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The keynote address at the ENVISION2030 Institutional Excellence Awards 2021/2022 held by the offices of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement (DVC: RIE) and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: People and Operations at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), has called for the university community to be more supportive towards one another.

The awards were held last Saturday, 26 November 2022 at the Fred Crookes Sports Centre, Steve Biko campus. Ms Thandeka Xaba, founder of Digital Africa Ventures and current Acting DVC: RIE, Professor Keolebogile Motaung’s mentee, applauded DUT for being a university that is fuelling innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Xaba is an entrepreneur who had quitted her job as an investment banker and founded GlamAlly which contributed to the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation incubation programme. She has been at the forefront of witnessing the catalytic impact that businesses can contribute in promoting and boosting communities and she continues to do so by using entrepreneurship as a drive for excellence via Digital Africa Ventures. 

After she (Xaba) founded Digital Africa Ventures at the age of 27 she was one of Africa’s youngest venture Capitalist of all time and the pressure to get it right the first time was immense, and people did not believe it was going to work. However, she quickly learned that she was not going to be alone, there was a community of people who had been there before her who were willing to teach her the ropes. Through her team, mentor, and board of advisors she has received more support in building Digital Africa Ventures 

“The lesson there is to ask for help, do not do things alone. The success of entrepreneurship lies strongly in a community that works together,” said Xaba. 

Over R18 million in a period of two and a half years has been invested in majority black founded seed stage businesses. Although many people did not believe that Xaba and her team will make it, but they did, and she extends her gratitude to the community. Furthermore, she advised those who can provide help to business startups to raise their hand and offer the assistance required. “The success of entrepreneurship lies strongly in a community that works hard, trusts one another, and does not hold back in helping each other. We cannot and should not try to do it alone. We need each other to succeed. We need each other to be excellent,” echoed Xaba.

Keynote speaker, Ms Thandeka Xaba accepting a gift from the DUT Marketing and PR intern, Siphiwe William after her presentation.

Xaba further highlighted how in the USA entrepreneurs, universities and venture capitalists have worked together to literally transform the USA from a manufacturing led industry to a tech driven industry. She zoomed onto how universities such as MIT, Harvard and Stamford have played a very meaningful role in enabling innovation, funding research and development, and in addition challenged the Durban University of Technology to use its geographical position to its advantage to play a similar role in South Africa. She firmly believes that DUT is capable since it is a university with a community representing all the parties she mentioned, from aspiring entrepreneurs to a university that is very intent on fueling innovation and venture capitalists who are seeking investment opportunities meaning that all the ingredients needed to fix and grow South Africa are at DUT. All that is needed to do is to create supportive communities, leaving egos at the door and to being excellent and develop the region, country, and the world. 

Xaba was largely applauded by the audience for her sentiments that spoke directly to each and every individual present on the day.

In his opening address, the DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu remarked that the staff and students deserving of the awards are fundamental in helping to build a DUT that is Different, Upended and Transformed.

Sharing the same sentiments was the Chair of Council, Mr Wiseman Madinane, who congratulated all the awardees and thanked them for being ambassadors of the ENVISION2030. 

The recipients of the ENVISION2030 INSTITUTIONAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS were in categories: 

Senior Researcher of the Year Award: The criteria for this award required at least six accredited publication units for the award yearThe winner was Prof Nirmala Dorasamy, Faculty of Management Sciences.  

Women Researcher of the Year Award: The criteria for this award required a minimum of four accredited publication units for the award year. The award was presented to Prof Nirmala Dorasamy, Faculty of Management Sciences.  

Research Initiative of the Year Award: In this category the criteria for this award required at least five accredited publication units through the initiative. The initiative needed to show promise of making a significant contribution to their field as well as the staff /students being mentored. The award was bestowed to Dr Kunle Oparinde, Institute of System Science.  

