School of Law Raises R18 Million in Research Funding

School of Law Raises R18 Million in Research Funding
Professor Donrich Thaldar.Click here for isiZulu version

An innovative legal research project led by Professor Donrich Thaldar of UKZN’s School of Law has been awarded R18 million in funding by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH is the world’s largest public funder of health-related research, supporting research worldwide that has an impact on knowledge of health and medicine.

The project will focus on the legal aspects of the use of data science for health innovation in Africa and aims to provide legal clarity and practical guidance on issues that are critical for scientists.

‘The law is often multi-layered and complex, and may differ between jurisdictions,’ commented Thaldar. ‘To facilitate health discovery and innovation that uses data science, we need to provide scientists with legal clarity on issues such as the use of persons’ geospatial data, cross-border sharing of data, and the use of data to train artificial intelligence.’

The project will also make recommendations on inter-jurisdiction harmonisation through the lens of decolonisation and Africanisation. It will involve 12 African nations and will be driven by a project team of leading law academics from different regions on the continent.

‘Our objective is to empower policymakers across the continent to make the law more attuned to the needs and expectations of the people of Africa,’ said Thaldar.

*The content of this is article does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

Words: Ndaba Online

Photograph: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

Postharvest Physiologist Recognised by National Future Professors Programme

Postharvest Physiologist Recognised by National Future Professors Programme
Dr Asanda Mditshwa.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Asanda Mditshwa from the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) has been selected to participate in the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) Future Professors Programme (FPP) in recognition of his potential as an up-and-coming academic leader in the field of Horticultural Science.

Nominated by the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) in response to a national call for nominees, Mditshwa’s selection identifies him as among South Africa’s most talented academics. The FFP will provide selected academics with a structured, intense programme to accelerate their journey to professorship, thereby strengthening leadership in South African Higher Education.

Mditshwa’s commitment to advancing scholarship through his scholarly work, his creativity, novelty and productivity, willingness to learn, and his resilience and openness to collaboration made him stand out in the selection process.

‘I feel very excited and honoured to be selected as one of the most talented young academics in South Africa. This is a great affirmation, especially knowing that South African Higher Education Institutions have many talented young people,’ he said.

Exposed to the challenges facing the fresh produce industry through Citrus Academy workshops and conferences during his undergraduate studies at the University of Fort Hare, Mditshwa was inspired to pursue an academic career in postharvest physiology, aiming to develop and test technologies to reduce food losses while teaching and mentoring the next generation of scientists to help navigate pressing challenges in the agricultural industry.

He joined UKZN more than six years ago, where he had completed his MScAgric in 2011, followed by a PhD in Horticultural Science through Stellenbosch University. This year, he graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education from UKZN with distinction.

Mditshwa’s research focuses on novel and non-chemical postharvest treatments for fresh produce to combatthe loss of quality during postharvest handling, a major challenge in the global food industry that results in the loss of more than 30% of food harvested. With chemical treatments the current standard, Mditshwa is interested in alternatives that will not pose the same threats to humans and the environment.

With a Y2 rating from the NRF, Mditshwa has 63 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters to his name, and has supervised 14 postgraduate students to completion, with a further 12 master’s and PhD students under his supervision. He is also a review editor and board member of the Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems journal.

His academic success has been enabled by the support of his family, particularly his wife Amanda. He also credited his colleagues in the SAEES, especially Professors Lembe Magwaza and Samson Tesfay for welcoming him to the University, mentoring him, and cultivating an environment that empowered him to excel.

‘Congratulations on your achievements,’ said Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the CAES Professor Albert Modi. ‘You have made us proud as a College; keep up the fabulous work with the assurance of our support all the way.’

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

Chemistry’s Future Professor is Passionate about Teaching Science

Chemistry’s Future Professor is Passionate about Teaching Science
Dr Precious Mahlambi.Click here for isiZulu version

Dr Precious Mahlambi from the School of Chemistry and Physics has been selected to participate in the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) Future Professors Programme (FPP) in recognition of her potential as an up-and-coming academic leader in the field of analytical environmental chemistry.

Nominated by the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) in response to a national call for nominees, Mahlambi’s selection identifies her as among South Africa’s most talented academics. The FFP provides selected academics with a structured, intense programme to accelerate their journey to professorship, thereby strengthening leadership in South African Higher Education.

Mahlambi’s commitment to advancing scholarship through scholarly work, her creativity, novelty and productivity, willingness to learn and her resilience and openness to collaboration made her stand out in the selection process.

‘I feel honoured and humbled to be selected, especially because the professor rank is the highest in the academic career that we all aspire to attain,’ she said. ‘Being part of this programme will help me gain the required skills, experience and pedigree, and enable me to promote excellence in teaching and research at various levels.’

Motivated by her love for transferring knowledge and inspiring the next generation of scientists, as well as the scarcity of Black female South Africans in academia, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Mahlambi chose to pursue further studies in science, and a career in tertiary education.

