International Engineering Associate Award for Water Resources Research Chair

International Engineering Associate Award for Water Resources Research Chair
Director of UKZN’s Centre for Water Resources Research, Professor Jeff Smithers.Click here for isiZulu version

Professor Jeff Smithers, Umgeni Water Chair of Water Resources Research and Innovation and Director of UKZN’s Centre for Water Resources Research (CWRR), has been recognised as a Distinguished International Associate (DIA) by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) in England.

The RAEng DIA programme promotes the intensification of collaboration and connection between high achiever international engineers and institutions or individuals in the United Kingdom with the view to developing a broad international community or network of top diverse engineers across countries and disciplines. This contributes to the RAEng’s goal of an inclusive economy and sustainable society.

Up to 12 associates are awarded annually by the academy.

This role, with associated research funding for up to 24 months as well as participation in an international network of DIAs through various events, enables collaborative research that aligns with the RAEng’s strategic priority themes and also contributes to the engineering communities within the DIAs’ home countries.

Smithers’ project as a DIA will focus on modernising flood risk assessment and design practice in South Africa in light of climate change. Building on previous RAEng-funded research, Smithers will work with researchers at the University of Bath and other institutions in the United Kingdom with the aim of contributing to flood risk management, including the design and protection of hydraulic structures such as dams, bridges and drainage systems and accounting for the potential impacts of climate change.

Smithers, who has received several research contracts from the RAEng in the past five years, emphasised the value of this support and the resulting networks created in contributing to information, knowledge, sustainable and innovative engineering solutions in South Africa. Notably, these have focused on local and international collaboration and capacity development for the National Flood Studies Programme (NFSP) in South Africa, and on sustainable food, water and energy security in Africa through support for the Pan African Society for Agricultural Engineering.

‘I am very proud to have received this prestigious recognition from the RAEng and to be able to continue this international research collaboration,’ said Smithers.

The Umgeni Water-funded professorial Chair hosted in the School of Engineering was renewed in April 2021 and is now in a second 10-year cycle funded by Umgeni Water to stimulate research in water resources management and innovation at UKZN. A world-class research group under Smithers’ direction is producing high impact innovative and use-inspired research. This develops water scientists, engineers and researchers to create a growing knowledge economy to meet the challenge of sustainable water resources.

Smithers’ priorities are to build human capital and facilitate the creation of new knowledge and innovative approaches to meet the challenge of increasing demand for water resources through improved water resource infrastructure, management and conservation. This is achieved through excellent undergraduate teaching and research, outreach activities and close collaboration with industry, government, state utilities and research organisations.

Smithers is a registered professional engineer who has earned a variety of plaudits and accolades in his academic career. An alumnus of the former University of Natal, he has taught at the Institution - now UKZN - since 1989 and was appointed Professor of Agricultural Engineering in 2004. He was Head of the School of Bioresources Engineering and Environmental Hydrology for nine years and has served on the University’s Senate and on several boards and committees.

He has received numerous awards from UKZN and from industry associations and his international collaborations include an Adjunct Professor appointment in the National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia.

He has served the South African Institute of Agricultural Engineers (SAIAE) as president, vice-president and continues to serve as a council member.

He was awarded the prestigious SAIAE gold medal in recognition of his significant contributions to and leadership of the institute, and his contributions to the profession of Agricultural Engineering. He is a founding member of the Pan African Society for Agricultural Engineering (PASAE) and currently serves as its Secretary-General.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied

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Brief Reduction in Fuel Levy Will Provide Scant Relief for Hard Pressed Consumers

Brief Reduction in Fuel Levy Will Provide Scant Relief for Hard Pressed Consumers
Professor Gerry Bokana, Associate Professor in the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance.

- By Professor Gerry Bokana 

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana announced in Parliament recently that the General Fuel Levy (GFL) will be reduced by R1.50 between Saturday, 16 April and Tuesday, 31 May this year.

The pricing structure for petrol, diesel, and illuminating paraffin, which determines the retail prices paid by South African consumers at the pumps, includes the cost of shipping oil to South Africa, the contribution to the Basic Fuel Price (BFP), wholesale and retail profit margins, service cost recoveries, stevedoring and storage at terminals (handling and delivery charges), transport and distribution costs to inland provinces, and fuel or oil pipeline fees or levies which fund new fuel pipelines between coastal and harbour cities and inland provinces such as Gauteng.

The pricing structure also incorporates zone differentials against some adjustment for dealer and wholesaler margins where applicable on illuminating paraffin tracer dye levy; the GFL; a levy to finance a negative slate balance; customs and excise duties and levies; national and provincial government fuel taxes and sundry fuel levies such as the EQF levy; the Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy; Inland Demand Levy (DSML); the subsidy from an equalisation fund, and an incremental inland transport recovery levy, among others.

