Jiving with Science is a new public engagement initiative of the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies. The Africa Centre, a joint project of the UKZN and the Medical Research Council of Southern Africa, is an international HIV research facility with a partnership HIV testing, treatment and care programme run jointly with the KZN Department of Health. It is based in rural, northern KwaZulu-Natal where the HIV epidemic is one of the most severe in the world with nearly one in two adults aged 35-40 being infected.

Jiving with Science aims to foster community discussion about scientific research and to bring evidence-based HIV health promoting messages to everyday spaces such as public transportation, leisure spaces and shopping precincts. It involves developing, distributing and evaluating three CDs over two years. Each CD contains a radio-style information interview, interspersed with popular music, targeted HIV health promotion messages and calls to action.

Two of the three CDs are now complete, and are being distributed free-of-charge to key stakeholders in the local community including taxi drivers, shebeen owners and hair salon operators. Taxis are the main mode of transport in the Africa Centre research area, with almost two-thirds of the population (an estimated 50 to 60 000) using a taxi on a weekly basis. Each has a CD player, although most operators only have a couple of CDs to play. Thus, the primary target audience in this initiative is the users of local mini-bus taxis. On February 13 the project was launched at the Mtubatuba Taxi Association. The event was well-attended with close to 200 taxi drivers present. At the launch drivers received two CDs together with an HIV fact sheet, a Jiving with Science t-shirt and a meal. Once the Africa Centre has received feedback from the drivers on commuter responses to these first two CDs, a third disc will be designed and distributed.

The Africa Centre anticipates that these informative CDs will improve the public understanding of HIV transmission and prevention strategies. Furthermore, through this project the Centre has engaged new sectors in the community who are now actively participating in its research and efforts to prevent HIV transmission.  This project has also enabled the Africa Centre to engage partners in the music industry who, in line with social responsibility agendas, have waived the production rights on selected popular music tracks. In exchange the Centre has provided them with an opportunity to advertise and have their music heard in this often-inaccessible rural setting.

DJ Tira, who is the owner of the famous

Twenty year-old UKZN Bachelor of Commerce student, Mr Andrew Birkett, clinched the 2011 Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon at the Blue Lagoon in Durban on February 19.   He pipped fellow contestant, Mr Ant Stott to the finish line by a mere 0.23 seconds – the closest finish in the 60-year history of the race.

Birkett is no stranger to Dusi victory – he and his partner, Mr Jason Graham, claimed the K2 Dusi title last year.  However, Birkett admits that this year’s win was sweeter, probably because racing the gruelling 125 km race in a K1 is far more demanding.  The entire three-day race was dominated by a close tussle between Birkett and Stott.  It saw them pitting their strengths – Birkett’s running and Stott’s paddling – against each other right up until the finish line.  In the end it came down to a sprint finish on the home stretch. Birkett managed to gain a slight advantage, beating Stott at his own game.  However, Birkett said he had no real edge over Stott; it really came down to who was less tired. 

A perfectionist when it comes to sport, Birkett credits his superb performance to his pre-race preparation.  Although he is almost an old hand at the Dusi, having already completed the race on six occasions and starting when he was only 13, he spent a lot of time in the valley, “tripping” or exploring the river.  Birkett started his intense training regime at the end of November.  It comprised paddling and running sessions of various intensities specifically designed to hone his speed and strength.  Much of his training was conducted in the company of his brother, Chris Birkett, who is also a UKZN student, and the family dog, a husky named Dakota.

Although he doesn’t have a coach, Birkett said he has ‘refined his training over the years’. He is a great fan of pilates and claims that one pilates session can be more exhausting than a 10 km run.  Nutrition and diet are high on his agenda and he tries to eat as naturally as possible, ascribing to the Spartan Health Regime.  In fact, he is so fastidious about his training that he chose to forgo his traditional Christmas dinner, only partaking in it a few days after the race.