‘I aim to simplify the teaching and learning of Science to help students understand its role and importance in our daily lives so that they will be encouraged to study it up to postgraduate level,’ said Mahlambi.

Mahlambi pursued her undergraduate, honours and master’s studies through the Durban University of Technology, and her PhD in analytical environmental chemistry at the University of the Witwatersrand.

She joined UKZN as a lecturer in 2015, progressing to senior lecturer in 2020. Mahlambi is the only environmental analytical chemist on the Pietermaritzburg campus and is focusing on research with positive environmental and human health impacts. She is working on method development and application for the assessment of organic and inorganic pollutants (and removal strategies) from various water sources, soil and sediment, and fruit and vegetable samples.

Mahlambi aims to develop effective, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly pollutant analysis and removal methods to contribute to solving the worldwide challenge of water pollution and ensuring sustainable use of limited freshwater resources. She is also working on green synthesis of silver-based nanoparticles and their application as antibacterial agents with the aim of developing new and/or improved antibiotics.

Mahlambi has 29 publications to her name, and has received several grants and awards, including sponsorship from Sweden to participate in an exchange programme at Lund University during her PhD, and a Pittcon Travel Grant from the American Chemical Society in 2020 to attend and present at a conference in Chicago in the United States. Her research has been supported by a Thuthuka grant from the NRF since 2017.

Mentorship is a major component of Mahlambi’s work; she highlighted the importance of developing the next generation of environmental analytical chemists, saying that expertise in this area is in high demand and it remains a scarce skill in South Africa. She has supervised or co-supervised eight master’s students - who have all completed on time and with publications - and seven honours students, with six master’s and five PhD students currently under her main supervision.

Mahlambi credited God for her success in life, and thanked her husband Dr Mphilisi Mahlambi for his unconditional love, support, commitment, encouragement and belief. She also thanked her daughter for her emotional support and understanding, and expressed gratitude to her late mother and grandmother for their love and support.

Mahlambi acknowledged her Environmental Analytical Chemistry Research group students for their respect, enthusiasm and commitment that encourage her to mentor more students and grow her own knowledge. She also thanked fellow academics in the Discipline of Chemistry for the role they played in her development.

‘Congratulations on your achievements,’ said Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the CAES Professor Albert Modi. ‘You have made us proud as a College; keep up the fabulous work with the assurance of our support all the way.’

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

Lecture Commemorates 150 Years of JL Dube

Lecture Commemorates 150 Years of JL Dube
Professors Cherif Keita (left) and Simangaliso Kumalo.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN’s School of Education and the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics in the College of Humanities, in collaboration with the University Language Planning and Development Office hosted the 2021 John Langalibalele Dube Memorial Lecture. The lecture was facilitated by Ms Natalia Molebatsi, a South African writer, performance poet and cultural worker.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize opened the lecture and spoke to a book commemorating the life of Dube edited by UKZN academic Professor Simangaliso Kumalo and titled, John, Nokutela and Angelina Dube. Pioneers of Education for self-reliance, liberatory religion and democratic politics in South Africa. ‘Dube’s leadership was both selfless and ethical. The book is a fitting honour for him and comes at an important time when South Africa faces ethical dilemmas. It will benefit current and future generations,’ said Mkhize, who also wrote the foreword for the book. It will be available in the coming weeks.

The John Langalibalele Dube Chair in Rural Education at the School of Education, Professor Relebohile Moletsane gave an overview and history of the JL Dube lecture which began in 2003. ‘The four-day event was headlined by local and international scholars who paid tribute to the life of Dr JL Dube who would have celebrated his 150th birthday in 2021. In the context of the current challenges facing South Africa and the world, including COVID-19, GBV, climate change, poverty, inequalities and societal fragmentation and conflict, we mark this anniversary of the birth of this African intellectual with a series of lectures to reflect on his legacy and how universities and other stakeholders might draw on his philosophy and teachings to effect social change.’

William H Laird Professor of French and the Liberal Arts at Carleton College (Minnesota, USA) Professor Cherif Keita delivered the closing lecture of the series. He said that he became acquainted with Dube’s history during his first visit to South Africa. ‘I returned to the United States with a fervent desire to learn more about him, and about his life and training in the US, in the hope of consolidating his legacy for future generations. The more I thought about Dube’s life, the more I realised that film was the best medium to bring him more vividly into the collective memory.’

Mr Mweze Ngangura, an award-winning filmmaker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who was based in Brussels (Belgium) was approached to bring the film to life. Keita planned to interview Nelson Mandela about the life of Dube. However, Mandela confessed he did not know much. Keita admitted that he was disappointed at this revelation, but saw it as an opportunity to honour the life of Dube and make it known to the world.

