UKZN Alumnus Featured in the Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 List

UKZN Alumnus Featured in the Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 List
Mr Muhle Ndwalane.

Information Systems and Technology graduate and founder of Asante Solutions Mr Muhle Ndwalane is on the 2022 Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 list.

The list, compiled annually by Forbes Africa, features 30 of the continent’s brightest achievers under the age of 30 from the health, business, technology, creatives, sport and science sectors.

Making the list at the age of 23 in recognition of being a top-class entrepreneur and digital strategist was a life-changing achievement for Ndwalane.

‘I am incredibly proud to be selected as one of the brightest young innovators leading a new era of change in Africa. This is a testament that the work we do is really impactful, Asante Solutions has grown!’ he said.

Another achievement for Ndwalane is being elected as a member of the 2021 cohort of Africa’s Brightest Young Minds which is an alumni network of entrepreneurs (aged between 22 and 35) from more than 18 African countries.

Ndwalane’s entrepreneurial pursuits began as a UKZN student when he joined Enactus UKZN, an international student society that uses entrepreneurship as a tool to address various socio-economic challenges.

He represented UKZN at the Enactus World Cup in the United States in 2018 and went on to serve the society as the Executive President in 2019/2020, pioneering COVID-19 responsive solutions that won the Global Ford Fund Challenge.

Apart from his involvement with Enactus, Ndwalane started selling Wa Azania Aroma perfumes to students and staff.

In 2017, he founded Asante Solutions which he ran while studying and then co-founded Clinaytics, a health tech start-up in 2019.

‘Life as a student was an amazing journey filled with great lessons and experiences, enabling me to learn and meet various great people who I have established really valuable relationships with,’ said Ndwalane.

He was also recognised as one of the Top 40 UKZN Students who inspire greatness based on his contributions to the Institution which went beyond his academic achievements in 2018 and 2019.

‘I believe my UKZN qualification is worthwhile as the world is moving more into a digital era and technology is being integrated in almost every industry.

‘Today, Asante is a thriving business as we use our background in information systems and technology to develop bespoke digital transformation solutions that help improve businesses and people’s lives.’

To learn more about Asante Solutions visit: www.asantesolutions.co.za

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied


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Three UKZN Scientists Awarded for Excellence in Maths and Statistics Research

Three UKZN Scientists Awarded for Excellence in Maths and Statistics Research
From left: Dr Hammed Abass, Dr Olawale Kazeem Oyewole and Dr Akindele Adebayo Mebawondu.

Two researchers and an alumnus of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) have received awards for their work while UKZN has been recognised as the node institution with the highest number of publications for 2021.

The successes were announced during the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI)/National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre of Excellence in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences’ (CoE-MaSS) eighth anniversary celebrations.

CoE-MaSS comprises researchers from 23 node institutions in South Africa which specialise in pure mathematics, applied mathematics and statistics and aims to advance cross-disciplinary research topics and develop national capacity in these fields. Its 12 focus areas are dynamic and align with the Centre’s expertise, and with local and global research niches.

At the anniversary celebration, CoE-MaSS Director Professor Fazal Mahomed recalled the creation of the Centre as a major research network in South Africa with a significant footprint in mathematical sciences, emphasising its existence to serve students and researchers in MaSS fields to advance South Africa’s development.

Of the universities affiliated to CoE-Mass, UKZN was the most productive in 2021, being awarded R40 000 in research grants to further research in the SMSCS. These grants are earmarked for training and research-related activities to accelerate the careers of young researchers.

Speaking at the event, Dean and Head of the SMCS Professor Delia North thanked the CoE-MaSS for its generous funding of postgraduate students at UKZN, saying it contributed to the performance of these disciplines.

Dr Olawale Kazeem Oyewole, a postdoctoral fellow at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, received the award for the CoE-MaSS-funded student with the highest number of publications in 2021. His PhD research at UKZN, supervised by Professor Oluwatosin Mewomo and funded by CoE-MaSS, comprised an investigation into iterative solutions of some nonlinear optimisation and fixed point problems in Hilbert and Banach spaces.

In this area of real and functional analysis in mathematics, with fixed point methods being used to solve optimisation, Oyewole focused on the development of iterative methods for approximating the solutions of the various fixed point and optimisation problems, which would have applications in fields including economics, science, and engineering.

Having studied at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) in Nigeria, Oyewole discovered UKZN when Mewomo, his lecturer at FUNAAB, joined the Institution. Oyewole who enrolled in 2017, praised the University for its state-of-the-art facilities and an environment that made learning easy, saying he is a proud alumnus. He acknowledged Mewomo for his guidance and supervision.

Dr Hammed Anuoluwapo Abass, a postdoctoral researcher at UKZN, received a R10 000 award for the CoE-MaSS-funded postdoctoral researcher with more than 10 publications in 2021. His research, supervised by Dr Ojen Narain, focused on convergence results of certain optimisation problems and applications of fixed point problems to real life situations in nonlinear spaces. He explained that fixed point theory had a wide range of applications in science and technology. His work proposed different iterative methods for approximating solutions of optimisation problems, proving their respective convergence results and gave applications to real life problems where appropriate.

Abass heard about UKZN from Dr Akindele Adebayo Mebawondu, then a student at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in South Africa. Mewomo, who also lectured Abass during his undergraduate studies at FUNAAB, supervised his master’s and PhD degrees at UKZN. He thanked Narain, his colleagues, the SMSCS and the wider University community for providing an environment conducive to learning and success.