Birkett’s studies took a back seat for the first two weeks of this semester as he focused on his Dusi quest.   Although a conscientious student, he felt he had dedicated so much of his recent life to his sport that he could justify taking two weeks off ’varsity.  With another Dusi win under his belt, he can now focus his mind on catching up the work he has missed.  Majoring in marketing and supply chain management, Birkett hopes to complete his BCom degree at the end of the year.  His
author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za



UKZN’s Discipline of Horticultural Science was well-represented at the recent Combined Congress in Pretoria.  The delegation which comprised nine post-graduate students was lead by two senior academics, Professor John Bower and Dr Isa Bertling.

The Combined Congress is a major meeting of academics from the four major agricultural societies, the South African Society of Crop Production, the Soil Science Society of South Africa, the Southern African Society for Horticultural Science and the Southern African Weed Science Society. Some 300 delegates registered at the four-day Congress which saw 130 oral and 46 poster presentations. Approximately 70 Masters students from three major universities presented.

Mr Richard Kok, a Masters student in the Discipline of Horticultural Science was awarded the prestigious Omnia Nutriology® Merit Award which was awarded to the best student presentation for all Societies for his presentation at the congress.  The title of his presentation was “Ultra Low Temperature Shipping and Cold Chain Management of ‘Hass’ Avocados: Investigation into Reducing Shipping Costs”. Another UKZN Horticultural Science student, Mr Andre Lütge, received second place for this Award. In addition, Mr Lütge won the prize for the best presentation by a Masters student in Horticultural Science. His presentation was titled: “An Investigation into Low Temperature Shipping and Cold Chain Management of ‘Fuerte’ Avocados”.

Professor Albert Modi, an Adjunct Professor in the Discipline of Crop Science at UKZN received the Fellowship Award for his outstanding contributions to the South African Society of Crop Production.

author email : Boyceb@ukzn.ac.za



South Africa’s longest-running bird ringing project at the Darvill Bird Sanctuary in Pietermaritzburg recently celebrated 30 years of monthly bird ringing.  UKZN ornithologist, Dr Mark Brown, is the leader of this project which has seen over 30 000 birds, representing 200 species, ringed and their vital data recorded.   Some of these ringed birds have been found as far afield as Latvia and Corsica. 

The project was initiated in 1982 by Dr David Johnson of the former Natal Parks Board to track the movement of migrant and local birds.  In 2003, Brown inherited the project and has been running it ever since, recording valuable data that plays an essential role in ornithological research.  All the collected information is stored in the South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING)’s data base which operates out of the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town.

The Darvill Bird Sanctuary, which forms part of the Pietermaritzburg sewage works, is an ideal site for capturing birds.  Due to its high nutrient content, it represents a haven for high densities of birds, especially seed-eating, reed-dwelling and water birds.  Also, by using the same site, the recovery or re-catch rate is significantly increased – the national recovery rate is less than one percent as opposed to the re-trap rate at Darvill which is approximately 25 percent.  Brown said that he has re-trapped birds that were initially ringed 11 years earlier.  

Every month, Brown and his team of up to 35 volunteers, including around eight qualified bird ringers, gather at the crack of dawn at the Darvill Bird Sanctuary.  Their first task is to strategically position fine nets and traps to catch the birds.  As the birds are caught, they are expertly extracted and placed in cotton bags which are hung in a safe and shady place.  The qualified ringers, seated at a table under cover, carefully remove the birds from the bags and identify, weigh, and measure them, recording the data.  Aluminum or stainless steel rings are then placed on their legs and they are released.  An average of 150 birds are captured and ringed during any one session which normally lasts between six and seven hours.  Although the process is a fairly invasive one, the birds are not hurt in any way.  ‘If we lose one in 1 000 birds, it’s a lot’, said Brown. 

According to Brown, ‘Ringing is an essential research tool for the modern day ornithologist.’ Apart from migration, the data is used to study longevity, patterns of breeding and moulting and differences between species and sexes.

The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) at the UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine commenced its first scientific experiment in the new Biosafety Level 3 (BSL3) and Mass Spectrometer Laboratories on February 14.


Funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in the United States of America, these laboratories are a prelude to what is to be expected in the new K-RITH building, which is currently under construction at the Medical School. 


A Biosafety Level 3 laboratory (BSL3) is a highly sophisticated and sealed room capable of containing infectious material for scientific research. At K-RITH, this facility will be used to safely study many infectious strains of tuberculosis.