He discovered that Dube’s adoptive American parents were married in his adopted hometown of Northfield, Minnesota. ‘The Dube story that had started as a distant one, had suddenly become a local story, even a personal story to me. I found in the most unexpected way my own connection to a story some people thought I had no legitimacy to retell. Instead of me finding the Dube story, the story found me,’ said Keita.

In December 2004, he completed his first film, Oberlin-Inanda: The Life and Times of John L. Dube that was selected for the 2005 Pan African Film Festival in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). Dube’s grandson, Mr Zenzele Dube, attended the festival, where the film attracted press coverage and a Special Mention for Best Documentary in a Special Prize category.

The film was screened at the 2005 Durban International Film Festival on the Howard College campus. Former President Thabo Mbeki requested that this first-ever film about Dube be made available to SABC. It was later shown to apartheid activist Professor Fatima Meer and former President Mandela.

‘The truth is that from that day of January 1999 to today, my life has been changed profoundly. Never a day has passed without my thinking about Dube, Wilcox, Nokutela Dube, Inanda, Cornfields, Thembalihle, and the whole web of unsuspected connections that would have gone unnoticed without my modest involvement in retrieving South Africa’s complex liberation history,’ said Keita.

Ending his lecture, Keita regaled the audience with the poem Remember by Don Mattera. ‘Dube was a humble leader who worked tirelessly for a day when the children of Africa will walk with their heads held high, enjoying total control of their own destiny on the land of their ancestors. May his example of community service continue to inspire us to invest our better selves in the building of just and equitable nations across Africa,’ he said.

Responding to his lecture, Kumalo talked about the forthcoming book, and further discussed the gender equity in the marital relationship between Dube and Nokutela and Dube and Angelina. He also spoke about Angelina remaining steadfast in upholding Dube’s legacy after his death.

Kumalo addressed Dube’s education for self-reliance which is ‘to comprehend and understand, to have the right knowledge and to create and build with the education received.’ He noted that two outcomes are important: education as liberation and education as the most important driver of economic opportunity. 

‘May we continue to learn from Dube in his teachings on education, leadership and politics as they are relevant today,’ said Kumalo. He also urged the public to keep the legacy of Dube alive and made an undertaking that in 2023, the lecture will focus on and commemorate 150 years of Nokutela Dube.

Mr Langa Dube, grandson of JL Dube, expressed his gratitude to UKZN and Keita for their documentation on his grandfather. ‘We are honoured that our grandfather is being remembered and praised within the African context. This memorial lecture keeps to the value of the importance of quality education as a tool of liberation for the Black child. This can be heralded as a collective effort. We need to have a continuous conversation about Dube in all corners of the country and develop this culture of documenting our heritage so it is not forgotten, and can be shared with future generations.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

UKZN Academics Contribute to International Conference on Business and Management Dynamics

UKZN Academics Contribute to International Conference on Business and Management Dynamics
College of Law and Management Studies academics from left, Professors Vannie Naidoo, Stephen Mutula and Brian McArthur.

Professor Vannie Naidoo of UKZN’s College of Law and Management Studies presented a paper titled: Digitisation of African Universities and how it was fast tracked during COVID-19 at the International Conference on Business and Management Dynamics.

The conference, which was co-hosted by UKZN, was themed: COVID-19: Reshaping Sustainable Development Goals Implementation in the World. Dean of the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, Professor Stephen Mutula delivered the welcome address while the College’s Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian McArthur delivered the closing remarks.

Naidoo’s paper explored what quality education is and how it ties in with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

‘COVID-19 is one of the most catastrophic humanitarian crises that triggered a global pandemic. To curb infection, Higher Education Institutions in Africa migrated at an accelerated pace to online teaching platforms,’ she said.

As a co-convener conference board member, Naidoo added that the conference was an important platform for discussion and engagement on ways to address Africa’s development to ensure that the SDGs are achieved by 2030.

‘The conference was an excellent space to bring together academics, researchers and policy makers to explore the SDGs and how the pandemic has impacted on them on the African continent and beyond. I would like to thank Professor Mutula and Professor McArthur for their unwavering support and contributions that made the conference such a success.’

Words: NdabaOnline

Photographs: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

My Heritage, My Pride

My Heritage, My Pride
.

South Africa is a diverse country with rich history. It is home to many cultures, and this has earned it the nickname “rainbow nation.” For many, the first thing that comes to mind when they think about South Africa is His Majesty King Shaka Zulu or former President Nelson Mandela.

The rainbow nation is a multilingual country with 11 official languages, how it has managed to cater for all and achieve harmony?

It is well known that a massive price was paid by the heroes and heroines who fought for the united South Africa that we have today. They sacrificed their lives for the new South Africa that does not discriminate in terms of colour, religion, and culture. They saw her as a loving mother to all her kids and hoped that she would manage to raise the upcoming generations with love and share the tales of her young days so that the bloodshed of the past never happens again.