The above makes it clear there are sets of direct and indirect taxes and sundry costs built into the fuel prices making up about a third of what consumers pay at the pump.

The brief reduction in the GFL built into the BFP of R1.50 a litre will reduce the GFL contained in the petrol price from R3.85 a litre to R2.35 a litre and the GFL in the diesel price from R3.70 a litre to R2.20 a litre. This tax break will cost South Africa about R6 billion in lost revenue.

In April 2003, the government scrapped the outdated In-Bond-Landed-Cost (IBLC), introduced in the 1950s as a benchmark for the retail fuel price paid at the pump by consumers. The government linked the determination of the BFP to international oil spot prices quoted in US dollars based on the import parity pricing principle. The BFP is reviewed by an ad hoc committee every Wednesday of the first week of each month, so BFP fluctuations have a parallel time-path with the volatility of international oil spot prices.

Hence, forces outside the control of the government dictate fluctuations in the BFP.

Fuel prices have risen inexorably in South Africa over the past decade causing grief and hardship for consumers, impacting negatively on their welfare and standard of living, especially those in impoverished communities. Some economists say fuel prices will surge to record-high prices hitting all consumers hard.

The government’s aim with the levy reduction is to soften South Africa’s record-high fuel prices, provide some relief for consumers, mitigate against the impact of rising fuel costs stemming from developments in the international oil markets, and support a phasing in of fuel price increases South Africa is expecting in the short-term.

Will the temporary reduction in the GFL drastically lower prices paid for fuel by consumers? Definitely not. It will take a prolonged period of time to see how much of an impact this timely pause will have on consumers. However, fuel price hikes in the coming months will probably be somewhat subdued.

The reduction has to be seen as a short-term fix for a chronic problem with economists appealing to the government and public sector to scrap fuel taxes and levies used to raise revenue at both national and provincial levels. Consumers, who are bearing the full burden of government’s fiscal policies on fuels, should do whatever they can to save on fuel costs while there needs to be an expansion of the capacity of domestic oil and gas companies.

The good news is that the government has not ruled out intervening with additional measures later this year to contain fuel costs.

But what has to be recognised is that the answer is not all about saving money at the pumps - rather the Government needs to identify what else it can do to constructively assist hard pressed consumers being hammered by the soaring cost of living.

Professor Gerry Bokana is an Associate Professor in UKZN’s School of Accounting, Economics, and Finance in the College of Law and Management Studies.

Photograph: Supplied

*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.

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An Autoethnographic Journey Navigating the Academy: Womxn in Pursuit of Academic Excellence, Health, and Personal Wellbeing

An Autoethnographic Journey Navigating the Academy: Womxn in Pursuit of Academic Excellence, Health, and Personal Wellbeing

We lift As We Rise

Without which, we cannot claim the celebrated title of Womxn. In 1956, my grand aunt, sociologist Professor Fatima Meer, was the first Black womxn appointed to the all-White University of Natal. South African girl children are at severe risk of occupying an unequal academy although their journeys may be substantially more welcoming than the academics of the 1950s and the current era.

Ethics, Morals, and Values

Academia tests one’s resolve, forcing steadfast commitment to maintain integrity and ethical values. I have learnt that I am not alone in affirming honesty, integrity and moral practice. National Research Foundation (NRF) rating, visiting professorships, presidential appointments, chairs, research, funding, publications, keynote addresses, critical engagements, community service, and professional and teaching awards require womxn to multiply their efforts, demanding personal sacrifices. I owe all my academic accolades to a generation of exemplary womxn who came before. My journey is interspersed with bullying, exclusion, cancer, failure, global recognition, international training, rejection, determination and ultimate success.

Walk With Me

My autoethnographic narrative resonates with womxn academics globally. By sharing challenges, failures and experiences, I hope to open the conversation within institutional spaces to recognise the gendered rules imposed on womxn. Intellectual engagement facilitates and mobilises womxn to challenge patriarchy in the academy, acting as change agents for academics of the future. I have benefitted personally and professionally from slaying dragons and resisting the temptation of poisoned apples.

Dragons and Poisoned Apples

While select groups of womxn slay dragons and resist the poisoned apple without fear or favour, others inadvertently nurture the dragon and fleetingly taste the sweet apple, sustaining patriarchy. Womxn possess agency and social capital, and it is contingent on academics to challenge the status quo, slay dragons, dismantle the old boys’ network, and disable the objectionable behaviour of queen bees, bootlickers, and bullies. I am proud to work alongside human resources psychologist Ms Ramabodu, Corporate Relations’ Ms Zondo, Dr Dlamini, Professors Hlongwa, Magidimisha-Chipungu, Moletsane, Trois, Essack, Bob, Bhana, Maart, Uys, Q. Abdool-Karim, Hlongwane, Downs, Mosoetsa and Nkomo, all of whom work tirelessly to professionalise academic spaces. Leadership places womxn at the helm of a tremulous ship; navigating the storm is no easy task. Leadership choices set the path for future generations; assenting to ethics, morals and inclusionary methodologies paves an efficacious track for womxn. Failure to align to existing pervasive exploitative practices results in the exclusion of womxn, leading to imposter syndrome impeding success.


