Wits Review April 2019 Volume 41

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The magazine for ALUMNI and friends of the University of the Witwatersrand April 2019, Volume 41



OF BEING A WITSIE. STAY CONNECTED! www.facebook.com/witsalumni/




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Alumni House, Wits Club & Barns Complex, Alumni Lane, West Campus Tel +27 11 717 1090 Fax 086 406 4146 Email alumni@wits.ac.za




lection season has started in South Africa with the sixth democratic election scheduled for 8 May 2019.

While holding free and fair elections for a governing party is the foundation of democracy, it doesn’t guarantee that a democratically elected government or leader will always act in the interests of society. History is replete with examples of democratically elected governments and leaders succumbing to delinquency and self-interest, as is being vividly exposed in the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture and related commissions of inquiry into the South African Revenue Service, National Prosecuting Authority and Public Investment Corporation. Elections are thus a time to reflect on institutions, values and practices that strengthen a democratic society, such as media freedom, an independent judiciary, a vibrant civil society, social justice and mobility, equality, and unfettered intellectual enquiry. By providing a university education, through teaching and research, thought leadership and public engagement, and through the contributions of alumni to society and the economy, universities play an essential role in strengthening democracy. Wits University in particular has played a transformational role in our society through its public and social engagement. It has enriched humanity through its contribution to arts and culture, and provided the country with the specialised skills and cutting-edge research needed to grow a prosperous economy. For almost a century, Wits has played a leading role in addressing inequality and advancing social justice. Wits remains at the forefront of building an inclusive society, providing higher education for students from diverse backgrounds, allowing them to interact in a cosmopolitan

Peter Maher

Director: Alumni Relations

environment across racial, class, gender, religious, linguistic, and national boundaries. Today nearly 70% of our graduates are first-generation university students and just over 50% are women. Due to its academic stature, progressive nature and location in the economic heartland of the country and continent, Wits has always robustly engaged with the tensions and fractures of society, most notably in opposing apartheid and more recently addressing the affordability of a university education. The Wits School of Governance is playing a vital role addressing problems that beset governance at local, provincial, national and continental levels and there are many University entities at the forefront of protecting human rights and promoting a more just society. This includes work being done by the Wits Law Clinic, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, the Wits Justice Project, the Reproductive Health Institute, and the African Centre for Migration and Society. Whatever challenges the University has faced in its long history, it has always remained resilient, with an enduring commitment to excellence. Wits still upholds the values and principles propounded by its founding Principal, Jan Hofmeyr: cherishing academic freedom and the discovery of truth; open to all in the community; and preparing its students not just for a profession but for life in general and for citizenship. If we want our hard-won democracy to work, the contribution made by Wits and Witsies is a legacy we need to invest in and bequeath to future generations.




38 Profile


IN THIS ISSUE 23 Research





Sculpture by Chris Soal, page 45

Wits Review – APRIL 2019 01 Editor’s note 04 Letters 08 Upfront 20 Research 28 The Wits Swimming Pool 68 Feature: Melville Koppies 73 Feature: Barberton 76 Books 84 In Memoriam

Editor Peter Maher (peter.maher@wits.ac.za) Contributors Heather Dugmore (heather@icon.co.za) Lyrr Thurston (lyrr.thurston@wits.ac.za) Ufrieda Ho (ufrieda@gmail.com) Graphic Design Jignasa Diar (jignasa.diar@wits.ac.za) Printing: Remata Circle of Excellence Award 2017 (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) Best External Magazine 2017, 2016, 2015, 2012 & 2010 (MACE) Best External Magazine 2014, 2013, 2012 & 2011 (SA Publication Forum) Published by the Office of Alumni Relations, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Address: Private Bag 3, Wits, 2050, South Africa T +27 (0)11 717 1090 E alumni@wits.ac.za www.wits.ac.za/alumni UPDATE CONTACT DETAILS: www.wits.ac.za/alumni/updateyourdetails SUBSCRIPTIONS per copy: South Africa R25 (incl. VAT & postage) International R50 (incl. postage)

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PAYMENT OPTIONS: Online payment using a Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Diners Club credit card at: www.wits.ac.za/alumni/payment or by electronic transfer or bank deposit to: F irst National Bank, Account No. 62077141580, Branch Code 255-005, Ref.No. 29613 (+ your name) or by cash or credit card payment at the Alumni Office. WITSReview is published twice a year. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the editor, the Office of Alumni Relations or of the University of the Witwatersrand. ©Copyright of all material in this publication is vested in the authors thereof. Requests to reproduce any of the material should be directed to the editor.

Cover: See feature on the Wits Swimming Pool, pages 28-37 Image: Gallo/Getty Images




RAYMOND DART’S WISDOM I notice in the latest Wits Review that Prof Lee Berger has the Phillip Tobias chair, which leads me to ask: is there any recognition at Wits of Prof Raymond Dart, Tobias’s mentor? He was a great and wonderful man. Senior faculty staff used to sit in on his lectures, and, at the end, instead of a rush for the doors, students used to stay on and talk to him. I recall one time when, after a lecture, a student (dental, not medical!), looking at a 20 000-year-old ape pelvis, managed to drop it about 30cm onto the marble desktop, where, like Caesar’s Gaul, it broke into three pieces. You have never heard such a silence. After some seconds, a very quiet voice said: “Yes, my boy. It could happen to any one of us.” – Joe Marcus (MBBCh 1953), Philadelphia, USA Editor’s note: Professor Raymond Dart was Dean of the Wits Medical School from 1925 to 1943. He founded the medical library and did a lot to establish disciplines such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy



Professor Raymond Dart

at Wits. The School of Anatomical Sciences houses the RA Dart Collection of modern human skeletons, archaeological human remains and facemasks. The Raymond and Marjorie Dart Medals are presented to students who have consistently performed well.

GLAD TO SEE CHANGE The speed with which the Wits Review has advanced, in content, appearance and quality, is impressive. Bravo! The October 2018 article “A taste of the Stone Age” has, of course, a Zimbabwean clay oven that is a replica of the Sterkfontein skulls! Complete with sideburn... I have ties to three universities, with Wits being the first in time and in my heart. Perhaps I was brainwashed at an early age? Wits remains my only alma mater. I use Google Earth to look at Braamfontein buildings and try to see 50 years back. Such change! For the good. – Bill Knott (BA 1968), Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada Editor’s note: We’d love to have even more space in the magazine to share Wits’ stories. But you can take a virtual tour of campus online, available on the Wits website: www.wits.ac.za.

BRILLIANT PLAYER REMEMBERED I was greatly saddened to read the news of Clive Ulyate leaving us (WR October 2018). The Ulyate and Mackenzie families spent many happy July holidays together. Clive and I ended up playing together for the Wits First Rugby team, the highlight of which was Wits beating

Tukkies in Pretoria 5 points to 3 in 1957. Clive was a brilliant flyhalf, and was one of the main reasons we won the Intervarsity in 1957. Also making wonderful contributions were Wilf Rosenberg [who died in January 2019] and Joe Kaminer (both Springboks). We also had in the side two Transvaal players, Frikkie Rademan and Hugh Snyder. Clive was not only a brilliant rugby player, cricketer and golfer, but an excellent piano player, playing by ear. My father was William Grant Mackenzie (BSc Eng 1928). He devoted many hours of his personal time to various Wits organisations (President of Convocation 1937-1946; he led the 1953 University Appeal, which raised a million pounds for Wits). His younger sister, Peggy Grant Mackenzie, was also a Wits graduate and one of the founder members of the Black Sash movement. My brother, Malcolm (BSc Eng 1958), remembers playing cricket against Clive Ulyate. – Donald Mackenzie (BArch 1958), Nyon, Switzerland

A PERSON I WISH COULD BE ALIVE TODAY One person I wish could still be alive today would be turning 70 on 5 May 2019, yet she died at the age of 35 under unspeakably terrible circumstances. You can follow her path up to that moment on the Internet: from Vice-President of NUSAS in 1972 to a moving force behind the Western Province Workers’ Advice Bureau, founder of the Industrial Aid Society and archivist at the Institute for Race Relations, from arrest in 1976 under Section 6

of the Terrorism Act to the inevitable flight out of South Africa to Botswana after marrying another banned person, ex-political prisoner Marius Schoon. Not feeling safe there, they moved on to Lubango in northern Angola. That was where Jenny Curtis (BA 1971), as we knew her, was killed along with her six-year-old daughter Katryn on 28 June 1984, when, in her own kitchen, she opened the parcel-bomb sent to her by Craig Williamson. Her son Fritz still lives with the traumatic shock of that moment. Would anyone on the Wits campus in the repressed yet turbulent, wildedged atmosphere of the late 1960s and early 1970s have been able to predict that Jenny might lead such a richly engaged life, with such a violently abrupt end? And though she was already an activist on campus, how many of us could have guessed at the political resolve and utter determination behind her shy smile and quiet words, always caring, rarely speaking of herself before inquiring about others? The Curtis home in Johannesburg was a place many appreciated for its warm and easy hospitality. I will take a glass from a table there and raise it now to Jenny. – Denis Hirson (BA 1972, BA Hons 1973), Paris

Jenny Curtis Schoon


FUN TIMES IN THE 1940S Much as I would have liked to go to the Wits reunion in Melbourne (September 2018), my partner, who is now 96, and myself, 92, are somewhat too old to attend functions any more. These Rag photos (next page), dug out

Erratum: In the October 2018 issue, we wrote that Dr William Eplett was predeceased by his wife. In fact, Adele Eplett was his mother.



of a very old photo album, will probably not be of any use, but I am sending them just as an archive of what happened with us just after the end of WWII in 1946 and 1947.

Above and below: Mannie De Saxe

I am now reaching the age when there are not too many of my generation left any more, but my Wits heritage goes back to my father (Advocate Morris de Saxe, LLB 1924), my aunt and two uncles – all Kupers – who were all Wits graduates from the 1920s and 1930s and in my case 1951. One of the photos is of Pat Stone and me. The signs on the floats are politically very incorrect today. The other shows two of us roller-skating on the big day. Another event soon after the end of the war was I think the first NUSAS tour, on a Union Castle ship. We travelled to Cape Town by train and by ship to Durban, and then home from Durban by train. We stopped at Port Elizabeth and East London in between and it was a fantastic trip. I have so many memories because I spent more years doing a mechanical engineering degree than I was supposed to – 1944 to 1949. I then worked in Newcastle on Tyne for two years before being awarded my degree in absentia. – Mannie De Saxe (BSc Eng 1951), Melbourne, Australia


Rag, 1946


I came across a Wits Review from April 2012. It brought back many memories, particularly the article by Heather Dugmore [on the origins of student protest at Wits]. I started at Wits in 1965, aged 17, studying maths. I


remember Professors MacCrone and Bozzoli. They were heady days. I took extra maths tuition privately at the home of a lady in Parktown North. It didn’t register with me at the time, but I think she was under house arrest and could not lecture in the Wits Maths department. Sadly I have forgotten her name. I did pass my exams, in no small measure due to her help. She is one of my heroes. Other lecturers in Maths at the time included Dr Carter, Dr Lewin, Dr Knopfmacher [father of Prof Arnold Knopfmacher] and Professor Young. I can still to this day, thanks to Dr Knopfmacher, prove that minus zero is equal to plus zero. No, that is not axiomatic, though it can be proved. When there was a scarcity of lecturers, Wits asked Professor Young to come back out of retirement. My recollection was that he was very old, though that was the perspective of a 20-year-old. He taught real and complex variables. I remember him well because he didn’t use any notes whatsoever. He just came in and lectured, writing long proofs on the blackboard, either from memory or because he was brilliant enough to work them out on the spot. What an amazing grasp he had. I struggled at times with maths. One time I went to see Professor Young out of class to ask for clarification on some topic. His reply was: “My boy, if you can’t understand that, you don’t have a hope of passing my exam.” But he was not dismissive; he explained yet again to me and perhaps his words were the extra ounce of push I needed. I did in fact pass. – Prof Bill Galloway (BSc 1969), Vancouver, Canada

SO MUCH FOR UNRULY ELEMENTS We were the victims of Prof Hyslop’s decision [in 1957] to rid College and Dalrymple of unruly elements. Summarily kicked out ... find your own accommodation. Apart from guarding Phineas [the mascot] it was also our duty to prevent the Tukkies from kidnapping the Rag Queen, the lovely, serene Robbie Brueckner (Dr Roberta Welch, MBBCh 1955). – Mike Morris (MBBCh 1960) Editor’s note: Despite their unruly beginnings, the students in Mike Morris’s photos (right) include men who went on to great things. Our information is that Malcolm C Pike (BSc 1955) became an epidemiologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; David Epstein (BSc 1955) a Professorial Research Fellow at Warwick University’s Mathematics Institute; Norman Lewis (BSc 1955, BSc Hons 1957) an expert in business IT systems and adjunct professor at Wayne State University’s Business School; the late Aubrey Sheiham (BDS 1957) a dental epidemiologist and emeritus professor of Dental Public Health at University College London (and generous donor to Wits).

WARM MEMORIES OF SUNNYSIDE Your October 2018 issue is a delight and brought back so many happy memories! I was at Sunnyside between 1954 and 1960, eventually being elected Senior Student in my final year. During my time Erica Biesheuwel was Dean, and Jean Forbes and Helen Bax Assistant Deans.

The freshers’ concert and Rag were the events which kickstarted our academic experience. Phineas Court across Jan Smuts Avenue was out of bounds, but some students still managed to visit there. At Phineas Cafe we could supplement the res menu with toasted sandwiches. A huge disruption in our lives every year were “raids”. These came and went between Wits and Tukkies residences. The hostels literally came under attack for several hours. As House Committee we were up all night fending off the attackers!


2 One of the “perks” of being a resident student was ushering at Great Hall events. The first-year Architecture students were located in some of the army huts, which were in pretty poor shape by 1954, not enhanced by my classmates kicking holes in the wall in moments of stress. On one occasion I recall, a sudden influx of empty cans, cigarette packets and miscellaneous garbage came through the windows from the garden outside. The librarian, Joan Biddles, had had enough of my classmates tossing the stuff onto her lovingly nurtured garden.


1. Rag, 1954 2. Intervarsity, 1954, guarding Phineas 3. College House, 1954 4. Below: Building monument to Zorro mascot, College House Images: Mike Morris

Thank you Wits and Witsies. Now it is fun to attend Founders’ Tea! – Anneliese (Konig) Stewart, (BArch 1959) Johannesburg Editor’s note: Sunnyside residence celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2019. Contact warden Refilwe Mabula for information about how to get involved: refilwe.mabula@wits.ac.za.




UPFRONT Chancellor's farewell

Chancellor's installation

When former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke’s second and final term as Wits Chancellor ended, the University held a farewell event for him on 4 December 2018 celebrating his 12 years as Chancellor. In his farewell remarks, Moseneke called for the University to be preserved and protected. He said young people should want to change the world, and institutions should not be allowed to stagnate, but “you can be radical and still be thoughtful”. We must guard our institutions and also “find the courage to say it like it is”. Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib paid tribute to Moseneke, describing him as a “committed radical and a dignified individual”, and Wits conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.

At her installation ceremony as Wits’ new Chancellor, Dr Nobuhle Judy Dlamini called for greater recognition of women’s contributions in various spheres. She said that ignoring women’s talents, paying them less and denying them the leadership positions they deserve amounted to abuse. She acknowledged the forebears who had made it possible for her to be ready to serve as Chancellor. “Decolonising education starts with knowing your history, knowing who you are and embracing it.” She said that each one of us had something to give, whether it be time, knowledge, words of encouragement, or financial resources. “Wits’ global excellence and transformation need to be protected and celebrated.”

More photos: www.flickr.com/ photos/witsalumni/albums

More photos: www.flickr.com/ photos/witsalumni/albums

Images: Snippet video

Images: Snippet video





Freshers soccer match

THAT'S THE SPIRIT The annual tradition of the Wits Spirit Game for first year students was held in the Bidvest Wits Stadium on 30 January 2019. (Wits All Stars 4 - Bidvest Wits 0.) At the game, students were "revealed" as new Witsies with the Proudly Witsie T-shirt activation. More photos: www.flickr.com/ photos/witsalumni/albums Images: Snippet video & Peter Maher



USA medical graduates reunion

MEDICS GATHER IN RHODE ISLAND Health Sciences Dean Martin Veller and Wits USA representative Nooshin Erfani updated medical graduates on Wits developments at a reunion held in Newport, Rhode Island in September 2018. Gerald Friedland, Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine, gave a talk about HIV and TB. Alumni also had a chance to share their interests. Dr Michael Eliastam (MBBCh 1966) spoke about the recent discovery on Mount Kenya of his uncle’s bomber aircraft, which disappeared (with an air-crew of four young South African flyers) on a training flight during the early days of WW2. Dr Denis Benjamin (BSc 1965, MBBCh 1968) shared his interest in searching out wild mushrooms all over the world. And Dr Alan Kisner (MBBCh 1967) described setting up a game lodge (Makweti) in Limpopo. Alumni also enjoyed the attractions of the historic town of Newport. Note to Health Sciences alumni: Wits was placed 83rd globally in the 2019 Times Higher Education ranking for Pre-clinical, Clinical & Health subjects. More photos: www.flickr.com/photos/witsalumni/albums Images: Medical reunion organiser, Melanie Belman-Gross



ACCOLADE FOR ACTIVIST Wits University honoured The Right Honourable Baroness Amos of Brondesbury, Valerie Amos, with an honorary Doctor of Literature degree on 5 December 2018. As a student leader and an activist in the British Labour Party, Baroness Amos was immersed not just in the anti-racism struggles in the UK, but also in the anti-apartheid movement. Her career in British public service culminated in her appointment as the Chief Executive Officer of the Equal Opportunities Commission (19891994). Later she became an advisor to the new South African government, especially on public service reform, labour legislation and employment equity. She also advised the South African Human Rights Commission. In her address to graduands, Baroness Amos painted a picture of a world becoming more fragmented even as we become more connected. The challenges we face do not recognise borders. They require solutions where we work together. It’s hard to stay true to one’s values when so much is about a negotiation, she said. But, quoting Nelson Mandela on the fifth anniversary of his death, she reminded graduands of the power of their education.

Image: Gordon Harris

Honorary degree

The Right Honourable Baroness Amos of Brondesbury, Valerie Amos



Wits centenarian

107 AND COUNTING Witsie Harry Fransman, born in Belgium in 1911, turned 107 years old on 25 November 2018 at his home in Elstree, in the UK. In 2017 he took violin lessons and until recently he was able to travel independently. He even took a singing part in a TV advertisement in 2018. Harry attended Forest High School in Johannesburg, enrolled at Wits in 1929 to study accountancy, and worked in business. He married Helen Bernstein at the Yeoville Shul in 1936 and has three daughters. Wits sent him a birthday bouquet in University colours and a card to add to his message from Queen Elizabeth.

Gold Medal

HONOUR FOR SERVICE Wits alumnus Professor Ken Huddle (MBBCh 1974) received the University’s Gold Medal in 2018 in recognition of his contribution to improving hospital services for the indigent in Soweto and southern Gauteng and for teaching generations of Wits medical students over 40 years. For most of his professional life, Prof Huddle was based at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, where he was Chief Specialist and Professor of Internal Medicine from 1990 until his retirement in 2015.