UKZN is one of her living rooms where some of her grandchildren are resting as they learn in the chairs of education and rest on the sofas of a bright future. She has managed to instil the same values in this place because everyone is taught to share, and all are addressed in the same manner and treated equally. The University has embraced an inclusive approach that welcomes students from all cultures and walks of life.

Heritage Month embraces our differences as South Africa’s children.

In affirming our culture as individuals, we find comfort and, our identity and we get to be ourselves. While we come from different backgrounds, we are Africans not because we are Black but because the sun lights our paths. I believe that it is very important to embrace who we are, our cultures, and uniqueness, which opens the door to creativity, fashion, and other beautiful things. To know where we are going in life it is important to acknowledge and embrace who we are and where we come from.

I would also like to make reference to the organisation called Indoni Miss Cultural South Africa, which teaches the importance of knowing one’s background and promotes the dignity of individuals and ethnic groups. Its founder Dr Nomcebo Mthembu is doing wonderful work and I think we need more organisations like this, especially in these times where we are influenced by unrealistic expectations portrayed on social media.

#MyHeritage My Pride.

Mr Thandolwethu Xongo has a BCom degree in Finance and Economics. He is currently pursuing his Honours in Economics. His dissertation is focused on the exchange rate puzzle. Thandolwethu is big on leadership as he has been through the various substructures of the SRC up until being the Westville representative counsel as the Finance Officer. He previously led the UKZN Finance Society as Deputy President, and is currently leading the UKZN Finance Society on its project of renewal and repurposing as its President.

*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.

Photograph: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

Student Entrepreneur Receives Business Funding Support

Student Entrepreneur Receives Business Funding Support
Ms Nomzamo Msomi, co-founder and managing director of Kwakhanya Cleaning Services.

UKZN student entrepreneur, Ms Nomzamo Msomi has received business support funding of R200 000 from the South African Breweries (SAB) Foundation’s Tholoana Enterprise Programme.

Currently pursuing her MSc in Chemistry on the Pietermaritzburg campus, Msomi (24) is the co-founder and managing director of Kwakhanya Cleaning Services. Her business, co-owned with friend and business partner Ms Amanda Ngqoleka, currently employs nine people and offers residential, corporate, upholstery, disinfecting and specialised window cleaning services in and around Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Pinetown.

Msomi said the funding came at just the right time when the business was looking to expand: ‘I don’t have words to describe how much this means to me and my business.’

The SAB Tholoana Enterprise Programme is a two-year development programme that invests in entrepreneurs who have promising businesses with the potential to create employment. It accepts 60 entrepreneurs each year and provides business support, seed funding and assistance with access to markets.

Msomi added that Mr Khutso Ramontja the Student Entrepreneurship Manager at UKZN InQubate suggested that she apply to the programme. She expressed her thanks to InQubate for helping her get her business off the ground by assisting with the business plan, familiarising her with business terms, informing her about the regulations governing the industry, enabling her to network with other student entrepreneurs and supporting her with funding for branding and marketing.

Msomi said she hopes to grow the business and expand to other provinces. ‘I want to see Kwakhanya Cleaning Services give birth to other businesses in different sectors and create sustainable employment for my team so they can reach their full potential.’ The funding will enable the company to compete with other businesses and to gain a competitive advantage.

She advised other student entrepreneurs to start where they are no matter how small and thanked her family, friend and business partner, Ngqoleka, her team, UKZN InQubate and the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Programme for believing in her and her clients for their support.

Kwakhanya Cleaning Services caters for suburban areas, main cities and townships. It operates from 8h00 to 17h00 Monday - Saturday and can be followed on Facebook and Instagram @kwakhanya_cleaning_services

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

The Power of Documentary Photography

The Power of Documentary Photography
The poster depicts a mother mourning the death of her United Democratic Front supporting son who was abducted and slain in the “Natal War”, Mpophomeni. KwaZulu-Natal. 1987 and a busker working outside King’s Park rugby stadium after the game, while Shark’s fans rush home for another cold beer, Durban, 2010.

An exhibition and community engagement series entitled Revelation. The Power of Documentary Photography opens at the Durban Art Gallery on 23 September and runs until 10 November. Presented by Alliance Française de Durban and the Durban Art Gallery, in partnership with the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and UKZN’s Centre for Visual Methodologies for Social Change (CVMSC), it is a visual dialogue between two generations of South African documentary photographers, Mr Cedric Nunn and Mr Samora Chapman. The series is curated by Dr Ingrid Bamberg from the CVMSC.

Nunn and Chapman’s work captures the daily struggles and triumphs of the people of KwaZulu-Natal and presents a photographic journey from the remote rural areas of Zululand to the streets of central Durban. Revelations poses a number of important questions through reflection and comparison between fleeting moments of ordinary life, captured three decades apart.