Also, a postdoctoral researcher at UKZN, Mebawondu received a R10 000 award for the CoE-MaSS-funded postdoctoral researcher with more than 10 publications in 2021. His research, also supervised by Narain, focused on selected topics in graph theory, fixed point theory and its application, and some of their interactions. A significant portion of his research was devoted to the application of graph theory, fixed point theory and its applications to real life problems in mathematical sciences, sciences and engineering.

After hearing about UKZN’s programmes while completing his master’s at AIMS, Mebawondu chose to enrol at the University, doing his PhD research under the supervision of Mewomo. He praised the SMSCS for the helpful and welcoming attitude of its staff and thanked Narain for his guidance.

Abass and Mebawondu received accolades for their excellent publication record, achieving 16 and 15 publications in 2021 respectively, despite the challenges caused by COVID-19. They thanked the CoE-MaSS for funding their doctoral and postdoctoral studies.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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Flying the UKZN Flag in Africa and Abroad

Flying the UKZN Flag in Africa and Abroad
Dr Gbotemi Babatunde has been admitted to the ACHIEVE Global Training Programme.Click here for isiZulu version

Postdoctoral Fellow at UKZN’s Centre for Rural Health, Dr Gbotemi Babatunde, has been admitted to the ACHIEVE Global Training Programme as a trainee in the inaugural 2022-2023 cohort.

ACHIEVE is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fogarty International Center’s flagship global research training projects titled: Launching Future Leaders in Global Health (LAUNCH) Research Training Programme. ACHIEVE stands for: Addressing the Research Capacity Gap in Global Child, Adolescent and Family Health Disparities Utilising Implementation and Data Sciences among Vulnerable Populations in Resource-limited Settings.

Babatunde has been invited to attend on-site and on-line training in the United States and at the Forum on Child and Adolescent Global Health Research and Capacity Building in Kampala and Masaka in Uganda as part of her grooming.

‘I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to network and learn from experts in child and adolescent mental health and implementation science research,’ said an elated Babatunde.

She is attending the online and on-site training sessions in Uganda this month after which she goes to the United States for a year and then on to a placement in sub-Saharan Africa or other Low or Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) participating in the programme.

She receives a monthly stipend and US$10 000 in research project seed funding, mentored research training in global health dissemination and implementation and data science research and experiential learning in research and methodologies, individualised consultation, and professional development, research and publication support.

Babatunde says she did not expect to get the award as she knew that many other experts had applied. ‘However, I am grateful I was selected for the South Africa site. My current research is focused on strengthening child and adolescent mental health systems and extending the Community Mental Health Education and Detection (CMED) tool to include child and adolescent mental health conditions.

The CMED tool provides psychoeducation and detection of possible mental health problems in adults,’ she said. ‘It was developed and evaluated by the Southern African Research Consortium for Mental Health INTegration (S-MhINT). We will extend the tool to include Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) conditions to promote mental health literacy and facilitate early identification and effective management at the community level to mitigate the lifelong impact of CAMH conditions.’

Babatunde has a Bachelor of Science degree (Psychology) from the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, an honours degree (Psychology), a master’s degree cum laude in Health Promotion and a PhD in Public Health from UKZN.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Jazz Lecturer Nominated for SAMA Award

Jazz Lecturer Nominated for SAMA Award
Mr Sibusiso Mashiloane.Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN Jazz lecturer in the School of Arts Mr Sibusiso “Mash” Mashiloane has been nominated for a South African Music Award (SAMA) in the Best Jazz category for his sixth album: Music From My People.

Other nominees in the category are Herbie Tsoaeli, Steve Dyer, Jimmy Dludlu and McCoy Mrubata.

‘I am so thankful for this nomination, especially being in the company of musicians who are part of the reference in my pursuit of the sound of home. It is a great honour. Thank you to all who guided me and are part of this music,’ said Mashiloane.

The 10-track album echoes many rhythmic languages, multi-generational camaraderie in sound, and an exploration into self-identity. The creation is weaved in the fabric of family, community, country, the African continent and the world. 

The Jazz genre is interpreted in its many phases and decades, in line with introspective experiences linked to those specifically relevant times. The album is not carefully curated and synchronised to direct a listener from one point to another but more a puzzle that pieces one’s personal interpretative experiences together, similar to Mashiloane’s journey in music.

Featured are several music industry stalwarts, including percussionist Tlale Makhene, guitarist Bheki Khoza and tenor saxophonist Khaya Mahlangu.

Also featured are young musicians who have studied under Mashiloane’s supervision, such as bassist Qhubekani Mthethwa, trumpeter Thabo Sikhakhane and vocalist Wandithanda Makandula.

Mashiloane is a multi-award winning artist who has been nominated for the SAMAs, the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) awards and the International Urban Music Awards.

At present, he is studying towards a PhD which, through the sounds of South African Jazz, focuses on the nostalgia-seeped themes of home that Mashiloane can’t help but find himself instinctively returning to.