United Kingdom

VC MEETS ALUMNI Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib spoke at several events in the UK in 2018: a function at South Africa House to commemorate the centenary of the birth of the late Albertina Sisulu; talks on student protests and funding higher education at Edinburgh University and at Chatham House; and a Wits alumni reunion in London. More photos: www.flickr.com/ photos/witsalumni/albums Images: Orde Eliason

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Sports Awards

SILVERWARE FOR WITSIES The martial art form Tang Soo Do packed a kick in the 2018 Wits Sport Awards. The joint winners of Wits’ highest individual sporting accolade, Full Blue Summa Cum Laude, are black belts alumni Tshegofatso Masike (BSc 2014, BSc Hons 2017) (a student of nuclear science) and Kim Lucas (BCom 2018). Sportswoman of the Year Tanita Ramburuth-Hurt (BSc 2016, BSc Hons 2018) is also a Tang Soo Do practitioner and the club was voted 2018 Sports

Club of the Year. Tanita is completing her MSc in astrophysics under a Square Kilometre Array bursary and may go on to do a PhD in the field. “Astronomy and astrophysics are hot topics in the country at the moment and it’s very exciting,” she says. Sportsman of the Year was cricketer and marketing management student Farhaan Sayanvala. The Student Administrator’s Award went to Shaun Sepuru of the Wits Chess Club.

Tshegofatso Masike


Wits Bucks, the men’s team, won the first Varsity Sports Basketball tournament in 2018, beating UCT 78-55 in the final.

Tanita Ramburuth-Hurt

Kim Lucas

WBS Golden Anniversary



Wits Business School published a 50th anniversary special edition of The WBS Journal in 2018, packed with thoughtful articles, highlights, trailblazing business alumni and much more. It’s available online: 50yearsofwbs.co.za or you can contact Jane Balnaves at WBS, tel. +27 11 717 3559 or email jane.balnaves@wits.ac.za.

Australia reunions

VC REASSURES OZ ALUMNI Professor Adam Habib hosted a series of alumni reunions in Australia in September 2018, meeting Witsies in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast. In his presentation he explained the context of the #FMF student protests of 2015 and 2016 and shared his view that the issues were legitimate and global, adding that Wits is now “in a far better place” than it was two years ago. Wits is still producing globally competitive graduates and will continue to do so. By the University’s centenary in 2022, Wits will have 40 000 students, 45% of them postgraduates. Research will continue to thrive (output rose by 77% from 2012 to 2017) and Wits will still attract excellent students and talented academics and researchers. Professor Habib also outlined recent campus developments and plans, including online learning, the use of technology to improve teaching and groundbreaking research. He emphasised the importance of a safe and stimulating learning environment and the role Wits was playing in the revival of the surrounding Braamfontein area. More photos: www.flickr.com/photos/witsalumni/albums Images: Peter Maher

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Founders' Tea

FOUNDERS STAND UP FOR ETHICS A record number of Wits Founders – more than 600 – returned to the heart of East Campus, the Library Lawns, on 29 November 2018 for their annual reunion tea. They gave the guest speaker, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, a standing ovation for his opposition to corruption and state capture. In his address, Gordhan warned that the people who had damaged South Africa’s institutions were not likely to give up and walk away. But greater stability could be achieved if South Africans made the economy more inclusive and more competitive; encouraged more partnerships between government, business and civil society; addressed issues of social justice; and changed business culture radically. Business had played a part in corruption, he said; new ethics and behaviour were needed. More photos: www.flickr.com/photos/witsalumni/albums Images: Snippet Video, Vivid Images, Peter Maher



The Ndebeles

REMEMBERED WITH RESPECT One of the guests at Founders’ Tea was Mthandeni Ndebele, son of the late Nimrod Njabulo Ndebele (BA 1948) and brother of the writer Professor Njabulo Ndebele (DLitt honoris causa 2010). Mthandeni Ndebele recalls that his father cycled from Sophiatown to attend lectures at Wits. He studied part-time, graduated in isiZulu and Political Science and became a teacher. He wrote the first play published in isiZulu, UGubudele namaZimuzimu (Wits University Press 1941).

Nimrod Njabulo Ndebele

Mthandeni Ndebele

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Image: Peter Maher

Mechanical Engineering Class of 1968 50th Anniversary Reunion

STILL RUNNING SMOOTHLY AFTER 50 YEARS Each era creates its own brand of graduate depending on the culture of the time, the technology, the environment, the role models and so on. For the Mechanical Engineering Class of 1968, their student years and early careers were an exciting time of the space race, Cold War, new materials, jet airline travel, and the first legislation regulating the engineering profession in South Africa. The first scientific pocket calculator, the HP-9100A, was commercially released in 1968 by Hewlett-Packard,

but was too expensive for students of the time, who still used the slide-rule (or “slipstick”) for their calculations. The Wits Class of 1968 met for their 50th graduation anniversary in October 2018, toured the campus engineering facilities, the Origins Centre and the NECSA Pelindaba nuclear plant, enjoyed a braai and visited the World of Beer – to rekindle memories of student tours of the SA Breweries plant in Isando.

More photos: www.flickr.com/photos/witsalumni/albums

To arrange a reunion of Wits alumni or to offer your services as an alumni volunteer, please contact Peter Maher (peter.maher@wits. ac.za) or Purvi Purohit (purvi.purohit@wits.ac.za). 18


Civil Engineering Class of 1978 Reunion

PASSING THE STRESS TEST The 1978 Civil Engineering class held their 40-year reunion at the Johannesburg Country Club in November 2018. Of the final year class of 67 graduates, 22 attended the dinner – some coming from as far afield as Hawaii and the UK. Tony Purchase spoke about the turbulent mid-1970s and current Head of School Professor Akpofure Taigbenu pointed out some of the changes in today’s Civil Engineering class and curriculum. The group shared memories, tributes, successes and observations of their profession, and donated the reunion event’s profits to the Endowment Fund of the School.



Image: List supplied by Class of 1978




Image: Shutterstock


ust half a degree Celsius makes a world of difference. A world of extreme weather, rising sea levels, loss of ecosystems and threats to human health. It’s not too late to avoid this future. It can be done. But it’s time to act urgently. The goal of climate change scientists worldwide is to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average. Keeping to this limit would be far better than allowing global warming of 2°C, a recent report has shown. It won’t be easy. We have about 12 years to do it. “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid,



far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” said the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018. It’s especially urgent for South Africa, which is already getting hotter faster than average. For every 2°C that the Earth warms on average, parts of South Africa will warm by 4°C. Wits scientists have been part of the international effort to understand the science of climate change, environmental degradation and its consequences. Professor Barend Erasmus, Director of the Global Change Institute at Wits,

Gallo/Getty Images

said the report’s findings “should sound to us like alarm bells”. But he added: “With careful planning at national level, countries can unlock large synergies between [carbon] emission reductions, adaptation and sustainable development outcomes.” There is an opportunity not only to limit global warming but to get closer to the goals of sustainable development. Also looking at the “big picture” is Professor Bob Scholes (BSc 1978, BSc Hons 1979, PhD 1988), one of the top 1% of environmental scientists worldwide based on citation frequency. He says “the degradation of the Earth’s land surface through human activities is pushing the

planet towards a sixth mass species extinction”. As co-chair of an assessment published in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, he said: “Avoiding, reducing and reversing this problem, and restoring degraded land, is an urgent priority to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem services vital to all life on Earth and to ensure human well-being.” Prof Scholes is working on projections of food security in the 21st century, and on new methods of detecting land degradation.





he most severe storms – Category 5 tropical cyclones – have become more frequent in the South Indian Ocean in recent years. The first storm to reach this intensity in the region was in 1994, but since then they have become more frequent and shifted towards the south. These very large storm systems are accompanied by very strong winds (140kt or 260km/h), heavy rainfall and storm surges. With a radius of about 500km from the storm centre they pose a threat to southern Africa and island states, according to Dr Jennifer Fitchett (BSc Hons 2012, MSc 2013, PhD 2015), a climate change expert in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies. People will have to adapt to the threat and make robust evacuation plans.

Tropical Cyclone Dineo - a CAT1 storm - just off the coast of Mozambique on 15 February 2017, captured by NASA's Aqua satellite NASA Image: Jeff Schmaltz




Dr Samson Bada (MSc Eng 2008, PhD 2010) and the CCT research group are currently hybridising clean energy by co-firing coal with biomass grown on mine rehabilitated land. The results should be clean, sustainable energy and micro-industrialisation from bamboo plantations once mines are closed. Other research areas include exciting new uses of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) and specialised carbon products from coal for industry. Over the past 12 years, the group has produced over 50 postgraduate students.

Images: Eleonora Albasi / Nick Nice – Unsplash

its has been involved in clean coal research for the past 24 years, and the Clean Coal Technology research group has produced many world firsts under Professor Rosemary Falcon (BSc 1964, PhD 1978) (now Emeritus Professor and DST-NRF SARChI Clean Coal Technology Chair) and her husband, Lionel Falcon (BSc Eng 1959). The research is important for environmental and economic reasons. South Africa still has 200 years’ worth of coal in the ground and a need for affordable power. Coal is also South Africa’s highest earner of foreign exchange and plays a big role in the country’s metallurgy, fuel and chemicals sectors. But there’s an obvious and urgent need for this resource to be used cleanly and responsibly, making the least possible environmental impact.

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Above: Lambano Sanctuary children's home, a hospice and care home for children with HIV in Gauteng



its lecturer and alumna Natalie Benjamin-Damons (MSc Physio 2010) specialises in the physiotherapy management of children living with HIV. There are about 550 000 HIV-positive children in South Africa. A lot of HIV research focuses on children under two and on adolescents and adults, she says – there is a gap in the years when children are developing and learning. Many HIV-positive children experience


pain, fatigue or numbness, yet they are expected to perform the same as other children at school. BenjaminDamons looked at the problems they face and found simple exercises and massage routines to help them. There is still a lot to discover about how HIV affects the development of children, she says. Benjamin-Damons received the National Research Foundation’s Next Generation Researcher Award for her doctoral studies.


ould you rather die of liver failure or live with HIV?

Gallo/Getty Images

This was the ethical dilemma faced by doctors at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre. Their patient was a critically ill, HIV-negative child who had been on the waiting list for a liver donor for much longer than average. The child’s mother was HIV-positive and desperate to help her child survive.


First the team had to consider the risks to donor and recipient and the ethical issues involved in making such a decision. If they transplanted part of the HIV-positive mother’s liver into the HIV-negative child, would the child contract HIV as a result? And if so, would that be worse than the prospect of imminent death from liver disease? In 2017 they went ahead with the transplant and, more than a year later, both mother and child are doing well. At the time of the transplant, the mother’s HIV viral load was undetectable. Even with ultra-sensitive testing, the team has not been able to detect any HIV in the child's blood or cells, although it will still be some time before a definitive assessment can be made. Although South Africa has the highest incidence of HIV worldwide, it also has the largest and most successful ARV programme. This

means that many HIV-positive people on ARVs are able to live full and healthy lives. The success of this world-first operation means more HIV-positive people could potentially be eligible to donate organs. The case points to how successful South Africa has been in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, as well as supporting health and extending life by making antiretroviral treatment available. Any child who needs a liver transplant can have one at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, a private academic teaching hospital. The procedure is offered according to the “sickest first” criterion. The team on this case included Wits alumni Professor Jean Botha (MBBCh 1990), Director of Transplantation at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre; medical bioethicist Dr Harriet Etheredge (MSc Med 2009, PhD 2016); clinical research specialist Dr Francesca Conradie (MBBCh 1988, DTH&M 2000); specialist physician Dr June Fabian (BPharm 1990, MPharm 1994, MBBCh 1998, MMed 2008); and Professor Caroline Tiemessen (BSc 1984, BSc Hons 1985, PhD 1993), of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and Wits.





uring the Devonian Period, some 400-million years ago, the land that is now South Africa was situated over the South Pole. Looking at the influence of sea-level change on sediments and the distribution of a unique group of marine invertebrates from South Africa during this time period, geoscientist Dr Cameron Penn-Clarke (BSc 2011, BSc Hons 2012, PhD 2017) is investigating why these creatures disappeared. The evidence is stored in the mountains of the Cape, suggesting that a series of successive sharp falls in sea-level wiped out these organisms, causing a complete collapse in marine ecosystems at the South Pole.

Black and white images: John Almond

Klipbokberg, Grootrivierhoogte, in the Cederberg. These mountains contain clues about ancient landscapes. Images: Cameron Penn-Clarke







1. Burmeisteria 2. Brachiopods and bivalves 3. Metacryphaeus 4. Ophiuroid and ophiuroid burrow 5. Proetid 6. Ophiuroid on trilobite head



Images: Viktor Radermacher


Ledumahadi mafube, The Highland Giant


twelve-tonne vegetarian – twice the size of an African elephant – lived in what is now the Free State nearly 200-million years ago. The dinosaur, Ledumahadi mafube, was the largest land animal on Earth at the time and the first giant dinosaur to evolve. Its name means “Giant Thunderclap at Dawn” in Sesotho. Wits Professor James Kitching found some of its huge fossil bones in the veld 30 years ago but the species has only recently been scientifically described by Professor Jonah Choiniere and Dr Blair McPhee (MSc 2013, PhD 2016). The species was able to grow to giant size because it evolved the ability to walk on all four legs. Later members

of the group perfected this efficient stance (similar to today’s elephants) and likely outcompeted Ledumahadi, leading to its extinction.

Chinese dinosaurs

The team at Wits’ Evolutionary Studies Institute also recently announced the discovery of two new meat-eating dinosaurs, Bannykus and Xiyunykus, in China. The artwork that illustrates these creatures was done by MSc candidate Viktor Radermacher (BSc 2017, BSc Hons 2018), who is becoming recognised as both a palaeoscientist and a palaeoartist.







You can learn a lot in the Wits swimming pool. Ornithology. Covalent bonds. The strength of your ambitions, convictions, friendships, shoulders and cozzie elastic. It depends on how close you get to the Egyptian geese, on your self-discipline, and on the confidences you blurt out to your pool pals between lengths. You don’t even have to be sporty – but you might well be. Written b y L Y RR TH URS TON I llus trations b y TOB Y N EW S OM E

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n the 1920s, Architecture Professor GE Pearse was asked to plan the campus layout with provision for a pool. The students wanted it near the main buildings rather than at the sports grounds. “After the plan had been approved by the University Council, work was commenced on the layout, levelling the terraces and building retaining walls and steps,” he wrote. “The amphitheatre-like swimming bath was constructed by two Basutos using the stone removed from the excavations. The towers and dressing rooms were designed by the architects in collaboration with myself.”

The pool was officially opened by the GovernorGeneral on 16 October 1930. Vice-Chancellor Professor Humphrey Raikes ordered all lectures and laboratory work to be cancelled for the occasion. This was during the Great Depression, at a time when the government cut the University’s subsidy by a quarter. Soon, more funds would also be needed to rebuild the library after a disastrous fire in 1931. The pool cost £13 000 to construct and the SRC, which had raised much of the funding, was also responsible for maintenance. Wits was the only university in South Africa with its own pool at that time, though Johannesburg already had its first public pool at Ellis Park (opened in 1909). One of the women in the Wits team against Tuks at the opening gala was Transvaal champion diver Sue Womble, “an exceedingly popular and attractive person”, the Rand Daily Mail pointed out. She later became a teacher at Krugersdorp East School. Events at the annual Wits gala in those early years included the Freshers Pyjama Race, which involved a change of wet nightwear halfway. The pool amphitheatre was also the scene of Rag events and general socialising. From 1939 to 1959, the Wits Swimming Club was beaten only once at intervarsity. The Waterpolo Club won the first intervarsity contest in 1932 and produced two Olympians for the 1952 Helsinki Games: Gerald Goddard and Des Cohen. Tom “Fergy” Ferguson was Swimming Bath Superintendent and a successful coach for 23 years from 1929 until his death in 1952. His successor was the much-loved Victor “Mac” Macfarlane – “mentor, confidant and friend”, says one former club captain – who served for 32 years. In 1969, Mac wrote to Vice-Chancellor GR Bozzoli to thank him for an exciting gadget he’d been



allowed to buy to record various sports: a Tedelex Video Tape Recorder (VTR). It had a slow motion feature to assist in coaching. At the pool it was “an aid in water safety” and helped “to keep control and discipline around the bath”. He reportedly regarded the lawns around the pool as hallowed ground. (By the way, that same year, the pool rules stipulated that women could wear two-piece costumes but had to keep everything on when sunbathing. It was also the year that technology got humans onto the moon.) “Operation has proved as simple and almost as trouble free as the makers claim,” Macfarlane enthused. “Only once did the VTR fault and that was after the return from Medical School after taping the liver transplant for Killarney Film Studios. … This could have been caused by the transportation we had in an old Volkswagen Kombi … I was a bit shook-up myself after the journey. … If you could see, Dr Bozzoli, the looks of amazement and wonder on the faces of less fortunate sportsmen when they visit and compete against our student teams, you would be thinking we had the ultimate in VTR. The only disadvantage of this unit is in its weight, 160lb. It takes two strong men to lift it…”

the Marang Centre for Mathematics and Science Education. She broke three records at the 1969 intervarsity and is still a highly competitive Masters swimmer, in the 65-69 age group internationally. She swims the Midmar Mile and has swum from Robben Island to shore. She started swimming at Wits as a child, when her father, Dr Eugene Rollnick (MBBCh 1952), brought the family to campus. “Wits in 1969 was polarised between ‘rugger buggers’ and politically orientated students,” Rollnick says. “As a swimmer, I was involved in both and had to keep my sports activities secret from the politicos! When the numbers of black students increased they refused to use Wits sport facilities, in line with the slogan of ‘No normal sport in an abnormal society’.” Alumni and their families were allowed to use the pool for R3 per season ticket or ten cents for the day in 1969. Nowadays, alumni can pay R1000 a year for social membership of the Aquatics Club.

For years, the SRC opposed the University’s approach of social segregation, but Wits remained under pressure from the apartheid state. In 1969, after an exchange with the Minister of Education, Bozzoli reluctantly cancelled the concession by which black students had been allowed to use the swimming pool. In his memoirs, Bozzoli wrote that he and Advocate Issy Maisels had argued that whatever happened on campus during the “academic day” could be considered an academic activity, where racial integration was permitted. The Minister disagreed and ordered an end to “mixed bathing”.

For years there has also been a Learn to Swim programme for Wits students and staff (tel. 011 717-9423). Instructor Yolande Springer says learning how to swim as an adult can be a frightening experience, but with the basic skills come confidence and the ability to join in all kinds of fun. School of Mining Engineering lecturer Daisy Matlou (MEd 2002) grew up in Meadowlands, where there were no pools, and tried to learn to swim at the Orlando East pool back in 1980. But it was only in the 2000s at Wits that she really took the plunge and learnt properly, along with a group of staff and students, at lunchtimes and Saturdays. Some staff, she points out, had bought properties with pools and needed to learn for safety reasons. “I discovered it’s a myth that only black people can’t swim!” she says. Though “a little bit scared” at first, she loved feeling refreshed, de-stressed and well stretched after a training session.