Both photographers have spent many years documenting the accomplishments and challenges of ordinary people and have been involved in various educational and photography projects. Their combined body of work is an active agent of social change. Their choice of subjects falls outside the range of focus of mainstream media and public interest - people whose lives and experiences are beyond the public’s gaze and whose dreams have been deferred. Although it documents suffering, poverty and exploitation, their work evokes the strength of the human spirit. Their photographs document resilience and disillusion, but first and foremost agency - a time suspended between frustration and hope.

Born in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal, and member of the legendary collective agency Afrapix during the apartheid era, Nunn’s collection The Hidden Years sought to portray a process towards liberation in the 1980s and 1990s. He is committed ‘to contributing to societal change that will leave a positive legacy for the children of Africa.’

Chapman, who was born and raised in Durban, is a writer, photographer and visual artist, who strives to ‘get under the skin of the city, finding the beauty and the humanity between the hard urban edges, with an artist’s eye.’ He recently worked with the Denis Hurley Centre and documented the plight of homeless people in Durban under the COVID-19 lockdown in a series called Street Dreamers.

The artists and project leaders plan to engage with different members of local communities during the exhibition via a series of workshops, masterclasses, roundtables and seminars with emerging photographers, students, photographic enthusiasts and researchers in visual arts and in the social sciences using visual methodologies as a form of research and expression. These activities will be facilitated by Bamberg.

After the inaugural season in Durban, the project will travel to Luanda, Angola and throughout South Africa with the support of the Alliance Française network, and finally to France, where it will be hosted by the collective gallery Negpos in Nîmes.

Revelations is a project of Alliance Française de Durban, supported by eThekwini Municipality’s Heritage Department through the Durban Art Gallery and Local History Museums; IFAS; the Negpos collective in Nîmes, the CVMSC, and others.

For more information, contact Alliance Française de Durban - admin@durban.alliance.org.za – 031 312 9582.

Revelations is at the Durban Art Gallery, 2nd Floor, City Hall Smith Street entrance (opposite The Playhouse), in the Durban city centre. Gallery hours: Monday-Friday 08h30 to 15h00. The gallery is no longer open on weekends.

Words: CVMSC and partners of the Revelations project

Photographs: Cedric Nunn and Samora Chapman

Poster: Dahlia Maubane


author : .
author email : .

UKZN Launches New BSc Degree

UKZN Launches New BSc Degree
Left: Professor John Odindi and right, an image of the Sentinel-2 mission taken by the European Space Agency.

UKZN recently held a virtual launch of a new degree, the Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Earth Observation (EO) which will be taught for the first time in 2022 on the University’s Pietermaritzburg campus.

The three-year degree within the Discipline of Geography in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, aims to produce graduates with the ability to integrate theory and application of geospatial technologies and to build high-level theoretical and practical skills.

Professor John Odindi, from the Discipline of Geography in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, unpacked the contents of the degree for the audience and the proceedings were facilitated by Corporate Relations’ Acting Director of University Relations, Ms Hazel Langa.

Odindi explained that GIS is a computer system to capture, store, check and display data related to positions on the earth’s surface. Earth Observation, also known as remote sensing, involves gathering information on the physical, chemical and biological systems of planet earth without making physical contact.

He said the University decided to start the programme due to increased demand for skilled personnel in GIS and EO. Odindi said there has been a rapid improvement in sensor configurations. The increase in the number of satellites and sensors, which has led to private sector entities coming on board, has seen increasing volumes of data. Furthermore, improved computing technology has facilitated increased adoption of GIS EO information. While GIS courses are offered in South Africa, none provide a holistic programme in geospatial analysis.

The entrance requirements for the degree are a minimum of 30 National Senior Certificate points, with Core Maths at Level 5 and English, Life Orientation and Physical Science/Life Science/Agricultural Science all above Level 4. Odindi said the BSc is “commonly” offered to students who pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects but students have been accepted with other subjects.

The first year of the degree will introduce students to a broad range of subjects including computer science, maths, physics, environmental science, geography, statistics and biology. The programme is multidisciplinary at the beginning, with specialisation at second- and third-year level.

Langa said the University is very proud of the work done by academics and researchers to prepare this new offering. She encouraged prospective students to work hard and aim to achieve higher than the required 30 APS score to increase their chances of joining the University.

A question and answer session followed to respond to queries from graduates in the industry, prospective students, Grade 11 and 12 learners, parents, principals, educators and alumni.

Responses were provided by Odindi and Langa with assistance from Public Relations Manager in the College, Dr Sally Frost and Mr Vijay Ramballie from the University’s Schools Liaison team.

Words: Sithembile Shabangu

Photographs: Supplied and courtesy of European Space Agency.


author : .
author email : .

Land, Climate Change and Higher Education the focus of JL Dube Lecture

Land, Climate Change and Higher Education the focus of JL Dube Lecture
Mr Ngila Michael Muendane (left) and Mr Lukhona Mnguni.Click here for isiZulu version

As part of the four-day John Langalibalele Dube Memorial Lecture series, former political prisoner and author Mr Ngila Michael Muendane and PhD candidate in Political Science at UKZN Mr Lukhona Mnguni discussed land, climate change, and Higher Education.