Six years ago, Mashiloane set himself a target of releasing an album a year for seven years. Since then, audiences and jazz enthusiasts have enjoyed the following award-winning albums:

2017 - Amanzi’ Olwandle
2018 - Rotha: Tribute to Mama
2019 - Closer to Home
2020 - Amanzi Nemifula: Umkhuleko
2021 - Ihubo Labomdabu
2022 - Music From My People

The 2022 SAMA Awards take place on 31 July and will be featured on SABC 1 and channel 191 on DStv.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Hugh Mdlalose


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UKZN Medical Student Finalist for Global Outstanding Leadership Award

UKZN Medical Student Finalist for Global Outstanding Leadership Award
Medical student Ms Tivana Chellan.Click here for isiZulu version

Final-year Medical student Ms Tivana Chellan is a finalist in the Global Outstanding Leadership Awards contest being held in Brisbane, Australia, next month.

The awards recognise individuals who epitomise the courageous, kind and inclusive leadership of Leadership Headquarters - an Australian-based organisation that provides global leadership development programmes.

Chellan, who completed her matric at Tongaat Secondary School, has proudly represented her alma mater in several leadership roles, including as director of the Rotary Interact Club which is part of the international Rotarian body for community upliftment and service above self. She has also represented her country at the Model United Nations, an international format of debate that allows young, ambitious individuals to take part in simulations of the United Nations by representing countries in different committees that debate a range of relevant issues.

Chellan benefitted in terms of coaching and mentorship from having worked with human rights activist, Ms Ela Gandhi, and the Consul General of India at the Indian Embassy in Durban.

She has served in many leadership roles as a Medical student, including as President of the South African Medical Students Association (UKZN Chapter) and is currently Vice-Chair of the Dean’s Clinical Medicine research team, a peer wellness mentor.

In 2020 she formed a COVID-19 response team to tackle misinformation and with the team created the I-Care pledge to encourage adherence to lockdown regulations. Chellen worked with public health leaders to create a Tippy-Tap community empowerment handwashing video and many more impactful interventions.

She also launched a provincial gender-based violence social media activism campaign to encourage individuals to break the silence and to encourage more male role models to play an active role in bringing about change.

Chellan, who represented Africa at the United Nations Media and Information Literacy week in 2020, has worked with ambassadors from China, Brazil, France, Malawi, Jamaica, and several other nations in eradicating misinformation and empowering people in the face of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Said Chellan: ‘I am honoured to be a finalist for this international award at the relatively young age of 23 and to be competing with renowned global leaders. My aim is to inspire the youth and as such I am dedicated to lead by example. I have focused on inspiring women to achieve anything that they dream of. I am also an active advocate for mental wellbeing and feel that health care providers need to actively invest in their own wellbeing in order to provide the highest level of care for their patients.’

Chellan is a student representative of the UKZN Mental Health sub-committee.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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Young Professor Appointed Academic Leader: Research

Young Professor Appointed Academic Leader: Research
Professor Bongani Nkambule was appointed Academic Leader of Research by the UKZN School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Science.

The School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences has appointed Professor Bongani Nkambule (34) as its Academic Leader of Research.

Nkambule, previously Academic Leader: Molecular and Cellular Diseases in the School, said barriers to success in research included a lack of access to mentors or meaningful mentorship, funding and state-of-the-art equipment.

‘My goal is to improve collaborative research in the school and enhance the quality of mentorship for early-career academics and postgraduate students. The two goals are interlinked and will drive the school towards a multi-disciplinary research approach,’ said Nkambule.

‘Some of the immediate objectives of my strategy include setting up online systems that will promote shared resources within the School, initiating interdisciplinary research presentations, and establishing grant-writing teams. A modern-day approach to grant-writing is crucial for competitiveness in the shrinking local and international funding pool.’

Born in Ermelo in Mpumalanga, Nkambule is a registered medical-biological scientist and an Associate Professor in the Discipline of Haematology. He completed his MMed Degree (Pathology) cum laude at Stellenbosch University in 2011 followed by a PhD in Haematological Pathology in 2015. He was awarded the Stellenbosch University Faculty of Health Sciences best postgraduate student award in 2012.

He is currently a Principal Investigator with several research grants worth over R2 million while his primary research focuses on immunohematology, platelet function and immuno-thrombosis in inflammatory conditions and malignancies.

Nkambule is the recipient of several awards including the 2019 School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical science Top Performing Senior lecturer and the Top Grant Recipient Senior Lecturer. Since joining UKZN in 2016, he has graduated three PhD and five MSc students and has published more than 63 peer-reviewed articles with most articles placed in high-impact journals.

He has received several research fellowships during his tenure at UKZN, being awarded the DRILL-UKZN Fellowship in 2016-2020. Most recently he was awarded a prestigious NHI Senior Research Fellowship at the world’s leading Platelet Biology & Homeostasis Laboratory in the National Institutes of Health /National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Boston, United States.

‘We wish him well in this position and will continue giving him all the support he needs,’ said Professor Musa Mabandla, Dean and Head of the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied


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Emerging Researchers Awarded Grants

Emerging Researchers Awarded Grants
Emerging researchers from left: Dr Lindokuhle Mabuza-Mashaba, Mr Aubrey Sosibo, and Mr Vuyolwethu Mxinwa elated about obtaining UKZN internal Research Development Equipment Grants.

Three emerging researchers in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (LMMS) at UKZN have been awarded UKZN internal Research Development Equipment (RDE) Grants.