I have faced scores of bullies head-on, all of whom adopt textbook methods of interpersonal and shared belligerence. Distortion and false narratives are employed to systematically rescind womxn academics’ credibility. Bullies are rarely overt in their pejorative actions, leaving the recipient questioning the legitimacy of their feelings. They use emotional manipulation, relying on infrequent indistinct commendation, followed by disparaging remarks. Bullies cannot be successful in isolation; they rely on colleagues to support their actions directing superficial attention to build trust used as a conduit for gaining intelligence which is subsequently distorted to debase the womxn. Trust is exploited to increase the pressure and undermine the targeted womxn.


Gaslighting questions the target’s credibility, capabilities, and specialisation, capitalising on anxieties and fears. All the while, bullies deny culpability for their actions. Bullying is made worse by isolating, blocking communication, preclusion and eschewing. Antagonistic behaviour is heightened by the failure to operationalise and monitor institutional policies. Gaining support for #teambully requires advocacy among colleagues to adopt a hostile attitude to the recipient.

Queen Bees

The queen bee is located at the apex, intensifying systemic patriarchal culture, making them complicit in pervasive bullying (Taylor and Anderson, 2012). This disrupts womxns’ progression to the professoriate.


Much like queen bees, bootlickers receive professional rewards in exchange for supporting and sustaining a patriarchal institutional culture. “Bootlickers” advance to the professoriate timeouslyThey are strategically positioned, prudently recognising by specific personality typesto capitalise on gendered limitations and strengthening the patriarchal grip. 

Imposter Syndrome

Systemic gendered obstacles produce imposter syndrome leaving womxn feeling devalued and undeserving of recognition and accolades. The engendered fear has mental health implications, including anxiety, stress, diminished self-confidence and depression. Awareness of others’ (bullies) false, socially constructed gendered view leaves womxn questioning their professional authenticity. The imposter syndrome intensifies failure and inadequacy, resulting in womxn overworking or underachieving in the academy. Role overload produces burnout, negatively impacting intellectual engagement and impeding advancement opportunities.Breeze (2018) notes that, a ‘noticeable effect is less of a flight, a fight, and not a failure, but a paralysis, like the “freeze” of small mammals’ response to a perceived threat, playing dead instead of fighting or fleeing.’

Healthy Workspaces

Achieving work-life balance is one of the greatest challenges that womxn have failed to master. Investing in healthy professional relationships is critical to achieve balance. Mentorship and serving mentees strengthen supportive professional networks, encouraging personal and work-life balance. Investing in familial relationships increases support and reduces stress, encouraging an open-minded approach to wellbeing.

No Thank You

Queen bees, old boys’ networks, bullies, bootlickers, the institutional culture and the imposter syndrome lured me into the most significant professional fight of my life. Efforts to collectively demoralise womxn verify the existence of a glass ceiling in academia. I have thousands of citations, received an NRF C2 rating in 2022, received local and international funding and achieved recognition from peers across the globe. Professionalising existing knowledge has been fulfilled through international certification, making me one of only three clinical sociologists on the continent. Leadership roles in professional associations authenticate my value as a womxn in the academy. While unsuccessful promotions, failed acknowledgements, inequality, and status initiate self-doubt, I refuse to give failure any power. I say no thank you. I am because we are - Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantuwhichis contingent on recognising and respecting the role of womxn librarians, finance officers, communication and media professionals, administrators, operational staff, human resources, information computer technology experts, student councils, security, and cleaning staff. As we continue our personal journeys, let us be reminded to lift womxn as we rise. We are womxn; “Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo”.

Womxn is an intersectional universal term intended to signal the inclusion of those who have traditionally been excluded from White feminist discourse: Black women, women of colour, and trans women. More recently, the term has also been used to include nonbinary people.

Professor Mariam Seedat-Khan is an NRF rated researcher; AACS certified clinical sociologist, and board member of the UKZN-Imbokodo, Women in Leadership. She is a board member of the International Sociological Association - RC46, and the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology AACS. She serves as the Clinical Sociology working group convenor for the South African Sociological Association - SASA and is a member of the Asia Pacific Sociological Association - APSA, Canadian Sociological Association - CSA and World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology. She has been internationally recognised for establishing a 12 000-member virtual platform with her clinical intervention, Simply Managing Academic Related Tasks - SMART, developed to treat learning disorders that intensified during COVID-19. Seedat- Khan singlehandedly developed a postgraduate applied and clinical sociology honours programme, which is currently in its first offering. She co-edited the Alternation Special Edition 37 (2021) Clinical Sociology Models: Interventions and Analysis in Africa and has published more than 100 scientific papers, books, book chapters and peer-reviewed conference proceedings. She is a visiting professor at Taylors University in Malaysia and Covenant University in Nigeria and the current chair of the International Research Network for applied and clinical sociologists, RC46, an initiative that provides mentorship and support for academics across the globe. Seedat-Khan was the principle investigator for a transatlantic project, Co-creating Recovery, Renewal and Resilience (CoRRE-M): Evidence-based Interventions with Migrant Youth and Young Adults in a (post) pandemic world that involved universities across the world.

