UKZN First University in Africa to Receive Honorary ISOCARP Bronze Membership

UKZN First University in Africa to Receive Honorary ISOCARP Bronze Membership
ISOCARP Honorary Bronze Institutional Membership for Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu.Click here for isiZulu version

The School of Built Environment and Development Studies within the College of Humanities has been awarded honorary Bronze Membership by the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP).

UKZN is the first university in Africa to receive such membership since the establishment of ISOCARP 57 years ago.

This award, which includes free membership of the society for three years, was presented to Town Planning lecturer Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu, who has been co-rapporteur for ISOCARP for the past two years.

‘This is a symbolic gesture of honour for me in the Discipline of Town and Regional Planning,’ said Magidimisha-Chipungu. ‘It comes against a backdrop of years of committed leadership in the Discipline during which I supported the School, colleagues and the student body. It is also a reward for work I am doing behind the scenes for ISOCARP dating back to 2015.’

Magidimisha-Chipungu considers obtaining this membership as ‘a reflection of the institutional support for the University which over the years, endorsed partnerships for future growth with members of ISOCARP. In this regard, it symbolises a new chapter in the growth of the Discipline as it positions itself for an international platform. More so, it is unprecedented in the history of the School and the College, thus contributing to a new era for a global audience.’

Dean and Head of the School Professor Ernest Khalema applauded Magidimisha-Chipungu for her achievement saying, ‘The UKZN flag is flown high through her exceptional leadership. Congratulations to the Discipline, the School and the University for always supporting us.’

ISOCARP President Mr Martin Dubbeling added, ‘Magidimisha-Chipungu is still active and was instrumental in the success of both the 56th and 57th ISOCARP World Planning Congresses. The Board of ISOCARP appreciates the time and efforts she has put in the co-ordination of all papers and in all necessary preparations.’

Over the years, Magidimisha-Chipungu has been collecting accolades at personal, institutional, national and international levels - all of which she values highly. She noted that the Bronze Membership elevated her recognition on the international platform.

‘It tells the story of my life behind the scenes involving hard work, sacrifice and resilience - and informs the international market while broadening my career prospects beyond national horizons. The good which we do in our lives is not a story born out of our own words, but a recognition born out of those whose lives we impact positively,’ she added.

The theme of the 57th ISOCARP World Planning Congress is Planning Unlocked: New Times, Better Places, Stronger Communities. The hybrid format allows delegates to attend the sessions in person in Doha in Qatar as well as virtually through modern online technologies.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

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Jazz Lecturer Wins Best Contemporary Jazz Album Award

Jazz Lecturer Wins Best Contemporary Jazz Album Award
The cover of Jazz lecturer Sibusiso Mashiloane’s fifth album: iHubo Labomdabu.Click here for isiZulu version

Jazz lecturer Mr Sibusiso Mashiloane has won Best Contemporary Jazz Album at the 2021 Mzantsi Jazz Awards for his fifth album titled iHubo Labomdabu (Native Hymns), a solo piano set featuring music composed during the lockdown.

‘This album is informed by an imagination of my personal life experiences, political climate and imposed lifestyle,’ said Mashiloane. ‘The music tells of social awareness and interprets our daily life as it has changed. I hope my album offers introspection, peace and love.’

The award-winning album is informed by deep meditation on Black life and the meaning of home. The album is Mashiloane’s fifth and the latest instalment of a vow he has made to release seven albums of at least seven tracks each before 2023.

Mashiloane, well-known both in the South African jazz scene and on international music stages, produced four earlier albums which were all well received. He is a multi-award winning and nominated artist at prestigious ceremonies and events such as the SAMAs, the AFRIMA awards and the International Urban Music Awards.

Currently, he is studying towards a PhD in which he aims, through the lens of South African jazz, to focus on the nostalgia-seeped themes of home he finds himself instinctively returning to.

‘When I teach, I make sure there are always numbers from the South African jazz lineage in my curriculum,’ he said. ‘However long it takes me to finish the PhD, it’s already making me a better teacher because now I can share with my students what my people have been through, what they’ve written and how they’ve played.’

iHubo Labomdabu is available on all digital platforms with a limited supply of hard copies available through email:

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

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Master’s Student Selected for Dutch Exchange Programme

Master’s Student Selected for Dutch Exchange Programme
Ms Lindiwe Maseko, Master’s student in Gender and Religion at UKZN.Click here for isiZulu version

Master’s student in Gender and Religion within the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, Ms Lindiwe Maseko has been selected for the Bridging Gaps Programme at the Free University in Amsterdam where she will spend three months as part of the exchange.

The international exchange programme hosted by Free University brings together participants from all over the world to share an international space for faith formation and intercultural Bible reading. This year the programme hosts 14 participants from various countries including South Africa, Pakistan, Romania, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, India, Nigeria, Ecuador, Canada, South Korea and Myanmar.

