diptych in which the audience is transported to a place torn out of the conventional space-time continuum. She Poems created by Spanish dancer/choreographer Aïda Colemenero Dïaz is a series of beautiful short screen dance films made during her on-going travels in Africa, and these will close the festival.

On the Indian Crossings platform - with support from the Durban Indian Consulate’s Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre - the Calcutta-based Pickle Factory Dance Foundation, will showcase eight specially curated short dance films that speak to the zeitgeist of contemporary Indian dance-making.

The Durban Digital Edge 2021 Commissions feature six Durban-based dance makers who are beginning to make waves on the local dance scene - they are Sabelo Cele, Thobile Maphanga, Nqubeko “Cue” Ngema, Cameron S Govender, Aphelele Nyawoso, and Snethemba Khuzwayo.

The JOMBA! Open Horizons platform provides an opportunity for dance makers to present their digital/dance film work. Adjudicators David April, Tracey Saunders, Clare Craighead and Shanelle Jewnarain have assessed the 30 submissions from across Africa for the festival and a selection of these will be screened.

JOMBA! Talks Dance: Conversations that Cross Borders features four live conversations with Jay Pather, Alfred Hinkel of the Garage Dance Ensemble in South Africa, Hannah Ma of Germany, and Vikram Iyengar and Kunal Chakraborty of the Pickle Factory Dance Foundation in Calcutta. 

JOMBA! Forging Alliances is an industry support programme curated by Thobile Maphanga, which aims to provide dance-makers with industry-specific information and includes a panel on social media and publicity, technical tips on production and music copyright.

The ever-popular daily JOMBA! Khuluma Blog and Digital Newspaper facilitated by Clare Craighead involves a two-week residency of dance writing and dance criticism through a series of closed webinars/seminars for graduate dance students.

•    JOMBA! 2021 can be navigated free of charge via the website, or subscribe to the JOMBA YouTube channel here.

•    All platforms for 2021 are free of charge and a full programme is available on the website.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied

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Lecturer Presents Research on Access to Justice for Rural Young Offenders

Lecturer Presents Research on Access to Justice for Rural Young Offenders
Mr Bongane Mzinyane.Click here for isiZulu version

Social Work lecturer Mr Bongane Mzinyane presented his research work titled: Access to Justice for Rural Young Offenders in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: Best Practices and Innovative Methods by Practitioners when Implementing Diversion, during the 22nd Biennial International Consortium for Social Development (ICSD) Conference.

The virtual event was held under the theme Poverty, Inequality and Social Development Innovations around the World.

Mzinyane’s presentation, motivated by his postgraduate research, highlighted innovations and best practices that are adopted by social work practitioners in rural KwaZulu-Natal. His paper also made significant recommendations for other countries that share the same socio-economic characteristics as South Africa.

His research further explored the experiences and perceptions of the ‘implementers’ of diversion services for rural young offenders and factors that impede and those that promote diversion services for those offenders.

Mzinyane found that the challenges of rendering services in rural areas were poverty and lack of transport for child offenders to reach town, and the lack of transport and organisational resources for diversion facilitators to reach rural areas.

Mzinyane suggested solutions to the problems in rendering services in rural areas including the decentralisation of diversion services (from town to rural areas) and strategies to encourage compliance with the court orders.

‘Local schools have also collaborated with the NGO sector in Ladysmith to facilitate diversion services for young offenders. Collaboration has also ensured that practitioners of diversion are able to decentralise because they have been given venues by the local school,’ said Mzinyane.

He indicated that social workers were ‘not too strict’ when they facilitated ‘probationary roles’ but rather employed restorative justice strategies and also considered the social development challenges offenders faced. ‘Reporting the case back to court was a last resort. This means social workers (probation officers) were using rehabilitative and aftercare strategies to achieve the ideals of diversion which are to prevent children from getting criminal records.’

Mzinyane recommends that other countries with similar socio-economic challenges could benchmark from the decentralisation practice of justice services to rural children.

‘Governments and donors need to invest more resources in NGOs serving rural child offenders,’ said Mzinyane. ‘Decentralisation should be formalised by introducing laws that make decentralisation of services a compulsory practice. There should also be more studies to focus on rural areas with more self-initiated solutions from rural people and rural-based practitioners.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

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Young Attorney Starts Own Law Firm

Young Attorney Starts Own Law Firm
UKZN alumnus Ms Nomvelo Zondi.

UKZN Bachelor of Laws graduate Ms Nomvelo Zondi (27) took a leap of faith and opened her own Law firm.

An admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa, Zondi is now the proud Director of Nomvelo Zondi Attorneys, a boutique law firm based in Empangeni.

Passionate about criminal law, family law and litigation, Zondi says being in a position to help others was the main motivation for her starting the venture.

‘When I moved from Durban to Richards Bay, I realised there were many people who needed legal assistance but couldn’t afford it. I have made my services more affordable and accessible to the everyday man and woman,’ she said.

Among her goals is to be an inspiration for young Black women by showing them that it is possible to be young and have their own business. ‘I want to create something not only for myself but for young Black women like me, with the firm also providing career opportunities for others, especially those from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.’

Zondi says although it has been hard starting a business during the pandemic, it was fulfilling to realise her dream.

‘Starting a firm during this time has been challenging and is a big risk. There isn’t a lot of work around but there are opportunities for business. The vision I have for the firm pushes me and gives me the courage to wake up every day and keep going.’

In addition to being an attorney, Zondi owns a cleaning company and is also a spiritual and traditional healer.