Photograph: Supplied

*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.

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Spotlight on Aerotropoli in Post COVID-19 World

Spotlight on Aerotropoli in Post COVID-19 World
The Future and Viability of Aerotropoli in the post COVID-19 Dispensation webinar showcased ongoing research in the niche field of aerotropoli.

The Future and Viability of Aerotropoli in the post COVID-19 Dispensation was the title of a webinar co-hosted by UKZN.

The Aerotropolis Institute Africa (AIA) in the University’s College of Law and Management Studies partnered with the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs to facilitate the event which is part of a series.

The aim is to showcase ongoing research in the niche field of aerotropoli as well as to drive ongoing research dialogue on their future viability in the post COVID-19 environment.

The webinar, chaired by AIA’s Project Manager Professor Henry Wissink, featured national and international authors who presented abstracts and contributions as part of the AIA’s plan to launch a series of books. The resultant book volume publication will be co-edited by Professor Henry Wissink and and Dr Mirjam Wiedemann lecturer and researcher in Aviation at the University of South Australia.

In his welcome address, the College’s Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian McArthur explained that the book volumes would not only contribute to the ongoing debates on the value, progress and contribution of smart airport cities to local and regional economic development but would also raise questions and issues that could be researched thereby contributing to policy debates.

‘Large scale urban and regional development and economic growth hubs are new paradigms in socio-economic growth points with high needs for socio-economic development,’ said McArthur.

He added that increasing pressures and demands on regions and localities within countries to improve their socio-economic conditions had given rise to special developmental plans, strategies and catalytic projects.

McArthur added: ‘With the AIA and the Durban Aerotropolis being strategic projects for the province, UKZN remains pledged to our commitment of being part of creating a smart African city of the future with rapid internode transportation and urban development and a throughput of economic growth and job creation through skills development research collaboration. With inputs from specialists, UKZN continues to foster the expansion of short courses promoting postgraduate research in aerotropolis development and in the longer term, offering undergraduate degrees as well as a flagship master’s programme in aerotropolis studies.’

The following proposals were received, and those who presented at the webinar are highlighted:

•    The political economy and livelihood development of aerotropolis regions: Bottlenecks of socio-economic planning and equity justice in the City of Ekurhuleni, South Africa - Post-doctoral fellow Dr Leonard Chitongo.

•    Pandemic Aeromobilities: COVID-19, Governmobility and the Aerotropolis - Senior lecturer at UKZN’s Centre for Communications and Media Society, Professor Sarah Gibson.

•    Regional economic development trends, and emerging skill needs around the Durban Aerotropolis - AIA Research Co-ordinator Dr Nyasha Chiwawa.

•    Fast-Tracked Aerotropolis Implementation: What is needed vs what is possible - UKZN’s Ms Phumzile Dlamini.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

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Dealing with the Media, Training for UKZN Staff

Dealing with the Media, Training for UKZN Staff
Media training facilitator, Ms Janine Lazarus.

A programme to help enlighten academics about the skills, tools and attitudes needed to deal efficiently with the media was held at UKZN.

The event, presented by seasoned media and communications specialist Ms Janine Lazarus, was a no-holds-barred, half-day session filled with interactive activities involving academics from the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science; the College of Health Sciences; the College of Humanities, and the College of Law and Management Studies as well as public relations and communications practitioners from the Corporate Relations Division (CRD).

Welcoming participants to the virtual event, CRD’s Executive Director Ms Normah Zondo said the aim was to help academics interact with the media in a co-operative and professional manner in the best interests of the University. ‘As experts in their fields, academics needed to make a good impression by being able to answer tough questions and give interviews that enhance the University’s brand, positioning it as a thought leader.’

Lazarus urged academics to use as little jargon as possible when interacting with journalists and to always try to give them ‘news they can use. To be a good communicator it is vital to get your message across and to make sure it is easily understood.’

Lazarus said the media expected academics to be experts in their fields, able to give an informed overall view of their Institution and be in a position to debate current affairs, especially those which related to the University specifically or Higher Education in general in South Africa and the rest of the world.

Key factors in efficient communication were knowing your audience and being able to align your message accordingly, identifying three important key messages for your audience to take home; and being very aware about how to deliver your message in a short and concise manner.