The grant provides funding for research equipment costing more than R50 000 with the aim being to support research endeavours of the University through infrastructural development and provision of equipment as well as to facilitate research capacity development among emerging researchers and postgraduate students.

Emerging researcher and lecturer Dr Lindokuhle Mabuza-Mashaba of the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences received an RDE grant valued at R314 339 which will go towards buying Biofreezer equipment (ultra-low temperature freezer). As a newly-appointed emerging researcher currently involved in the supervision of postgraduate students, she believes the quality of research outputs and producing good research results depend on the proper storage conditions of biological materials or samples.

‘We have interdisciplinary research and student collaborations in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, therefore the equipment will be used by a variety of postgraduate students. There will be an online booking/reservation system for postgraduate students and young academics to easily access the equipment and in addition there will be dedicated technicians to ensure long-term sustainability and viability of the equipment.’

Mabuza-Mashaba holds a PhD in Health Sciences (2020), a Master’s degree in Medical Science (2017), an Honours degree in Medical Science (2015) and a Bachelor of Medical Science degree (2014), all from UKZN where she is also a post-doctoral research fellow.

Her research interest focuses on the use of metal-based compounds and lifestyle interventions in the management of pre-diabetes and associated complications and also to further investigate the pre-diabetic state as a therapeutic target in the prevention and management of pre-diabetes progression to overt type 2 diabetes mellitus using a diet-induced pre-diabetic rat model.

Mabuza-Mashaba is a member and founder of the Diabetes and Endocrine Research Society of South Africa (DERSSA), a member of the Physiology Society of Southern Africa (PSSA), and a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.

Mr Aubrey Mbulelo Sosibo, lecturer and PhD candidate in Human Physiology at the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, won a grant amounting to R679 613.20 which will go towards buying a Promega Maxwell RSC System. This state-of-the-art instrument is able to simultaneously perform high quality nucleic acid extraction and purification. Therefore, the equipment will enhance his research by minimising the chances of human error associated with the normal procedure for nucleic acid extraction and will also improve reproducibility of experiments conducted for research and academic purposes. Furthermore, the automation that is incorporated into the equipment will result in less hands-on time for postgraduate students and staff. Sosibo believes the equipment, will improve the diversity of techniques used in the School and foster collaboration within the College and the University.

Sosibo is currently completing his doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr A Khathi and co-supervision of Dr S Ngubane. His PhD study investigates the prevalence and correlations of pre-diabetes within the eThekwini district and the pathophysiological mechanisms involved in the development of pre-diabetes. He published an article entitled: Pre-diabetes and COVID-19, Could we be Missing the Silent Killer?, in an international DHET-Accredited Journal (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1535370220973451). The Experimental Biology and Medicine journal selected this article for inclusion in a press release (Developments in COVID-19 Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment) and was selected as a highlight article. His most recent publication is titled: Prevalence and Correlates of Pre-diabetes in Adults of Mixed Ethnicities in the South African population: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocol. The article was published under the BMJ Open journal, which is also an international DHET- Accredited Journal.

Mr Vuyolwethu Mxinwa, recently appointed as a lecturer in the Physiology Department in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences at UKZN, was awarded a grant valued at R561 125 which will go towards buying an ADVIA 2120i Hematology System with Autoslide. ‘The acquisition of this instrument will improve the quality of research outputs and further enhance the postgraduate training in the School. This instrument has the potential to drive a third-stream income, as it can be used to run haematology analysis for research institutions around Durban. It will boost the sourcing of potential of external collaborations with researchers from other institutions,’ said Mxinwa.

Mxinwa, a registered PhD candidate in human physiology at UKZN, is in the final stages of his doctoral studies. While registered as a PhD candidate, he has published over 18 research articles in the past three years, and has been actively involved in co-supervision and mentorship of MSc and honours students at the Department of Human Physiology. His research interest is on Metabolic Syndromes, Chronic Inflammation, and Immune Activation.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photographs: Supplied


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Biochemistry Researcher Germany-Bound for Nobel Laureate Meeting

Biochemistry Researcher Germany-Bound for Nobel Laureate Meeting
Dr Alexandre Delport.

Postdoctoral researcher in biochemistry at UKZN Dr Alexandre Delport is one of only 11 South African scientists selected to travel to Germany for the annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting at the end of this month.

Dedicated to the field of chemistry, the meeting provides a platform for about 35 Nobel Laureates to present their research, reflect on their careers and engage with 600 young scientists selected to attend from all over the world. Participants include undergraduates, PhD candidates and post-doctoral researchers representing diverse nationalities, generations, cultures and disciplines.

More than 200 leading science and research institutions worldwide that are official academic partners of the Lindau meetings identify the participants from their countries. Delport was selected by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) for the opportunity to benefit from in-depth exchanges with Nobel Laureates during the six-day programme and is the only UKZN representative.

Delport is pursuing her postdoctoral research under the supervision of Professor Raymond Hewer in the School of Life Sciences (SLS) and is investigating the amyloid precursor protein (APP), particularly the hindrance of amyloid beta (Aß) derived from APP that forms the bulk of the amyloid plaques found in the brains of people suffering from diseases including Alzheimer’s. Delport is focusing on protein degradation, using natural pathways to target and remove APP.

This work builds on the research Delport undertook for her PhD, also under the supervision of Hewer, an alumnus of the Lindau programme who encouraged Delport to apply.