The programme aims to create an intercultural and international community of learners in Amsterdam and to bridge gaps between cultures, different knowledge, academia, society and church.

‘I feel humbled. My gratitude goes to the School of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics and the Faculty of Religion and Theology for offering me this great opportunity to learn from as well as represent the School in the Bridging Gaps programme. This is a huge step for me - it will strengthen me to persist and succeed in my future scholarship,’ said Maseko.

The fully funded programme allows Maseko, who is originally from Zimbabwe, to gain valuable international experience and access to academic recourses and conversation partners as she starts to develop her PhD work within the Gender and Religion Programme. She intends to complete a PhD at UKZN exploring the following topic: A Feminist Theological Engagement with the Experience of womb (Chibereko) removal of Karanga women as a Reproductive-Health and Justice Embodied Reality.

The Bridging Gaps Programme is one expression of the ongoing collaborative relationship between UKZN’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics and the Faculty of Religion and Theology at Free University.

Head of the Gender and Religion Programme at UKZN Professor Charlene van der Walt said: ‘The collaboration between the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics and the Faculty of Religion and Theology at the Free University is dynamic and creative. It is wonderful that students from UKZN have the opportunity for international and intercultural experience through this exchange and we wish Lindiwe all the best with her research and contextual engagement in The Netherlands.’

Her supervisor Professor Lillian Siwila added: ‘I first met Lindiwe at a conference in Tanzania where during our casual discussion she registered interest to study with us at UKZN. Recommending Lindiwe to come to UKZN was a joy because of her diligence and hard work which was reflected in her execution of duty at the conference. As her previous masters supervisor l found working with Lindiwe heart-warming due to her commitment to excellence. I wish her an excellent stay and pray that she continues with her spirit of hard work as a good ambassador for UKZN.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Partners with the National Prosecuting Authority in KwaZulu-Natal

UKZN Partners with the National Prosecuting Authority in KwaZulu-Natal
A collage of the UKZN campuses.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has partnered with the KwaZulu-Natal Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority to host a series of webinars on Gender-Based Violence and related topics, which will take place over the coming months.

These webinars will target the UKZN community as a whole.

The purpose of the UKZN-SOCA partnership is to highlight the dangers that members of the UKZN community face on a daily basis, to improve their (UKZN community) safety and security, create awareness around Gender-Based Violence, and to advise the UKZN community where to get help if needed.

The UKZN-SOCA team will host one webinar per month, which will cover a variety of topics including human trafficking; Thuthuzela Care Centres, and harassment on campus.

Each webinar will consist of a panel of experts from UKZN, SOCA or other relevant stakeholders and will be followed by a series of articles containing more information that the UKZN community will be able to access via Ndabaonline.

The series of webinars will kick off on Wednesday, 22 September 2021, with the first webinar - which will commence at 14h00 and end at 16h00 on Zoom - set to focus on suicide prevention and mental health and support. 

UKZN recognises that many people within its community may be exposed to Gender-Based Violence and may feel distinct pressures including employment insecurity; financial instability; the portrayal of a negative image on social media; 24/7 exposure to a news cycle that often reflects tragedy; the effects of COVID-19; as well as the stress and trauma of the recent looting - which may be particularly anxiety-provoking and traumatic.

More information will be disseminated via Ndabaonline.

For more information on free counselling hotlines in South Africa go to:

Words: Ndabaonline

Photographs: Supplied

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Critical Issues Facing UKZN Explored During Roundtable Event

Critical Issues Facing UKZN Explored During Roundtable Event
At the roundtable event are (clockwise from top left) Professor Nana Poku, Dr Maserole Kgari-Masondo, Professor Vivian Ojong, Professor Lebo Moletsane, Ms Pearl Thwala, Mr Calvin Thomas, Professor Simangaliso Kumalo, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, and Professor Maheshvari Naidu.

Key issues, including declining public financing for Higher Education Institutions and uncertain political times impacting on UKZN’s planning and operations, were explored by the University’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku, at a roundtable event.

Poku made the observations while delivering the keynote address at the event titled: UKZN as a Premier University of African Scholarship: Practical Implications.

The Vice-Chancellor also raised concerns about the ratio of support staff to academic staff, which currently stands at a ratio of about 70 to 30 percent. ‘Protests have left a legacy of UKZN being mired in violence and poor perceptions of our value to the national consciousness. If you just look at how many people have disinvested from us over the past decade, it is truly shocking.’

Another key issue facing UKZN was a highly competitive Higher Education environment. He stressed it was vital for the University to have the ability and a strong foundation to attract the very best from our communities to join our Institution. ‘As UKZN, how do we ensure that the very best of our kids in the province see us as the primary university of choice?’

