“Iduku” Songstress Graduates from UKZN

“Iduku” Songstress Graduates from UKZN
Musician and UKZN graduate, Ms Zinhle Madela.

Multi-talented performer and social activist, Ms Zinhle Madela graduated recently from UKZN with her Postgraduate Diploma in Community and Development studies.

‘I am thrilled to graduate from UKZN again,’ she said. 

Madela also holds a Bachelor of Social Science degree in Community Development and Psychology from the University.

She recently released her first experimental nine-track music project called Iduku Ep that emanates from her cultural background and her hometown of Sundumbili, in Mandeni. ‘Iduku Ep is inspired by the actual headwrap or doek. As it has many functions, it also tells many different stories and represents strength and power. I enjoy wearing iduku and it is part of my image,’ she said.

Madela has been featured by various artists such as Robbie Malinga, Dr Rebecca Malope and Naima Kay. She has also done covers and travelled around the country performing. She is known as e-Kasi Queen because of her African-style music (Maskandi-Soul) and her image.

Being at UKZN and being part of Arts student-led organisations, she strongly believes that the performing arts has the power to bring about social change. ‘Being an artist has made me a social activist. I always make it a point to educate, inspire and empower through my art. I am an art development advocate. I believe in edutainment and in social empowerment through art development.’

Of her future plans, Madela said: ‘I plan to have a music tour where I perform only in museums.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo 

Photograph: Itumeleng Masa


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Impact of Universities in Shaping Built Environments

Impact of Universities in Shaping Built Environments
Dr Lawrence Ogunsanya graduated with a PhD in Town and Regional Planning.

Dr Lawrence Ogunsanya, UKZN Academic Leader for Architecture, recently graduated with his PhD in Town and Regional Planning.

He achieved his dream of getting degrees in the three main disciplines of the built environment: Architecture, Housing and now, Town and Regional Planning. ‘This is very rare on the continent of Africa and globally for one person to have a degree in all of the three Disciplines,’ he says.

For Ogunsanya, the PhD journey was long and arduous mainly because of his administrative duties, lecturing, professional practice and family responsibilities, however, he is thankful to have completed the degree.

Speaking about his research, he said: ‘The University has been in existence in different forms for over a millennium and has contributed in numerous ways to modern society. This study investigated the impact of university campuses on the built environment of their local communities in three distinct spatial contexts - township, rural and urban. The study’s contribution to knowledge is an applicable framework used to assess the impact of universities on neighbourhoods through 18 diverse factors.’

Ogunsanya considers universities as the centre of culture, aesthetic direction and moral forces shaping the civilised society. He sees universities as also contributing in important ways to the economic health and physical landscape of neighbourhoods and cities, serving as permanent fixtures of urban economy and the built environment.

‘Due to the size and location of university campuses, they put demands on the urban character, systems, and infrastructure of the neighbouring communities. These demands or impacts have substantial implications for the built environment. It is important to understand the impacts university campuses have on their surrounding communities and urban environments because the destiny of the university is inextricably linked to the destiny of the adjacent neighbourhoods,’ he explained.

Ogunsanya proposes an impact assessment framework for further investigation in the study of university campuses and neighbourhoods in their geographical locations. He revealed that the campus and neighbourhood relate and co-exist in different ways and are mutually dependent on each other. ‘The university campus is more than a precinct which accommodates buildings and academic endeavours, the role of the university in this century has changed dramatically from its traditional roots of being an elite enclave of academics to a more inclusive and engaged entity that is concerned about providing relevant holistic solutions to society’s current challenges.’

He recommends the encouragement of strategic partnerships between the university campus, local government, community as well as informal trade industry.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan


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PhD Explores Adaptive Reuse Design Strategies in the Creation of Sustainable Urban Environments

PhD Explores Adaptive Reuse Design Strategies in the Creation of Sustainable Urban Environments
Dr Viloshin Govender received a PhD in Architecture.

A lecturer in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Dr Viloshin Govender graduated with his PhD in Architecture for his research which explored the role of Adaptive Reuse Design Strategies in the Creation of Sustainable Urban Environments using the Durban Point Precinct as a case study.

His key contribution to urban renewal is the development and testing of a novel and participatory framework to redesign and readapt existing buildings and lost spaces to the residents’ needs.

Govender identified that in Durban, the apartheid planning legacy led to the creation of various development nodes within the city, which are most often developer-driven and do not cater to the needs of existing communities. ‘The resultant effect is the lost and insurgent space created between urban nodes within the city. Insurgency can be seen in the form of informal settlements, self-help housing and urban homesteaders (squatters and homeless people using private property or government land). Socio-cultural segregation, urban despair, insurgency, and lost space now exist between these nodes,’ he explained.

