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Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Thandwa Mthembu delivered a video message to the DUT community on Monday, 5 October 2020, on the essence of Stewardship, saying that it is the most foundational, and sits right at the core of the institution’s DNA.

Prof Mthembu stressed that Stewardship is the bedrock of everything that the university seeks to achieve by 2030 and that undergirds the DUT way. He stressed that on the auspicious occasion of the State of the University Address in February this year, he pointed out that stewardship is ultimately about what the fundamentals of DUT’s DNA are.

“While one strand of our DNA is about being people – centred and engaged and the other is about innovative and entrepreneurial, both of these suggest behavioural traits we can only exhibit intrinsically. It is about what exists at the intrinsic level, deeper in our hearts and souls, and in our minds,” he said.

He further commented that at DUT, it is the institution’s firm conviction that the general aim is to pursue the ennoblement of its people first as a precondition for improving the lives and livelihoods of the university’s broader society. “We recognise that our university does not exist for itself. It exists in order to serve our people, our broader society. We recognise that it is only when we facilitate the empowerment and development of our people and the broader society that everyone could ultimately live and lead a truly free, humane, fulfilling and self-actualised life,” he said.

As he had also indicated further during the State of the University Address in February, he expressed that Stewardship is about DUT’s collective desire, capabilities and capacities as DUT people to advance and guard jealously its mission, its vision and its objectives.

“Stewardship is about institutionalisation of a Different, Upended and Transformed (DUT) leadership culture throughout the university. While there is formal hierarchy that places people in different positions of authority and accountability, Stewardship recognises that leadership is inherent in everyone irrespective of the rank we occupy in the university and in society. Leadership is ultimately about a sense of responsibility and accountability. It is about the ability to distinguish between what is wrong and right; what is acceptable and unacceptable,” he stressed.

Prof Mthembu outlined more that as a strategic perspective, Stewardship has three strategic objectives, namely, Lived Values, Institutional Culture and Creativity.

“The Lived Values strategic objective is about nurturing a people-centred culture that embodies our values and principles. We seek to engender a sense of belonging and ownership through meaningful, value- and principle-based engagement amongst ourselves.

Institutional Culture is about fostering the DUT Way premised on accountability and shared responsibility. Creativity is the last of the three strategic objective under Stewardship. Part of being Different, Upended and Transformed the DUT way is about our unapologetic resolve to free the mind, to imagine unceasingly and thus inspire innovation and entrepreneurship among our people locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Creativity recognises that the mere presence of the right people is not enough if they do not tap onto their individual and collective brain power to imagine and produce novel ideas that propel our people and society at large forward,” said Prof Mthembu.

In conclusion, he wished to challenge each person to re-examine their values and principles, individual thoughts, actions and behaviour that contribute to DUT’s collective culture and how these help to build and sustain the institution as a Different, Upended and Transformed DUT.

“It is my hope that all DUT’s people – from Council to students who are in their first year – can and will live the university’s values and principles, demonstrate the institutional culture and be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial so we could remain true stewards of our university, its people and the broader society,” he said.

Pictured: Professor Thandwa Mthembu delivering his video message on the essence of Stewardship.

Waheeda Peters

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