Giving pointers on presentation skills, Lazarus focused on ways of overcoming stage fright which included owning your space and knowing what you have to offer; acting the part and standing in your own power; locating your audience of one who always listens to you, sipping water and practicing breathing techniques.

In interviews her advice was to connect in an empathetic way when dealing with difficult issues, to always look back at a positive track record and to have a plan of action going forward.

In the area of visual contact, Lazarus’s advice to academics was to focus on the message they were conveying, to speak well and be very aware of their body language and appearance from eyes, to facial expressions, hand gestures and even dress code.

She said: ‘When dealing with the media it is wise to remember that they are not your friends as they are always biased! Also, don’t take questions personally, never answer with no comment; remember loose lips sink ships, and don’t lie but rather be economical with the truth.’ 

Academics took part in a virtual presentation and interview simulation during which they were asked difficult questions and received critiques on their responses.

Commenting on the event, a doctoral research fellow in the School of Law, Ms Aliki Edgcumbe said the session had been informative and thanked Lazarus for being an outstanding presenter, while a lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, Dr Lubna Nadvi said she enjoyed the programme and looked forward to similar events in the future. Extending his gratitude, Dean for Teaching and Learning in the College of AES, Professor Naven Chetty said, ‘this was one of the most exciting, eye-opening and well facilitated workshops I have attended in a very long time.’

CRD’s Communications Director Mr Bhekani Dlamini, thanked participants for their involvement and Lazarus for the informative session.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

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UKZN Academic Leader Delivers Keynote Address in Canada

UKZN Academic Leader Delivers Keynote Address in Canada
Dr Diane van Staden delivered a keynote presentation at a Canadian Council of the Blind meeting.Click here for isiZulu version

Senior Optometry lecturer and Academic Leader for Teaching and Learning at UKZN Dr Diane van Staden made a keynote presentation at a Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) meeting in which she called for improved access to care for persons with visual impairment.

The CCB works to improve the lives of people who are Blind, Deaf-Blind (dual sensory loss) or have poor vision, focusing on eye care, technology support, health and fitness, education, advocacy and accessibility.

Vision impairment presents a significant public health problem in both developed and developing countries. While the attention of the world has largely been on poorer countries in an effort to improve access to eye care services, the reality is that eye health inequities exist even in prosperous countries.

Van Staden has contributed to eye health policy development and optometry training all over the world, holding various leadership positions in academia and within the global eye health sector for the past 15 years.

‘As a mid-career professional from South Africa, being invited to give a keynote address for an organisation in a 1st World Country was a big deal! I think the invitation is testament to the work I have done and contributions I have made over the past 10 to 15 years to eye health advocacy globally,’ said van Staden.

Thriving as an active researcher in her field and authoring several key publications calling for improved eye health services worldwide, she is also currently a visiting Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Canada, collaborating with the Faculty on Health Equity-Related Research Projects.

Words: Mandisa Shozi

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UKZN’s Tiger The Barman Releases Debut Album!

UKZN’s Tiger The Barman Releases Debut Album!
Mr Bongani Ndimande released his 14-track debut album titled: Made In M.A.R.S.Click here for isiZulu version

Singer, songwriter and professional footballer Mr Bongani Ndimande - also known as Tiger The Barman (TTB) - has released a 14-track debut album titled: Made In M.A.R.S. (Men Are Really Stressed).

Ndimande’s music can be bought and streamed from digital stores including apple music, iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, Deezer, Shazam, Tik Tok, and Instagram. The UKZN Media Studies honours student composes music that ‘speaks to the self before it connects with the rest of the world.’

Said Nzimande: ‘I released my album Made In M.A.R.S. to highlight through my music the pressure men are under in society and help them heal from things they are ashamed of. Making music heals my mind and my soul - everything in my music is real. I compose from my own personal experiences and from things that unite everyone as people of the world,’ he said.

Reflecting on the death of fellow South African singer and songwriter Riky Rick, Ndimande said: ‘I think that people in general, whatever their profession or gender, should learn how to love themselves and eliminate the desire to seek approval from others. As a man in the music industry, you work your way up and when you reach the peak of your career things you do can be used against you and often lead to cancel culture.’

Ndimande says his music is about the pain of loss and the joy of inner happiness. ‘Each and every song on my album has a message that speaks about how I have dealt with depression and when you listen to it you will realise why it took me two years to complete. I have gained a new appreciation for life through finding peace in composing music and believe that it saved my life.’

He plans to continue making an impact on people’s lives through his music and to keep giving them hope through knowing they are not alone in the struggle against depression. ‘I pray that God grants me the strength to be able to create consistently. May I never lose sight of the importance of family and the home base.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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UKZN Clinical Sociologist Awarded First NRF Rating

UKZN Clinical Sociologist Awarded First NRF Rating
Clinical Sociologist, Professor Mariam Seedat-Khan.Click here for isiZulu version

Professor Mariam Seedat-Khan, a clinical sociologist in the School of Social Sciences, has been awarded her first National Research Foundation (NRF) rating.