Fully gowned and with a respirator inside the BSL3 lab, Mr David Miranda, a visiting Research Technologist from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, inoculated liquid M.tb cultures of wild type H37RV and MDR strain A169 from culture plates. This is the first tuberculosis experiment to be conducted in the lab and is to be used for screening drug candidates when cultures are ready. The laboratory has now gone “live”.


In addition to working in the BSL3 lab, Miranda was appointed by the K-RITH Director, Dr Bill Bishai, to assist with the setting up of a mass spectrometer laboratory to measure drug concentrations in persons being treated for tuberculosis. In March he will be joined by Fulbright Scholar, Mr Blake Balcomb.


Miranda said working at UKZN has been an invaluable experience and he enjoys working with colleagues who have been very supportive of his work. ‘There are many people who suffer from TB and HIV/AIDS in this country and it is encouraging to see so many researchers tackling these diseases,' he said. He is also excited to be part of growing the pharmacology core for K-RITH.

author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za



I-African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) yase Nyuvesi yaKwaZulu-Natal yenzise abafundi bayo abenza unyaka wesibili kuzifundo zePhD indlela yoqeqesho olusezingeni oluphakeme olubizwa nge Agrobase Generation IITM. Lolu uhlelo lwekhompiyutha lusentshenziswa abafuyi bezitshalo nabacwaningi emhlabeni wonke ngezindlela zokuphatha izitshalo.


Umethulo waloluhlelo bekungu Mphathi we Agronomix Software uDokotela Dieter Mulitze wase zweni lase Canada. Lolu hlelo luzovumela abafundi be ACCI ukuba bakwazi ukurekhoda nokuhlaziya ulwazi labo lwe PhD. I- Agrobase Generation IITM isebenzisa indlela zakamuva ezingasetshenziswa abafuyi bezitshalo ukuze bagcine izizukulwane zolwazi nezindlela eziphakeme zokutshala nokwandiswa kwezitshalo.


I-ACCI isithole ilayisensi ku Agronomix Software Inc. ngenani elehlisiwe kumazwe asafufusa. Abasebenzi nabafundi be ACCI bazothola uxhaso nokuthuthukiswa kwaloluhlelo njalo ngonyaka.  Ngalonyaka i ACCI igubha iqembu leshumi labafundi abafundela ukuba abafuyi bezitshalo abazokwazi ukuba nomthelela kwezokulima e-Africa. Abafundi bangalonyaka, 2011, bayisishagalolunye abavela e Ethiopia, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda nase Zambia. 

Click here for english version

author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za



A 10-member Afghanistan Legal Aid Delegation visited UKZN from February 19-26. The delegation was on a study visit to examine the South African Legal Aid system, which is considered one of the best in the developing world.

Amongst the visitors from Afghanistan was the Minister of Justice of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Habibullah Ghalib; the Chairperson of the Legal Aid Board and Dean of Sharia at Kabul University, Mohammad Gran; the Dean of the Law Faculty at Kabul University, Professor Wali Mohammad Naseh; as well as Afghanistan Legal Aid Board members from the Human Rights Commission, the Bar Association and NGOs.

The purpose of the visit was to learn more about efficient and cost-effective ways of providing legal aid to the poor and learn more about the responsibilities of paralegals in South Africa. This visit follows the drafting of the Afghanistan Legal Aid Regulation by Professor David McQuoid-Mason from UKZN’s Faculty of Law in 2008.

In 2008 McQuoid-Mason consulted for the European Commission Justice Sector Reform Project, advising the Afghanistan Ministry of Justice on the design and establishment of a new national system of Legal Aid. Afghanistan has about 1 300 lawyers of which about 600 are in private practice, for over 30 million people, with most lawyers concentrated in the large cities, although the majority of people live in smaller towns and rural villages. The Afghanistan Constitution provides for the right to counsel in criminal matters and the challenge is to introduce a holistic approach to mechanisms for legal aid delivery. The Afghanistan Legal Aid Regulation provides for the establishment of an independent Legal Aid Board to advise the Ministry of Justice on the implementation of the programme.