One swimmer who remembers those times is Emeritus Professor Marissa Rollnick (BSc 1972, PDipEd 1972, PhD 1988), former Director of

Staff member and alumnus Jonathan Padavatan (BSc 2009, BSc Hons 2010) swims regularly in season and goes to the pool to meditate. He

MIX WITH WATER - OR NOT Less amusingly, the pool was a place where the policy of racial discrimination was laid bare.



appreciates the pool’s potential to bring people together from different backgrounds and, like Matlou, feels it’s a resource that more people should be using. In 1974, the go-ahead was given to extend the pool to meet Olympic standards, from 50 yards to 50 metres. Upgrades, heating and safety features seem to have faced budgetary resistance for many years and funding is still a challenge, says Wits Sport Director Adrian Carter. The pool wasn’t fenced until the 1990s, despite then Sports Administration Head John Baxter’s pleas. He recalls a crowd of visiting schoolchildren rushing to the pool, leaping in and having to be fished out. But Vice-Chancellor Prof DJ du Plessis was reluctant to allow the view to be spoilt by a barrier of any kind. It certainly is a central feature of the Wits landscape and the setting for many kinds of student activity. In the 1980s, Men’s Res Freshers had to brush their teeth in the pool water as part of their initiation, while Sunnyside Freshettes used their bras as fishing nets. The first day of September was as good a reason as any to start a skinnydipping tradition. Aside from the fun, swimming is a good way to unwind, wake up before an exam or relieve the academic pressure. “I credit swimming for helping me pass my second year of engineering. It served to clear my head each morning and start the day out right,” says Tiisetso Murray (BSc Eng 2012, HDipCompSci 2014). That’s if you can handle the temperature. The pool is notoriously cold, possibly because of its shale base and exposure to wind. In her book From Whiskey to Water, Sam Cowen (BA 1994) describes icy training sessions: “I don’t remember the last time I felt this sorry for myself. … The cold hits me like a fist to my stomach.” Baxter says that when heat pumps were installed in the early 2000s, it was possible for more Wits students, staff and alumni to enjoy the facility, for recreation as well as competitive sport. But the cost of heating is now a problem.



MEET THE SPORTY TYPES So the members of the Wits Underwater Club, which has been going since 1945, must be tough. The club is renowned for quality scuba diving and underwater hockey and is open to the public. “The Wits main campus pool is at the heart of our club’s activities as we have underwater hockey practice there along with scuba diving training courses,” says Underwater Club chairman Izak Minnie. “Countless hours have been spent in and around its waters. Our clubhouse is situated in one of the ivy-covered towers next to the pool – I believe we have the most beautiful venue at Wits.” Many of the club members are beginners to aquatic sports. Alumni make up a fairly large proportion of membership, because scuba diving is a sport that can be practised at almost any age. The introductory course takes about four weekends of lectures and diving. Diving from a board is another matter. Wits once led the way in this sport. According to information found by Caprice Philippopoulos (HDipEd 1987, MA 2004), former head coach of SA Diving, the swimming club made a film of South African champion Willem Bohlander (BArch 1942) demonstrating diving techniques, and this was used in coaching at Wits and throughout South Africa. Sports writer Jonty Winch remembers taking photographs of Springbok diver (and gymnast) Linda von Broembsen (BPharm 1989) at the pool in 1989. “After her first dive she didn’t come up. I dashed across, somewhat terrified, as I am a hopeless swimmer. She eventually emerged amidst blood, having cut her chin open on the bottom of the pool.” A more recent diving star was Aquatics Club chair and Wits Sportsperson of the Year Tandi Gerrard (BPhysEd 2000). She moved to the UK in 2001, competed in the Olympic Games for Britain and now works for Diving Australia.

Tony Garstang (BCom 2000, BCom Hons 2001) remembers the revival of the Aquatics Club in the late 1990s. Members kitted out their home in the west pool tower – known as The Wet Spot – with leftovers from the maintenance department. “We designed, built and paid for the bar ourselves by making 30c per beer we sold for R2.50.” “There was a guy who worked in the geology department, whom we called Mitch the Magnificent,” recalls Garstang. “He used to come down to the pool every day to tan in his Speedo, slops and lab coat. He was truly a sight to behold! Definitely should be made an honorary member of the Aquatics Club.” Water polo player Jim Ashley’s favourite memory: “a wayward bounce shot that defied physics, left the surface of the water, hit the light post, rattled off of the post and railings about five times, then landed comically in Mitch’s navel. Luckily for the students in the amphitheatre, when Mitch stood up his old, ill-fitting Charles Atlases stood firm.” Water polo teams compete in the annual inter-varsity tournament and the Gauteng league. Because of the fearsome reputation of the pool’s temperature, “all the other water polo clubs dreaded playing us at home,” says Dave Baxter (BCom 2006, BA Hons 2007, PDM 2009). “Once the pool was heated it became a firm favourite in Johannesburg. In December 2003, we hosted the South African University Games at the Wits pool – all the major South African universities came to Wits to compete in water polo, swimming, diving and synchronised swimming. The amphitheatre had stands placed all along the fence and these were filled for most games as well as the evening galas. On the last day we had the mandatory freshman ‘maximum pain, maximum points’ belly flop competition and inter-university fun swims to round out the competitive events.”

“I remember the pool always being in immaculate condition,” he continues. “The pool staff worked really hard and had huge pride in ensuring that it always sparkled blue. In my opinion they were the friendliest, most helpful staff on campus. They used to stick around late into evenings and weekends watching us practise and play games. I think some of the longer-standing staff members knew the game better than those playing and used to really cheer if we won or get sad if we lost.” Sports supervisor Godfrey Shivhambu started working at Wits in 2004 as a pool attendant and is now responsible for making sure the pool is maintained. In 2018 it was closed for retiling and to service the starting blocks. The budget is tight, but he assures us that “the pool is not going anywhere; it belongs to the University”. Sources for this feature included books by Bruce K Murray, Jonty Winch, Mervyn Shear and GR Bozzoli

Baxter raised funds for a team trip to Australia by hosting parties with live student bands, quiz evenings and braais at The Wet Spot. “We had to really hustle to find the funding ourselves. Our men’s polo team trained throughout winter.”

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or two consecutive years our team had travelled to Lourenço Marques (LM), now called Maputo, in Mozambique, to swim against the local LM team, Groupo di Sportivo. These tours were a blast and great fun. Life in LM was much more permissive than in South Africa, and we took full advantage of the exciting night life. “For the next year I got the idea of putting on an Aquacade (pool show) in LM so that our whole club could enjoy LM. One of our swimmers was Teresa Ferreira, who came from LM. She and I drove to LM to negotiate everything that was necessary to produce the Aquacade. She was supposed to be my interpreter but was a very powerful personality and very often she just took over the negotiations. [Teresa Heinz Kerry, BA 1960, LLD honoris causa 2007, worked as a UN interpreter and later became a philanthropist and almost the First Lady of the USA, as the wife of presidential candidate Senator John Kerry.] “The Aquacade was a huge undertaking. We planned for two complete swimming teams, two water polo teams, divers, clown divers, synchronized swimmers, drum majorettes and a university rock

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band. Managing this project was a great lesson for me in planning, organisation and management. “Finally the day came and 60 Witsies descended on LM. I was particularly worried about the young freshmen on our team, who I feared would run amok at night, so I divided the whole touring group into small teams and put a reliable senior in charge of each team. “The Aquacade was performed for two nights in front of capacity crowds who loved the Varsity spirit and joined in the fun. One of our swimmers, Jimmy Sofianos, was an amazing clown diver. He was extremely courageous and very funny on the board. He really was the star of the show. “After the Aquacade, with the help of Teresa’s father, we were given tents on a beautiful beach in São Martinho di Bilene. We had a wonderful three days there. A small group went off to scuba dive at Inhaca. A unique and unforgettable experience.” – Colin Benjamin (BSc 1960), Wits swimming captain 1957/8 and recently retired Macsteel USA director

Image: Lyrr Thurston

Marissa Rollnick has been a competitive swimmer for decades


uring my first year I managed to persuade many new students to join the club. To my surprise, my enthusiasm led to me being made club captain, and at 17 I became the youngest Wits first team captain in any sport. I also had the longest captaincy run: six years. Selecting teams was excellent training for strategic planning in my future business career. Our difficulty was getting enough girl swimmers to

make up the teams. However, our club became so popular that girls who weren’t competitive swimmers joined just to enjoy being part of the club. League swimming was every Friday night during summer. I instituted a post League match party after each meet, usually at Pop’s, when our teams got together for a sing-song. The team spirit and camaraderie was fantastic. – Colin Benjamin (BSc 1960)

René van Honschooten

t can be hard to squeeze in exercise along with one’s studies, but by my second year I was running regular half marathons, thanks to the Kudus. My friend and classmate, René, then recommended we try out swimming before class. The secret about swimming in the mornings was that it was a social club. Swim to the deep end, swim back, take an extended breather and chat. I became friends with

Scuba course

my fellow shallow-end swimmers. We discussed life, love, and everything in between. The pool knew all my secrets. I never did manage long-distance swims like I did with running but I still love swimming today as a result. And honestly, having swum in swimming pools around the world, I’ve found nothing quite as lovely as the Wits pool. – Tiisetso Murray (BSc Eng 2012, HDipCompSci 2014) Image: Lyrr Thurston


Image: Tiisetso Murray

Jonathan Padavatan is a regular

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Gerald Goddard, Waterpolo, 1952




Wits won the first SA Universities gala

Victor Macfarlane arrived as coach


Barbara Kark set SAU backstroke record

Wits pool opened Colin Benjamin, Swim team, 1958

Sue Womble, 1931

33rd intervarsity win out of 38


1935 Roberts Trophy donated




Des Cohen was first Wits swimming Springbok, selected for London Olympic Games


Jeff Sacks, Springbok waterpolo player

Steve Nathan won Springbok colours

Heather Morris-Eyton and Stephen Haupt broke SAU records


Marissa Rollnick, Intervarsity, 1969


Priscilla Kincaid-Smith

(BSc 1937, BSc Hons 1938, MBBCh 1949) broke records at the 1933 intervarsity gala

David Roberts

(for whom the Roberts Trophy is named), president of the swimming club 1929-30

(BSc 1946, MBBCh 1951, DSc Med honoris causa 1982)

Willem Bohlander (BArch 1942), SA’s top diver and Wits’ first Full Blue cum laude swimmer

Captions here



Peter Hugo

(BCom 1959), the only man ever to represent Transvaal at swimming, diving and waterpolo

Des Cohen

(MBBCh 1949), Wits’ first swimming Springbok (and Olympian for swimming and water polo)

Ray Bischoff

(BSc 1966), Springbok swimmer

Meyer Feldberg

(BA 1963), SA butterfly champion (later Dean of Columbia Business School)



Original dimensions: 75ft broad 10ft deep 150ft long Image: Snippet Video

Carmel Goodman

(MBBCh 1979), Springbok swimmer

Martin & Jenny Lundie

(BCom 1976, LLB 1977) and (BASp&HT 1979, MBBCh 1988), top divers

Nuño Gomes

(MSc Eng 1992), who held a Guinness Book of World Records title for the deepest scuba dive (2005; 318.25 metres)

Deidre Rice

(BA 1987, BA Hons 1988), Springbok synchronised swimming

Tandi Gerrard

(BPhys Ed 2000), diver, represented Britain in the 2004 Olympics

Brynn Andrew,

Hayley Duncan

(BPrimEd 2004), SA water polo

swimmer (BSc 1997, BSc Hons 1998, MSc 2003)

Emma Hardham: 2018, SA water polo

Rick Diesel

(MBBCh 2006), SA water polo

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A LUCKY ACCIDENT Nobel laureate DR SYDNEY BRENNER has devoted his long career to understanding the story of life BY H E AT HER D UGMORE


ho are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? These giant questions are the life work of Dr Sydney Brenner (BSc 1945, BSc Hons 1946, MBBCh 1951, DSc honoris causa 1972), pioneer of modern molecular biology. It’s said of him that no one better understands genomes and evolution. Genomes are an organism’s complete set of DNA, or genetic material – its instructions for life. From Brenner’s standpoint there’s no room for self-importance as he attributes all evolution to chance. “It is not purposeful. There is no creator,” he says. “Our main conclusion from studying the history of genomes is that all the major changes, from prokaryotes to eukaryotes, from unicellular to multicellular, from invertebrates to vertebrates, from apes to humans, are the products of lucky accidents that could not have been predicted.” Neither could it have been predicted that he would still be a leader in genetics at the age of 92. He is currently scientific advisor at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore, and



adjunct professor at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technology University, Singapore. Though physically frail now, he works relentlessly. “I do not do anything but work. I am beyond all those other things,” he says. In 2016, Brenner conceived the idea of a lecture series covering 10-billion years, from the origin of the universe to the changes modern humans are making through science, technology, language

and culture. This Evolution Club brought 24 renowned scientists and thinkers to Singapore “to discuss evolution in all its variety and complexity”.

Harvard professor George Church’s evocative description is that the book “throws ten logs on the fiery topics of evolution” and offers “many insights into the near and far future”. The questions that still absorb and drive Brenner are about things like how our brains work, and the impact of new technologies. “Will genetic engineering allow us to create new sources of food, and will we be able to create new minds in computers? These are new elements in a complex world, and they will bring about new changes.”

Dr Sydney Brenner

KNOW THY WORM Dr Sydney Brenner developed new methods for DNA sequencing and was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine (with H Robert Horvitz and John E Sulston) for his work on a model organism for understanding human biology and programmed cell death. On receiving the prize he remarked that choosing the right organism to work on (the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans) was as important as choosing the right problem to work on. Brenner linked specific genes to specific effects on organ development.


Image: C. elegans (A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council), Book cover (Wildtype Books)

The lecture series culminated in a musthave science book for general readers, the recently published Sydney Brenner’s 10-on-10: The Chronicles of Evolution (published by Wildtype Books and edited by Dr Shuzhen Sim of Wildtype Media Group and A*STAR’s Dr Benjamin Seet).




ife for Dr Sydney Brenner started in Germiston on the East Rand, where he was born in 1927. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and his father repaired shoes. Their first home was at the back of his shop. As a schoolboy at Germiston High School, Brenner discovered the public library and became obsessed with biochemistry. He read everything he could find on the subject and tried to discover why flowers have their distinctive colours. At age 15 he received a bursary of 60 pounds from the Germiston Town Council to study medicine at Wits, and he enrolled in 1942. He lived at home, cycled to the local railway station every morning, caught the train to town, then walked to campus. “I was not a good medical student and had an erratic career, brilliant in some subjects, absolutely dismal in others. By then I had already decided that I wanted to pursue a research career in cells and their functions and that I needed to go abroad because I would rather be a small frog in a big pond than a large tadpole in a big pond. South Africa was also very isolated then and the politics were not acceptable.”

Image: Bryan van der Beek



In October 1952 he arrived in Oxford to begin his PhD in the Physical Chemistry Laboratory. Molecular biology as a subject did not exist at the time. Life was not easy at Oxford in the aftermath of World War II, and Brenner and other “colonial” students were treated as outsiders. Fortunately he made some firm friends with fellow outsiders like Jack Dunitz, a crystallographer, and Leslie Orgel, a theoretical chemist, both of whom remained lifelong friends and colleagues. “We had many discussions on DNA, for I had come to Oxford with two half ideas, both of which were more than half wrong,” he recalls. “One was a way of

Structure of DNA solved In April 1953 his life changed when he heard about two researchers at Cambridge, Francis Crick and Jim Watson, who had solved the structure of DNA. He immediately headed over there to see their model. “This was the watershed in my scientific life. The moment I saw the model and heard about the complementing base pairs I realised that it was the key to understanding all the problems in biology we had found intractable – it was the birth of molecular biology.”

“I WAS BORN AT THE RIGHT TIME, I KNEW I HAD A GIFT FOR SCIENCE, I LEARNED HOW TO USE LIBRARIES VERY EARLY ON IN LIFE – A HABIT THAT HAS REMAINED WITH ME – AND I KNEW HOW TO EXPLOIT THE OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED TO ME.” During this time he married May Covitz, became a father and was awarded a Carnegie Corporation Travelling Fellowship, which took him to the United States to visit other laboratories on a drive across America with Watson. Crick subsequently helped him to secure an appointment at the Medical Research Council Unit in Cambridge, and in December 1956 Brenner and his family left South Africa for England.

Image: @kjpargeter

working out the structure of DNA using dyes and the other was how nucleic acids could participate in the synthesis of proteins.”

SYDNEY BRENNER INSTITUTE FOR MOLECULAR BIOSCIENCE The Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience at Wits is a multi-disciplinary research institute which investigates the molecular and genomic aetiology of diseases among African populations. The institute aims to enable the development of solutions to some of Africa’s greatest health challenges.

“I spent 20 years sharing an office with Francis Crick and many new and exciting ideas (both right and wrong) were generated from our conversations.”

No easy journey Breaking new ground is no easy journey. As he says in his autobiography A Life in Science, published in 2001: “Living most of the time in a world created mostly in one’s head does not make for an easy passage in the real world.” Looking to the future of cell regeneration and whether science can regenerate a new brain for Brenner to extend his extraordinary life, he replies: “Cell regeneration is already happening but it would take 20 years to programme a new brain for me – so there is no point. Fortunately the existing one is surviving and that is good.” At 92 he regards his own mortality with respectful indifference: “I live, and one day I will stop; that is all. “Until that day I will continue to be excited by scientific research. Science is something one is tied to for life, and the endless quest for knowledge will continue as long as humans exist.”






agic is just chemistry we don’t yet understand,” says Dr Sadhna Mathura (PhD 2013) with a smile. The Wits lecturer, academic co-ordinator and researcher is on a mission to demystify science for the masses. Recently, Dr Mathura was chosen to join the Periodic Table of Younger Chemists, an initiative of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) to highlight the role of chemistry in sustainable development. The United Nations named 2019 as the Year of the Periodic Table because chemistry is central to solving many global challenges. Dr Mathura will represent the chemical element cobalt because her research interest is in the relationship



between cobalt and vitamin B12, which is at the heart of human health and well-being. But her curiosity isn’t confined to one field. For her Master’s degree, she applied her understanding of chemistry and genetics to the identification of invasive black wattle species. She is now working on understanding bilirubin chemistry as it pertains to neonatal jaundice. Dr Mathura is the first African woman (and first South African) to be chosen for this IUPAC award. She has also been featured on the web platform GeekyGirls #STEMStories and is involved in the Young Chemists Crossing Borders exchange programme, which aims to connect young chemistry leaders around the world to influence the future of professional chemists.

. .T H E ED G E meritus Professor Beric Skews (BSc Eng 1958, MSc Eng 1961, PhD 1967, DSc Eng honoris causa 2016) received an A-rating from the National Research Foundation for the fifth time in 2018, aged 82. NRF A-rated researchers are those who are unequivocally recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their field for the high quality and impact of their recent research outputs. Professor Skews is founder and director of the Flow Research Unit in the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering at Wits and a global expert in the field of compressible gas dynamics. “To maintain an A-rating means that one is not only productive but leading the way in the development of new ideas, new questions and new results. The University acknowledges this great achievement, from a great Witsie,” said Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs. Over the last eight years Prof Skews has published 49 papers in accredited journals and numerous conference outputs, as well as reviewing and editing journal papers. The NRF also described him as an “ingenious experimentalist”. Prof Skews helped establish the aeronautical engineering degree at Wits, which is the only one of its

kind in South Africa and is held in high esteem internationally because of the calibre of its graduates. Since establishing the Flow Research Unit in 1990, he has supervised 24 PhD and 56 Master’s students. His accolades have been numerous but he described his Wits honorary degree in 2016 as “top of the pops”.

