Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-chancellor and custodian of Wits University was one of the first African scholars to conduct PhD research at the European Centre for Nuclear Research. The nuclear physicist and Wits alumnus was recently appointed as a fellow of the the Royal Society in the United Kingdom (UK).  Wits Vuvuzela had a chance to have a candid chat with Vilikazi.   

Q: In three short sentences, who is Zeblon Vilakazi?

I would like to think that I am a person dedicated to inspiring young people, scholars, researchers and academics to do their best [and] in their own way, to make a positive difference in our world for good. Although I am a nuclear physicist by training, in my current role, I serve as a custodian of this great university, which is no easy feat. It is my duty to ensure that this university thrives, for the benefit of society and to advance the public good. 

Q: What is it that you do for fun outside of the office?

I enjoy listening to classical music and attending concerts, spending time with my family and reading about history, art, and popular culture.  

Q: What are your five favourite things about Wits?

Wits translates into endless possibilities for me every day – I get to learn something new every day. One day I am learning about light in Professor Andrew Forbes’ lab, and the next I am being schooled on the next generation of vaccines.

The Wits community is intellectually, demographically and geographically diverse which makes the academic project robust, a great feature of this university. I enjoy interacting with Witsies from students to alumni they are all unique and have something to offer. 

I must confess that the Wits Art Museum, the Linder Auditorium and the Science Stadium are some of my favourite spots on campus.

Q: Where do you envision the university in the next 100 years?

Wits will remain a powerhouse in the Global South, serve as a platform to resolve the pressing issues of the 22nd century, and develop highly skilled, ethical global leaders who will serve as catalysts and changemakers wherever they go. This is highly dependent on whether we can solve our climate emergency now.   

Q: If you could time travel to any period in the last 100 years at Wits, which would it be and why?

I would want to travel to the future – I really, really want to be part of the next generation where quantum computing will be the norm. It has the power to drastically transform our lives. 

Q: What advice do you have for people wanting to conquer the edge? 

I would offer the following advice: Take all the opportunities presented to you at Wits, and beyond. Strive for excellence, learn beyond the classroom, build your networks, remain true to your values and do not forget who you are. Change the world for good.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits Vice-chancellor, Zeblob Vilakazi. Photo: Wits News