Her PhD research, which won her the 2020 Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers from the National Research Foundation (NRF), involved identifying ligands that can bind the APP and which could be used to formulate degraders for the protein. During her PhD studies, Delport visited the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, funded by the NRF-German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) In-Country Scholarship, and spent time in the laboratory of Professor Stefan Kins, a renowned expert in neurodegenerative disease and biochemistry.

With a patent pending, provisional seed funding from the Technology Innovation Agency and interest from local pharmaceutical companies in the results of her research, Delport is taking this research to pre-clinical stage to develop potential treatments for APP-related disease. She has published five papers from her PhD research and two from her postdoctoral work.

Having pursued all of her studies at UKZN in Pietermaritzburg, Delport is drawn to an academic career and particularly enjoys the laboratory work that her vocation involves. Choosing to study biological sciences at UKZN because of the University’s proximity to her family, the popular Introductory Biochemistry and Microbiology (BIMI) module drew her into biochemistry and she went on to pursue her master’s degree on African trypanosomiasis under the supervision of Professor Theresa Coetzer.

An internship with Hewer in the area of drug discovery ignited her passion for the field and Delport found she flourished in the small, stimulating environment of his laboratory.

Looking ahead to Lindau, Delport is most excited about attending a lecture by Nobel Laureate Professor Aaron Ciechanover, who characterised the method used by cells to degrade and recycle proteins using the ubiquitin regulatory protein. She is also looking forward to the science walk, the Laureate lunch, the boat ride on the final day, as well as post-event opportunities.

Delport thanked Hewer, Professor Carola Niesler and Professor Ademola Olaniran for creating an environment conducive to success in the SLS and for their support. She also acknowledged ASSAf in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation and the Lindau Nobel Laureate Committee for, respectively, nominating her and funding the trip.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied


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Clinical Sociologist Discusses Phases of Migration in the Global South During Webinar

Clinical Sociologist Discusses Phases of Migration in the Global South During Webinar
Professor Mariam Seedat-Khan (top left) is one of the panellists for the Distinctive and Continued Phases of Global South Migration webinar.Click here for isiZulu version

Members of the Brazilian Brincadas Project were treated to a keynote address by UKZN clinical sociologist Professor Mariam Seedat-Khan on Distinctive and Continued Phases of Global South Migration: Human Security; Gender; Geography; Race, and Class Intersections.

The Project - led by Professor Fernanda Liberali of the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP) - is an extension of a trans-Atlantic project established by a team of global scholars with Seedat-Khan as the principal investigator.

Brincadas aims to conceptualise clinical interventions capable of mitigating the adverse effects of the economic global crisis on migrants’ human security and access.

Seedat-Khan’s paper focused on the increasing difficulty of harmonising migration management policies for Africa, and the Global South as a preferred destination for migrants. Her webinar address probed intersections of diversity, education, mobility and exclusion; diverse mobilities and irregular migration, including unaccompanied minors; violence against migrants; prevalence of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis; and continued emigration of skilled nationals.

She said these typical Global South challenges were rooted in historical unequal experiences exacerbated by SARS-CoV-2 which had resulted in a disproportionate economic crisis impacting on migrants’ access and right to inclusion, education, services and employment which compromised their well-being.

‘An overwhelming presence of migrants in South Africa’s domestic, security, transport, service and informal sectors compound their economic marginalisation and exploitation. In the absence of fundamental human rights and access, migrants are stripped of agency,’ said Seedat-Khan.

‘Shaping a non-discriminatory, post-pandemic Africa is South Africa’s defining role. The current state of migrants in South Africa mandates urgent attention to co-produce impactful interdisciplinary interventions led by the fundamental principles of applied and clinical sociology. Interventions must build wellbeing, promote recovery, support economic renewal and capitalise of human resilience in the Global South. Scientific scholarship is instrumental in developing and co-producing context-specific interventions to current and post-pandemic African migrants’ contexts.’

According to Seedat-Khan, co-production with migrants as citizen scientists produces distinctive clinical models that address lived human security, gender, geography, race and class challenges, culminating in migrants’ inclusion and wellbeing. ‘Scientific migrant-centred frameworks inform opportunities to synergise policy and practice via clinical interventions. Ultimately, co-produced clinical interventions underscore migrants’ access to human rights that subscribe to a universal humanistic social contract to augment wellbeing.’

Pervasive social issues discussed included xenophobia; systematic institutional inequality; gendered, lone, and child migration; labour, and exploitation in the Global South. She highlighted that continental African migration was rooted in scrambled colonial borders that disrupted economic, political, religious, and cultural conventions in pursuit of profit.

She said clinical interventions foster wellbeing, promote recovery, support economic renewal, and capitalise on human resilience in the Global South. ‘It is critical for scholars to develop and co-produce context-specific interventions for Global South migrants, both now and post-pandemic. Adopting migrant-centred frameworks inform effective clinical interventions, policy, and practice to address human (in)security, gender, geography, race, conflict and class.’

Seedat-Khan concluded that ‘in the end, co-produced clinical interventions ensure migrants’ access to human rights that subscribe to a humanistic social contract.’