BSc Eng 1958, MSc Eng 1961, PhD 1967, DSc Eng honoris causa 2016


He joined the staff of Wits in 1959 as a junior lecturer and his research began with developing experiments on shock waves that result from explosions and in supersonic flight. After a couple of years at McMaster University in Canada, he rejoined Wits in 1971 as Professor of Aeronautical Engineering. “Since Wits did not allow research associated with the governing regime at the time,” he says, “it was difficult to obtain funding relating to defence issues, such as aerospace and blast wave protection, which were my interests at the time. Thus in 1979 when approached to head the research and development group at Eskom I decided to move to industry.” He returned to Wits in 1986 and continued far past retirement age with his research on shock waves, especially for the protection of people and structures. His work has applications not only in mining and aerospace but also in medical procedures (such as breaking up kidney stones).

Image: Gordon Harris



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BAFA 2008, MAFA 2011



abrielle Goliath (BAFA 2008, MAFA 2011) is the latest in a line of Witsies to have been chosen as a Standard Bank Young Artist. Representing the visual arts category for 2019, she follows the likes of William Kentridge (BA 1977, LLD honoris causa 2004), Jane Alexander (BAFA 1983, MAFA 1989) and Kemang wa Lehulere (BAFA 2012). Her work focuses on gendered and sexualised violence. “Art gives us the means, when language and conventional therapy fail us, to work through these things,” she says. Elegy, for example, is a collection of work commemorating individuals who have been subjected to violence. Stumbling Block is a blanket-wrapped human form lying on cardboard in a public space and invites interaction from people in the space.

South African Medical Research Council Scientific Merit Awards 2018 Platinum Medal for excellent research and raising the profile of science in South Africa: • Professor Maureen Coetzee (MSc 1982, PhD 1987), DST/ NRF Research Chair in Medical Entomology & Vector Control in the School of Pathology • Professor Charles Feldman (MBBCh 1975, PhD 1991, DSc Med 2009) Distinguished



Professor of Pulmonology in the School of Clinical Medicine Silver Medal for emerging researchers who have made important scientific contributions: • Professor Bavesh Kana (BSc 1997, BSc Hons 1998, PhD 2002) (tuberculosis research) • Professor Penny Moore (BSc 1996, BSc Hons 1997, MSc 2000)

(HIV vaccine research) Special award for contribution to public health surveillance and research: • Professor Lucille Blumberg (MBBCh 1974, DipTM&H 1987, DOH 1991, MMed 2003), Deputy Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and of the National Health Laboratory Service

CHRIS SOAL BAFA 2018 Left: Winning sculptural piece, Imposed Structure (Deflated) Right: Our Question Is Not Static (cement and toothpicks)


n our digital and compartmentalised world, sculptor Chris Soal (BAFA 2018) is drawn to physical materials and to the unity of experience.

Kids See Ghosts Sometimes

“When the arts play a significant role in industry, we learn again to put human beings at the forefront of what we do,” he said when he won the overall PPC Imaginarium Award in 2018. His winning artwork – a cement football – evoked the realities of growing up in the city and the relationship between soccer and industry. His work highlights the histories embedded in materials (such as toothpicks and used beer bottle tops) and is meant to challenge people’s ideas about what is valuable. “The PPC Imaginarium has made me more conscious that we – as artists and creatives – are professionals,” he says. “It gave me a great sense of the potential for art within society.” Recently, he has shown work at several exhibitions (including a solo show) and has spent time at the RAW Material Company in Dakar, Senegal, in a research residency.

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RUPERT CRUISE BSc Eng 1994, MSc Eng 1999

Magway Air surf




hese days, when we want something from the shop, we want it right now. And we prefer to get it in a way that’s kind to the planet and to our pockets. That’s where linear motors come in. UK-based Witsie Rupert Cruise (BSc Eng 1994, MSc Eng 1999) has been working on this technology for 20 years and is now the MD of Magway, a company that has been awarded UK government funding to build a demonstration version of a package delivery system near London. The system uses linear electric motors and permanent magnets allowing a vehicle (like a mini-train or a capsule) to move through pipes less than a metre in diameter on land or underground. The linear motor creates a magnetic wave that propels the magnets on the vehicle forward.


The system produces no emissions, is highly reliable, reduces congestion, accidents and maintenance on roads, and has relatively low operating and installation costs. Magway, which describes itself as a “delivery utility”, is focusing on freight at this point, unlike Elon Musk and Richard Branson’s “hyperloop” plans for transporting people. Another Witsie, Bradley Smith (BSc Eng 1998), has recently joined Magway as lead project engineer to help implement the system. Cruise observes that “in the mid 1990s, the Machines and Drives Research Group (headed by Professor Charles Landy) led the world in the development of permanent magnet linear motors. It is wonderful to see how this technology, developed decades ago at Wits University, is now having a positive social and economic impact on a global scale.”


ne of the world’s authorities on platinum minerals is Wits alumnus Dr Louis J Cabri (BSc 1954, BSc Hons 1955). The mineral cabriite was named after him in 1983 by Soviet scientists and he is the author of two books on platinum elements. “It’s nice to see your work being used,” says Dr Cabri, who is now “retired but busy” as a consultant in Canada, where he was principal scientist at the Canada Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology (Canmet). His work, according to the Royal Society of Canada, “is characterised by innovative experimental approaches that have greatly advanced our knowledge.” Dr Cabri was born to a Belgian father and Egyptian mother in Cairo in 1934. He remembers hearing the guns of the Battle of El Alamein in the Second World War and seeing the troops marching to the front. In 1946 his parents moved the family to the USA and he went to high school in New York. They then moved to South Africa, and he completed matric in Johannesburg in 1951. A Wits guidance counsellor nudged him towards geology to complement his interest in chemistry, and after graduating at Wits he worked as a junior field geologist, mainly in West Africa. After a few years he married and furthered his studies at McGill University in Canada. Once he had his PhD he went to work at the Canadian government’s Mines Branch, which at that time was a strong research environment.

allowed scientists to make big advances in understanding the chemistry of minerals. Cabri’s attention was caught by a Russian research paper in 1965 and – never mind the Cold War – he wrote off for a sample of the ore it described. A box duly arrived from the top-secret Noril’sk deposit in Siberia. This led to his interest in platinum group elements and a career as a pioneer of quantitative mineralogy. Dr Cabri was the first to describe mooihoekite, named after the Mooihoek platinum pipe in the Bushveld. Mooihoekite is a copper-iron sulphide, rare at Mooihoek, but later found to occur in massive form in the Noril’sk deposits. The field of mineralogy, he says, is “very rewarding because you’re always working with the unknown. I’m still learning new things.”

LOUIS J CABRI BSc 1954, BSc Hons 1955

Below: Cabriite (pink) with a core of froodite (white) included in a mooihoekitechalcopyrite intergrowth (left) and pyrrhotite (right), taken in oil. Width of view is 0.69 mm, making the cabriitefroodite grain about 330 µm long (Talnakh deposit, Russia). Image: Natural History Museum, London, England


Various technological developments such as the electron microprobe

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rofessor Himla Soodyall (MSc 1987, PhD 1993) has been appointed Executive Officer of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf). “ASSAf’s role is to provide evidence-based science in the service of society,” she says. “Some of this may be in the form of policy advice through reports and consensus studies, or responses to contemporary issues in the public domain.” Debates over societal issues are often fuelled by emotions, she says, and it’s important to add “a voice from science”.

Renowned for her ground-breaking genetic research into the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, she is a highprofile ambassador for science in South Africa and internationally. She brings to the position her experience in top-quality research and her knowledge of governance and public administration. She has served on the ASSAf Council since 2011 and is Research Professor in Human Genetics at Wits and Principal Medical Scientist at the National Health Laboratory Service. Her work has identified some of the oldest DNA found in living people today, adding weight to the theory that modern humans evolved in southern Africa.

“I would like to engage with ASSAf members more closely at an individual level to increase their involvement in Academy activities,” Prof Soodyall adds.

2018 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards Research Award: Professor Patrick Arbuthnot (BSc 1982, BSc Hons 1984, MBBCh 1985, PhD 1993), director of the Wits/SAMRC Antiviral Gene Therapy Research Unit, for his work on gene therapy to treat hepatitis B virus infection and liver cancer. Academic Citizenship: Professor Johnny Mahlangu (BSc Lab Med 1988, MBBCh 1994, MMed 2008), Head of the School of Pathology in the Faculty of Health Sciences, for his academic work in the study of haemophilia.





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Spectators cheer for an elderly woman taking part in the Argus Cycle Tour (2014), the largest individually timed bicycle race in the world. It follows a route of 109km around Cape Town.



e aim for quality of life rather than relentlessly pursuing length of life,” says Dr India Butler (MMed 2017), one of South Africa’s small group of registered geriatricians or ageing specialists. Her practice is at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg. Geriatric medicine is a holistic



approach to caring for older people – defined by the World Health Organisation as those aged 65 and up. “I’m fascinated by older people and the lives they have lived,” says Dr Butler. “In our profession we take the time to listen to our patients’ life histories as it is a very important part of deciding on the treatment they need to enhance their quality of life or how they might recover from surgery. You get people in

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of the South African population are over the age of 60

Ageing has many dimensions – from Super Humans who are still going strong in their 80s and 90s to those who are not so lucky and face a range of diseases. Heather Dugmore speaks to some Wits-trained specialists in ageing who can help us understand how to make the best of it.

their 80s who are robust, still working, playing tennis and travelling. And you get people a lot younger who are already frail [sometimes as a result of chronic infections such as HIV].” She says the interventions for each patient are highly individualised: “In geriatric medicine today we are able to tailor therapy down to a DNA level. This, combined with an understanding of their life experience, their background and their beliefs, gives

us great insight into how to treat each patient, which makes it interesting and complex.” Butler mainly sees people with diseases of ageing such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as patients with osteoporosis, fractures from falling and the side effects of taking too many types of medication (prescribed by different specialists). A lot can be done to delay disease

About Dr India Butler Dr India Butler trained as a geriatrician with the assistance of a Discovery Foundation Award, dividing her training between the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre and Helen Joseph Hospital – the only training sites in Gauteng.


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or improve health, such as bone strengthening for osteoporosis. People who experience cognitive issues and memory loss could be seeing the onset of a serious disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia, or a thyroid issue. Or the salt levels in their blood could simply be too low. “Reduced salt levels can lead to memory loss, and ageing people’s kidneys are less able to hold on to salt. So we sometimes recommend people have Marmite and Bovril, which are salty and full of vitamin B,” says Butler. To age well, it helps to exercise, eat a healthy diet, avoid excessive use of alcohol or drugs (including sleeping pills), have your medication checked for side effects, and find out from your doctor about the risk factors for hypertension, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. But that’s no guarantee of a problemfree future. “A lot of getting old has to do with luck,” says Butler. In the lucky corner is the special cohort of survivors called Super Humans or Super Agers. “We see it in ICU: people well into their 80s who recover faster than many 40-year-olds. Apart from being physically blessed, Super Humans generally lead interesting lives until their last day. They have phenomenal resilience, an iron will, and a strong sense of independence and purpose.” South Africa has a fascinating population of robust Super Humans, including bubbes who survived the Holocaust and gogos leading hard



World record-breaking bodybuilder Ernestine Shepherd is 82 years old Image: Facebook

lives on state pensions and doing physically demanding work such as farming. Many Super Humans never retire. They keep their minds and bodies active, and keep going strong long after most of their age groups have passed on. Butler cites the example of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who took the oath of office in 1993 and fought against gender discrimination her whole career. (A movie about her, On the Basis of Sex, was released in 2018.) At 86 she says she hopes to remain on the Supreme Court bench until the age of 90, and has already hired law clerks for at least two more terms. She works out with a personal trainer and until 2019 had never missed a day of oral arguments. Part of her strength is her independence and refusal to comply with stereotypes: “My mother told me to be a lady,” she once said. “And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.”



steoporosis is common in old people but we do also see young people and children with it,” says Dr Stanley Lipschitz (MBBCh 1980), specialist physician and geriatrician in private practice in Johannesburg. He is an honorary lecturer at Wits, Vice-Chairman of the National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa and President of the South African Geriatrics Society.

of those over 60 are female

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All people start losing bone in their 50s, he says, but osteoporosis usually manifests later in life. “Today, there is far more focus on prevention, but exciting new treatments are also available and research is ongoing.”

Dr Lipschitz has participated in the research behind many of the drugs currently available and has a research division at his practice, running trials for memory loss and osteoporosis. “We are now able to treat osteoporosis with tablets, injections and infusions. Most current treatment preserves bone and improves bone quality, but there are now treatments available that actually build the bone. The good news is that people are never too old or too severely affected to be treated for osteoporosis.”

About Dr Stanley Lipschitz

His other research interest is the variety of memory problems that occur with ageing, particularly dementia. “There are exciting developments aiming to prevent Alzheimer’s progression. At the same time we are researching better strategies to identify who is more likely to get Alzheimer’s and to initiate strategies to prevent this,” says Lipschitz.

Dr Stanley Lipschitz completed his specialist training in New Zealand in 1988. South Africa did not have any geriatricians at the time. He returned to South Africa in 1993 with the aim of contributing his knowledge and

“In our research we are doing genetic testing, volumetric MRI scanning (which shows the shrinking of the brain as a result of the disease) and assessments on amyloid protein deposits in the brain, which increase the chances of getting Alzheimer’s.

expertise. He opened an acute care centre for geriatric patients at what is now the Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. It also offered a rehabilitation programme for those who had suffered strokes or head and spinal injuries. His interest in osteoporosis grew and he has developed the field substantially.

“Worldwide we are busy with clinical trials to try to prevent amyloid build-up and to detect this early. There is no quick fix. While every trial has given us important information, the brain is a very complex organ and there is no cure yet.” But there will be one day, he believes.


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He has seen giant advances in the treatment of eye problems over his six-decade career. “We are heading into the era of robotic eye surgery. But we still have a way to go as we have not found a way to treat some issues, such as dry macular degeneration.” The three visual disturbances that affect elderly people are:

Image: Simon Wijers, Unsplash



About Emeritus Professor Neville Welsh Prof Neville Welsh trained at Wits and went to the UK in 1956 to specialise, along with his occupational therapist wife Antoinette (Rosset) (DOH 1954). His research focus was glaucoma.


geing inevitably affects the eyes, and the three main visual disturbances are cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration,” says Emeritus Professor Neville Welsh (MBBCh 1953). He headed the Department of Ophthalmology at Wits until his retirement in 1995 and then consulted at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre until 2014. “It is extremely important to consult an ophthalmologist if your eyes are deteriorating, because certain conditions can be very effectively treated but if left too late they can result in permanent, irreversible damage and blindness,” he says. Conditions like hypertension and diabetes are also a risk to eyesight because they affect the blood circulation in the retina.


Chronic open angle glaucoma is the most common, with a slow pressure build-up on the blood vessels and optic nerve at the back of the eye. The optic nerves start to degenerate, and this can lead to blindness. If picked up early it can be treated with drops or surgery.

Macular degeneration – dry and wet The macula is a specialised part of the retina, used for reading and straight-ahead vision. With dry macular degeneration the macula can lose its structure and become an area of scar tissue. There is no treatment for this yet. With wet macular degeneration, which is far less common, the blood vessels grow into the macula and leak, causing swelling of the macula, but this can be treated with injections.

Cataracts Cataracts most often develop from the age of 70 onwards, says Prof Welsh. “The lens of the eye becomes opaque. With surgery we remove this cataract and put an artificial lens back into the eye. This type of surgery started in 1947 and exponentially advanced from there, with Wits right up there at the forefront. The surgery is fantastically successful.”



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number of geriatricians in SA


e often find that the multiple drugs patients are taking make them feel worse rather than better,” says geriatrician Dr John Morley (MBBCh 1972, PDipMed 1976), a professor at Saint Louis University, Missouri. It’s a problem called the “polypharmacy syndrome”. “One example is a patient who was taking 26 medicines a day. I sat with him and asked him how he was taking them, as many older people do not take their medicines properly and do not know which medicine is for which condition. One of the medicines he was supposed to be taking was for heart disease, and it was supposed to be once a day. I asked him how he was taking it. He replied that he only took it when he got diarrhoea and then he would take four or five tablets at a time. That could have killed him. Together, we whittled it down to one medicine.” Anorexia in the aged is another major issue, as old people often lose their

appetite and a lot of weight. Because of this “it is better to be fatter than thinner from 65 onwards,” Dr Morley says.

Great-grandmother Thloriso Marie Mphale, who turned 115 in 2011, seen here with one of her children, Rosalia Nakin (right), at her home in Stilfontein. She said the secret of her longevity was that she did not take medication: "The more pills someone drinks, the faster they die."

Depression is another common ageing disorder, sometimes as a result of loneliness and a loss of purpose. “It’s extremely important for old people to exercise a couple of times a week (which could just be walking) and to be involved in life, to get involved in a group or to use their abilities in helping others.” Morley says despite the rise in ageing populations the world over, specialising as a geriatrician is not a popular profession. “One of the main reasons is that it takes a lot of time to look after old people; we often spend two hours consulting with a patient.” That means geriatricians earn less than some other specialists. When the system of payment was changed in Australia, there was an immediate rise in the number of physicians choosing to specialise in geriatrics.

About Dr John Morley Dr John Morley is a geriatrician in Saint Louis, Missouri and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area. He moved to the USA to take up a position at the University of Minnesota, and later moved to UCLA.


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he South African Geriatrics Society is responsible for all the training in geriatric medicine in South Africa. It works with the universities, including Wits’ Division of Geriatric Medicine, which Professor Brent Tipping started 12 years ago. South Africa has only 17 geriatricians for a population of about 54-million.

Image: Esther Town, Unsplash

According to the most recent Statistics SA figures, about 8% of the population are over the age of 60. In 2006 the average life expectancy in South Africa was 54.75 for women and 52.3 for men. In 2017 this increased to 66.7 for women and 61.2 for men. Our longer life expectancy is due to advances in addressing poverty, diabetes, high blood pressure, nutrition, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. “Given that we can never produce enough geriatricians for our population (it takes 11 years to become a geriatrician), we have developed a Diploma in Geriatric Medicine to upskill GPs and give them the tools to manage older people,” says Dr Stanley Lipschitz. “In addition, we run an annual four-day course, which covers every aspect of ageing.”

THE SOUTH AFRICAN GERIATRICS SOCIETY (www.geriatricssociety.co.za)


n 2018 Wits announced that a nasal spray developed by Wits scientists could potentially slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.


“To date there have been no substances to treat Alzheimer’s disease; there are only substances to take pain away and there is palliative care,” says Professor Stefan Weiss, head of the Laminin Receptor and Telomerase Research Group in the School of Molecular and Cell Biology. He is one of the Wits scientists looking for a breakthrough


that would change millions of people’s lives. Alzheimer’s (the most common cause of dementia) starts with loss of memory and problems with thought processing, and becomes increasingly debilitating. It attacks parts of the brain that control walking, coordination and even swallowing. Mood swings, aggression and volatile behaviour are typical in people with Alzheimer’s, making life extremely difficult for themselves and those close to them. Image: David Calderon, Unsplash


THE SILVER AGE erontologist Dr Sandrine ReyScalco (MBBCh 2007) did her Master’s at King’s College London on the implications of ageing populations for society and policy makers. Gerontology is the multidisciplinary study of ageing. “In sub-Saharan Africa the actual number of older people will increase by 40% between 2008 and 2020,” she says. “The speed of growth of an older population has implications for the resources of a country. For example, where a developed country like France has taken 115 years to increase its over-65 population from 7% to 14%, a less developed country like Brazil will take 21 years. Developed countries have more time to create the infrastructure needed to

A hallmark of the disease is the formation of amyloid plaque between nerve cells in the brain. Weiss’s research group found an antibody which could reduce this process in mice and lead to improvements in their cognitive function. The antibody was administered nasally. (Oncotarget June 2018) Now they are planning clinical trials with human volunteers. There is still a way to go before “Alzheimer’s nasal spray” can be purchased, and a pharmaceutical partner would need to be involved in the next study, but Weiss says he is optimistic.

support an older population.” Policy makers in all countries need to consider health care, social care and labour policies for this population shift. They need policies to do with preventing health problems as well as managing chronic conditions that are more common in an older population, Rey-Scalco says. The most important social care policies pertain to long-term care, whether it be supporting older people to stay at home for longer, supporting families to help care for older family members, or improving and increasing the number of homes for the aged. Labour policies will need to ensure that state pensions and pension contributions are sufficient for all when they reach pensionable age.