Govender pointed out that: ‘Adaptive reuse of buildings embraces a different dimension of sustainability by extending a building’s life and reducing the overall carbon footprint. Low-carbon emissions are a key component towards creating sustainable urban environments and in turn contribute to mitigating the consequences of climate change.’

He noted that often, regeneration projects result in gentrification ‘and to prevent that, it is crucial to ensure that regeneration plans meet the needs of all residents, especially the urban poor. Such an approach forms part of sustainable urban regeneration, with social and economic benefits to society. To develop sustainable urban neighbourhoods, all stakeholders and inhabitants need to be meaningfully involved towards creating resilient cities.’

Govender’s research can help promote mutual understanding and empower design professionals, developers, local authorities, and communities to use collaboration techniques such as community collaboration and the bottom-up approach to co-design solutions for building adaptability that responds to all users’ needs.

He thanked his family, friends and supervisor, Dr Claudia Loggia, for being his support structure.

His research interests include co-design and community-led upgrading in informal settlements and he is currently working on a number of projects in informal settlements.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan


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Doctoral Research Explores GBV in Flood Camps

Doctoral Research Explores GBV in Flood Camps
Dr Takunda Mathathu graduated with a PhD in Sociology.

Graduating with his PhD in Sociology recently from UKZN, Dr Takunda Mathathu’s research explored gender-based violence (GBV) and Lived Experiences of Rural Women Residing in Flood Camps/Shelters.

According to Mathathu, women and men are affected differently when it comes to natural disasters. He noted that ‘as a result, the aftershock effects are more severe for women due to social processes that produce and reinforce gender roles within a patriarchal context. These gendered roles and practices often become breeding grounds for high incidences of gender-based violence in post-flood situations.’

He argues that scholarship from a gendered perspective is limited on the varied social implications of floods and that researchers have failed to capitalise on the social consequences of floods from a gendered perspective. ‘Gender is not considered essential in the wake of a natural disaster. Yet gender is a significant intersecting determinant of women’s vulnerability, which translates into the widespread prevalence of domestic violence in the aftermath of a flood,’ he said.

Mathathu calls for the public, private and NGO sectors to consider gender dimensions when assisting communities so that women do not become “double victims” of disasters and pandemics. He noted that the number of women who die due to natural disasters (from the onset, during and after) is always higher than that of men, an area that calls for gendering of the early warning systems and disaster management approaches.

He added: ‘Societal processes play a key role in maintaining the silent culture around GBV especially within rural areas whereby wives are strongly discouraged from reporting perpetrators of GBV.’

The findings of his study showed that women’s social and financial vulnerability is exacerbated in the post-flood period due to loss of property, livestock, livelihoods and marriage breakdowns.

‘Floods have a severe effect on women, not just in their reproductive activities but also in their roles as caregivers for their families. The conditions characterising the flood temporary shelters in rural areas such as overcrowding, poor sanitation, sexual abuse and lack of security amongst many others exacerbate women’s vulnerability,’ he said.

Mathathu is grateful for the support from his family, friends and supervisor.

Advising other scholars, he said: ‘Build a strong network of supportive friends and have time management skills to guide you through these challenging times of self-discovery. Be courageous because there will be moments when you will want to give up, but the results will make it all worthwhile in the end.’

Mathathu is currently working on publishing some articles from his research findings and hopes to find a permanent job soon.

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal 


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Cum Laude Research Zooms in on Workplace Glass Ceiling Phenomenon

<em>Cum Laude</em> Research Zooms in on Workplace Glass Ceiling Phenomenon
Mr Calvin Thomas received his Honours in Ethics cum laude.

Mr Calvin Thomas, Operations Manager for the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics recently graduated with his Honours in Ethics cum laude.

His research centred around an Ethical Assessment of the Implications of the Glass Ceiling Phenomenon on South African Women in the Workplace.

With a career rooted in Human Resources and Operations Management, Thomas noticed the slow progress of women reaching management and leadership positions. He wanted to find out why this is the case and what steps can be taken to further advance their career interests.

‘With increased access to education and training, women have taken up positions that were previously male-stereotyped and male-dominated. Although there is increased representation of women in lower and middle management positions, very few are appointed to senior management positions. This under-representation of women in this employment category has been attributed to what is termed the “Glass Ceiling”,’ explained Thomas.