Muendane noted that land is a crucial asset. ‘Without it, there can be no houses, food, clothes, roads, there will be nowhere to hold water, in short no life at all. The whole of existence is predicated upon land. Our conscience would lead us to establish that it is wrong to deny another human being the ability to at least meet his or her needs.’

He added that South Africa’s land reform programme is part of the wider African struggle against neo-colonialism. ‘Never mind the land, what colonialism took away from us is independence of mind to disable us from finding ways to reclaim it by taking away our power of self-mastery, and instilling the dependency syndrome that is responsible for interpersonal abuse, static thinking, poverty, corruption, and lack of compassion, resulting in disunity, amongst many other weaknesses.’

Muendane also criticised the government for planned changes to land reform and accused the ruling party of lying about returning land to the dispossessed. He said that government’s failure to deliver 30% of farm land to 25.6 million landless people shows that the African National Congress’ land policies are patently wrong and the party is creating a time bomb.

He argued ‘physical colonialism may have ceased but mental colonialism continues to this day and nowhere more starkly than in academia. Africans need to go back to their roots, their own traditions, to find and embrace their own identity. They need to leave this dependency syndrome behind and embrace Dube’s notion of self-reliance.’

Mnguni’s address reflected on the life of Dube through the prism of Higher Education and COVID-19. He argued that Higher Education Institutions in South Africa have attempted ‘to preserve the status quo through virtual platforms with a push for the completion of the academic year and the unethical push to pass students at all costs, undermining the quality and integrity of qualifications. This unintentionally (at least) provides a false sense of achievement among some students.’

According to Mnguni, ‘Dube would implore us to position our institutions to be emancipatory to the most downtrodden, to uplift our communities and to inform the soul of our future humanity as a country. He would be disappointed at the regressive tendencies of selfishness, greed, plagiarism, theft of ideas and poor compensation for excellence that emerges from time to time in the academy.’

He posited that if Dube was still alive, ‘students would continue to be at the centre of our innovative efforts with the need to broker new emancipatory pedagogies that correspond with the challenges of our times. We would not rush to conclude the academic year without being concerned about the future pathways that may not be available to our students.’

Mnguni argued that during the years of Dube and African American leader Booker T Washington there was an intersectionality of scholarship, politics, development and futuristic pursuits. ‘In today’s world these are often segmented, creating the unintended consequence of timid academics who live in bubbles of self-created social realities. For this reason, the usefulness of academia has come under the spotlight.’

His presentation posed questions such as: Where to from here for Higher Education? Why have we not built enough early warning systems for social strife that has perilous outcomes for society? How do we position Higher Education to lead rather than to lag and study the after effects of social evolution? Can Higher Education be visionary and ahead of the tide as it was in the times of Dube or must we be resigned to the inertia it has worked itself into? Have the walls of majestic existence distorted the need for existence?

Said Mnguni, ‘Some of these questions are as ideological as they are practical about the place of Higher Education. I believe Dube would encourage us to keep reinventing ourselves for the benefit of humanity, to embody a lasting industrious spirit that is about the making of the future rather than a reproduction of the present. Higher Education must be at the centre in creating the world we want in the future, unlocking answers to all the intersectional points of scholarship, politics, development and futuristic pursuits.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

Cultivating Reporting Skills for Business Success

Cultivating Reporting Skills for Business Success
Cultivating reporting skills for business success.

UKZN Extended Learning’s (UEL) Business Communication Programme was recently customised for a client to focus on management reporting.

Communication is a crucial aspect of daily life and effective communication promotes development. To grow and remain relevant in business, it is imperative to exchange information, opinions, and thoughts. Effective reporting by a company is an essential tool to guide critical business decisions and enable its owners and executives to investigate and solve challenges. Following comprehensive information collection and review, business leaders can make recommendations on the way forward. The outcome of management reporting may explain why an issue has occurred or identify performance problems and generally recommend a course of action.

Management can use business reports to gain insight into their organisation’s growth. Reports provide essential details that business leaders can use to develop forecasts and business plans and improve decision-making. Business communication also helps managers to track progress and growth and identify any irregularities that need further investigation. Business reporting promotes transparency and accountability and enables organisations to compare their performance with that of others in the same sector. 

The key focus areas of UEL’s Business Communication Programme are communication theory and tools, communication in practice, and contemporary issues with an emphasis on practical examples that participants can apply in their work environment. 

For more information and to register for the Business Communication Programme, click here or contact:
Percy Sishi
T: +27 31 260 1234
E: sishis@ukzn.ac.za 

Words: Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

Photograph: Fauxels from Pexels


author : .
author email : .

CCMS Co-Hosts Ntongela Masilela Colloquium

CCMS Co-Hosts Ntongela Masilela Colloquium
The late Professor Ntongela Masilela.

The Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) within the School of Applied Human Sciences, College of Humanities in association with the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS) and the Critical Arts journal hosted the first virtual Ntongela Masilela Colloquium.

The aim of the colloquium was to commemorate and critically engage Professor Ntongela Masilela’s historical and scholarly contribution. Masilela coined the term “the New African Movement” to theorise the work of influential intellectuals who turned modernity on its head by using its tools to advance a counter-hegemonic project of freedom and liberation.

Colloquium convenor, Professor Ruth Teer-Tomaselli (CCMS) said, ‘Masilela, who died last year, was at one time or another a member of the editorial boards of both Critical Arts and the Journal of African Cinemas. He played a formative role in Critical Arts especially, and had an indelible impact more widely with his theory of the New African Movement, the 300+ intellectuals whom he identified as shaping South Africa’s entry into modernity, discussed in his many books published by Africa World Press.’

She added, ‘The webinar is a testament to Ntongela’s work, and Critical Arts will be publishing a special issue from the work presented here.’ It will be edited by Dr Jeffrey Sehume, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga and Mr Busani Ngcaweni. Teer-Tomaselli highlighted Masilela’s continuing contribution to Africanising scholarship: ‘As he spent so much time abroad, first in enforced exile and then as a roving global scholar, his contribution to post-colonial studies has yet to be appreciated by many South African scholars’.

Speakers included Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, Dr Themba Masilela, Professor Isabela Balseiro, Professor Zodwa Mosta, Mr Sandile Ngidi, Dr Jeffrey Sehume, Professor Keyan Tomaselli, Professor Michael Masemola, Professor Nomalanga Mkhize, Ms Qawekazi Maqabuka, Mr Melathisi Mthembu, Professor Tinyiko Maluleke, Professor Mxolisi Ndlovu and Professor Paul Tembe.

Critical Arts co-editor and CCMS Associate Professor Lauren Dyll said, ‘It’s Professor Masilela’s anti-fundamentalist stance in not being “categorised” and his belief in the value of consciousness of precedent that is useful for scholars, thinkers and authors today. In this we can all continue to learn from cross-cultural and transdisciplinary conversations; hybrid identifications, and the continuities and disjunctures from the past, as well as between epistemologies. In this way Critical Arts can continue to be an extension of Professor Masilela’s New African Movement archival project.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

Wheat Breeding and Genetics Research Among Journal’s Top Cited Publications

Wheat Breeding and Genetics Research Among Journal’s Top Cited Publications
Dr Learnmore Mwadzingeni (left) and Professor Hussein Shimelis.

Professor Hussein Shimelis, Professor of Plant Breeding at UKZN, Deputy Director of the African Centre for Crop Improvement and South African Sugarcane Research Institute Chair of Crop Science, co-authored a paper on breeding drought-tolerant wheat that is among the top 10% most cited papers published in the PLOS ONE open access journal.

Co-authored with postdoctoral research fellow at UKZN Dr Learnmore Mwadzingeni, and the Agricultural Research Council’s Drs Jasper Rees and Toi Tsilo, the 2017 publication is titled: Genome-wide association analysis of agronomic traits in wheat under drought-stressed and non-stressed conditions.

PLOS ONE is a leading multidisciplinary open-access science journal that publishes rigorously peer-reviewed research.

The paper emanated from a National Research Foundation (NRF) funded wheat breeding research project on drought tolerance headed by Shimelis and undertaken in collaboration with South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council Small Grains Institute (ARC-SG) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre. The project developed drought-tolerant elite breeding lines to be made available to wheat breeders and growers in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

The study featured in the paper unravelled the population structure and genome-wide marker-trait association of agronomic traits of wheat for drought-tolerance breeding. This important commercial crop is a source of several nutrients and vitamins, but its production is constrained by temperature stress and drought conditions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

To contribute to the effort to breed drought-tolerant wheat, Shimelis and his co-authors conducted an association analysis, aiming to identify genomic regions associated with key agro-morphological traits that will enable plant breeders to develop ideal cultivars or breeding lines to achieve drought-tolerance.

The research led to the discovery of new marker-trait associations, valued by researchers as useful resources to initiate marker-assisted selection and for targeted trait introgression of wheat under drought-stressed and non-stressed conditions. It will also be useful for fine mapping and cloning of the underlying genes and quantitative trait loci that control key traits of the plant.

The research also opened up avenues for further investigation, particularly validation of the significant markers identified using a larger population and following the multiple loci mixed model to increase the power of association detection.

The high citation of this paper signifies the quality of the research and its wide readership among the scientific community. This advances knowledge in genetic analysis and breeding of wheat and allied cereal crops for drought and heat stress tolerance.