Poku emphasised the importance of transforming the curricular to make it compatible with the needs of the modern market. ‘By the end of 2023 I want all our courses to either have an element of placement to them or are derived from consultation with the formal sector. We need to ensure that the quality of our academic offerings is distinctive and of the very highest calibre we can offer.’ He said a radical audit was needed in each School to ensure the provision is well considered, aligned to what industry would expect of us and well resourced. ‘The restoration of the academic project is at the heart of employability.’

He said it was necessary for the University to redouble its commitment to ensure the Institution was galvanised for change. ‘If we can rally around, then we will be able to re-navigate this very important Institution and rebalance its trajectory in terms of directional travel.’

Poku thanked the broader University community ‘We are living in challenging times and each of you have distinguished yourselves by the manner in which you have risen to the challenges of the past 18 months and you’ve done so without hesitation and with a sense of commitment. To me, that is the real DNA of this unique university - that we do have our differences but in time of crisis you cannot separate us by a hair. That is the value of the collective endeavour that we as a body of people bring to this unique University.’

Acting Dean and Head of the School of Social Sciences Professor Vivian Ojong said being the Premier University of African Scholarship required more than just having Africans teaching and researching and being placed on the African continent. Ojong said it required academics, scholars and researchers to be ‘mentally African’ and at the forefront of teaching, research, innovation and community engagement with an African-centred agenda.

UKZN’s Dr Maserole Kgari-Masondo detailed the impetus of the roundtable and implored everyone ‘to see ourselves as the guardians of the culture and ethos of the University.’ The Head of the Culture Cluster in the School of Social Sciences, Kgari-Masondo said it was important to shape the culture of the University to protect the reputation of the Institution.

Professor Lebo Moletsanefocused on teaching and research and reflected on whether ‘our debates and efforts around transformation, Africanisation and decolonisation are nothing but platitudes and whether they are real efforts towards changing the curriculum and the University culture.’

Moletsane delivered a “found poem” (credit: Dr Alude Mahali - Education and Emancipation project) that resonated deeply with the audience. A “found poem” is created using words or quotations selected and rearranged from another text. In this case, the texts were selected from interview transcripts from eight South African universities.

The poem reads:

I went to the bursary offices
‘Where’s the father’s Affidavit?’
‘I don’t have a father’.
‘Go to your mom and tell her to write about the whereabouts of your father.’
I go home.
Write out another Affidavit.
Go back to the police station
Using a taxi.
Then back to university.

Being a female at university is an extreme sport
Every morning I wake up
Walk down to campus with weapons
Tasers and pepper spray
There’s always crime on campus
Females being raped on campus
With cameras.

You sit there in the lecture room and think:
‘What am I going to say?
Are they going to laugh at me?
Think I’m stupid?’

Some students slept.
In the Student Building.
For two days.
Without food.

I wanted to study
They said it’s full.
They just put me in another programme so that I don’t stay at home.
If you are Black and poor, you are in trouble.

This place is very brutal for Black poor kids.

I don’t feel I belong to the campus.

Hosted by the College of Humanities, discussions included thought provoking contributions by the SRC’s Ms Pearl Thwala who looked at student issues and raised concerns about students not being consulted with regards to Project Renewal. The Vice-Chancellor said he was impressed with her presentation and committed to engaging with students on these matters.

Mr Calvin Thomas explored challenges faced by staff members during the pandemic and provided a balanced presentation on the pros and cons of “living at work”, while Professor Simangaliso Kumalo looked at issues of ethics and morality and implications for the University.

UKZN alumnus Dr Bongani Ngqulunga introduced the concept of graduates being viewed as investors. Ngqulunga, who holds three degrees from the University, said: ‘Graduates are like people who invest in a company. What happens at a company on a day-to-day basis affects its value - with our case, it’s the value of our degrees. If the University does well, the public perception of our degrees increase. If the University does not do so well, the perception of our degrees also goes down.’

Dr Balungile Zondi was the Programme Director,while Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize, introduced the main speaker Professor Nana Poku.

Dr Gerelene Jagganath introduced other speakers, while Dr Janet Muthuki gave the vote of thanks and Professor Maheshvari Naidu was the facilitator.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photographs: Supplied

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Law Academic’s Paper on Social Science Research Network’s Top 10 Download List

Law Academic’s Paper on Social Science Research Network’s Top 10 Download List
Ms Priya Singh from the UKZN School of Law.Click here for isiZulu version

Cyber Law expert Ms Priya Singh’s paper titled: Can an Emoji Be Considered as Defamation? A Legal Analysis of Burrows V Houda [2020] NSWDC 485, has made it onto the Social Science Research Network’s (SSRN) Top Ten download list for the African Law journal, Communication Law & Policy: Africa and Communication Law & Policy: Asia & Oceania.

The paper considers the Australian case of Burrows v Houda and the English case of Lord McAlpine v Bercow where both cases explore the question whether emojis could be considered to be defamatory and decided it was possible.