Seedat-Khan received a C2 rating which recognises her as an established researcher with a sustained scientific publication record in the discipline of Clinical and Applied Sociology.

Commended and accredited as a leader in the field by her peers worldwide, Seedat-Khan has a distinctive aptitude to recognise pervasive social problems and formulate scientifically rigorous clinical and applied models to mitigate risk.

She has produced scientific scholarship, positioning her as a leader in the sphere of Clinical and Applied Sociology.

Seedat-Khan is currently co-editing a book with Professor Johanna Zulueta of Toyo University in Japan titled: Women and COVID-19: A Clinical and Applied Sociological Focus on Family, Work and Community.

Seedat-Khan is an Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology (AACS) board member and a certified and licensed clinical sociologist. She is also a member of the UKZN-Imbokodo initiative, the Women in Leadership organisation and the International Sociological Association ISA- RC46.

She serves as the clinical sociology working group convenor for the SA Sociological Association-SASA and is a member of the Asia Pacific Sociological Association-APSA, the Canadian Sociological Association-CSA, and the World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology.

She has been internationally commended for establishing a 12 000-member virtual platform with her clinical intervention, Simply Managing Academic Related Tasks-SMART, developed to treat learning disorders that intensified during COVID-19.

She developed a postgraduate applied and clinical sociology honours programme which is currently in its first offering at UKZN. 

Her advice to emerging scholars is: ‘Be consistent, determined and committed to your goals. Believe in yourself first.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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Finding African Solutions for African Issues

Finding African Solutions for African Issues
Dr Abubakar Mustapha Danraka (SA Technical to Director-General/CEO of NIPRD), Dr Obi Adigwe, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize, and Dr Kathlyn Cleland at the signing of the MoU.

Unless we as Africans begin to determine how our traditional medicines are developed, produced and distributed, we will never be in a position to ensure sustainable access to safe and affordable life-saving medication.

This is according to Dr Obi Adigwe, CEO/Director-General for the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) in Nigeria, who was speaking at the signing in Durban of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the NIPRD and the Department of Science and Innovation and the National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIKS) based at UKZN.

The MoU, signed by UKZN Registrar Dr Kathlyn Cleland and Adigwe, focuses on promoting research and development, including human capital development and community engagement, in the Traditional Medicine Value Chain. The initiative provides opportunities for Traditional Healthcare Practitioners and other stakeholders, including women, youth and the private sector from the two countries and Africa at large, to participate actively in the African Traditional Medicine Pharmaceutical Value, for job creation and income generation.

Adigwe, who has pioneered several innovative research and development projects, said the Medicines’ Security Concept had been conceptualised over almost a decade. ‘Embedded in the Medicines’ Security Concept are social economic indicators that align with local manufacturing and local development resources.’

Adigwe said that long before the COVID-19 pandemic, many stakeholders felt it was more economically viable to manufacture in Europe and Asia and use sophisticated logistics formulas to bring those products to Africa. ‘For a long time, we were on the back foot. But, it didn’t stop us from being strong proponents of Medicine Security. COVID-19 has now shown everybody that we were right, and they were wrong.’

He emphasised the importance of job creation, capacity building, knowledge transfer and revenue generation for African healthcare practitioners and government.

‘As people, we must not abdicate the responsibility for providing healthcare for our people to people outside this continent.’

Adigwe underscored that the agreement was for the whole of Africa. ‘As you well know, if Nigeria and South Africa are on the same page on one issue, the other 52 African countries will align.

‘This agreement signifies the emergence of new African scientists and academics who recognise the artificial barriers that have kept us where we have been for decades and centuries… Africa is watching and Africa is waiting.’

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor for the College of Humanities, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize, highlighted the importance of shared values and sustainable projects in the knowledge environment. ‘The collaboration will harness the greatness Africa has to offer in research and development, with the embodiment of the continent’s rich and diverse indigenous cultures,’ said Mkhize.

‘At the heart of this collaboration - the first of its kind - is our belief that solutions for African healthcare challenges should be based on the willingness and commitment of African people and communities, to promote, preserve and protect their local knowledge systems,’ he said.

Echoing the sentiments of Adigwe, Mkhize said: ‘The signing of this MoU happens at a time when global challenges such as COVID-19, have shown us that Western knowledge systems do not have all the solutions to mitigate the problems we encounter in a world characterised by cultural and ecological diversity.’

Head of International and Governance Relations for eThekwini Municipality, Mr Eric Apelgren, congratulated the two partnering institutions and offered the ‘commitment and support’ of the city of Durban for the African continental project.

