The University of KwaZulu-Natal will award approximately 8 832 degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels at the University’s Graduation ceremonies which will be held over seven days commencing on Monday 16 April, and will end on Tuesday 24 April. An impressive 5 439 (62 percent) of the graduands are women and 520 are international students. A total of 153 doctoral degrees will be conferred.  Women constitute 58 percent of the 371 graduands who will graduate cum laude and summa cum laude respectively. The degrees will be conferred at the 20 ceremonies that will be held on the Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses. Seventy two graduands with disabilities will receive their degrees. Approximately 1 492 degrees will be conferred in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science; 776 in the College of Health Sciences; 4 578 in the College of Humanities and 1 986 in the College of Law and Management Studies.

In addition, the University will confer honorary degrees and will honour six leading South Africans for their outstanding contributions in the scientific, arts, human rights, social sciences, political, and academic sectors and through their innovation, resilience, altruism and intellect in their respective fields, have changed the lives of people both in South Africa and globally.  Honorary degrees will be conferred on Yvonne Chaka Chaka Mhinga, the late Lawrence Anthony, Virginia Gcabashe, Hugh Chittenden, Mahmood Mamdani and Zuleikha Mayat. The late Lawrence Anthony, a highly respected international conservationist, will be honoured posthumously with a Doctor of Science degree honoris causa. His son Mr Dylan Anthony will accept the award and deliver an address at the ceremony on Tuesday 17 April that will commence at 19h00 at the Westville campus.


Three honours students from the School of Language, Literature and Linguistics have been awarded scholarships to further their postgraduate studies at UKZN in theoretical linguistics.

The students are Mr Percival Buthelezi, Ms Monwabisi Mhlophe and Mr Simbarashe Bassoppo-Moyo.

‘It is well-known that many promising African students cannot continue with postgraduate studies because of financial constraints and those who do are often forced to take up extra work outside the University to pay for their tuition,’ said Professor Jochen Zeller.

Financial support was given to the three promising isiZulu-speaking students in the form of small scholarships to enable them to continue to study theoretical linguistics at postgraduate level.

Buthelezi was grateful he had been awarded the scholarship. ‘This frees me up to now concentrate on my academic work. Getting the scholarship also means I can finally be a post graduate student.’

Buthelezi will be trained in giving syntactic analysis of isiZulu grammar. ‘With the scholarship, I will be able to contribute to the much required research on grammar of indigenous languages,’ he said.

Bassoppo-Moyo said he hoped to make a contribution in the study and research of Bantu languages especially isiZulu. ‘This scholarship enables me to further my studies at postgraduate level which would have been virtually impossible without it.’

A joint initiative involving UKZN’s School of Built Environment and Development Studies and the Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE) will see five students embarking on a two-year graduate training internship programme in town and regional planning this year.

The initiative - the Graduate Planner Internship Programme – is a pilot project and the direct result of a recently-signed Memorandum of Agreement between eThekwini Municipality and UKZN, the Mangosuthu University of Technology and Durban University of Technology.

The five UKZN graduates Mr Siphamandla Mzimela, Miss Anele Ndlela, Mr Dennis Maphanga, Mr Bhekani Nzimande and Miss Reena Ramsaru were eager and nervous when they attended their induction at the MILE offices recently.

‘It is a great pleasure for us to gain experience in eThekwini Municipality, I feel privileged and blessed. In fact eThekwini Municipality is one of those well-resourced, managed and administered municipalities in the country and to be doing an internship here is a dream come true for me,’ said Maphanga.

According to Mr Collin Pillay of MILE, the overall objective of the pilot programme is to afford planning students, with  Masters qualifications, an opportunity to gain work experience in the related field which would lead towards their recognition as  registered planners.

The South African Council of Planners (SACPLAN) stipulates that a minimum of two years’ work experience is needed for recognition as a registered planner. ‘With this internship programme, we are confident that the graduate planner will gain sufficient experience for professional recognition and will in turn become a part of the pool of professional planners who can enter the labour market,’ said Pillay.

Some of UKZN’s strategic community management projects had the opportunity to be introduced to the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) in KwaZulu-Natal during a breakfast meeting coordinated by Ms Nicola Latchiah, Senior Development Officer at the UKZN Foundation at Howard College on 4 April.

The purpose of the meeting was find ways of creating future collaborations in some of the projects between the NEF and the University, which could lead to a possible MOU. UKZN Foundation’s Executive Director, Bruno van Dyk officially opened the meeting by welcoming guests and colleagues. 

The KwaZulu-Natal NEF Regional Manager, Mr Phakamile Madonsela, said that one of the main purposes of the NEF is to increase the funding provided by the Fund in KZN to 30 percent, and to establish how the University can offer their expertise in meeting this objective.