Junior Researcher of the Year Award: The criteria for this award required at least three accredited publication units for the award year. The award went to Dr Saheed Sabiu, Faculty of Applied Sciences.  

Faculty Researcher of the Year Award: The criteria for this award was that the applicant must be an academic staff currently conducting research and/or creative productivity; must be at the DUT for a minimum of one academic year before applying and have a minimum of 4 accredited publication units (Platinum category) and 3 accredited publication units (Gold Category) for the award year.  

The winners were: Faculty of Accounting and Informatics, Gold Category: Dr Ferina Marimuthu.

  • Faculty of Applied Sciences, Gold Category: Dr Saheed Sabiu. 
  • Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, Platinum Category: Dr Oludolapo Akanni Olanrewaju.
  • Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, Gold Category: Prof Innocent Davidson.
  • Faculty of Health Sciences, Platinum Category: Prof Raisuyah Bhagwan. 
  • Faculty of Management Sciences, Platinum Category: Prof Robert Zondo. 
  • Faculty of Management Sciences, Gold Category: Dr Reshma Sucheran. 
  • Institute of System Science, Dr Kostiantyn Zloschastiev.

The Newly Rated Researchers (NRF) rating system is a key driver in the NRF’s aim to build a globally competitive science system in South Africa. Rated researchers can also impart cutting-edge skills to the next generation of researchers and contribute to mentoring others.

NRF Newly Rated Researchers are:


  • Prof John Mellem, Faculty of Applied Sciences.
  • Prof Feroz Swalaha, Faculty of Applied Sciences.
  • Prof Santosh Kumar Kuttan Pillai, Faculty of Applied Sciences.
  • Prof Surendra Thakur, Faculty of Accounting and Informatics.
  • Dr Debbie Whelan, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.



  • Dr Rajasekhar Chokkareddy, Faculty of Applied Sciences.
  • Dr Magret Olarewaju, Faculty of Accounting and Informatics.
  • Dr Daniel Raphael Ejike Ewim, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.


NRF Re-Rated Researchers are:


  • Prof Megandhren Govender, Faculty of Applied Sciences.
  • Prof Sheena Kumari Kuttan PillaI, Faculty of Applied Sciences.
  • Dr Kostiantyn Zloschastiev, Institute of System Science.
  • Dr Kira Erwin,Urban Futures Centre.


Chancellor’s Award: Impactful

Category  Project Leader  Name Of Project 


Awarded to an initiative/project in teaching, research or public engagement that significantly contribute to the reciprocal partnership between DUT and society and that shows the university operating with glocal vision and ambition.

Ms Phumzile Xulu  


Ms Xulu is an Engagement Practitioner at DUT. Since 2015, she has served as a Member of the Advisory Committee for the South African Law Reform Commission on Project 143


Project Team Members 

Mrs Nonhlanhla Nyandeni, Dr Myalo Sabela, Mr Alex Mdletshe,Ms Vasantha Govender,Mr Mthandeni Mkhize,Phakamile Mazibuko, Ms Xoliswa Cele, Mr Sibongiseni Mkhize, Dr Thabanga Mokothu, Mr Sandile Sithole, Dr Siyabonga Ndlela, Mr Zamani  Miya, Mr Thanda Khuzwayo, Ms Nonhlanhla Nyandeni and Ms Tracy Khuzwayo.

DUT Mahlabathini Schools Engagement Programme 

The programme sought to provide high schools in Mahlabathini with access to resources and knowledge, that they would not traditionally have access to, at no cost to the schools or the DoE. This included a Chemistry/Physical Sciences experiments demonstration, career guidance and

motivation and support with Eskom Expo Projects development.


Awarded to an initiative/project in teaching, research or public engagement that significantly contribute to the reciprocal partnership between DUT and society and that shows the university operating with glocal vision and ambition.