The provincial Department of Health’s Mr Brian Shezi, welcomed the collaboration and noted the importance of African traditional medicine and its interactions with Western medicine.

The Honourable Inkosi BF Bhengu delivered a message of support on behalf of eThekwini’s Local House of Traditional Leadership, saying that in spite of the fact that a ‘large proportion of African people still depend on their culturally specific traditional medicine and healing systems for healthcare and wellness, these systems of healthcare and their associated indigenous knowledge systems have over the years been marginalised in the official public healthcare systems.’

The Inkosi highlighted the continual exploitation of the ‘rich diversity of African traditional medicine resources and knowledge systems from our local communities for the benefit of outsiders’. He welcomed the collaboration across countries and noted that the initiative is ‘for the benefit of all Africa.’

Trade & Investment KwaZulu-Natal’s Mr Claude Pretorius delivered a message of support and underscored the importance of partnerships for enabling growth.

The Honourable Minister of State of Health Senator Dr Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora was represented by Mrs Stella Olubunmi Aribeana of the country’s Department of Food and Drugs Services (DFDS), Federal Ministry of Health. Aribeana assured UKZN of the Nigerian federal government’s support in the full implementation of the initiative.

Aribeana applauded the MoU which would see the ‘harnessing of African indigenous natural resources and traditional medicines’ in particular, and encouraged the setting-up of a joint technical working team to ensure that the objectives and goals are met.

Director of CIKS Professor Hassan Kaya underscored the importance of discussions between traditional healers and the team from Nigeria. ‘The most important thing is how we improve the quality of life of our people who are still selling things on the floor. How do we help them to improve their quality of life through the value chain?’ asked Kaya.

In closing, he said: ‘We don’t have to dwell on our differences, let’s dwell on what brings us together.’

The delegation from Nigeria was treated to a tour of Durban including the Warwick Traditional Medicine Market, the medicinal plant nursery at Silverglen Nature Reserve and UKZN’s Medical School.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photograph: Albert Hirasen

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UKZN Alumnus is Mrs SA Semi-Finalist

UKZN Alumnus is Mrs SA Semi-Finalist
Semi-finalist in the 2022 Mrs South Africa contest, Mrs Andile Pieterson.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN alumnus, businesswoman, wife and mother Andile Pieterson is a semi-finalist in the 2022 Mrs South Africa contest.

A qualified optometrist, Andile runs a service TwinsOnEyes with her twin sister Ayanda - also an optometrist - catering specifically for children at underprivileged schools.

‘We provide free glasses to children in need and also work with organisations such as the Hibiscus Coast Rotary Club on their health days offering eyecare services,’ said Andile.

Originally from Izotsha, Port Shepstone, she hopes through the Mrs South Africa contest to inspire young girls within her community and around the country, helping them realise that anything is possible and that their dreams can indeed come true.

Andile is now based in Ballito but often travels back to Port Shepstone as she owns another optometry practice there.

‘I am on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment having attended workshops featuring phenomenal women and life coaches who provide motivation and essential training for future endeavours,’ said Andile.

‘Being a semi-finalist from KwaZulu-Natal I am already an ambassador for my province. Mrs South Africa is not all about the pageant rather it is an organisation that focuses its energy on uplifting and empowering women.’

To vote for her in the Mrs SA contest, SMS “Andile Pieterson” to 47587 (SMSes charged at R3) or go to the Mrs South Africa Facebook page or Instagram page.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied

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Academic in Panel Discussion on Managing Workforce Diversity

Academic in Panel Discussion on Managing Workforce Diversity
School of Management, Information Technology and Governance academic, Dr Anisha Ramsaroop.

UKZN academic Dr Anisha Ramsaroop of the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance shared her expertise as a researcher and registered industrial psychologist during a panel discussion hosted by the Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology of South Africa (SIOPSA).

Titled: Owning your Bias? How to Overcome Preconceived Notions in the Workplace, the debate aimed to create a greater awareness about implicit and explicit bias, stereotypes, and micro aggressive behaviour in the workplace.

Executive Chair of Diversity and Inclusion at SIOPSA Professor Nasima Carrim said it was important to host the discussion because preconceived notions led to stereotyping and micro aggressive behaviour which invariably led to discrimination in the form of race, gender, disability and other social aspects in the workplace.

As an academic researcher, Ramsaroop is aware that discrimination - some of it resulting from unconscious or implicit bias - remains a negative factor in society and it is an integral component of the module Managing Workforce Diversity which she lectures on.

Unpacking the differences between implicit and explicit bias, Ramsaroop said implicit bias was invariably a form of explicit bias and that there was a greater overlap than was typically assumed. She said: ‘People may not be aware of being more biased than they realise but that they are more biased than they are willing to admit. If that is the case, there is no obvious reason why such bias would be labelled implicit rather than explicit, and implicit bias measures might be revealing concealed beliefs rather than unconscious ones. There is considerable evidence to support this possibility.’