Among the project leaders that presented to the NEF were Dr Kira Erwin, from the Kenneth Gardens Community project; Professor Shahida Cassim, Centre for Entrepreneurship; Ms Debbie Heustice, Centre for HIV/Aids Networking and Dr Maxwell Mudhara, Farmer Support Group. They each presented on their current and future projects being done in each sector.

Once the University colleagues had made their presentations, Madonsela posited that there were a broad range of projects he had identified during the presentations in which the NEF could be involved. He added that an innovative way of ensuring sustainability of projects was by providing equity for the communities in companies that had an interest in the project especially as a way of ensuring black economic empowerment.  He went on to say that there would be immediate funding in UKZN’s agricultural projects.


Some of the aims stated by the NEF during the presentation were, to bridge the gap in terms of understanding how women and the youth can be effectively integrated into agricultural value chains, the alleviation of factors constraining women and the youth into penetrating these markets, and the improvement of information and communication with the University.


Additional possible collaborations discussed included the NEF utilising University research to benefit the people on the ground, and partnering with academics and people with expertise to oversee some of the NEF’s existing funded projects.

Former academic and Ecologist Mr CJ Roddy Ward is the first recipient of the John Medley Wood Award from the Durban Botanic Gardens Trust.

The Trust guides and nurtures the Durban Botanic Gardens and continues to ensure excellence in what is considered Africa’s oldest surviving and uninterrupted Botanic Gardens.

The award was named after former Director and Curator of the Durban Botanic Gardens, John Medley Wood, who had an extreme passion for botany. Wood, Curator in 1882, received much acclaim, including an honorary doctorate, for his dedication to the flora of Natal and Zululand.

The award will be presented annually to outstanding contributors to the field of botany and horticulture in KwaZulu-Natal.

Ward received the award due to his exceptional character and the unique contribution he has brought to botany and horticulture in the KwaZulu-Natal region over time. ‘It is a double honour to receive the First John Medley Award because I regard the work I do as a reward on its own,’ he said in his acceptance speech.

Ward, who has always had a close association with natural ecosystems and habitats, said he had tried to learn as much as he could about the plant diversity in KwaZulu-Natal. He has recorded, in incredible detail, observations of plant morphology, phenology and ecology. Through his work he has become known as an outstanding contributor to the field of plant science.

Chair of the Trust, Mr Ivor Daniel, congratulated Ward and said that the award should inspire others in botany to continue contributing knowledge to their field.

Dr Christina Potgieter in the School of Life Sciences on the Pietermaritzburg campus gave a presentation on Ward’s work. She mentioned that W
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UKZN Masters student in Music, Mr Isaac Machafa, recently outlined his research into mbira performance in the context of the Zimbabwean government’s “Arts and Culture” policy. Machafa is exploring the impact of cultural policy and the music festival concept in shaping and preserving traditional music and dances.

Speaking at the Howard College campus, Machafa said: “As Zimbabwe celebrates its 32nd Independence anniversary soon with an Independence Gala Music festival on the cards, it is time to re-examine some old colonial Bills still existing today as they relate to and impact on cultural issues and the performance of traditional music - mbira in particular.’

He said many of these Bills were designed to exclude the indigenous African people together with aesthetic values and ideals that characterised their tradition. Many Government and quasi-Government institu­tions, especially cultural ones, were still informed by colonial policies especially those pertain­ing to the arts and humanities, even after 32 years of independence.

‘Mbira music will once again come under the spotlight as a genre that contains the bulk of liberation war songs which brought about independence.  The instrument and the accompanying music are noted for the ability to summon the spirits for guidance and wellness amongst others,’ said Machafa.

Machafa will conduct his field work in Zimbabwe through engaging with National Arts Council administrators, culture educationists, traditional music and dance researchers and Mbira artists as well as by attending mbira music festivals.

He plays the mbira instrument and will be involved in organising some of the music festival events in Zimbabwe such as the main mbira music festival The Bira LamaGwenyambira later this year.

Through his research Machafa is hoping to initiate debates that may lead to a further review and development of cultural policies in developing countries. ‘I think there is need to promote the indigenous knowledge
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Herodotus and the San, the San and the Egyptians, memeplexes and myths and the evolution of cultures are just some of the elements to be critically studied by Classics Master’s student Ms Catherine Bilro.

Bilro’s research will focus on a comparison of San and Greek mythology with the critical application of Richard Dawkins’ theory of memetics - the theoretical and empirical science that study the replication, spread and evolution of memes.

‘I was originally drawn to the topic in my third year research project. In my honours year I continued to work on it and naturally it became my MA dissertation,’ said Bilro.