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Image: Supplied


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Dance Lecturer Receives Special Invite to 2022 National Arts Festival

Dance Lecturer Receives Special Invite to 2022 National Arts Festival
Dr Lliane Loots’s dance work “seven ways to say goodbye”. Click here for isiZulu version

UKZN Drama and Performance Studies lecturer Dr Lliane Loots’s recent dance work with the Flatfoot Dance Company is being featured at this year’s National Arts Festival (NAF) in Makhanda (Grahamstown).

Loots’s dance work “seven ways to say goodbye”- created with a 2021 grant from The Playhouse Company - has been selected as one of the few invited main platform performances for this year’s festival.

Stories of turbulence, healing and triumph thread through this year’s programme as NAF returns live in Makhanda, running from 23 June to 3 July. The festival’s artistic director Ms Rucera Seethal said: ‘This year we have invited works where artists have bravely located themselves inside historical moments, failing ecologies, deeply personal questions, and even endings.’

Loots’s“seven ways to say goodbye”, set against a time of self-isolation and social distancing, confronts human relationships: father to son, mother to daughter, lover to lover, old age to dying, and individual to politics in a moving journey to finding self. It confronts the idea that saying goodbye is also about leaving behind that which history binds us to, both personally and politically. In traversing the inner journeys of intimacy, the dance work is finally a celebration of all that is sacred and beautiful.

It was created by Loots through an intimate and personal workshopped process with eight of Durban’s most gifted contemporary dancers: Sifiso Khumalo, Jabu Siphika, Zinhle Nzama, Yaseen Manuel, Mthoko Mkhwanazi, Siseko Dube, Ndumiso “Digga” Dube and Sbonga Ndlovu. It features lighting and audio visuals by Wesley Maherry and costume design by Greg King.

Said Loots: ‘This dance work came out of trying to transform isolation into community after the heavy COVID-19 lockdown. It was born after the looting and violence in KwaZulu-Natal last year and the unease in the grand narratives of our politics in South Africa. It is an embodied diary or journal that echoes the early pillow books of Japan’s Sei Shonagon as it lists seven ways to say goodbye. It is full of both sorrow and joy and is, finally, about the transformative power of the small every day connections we have to the bodies that hold (and hinder) us.’ 

There will be three performances of the showin the Great Hall at NAF between 27 and 29 June.

Meanwhile, Drama and Performance Studies (HCC) alumnus Ms Kristi-Leigh Gresse has been named as the NAF Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance for 2022. This is one of the country’s highest honours awarded annually to a young South African making waves and pushing boundaries in their discipline.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Val Adamson


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UKZN Digital Arts Contributes to Collaborative Artist-in-Residency Exhibition

UKZN Digital Arts Contributes to Collaborative Artist-in-Residency Exhibition
Works from artists at the Interchange exhibition.

The Digital Arts discipline recently hosted Egyptian artist Sherif El Azma as part of the Andrew Mellon Foundation Artist-in-Residency project which aims to recruit, support and collaborate with emerging and experienced artists from South Africa and throughout Africa.

El Azma partnered with UKZN postgraduate students Mr Darren Jantjies, Mr Shivan Delamoney, Ms Chico Nhadavele, Mr Qhawe Ndlovu, Mr Clayton Elanagan, Mr Mvelo Zimu, and residency host and UKZN lecturer Dr Michelle Stewart.

The two-week public exhibition titled Interchange was held at the Jack Heath Gallery in Pietermaritzburg. All the work resulted from or was influenced by dialogue and interchange with El Azma during his residency period.

The postgraduate seminars were mentored by El Azma, Stewart and the late Ms Claire Dongo. With El Azma online from his Cairo apartment, there were dynamic cultural interchanges with the digital platform opening a space for diverse modes of discussion and the sharing of ideas.

‘The student works on exhibition included an experimental animation music video, 2D animation, 360 film and the motion comic,’ said Stewart. ‘The event featured talks by El Azma and local Durban-based artists Doung Jahangeer and Mr Matthew Ovendale.’ Stewart co-ordinated the talks which generated valuable insights, connections and creative synergies between the Durban and Cairo based artists.

Said El Azma: ‘The very exchange in dialogue itself, especially in our field of art and cultural studies, opened up a re-education process with every sign pointing at how both locations in many ways reveal the huge socio-political and global changes that have become and still are challenging for such hotspots. A look at the parallel situation helps one understand not only how the art world works but also how the world is concerned - if not governed - by its complex “in transit” systems.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Michelle Stewart


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Land Degradation in Africa - the Answer Lies in the Soil

Land Degradation in Africa - the Answer Lies in the Soil
Professor Pardon Muchaonyerwa in the field (left) and evidence of erosion during the KZN flooding.

Most flood damage caused by the torrential rain in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) earlier this year occurred in residential areas and informal settlements where soils are disturbed and there is poor drainage infrastructure.

If a surface allows infiltration, the water will be dealt with, but with the water accumulating off areas such as roofs, there was too much per unit area of soil to be absorbed.

This is according to UKZN’s Professor Pardon Muchaonyerwa who was included in a Thompson Reuters Foundation piece on land degradation in Africa which featured the input of experts from all over the continent. The foundation article followed the release of the second UN Convention to Combat Desertification Global Land Outlook report this year.

Added to the astronomically high rainfall in the April flooding, about a third of the area’s annual average was recorded over two days and because of that - coupled with poorly planned settlements on sandy soils, on steep slopes or on disturbed land or floodplains at the end of the catchment - mudslides occurred where soil that had reached its saturation limit flowed like a liquid, destroying homes and trapping people. Additionally, crops, farmlands and vegetation were washed away.