‘In simple English I basically looked at two recent foreign cases - one in the UK and one in Australia- both of which dealt with the question of whether the use of emojis on social media posts could amount to defamation,’ explained Singh.

She said the article considered the South African law and attempted to determine if it could also hold the use of emojis to be defamatory in social media postings on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp.

‘The UK case looked at the “innocent face” emoji and the Australian case at the “zipper mouth” emoji. Both of the foreign cases led to judgments to the effect that the use of emojis could amount to defamation. I concluded that our law could find that an inappropriate emoji could be considered defamatory,’ said Singh.

Commenting on how she felt about making the Top 10 download list, Singh said the achievement was a welcomed validation of her work as an academic.

‘I was very surprised! As academics, we seldom get the opportunity to interact with people who might have read your article and you usually don’t even know that people are reading them. Getting external validation that others are reading your work is a fantastic feeling. It makes me feel more motivated to write, especially in the interesting field of Cyber Law,’ she said.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Singh is currently working on articles comparing the legal meaning to assign to an ordinary reasonable reader in the real world compared to a reasonable reader on social media. The articles compare whether there are differences between how people understand words read in a real world situation such as books and newspapers to how people read words online on Facebook and Twitter.

‘This dichotomy is especially interesting as most people consider social media to be a fun medium with no real-world legal consequences,’ said Singh. ‘They thus tend to discount harmful words on social media even though these posts or tweets can cause people real world harm and distress. I am also researching whether people of different ages interact differently on social media - for example, younger people think nothing of using harsher words on social media compared to what they would use in the real world whereas older people generally believe that online behaviour should mimic real world behaviour.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Students Clean Up River in Pietermaritzburg

UKZN Students Clean Up River in Pietermaritzburg
UKZN students making Alexander River a cleaner and more pleasant place to be around.

The Operation Songamanzi Student Organisation (OSSO) - a UKZN club based on the Pietermaritzburg campus, which deals with water conservation - held a clean-up drive along the Alexandra River while implementing Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM).

With a vision of successfully implementing IWRM in South Africa, OSSO’s co-founder and chairperson Mr Andile Mgagula said the operation provided participants with a proper understanding of the link between the clean-up and IWRM, while also highlighting the challenges most river catchment areas face. ‘Since Operation Songamanzi was established to find solutions to the water-related problems we have, being fully aware of environmental problems will help find solutions,’ said Mgagula. 

Held in collaboration with the Community Development Association (CDA), the clean-up involved UKZN students and featured guest speakers Mr Sylvester Selala, who is a PhD candidate in Hydrology, an entrepreneur and an expert in IWRM; and Mr Ntando Ndlanzi, a hydrologist, UKZN alumnus and an Umngeni employee.

Selala spoke on the three principles of IWRM - social equity, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability, explaining the connection between a river clean-up and IWRM. Ndlanzi informed students about problems in the river catchment across Umngeni River.

Mgagula said his organisation saw the need for participants to be briefed and provided with the necessary knowledge before the clean-up got underway. ‘The information received from our guest speaker made everyone more water and environmentally conscious.’

He said the removal of litter around the river had made a huge difference to the environment.

Other planned OSSO activities include involvement in the upcoming National Water Quality Month, the World Ocean Day, and the Green Campus Campaign during which organisation members will establish a tunnel and apply water conservative methods on crops.;

‘There are other upcoming projects including rainwater harvesting, seminars and symposiums to heighten awareness about the importance of conserving the most important resource we have which is water. Those who wish to join OSSO or be part of our activities can contact us on Facebook at Operation Songamanzi Student Organisation,’ said Mgagula.

OSSO’s executive members include Mgagula, Sivuyile Phohleli, Khethiwe Mthethwa, Syanda Hadebe, Thembelihle Chiliza, Lindokuhle Nyaba, Sfundo Dubazane and Amanda Nyawose.

Mgagula thanked participants and guests for participating in the clean-up, saying there were plans to expand the organisation’s activities to other UKZN campuses and Higher Education Institutions.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu

Photographs: Supplied

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Women are the Real Architects of Society – Theme of Workplace Event

Women are the Real Architects of Society – Theme of Workplace Event
Scenes from the Young Women in the Workplace event.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN alumnus and Social Work and Community Development specialist, Ms Qhamo Gumede, who oversees student development activities at the Howard College and Medical School residences, organised a Young Women in the Workplace event in Umhlanga.

Themed: Women are the Real Architects of Society, it was a strictly “women only” affair.

Those who attended were mainly postgraduate students who are Residence Assistants (RAs) and Student assistants (SAs) at the two campuses (Medical School and Howard College), where Gumede is responsible for designing a research-based Residence Life Programme that develops students holistically and for the recruitment of Residence Life Staff as well as the training and supervision of live-in staff and members of House Committees after they have been elected by students.