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Hosts Interactive Discussion on Indigenous Knowledge Systems in the 21st Century

UKZN Hosts Interactive Discussion on Indigenous Knowledge Systems in the 21st Century
Panelists from the webinar clockwise from top left: Professor Hassan Kaya, Ms Bethan Walkers, Mr Carlos Arbuthnott, Dr Mayashree Chinsamy, Dr Jasdev Singh Rai and Ms Amelia Jefford.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) - National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIKS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in partnership with the Sikh Human Rights Group (SHRG) in London hosted a webinar titled: Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Cultural and Biological Diversity Conversation for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.

The CIKS is a partnership between five Higher Education Institutions in South Africa which includes - UKZN (as the hub), the North West University, the University of South Africa (UNISA), the University of Limpopo, and the University of Venda. The Centre is mandated to preserve, promote and protect African Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIKS) through research, human capital development, networking and community engagement, within and outside South Africa. The advancement of AIKS continentally and internationally, has led to a Memorandum of Understanding being signed between UKZN and more than 20 African universities and autonomous research institutions, to establish the UNESCO Category 2 - African Institute in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIIKS). The CIKS at UKZN is the hub of AIIKS. 

The CIKS Research Manager, Dr Mayashree Chinsamy explained the way the establishment of the AIIKS, is part of implementing the African Union’s Agenda 2063, of achieving the aspirations of the “Africa We Want”, as it provides a cross-cultural, linguistic and international platform for advancing African IKS; brings together researchers, postgraduate students and other stakeholders, from both the public and private sectors, across disciplines, sectors and countries; harnesses and promotes African indigenous languages and home-grown philosophies; and promotes the systematisation of African Indigenous Science, Technology and Innovation in the global knowledge economy.

Director of the SHRG, Dr Jasdev Singh Rai provided background on the organisation, which was founded in 1985 with an initial focus on human rights documentation during the first decade of its existence and later diversified to other areas from 1998 onwards. Rai commented on how the world has lost its sense of sustainability over the centuries, indicating that the organisation had taken the decision to organise a series of webinars as part of its pluralistic approach to environmental degradation - the biggest threat to human survival in the near future.

Human Rights Officer and Project Coordinator for the SHRG, Mr Carlos Arbuthnott outlined the various ways in which climate change is affecting the world. Noting how indigenous people and communities, have contributed the least to this global crisis of environmental degradation he explained how they live traditional lifestyles based on ‘local biological diversity, ecosystem services and cultural landscapes as sources of subsistence and well-being.’ Arbuthnott, identified how indigenous people are affected the most by climate change and questioned why they are excluded from the global processes of decision-making and policy development in global platforms such as the United Nations Climate Change negotiations that determine everyone’s future.

Director of the CIKS and Coordinator of AIIKS at UKZN, Professor Hassan Kaya, highlighted how indigenous communities had long realised the symbiotic relationship that existed between culture, biodiversity and climate change. He noted how through their observation and experimentation with nature, they developed ecologically and culturally specific knowledge, technology and value systems including local community knowledge-based early warning systems and indicators, to adapt and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. Stating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) role in conserving biodiversity, he considered how the exclusion of culture and IKS including indigenous languages as repositories of knowledge systems, was a pitfall in achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda of “Leaving no one Behind”. Kaya shared examples of the strides made by Rwanda and Malawi in the localisation process of SDGs using their indigenous knowledge systems and languages. He highlighted how this has a sustainable impact on the local communities as they build active citizenry, self-reliance and confidence, at all community levels. He also encouraged the African youth to ‘mobilise their digital and artistic knowledge and skills to advance the role of IKS and indigenous languages in cultural and biological diversity conservation, in the context of climate change adaption and mitigation.’

Participants were treated to an hour-long question and answer session facilitated by the Media and Communications Officer for the SHRG, Ms Bethan Walkers.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Image: Supplied

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Helping Achieve Efficient Public Service Delivery

Helping Achieve Efficient Public Service Delivery
Municipal Finance Management Course on offer.Click here for isiZulu version

Making good financial decisions and correctly calculating the economic impact of public sector projects require those involved to have the necessary high level skills and expertise.

The current public sector environment demands these skills as bad decisions can lead to the failure of public sector initiatives with serious repercussions. Thus, municipal officials in positions of authority have a huge responsibility on their shoulders, especially in the area of decisions that have financial implications.

To help municipal officials reach required levels of competence and provide them with a sound financial background, UKZN’s Extended Learning Division (UEL) has developed the Municipal Finance Management Programme explicitly tailored to the requirements of officials working in the public sector. Through this programme, employees within the public sector receive the opportunity to improve their financial acumen and ultimately improve public service delivery.

The content of the Municipal Finance Management Programme provides delegates with skills to enable them to efficiently implement financial controls and risk management in the municipal context, through enhancing personal competencies, knowledge, and skills. Delegates will gain a deeper understanding of reporting requirements; learn how to use tools to make the appropriate financial decisions; and demonstrate their knowledge and experience in financial management to make use of the available resources effectively, efficiently and economically.

Understanding the government’s public sector provision policy framework is essential for public sector employees while managing the assets and liabilities of a municipality through the application of internal controls is necessary to prevent fraud. The strategic planning process and implementation policy and performance management procedures of public sector processes require individuals to be capable of fulfilling the overall goals and objectives of local government.

To secure a place on the programme or find out more about it, click here or contact us directly through Nokwanda Mokoena tel: +27 31 260 1234 or email:

Words: Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

Photograph: Supplied

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