By Nokuthula Manyathi, Emelia Motsai and Shandukani Mulaudzi
Professor Adam Habib was officially installed as Wits vice chancellor and principal on Saturday. Habib took over the position from Prof Loyiso Nongxa at the beginning of June. Before moving to Wits Habib was deputy vice-chancellor for research,innovation, library and faculty Coordination at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
Guests at the event included Moeletsi Mbeki, George Bizos, Mamphela Ramphele, Given Mkhari and Ahmad Kathrada. Habib’s wife Fatima and their two sons were also present.
Guests were treated to a cocktail party on the library lawns after the installation.
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Wits’ new vice chancellor and its SRC president have similar visions for the future of the university in the next ten years which they expressed in different ways yesterday at Professor Adam Habib’s installation ceremony.
Habib was officially appointed as Wits’ vice chancellor and principal in a ceremony presided over by Wits chancellor Justice Dikgang Moseneke. SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa stole the show with his light-hearted speech that struck the right chords.
SRC President 2023 writes a letter
Mgudlwa, said his speech from the perspective of a letter written to him by an SRC president leading in the year 2023.
Mgudlwa’s fictional 2023 SRC president wrote the letter from her flat in Soweto off her iPad that she received for free at registration. She told “dear Sibu” that the university’s WiFi had a reach across the city of Johannesburg.
In 2023 there was no such thing as discrimination based on race and poor students were taken care of to the extent that no students were sleeping in libraries, or sleeping with empty stomachs. Mgudlwa said in 2023 sexual harassment was a myth. He had the audience laughing loudly when he said that the Wits University of 2023 did not charge students for protesting, alluding to the charges against 11 Witsies for their involvement in a protest.
Habib’s equality vision
In Habib’s speech, he referred to inequality as South Africa’s Achilles’ heel. Habib said his vision was for an “Afropolitan dream” to drive South Africans and all at Wits University.
Habib said the essence of this dream as defined by Wits Humanities scholar, Achille Mbembe, is: “A commitment to the country, continent and globe; where we are at one with being African and human”. Habib said Wits was committed to addressing issues of transformation and diversity and apologised to those who had faced discrimination of any kind in the past.
Wits “World class university”
Habib also spoke about what it means for Wits to be a world class university. He said it was important for Wits to compete in its own right without imitating the foreign. “It is the responsiveness to one’s contextual specificities that enhances a university’s ability to make unique contributions to the global corpus of knowledge.”
Mgudlwa said in 2023 Wits would sit firmly in the top 100 universities of the world.[pullquote align=”right”]“We trust that you will lead this university to greater heights and if you do not, we have you on Twitter.” [/pullquote]
Hope for student-focused Wits
Mgudlwa said he hoped that Habib would focus on students and listen to students on university issues. He said if Habib was not accountable to students, they would express themselves one way or the other.
“We trust that you will lead this university to greater heights and if you do not, we have you on twitter.” The ceremony was attended by a number of local and international dignitaries including Ahmad Kathrada, vice-chancellors of a number of South African and African universities, Advocate George Bizos, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Moeletsi Mbeki, and the Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom who delievered a speech as well.
The young supporters, who came to the launch of Mamphela Ramphele’s new political party, hope she will help them find jobs.
“I have a degree; I’m struggling to get a job. I am hoping that she’ll help me get a job,” said Ndivhuwo Tshaduli, (24).
Agang was launched at the Pretoria show grounds today and attracted thousands of young South Africans clad in white t-shirts.
Another supporter Junior Mofomme said she’s been unemployed since 2005, “I have a tertiary qualification. I can’t get a real job”. Mofomme said she hope Ramphele will bring about change.
[pullquote align=”right”]“The leaders of this current government set an appalling example that others follow”[/pullquote]
In her speech Ramphele told the crowd “20 years is too long to wait for jobs,” and that “this government is destroying our economy and our society.”
“The failure of the education system is robbing young people of their futures and is handicapping the progress of our country”.
Matric student, Martin Mathebula (18) said he will vote for Agang because he wanted an “equal education”.
“Agang means let’s built South Africa, that means equal education. I am tired of waiting,” said Mathebula
Ramphele said she was inspired by a burning ambition to expect excellence in education: “If we upgrade the education system and get the economy moving we can start to tackle the poverty and despair that are at the heart of our social problems and are the root causes of crime.”
She said that corruption was at the heart of the problems South Africa is facing.
“The leaders of this current government set an appalling example that others follow,” said Ramphele.
“We deserve to have a President who knows that it is wrong to steal money meant for RDP houses to build himself a R206 million palace.”
Unemployed Huitsimang Sethunya (21), said she hoped Ramphele would finish the work the African National Congress (ANC) started but is failing to complete.
Derek Hook (right) answers questions after his lecture on writing about Steve Biko. Photo: Nolwazi Mjwara
IT COULD be considered quite problematic to have a white person address an audience about techniques that could be used in writing a Steve Biko biography. Biko is of course of the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement but Derek Hook did this with confidence yesterday.
“Why are there such limited Biko biographies?,” asked Hook at the Writing Biko lecture.
A new biography
Hook, a lecturer at the University of London; and a visiting associate professor in Psychology at Wits, was asked by the HSRC (Human Sciences Research Council) press to contribute to a series of books called Voices of Liberation.
The publishers asked Hook, who is also a lead researcher in the Apartheid Archive Project based at Wits University, to be involved in the writing of a biographical Biko essay.
Hook said that creating a new and fresh Biko biography was difficult due to the limited set of historical facts and documents.
He argued that one of the best ways to write a Biko biography was: “simply to do something like a meta-analysis of all the existing biographical treatments”.
During the process of explaining this meta-analysis, Hook read and discussed passages chronicling Biko’s life written by Donald Woods, Dr Xolela Mangcu and Dr Mamphela Ramphele.
Central to Hook’s talk was to investigate “how ‘creative non-fiction’ [writing] might serve as a methodological resource that aids the writer in returning to key narrative events in the various accounts of Biko’s life.” Hook discussed four possible literary techniques which one might use in telling the life story of such a renowned thought leader.
[pullquote]“Why are there such limited Biko biographies?” [/pullquote] Hook suggested anecdotal storytelling, characterisation, writing a story within a story and the use of extrapolated scenes Although such terms might have left those unfamiliar with creative non-fiction writing somewhat confused, Hook took great care in explaining and exemplify these concepts.
“What has started to become of interest to me was this idea of creative non-fiction, historical life writing… [Which] will be able to guide us to produce new insight and perspectives on Biko’s life,” said Hook
Hook presented the lecture as a way of discussing new ways to plot the Steve Biko legacy. He said the one challenge that he had encountered in the process of writing a Biko biography was writing the last scene of Biko’s life.
“How do you write the last scene in the story … I can’t really do it,” he said. Hook explained the difficulty was mainly due to getting the accurate and truthful facts of what Biko endured in his last days.