Dr Sandrine Rey-Scalco

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Tell us: How does it feel to be getting older? What should you accept and what can you challenge? What’s the silver lining? Share your thoughts and experiences with us: peter.maher@wits.ac.za

The number of older people in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by 40% by 2020

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KERRY CAWSENICHOLSON Image processing scientist Location: LOS ANGELES BSc 2007, BSc Hons 2008, MSc 2009, PhD 2012

“I found myself at the centre of the universe,” says Kerry Cawse-Nicholson, speaking of taking up her post at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Los Angeles two years ago.


mong her other roles, she works as the deputy science lead for a mission called ECOSTRESS. It measures the temperature of Earth from outer space in order to better understand how plants respond to heat and water stress. ECOSTRESS (ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station) is managed and operated out of JPL’s sprawling campus at the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains, north of Los Angeles. “JPL, managed by the California Institute of Technology, is one of the robotic NASA facilities



for space and earth science. I was blown away on my first visit to the mission control room, where the deep space network operates and receives data from every manmade object out of the Earth’s orbit, including the Mars rovers. It is referred to as the ‘centre of the universe’,” says Kerry. This is the outer space world she inhabits during her work day, before returning home to Earth and the condo in Pasadena where she lives with her husband, Terence, and five-year-old daughter, Maia. She says their life took an entirely unforeseen turn

Kerry and Terence are both from Johannesburg and started dating when they were 16. After matric Terence did a BCom Hons in finance at the University of Johannesburg while Kerry did a BSc in computational and applied mathematics at Wits. “I went on to do my postgraduate studies at Wits and after I completed my PhD we moved to New York State, where I did my postdoc at the Center for Imaging Science at Rochester Institute of Technology,” she explains. “Maia was born there and after my postdoc we moved back to South Africa to be with family.” Two years later, Kerry’s career shot into outer space. “At JPL one of my most incredible experiences has been watching ECOSTRESS launch into space atop a Falcon-9 rocket out of Cape Canaveral in June 2018.” One of the core products the ECOSTRESS team will produce is the Evaporative Stress Index, a leading drought indicator that will be able to measure plant stress and temperature all the way down to an individual farmer’s field, providing critical data from which decision-makers at all levels can take action. “I am also working on upcoming satellite missions. I love the constant challenge and the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best scientists and engineers in the world, all from different backgrounds and with differing and complementary areas of expertise.”

She adds that she is “constantly terrified about living up to the standard of excellence that is carried out at the lab”, but that it challenges her to push herself further every day. “I am so lucky to have a husband who is currently putting his career on hold to support mine and to look after our daughter.” Kerry makes a point of taking time out to enjoy her family and to explore Los Angeles and beyond with them. “Los Angeles is a melting pot of different cultures, and we are very happy here, with friends from all over the world and access to a wide range of incredible museums, such as the California Science Center, which hosts a space shuttle exhibit featuring Endeavour, which is my daughter's favourite! We live in a wonderful neighbourhood with a choice of small restaurants serving organic or sustainably sourced food, which is popular here. My favourite place to spend the day is at the nearby Huntington Library with its beautiful botanical gardens, including many South African plants. “It is also easy to travel from here to the ocean, desert, and mountains. My family visited recently, and we went on an awe-inspiring road trip through California and three surrounding states, including stops at Joshua Tree National Park, Sedona and the Grand Canyon. I’ve seen images of the Grand Canyon so many times from space but being up close was an incredible experience.” Kerry says her ultimate goal is “to continue to contribute to NASA earth science missions, to give us the opportunity to understand the dynamics of our earth from a truly global perspective. I have Wits to thank for this as it gave me the background, independence and skills I need to continue to learn and acquire new abilities every day.”

ECOSTRESS launches into space on a Falcon-9 rocket out of Cape Canaveral in June 2018 559 9

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when she saw an advertisement for the position at JPL. “We were living in Johannesburg at the time and I thought my chances of being considered for the position were slim, but I submitted my CV anyway. And then I got it!”


TEHILLAH CHIMFWEMBE Telecoms licensing officer and global shaper Location: ZAMBIA BCom Law 2014, BEconSci Hons 2015 Tehillah with the Director General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Michael Møller and above, the World Economic Forum Headquarters

“Online violence, defamation of character, impersonation, fake news, alternative facts and cyber bullying are serious offences and threats to individuals on the receiving end and to the public at large,” Tehillah Chimfwembe explains on national Zambian TV, ZNBC.


er broadcasts about the responsible use of social media, what to do about cyber bullying, universal ICT access and innovation, mobile application privacy and other ICT-related issues have gained her recognition in the Zambian multimedia journalism fraternity and on TV as the face of the Zambia Information & Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA), where she works as a licensing officer.



“ZICTA is Zambia’s equivalent of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA),” she explains from ZICTA’s office in the suburb of Longacres, Lusaka. “I use my law background to advise on the types of telecommunications licences that are offered in our jurisdiction for all forms of ICT – from mobile network operators to internet service providers – and what operators may or may not do.”

After graduating with her honours degree from Wits, Tehillah says, she felt a duty to return home to Zambia and contribute there. “A well-managed ICT sector can play a huge role in uplifting our economy. It’s driving the future and it puts the world at our fingertips. In Zambia there is so much scope for ICT and related businesses to grow.” Home for Tehillah is on the outskirts of Lusaka in a farming area called Makeni. “I’m the least outdoorsy person but I live on our family farm with my Mom and Dad.” Her father, Emmanuel, is an aeronautical engineer and her mother, Jacqueline, is a lawyer, and they also keep cows and chickens. “The nice thing about Zambia is that most people have a side hustle,” she says. One of ten siblings, she is the only one living at home at the moment. One of her brothers, Asher, is studying aeronautical engineering at Wits. She describes herself as a “homebody” but when she goes out, one of her favourite places is a restaurant and nursery close to her home called Mint Café at Sandy’s Creations: “I’m a smoothie lover and they make the best smoothies and prawn pasta.” Living in Lusaka, she says, is “busy, but not Joburg-busy. People are a bit more laid back here, and our industries are not as aggressive, but there are a lot of entrepreneurs. Because of the lack of jobs, everyone is trying to do something on their own. As a friend of mine in the fashion industry here says, the beauty of being here is that you can be the first. Whether you’re the first wedding planner or one of the first Zambian YouTubers or international television presenters, there is a lot of scope.” Asked where she learnt to be a TV presenter, she says it started at Wits, where she volunteered for a small Christian TV station. “I’m interested in broadcast journalism and I love travelling, so in October 2018 I combined both when I enrolled for a one-month course in broadcast journalism at the New York Film Academy.” During her stay Tehillah visited the 9/11 memorial and says it had a profound impact on her. “I met people who were

there, who had lost someone or been covered by the smog that descended on the city.” She says she learnt a lot at the film academy. “Even if you don’t have the equipment, you can use your smartphone. It’s all about starting with what you have and life will meet you there,” says Tehillah, whose life is taking her all over the world. Just before going to New York she was in Geneva at the World Economic Forum headquarters, representing Zambia at the Global Shapers Annual Summit. An initiative of the World Economic Forum, Global Shapers is a network of people under the age of 30, working together to address local, regional and global challenges. With more than 7 000 members, the Global Shapers Community includes 369 citybased hubs in 171 countries. In each city, teams of Shapers self-organise to create projects that address the needs of their community. She says the highlight of the summit was when she moderated the flagship session with the Director General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Michael Møller. In Lusaka, Tehillah is involved in a range of community projects, one of which is Menstruation Matters. “The price of pads is very high in Zambia, so we distribute them for free to girls who cannot afford them and our hub members in the medical field talk to the girls about menstruation and the importance of a good education. “In my home language, Bemba, there is a saying, Upamfiwe, ewulwa ne chibi, which loosely translated means ‘the person with a need is the one who should do the running around’. In other words, you need to be proactive to get what you need and to go after your dreams. And that’s what I did at Wits. I am so thankful to Wits for the education and for the Postgraduate Merit Award I received. I stayed in Wits Junction during my honours year; I loved it, I made treasured friends there, including South Africans, Zambians and Malawians, and I loved having my own space, with a beautiful view overlooking Johannesburg.”



“The first time I travelled was across South Africa for the Wits Debating Union in the early 2000s. We visited schools as a result of the NGO LoveLife sponsoring debating (and, indirectly, us),” says Richard Stupart, photographer and PhD researcher in the Media and Communications Department at the London School of Economics.


RICHARD STUPART Journalist Location: LONDON & SOUTH SUDAN BSc 2004 (Computer Science), BSc Hons 2005

or his PhD he is researching the discourse and practice of “bearing witness” by journalists in geopolitical conflicts, notably in South Sudan. His interest in the idea was ignited at Wits and through the Debating Union. “It was the first environment I encountered where it was possible to really start to reflect on the world I lived in and develop relationships with people I would never have met otherwise.” On the debating trips around South Africa, he says, he saw “how apartheid spatial planning had been written into every tiny town and large city. This led to long conversations with the other debaters from all walks of life, which were easily as educational as anything I was learning in my formal classes.” After his Honours, Richard ran a small company in software development and hosting for a few years. “The money was good but at some point I had an existential crisis about what I was doing with my life. I

Malakal protection of civilians site in South Sudan Image: Richard Stupart



was finding the whole being-a-coder enterprise fairly meaningless, morally and politically speaking. So I packed up and went backpacking from Cape Town to Cairo on public transport for three months.” This influenced his decision to pursue his Master’s in Media Studies at Rhodes University in 2012, followed by a second Master’s in Public Policy and Conflict at Universität Erfurt, Germany, in 2015. “I realised that I was interested in the broader questions about how journalism is done. So I researched media coverage of the 2011 famine in Somalia, but also travelled independently to northern Uganda and later to the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both experiences made me think much more about the sociological universe in which peacekeepers, journalists and humanitarians do their work.” In 2012 he moved to London with his partner, Katherine Furman (whom he met at a debating competition), when she started her PhD in Philosophy at the London School of Economics. “Katherine is currently a lecturer at the University College Cork, and I’m at the LSE. So we have had to become good at making weekend travel plans,” he says. “One of the major headaches of being in a relationship where both of us are academics is to find work in the same city. Among academics this situation is so prevalent that it’s been given its own name – the two-body problem. In time, it’d be nice to actually live in the same place again.” For his fieldwork he travelled to South Sudan in the early part of 2018, where he stayed in the capital, Juba, and a site in Malakal where UN peacekeepers are effectively being asked to keep 20000 civilians safe from the government. On this visit he directly encountered state repression of the media. In his research he is questioning what justifies witnessing the suffering of others, what obligations we have to speak about injustices we are aware of, and the ethics and purpose of journalism. “For all of the crises about fake news and the role of journalists

in the world, there is a point to be made about how certain forms of journalism are fundamentally an ethical form of work through which society comes to know itself, know what is unjust, and thereby have the opportunity to improve. These tricky questions of ethics, suffering and representation fascinate me.” One of his interactive digital projects is an African Conflict Map, showing over 94000 instances of conflict events across Africa in the past 14 years and allowing users to browse conflict event data. For light relief Richard has taken to baking, in particular Guinness chocolate cakes. “Maybe it’s a diversion from thesis writing or from living and studying in the UK at this very strange moment in the political history of the country,” he says. “Watching the practical implosion of reasoned democracy and the emergence of a strange form of nostalgia for the days of empire is unsettling for someone who grew up in South Africa and has since spent much of his life reading about what colonial domination actually looked like.” He adds that there is an uneasiness in the UK now, “in the sense of not really having a clue what the UK might look like in two months’ time, let alone in two years’ time. In a world of Trumpian, Brexit shocks, it’s also a strange feeling to be questioning the notion that the arc of history bends to justice, to paraphrase King’s famous quote. Having grown up through the fall of the Berlin wall, the end of apartheid, and the progressive realisation of sexual rights in many countries, it’s a reminder, I suppose, that nothing is inevitable. Except perhaps that the sun will rise. “Every winter up north, I miss the sun. Blue skies, and Johannesburg’s very specific, wrath-of-god thunderstorms in the evenings are things I’ve come to miss a lot. I have very fond memories of falling asleep on the wooden benches outside the Cullen Library on lazy afternoons. Then reluctantly awakening from this warm reverie to get to classes in what was then Senate House.”

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IVOR & HELOISE CLIFFORD Nuclear engineer and pianist Location: SWITZERLAND Ivor BSc Eng (Mech) 2001; Heloise (Murdoch) BMus 2001, MMus 2007

Witsies watching an episode of House Hunters International a few years back may have seen two familiar faces on the show, looking for a home in Switzerland. They were Ivor and Heloise Clifford.


eing on House Hunters International was a fun experience and it’s been so interesting to hear how many friends around the world have seen the show and were able to see the apartment we found through it and now live in. It’s in the village of Würenlingen, 40km from Zurich in northern Switzerland,” Ivor explains. “We moved here in 2013 when I took up a post as a scientist and later as a group leader in the field of nuclear systems and safety analysis at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen, the village neighbouring Würenlingen.” PSI is Switzerland’s largest research institute for natural and engineering sciences, conducting research into matter and material, energy and the

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environment and human health. Before moving to Switzerland they lived in the United States for four years, where Ivor did his PhD in Nuclear Engineering at Penn State University, followed by an internship at the Idaho National Lab as a Graduate Nuclear Engineering Fellow. During this time, pianist Heloise did a Professional Performer's Certificate at Penn State University and played in the Penn State Orchestra, a highlight being when they performed in New York at Carnegie Hall. The two met at the Wits Yacht Club. Heloise

says: “When we first joined, we were both vaguely interested in sailing and very interested in parties, but in the end we were both long-term members of the club.” After graduating from Wits, Ivor worked for the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa, which had provided a bursary for his studies. After that he worked for the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Company, designing a nuclear reactor. “Nuclear energy and its role often sparks controversy but it remains one of the few viable options for long-term base load energy production when we remove fossil fuels from the energy mix,” says Ivor. “For a researcher, the modelling and analysis of the complex physical processes taking place in nuclear reactors is fascinating and challenging.” After Heloise graduated from Wits, she doubled as a piano teacher at the Ridge School and a freelance classical pianist performing as a soloist and accompanist in many venues around Johannesburg. “These days my piano playing is confined to our living room!” she smiles. “I work in Zurich and the surrounding areas as a teacher of English, music and piano. It's a challenge to teach piano in German, but something I'm proud to be able to do after many years of German language study. I love teaching and at the same time I am happy to have a good balance between working and having time at home enjoying Würenlingen with our young boys. Würenlingen, she explains, “is a small village of 4000 people, which is different from growing up in Joburg. The shops are all closed on Sundays.” They found it hard to integrate into Swiss life at first, primarily because of the huge language challenge. They also needed to adapt to the lifestyle and the housing situation, which is vastly different

from South Africa. Land is at a premium and they don’t have a back yard or workshop where Ivor can fix up old Minis or dream up designs for his ideal Formula 1 car, as he used to do in his family’s home in Johannesburg. As the top student in his mechanical engineering class at Wits, Ivor took part in the Formula Student Design Competition, travelling to the UK twice to compete. Over 100 student teams from universities throughout the world compete in racing cars they design, build and race. “Fortunately, after five years in Switzerland we are well settled and we have a wonderful life in a beautiful country,” says Heloise. “We have forests, mountains, glacial lakes, medieval cities, culture, concerts, galleries, amazing cheese and chocolate. We spend a lot of time skiing and hiking in the mountains. We now swim in lakes rather than swimming pools, and we raft on the rivers.” The Cliffords love being in the centre of Europe “so we can travel to Paris instead of Parys for the weekend”, Heloise quips. “We travel a lot, spending weekends in Italy, France, Spain, Germany... We also love exploring Switzerland, which is amazing. We didn't own a car for the first four years here; we travelled everywhere by train and the Swiss public transport system is phenomenal.” They have a large group of international friends and have done their best to convert them into “braai fundis”. “We miss having braais, we miss biltong and Ouma rusks and we miss our family and friends, but we are happy here,” says Heloise. “We are adding new memories to our older ones. We think back with nostalgia to our time at Wits and our lofty plans about our lives and futures. We had no responsibilities and lots of energy, and, of course, we were young and in love.”

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MICHAEL JENNIONS Biologist Location: AUSTRALIA BSc 1990, BSc Hons 1992, MSc 1993

Roos at the caravan park where Michael and his wife Pat teach a field course

Michael Jennions is a professor at the Research School of Biology and leader of the Jennions Group in Behavioural and Reproductive Ecology at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. His story of world research and travel begins with a frog condom he designed during his Master’s at Wits.


e explains the condom was used on male foamnest frogs during research in Mkhuze Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal. “I look back in wonder that we were working at night in an area full of rhino, armed only with torches and enthusiasm.” The male foam-nest frogs appeared to be cooperating in the frenzied building of the foam nests, whereas evolutionary theory suggests that unrelated males generally don’t cooperate; they compete to get access to the female. Michael



wanted to find out if the foam-nest frog was a rare, sexually cooperative male. So he fashioned a condom from a plastic sandwich bag and slipped it between the female and the male jockeying her. Yet the eggs still got fertilised. “What we discovered is that every time the female releases eggs she churns her legs to whip up the foam. At this exact moment, all the males in the vicinity swivel their bodies to move their groins closer to the female’s cloaca. Their foam-whipping simply creates the illusion that they are helping.”