Professor Faizal Bux  


Prof F Bux is the Director of the IWWT and NRF-SARChI Chair holder in wastewater treatment. He has ~30 years of experience in the field of water and wastewater treatment technology. He serves in an advisory capacity for NGO’s and local municipalities on water-related matters and pollution.


Project Team Members 

Prof Sheena Kumari Kuttan Pillai, Dr Isaac Dennis Amoah, Dr Leanne Pillay, Mr Kriveshin Pillay

Wastewater-based epidemiology for COVID-19 monitoring.


Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is an approach that analyses raw sewage for viral signature and quantifies the viral load. In order for WBE to act as early warning system, efficient methods need to be developed and applied. A more advanced droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) protocol was developed for this application. This approach was the first time was used in South Africa and this team was the second team to use it globally.




Awarded to an innovative initiative that equips students for the best start in their future careers

Dr Anisa Vahed 

Dr Vahed is a Dental Technology academic, researcher, and practitioner in the Dental Sciences department (DUT).  A Fulbright Fellow, Y2 NRF-rated researcher, Teaching Advancements at Universities Fellow, and recently appointed as an Implementation Support Practitioner for ENVISION2030 at DUT, her research interests include undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry, understanding articulation pathways through unfurling the post-school education and training, Specifications Grading, and internationalising the curriculum through Collaborative Online International Learning, which uses digital technologies to infuse intercultural and global dimensions into curriculum content.

Project Team Member 

Prof Sibusiso Moyo (External)

Supporting Undergraduate Research Excellence (SURE)


The SURE project supports the provision of a “distinctive education” through undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry (UGRSCI) with the objective of developing ‘adaptive graduates’ with inquiring minds, to problem solve and experience meaningful learning. Faculty members engaging with UGRSCI benefit by increasing their visibility and developing their own research knowledge and skills.

Joint award Professor Keolebogile Motaung  

Prof   Motaung is a Full Professor, Biomedical Scientist and Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Innovation & Engagement at the Durban University of Technology with more than 24 years’ experience in Higher Education. Prof Motaung is a well-established scientist with international recognition in her field of stem cells, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.


Project Team Members 

Ms Sharlynn Beekrum;

Ms Dorinda Borg.

DUT Chair of Council, Mr Wiseman Madinane presenting a joint award to the Acting DVC: RIE, Professor Keolebogile Motaung with project team members, Ms Dorinda Borg and Ms Sharlynn Beekrum under the Chancellor’s Awards: Impactful category.


Collaborative Entrepreneurial Project between TTI, Food Science and Somatology. 


It is a collaborative project involving the TTI Director working with both the Food Science and the Somatology Department, from two faculties. Both departments developed a project, aligned to learning outcomes from their qualifications, designed to promote academic entrepreneurship around product development within their respective disciplines and relating to the promotion of a SDG, of the United Nations Development Programme.   The students incorporated the steps of ideation, selection, concept development and testing, market analysis, development of the marketing plan and market testing, allowed the prototyping of innovative products in the underutilised products sector.



  • Council Award: Distinctive


Awarded to an individual or team who have made a major contribution through integration of knowledge by converging findings from different disciplines, identifying trends to advance new knowledge

Professor Faizal Bux  


His research focus has primarily been on the remediation of domestic and industrial waste streams, waste beneficiation, bioremediation, algal biotechnology and wastewater-based epidemiology. He has built a substantive track record gaining national and international accolades. Prof Bux was one of the first researchers globally to investigate microalgal propagation in wastewater focusing on beneficiation and treatment and has published extensively in the field.

Project Team Members 

Dr Ismail Rawat, Dr Faiz A Ansari, Dr Trisha Mogany, Mr Mhlengi Ngcobo, Mr Raman R Sewjugath


Production of Biofuels Using Algal Biomass 



In the quest to produce renewable energy from sustainable feedstock, microalgal biodiesel is a potential alternative to fossil fuels which is carbon neutral and thus reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions. Due to their high growth rate, lipid accumulation capability and environmental benefits, microalgae have attracted much attention as a feedstock for biofuels production. Major challenges for successful implementation of this technology are large scale cultivation, ensuring high biomass and lipid productivities, efficient and cost-effective harvesting and extraction processes.