His research revealed that the ‘Glass Ceiling phenomenon has a significant negative impact on female employees, especially concerning their career progression, which is counter-productive in terms of equity and advancing women’s social and economic interests in South Africa.’

Thomas is hopeful that managers will take note of his research findings and afford women equal opportunities within the workplace. ‘Through this journey of discovery, I have come to realise that I am an ardent feminist!’

Offering advice to other researchers, he said: ‘Education is something that cannot be taken away from you. By applying your mind, you are ultimately contributing to knowledge creation which future generations can use and build upon.’

Thomas also thanked his wife, Kalnisha, and children, Divya and Aryan, for their love and support. ‘Without their support (and sacrifices), I would not have been able to achieve what I have achieved. I also want to thank my supervisor, Dr Beatrice Okyere-Manu for her unwavering guidance and motivation. Taking my calls at odd hours and on weekends speaks to her dedication as a world-class supervisor.’

His wife Kalnisha added: ‘I’ve always expected nothing but the best from Calvin. He always gives one hundred percent in everything that he sets out to do. Our family life did not suffer over the last year while he pursued his studies. He was able to continue to give us his attention. There were late nights. While we slept, he was working on his assignments. I am extremely proud of him and I look forward to supporting him through his future endeavours.’

Thomas is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Human Resources Management.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan


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Unlocking the Past by Encountering History Through Museum Theatre

Unlocking the Past by Encountering History Through Museum Theatre
PhD in Drama and Performance Studies graduate, Dr Stephanie Jenkins.

Dr Stephanie Jenkins recently graduated with her PhD in Drama and Performance Studies for her study that explores the use of museum theatre as a means to teach, learn about and interrogate past narratives through the use of performance in places of historical significance.

Jenkins adopts a case study approach, using a self-written and directed museum theatre production Beer Halls, Pass Laws and Just Cause in the KwaMuhle Museum (former Native Administration Department) in Durban. Through the creation and staging of the museum theatre production specifically aimed at Grade 11 learners who are taking the subject of History, the performance adopts an experiential learning approach that engages the senses, minds, bodies and emotions of the attendants.

The study additionally sought to explore the use of arts-based methods such as drawing, poetry, and the handling of objects alongside performance to use as creative, pictorial and tactile ways to engage with historical learning rather than relying only on facts.

‘Education plays a big part in how people see the world and themselves in it. Museum theatre is a powerful tool to encourage alternative ways of learning that include the learner in the history they are studying. Through such performance, learners are prompted to care about the past and explore how it influences their present. The past is not static and the way we learn should not be either,’ explained Jenkins.

For her PhD, Jenkins was also awarded a National Research Foundation (NRF) grant linked to the Narratives of Home and Neighbourhood research project in the Urban Futures Centre (UFC) at the Durban University of Technology.

Advising other scholars, she said: ‘Postgrad research is like surfing a wave. As you surf up, doubt can creep in and it can get overwhelming. Then you begin the wave’s descent, gliding through moments of great insight and inspiration. Another wave begins and it starts all over again. Ride out the frustration, each wave at a time, and the commitment will get you to the end point. Then you see the view and it’s worth it.’

Jenkins is thankful for the support received from family, friends and her supervisor. ‘I am grateful for all the support and listening ears that so many people have given me. I appreciate my parents’ unwavering belief in my studies even when others told me I was studying too much and should move on with my life.’

Talking about her future plans, she said: ‘I have been accepted as a 2022 Writing Fellow at the Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Study. I am going to research and write a new play in a museum in Johannesburg.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal


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PhD Explores Zimbabwean Sex Workers’ Experiences

PhD Explores Zimbabwean Sex Workers’ Experiences
Dr Princess Alice Sibanda earned a PhD in Drama and Performance Studies.

UKZN lecturer, Dr Princess Alice Sibanda graduated with her PhD in Drama and Performance Studies for her research that explored Zimbabwean sex workers’ stories.

Motivated by her work as a sexual and reproductive health rights ambassador and research interests in sexual minorities, Sibanda focused on the misunderstood and ostracised sex workers in Zimbabwe.

‘This is against a background where narratives about sex workers in Zimbabwe and Africa at large are framed from an outsider’s perspective, fraught with prejudice and myths. I used drama as a platform for sex workers to challenge and shift perceptions,’ she said.