The Residence Life Programme strives to provide students with a safe, healthy and attractive living environment, which supports the educational mission of the University. The overall emphasis of the programme is to continue to promote learning outside the formal classroom/lecture theatre environment and support the academic enterprise of the Institution as well as the socio-political and economic development of residence students.

Gumede says RAs and SAs, who work very hard at the implementation level of the Res Life Curriculum, are sometimes subjected to abuse from students who resist conforming to community standards.

‘The aim of the gathering was to acknowledge the participants and give them tools to use when they face real work challenges on campus and outside the University. Based on research and true-life stories, women are still victims of GBV, femicide, sexual harassment, bullying and unequal pay. While a lot of people perpetrate and experience intimate partner and or sexual violence, men are most often the perpetrators and women the victims,’ she said.

‘Participants at the event were given tips on the most effective initiatives to address underlying risk factors for violence, including social norms regarding gender roles and the acceptability of violence.’

The importance and power of prayer was emphasised, by the keynote speaker Pastor Makhosazane Nyawo of the Durban Christian Centre Jesus Dome, who said gender inequality and GBV challenges were sometimes created by women. ‘We need to address our own characters! Women need to value themselves and realise that some battles need not to be fought at work. We need to change from being victims to being victors; from being fearful to being fearless; from being powerless to be powerful; from being unworthy to being worthy. Respect is key even if you have a masters or PhD degree if you want to survive anywhere especially in the work environment,’ said Nyawo.

She encouraged participants to become job creators rather than being job seekers and said it was vital they got vaccinated against COVID-19.

Nyawo ended her presentation by praying for UKZN and everyone at the event.

Ms Nomvuselelo Mngadi and Ms Melissa Sibanda were congratulated by Gumede for their roles as MCs, especially as it was a first for both of them.

‘Special thanks go to the Residence Life Officers who assisted with the planning of the event, the RAs and SAs for being great participants, UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division for photographing the event and our guests of honour UKZN’s Ms Edista Ngubane and our keynote speaker Pastor Nyawo,’ said Gumede.

Words: NdabaOnline

Photograph: Siphosethu Dlamini

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Finding my Voice in Academia

Finding my Voice in Academia

A google search for a guide to writing your master’s dissertation offers clinical advice on the importance of reading, preparation and choosing the correct topic and supervisor. However, these tips often neglect the human aspect of this stressful undertaking - mental health. Maintaining mental health is imperative - if not, the most crucial part of the journey.

Many students often experience imposter syndrome or crippling anxiety at the mere thought of this mammoth endeavour. The fear is sometimes aided by being the first in your family to pursue a bachelor’s degree, let alone a master’s qualification. Another major stressor is the disconnection between students’ material and symbolic experiences and the concepts taught. The lack of representation and the re-presentation of foreign values and ideas render students feeling powerless, even voiceless. However, acknowledging our position of being on the fringe of complex social phenomena also presents a plethora of opportunities for young scholars.

I found refuge in the interdisciplinary field of Cultural Studies because of its bricolage approach to understanding power relations. It helped me recognise that my decentred position is significant because there is meaning in absence. This acknowledgement rewired my thinking and helped me realise that my contribution to scholarship is necessary. The insight garnered from my master’s dissertation enabled me to rationalise the signifying practices that result in moral panics like the Black Lives Matter protests, Clicks TRESemmé debacle and the insurrection on Capitol Hill.

While recently reading an article by sociologist and political activist Stuart Hall on Louis Althusser’s contribution to the reconceptualisation of ideology, I marvelled at his anecdotal account of being part of a “Coloured” Jamaican family who found social currency in being classified as “not Black”. Perhaps, I related to his complex experience with race as it overlaps with my experience as a “Coloured” South African. He further explained how his family clung to this classificatory system like an ideological lifeline as it distanced them from the unfavourable signifying chain of Blackness. Ironically, when Hall relocated to Britain, on a Rhodes Scholarship, Blackness was imposed upon him because, in all its simplicity, he was not White. I imagine that his interpellation into these disparate subject positions marked a critical moment in his academic trajectory.

The anxiety we feel about our displacement as budding academics (or master’s graduates) presents an opportunity to carve a space for ourselves in meta-discourses. Of course, this does not negate the necessity of decolonising Higher Education, and subsequently academic scholarship; but I caution against radical attempts to eradicate existing knowledge fields from curricula. Moments of contestation, frustration and anxiety should compel us to articulate and assert our subject position, no matter how insignificant (or insecure) we feel.

Like many young South African scholars, I am the first in my family to obtain a master’s degree. I had no familial reference point - aside from my supervisor, Professor Ruth Teer-Tomaselli. At times, anxiety would cloud my mind, and I would find great difficulty stringing words together to form a coherent sentence. However, I ultimately managed to quell my anxiety by surrounding myself with a sound support system and finally realising that attaining my masters was a necessary stepping-stone if I desired diverse representation in academia.