  • Vice-Chancellor’s Award: Creative




Awarded to a project/initiative that influences environmental sustainability, through teaching, innovations and partnerships

Prof Sheena Kumari Kuttan Pillai  


Prof Kumari, is an NRF rated (C2) researcher at the Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology. Her research interests include biological wastewater treatment, antimicrobial resistance, and emerging pollutants in wastewater. She has authored over 80 peer-reviewed publications (Google Scholar H index 28) in leading ISI journals, contributed to several book chapters, and presented at national and international conferences.


Project Team Members 

Prof Faizal Bux, Ms Londiwe Dlamini, Dr Ismail Rawat, Dr Khalid Muzamil


Bridging the Water: Co-create to learn and experience 

Safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as meeting ever-increasing water demands, are challenges facing the South African water sector. More than 50% of wastewater treatment and water works in the country are in poor or critical condition and require immediate rehabilitation. This project aimed to implement innovative and effective training and teaching methods to improve the skills in the water sector of the country.

Joint Award Ms Blessing Kanyumba, Ms Makhosazane Twala


Makhosazana Twala is the Acting Senior Residence Life Officer at the Student Housing and Residence Life Unit. Her vast experience spreads across child and youth development, with particular focus on holistic student support and development.



Blessing Kanyumba is a Residence Advisor, GCI advisor and Lecturer at DUT. She is passionate about student development and environmental sustainability. Blessing is also a researcher within the DUT community.

One Residence One Garden 



The ONE RESIDENCE ONE GARDEN is a student led project spearheaded by Green Campus Initiative (GCI). The main aim of the project is to alleviate hunger among students and putting students at the centre of resolution to their own social challenges.

The project fosters stewardship and critical thinking amongst students, through developing new agricultural models that extends beyond the traditional aid to eradicate hunger in innovative ways. The One Residence One Garden seeks to advocate for each residence to have a food garden project that would help alleviate hunger in the residences whilst fostering a culture of sustainable energy and food consumption.


Awarded to an initiative that contributes to building a culture of divergent thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship

Dr Dianna Lynette Moodley 


Dr Moodley completed extensive studies in Sociolinguistics, having spent almost a decade in the US. Her research specialisation lies in Language Policy in South African Higher Education.


Project Team Members 

Mr Garreth August,

Miss Jodie du Plessis (external).



DigiFest and Annual Research Conference 2021 

By bringing together local and international academics, students and industry professionals with a common school of thought in creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, this virtual event helped build community, facilitate robust engagement and expand networks. The theme was interrogated from interdisciplinary, creative and innovative perspectives, including Music, Fashion, Peacebuilding, Robotics, Arts and Craft, Institutional Management, Architecture, Education, Mining, Computing, Technology, Dance, Film, Gender Issues, E-Learning and social media. The event focused on discussing, showcasing and celebrating practices that reflected the participants’ experiences during the pandemic to unleash (unmask) creativity, as well as innovation and entrepreneurship to solve problems after the pandemic.



  • Vice-Chancellor’s Research and Innovation Award

Innovator of the Year Award: The applicant for this award needed to show the innovation, its importance, uniqueness, and usefulness.

The winners were Prof Krishnan Kanny, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment and Dr Oluwatoyin Joseph Gbadeyan, Faculty of Applied Sciences.  

Creative Outputs of the Year Award: The criteria for this award was that the researcher must be currently conducting research and/or engaged in creative productivity. The trio of winners were Dr Dianna Moodley, Mr Niresh Singh and Mr Robin Gengan, Faculty of Arts and Design.