Muchaonyerwa weighed in on the role of soil health in the damage experienced after the April 2022 floods in KZN.

Speaking about the effects of the high levels of rainfall that led to severe damage to infrastructure and tragic loss of life, Muchaonyerwa highlighted the importance of increasing infiltration and reducing the quantity of floodwaters and runoff.

An expert on soil ecosystem function and health and sustainable agriculture, Muchaonyerwa has been at UKZN for 11 years and is recognised for his knowledge and research globally.

With the observance of World Desertification and Drought Day this month, the phenomenon of land degradation is an important consideration - it threatens food production and livelihoods, and plays a role in extreme events.

Describing South Africa’s soils as unique, with a large proportion being predominantly derived from shales and mudstones, Muchaonyerwa said these tended to have a high concentration of silt and very fine sand, making them extremely erodable. Combined with the high rates of overgrazing on South African grasslands, soils are exposed to damage by natural phenomena, including rainfall.

South Africa’s naturally problematic environment for soil erosion and land degradation are exacerbated by human activity in the form of deforestation, intensive livestock grazing and conventional crop production, where soils are heavily utilised with intensive tillage in the summer season and then left fallow and exposed in winter.

‘When we talk of degradation, we’re talking about erosion, desertification and loss of nutrients through erosion, gaseous emissions and leaching, but the main problem is that as we lose the soil, we also lose nutrients and carbon, which stabilises the soil - many of our soils have low carbon, making them susceptible to degradation,’ said Muchaonyerwa.

Some parts of KwaZulu-Natal are characterised by high carbon humic soils, and despite the value of keeping carbon in the soil, current agricultural practices such as tilling overturn the soil and release its stored carbon.

He spoke of the need to reduce practices that result in soil and carbon loss and to make the soil a good habitat for organisms to thrive. Where there is low carbon in degraded soils, Muchaonyerwa said there were conservation agriculture techniques that could improve soil quality, including keeping soil covered with residues for protection, returning organic matter to the soil, rotating crops and making use of cover crops.

Muchaonyerwa said that with the layer of fertile topsoil covering the globe being at most 30cm deep, the current loss of up to 1 cm of some soils every year through unsustainable practices was a major problem, especially considering the rate of soil formation was extremely slow. The fastest-forming soils take at least 10 years to form 1cm, with the slowest-forming soils taking almost a millennium to develop the same depth. Degraded or exposed soils being lost to runoff in high rainfall events contribute to the high rate of soil loss.

He said while there remained a lack of data on rates of soil loss in South Africa, its effects were evident in physically observable dongas, aerial photography and remote sensing data. Efforts to protect the soil resource and regenerate its productivity were ongoing.

Research being done by Muchaonyerwa and PhD candidate Ms Nontokozo Mkhonza linked to conservation agriculture features a comparison of two neighbouring sugarcane farms on the KZN coast that employ different methods of harvesting - one follows burnt cane harvesting, while the other has harvested green cane for 78 years.

Mkhonza, who is examining carbon and phosphorous cycles, has found higher microbial presence and enzyme activity in the soils on the farm using green cane harvesting. Moreover, in the KZN floods, there was no loss of soil to erosion or flooding under green cane harvesting, while the neighbouring farms experienced major damage to fields and infrastructure.

Soil carbon is lost to trash burning and released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. Green cane farms had soils with higher organic matter that could retain water and reduce runoff effectively, making water available during times of drought. Despite a lower sucrose yield in green cane harvests in normal seasons, its yield does not diminish significantly under drought conditions compared to pre-harvest burning of sugarcane.

‘Retention of residues stabilises yields, improves soil quality, and stores carbon, minimising the release of carbon into the atmosphere meaning a positive effect for climate change,’ said Muchaonyerwa.

He noted that the Discipline of Soil Science offered many opportunities for innovation to reverse degradation, including rotation of livestock and crops, using cover crops that could benefit farmers and improving practices in marginal areas, for example through practising no-till and amending the soil with biochar produced from recalcitrant organic wastes.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied


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D’RAP Webinar Highlights City River Management’s Role in Saving Lives

D’RAP Webinar Highlights City River Management’s Role in Saving Lives
Presentations at the D’RAP webinar focused on the KwaZulu-Natal floods and river management, urban fish, and plastic pollution in the province’s waterways.

The Durban Research Action Partnership (D’RAP) hosted a webinar that highlighted the issue of urban river management, a topic thrown into sharp focus by the flooding in KwaZulu-Natal in April and May this year.

Welcoming more than 40 participants to the event, research co-ordinator Ms Preshnee Singh introduced the D’RAP project, a joint initiative between UKZN and the eThekwini Municipality (EM) that since 2011 has created actionable research focusing on biodiversity, climate, and people.

Planned to be the first in a series of webinars enabling academics and municipal officials to interact, it included presentations from EM’s Dr Sean O’Donoghue and D’RAP postdoctoral researchers followed by a discussion.

‘We want to make this a useful series for both researchers and municipal officials so that stimulating discussions help us gain new ideas and perspectives,’ said Singh.

