Change the world


The organising theme of our work over the next five years, beginning in 2018, is to position our intellectual and social project - In Service to Society - at the centre of our university.

Our society remains profoundly unequal with high levels of poverty and unemployment, as well as various forms of exclusion. We are therefore deliberate about our focus as an engaged university that seeks to work alongside communities to find solutions to the challenges they face.

To this end, our teaching and learning, and research and innovation is focused on areas that can contribute new and innovative approaches and solutions to the many seemingly intractable issues faced by society.

This has been a year of gearing up, of putting in place everything we need in order to advance our work and enable us to deliver on our promises, as outlined in the inaugural address, and as articulated to us by university stakeholders during the 2018  Listening Campaign.

Many of you shared with us how much more can be achieved by us all through re-imagining various aspects of how we run, manage and lead the university. Over the last couple of months we have been occupied with this; putting in place plans to review our organisational design and processes, including institutional committees and systems, and working at addressing key issues pertaining to the academic mission, as outlined by colleagues, particularly academics, who talked to us during the Listening Campaign and through other engagement channels.

Our students are at the centre of our work, and it is extremely important to us that we innovate and find better ways together, in consultation with our students, to improve the conditions in which they live and learn. This year saw the launch of the inaugural Youth Leadership Convention, where students from Mandela University and other universities nationally, got together.

They participated in debates with leading scholars and thought leaders on issues, including youth unemployment, entrepreneurship, the performance of the economy, good governance and citizenship. Various interventions have been conceptualised to enable our students to becoming responsible citizens who constructively engage in improving the university and society at large.

Our students are active members of a number of fora and structures in our university, such as the student access and success innovations, safety and security interventions, the work that we do to address gender-based violence, student indigence and hunger, and many other initiatives. This is significant for us, as more than 60% of our students are from poor and working class communities. Their voice and agency is important to us, and we are putting in considerable effort to ensure that they are fully integrated into university life.

During 2018 we accomplished a great deal as a university. We completed the re-integration of previously outsourced services; we launched the Centenary programme to commemorate 100 years of Mandela’s life; we launched the Chair in Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation; got approval to launch the long-anticipated Centre for Gender Studies, and several other Chairs and Centres in the Humanities. We have also made huge strides towards the establishment of the country’s tenth Medical School. Over and above this, a great deal of leading edge work has been achieved by faculties and entities throughout our university.

With 2019 almost upon us, we feel ready and poised to continue on a decisive path of delivering on our collective commitments and agreements. Key to our work next year will be the following goals, among others, to:

  • Further strategically position our identity, ethos and posture as Nelson Mandela University;
  • Continue to work on our strategic differentiation and the unique propositions of our institution;
  • Further advance the quality of our academic offering; and the student and staff experience;
  • Continue to consolidate our work on transformation including our work and scholarship on decoloniality and Africanisation, and measures to achieve an inclusive institutional and intellectual culture based on non-racialism and democracy, gender transformation and equality, to name a few;
  • Refine the governance model and academic plan of the Ocean Sciences programme;
  • Consolidate all our plans to realise the establishment of the Medical School;
  • Mainstream and refine the conversation on our engagement scholarship philosophy; and
  • Work on a number of key initiatives to ensure the sustainability of our institution, now and into the future.

Our role, as the leadership of the university, remains a sobering, yet noble responsibility. We do realise - and I have no illusions - that we will only achieve success in all we set out to do by leveraging the full asset base of our university, which is our students and our staff. Hence our notion of an authentically-engaged institution remains the mainstay of our mien.

Our own commitment as the team charged with the leadership of the university is to ensure that we invest our energy to enhance institutional solidarity and social cohesion. We need to lead and show up in a manner that portrays the best of what this institution stands for, namely the cultivation of humanity and commitment to advancing the greater good.

I take this opportunity to thank our Council, and our students and staff, for your hard work and dedication to excellence; and to thank our alumni and partners for walking with us during 2018. I sincerely wish all of you a peaceful and restful holiday season with loved ones and family.

Professor Sibongile Muthwa


The above text appeared in the university publication The VC's Voice of December 2018. You can download the full publication on


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Ms Zandile Mbabela
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Tel: 0415042777