View of Canberra

Since then, Michael’s research and presentations on the reproduction and sexual selection behaviour of frogs, crabs, fish, insects and mammals have taken him all over the world, including Mozambique, Tanzania, Japan, Australia, Panama, the UK, Spain, New Zealand and China. He and Pat Backwell (BSc 1983, BSc Hons 1984, PhD 1991) married in 1996. She, too, is a professor at ANU, and leader of the Backwell Group in the Behavioural Ecology of Fiddler Crabs. In the first year of their marriage fiddlers and cichlids took them to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Station in the forests of Panama until 2001. Michael elaborates: “We lived in a small settlement called Gamboa, halfway between the Pacific and Caribbean, with a rainforest on our back doorstep, full of wildlife – sloths, toucans, tamarin monkeys, howler monkeys, opossums, capybaras … it was amazing.” They lived on a tight budget, eating a basic local diet, mainly beans, rice and plantains, and occupying a “weird old colonial-style plantation house on stilts with a massive hole in the floor in the bathroom. You had to remember it was there or you risked falling through it in the middle of the night.” Okinawa in Japan was next. “We were in the far north in a village called Motobu. Okinawa is famous for its sweet pork, made into a broth with noodles. The people live to be very old here; many are over 100. Possibly it’s the sweet pork or their ice cream made of red beans, which is really good.” In 2001 they moved to Canberra. The trusty fiddlers

have afforded them several outings from there, including trips to Mozambique and Zanzibar. They also spent a year in Berlin, where Michael got a fellowship to the Institute for Advanced Study at Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. “While there, I decided to do a crazy project: to walk all the streets in Berlin inside the Ringbahn – the 37.5km long railway line around the city – and to map my walk. It took me about nine months and I covered 2000km. I would colour in the section I had walked each day on the map with a pink fluorescent pen. It appealed to me as quite a systematic person, and it was like a bit of performance art.” Michael describes Canberra as “an easy place to live in. It’s peaceful and pristine, with embassies and film festivals. Because most of the people are middle class it doesn’t have the vibrancy of Berlin or Johannesburg. If everyday living is consistently easy you lose track of time and the years pass.” Michael and Pat enjoy the odd sortie to the local Polish club, The White Eagle. “They do delicious Polish dumplings or pierogi, and the décor is all orange and brown and 70s or vaguely East European and comfortably tasteless. I like this because so much of Australia is so super cool and hipster.” Come vacation time, they head for South Africa or Europe. “I miss the wildlife, natural beauty and the people and diversity of South Africa. I am pleased to see that my South African colleagues are also doing well. Would I come back? Of course, but that’s just nostalgia talking, it’s not on the cards.” Unless, of course, the local fiddlers irresistibly wave and call!



LIVING LAB As back yards go, Wits’ is pretty spectacular. The Melville Koppies have long been an adored Eden and outdoor classroom for Witsies.

Image: Sudhir Misra, Shutterstock




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Wits Geology students on an outing


Images: Melville Koppies Facebook page unless otherwise specified



his year Melville Koppies celebrates 60 years of being declared a nature reserve. That status owes a lot to Wits’ first botany professor. Nearly 100 years ago, Charles Edward Moss took regular walks along the rocky outcrops west of what would become the university’s main campus. He collected numerous specimens of plants from the koppies and his collection became part of the herbarium at Wits (named after Moss) when the university opened its doors in 1922. There are 548 plant species from Melville Koppies catalogued in the herbarium, nearly 500 of them indigenous. The koppies were clearly a natural treasure, but also a contested space in a mining town that had grown into a city by 1928. Moss knew this and was an early proponent of securing protection for the koppies. The Transvaal Horticultural Society and the Tree Society of Southern Africa, too, kept up the pressure to conserve this green lung. It would take nearly 30 years after Moss’s death in 1930, though, for Melville Koppies to be declared a nature reserve in 1959. City councillor


Dr HMJ “Sporie” van Rensburg earned himself the title of “Father of Melville Koppies” for his efforts promulgating the legislation. Today the reserve also has two heritage blue plaques. The inscription on one sums up the richness of what the koppies offer. The site “carries the evidence of cultures from Johannesburg’s distant past”, the plaque reads. It’s a nod to the ancient hunter-gatherers and early Bantuspeaking farmers and communities who left imprints on the hillsides. Wendy Carstens (PDipEd 1975) is the current chairman of the Friends of Melville Koppies (FOMK), which was formed in 1993. The group took over from the Johannesburg Council for Natural History, a body which included many academics and oversaw conservation and education outreach in the early days of the reserve. The area has provided material for many academic and other publications on its flora, archaeology and geology, and students still do fieldwork in this open-air laboratory. Carstens says it’s thanks to people like Moss and numerous other ordinary citizens through the years that the

Image: Lyrr Thurston

Carstens’ own connection to the koppies is also a love story. Twentyone years ago she and her husband David (BSc Eng 1961, MSc Eng 1986) moved from Benoni to Melville and happened to join a guided walk during one of Melville’s Mardi Gras events. So smitten was Carstens after her introduction to the koppies that she signed up as a volunteer before she’d even dusted off her hiking boots. She says she learnt a great deal about the place from the late Richard Hall, a statistician and Botanical Society member.

mounds, rolls away rocks looking for scorpions and shares the bounty of plump, tart wild medlar fruit (mmilo). “I haven’t stopped teaching,” the ex-school teacher says of being able to share a living classroom with school groups (and curious grown-ups) who are regular visitors to the koppies. At an enclosed excavation site Carstens unlocks a protective cage to show chunks of fossilised trees, stone tools and pottery shards. She recounts stories of early communities whose iron smelting here was part science, part magic more than 500 years ago.

“What’s not to love about the koppies? I could be here the whole day, every day,” Carstens says, making her way to the highest point at 1720m.

The site here holds the remains of an Iron Age furnace that was found in 1963 by Professor Revil Mason, who was Head of the Archaeological Research Unit at Wits. Later Mason found a second furnace further down the slope as well as remains of ancient stone walling.

On a rain-rinsed day the Magaliesberg mountains peek out on the western rim, and to the east the cooling towers of Kelvin Power Station stand sentinel. The views win hands down, but Carstens is also fascinated by the small things. She counts termite

“Iron smelting was a skill passed down from father to son and there were superstitions attached to smelting ore. Women of menstruating age weren’t allowed near the furnaces, for instance, so the men who tended the fires for hours with bellows were

Wendy Carstens

Image: Lyrr Thurston

treasure was saved. They spared the koppies from being levelled to make room for an old age home, which was on the cards some years ago.

Image: Maria Cabaco

Prof. Kim Hein conducting a geology tour


Image: Lyrr Thurston


brought food and provisions by old women or young girls. “We also know that one iron hoe head in the late Iron Age period was traded for ten bags of grain. So being able to smelt and forge was highly advantageous,” Carstens says. The Friends of Melville Koppies have erected information boards on the reserve and offer guided tours, hikes and field trips. The reserve is also used for bird ringing and other research projects. The koppies are divided into three sections: East, Central and West. Access to Central is controlled; East is popular with dog walkers; and West is known for its quartzite cave, which also has blue heritage plaque status and is visited by members of African independent churches. Most Sundays up to 400 worshippers from different church groups arrive dressed in traditional robes of white, navy or green and hike up to the highest points on the koppies, above the West Park Cemetery. Three church members have



become full-time conservation employees of FOMK. They clear alien vegetation, pick up litter and help educate visitors. One of them, Clement Ndlovu, joined FOMK in 2008. “I love everything about the reserve,” he says. “My wish is for it to stay as it is for future generations.” Melville Koppies Central is protected but in the East and West sections it is under threat from crime, developers and unsustainable use. The reality is that one person’s joyous praying, singing and drumming is another’s noise pollution; one person’s entry ticket for a guided hike is someone else’s version of exclusion; and even conservation may for some be a luxury of skewed priorities. The Friends of Melville Koppies may not have all the answers for balancing everyone’s demands of an urban reserve. If the reserve is to celebrate another 60 years it will need old and new friends to keep cheering it on. *For more information about FOMK and the 60th anniversary celebrations, visit www.mk.org.za or the Friends of Melville Koppies Facebook page.




Komati Valley Image: © UNESCO

It was just another passing story in July last year when South Africa got its 10th UNESCO World Heritage site: the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains.


t should matter more, says environmentalist Roger Porter (BSc 1968, BSc Hons 1969, MSc 1975), one of the people who have worked to secure world recognition for South Africa’s heritage sites. These mountains in the southeastern corner of Mpumalanga are a unique natural treasure, he says.

“It’s the story of our planet’s earliest formation, told in rock,” says Porter. The mountains are the oldest and best preserved sequence of volcanic and sedimentary rocks on Earth. They are estimated to have formed between 3600-million and 3250-million years ago. Back then, there was no oxygen in the atmosphere; there



were no continents or life forms; Earth was still cooling from its molten state and being bombarded by meteorites.

Roger Porter

IT’S THE STORY OF OUR PLANET’S EARLIEST FORMATION, TOLD IN ROCK SA'S 4 NATURAL WORLD HERITAGE SITES: 1. Cape Floral Region Protected Areas 2. iSimangaliso Wetland Park 3. Vredefort Dome 4. Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains

Speaking from his and his wife Ingrid’s home in Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, Porter says world heritage sites give recognition to extraordinary places that are regarded as being of universal value. But their more profound significance is that they can build awareness of humanity’s common heritage. They are reminders of the wonders of the planet we call home and our collective responsibility to preserve it. “UNESCO World Heritage status means we have something right here in South Africa that is the best example of its kind on our planet,” he says. In November 2018 Porter was honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service. He worked in conservation in the province between 1971 and his retirement in 2009. His love for the natural world started

when he was growing up exploring the hills around Northcliff in Johannesburg. He also remembers the impact of trips to the Johannesburg Zoo with his granny. “At the zoo I saw the most magnificent animals, but they were in cages and I knew they didn’t belong there,” he says. He was the kind of child who thought deeply about these things. He also begged to spend time in the Transvaal Museum (now called the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History) on holidays and even insisted on attending a high school that offered natural history as an extramural activity (St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown). At Wits he majored in botany and zoology and went on to a Master’s in botanical ecology. “Many graduates went the route of becoming teachers, but I wanted to be in the field and to do research in wildlife management and conservation,” he says. It was at the Natal Parks Board that Porter became the first person to undertake a major environmental impact assessment (EIA). It was 1977

PACING PROGRESS Professor Carl Anhaeusser (BSc 1961, BSc Hons 1962, MSc 1964, PhD 1969, DSc 1983) was the first to suggest, many years ago, that “the Barberton region was in dire need of protection from un-coordinated development and haphazard settlements. The area was proving to be of great scientific value and sites of geological significance were in danger of being destroyed. My concerns were taken up by Lowvelders Tony Ferrar, Dion Brandt (BSc 1991, BSc Hons 1992, MSc 1994, PhD 1999) and Fred Daniel, who set about enquiring how to protect the region. World Heritage Site recognition provided some safeguards, but it took over 15 years to get this through a tedious process [providing UNESCO with scientific information]. The big question remaining is how the rules of WHS status are going to be applied in the region and who will police this process.”



Professor Carl Anhaeusser

Porter says that in the apartheid era there were strict rules that conservation should not overlap with social impact. “I worked in the communal areas and I knew the dams would affect the most vulnerable people by displacing them and destroying their homesteads,” he says. He wasn’t allowed to openly flag these concerns in his EIA. So he made his point by using the government’s own maps, showing homesteads that would be inundated by the dams. Even the apartheid authorities couldn’t ignore the potential human disaster. He’s worried that today some EIAs may be tick-box exercises for developers with deep pockets. Unbiased research is essential, he says. Lately Porter has been researching the yellow-billed kite and working on a book on isiZulu bird names. “How can we deepen awareness of our biodiversity when we don’t know the names for things?” The dire state of the planet is the dilemma of modern humans, he believes, and even old mountains in Mpumalanga have lessons for us all.

Image: © Dion Brandt

and he says EIAs were a “very foreign idea”. It took him three years to complete the 443-page “doorstop of a document”. The strength of his data, analysis and communication put a stop to a major dam-building project. If it had gone ahead the dams would have flooded the wilderness areas of the iMfolozi Game Reserve and throttled the fresh water supply to Lake St Lucia. It was ground-breaking work, giving conservation the power to affect decisions.

Fossilised microorganisms over 3-billion years old

MAGNET FOR GEOSCIENTISTS South Africa’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site is where twins Morris and Richard Viljoen, 50 years ago, discovered a type of rock which came to be known as komatiite. The two professors have identical Wits degrees (BSc 1961, BSc Hons 1962, MSc 1964, PhD 1970) and, after lifetimes in geoscience careers, are still passionate about geoheritage and geotourism. Their early mapping of the Komati River valley, in the southern part of the Barberton Mountains, revealed a remarkably well-preserved succession of volcanic rocks unlike any others. These rocks are now recognised as an important part of the history of the early Earth, making the area a magnet for researchers. An annual highlight in Barberton is a gathering of geologists from around the world who descend on the town to search for clues to understanding the Archaean Eon, when the first life forms came into being and the Earth’s atmosphere evolved. This year the Geological Society will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the discovery of komatiite with a geoheritage tour of the Barberton area. The Barberton Chamber of Commerce has also created a tourism attraction called the Geotrail, a 40km-long biodiversity corridor between Barberton and the Swaziland border. Visitors are directed to viewpoints with information panels that explain the spectacular geological features of the region.

1969: Professor Harry Hess (second from right) of Princeton University visited the area and was the first to corroborate the Viljoens' findings on komatiite. Richard Viljoen is on the left, Carl Anhaeusser on the right.

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Essays on Family, Photography and Memory

BY TERRY KURGAN Fourthwall Books, 2018

A Terry Kurgan

rtist Terry Kurgan (MA 2016) has always been interested in the transactions involved in photography and the power of photographs as objects. She has now written a book of essays evoked by her family’s photos and diaries, starting with an image taken in Poland in 1939 just before her grandfather fled the German invasion. “Part memoir, part travelogue, part analysis”, the book offers “startling insights into how photographs work: what they conceal, how they mislead, what provocations they contain”, according to the publishers. Kurgan produced this work as part of her MA in Creative Writing at Wits. In discussion with Professor Gerrit Olivier at the book launch, she spoke about reaching a time in her life when she needed to make sense of herself and of what had been “subliminally



communicated” to her by previous generations. Writing felt like the right medium for this process. She had just completed Hotel Yeoville – a public art project in which people (many of them migrants and exiles) could tell their stories – and it chimed with her own family story. This connection between intimate personal experience and “big picture” history is one of the themes she explores in this book. She is also interested in the interaction between photographer, subject and viewer. “I realised quite late [in the writing process] that my grandfather was my subject. Through a forensic examination of every photograph, I tried to understand him and his impact on my mother (who has written her own memoir).”


Early Testimonies of Jewish Survivors of World War II

BY FREDA HODGE Monash University Press, 2018


lumna and former Wits lecturer Freda Hodge (BA Hons 1970) has translated 30 Holocaust testimonies which were not previously available in English. Accounts like these have a particular historical value owing to their immediacy. They were taken from survivors in Germany just after World War 2 and first published in the Yiddish journal Fun Letzten Khurben. “Time had not yet taken its toll on the memories of the survivors,” says Hodge. In working on the translations, she says, she learned more about “the amazing resilience of human beings, and that kindness can come from the most unexpected places or people”. Hodge serves as an interviewer for the Holocaust Centre in Melbourne, Australia, collecting testimonies from survivors and their families. “People’s stories can have a greater emotional effect on the individual

reader or listener than historians’ carefully crafted presentations,” she notes. Originally from Johannesburg, she studied English literature at Wits and lectured in the English Department from 1969 to 1979 (when her married name was Kilov). After emigrating to Australia in 1991, she worked as a teacher of migrant and refugee children, an experience that impressed on her the point that “ignorance is potentially the worst enemy of peace. Once the students started to learn about each other’s cultures and faiths, lifestyles and beliefs, the barriers between them broke down and gave way to close friendships. Visiting each other’s homes was a great ice breaker too.”


Hodge’s sons Errol (BDS 1977) and Gary (MBBCh 1980) Kilov are Witsies, as is her daughter-in-law Andrea Kilov (Greenstein) (BA Sp&HT 1984). They all live in Australia.

Freda Hodge at the launch of her book 7 77 7




A Personal History of South Africa, Namibia and Palestine

BY JOHN DUGARD Jacana, 2018


ohn Dugard (LLD honoris causa 2004) was a Professor of Law at Wits for nearly 30 years, from 1969 to 1998. His expertise in international law, commitment to human rights and academic leadership won him respect and affection at Wits and much further afield. He was a founder and Director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, which in 2018 celebrated its 40th year of work in human rights and labour law. Professor Dugard was involved in the groundwork for South Africa’s new Constitution and has had a distinguished career in international law. He now lives in The Hague. “This book is a history of the injustices of apartheid in South Africa, Namibia and Palestine,” writes Dugard. “It is also a personal memoir of the way in which these injustices touched my own life. It makes no claim to being an autobiography providing a


Image: CALS

Justice Edwin Cameron (left) and John Dugard at the book launch


comprehensive account of … what may be described as my personal life.” Though the cover may convey a rather formidable tone, the writing quickly draws the reader in with its calm but lively and lucid style. The book serves as an accessible “potted history”, reminding us of events that affected every South African – whether through conscription or life in general (and death in particular) under apartheid. It’s also a guide to some important legal ideas, speaks of “the role of the legal profession in an unjust society”, and provides an insider’s perspective of aspects of Wits. Part three of the book deals with the reasons for his view that Israel’s policies and practices in occupied Palestine are like apartheid. He has no clear preference for a solution but is optimistic that one will be found.


Porcupine Press, 2018


Rosie Motene

V presenter, producer, actress and talent manager Rosie Motene (BADA 1998) has written about her unusual upbringing and the impact it has had on her life and her sense of identity. She was brought up in the home of the Jewish family who employed her Tswana mother as a housekeeper. They were “a very generous family with good intentions”, she says. She was a “little black princess” who adored her white father and seldom saw her biological father. She had a confusing and sometimes hurtful relationship with the person she calls “the mother figure”. With apartheid still in place, she could not join her white school friends in all their activities. And she could not speak Setswana. Where did she fit? Was she family or not? Who could she count on for unconditional acceptance? Her years at Wits studying drama brought


Quickfox Publishing, 2018


he MD of a steel pipe manufacturing business might not be an obvious pick as a novelist, but Udo Topka (BSc Eng 1979) is that person. Inspiration for the book came from an incident on the golf course, when it seemed almost as if Topka’s clubs had come to life and were refusing to take on a difficult shot. The story follows orphaned teenager Eric Robertson, who comes across a set of magical

great friendships and “grounding”, but many years of searching were to follow. The book offers only her own perspective and she says only one family member other than her proud mother has understood why she needed to write it. Her message to families considering interracial adoption is that they should ask themselves why they are doing it. “If it is a charity project, rather not. Perhaps provide support but keep strong boundaries. When embarking on the journey for love, remember you have to now embrace another culture, tradition and creed. Ensure that the child will have access to family or communities where they can learn their culture.” She says the home should be multilingual and respectful of the child’s origins.

golf clubs in his grandparents’ cellar on their Karoo farm. Each was previously owned by a legend of the game: Andrew Parker’s King, Gerry Pelser’s Knight, Jock Nevis’s Bear, Betsy Zoeller’s Babe, and so on. They beg him to take them out into the fresh air and sunshine to hit a few balls. With their help, Eric becomes a successful player, but has to face temptations and his own ego as his career progresses… The Magic Fifteen could be a young reader’s book, or appeal to the young person who is always inside the older reader. Topka is working on his next novel – a murder mystery – and some short stories.