‘It was first my Supervisor, Professor John Hilton, who encouraged me to do my honours and then my masters. I really enjoyed the research I did in honours and so it seemed like a natural progression,’ said Bilro.

She explained the San were once found throughout southern Africa but the compounding effects of colonisation and the movement of other African people led to the rapid decline of these nomadic peoples. ‘Much of their history, culture and traditions were lost. This loss was compounded by the fact that the San belonged to an oral culture and no autographic written accounts of their myths survive,’ she said.

However, while the relative lack of primary sources imposes limits on Bilro’s research, it is also the core reason why she chose to conduct the study.

‘As much must be learnt of this culture and this group of people as possible while evidence of them still exists. In a country such as South Africa, raising awareness about individual groups is integral to national development and leads to a better understanding of the peoples of the country as a who
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Developing consistent postgraduate processes for the College of Humanities was the aim of a recent workshop held at the Makaranga Garden Lodge in Kloof by the College’s Research Office.

A goal of the College of Humanities is to increase its postgraduate intake and throughput, an aim which is consistent with the University’s strategic goals.

A factor which may inhibit the College from achieving these targets is inconsistent or inefficient processes and procedures.  The Acting Dean of Research, Professor Sarojini Nadar, said: ‘This is particularly true in the reconfigured system where several process issues remain unresolved.’ 

Led by Nadar, the workshop brought together about 42 academic and administrative staff from the College and its six Schools. 

Even though many staff in the College are busy preparing for graduation, Nadar said it was a “fortuitous time” to have the workshop as staff had during the past few months been through various postgraduate processes such as registration, examination of dissertations and theses and capturing of degrees. 

Nadar explained that it is important to ‘find consistency across the College’ which in some cases may involve ‘discarding the old and embracing the new’.  She encouraged everyone to work together and to re-evaluate the way they are doing business to come up with best practice.  ‘You are the people who are working at the coal face so we really need your input,’ she said.

Chaired by School Academic Leaders for Research, the workshop was divided into strategic sessions which ranged from marketing and recruitment all the way through to pre-and-post examination procedures and graduation.  Each step in the process was evaluated which involved scrutinizing the associated documentation and standardising procedures across all Schools. 

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Scandinavian Ecologist and Sociologist Dr Henrik Ernston was at UKZN recently to present his research on urban ecology in relation to plants, people, politics and collective action in post apartheid Cape Town.

The presentation was organised jointly by the School of Built Environment and Development Studies and the Centre for Civil Society.

With increasing urbanisation and the ecological crisis, “urban ecology” has been engaged by both academia and civil society.

Ernston’s presentation led to a fervent discussion about who can claim to be in the know about urban ecology, about epistemological and ontological politics, and how that is played out in the political ecology of Cape Town in particular. His insightful presentation led to people at the seminar discussing various aspects of urban ecology with him, often leading to new revelations and realisations. 

Ernston discussed in detail the ethnographic research of a grassroots initiative to rehabilitate a fynbos vegetation wetland habitat in Grassy Park, Cape Town, a lower-middle class suburb classified as a “Coloured” area during apartheid.

This case study he used was highlighted and contrasted with the efforts by biologists and civil servants to produce a biodiversity map for Cape Town and also use the framework of “ecosystem services” to build a “business case” for the city’s “natural assets”.

‘Through the collective action at Grassy Park we learn there are ways to undermine the neat
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Labour laws and dispute resolutions were under scrutiny at a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) presentation for BCom Industrial Relations honours students at UKZN.

Delivered by CCMA Matters of Mutual Interest official Mr William Msibi, the aim of the presentation was to give students a practical view of how labour disputes are handled and resolved as well as the CCMA’s role in facilitating this process.

‘Our role as the CCMA is to try and persuade parties to reach a common ground with no-one being forced to accept what they do not want to. Consultation is vital as someone might lose their job so when guiding employers one needs to ensure you have gone through the case thoroughly,’ said Msibi.

Meanwhile, to ensure students are exposed to global developments and trends, Industrial Relations/Labour Law Lecturer Mr Kwazi Majola is making the module as practical as possible involving his students in role plays to fully understand how disciplinary and CCMA meetings are held in the workplace.

Majola said that the lecture was beneficial because at Industrial Relations honours level, students were regarded as experts.

‘On their very first day at work next year students could well be asked to represent their employer in a dispute that may have financial implications for the organisation. Therefore, as a new employee, they need to be in a position to advise management, especially about the rules, procedures and policies involved.

‘The  aim of the presentation was for students to learn more about CCMA successes and challenges as an independent organisation, case law, statistics and the commission’s relationship with the bargaining and the statutory councils.  It is crucial for the University to produce knowledgeable, well-prepared and high calibre students for the workplace,’ said Majola.
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