Naseh said that this visit gave them an opportunity to learn more about South Africa’s legal aid and paralegal system. He added that he was impressed by the clinical work of UKZN’s Law students and would like to include it in their curriculum.

Ghalib said that linking legal aid and community service initiatives to educational institutions was one of the most useful ways of assisting poor people in society in general.

UKZN’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) hosted an MBA Speed Networking event in February. ‘The concept came about through the need to network with fellow students at the GSB’, said Mr Edwin van Niekerk, an MBA3 student.  ‘Breaking the ice in conversation is always difficult and the format of speed networking is a great way to meet people and establish a connection.’  

For the event, two circles of chairs were set up in the GSB Auditorium.  The MBA1 students sat in the outer circle facing the MBA2 and 3 students who sat in the inner circle.  The students would have a conversation with the student opposite them for approximately one minute and 20 seconds before the outer circle had to move a seat to the right and conversations then commenced with the next person.

Van Niekerk added, ‘Many businesses have been conceived at business schools and it may just need a one minute introduction to lead to great things.’  Ms Ignatia Dlamini, an MBA1 student, was of similar opinion and said, ‘I met company decision makers, business men and women who took an interest in my own small business … they were eager to assist me in developing my business. Business relations were established and I was able to secure prospective clients.’

MBA2 student, Ms Sumaiya Moola said, ‘Speed networking was a great opportunity to identify people within the GSB who aspire to a similar career trajectory as me.  The “speed” removed the formality and made it easier to share vital information without the initial reservation one experiences at a first meeting.  I think it was highly successful.’

Mr Warren Darley, an MBA3 student, also felt the evening was a great success. ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the event and found it to be a great opportunity to interact with fellow Business School students from the first and second years. The event falls perfectly in line with the ethos of attending Business School and that is to build and grow relationships with captains of industry and business whilst studying for a Masters degree. Networking is key to establishing such relationships and the evening certainly set us off on the right footing,’ he said.

‘I found the event to be extremely beneficial by directly linking individuals from different backgrounds and sectors who have a lot of common interests.  It was the perfect platform for creating a fertile ground for business interactions to blossom in the near future,’ said Mr Clive Khoza. 

Staff, students and music lovers enjoyed an exceptional lunch hour concert performed by renowned acoustic guitarist, Guy Buttery on February 21.


Buttery’s music has been described as avant-garde and exceptionally beautiful ‘from composition to technique to atmospherics’ by Guitar Player Magazine in the United States. 

Among other achievements, he won Best Instrumental Album at the South African Music (SAMA) Awards. Straight off the plane from a European Festival Tour in 2010, he returned home to South Africa for a run at the National Arts Festival and won two National Awards including the Standard Bank Golden Ovation Award for the Best Music Production of the festival, out of 4 600 acts. International recognition of his talents increased after the release of his third and latest album Fox Hill Lane.

Nearly filling the house for his performance at UKZN, Buttery took to the stage two of his signature guitars and impressed the auditorium with improvisations playing the mbira, an African musical instrument in the form of a thumb piano that has a buzz which varies from a soft shimmering hiss to a tambourine-like sound.

Buttery said his music is inspired by the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, its residents and the music that is brewed by its people. The audience enjoyed listening to compositions from his latest album and music he is currently working on.

author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za



A meet and greet for international students was held on February 10 on the Edgewood campus. It was hosted by the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Professor Michael Samuels and the International Student Office.

The students hail from Turkey, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Lesotho, Cameroon, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. They include undergraduate and postgraduate students, study abroad students and Fulbright scholars.

During the icebreaker session, the students introduced themselves, and said how they want to be remembered. There were varied responses which led to lots of laughter. The students were introduced to internal services providers, staff and external service providers, who extended a hand of friendship.

The International Student Office highlighted some of the services they provide, where they are located and the days of consultation.

The Meet and Greet ended with visitors connecting and interacting with each other over refreshments and a photo session.  

Special appreciation for their support was extended to the Corporate Relations Division, International Relations, Audio-Visual, the Upper Caff, the SRC, the International Student Association, Facilities Management, and Campus Management.
author email : ramlachanp@ukzn.ac.za