Image: Jim Anderson


In Search of the New South Africa

BY CHRISTOPHER HOPE Atlantic Books, 2018

T Christopher Hope

he prolific and acclaimed writer Christopher Hope (BA 1966, MA 1973) happened to be in Cape Town when the statue of Cecil John Rhodes on the UCT campus was taken down in 2015. It was the first statue of many to fall and he used them as pointers for a journey around South Africa, to look at what was happening in the country he left in the mid-1970s, where “antediluvian racial dementia” had held sway. He was also visiting places of personal, less visible significance, and places where absences speak more loudly than memorials. And, he says, “the obsession with race and all that went with it was one of the very few things that in the new South Africa had not changed at all.” “South Africa is difficult to explore as

a chronicle of past events because it is more like analysing a crime scene,” he writes. “There are coverups, frightened witnesses, tainted evidence, and testimonies are riddled with subterfuge and deception.” One way to trace the history, he suggests, is to “follow the money; where it was to be made, action followed.” Since way back, “politics and big business were locked together like mating snakes”. In one of his encounters with a variety of ordinary local people, Hope reflects that “when they don’t prefer forgetfulness, South Africans do history in very particular, highly personal slices”. He feels statues should remain standing, so that people can tell when they are being lied to and “measure the depth of the deception”. Like District Six in Cape Town, “Removals could actually reinforce memories you wished to pension off.” The Handspring Puppet Company's production of Save the Pedestals



MAD LIKE ME: Travels in Bipolar Country BY MERRYL HAMMOND 2018


wild ride” – that’s how Dr Merryl Hammond (MA 1983, PhD 1989) describes her experience of bipolar disorder. Having fought her way back to mental health, she hopes her memoir will help people who suffer from mental illness and the stigma so often attached to it. “Each year, one in five people will experience a mental illness of some kind,” she says, quoting the results of an analysis of 174 surveys across 63 countries. “In most cases, symptoms first appear in adolescence or early adulthood, when they may be overlooked. Many people choose denial rather than facing up to the uncomfortable reality confronting them.”

Images: Falk Wenzel

Merryl Hammond

In her own case, mental illness emerged later in life, in her early 50s. “I was exiled, lost, shocked, confused and ashamed. “Why ashamed? Well, even though I’d trained as a nurse (at the University of Natal and Unisa) and got my doctorate

in community health at Wits, I had internalised all the negative attitudes towards mental illness that existed in the larger society. I had no idea that my turn would one day come; that my own brain would misfire and render me absolutely powerless.” In depression, Dr Hammond felt hollow and joyless, separated from everyone else and unable to focus. In hypomania, she had endless energy and self-confidence. It was an ordeal for her family too and eventually she was admitted to hospital. “I have made it my mission to share my story, and to encourage others to share theirs, so that together we can break the stigma surrounding mental illnesses of all kinds, in all age groups.” Dr Hammond lives in Montreal, Canada. She and her husband, Rob Collins, are public health consultants and work to help indigenous communities where smoking is epidemic.

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE… Save the Pedestals, a short story by Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing Ivan Vladislavic (BA 1978, BA Hons 1979), was adapted into a theatre work by director Robyn Orlin in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company and premiered in Berlin in 2018 before moving to Cape Town. The title refers to an aphorism by the Polish poet Stanislaw Lec: “When destroying monuments, save the pedestals. They are always needed.” Vladislavic’s new novel, The Distance, was published in January 2019.

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Craig Higginson


his novel by the award-winning writer Craig Higginson (BA 1994, BA Hons 1995, MA 2010, PhD 2018) tells the story of South African playwright Hannah, who arranges to meet her former student of English, Pierre, when her new play opens in London. She soon realises that this was a mistake, and he, the subject of the play, is furious at “her blind assumption that she would know how to represent him”. But what represents him best: facts or fiction? Back when she tutored him in Paris, she was the critic, using the

formal rules of grammar to avoid her feelings, and seeing only reflections of herself. He was the artist, the creator, trying to see and know the other. Higginson’s 2010 play The Girl in the Yellow Dress re-emerges here. Endless echoes and reflections bounce off each other; missing halves are projected; and where there are pairs there is often pain. Higginson has just graduated with a PhD in Creative Writing from Wits. His novel The Dream House, set in rural KwaZulu-Natal, is a matric setwork in South African schools.


BY BARRY GILDER Jacana, 2018


he title of this novel by Barry Gilder (BA 1972, BA Hons 1972, MA 2018) refers to a rumoured list of apartheid agents who infiltrated the ANC. Looking back from the year 2020, the story follows a secret team of intelligence veterans who investigate the threat to South Africa of such remnant agents. They speak of “The Signs”: “a whole lot of things that were happening that we couldn’t put our finger on, but seemed to signify that although we were in power, we weren’t in control. Like spurts of violent protests against the ANC as elections approached. Like partly true, mostly fake intelligence reports leaked into the public space calling into question the integrity of key leaders.” Gilder himself joined the ANC and MK in exile, trained in the Soviet Union, worked in Botswana and returned to serve in the democratic government. He is now with the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection. He notes that the book is “a narrative of an imagined future … a genuine work of imagination” and was completed as part of his Wits Master’s in Creative Writing.



Barry Gilder

AND THEN MAMA SAID … Words That Set My Life Alight

BY TUMI MORAKE Penguin Books, 2018


mother doing her best to care for her family while struggling with bipolar disorder is central to this memoir of one of South Africa’s top comedians and TV presenters. Tumi Morake’s story also illustrates the challenges that many Wits students have faced and how hard work and a feisty attitude can get you places. “Mama used to say that she would happily live on bread and water as long as [we] were educated,” writes Morake (BADA 2013). “She held educated women in very high regard, and I wanted to be that: Mama’s graduate daughter of whom she could be proud.” Morake’s mother, a nurse, took early retirement to pay for part of her Wits fees, but it still wasn’t enough. Morake had to come back to Wits and complete her drama degree years later, when she could afford it.

a bit of a culture shock for me. … I loved the openness and honesty of drama school. Nobody was afraid of their truth, or at least that’s how it looked from where I stood. … Wits was also where the comedy bug bit.” Returning to study in 2009, she felt she could contribute her work experience as well as continue learning. “It was wonderful to go back to basics, to interrogate my work. I was studying the world I was working in and thinking critically about it.” And, though she had to juggle parenting, working life and studying, the second university experience was eased by not having to worry so much about finances. The sadness was that after the long struggle with finances and mental health, her mother was not well enough to attend her graduation. In this honest and moving book, readers will learn more about Morake’s family life, the showbiz and broadcasting industry, what it’s like to live in the public eye, and how the shadow of apartheid lingers.

Back in 2000, “Wits University was


Kelwyn Sole

Image: Poetry Africa

Kelwyn Sole (BA 1972, PhD 1994) won the 2018 South African Literary Award for Poetry, for his collection Walking, Falling (Deep South Publishers, 2017). The poems continue to explore the themes of human relationships, socio-political life, and South Africans’ relationship to landscape. Sole taught for many years at the University of Cape Town and has published seven collections of poetry as well as numerous articles on South African and postcolonial literature.


Image: Brian Clark/MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Aaron Klug at the blackboard

IN MEM O R IAM Wits University fondly remembers those who have passed away

AARON KLUG (1926-2018) Sir Aaron Klug (BSc 1946, DSc honoris causa 1984), Director of the UK MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology from 1986 to 1996, President of The Royal Society from 1995 to 2000 and 1982 Nobel Laureate, died on 20 November 2018. He was instrumental in revealing the structures of complex biological molecules, from viruses to tRNA, to chromatin and zinc fingers. His most important contribution to scientific research was his painstaking development of crystallographic electron microscopy. This combines the techniques of electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction to recover three-dimensional structural information from two-dimensional



electron micrographs. For this he was the sole recipient of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Klug was born in Zelvas, Lithuania in 1926. When he was two years old his family moved to Durban. He enrolled at Wits at the age of 15. “I took the pre-medical course and, in my second year, I took, among other subjects, biochemistry, or physiological chemistry as it was then called, which stood me in good stead in later years when I came to face biological material. However, I felt the lack of a deeper foundation, and moved to chemistry and this in turn led me to physics and mathematics. So finally I took a science degree.”

The Dean of Science allowed Klug to pick his own combination of science and medical subjects. The physics course at Wits was old-fashioned, he said, but stood him in good stead later on. He also took courses in astronomy and experimental psychology, and read whatever interested him. “I made my own syllabus, basically.” After his Wits BSc and University of Cape Town MSc, he lectured at UCT and developed a strong interest in the structure of matter and how it was organised. In 1949, he went to Cambridge as a research student at the Cavendish Laboratory of Physics, where he applied some of his knowledge of metallurgy, as well as numerical methods, to questions about the

cooling of steel. This work turned out to be useful in other areas too. “I decided that I really wanted to work on the X-ray analysis of biological molecules.” Working in the Crystallography Laboratory at Birkbeck College, London, he met Rosalind Franklin, who was working on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus (TMV). “Her beautiful X-ray photographs fascinated me.” After her death he took over her virus research group, which moved to Cambridge. He continued to work on the structure of TMV and began looking at the structures of spherical viruses. The close study of electron micrographs of viruses led to the development of crystallographic electron microscopy and quantitative methods for their analysis, leading to general methods for

calculating three-dimensional maps of specimens. These methods were taken up worldwide in many fields of research. The work also established many of the basic rules governing structure and self-assembly of viruses. Klug’s interest soon diversified to include work on the structure of DNA and RNA, and his group was the first to determine a number of key structures. He was also instrumental in starting work on neurodegenerative disease at the LMB. His input was central to our understanding of the role of the tau protein in Alzheimer’s disease. He was also a champion of other new developments, such as the programme of large scale DNA sequencing. Klug was an accomplished theoretician with a wide knowledge of mathematical

physics who had the rare ability to apply his theoretical knowledge to the solution of practical problems. He enjoyed teaching, too. “The contact with young minds keeps one on one’s toes,” he said. He was also highly imaginative. He read widely and remembered all he had read. In 1988 he was knighted and in 1995 he was appointed a member of the Order of Merit. In 2012 he retired from the LMB. Michel Goedert, who worked with Klug on the role of the tau protein, commented: “Aaron always said that curiosity was the most important quality for a scientist and that one had to live in interesting times.” Klug was married to Liebe (Bobrow), whom he met in Cape Town, and they had two sons, Adam and David. Lady Klug and Adam survive him.

Sources: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology; Nobel Prize website; Web of Stories

SERGIO COLAFRANCESCO (1957-2018) Professor Sergio Colafrancesco, DST-NRF Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Research Chair in Radio Astronomy in the School of Physics at Wits, died on 30 September 2018 after a battle with cancer. He oversaw distinguished research activity in Radio Astronomy and Astrophysics at Wits, contributing to scientists’ understanding of the structure, origin and evolution of the Universe, and his death is a great loss to the field internationally.

ground-breaking projects that showcased South Africa’s leadership and competitiveness in science. He was a highly cited expert in cosmology and astrophysics, and a board member of the National Research Foundation.

Colafrancesco was involved in a number of

He is survived by his wife Svetlana.

Born in Italy, Colafrancesco joined Wits in August 2011 from the University of Rome. He obtained his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Padua, Italy.

Sources: Wits University; South African Radio Astronomy Observatory



RAMQUAR RAMASAR (1918-2018) Dr Ramquar Ramasar (MBBCh 1947) died on 24 August 2018, a month short of his 100th birthday. He was a secondgeneration Indian South African, a descendant of the indentured labourers recruited to work on the sugar plantations of the then Natal colony. Dr Ramasar was raised in Umzinto, on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal. He matriculated at Sastri College, the first Indian high school in South Africa, in Durban in 1938. He earned a BSc degree at the South African Native College in Fort Hare. Prior to completing the degree he was accepted to study medicine at Wits, but upon qualifying he was unable to obtain an internship in a provincial hospital on account of his race. Dr A Gray, a family practitioner in Umzinto,

took the newly qualified Ramasar under his wing. Dr Ramasar went on to open his own practice in Umzinto. He was much loved by the community where he served as surgeon, midwife and even dentist. He was joined for a time by Dr Krishna Somers (MBBCh 1949) (1926-2018; see page 89) before relocating to Durban in 1962 and working at King Edward, Clairwood and RK Khan Hospitals. He served various community organisations that cared for sick and vulnerable people and was active in religious and cultural organisations. He retired in 1983, but was approached by a friend, Dr John Brouckaert (1921-2011; BSc 1942; BSc Hons 1943; MBBCh 1947), to assist at St Mary’s Hospital,

Ramquar Ramasar

Marianhill, near Durban. There he ran the diabetic and hypertension clinics from 1984 to 1998. During that time he received the Dr KM Seedat Fellowship Award for long and dedicated service from the Family Practice Association in 1996. Ramquar Ramasar worked until he was in his nineties. He was a life member of the South African Medical Association – which had once asked him to vacate a seat at a meeting on the grounds of his race. Dr Ramasar is survived by his wife Pramda (Sobrun), two sons, Nawal Kishore and Yudhamanyu, and four grandchildren.

Sources: Mr CN Pillay (MBBCh 1954); Dr Pramda Ramasar

GARETH BLADON (1976-2018)

GORDON MACLEAN (1932-2018)

Gareth Stephen Bladon (BCom 2002) was a senior lecturer in the School of Accountancy at Wits and a member of the Executive Committee of Convocation from 2008 to 2010. Gareth immersed himself in all aspects of Wits life and was a key player in establishing the EY relationship centre in the School of Accountancy. He also taught in the Pre-University Accounting School for a few years. His friendly disposition, wit and sense of humour endeared him to colleagues and students but he had a reputation for being extremely strict in class, earning him the nickname of “Sharks”. He left Wits in 2005 and worked at EY until 2016. He leaves his parents and brother. Source: Dave Kolitz



Architect Gordon Hector Maclean (BArch 1955) was a senior partner at Murray Ward in the UK and was known for his airport designs as well as his contribution to conservation. He was also a keen philatelist. He leaves his wife Lysiane Bysh and three children. Source: Lysiane Bysh, The Guardian

JUSTIN CARTWRIGHT (1943-2018) The novelist Justin Cartwright (BA 1965) died in London in December 2018. His parents were newspaper editor and nonfiction writer Paddy Cartwright and Nancy Cartwright. After matriculating at Bishops in Cape Town, he spent a year in the US as an American Field Service scholar before enrolling at Wits to major in French and Political Science. According to his brother Tim, “It was here he first emerged as a writer, producing amusing lampoons on student life and politics. He had a host of friends and, if the reports are accurate,

was always good at a party.” He went on to take a PPE at Oxford, where he also played rugby and polo. After graduating he went into the advertising business in London. His novels included Masai Dreaming, set in Kenya, White Lightning and most recently Up Against the Night, set in South Africa. In Every Face I Meet was shortlisted for a Man Booker award in 1995 and The Promise of Happiness was a bestseller. He leaves his wife Penny and two sons.

Sources: Tim Cartwright; The Bookseller; The New York Times

SYLVIA WEIR (1925-2018) Dr Sylvia Weir (BSc Hons 1946, MBBCh 1950) was an accomplished researcher in artificial intelligence and education, a physician and an activist who strove to advance equality of opportunity. She was the daughter of Rachel and Abraham Leiman and grew up in Benoni. At Wits she was one of very few women studying medicine at the time. After graduating she went to live in the UK, married Donald Weir (a researcher in immunology) in 1956 and had three children. She started working at Edinburgh University in the 1960s as a medical statistics researcher and undertook research in that University’s Department of Artificial Intelligence until 1978. She was already known

for her work using LOGO (a computer programming language) with autistic children when fellow Wits graduate and pioneer Seymour Papert (BA 1950, PhD 1953, DEng honoris causa 2016) recruited her to join him at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was also known for her work on visual perception in the field of artificial intelligence. Her work focused on how computers and robotics could help in the education of children with disabilities. From 1988 until about 1996 she worked for TERC, an NGO dedicated to research to improve

maths and science education in the US. After retirement she moved to Polokwane in Limpopo to help set up the Mathematics, Science and Technology Education College (Mastec), a task for which Sylvia Weir Dr Aaron Motsoaledi (now South Africa’s Health Minister) had recruited her. Later she retired to the UK, close to her family. She helped to set up a charity for South African orphans, Friends of Mponegele, which will be continued, and she enjoyed reading, sudoku and playing the cello; she was active in music groups wherever she lived. She leaves her sons David, Phil and Michael and their families.

Sources: Michael Weir, The Guardian



SIBONELO RADEBE (1973-2018) Sibonelo Radebe (MA 2013), who died in a car accident in October 2018, was a consummate professional who loved journalism with a deep passion. He began his career in 1998 and it spanned senior positions at national titles such as Business Day, the Financial Mail and The New Age. Prior to joining The Conversation Africa in 2016 as business and economy editor, he worked for the National Empowerment Fund.

His Wits thesis was his colleagues and titled: “Presentations the many academics and Representations: he worked with at The Images of Newsroom Conversation Africa. Transformation in He was an incisive, the post 1994 South thoughtful editor who Africa”. He edited knew an enormous Sibonelo Radebe the student paper amount about the while studying for his first degree worlds of business and the in Political Studies and Industrial economy. He brought this deep Sociology and served in various knowledge to his interactions with student leadership positions. academic research. Sibonelo had a warm, easy manner which endeared him to

He is survived by his wife and children.

Source and image: The Conversation

TOM BOURQUIN (1936-2018) Tom Bourquin (BA 1958, BEd 1986), who died a few days short of his 82nd birthday, was a renowned and much-loved teacher, headmaster, school inspector and education pioneer. He was also an admired sportsman and coach. Emmanuel Herbert Thomas Bourquin was born in Keetmanshoop and spent his early years further north in Namibia’s Ovamboland before settling with his divorced father in Barberton. He became a boarder at Pretoria Boys High, where he flourished in cricket and rugby. While at Wits, he captained the first rugby team, was chosen for Transvaal, and also played first team cricket. In 1960 he was selected to play scrumhalf for Northern Transvaal against the All Blacks. Bourquin majored in history and Latin for his BA. He would later tell his son Peter that having Latin as a teaching subject meant he would never be without work. Peter opted for maths.

Sources: Archie Henderson; Dainfern College



During a spell of teaching in the UK, Tom met Sheila, a fellow student, whom he married. Back in South Africa, he taught at Pretoria Boys and King Edward VII before joining the new St Stithians private school. He resigned in solidarity with Steyn Krige, the school’s first headmaster, who was sacked, it was suspected, for a too enlightened approach to education. Bourquin went on to be deputy headmaster at Sandringham High, headmaster of Mondeor High and Sandown High, an inspector of schools and founding headmaster of Dainfern College. He was a regional director of the Independent Schools Association of SA and worked there until the age of 75. He will be remembered for his warmth, wisdom, compassion, integrity, kindness, sense of humour and infectious laugh. He leaves his wife, Sheila, son Peter and daughter Jeanette. Two of his children predeceased him.

KRISHNA SOMERS (1926-2018) Cardiologist Professor Krishnamurti Sukhraj Somers (MBBCh 1949) died in Perth, Australia in his 93rd year.

he established a productive programme of research and teaching resulting in numerous publications.