*Landers, who was awarded a Master of Arts degree from UKZN where she is currently reading for a PhD, is a lecturer at the AFDA Film School.

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

This article was originally published in the ANFASA magazine. Volume 5, issue 2 2021

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Law Graduate Represents SA at Mister Supranational 2021

Law Graduate Represents SA at Mister Supranational 2021
Mister Supranational SA 2020, Mr Akshar Birbal.

Bachelor of Laws graduate, Mr Akshar Birbal represented South Africa at the Mister Supranational 2021 pageant held in Nowy Sacz, Poland.

Birbal (25), who was the Mister Supranational South Africa winner last year, said representing his country on a global platform had been an amazing experience.

‘It was always my dream to model on an international level as well as to show my passion for modelling on live television,’ he said. ‘I am proud to mention that being Mr Supranational South Africa has allowed me to represent my country on an international platform and fulfil my dreams.’

Having started his modelling career in 2016, Mister Supranational is not Birbal’s first pageantry experience - he was first runner-up in the Mr India South Africa 2016 contest and has been nominated as the ambassador for the Mr India South Africa brand in 2018.

Balancing his modelling career with his legal career is a priority for Birbal who graduated from UKZN with an LLB in 2018. He was able to excel in his faculty and had qualified for the International Golden Key Award. Birbal extended his knowledge and went ahead and obtained his PLT (practical legal training) certificate from the University as well.

He worked as a candidate attorney at Theasen Pillay and Associates in Durban in 2018 and went on to join Pravda and Knowles Attorneys, where he fully completed his articles. ‘After graduating with my Bachelor of Laws degree, I went on to serve my articles of clerkship. It was during this period that my confidence grew, I was given the opportunity to argue matters in court as well as hold meetings with representatives from other law firms and held many consulting sessions with various clients,’ he said. This type of exposure gave me confidence on the stage and at Pageantry level where various questions were thrown at you by the judges.

In the next couple of weeks, Birbal will be admitted as an attorney at the High Court and is looking forward to starting his own legal firm in Durban.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied

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First Data Release from HERA Team gives Insight into the Early Universe

First Data Release from HERA Team gives Insight into the Early Universe
The HERA telescope array in the Northern Cape.

UKZN is part of an international team working on data emerging from the world class Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA) telescope that - with the release of its first set of observations - is providing a glimpse of what the Universe looked like 13 billion years ago!

The HERA network comprises an array of closely packed 14m diameter dishes and 350 antennae situated next to the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, from where it can observe large scale structure in the universe during and before the epoch of reionisation, a time when the neutral intergalactic medium comprised largely of neutral hydrogen atoms was ionised by the emergence of luminous sources, giving rise to plasma, the most abundant form of matter in the universe.

The substantial collecting area allows for increased sensitivity and robust statistical characterisation, and enables first measurements of the Universe’s large-scale neutral hydrogen structure.

Led from the United States, the large international collaboration features strong South African participation, from construction to scientific research. HERA is hosted by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) that oversees construction management, systems engineering, its location, power, and fibre networks.

Constructed by a team of local artisans from Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, the sky-facing, state-of-the-art antennae comprise surprisingly simple materials: wooden poles, a PVC-pipe structure and wire mesh. Construction has taken place over the past six years, with observations happening throughout, with completion expected in a matter of weeks. The deceptively simple set-up allows astronomers to peer deeper into the universe than ever before.

HERA is helping astronomers understand how the universe reached conditions for the very first stars and galaxies to form. The radio telescope looks even further back in time than that achieved by leading optical and infrared space telescopes. Scientists from UKZN, Rhodes University and the University of the Western Cape are among the experts interpreting the data HERA produces.

Professor Yin-Zhe Ma of UKZN’s Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) and School of Chemistry and Physics, whose expertise includes radio cosmology and 21 cm intensity mapping of the scale of the universe in the epoch of reionisation, co-authored one of the papers accompanying the release of HERA’s Phase I data.

Following research revealing the most sensitive upper limits identified to date on the strength of the signal it is possible to detect from the universe at around 66 million years after the Big Bang, Ma and other authors elaborated on the implications of those upper limits for models of early universe star and galaxy formation.

These two papers present clear observational evidence for heating of the intergalactic medium by energy from stars in the epoch of reionisation, and as HERA’s capabilities are extended, the measurement of the very first stars emerging even before this epoch will be possible. As it reaches completion, project engineers are confident that HERA will enable astronomers to observe the birth of the very first stars that appeared after the Big Bang, and investigate the proposed new physics believed to have affected these stars.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied

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UKZN Webinar Examines Abortion Laws in Poland

UKZN Webinar Examines Abortion Laws in Poland
Ciocia Czesia members protesting against restrictions on abortion.