Ramsaroop cautioned that although both explicit and implicit attitudes could play an integral part in peoples’ “true” attitudes, explicit attitudes may not reveal a person’s full opinions and attitudes because they may feel pressure to conceal their explicit biases or simply not be aware that they hold prejudiced views. ‘Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases are outside an individual’s intentional control and are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal to be socially or politically correct,’ she added.

In response to a request from a delegate to share examples of implicit biasness that she had experienced, Ramsaroop said: ‘Invariably as a female - an Indian female - I have encountered certain types of bias in some quarters of my working life.’ She identified them as: ‘Affinity Bias, which refers to like-mindedness, that is, the assumption that one conforms to another’s thinking and values; Conformity Bias, which refers to one’s tendency to take cues for “proper” behaviour in many instances from the actions of others rather than utilise one’s own independent judgment; and Ability Bias, which undermines one’s potential to achieve or advance.’

Ramsaroop, who shared the platform with local and international experts in the field, said she was looking forward to incorporating new and practical developments into her module for the benefit of her undergraduate students.

She recently published her research work in a chapter on disability in the text: Managing Diversity in the South African Workplace, 1st Edition, Van Schaik Publishers. ISBN: 9780627037399.

Her key areas of research include diversity, sexual harassment, career management, training and development, career plateaus, work-life balance, employee resilience, employee relationship management, emotional intelligence and strategic human resources management.

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Supplied

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Indemnity Cover Provided for UKZN BPharm Students

Indemnity Cover Provided for UKZN BPharm Students
Rewarding future leaders.

As part of the requirements for their degree, BPharm students participate in work-based learning activities including ward pharmacy, dispensing of medicine and patient counselling for which the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa (PSSA) requires them to have indemnity cover.

PSSA’s KwaZulu-Natal Coastal branch and the KwaZulu-Natal Pharmaceutical Association have sponsored indemnity cover this year for all Level 3 and Level 4 UKZN BPharm students who also received PSSA membership which is important as it informs the individuals about the profession early in their careers as well as providing guidance on the road to becoming competent healthcare practitioners.

UKZN’s Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the School of Health Sciences thanked the PSSA for the significant contribution, expressing hope of fostering further links between the Society and UKZN.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Image: Pexels

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Research Symposium Highlights Innovative Water Resources Research

Research Symposium Highlights Innovative Water Resources Research
Research presented at the Symposium covered innovative work on water equity and aquatic ecosystems, flood studies and water supply, water reuse and sediment erosion, and water and sludge treatment.

A virtual research symposium hosted for the first-time by the Umgeni Water (UW) Chair in Water Resources Research and Innovation at UKZN attracted more than 70 delegates.

The participants heard about the UW-funded research undertaken by postgraduate students in UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Science, School of Chemistry and Physics, School of Engineering, and School of Life Sciences.

The programme covered the topics of water equity and aquatic ecosystems, flood studies and water supply, water reuse and sediment erosion, and water and sludge treatment, with a session for discussion on the research presented.

More than 20 students at master’s, PhD and postdoctoral levels presented their research taking place at UKZN’s Centre for Water Resources Research (CWRR), Centre for Functional BiodiversityWater, Sanitation and Hygiene Research and Development, (WASH R&D) Centre and various disciplines throughout the five Schools in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.

The wide range of research presented fell under the activities of the UW-funded Chair in Water Resources Management in the School of Engineering held by Professor Jeff Smithers, who is also the director of the CWRR. The UW Chair currently supports three postdoctoral researchers and 19 postgraduate students in various disciplines. In 2021 two PhD and six master’s students who graduated after being supervised by the Chair, have all since found employment.

The research group headed by Smithers focuses on high impact, innovative research tailored to the end user or water resource manager, and is building the capacity of water scientists, engineers and researchers who contribute to the water knowledge economy, and sustainable management of water resources with a focus on flood risk assessment.

The research plan for the UW Chair includes leadership and growth of a multi-institutional National Floods Studies Programme (NFSP); supporting the CWRR; contributing to teaching of the hydrology and agricultural engineering programmes; human capacity development through the supervision of postgraduate students; mentorship of young academics; driving research that meets industry needs, and promoting collaborative research nationally and internationally.

The symposium provided industry leaders at UW with feedback on research progress being made by postgraduate students funded by UW and created awareness at both UKZN and at UW of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions. The symposium showcased multi-disciplinary research and promoted collaboration across fields and disciplines, and encouraged communication and collaboration between researchers, students and UW.

UW Manager of Research and Development Dr Wilson John welcomed delegates to the symposium. The Manager of Catchment Management at UW Ms Futhi Vilakazi complimented the UW Chair and research group for a constructive workshop and the opportunity to discuss research progress.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied

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