Research Group of the Year Award: A research group needed to constitute at least five members. The criteria for this award required

The DVC: People and Operations at DUT, Dr Vuyo Mthethwa presenting the Research Group of the Year Award to the Green Engineering Research Group led by Professor Sudesh Rathilal.

that a group must have at least six accredited publication units in the reporting year. The award went to Green Engineering Research Group. Prof Sudesh Rathilal was the Research Group Leader.  

Doctoral Student of the Year Award – The criteria for this award was that the applicant must be a full-time student who is currently studying toward their doctorate. The award consisted of:

  1. Platinum award category which was awarded to top doctoral student with at least 1 accredited publication unit.
  2. Gold award category was awarded across faculties to top doctoral students with at least 0.5 publication unit.
  • The winner for the Platinum category was Dr Kweinor Emmanuel Tetteh, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.
  • The winner for the Gold category was Dr Helper Zhou, Faculty of Management Sciences.

Masters Student of the Year Award: The criterion for this award was that the applicant must be currently studying towards their Masters; involved in research and/or creative work and published 0.5 accredited publication units. The award consists of:

  1. Platinum award, awarded to top master’s student with at least 0.5 accredited publication unit. It went to Mr Sthembiso Thabiso Msomi, Faculty of Accounting and Informatics. 
  2. Gold awards were awarded across faculties to top master’s students with at least 0.25 publication unit. The winner was Ms Gloria Amo-Duodu, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment. 


Top Journal Publishers for Accredited Outputs (PDFs/RAs/RFs): This award recognises the Postdoctoral fellows, Research Associates and Research Fellows for been top journal publishers of DHET accredited outputs at the DUT. There were three categories namely: Platinum, Gold and Silver. The winners were:

  • Platinum Category, Dr Paliathanasis Andronikos, Institute of System Science. 
  • Gold Category, Prof Dimov S Ilcev, Space Science Centre.   
  • Silver Category, Dr Kostiantyn  Zloschastiev, Institute of System Science. 

Top Supervisor per Faculty: In this category these are Supervisors who have successfully supervised the most students in the last graduation. There are two categories: Platinum and Gold per faculty. The winners were:

  • Faculty of Accounting and Informatics (Platinum category), Prof Oludayo Olugbara. 
  • Faculty of Accounting and Informatics (Gold Category), Dr Alveen Singh. 
  • Faculty of Applied Sciences (Gold Category), Professor Santosh Pillai. 
  • Faculty of Arts and Design (Platinum category), Professor Tabitha Mukeredzi. 
  • Faculty of Arts and Design (Gold Category), Professor Julie Preece. 
  • Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (Platinum category), Professor Innocent Davidson.
  • Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (Gold Category), Dr Oludolapo Olanrewaju.
  • Faculty of Health Sciences (Platinum category), Professor Raisuyah Bhagwan. 
  • Faculty of Health Sciences (Gold Category), Dr Busiswe Nkosi.
  • Faculty of Management Sciences (Platinum category), Professor Geoffrey Harris. 
  • Faculty of Management Sciences (Gold Category), Dr Sylvia Kaye. 

After the exciting presentation of awards, the closing remarks and vote of thanks was given by Ms Brenda Ntombela, Deputy Chair of DUT Council. She thanked all the guests and awardees for availing themselves to this prestigious event, extending a special thanks to the guest speaker, Ms Xaba for encouraging the guests to practice excellence at all times.

Pictured: The DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu presenting the Vice-Chancellor’s Award to the One Residence One Garden team members.

Pictured: DUT Chair of Council, Mr Wiseman Madinane presenting a joint award to the Acting DVC: RIE, Professor Keolebogile Motaungwith project team membersMs Dorinda Borg and Ms Sharlynn Beekrum under the Chancellor’s Awards: Impactful category.

Pictured: Keynote speaker, Ms Thandeka Xaba addressing the guests at the ENVISION2030 Institutional Excellence Awards.

Photographer: Robin Moodley

Noxolo Memela/Simangele Zuma


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