Major insights from the study reveal that sex work in Zimbabwe is queer. ‘Sex workers in Zimbabwe are not just poor, uneducated, uncultured women, nor are all clients men. I believe that situated knowledges are a powerful way of influencing policy and behavioural change in society. This kind of validates the work and I hope it will shift perceptions around sex work in Zimbabwe and Africa at large,’ said Sibanda.

She is the first in her family to get a PhD, saying: ‘I pride myself in the fact that I am one of the very few female PhD holders in the field of theatre studies in Zimbabwe. As an African feminist, claiming and occupying this space makes me happy. Achieving my PhD simply says to the young women who cannot see beyond their circumstances that it is possible. Your background does not determine your destiny.’ 

Sibanda considers attaining her PhD as bittersweet: ‘My dad should have been here. He believed in me so much. He gave his everything from the little he had to make sure his princess gets here. I feel a huge knot of pain knowing that this PhD is coming several deaths later. In 2020, I lost four cousins. Towards the end, I lost my father. I almost quit the journey altogether. Writing while grieving, within a pandemic for that matter, was the most difficult.’

She is also grateful to her family, friends and supervisor, Dr Miranda Young-Jahangeer for their support. She dedicated her research to her parents and best friend, Tinashe. ‘They provided me with love and psycho-social support. I am most grateful for the prayers, calls and beautiful messages of support throughout the course of the journey.’ 

Reflecting on her PhD highlights, Sibanda added: ‘I was awarded the Scholars’ Scholar Award by the Canon Collins Trust, and with a Community Engagement Excellence Award by UKZN.’

Examiners considered her PhD a radical piece of work that should be developed into a manuscript for a monograph publication. Upon completion of her tenure with UKZN, Sibanda will be joining the University of Fort Hare as a Postdoctoral Fellow. ‘This will help me boost my writing and expand my research skills further. My ultimate goal is to settle in a post where the artist, activist and academic in me can soar. I would want to serve at a university, preferably back home while consulting for various organisations.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal


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PhD Tackles Political Economy of Depo Provera

PhD Tackles Political Economy of Depo Provera
Dr Sethembiso Mthembu graduated with her PhD in Social Sciences.

Deputy Director for Research and Policy Analysis in the Ministry in the Presidency Responsible for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities and Co-founder of Her Rights Initiative (HRI), Dr Sethembiso Promise Mthembu graduated with her PhD in Social Sciences from UKZN for her research that Investigated the Political Economy of Injectable Contraceptive Depo Provera.

‘The choice of topic was motivated by the research, advocacy and human rights work I have been leading on forced and coerced sterilisations of HIV positive women in South Africa. I am one of the victims of forced sterilisations,’ said Mthembu.

A UKZN study on forced sterilisations of HIV positive women exposed her to the global politics of fertility of women sitting on the margins of society. ‘I began to realise that fertility control is not a technical or practical mistake, or a behaviour of bad doctors, but rather a systematic enterprise rooted in global political economy. I decided to dig deeper for my PhD.’

Mthembu investigated how international organisations responsible for health and population development such as the United Nations, human rights and philanthropist organisations, private foundations, drug companies, and international research and innovation agencies influence the ideology and policies of contraceptives in post-apartheid South Africa.

She recommends the introduction and or revisiting of policies and programmes that reflect an improvement on women’s rights and autonomy concerning contraceptives and reproductive health.

Mthembu believes that her research will assist in resolving the current challenge faced by health institutions as they deal with volumes of women who are coming forward about forced contraception, sterilisations and or womb removals that were done on them without their consent.

Advocating for women rights, her study ‘exposes evils that women were subjected to without their knowledge. This has the potential to mobilise women in the communities so that they critically engage with health systems, understanding that in fact, health could be an institution of oppression of women.’

The study identified a solidarity between nurses and the women who use services. ‘This gives the opportunity for the two to collaborate to improve the situation of women in as far as fertility control is concerned in the country. The control of women’s fertility, bodies and governability of women’s bodies is on top of the agenda in various governments around the world as well as international institutions. This is even more so with the outbreak of COVID-19 where fertility control is on the rise because of increased rates of poverty, child, and teenage pregnancy,’ she said.

Mthembu thanked her family, friends, and supervisor for their support. ‘I am proud to continue to be a role model for young women and girls in my family and extended family. With all the challenges I have had in life such as teenage pregnancy, living with HIV, and mothering a severely disabled child, I was able to start university education at the age of thirty and have progressed to this level.’ Mthembu is pursuing a post-doctoral fellowship and plans to continue to influence change through research. ‘I can finally make time to write and publish more on my research work,’ she said.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal


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