O’Donoghue, Senior Manager of the Climate Change Adaptation Branch at EM, spoke about lessons learned from the KZN flooding caused by unstable, waterlogged ground and clogged waterways, focusing particularly on the Transformative Riverine Management Programme (TRMP) being developed by EM in partnership with the C40 City Finance Facility.

Speaking about the Palmiet River Catchment Rehabilitation Project, O’Donoghue said the combined efforts of EM, UKZN and civil society resulted in collaborative development of solutions. The project had benefitted the Quarry Road West informal settlement adjacent to the river through efficient clearing of invasive alien plants and solid waste, reporting of sewer leaks and industrial pollution, the establishment of an Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities (EPIC) programme and a Flood Early Warning System (FEWS), as well as community training and employment opportunities.

Thanks to the FEWS and on the ground efforts by UKZN’s Professor Cathy Sutherland and EM’s Mr Smiso Bhengu, as well as oversight from the municipality’s Senior Manager of Catchment Management Mr Geoff Tooley, the Quarry Road West settlement suffered only one fatality during the floods of 11 and 12 April. O’Donoghue said without the above systems and efforts, there would undoubtedly have been a greater loss of life.

O’Donoghue said dissemination of information to vulnerable groups for decision-making and the manner of disaster response was critical. Responses in the area, which included trauma counselling from UKZN’s Student Support Services division, had drawn national praise.

‘We hope that we can not only get [the TRMP] going fully in Durban, but in other African cities as well so that it really becomes one of the cornerstones of nature-based solutions on the continent,’ said O’Donoghue.

Postdoctoral researchers from the Global Environmental Change phase of D’RAP that focused on rivers from source to sea, Dr Matthew Burnett and Dr Refilwe Mofokeng, presented on urban fish and plastic pollution respectively.

Burnett addressed how urban infrastructure had transformed aquatic environments, affecting water quality and environmental flows and subsequently fish health. Drawing on examples from his research, he spoke about the major fish kill (of about 20 tonnes of fish and resulting in a decline of species) resulting from a chemical spill from Willowton Oil into the Msunduzi River in 2019; the river ecosystem status monitoring programmme; barrier tracking, and the FISHTRAC smart radio telemetry tag system developed to assess the response of ecosystems to changes through real-time monitoring of fish behaviour.

Mofokeng presented on plastic pollution and shared results from surveys tracking plastic out to sea, and on the effect of COVID-19 on single-use plastic usage.

‘Ocean and river stresses include climate change, population growth and plastic pollution, and these threats can only be faced through improving public understanding of the aquatic system and importance of ocean, and river literacy,’ said Mofokeng. ‘The challenge is a growing population and economic disparity that impact opportunities for people to engage, but events like the flooding show the need to develop strategies to improve societal connections to rivers and the ocean.’

She emphasised that connecting people to rivers and the ocean was achieved through improving and progressing global ocean literacy to catalyse behavioural change to achieve a sustainable future.

Mr Patrick Martel of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies facilitated the discussion, and highlighted the importance of connectivity in both the natural biophysical perspective and the socio-economic perspective for effective governance.

The discussion honed in on issues including agroecology, aquaponics and food gardens, social justice, governance and power relations, ecosystem services, and citizen science.

Singh closed proceedings by thanking the presenters and Martel for their input, as well as Ms Janice Moodley and Mr Colin Pillay for technical and logistical support. Bhengu thanked participants for their attendance and interaction.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: eThekwini Municipality, Refilwe Mofokeng and Matthew Burnett


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Webinar Explores Importance of Financial Education in Enhancing Consumer Protection in SA

Webinar Explores Importance of Financial Education in Enhancing Consumer Protection in SA
Ms Magauta Mphahlele.

Have consumer protection regulatory bodies and role players adopted adequate and sufficient measures to develop, promote and provide financial education during the COVID-19 pandemic? That was the question debated at a webinar presented by Ombudsman: Consumer Goods and Services Ombud, Ms Magauta Mphahlele.

Themed: The Importance of Financial Education in Enhancing Consumer Protection in South Africa, the webinar was the latest in an ongoing series hosted by UKZN’s School of Law.

‘COVID-19 is a severe test on individual financial resilience but also an opportunity to re-focus on the essential elements of financial literacy, said Mphahlele. ‘Sometimes, I do find that a lot of information out there, especially that which is given by regulators, is biased instead of giving consumers balanced information to make informed financial decisions.’

The presentation focused on the initiatives and work done by role players such as the National Credit Regulator (NCR), the Financial Sector Conduct Authority and the National Consumer Tribunal in the area of raising awareness about financial education.

Mphahlele said people were struggling with over indebtedness during the pandemic due to the high cost of living.

‘What we do is create awareness but we are not creating financial capability. Over indebtedness has not declined despite awareness campaigns which shows that we can’t look at financial literacy as a tick box exercise,’ said Mphahlele.

She said while reports showed that these organisations were active in creating awareness about the importance of financial education through digital campaigns, messaging was not realistic for the financial issues people faced.

Mphahlele asked: ‘How can we educate people to save money when they are fragile due to the pandemic and functioning on empty stomachs? Our messaging should be sensitive to people’s circumstances, which means that we are giving people financial advice but they don’t have the resources to action this advice. We need academic research to measure the effectiveness of these initiatives and provide information about how we can address the root causes and factors that contribute to over indebtedness.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied


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