UKZN’s Centre for Civil Society (CCS) hosted a webinar - titled How to Get an Abortion Legally when it’s Illegal - presented by Ms Eva Ptašková, a reproductive rights activist based in the Czech Republic.

The event which formed part of the CCS’s Protest and Protest Movements Special Webinar Series, was facilitated by the centre’s post-doctoral research fellow Dr Danford Tafadzwa Chibvongodze.

The webinar took place against the backdrop of a Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruling, which determined that the law allowing abortions in cases of health issues and malformations of a foetus is unconstitutional. The ruling tightened one of the strictest reproductive laws in Europe and effectively banned the vast majority of legal abortions in the country.

Ptašková explained that in Poland abortion was only allowed when a pregnancy risked impacting on an individual’s mental or physical health or when a pregnancy was the result of a criminal act.

She discussed how legal access to abortion had changed in the country over the years, leading to protests despite COVID-19 restrictions. ‘Poland went into a frenzy and despite restrictions on public gatherings, a wave of unprecedented protests moved the nation.’

Ptašková is part of a non-profit organisation called Ciocia Czesia that supports the access of people to safe and legal abortions in the Czech Republic.

‘Our objective is to provide reliable information about reproductive health and help with access to safe and legal abortion.’

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: DW (2020)

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UKZN Alumnus Inspiring Youth Through YouTube TV Show

UKZN Alumnus Inspiring Youth Through YouTube TV Show
UKZN alumnus and Impumelelo TV show founder, Mr Thabile Mdeni.

Bachelor of Commerce in Economics and Supply Chain graduate, Mr Thabile Mdeni - in partnership with the UKZN student-led marketing company, Ignitemarpro - have created a platform for people to tell stories about their pre- and post-education journeys to encourage the youth.

The platform is the Impumelelo TV Show which launched on YouTube in February and currently has 735 subscribers after two episodes, which recorded a combined total viewership of more than 4 000.

Mdeni, who holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Maritime Studies and a similar qualification in Management, says the show was inspired by UKZN graduates sharing their stories of how they overcame challenges.

‘I have interacted with many young students and graduates who have faced the same challenges I had during my many years at university. From our disadvantaged backgrounds to our lack of finances, we had to find ways to stay motivated and did so partly by sharing our experiences.

‘The TV show started during dark times for young people because of the global pandemic and we hope this will motivate them to reach their potential,’ said Mdeni.

Despite facing financial challenges, Mdeni says the plan is to grow the initiative.

‘The focus for now is to improve and grow the Impumelelo TV show by partnering with Yethu Scholars, an NPO-founded and directed by a fellow UKZN alumnus. When the YouTube programme matures and establishes itself, a deserving UKZN student from a disadvantaged background will have their tuition fully paid for as well as receive mentorship as way of adding some value for our viewers.’

View Impumelelo TV Show here:

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied

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Leading with Language

Leading with Language
Good language skills are vital for anyone wanting to prosper in the world of work.

English is one of the most commonly used languages in business, academia and media making it vital to have good use of English skills, especially in a multiracial and multicultural environment such as KwaZulu-Natal as well as many other provinces in South Africa.

Being proficient in the language allows individuals to develop positive business relationships in their interaction with colleagues and clients.

UKZN’s Extended Learning Division’s English Proficiency programme, which enables delegates to increase their proficiency in English as a language used in business, reflects the growing demand for language skills in South Africa and across key markets in Africa.

During interactive sessions with facilitators, delegates learn to apply English to real life situations relevant to their daily interaction with focus areas including sessions on English culture, heritage, context, themes, basic expressions, pronunciation and written text for presentation. Participants will be given all the tools necessary to achieve proficiency in English leading to the option for further, more in-depth language study.

Our ability to connect fully with others depends to a large extent on having strong language skills.

To secure a place on the next intake or find out more about the course, please click here, or contact Lemuel Moses at phone: +27-31 260 1853 or email: 

Words: Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

Photograph: Adobe Stock image

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Edgewood Students get COVID-19 Vaccination

Edgewood Students get COVID-19 Vaccination
Clockwise from top left: Mrs Sisana Machi, Mr Teboho Hlao, Ms Malerato Jafta, Mr Johnson Mthembu, Ms Precious Khawula, Mr Bulelani Chiya, and Mr Lusanda Radebe.

Students in residence on the Edgewood campus received their COVID-19 vaccination on the same day that Mrs Sisana Machi, Interim Director of the UKZN Department of Students Residence Affairs, got hers at the Helen Joseph Hospital in Gauteng.

The Edgewood students, accompanied by Residence Life Officer Mr Teboho Hlao, were vaccinated at the designated site on the Westville campus. Three Residence Assistants (RAs) Mr Johnson Mthembu, Mrs Precious Khawula and Ms Malerato Jafta, also received their jabs - the first RAs on campus to do so.

