Let’s Lay a Foundation Today for our Collective Future

VC

This evening (Saturday, 18 March 2017), the Durban University of Technology inaugurated its Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, in a ceremony that was attended by over 400 guests.

High profile guests who attended the ceremony included Professor Ahmed Bawa, former DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal and now Universities South Africa CEO; Lindiwe Sisulu, Human Settlements Department Minister; Justice Mahube Molemela, Central University of Technology Chancellor; Mduduzi Manana; Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister; Judge Vuka Tshabalala, current DUT Chancellor; Frances Chisholm, U.S. Consul General in Durban; Wang Jianzhou, Chinese Consul General in Durban and Ela Gandhi, social activist and former DUT Chancellor.

The inauguration was held at the Fred Crookes Sports Centre, Steve Biko Campus, and was followed by a dinner at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (Durban ICC) to further commemorate the event.

The DUT Council appointed Prof Mthembu as the DUT’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal on 1 October 2016 on a five-year renewable term. Prof Mthembu- a respected and accomplished academic- has a PhD in Mathematics and has published mathematics papers in international journals. He has previously served as a Vice-Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Partnerships and Advancement at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) as well as in senior and executive management positions at other South African universities. Over the last 21 years, Prof Mthembu diversified his scholarly interests to include higher education governance and management, social transformation as well as public intellectualism.

In his keynote address, Prof Mthembu placed much emphasis on the need for the country (South Africa), to move forward and build a new legacy instead of being stuck in the past, adding that universities have a huge role to play in this regard. “At school, you learn to regurgitate what already exists. At university, you focus on the discovery of new ideas, new knowledge and innovations; building upon what exists in pursuance of what is yet to exist and be known. Therefore, universities are not really places of learning. In a university context, decolonisation could, in my view, only be about building upon what already exists from anywhere in the world to create something new and relevant to us as South Africans or Africans. The past is the past. The present is about to pass. We need not regurgitate or relive them. Now, we need to focus on laying the foundation today for our collective future. Decolonisation should therefore be futuristic and not a hankering after the past. Responses of yesteryear to apartheid’s sordid past, no matter how seductive, just belong in the past”, said Prof Mthembu, adding that he hoped that the country’s youth will support this sentiment in a bid to carry the country forward.

Prof Mthembu also spoke about the #FeesMustFallMovement, a campaign that has unleashed a lot of rage onto the country’s universities in a call for free higher education (in South Africa). Prof Mthembu said the problems faced by the country’s universities must not be blamed on the movement, but rather, the movement was one of the symptoms of a stunted economic growth (in South Africa). “In turn, this sad state of affairs leads to poverty and unemployment that affect a substantial portion of our society; not only university students. It is time our students find a new legacy.

The legacy should not just be a shadow of past legacies of struggle, past chants, past songs and past dances. It should be a bright new light that shines on all of South Africa. It should be about the rippened fruit for all of us to enjoy and not be wormed fruit. The legacy should not be akin to birds pooping on South Africa whilst expecting a comfortable shade under the tree. It is time, without apportioning blame and without being degenerative and retrogressive, our youth focus, and hawk like, on how to extricate this socio-economy from the doldrums it is in. It’s not about who sunk our socio-economy that will make us prosper, but who lifted it up from the doldrums. That would be a better legacy”, urged Prof Mthembu.

Various external and internal (DUT) constituencies such as the DUT Student Representative Council, Universities South Africa, the Department of Higher Education and Training, the three labour unions operating within DUT, the DUT Senate as well as the DUT Institutional Forum all passed congratulatory messages of support to Prof Mthembu, all pledging their support to Prof Mthembu as the accounting head of the Durban University of Technology.

– Sinegugu Ndlovu

Pictured from left: Professor Thandwa Mthembu, DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal; Judge Vuka Tshabalala, DUT Chancellor, Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa, DUT Registrar and Wiseman Madinane, DUT Chair of Council, shortly after Prof Mthembu’s inauguration as DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal this evening (Saturday, 18 March 2018).

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