Shimelis, whose more than 25 years of expertise in Plant Breeding teaching and research earned him a place among Africa’s top 20 most influential plant breeders of 2020, has been one of UKZN’s top 30 most productive researchers for five consecutive years. He is part of initiatives to advance the science in southern Africa to improve food security, including the international Demand-Led Breeding project that aims to transform African agriculture in the area of crop improvement through producing customer-focused, high-performing crop varieties. He has supervised 50 PhD, 30 masters and 11 honours students to completion to boost the human capital in the plant-breeding arena, as well as mentored postdoctoral fellows, and has more than 250 publications to his name.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

Webinar Examines the Protection and Patenting of the Drug Discovery Process

Webinar Examines the Protection and Patenting of the Drug Discovery Process
Mr Philip Hoekstra.

UKZN’s technology transfer office, UKZN InQubate, in partnership with the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Department of Research Contracts and Innovation (RC&I) hosted a webinar on the protection and patenting of the drug discovery process.

Mr Philip Hoekstra, Intellectual Property Manager at RC&I set the scene by recognising existing tensions in the pharmaceutical world between those that support patent protection for pharmaceutical products and those that seek affordable access for developing nations. He explained that both objectives can be met and acknowledged the role that patents play in providing affordable access to these products in developing countries.

Hoekstra highlighted that the process from drug discovery to market entry can take anything from 12 to 15 years and cost between $150 million and $1 billion, thus making it important to provide market protection for commercial investment. He identified patents that are valid for 20 years as a form of market protection that enables investors to recover costs and potentially make a profit. He added that when a patent expires, companies that manufacture generic products can enter the market and offer lower prices.

Turning to how universities can partner with commercial investors for funding to bring their drug or product to the market Hoekstra said: ‘A patent can give a university the ability to control the terms of the licensing agreement, negotiate a fair royalty deal and provide the tools to negotiate an affordable price for the South African public health sector.’

He noted that the pharmaceutical industry depends on universities to conduct early, experimental research that is high risk and often grant funded; add value by de-risking technology which has to be aligned with industry timelines; and to establish a biotech spin-off company by getting a drug closer to the market and creating potential for a big company to buy into it.

Hoekstra reviewed a few cases where UCT patented too early and explained that this shortens the lifespan of a patent and reduces the value of the intellectual property by reducing the time available to pharmaceutical companies to conduct clinical trials, apply for regulatory approval, and enjoy market protection in order to recuperate costs.

He advised institutions to file patents as late as possible, typically at the end of the lead optimisation stage when they have achieved a sound in-vivo disease model, ADMET (absorption, distribution, metabolism, elimination and toxicity) testing and Pharmacokinetics profile.

Hoekstra also highlighted some of the basic requirements for patents, such as being able to prove that the drug or product is novel, inventive and useful, and added that discoveries and scientific theories are not patentable. The three steps in the patenting process are the provisional, patent cooperation treaty (PCT) and national phases and patents can take two to seven years to be granted.

In closing, Hoekstra urged universities to never file patents too early and to outsource key activities; obtain external input; set aggressive timelines for their projects; partner early with the industry or other universities to obtain valuable information; and to review patents and patent strategy on a regular basis.

To watch the recording of the webinar click here.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Photograph: Supplied


author : .
author email : .

Webinar Explores the Factors that Negatively Affect Student Research Success

Webinar Explores the Factors that Negatively Affect Student Research Success
UKZN alumnus Professor Dan Remenyi.

Student research success and the long and dusty road travelled by students and their supervisors were the topics of discussion at an interactive webinar hosted by the College of Law and Management Studies’ Research Office. Facilitated by UKZN’s Honorary Professor in the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance Professor Dan Remenyi and the College’s Dean of Research Professor Colette Muller, the webinar was attended by academics and postgraduate students.

‘It is imperative that we discuss the success of our College’s research students so that we can engage with them and enhance their performance,’ said Muller.

Drawing on over 30 years of academic experience, Remenyi posed the following questions:

· What is the objective of a research degree?

· What is the biggest challenge facing research degree students?

· Why do students not complete their research degrees?

· What is the best motivator for student success?

· Where does most attention need to be invested?

‘Not enough attention is given in the first few weeks of someone’s research journey which is to explain the research process and set targets. My experience 30 years ago when I entered the field of social science was being introduced to a supervisor who did not know anything about my topic. I had to discover the field myself and depend on the library. This is a case for not having only one supervisor as a supervisor should be in a good position to help the student with knowledge,’ said Remenyi.

Other issues discussed included managing of expectations between the student and supervisor, student commitment to producing quality work rather than just doing enough to attain the degree, administrative challenges and the examination process.

‘A research degree is a very personal journey and a poor relationship with a supervisor can make it very difficult. Universities are big institutions that are very bureaucratic in nature and, while we cannot do away with bureaucracy, we should do better to streamline it. All supervisors should understand that a student’s work will never be perfect; their role is to take all of the crumbs of quality in the work and build on that,’ Remenyi added.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied


author : .
author email : .