Kris was born in Durban, the fifth child in A Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in a family of eight who were descendants of 1962-3 allowed him to train further in indentured labourers. He and his siblings cardiovascular physiology at the University were raised in poverty but he inherited of California. By the time he left Uganda his parents’ fine intelligence, dogged in 1973 to escape persecution by Idi persistence and sufficient ambition. He Amin, Kris was an international figure attended schools that were segregated and an authority in his prime interests, for Indians. His whole life was a subtle endomyocardial fibrosis and cardiovascular Krishna Somers but crushing rejoinder to such prejudice. disease in warm climates. A lesser person might have become embittered, but Kris remained true to the humanist After several international postings with the World scientific ideal. Health Organisation, he accepted a position as an Associate Professor at the University of Western A scholarship from Sastri College, Durban to attend Australia and physician to the Royal Perth Hospital the University of the Witwatersrand enabled Kris in 1974. In 1990 Kris was elected Emeritus to study medicine, but he was still confronted with Consultant to the Royal Perth Hospital. all the prejudices directed at a person of colour in apartheid South Africa. “I needed a permit issued His early years in Perth were difficult. This by the Protector of Indian Immigrants, a Certificate reinforced his concern for migrants and refugees, of Identity, to enable me to travel from Natal and leading to his lifelong contributions to ease their reside in the Transvaal during my student years. sufferings. Kris followed the Santayana doctrine of The permit was withdrawn once I had finished my being mindful of one’s history so as not to repeat it. medical education. Lack of a permit also meant that I was unable to pursue internship other than in the Academically, he published about 130 papers, province of my birth.” and co-authored a book on endocardial fibrosis. He pioneered intracardiac biopsy and was one of the Upon finishing his internship, Kris was unable to early users of cardiac catheterisation. progress with his medical career. His words were: “I could never work or take further training because He had a great love of Uganda and returned to the teaching hospitals, which were government South Africa and Uganda many times. His personal institutions, would not hire non-white doctors. It was experience of struggling to find a country influenced just impossible.” his decision to provide seed funding focused on researching diasporas. The Krishna Somers Kris finally made his way to the Central Middlesex Foundation is based at Murdoch University, Perth. Hospital in London, UK, where his academic career was launched. In 1957, he was appointed lecturer in Kris worked as a cardiologist until five weeks before the Department of Medicine at Makerere University his death. He lived life on his own terms, seeing no in Kampala, Uganda. In 1968 he was appointed to point in retirement. He leaves his brother, Professor a Personal Chair in Clinical Medicine. At Makerere, Sat Somers, of McMaster University in Canada. Source: Professor Sat Somers



GERALD CAWOOD (1930-2018) Gerald Cawood (BSc Eng 1953) died on 20 August 2018 in Johannesburg. He was the eleventh child of the family, all born on a farm in Griqualand West. The family lost the farm in the drought that coincided with the Great Depression and, almost destitute, they moved into Kimberley, where Gerald’s father found work with SA Railways. Despite this difficult start to life,

Gerald matriculated in 1947 from Kimberley Boys’ High as the top student in Kimberley, winning scholarships that enabled him to enrol at Wits in 1949. After graduation he returned to Kimberley, undergoing pupillage at De Beers Mining Co. He later joined Anglo Alpha Cement and Kilpatrick SA. He then started his own consultancy practice, based

in Braamfontein, from which he retired in 2002. He represented Griqualand West in swimming and water polo in 1953/4. He married Helene Cumming in 1955. His wife, sons Paul (BArch 1988) and Mark (BSc Eng 1981), and four grandchildren survive him. His grandchild Catherine Cawood (BSc Physio 2017) is a third generation Wits alumnus.

Source: Paul Cawood

JACKIE LOFFELL (1950-2018) Dr Jacqueline Mary (Jackie) Loffell (BA Social Work 1982, PhD 1997) played a prominent role in the development of legislation to protect the rights of children and was active in organising the social work profession, as co-ordinator of the Gauteng Welfare, Social Service and Development Forum. Her Wits thesis on social work intervention in cases of child abuse was submitted for a Master’s degree but accepted for a PhD. She worked for Johannesburg Child Welfare. Jackie was a parishioner at Christ the King in

Johannesburg for many years, sang in the cathedral choir (having also been in the Wits choir) and took a keen interest in Church affairs and theology. “Hers was a life of service to the poorest and weakest members of society,” said her sister Margaret. “And she was always a staunch Witsie in spirit and in her work.” She moved into Nazareth House when unable to care for herself owing to Parkinson’s disease. She leaves three brothers, two sisters and their families.

Sources: The Southern Cross; Margaret Owen-Smith Loffell

TEUNIS SCHLEBUSCH (1934-2018) Former Queenstown mayor Dr Teunis Gertse Schlebusch (BDS 1956) matriculated at Helpmekaar Boys’ High in 1951, qualified as a dentist at Wits and practised in the Eastern Cape for many years. He worked in the public sector as the district dentist from 1993 to 2002 after handing over his private practice to his son Dawie. Later he moved to East London. He volunteered his time to the Ugie Orphanage and the Phelophepha Train healthcare initiative, and was active in Border Rugby and in municipal government. He leaves his wife Henrietta and three sons. Source: The Rep



JACK ZUNZ (1923-2018) Renowned civil engineer Sir Gerhard Jacob (Jack) Zunz (BSc Eng 1949, DSc Eng honoris causa 2015) was born in Germany and came to South Africa as a young child. After matriculating in 1941 and enrolling at Wits, he interrupted his studies to volunteer for military service in World War 2, serving in Egypt and Italy. He then completed his civil engineering degree in the high-achieving Class of ’48 and joined Ove Arup and partners in London in 1950, on the strength of his experience in steel work. His potential was soon spotted and in 1954 he returned to South Africa to set up an office for the firm, which designed the Sentech Tower in Brixton. When the firm of Ove Arup was appointed as structural engineers for the Sydney Opera House in Australia, the design of Danish architect Jørn Utzon proved to be a complex, controversial and unprecedented challenge. In 1961 Zunz was given the task of overseeing the project (it was “dumped in my lap”, he said, and would be an “extreme test” of the people who worked on it, dominating his life for 11 years). He and his team (which included his Wits classmate Michael Lewis) came up with solutions, developing many new techniques in the process. Other well-known buildings he worked on include the

Jack Zunz

Standard Bank Building in Fox Street, Johannesburg, HSBC Headquarters in Hong Kong and the Stansted Airport Terminal in the UK. He became Chairman of the Ove Arup group from 1977 to 1984 and co-Chairman from then until 1989. He guided the firm’s social responsibility efforts and there is also a scholarship and a lecture in his name. Zunz was knighted in 1989 and received many other honours in recognition of his professional achievements. On receiving his honorary degree from Wits, he spoke about how much the world had changed in the 70 years since his first graduation. After the war, he said, there was “a feeling that something very evil had been overcome” and a sense of optimism fuelled by a belief in

the benefits of technology. The world had since become “vastly more complex” and its population had trebled. “The concept of lifelong learning is an essential ingredient of a civilised society,” he said in his acceptance speech. “It is ever more necessary for engineers and scientists to have a comprehensive understanding of the world in which they live and which they serve.” He is said to have learned from his mentor Ove Arup that “the only thing that matters in life is people”. He also enjoyed football and golf. Zunz married Wits alumna Babs Maisel (BSc 1946) in 1948 and they had three children: Laura, Leslie and the late Marion. He died just before his 70th wedding anniversary and 95th birthday.

Sources: Wits University; The Guardian; BBC; The Times; Ove Arup


GREGOR SCHAUER (1969-2018) Gregor Karl Schauer (BA 1996, BA Hons 1997) passed away unexpectedly on 14 July 2018 in San Francisco. He was born in Germiston and graduated from Wits with an Honours degree in Psychology. In 1999 Gregor emigrated to the United States, where he worked in finance at Google and later at JMP

Securities, Baird, Jefferies and Lazard (all financial institutions). He also wrote technology-related finance articles for Business Insider and other news publications. Gregor leaves his children Adam and Zoe Schauer, his brother John and father Karl. He will also be missed by his extended Wojcicki family.

Source: Janet Wojcicki

GLENN LEWINGTON (1969-2018) Glenn Lewington (BA 1992), a presenter on the South African radio station Classic 1027, passed away after a short illness, aged 49. A quietly spoken person, he had diverse but passionate interests, including aviation and African tourism. He worked as the marketing manager of Kenya Airways until 2007, when he joined radio – a job in which he

did everything from producing to presenting. Glenn is fondly remembered by family, colleagues and friends for his love of his dogs, his zany sense of fun, the beauty he was able to pull out of any situation – and of course his love of music. His show Silverscreen celebrated the sound tracks of the golden age of film.

He had a facility with language, and was fiercely intelligent but empathetic by nature. He was also unafraid of speaking candidly, and could facilitate intelligent discourse on numerous topics. He was a loving, giving friend, but remained deeply private. Glenn leaves his mother, elder brother, sister-in-law and nephew.

Source: Robyn Sassen

JILL ADDLESON (1943-2018) Erica Sharon Jill Addleson (BA 1964, BA Hons 1965) was the daughter of Dr Julius Addleson (MBBCh 1935) and Adele Marks Addleson. She matriculated at Durban Girls’ College, where she became a keen golfer. At the age of 15 she started playing bridge and this remained an integral part of her leisure time in later years. At Wits she majored in History of Art and Music. Her thesis covered the music of chazans at the Wolmarans Street Synagogue in Johannesburg. She was also an accomplished pianist.

Source: Dr Steven Addleson



After graduating, Jill became the curator of the Durban Art Gallery and was later promoted to director. She recognised the importance of promoting African art and was responsible for starting, promoting and building up the collection at the Durban Art Gallery. She became an authority on African art in South Africa and her opinion was sought by many corporates in building their art collections. Jill was close to her family, loved her dogs and enjoyed ballet, classical music, literature and keeping up with current events.

CURIOS.TY Research . Rethink . Relearn Wits research made accessible. www.wits.ac.za/curiosity



ROY KEETON (1931-2017) Professor Godfrey Roy Keeton (MBBCh 1954) was a general practitioner for 10 years after graduating from Wits. He subsequently worked at King Edward Hospital in Durban and Groote Schuur in Cape Town. He went on to head the University of Cape Town’s Department of Medicine at New Somerset Hospital and retired in 1996. “Roy was widely acknowledged as an astute clinician, a very competent administrator and a

dedicated teacher who took great interest in his students, many of whom he nurtured through hard times,” wrote Prof Solly Benatar in the South African Medical Journal. He had a special interest in nephrology. “His gentle manner in communicating with his patients served as an object lesson to his students on how to respect the dignity of each individual patient rather than regarding them as an ‘interesting case’,” wrote Norman

Levy in the SA Medical Journal. “His missionary zeal for teaching acted as a stimulus for his students and registrars to continually strive to improve their capabilities. Many GPs in the area availed themselves of his encouragement to attend his teaching rounds for registrars to keep up to date with clinical medicine,” Levy wrote. He enjoyed walking, trout fishing and chamber music.

Sources: Solly Benatar, Norman Levy, South African Medical Journal

CLIVE HICKS (1932-2017) Architect, photographer and ballet dancer Clive Hicks (BArch 1957) died in the UK just short of his 85th birthday. He spent his early childhood in Port Elizabeth and learnt how to take and develop photos at a young age. At Wits, where he enrolled at the age of 16, his passion for Gothic cathedrals was awakened by Professor John Fassler. “Then, just before my 21st birthday,” Clive Hicks he wrote on his website, “I found another love, ballet. And to my astonishment, and that of everyone about me, I found that I had a natural talent for dance, which I took up with enthusiasm, and four years later was dancing on the London stage at Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the Covent Garden Opera House, appearing in performances featuring artists like Margot Fonteyn and Joan Sutherland. I came to London at the age of Source: Andrew Hicks



25, danced for two years and then gave it up and reverted to architecture.” He specialised in designing buildings for the emerging hospice movement, including the ground-breaking St Christopher’s in London, which opened in 1967. His designs paid special attention to light, the connection with nature, and symbols associated with rebirth. He produced several books on architecture with his friend William Anderson, including one on the Green Man, “the archetype of our oneness with nature and the universe”. The book brought attention to a widespread but then overlooked symbol. “His influence is ecological, psychological and spiritual.” Hicks leaves his wife Colleen (Foster), and their daughter and three sons.

ALISTAIR STEWART (1936-2018) Alistair Alexander Craig Stewart (CTA 1962) died in Scotland on 6 September 2018, aged 80. He was born at a missionary hospital in Elim and grew up in the Soutpansberg in Limpopo. He matriculated at King Edward School in Johannesburg, worked as an articled clerk while studying at Wits, ran as an athlete for Wits and the Transvaal, and qualified as a chartered accountant. As a business executive he was part of Jack Welch’s team at General Electric, when GE was the largest company in the world. Eventually he became GE President of an area that included the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Russia, and India, making him one of the top managers in the world. He retired from GE in 2000, recognised for his outstanding contribution. For the last 18 years he ploughed

effort and resources back into local community farming initiatives. He was fluent in Tshivenda, a language he learned as a child and always loved.

England before returning to South Africa and starting his GE career.

After his retirement, the At Wits he started dating Stewarts divided Alistair Stewart his future wife, Helen their time between Cluver, who was a physiotherapy the Soutpansberg, Scotland student. Her father Eustace and Johannesburg. He spent Cluver (LLD honoris causa 1974) time mentoring young CEOs was the Dean of the Medical around the world, and travelled School and also owned a timber extensively to learn more about plantation in the Soutpansberg. farming macadamia nuts. He Alistair and his brothers would subcontracted work to dozens ride 20km on horseback to visit of small farmers, helping them the Cluver sisters during holidays. to gain experience and earn an income. Alistair and Helen were married in 1962 and spent their first He was a private person but years of married life in Scotland, enjoyed entertaining people and where Alistair studied business singing. He was modest in his management at Edinburgh habits and generous to others. University. He then studied at the London School of Economics, He leaves his wife, Helen, two focusing on productivity. He children (Murray and Catherine) worked for a year at Unilever in and two grandchildren.

Sources: Zoutnet; Murray Stewart

LENNY SEIMON (1933-2018) Dr Leonard “Lenny” Seimon (MBBCh 1955) passed away on his 85th birthday. A gentle patriarch, he lived a magnificent life — one of joy, accomplishment, and generosity, all infused with his irrepressible humour. Dr Seimon was born in Krugersdorp and qualified as a doctor at 22. He played water polo for Wits and for South Africa. He worked in hospitals serving the poor in KwaZulu-Natal and went on become a Professor of

Paediatrics and Orthopaedics in New York. He taught a generation of orthopaedic residents the importance of a thorough history and physical exam. They would quote him, imitating his distinct accent: “You have to talk to the patient; the patient will tell you what’s wrong!” Dr Seimon was a wonderful physician, mentor, and humanitarian. He leaves his wife Sandra and their four children and his sister Wilma Shein.

Source: Shein family



LUKE POTTER (1978-2019) Douglas Luke Charles Potter (BCom 1999, BCom Hons 2001, MBA 2010) was the Africa Programmes Director of Gatsby, a charitable foundation, when he was killed in a terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya. The foundation said: “Luke was instrumental in establishing our forestry programme and team in Kenya, and provided crucial leadership, guidance and support to our Tanzanian forestry programme and our tea programmes in Rwanda and Tanzania. “Luke was respected by all he worked with,

bringing huge drive, determination, a relentless work ethic, and a thirst for new ideas to every project. He brought a calm head and his unique sense of humour to every situation. He was deeply committed to his work, to his teams, to Gatsby and to development in Africa.” He strongly believed in equitable sharing of the gains of economic development. Outside work, he enjoyed water-sports, camping and hiking. He leaves his partner and daughter.

Source: Gatsby

KEN MAXWELL (1939-2018) Kennedy William Maxwell (BSc Eng 1961) grew up in Zimbabwe and attended St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown, where he was head boy. He qualified in Mechanical Engineering at Wits, won South African Colours for rowing and completed a degree at Oxford University through a Rhodes Scholarship. Ken’s working life was dedicated to mining and he rose through the ranks at JCI. He headed Rustenburg Platinum Mines (then the world’s largest platinum producer) for nine years as MD

before serving as Executive Chairman of the gold and coal divisions. He also served the industry as President of the SA Chamber of Mines and the World Gold Council. After his retirement in 1995, Ken threw himself into voluntary endeavours and chaired various NGOs. However, it was Early Childhood Education that sparked a long-term interest. He created national ECD networks, linking NGOs and lobbying national government for programmes to

change the lives of South Africa’s youngest citizens. He was the longest serving and most active trustee of the Good Shepherd School in Grahamstown until his retirement from the Trust in 2017. Ken was a deeply spiritual and scholarly man with interests ranging from nuclear physics to philosophy. He was unfailingly gracious and made others feel heard and respected.

Source: Margie Keeton, Old Andrean

WILF ROSENBERG (1934-2019) The rugby legend of Wilf Rosenberg, known as the Flying Dentist, began at Jeppe High School for Boys and continued at Wits, where the rabbi’s son was enrolled to study medicine. He played for Transvaal between 1953 and 1958 and debuted as a Springbok in 1955. In 1959 he went to play for Leeds University, where he studied dentistry. Leeds Rhinos’ website describes a spell of “tries of searing pace and unflinching resolution” from the winger. Rosenberg died in Israel. He leaves two daughters and a son. Sources: Rugby365; Yorkshire Evening Post; Leeds Rhinos



Buil Cha d lives nge . futu res

WITS ANNUAL FUND We take great pride in the achievements of Wits graduates in all fields of endeavour. This is a legacy of success we want to bequeath to future students. Donations to the Wits Annual Fund are used to ensure greater access to a world-class education. Every donation, no matter how small, makes a difference.

Give the gift of education to future generations of Witsies!

Give to Wits today.

www.wits.ac.za/ annualfund Enquiries: Purvi Purohit, Senior Liaison Officer purvi.purohit@wits.ac.za or annualfund@wits.ac.za Tel: +27(11) 717 1093

The Wits Annual Fund is a discretionary endowment fund to support teaching and research excellence, campus improvements and bursaries and scholarships

Places to visit



Wits Club Complex, West Campus, Wits University. T +27 (0) 11 717 9365 E info@olivesandplates.co.za Hours: Monday to Friday 07:00 – 16:00. Saturday 08:00 15:00 for breakfast and lunch. Booking is essential.

www.wits.ac.za/origins. West Campus, Wits University, Corner Yale Road & Enoch Sontonga Avenue, Braamfontein. T +27 (0) 11 717 4700 E bookings.origins@ wits.ac.za. Hours: Monday to Friday 10:00 – 17:00. Closed on Sundays. Saturdays and public holidays 10:00 – 16:00 (please call ahead to check times). Refer to website for rates. Please book online (www.webtickets.co.za).

ADLER MUSEUM OF MEDICINE Wits Medical School, 7 York Road, Parktown. T +27 (0) 11 717 2081 E adler.museum@wits.ac.za Hours: Monday to Friday 09:00 – 16:00. Saturdays on request. Cost free but venue hire tariffs on request.

WITS THEATRE COMPLEX www.wits.ac.za/witstheatre.

East Campus, Wits University, Performing Arts Administration, 24 Station Street, Braamfontein. T +27 (0) 11 717 1376 E bridget.vanoerle@wits.ac.za Reception hours: Monday to Friday 08:00 – 16:00. Theatre costs vary according to programme. Tickets: www.webtickets.co.za


T +27 (0) 15 793 7508 E olga.hartman@wits.ac.za Refer to website for public rates.



www.planetarium.co.za East Campus, Wits University, Yale Road off Empire Road, Entrance 10, Milner Park, Braamfontein. T +27 (0) 11 717 1390 E planet@planetarium.co.za Hours: Kiddies’ show (5 – 8 years), Saturdays 10:30.


Directions: Off R563 Hekpoort Road, Sterkfontein, Gauteng. T +27 (0) 14 577 9000 E website@maropeng.co.za. Hours: 09:00 – 17:00 daily. Refer to website for rates.

WITS ART MUSEUM | WAM www.wits.ac.za/wam.

University Corner, Corner Jorissen & Bertha Streets, Braamfontein. T + 27 (0) 11 717 1365/58 E info.wam@wits.ac.za. Hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays 10:00 – 16:00. WAM has a café and hosts regular events and exhibitions. Admission free. Donations encouraged.

Details accurate at time of publishing. Please contact facilities directly. Above: The Origins Centre offers ochre workshops. Learn about the earliest uses of ochre, how paint was made and how people lived in the past.

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