Said Hlao: ‘At the moment students are not allowed to have visitors in their residences which is inconvenient and stressful although necessary in terms of the COVID-19 restrictions. If a large number of students got their jabs that restriction could perhaps be relaxed or even lifted. No sport is being played at present but again depending on how many students have the vaccination that restriction could be relaxed and that also applies to physical training exercises.

‘The general opinion among RAs is that with the DSTV service suspended because of COVID-19 and the other restrictions in force, students are suffering and taking mental strain.

‘The three RAs made a bold decision to be among the first to get vaccinated so their example may encourage a lot more students to get vaccinated,’ he said.

Said Khawula: ‘Students must get vaccinated, we need our lives back - we need to have our year-end programmes before we go into the field next year.’

Words: NdabaOnline

Photographs: Johnson Mthembu

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UKZN Webinar on Regulating the Private Security Industry by Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice

UKZN Webinar on Regulating the Private Security Industry by Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice
Panelists at the webinar, clockwise from top left: Professor Fikile Mazibuko, Ms Nomakhosi Sibisi, Mr Jan Sambo, Mr Tebogo Seanego, Ms Londiwe Caluza, and Mr Nkosingiphile Mbhele.

Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice: Regulating the Private Security Industry was the title of a webinar facilitated by Ms Nomakhosi Sibisi, a lecturer in the School of Applied Human Sciences.

As the former Chairperson of the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA), Emeritus Professor Fikile Mazibuko who is currently overseeing the Student Services Division (SSD), highlighted the primary objectives of PSiRA, mentioning how the private security industry had grown considerably over the years, cementing its place in society.

‘One only has to recall the important role private security played in the recent unrest to understand the importance of the industry in supporting law enforcement in what can be described as the thin blue line,’ Mazibuko said.

Chief Operations Officer for PSiRA Mr Stefan Badenhorst commented on the role of the private security industry in providing increased protection to property and individuals, giving an overview of the authority as a state entity, an independent regulator, and a self-funded organisation that acts as a law enforcement agency for the industry.

Badenhorst listed the core functions of PSiRA as handling the registration and database of all security service providers and officers; screening all persons intending to be part of the private security industry; overseeing the quality assurance of training standards; inspecting and prosecuting security service providers; and advising the Minister of Police on regulations pertaining to the Private Security Industry Regulation Act.

Acting Deputy Director of Law Enforcement for PSiRA Mr Jan Sambo explained practical aspects of regulating the private security industry, detailing how it included legislation, compliance and enforcement in which inspectors were deployed to make sure that all security service providers and officers complied with the law and were penalised accordingly for failure to do so.

Sambo mentioned some of the challenges and identified how they had encountered legislation gaps due to amendments and new regulations being drafted, a lack of co-operation between law enforcement agencies and a lack of investigation techniques, preservation and the presentation of evidence before a tribunal. He listed the amendment and or promulgation of new legislation, the improvement of stakeholder engagement, and the development of short courses and training as some of the solutions in bridging the gap between theory and practice.

The Acting Manager for Research and Development for PSiRA Mr Tebogo Seanego explained the structure and purpose of his unit in undertaking research that provided relevant insights on the organisation’s core business activities.

He highlighted various studies undertaken by the unit including car guarding services, locksmith functions, anti-poaching services and neighbourhood watches as private security measures and mentioned their current research projects for 2021. Seanego also commented on the Private Security Services Postgraduate Law course offered at Wits University.

UKZN lecturer in the Discipline of Criminology and Forensic Studies Mr Nkosingiphile Mbhele, identified the private security industry as one of the biggest business sectors in the country and said the rapid growth of the industry had been met with regulation challenges. He also discussed the enforcement of the PSiRA Act in drinking establishments.

In his study, Mbhele revealed the importance of enforcing private security legislative and regulative frameworks in regard to bouncers in drinking and entertainment establishments. He felt it would ensure that bouncers as private security personnel were professionally trained and registered with PSiRA, that the industry had gender equality, that the bouncers complied with the PSiRA Act when conducting their duties, and that they were not exploited in terms of payments which would in turn make the spaces they occupied safer and more peaceful.

A Junior Researcher for PSiRA Ms Londiwe Caluza unpacked the topic of barriers for control for the private security industry and student protests in South Africa. Focusing on the role and conduct of security officers during student protests, she explained how personnel were usually compelled by their clients to act beyond their scope of duty in crowd control and spoke about the use of unqualified security guards and uniforms similar to those of state security forces.

Caluza recommended the development of official qualifications, techniques and tactics in the field pertinent to handling protest action and also called for stricter penalties for the use of uniforms resembling those of state security forces.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photographs: Supplied

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