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SEA OF GREEN A lone student walks by the Gavin Relly Green on West Campus in February 2021. The beautiful green vista visible from the DJ Du Plessis building has thrived during campus lockdowns. For the first semester most of the academic programme has taken place online, with only a fraction of the students returning to campus at the invitation of faculties in a staggered and intermittent way. Image: Brett Eloff
I N T H I S I S SU E
ON T H E C OV E R
WE CELEBRATE A RANGE OF FORMIDABLE WITS ALUMNAE PAS T AND P R E S E N T, Y O U N G AND OLD, FROM DIFFERENT FIELDS WHO ENRICH THE LIVES OF OTHERS
VICE-CHANCELLOR’S NOTE .............. 05 REUNIONS/ WEBINARS .................. 08 RESEARCH ................................ 10 WITSIES WITH THE EDGE ................ 20 FEATURES ................................ 30 INTERNATIONAL WITSIES ............... 56 B O O K S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 8 IN MEMORIAM ............................ 80
I N M E M OR IA M
Sibongile Khumalo WE BID FAREWELL TO SA'S BELOVED VOICE
W I T SI E S W I T H THE EDGE
ARCHITECT LEADS THE CHARGE FOR A MORE HOLISTIC VIEW
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F E AT U R E
CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT SAY S IT'S TIME TO EMBRACE BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY
EXCITING NEW CHAPTER FOR WOMEN IN BASKETBALL
W I T SI E S W I T H T H E E D G E
AN OLD CLASSIC GETS A PL AYFUL REVAMP WITH UNUSUAL MATERIAL S
SA RUGBY YOUNG PL AYER OF THE YEAR SAY S IT TAKES HUMILIT Y
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Graphic design Jignasa Diar (email@example.com) Printing Remata 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 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.wits.ac.za/alumni www.facebook.com/witsalumni/ www.twitter.com/witsalumni www.linkedin.com/groups/76204 www.flickr.com/groups/witsie/ Update contact details: www.wits.ac.za/alumni/ updateyourdetails Subscriptions per copy: South Africa R25 (incl. VAT & postage) International R50 (incl. postage)
R E SE A RC H
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Demystifying vertebrate origins
DELIC ATE FOSSIL S FOUND UNDER TONS OF SHALE
F E AT U R E
Patrick Soon-Shiong SURGEON, BUSINESSMAN AND BIO-SCIENTIST DISRUPTS VACCINOLOG Y
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. WITS REVIEW Magazine, Volume 45, April edition 2021
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In 2022 we celebrate 100 years of a great institution Your support is key to Wits remaining a national treasure For more information visit https://wits100.wits.ac.za/
WITS . FOR GOOD
Image: Shivan Parusnath
ALLOW I N N O VAT I O N TO FLOURISH I TAKE OFFICE in the midst of a pandemic, at a time when the global economy is in dire straits, and the world as we know it is changing forever. Not many would consider this an opportunity, but I am confident that innovation incubates in times of great stress and uncertainty. While the world grapples with the worst health crisis in over a century, our country continues to face multiple challenges, some of the most pressing being inequality, rising debt levels and low economic growth. Financial hardship has been exacerbated by the impact and consequences of the pandemic and has directly affected many of our students, which has led to another round of student fee protests. Currently, the University administers over R1 billion in financial aid, bursaries and scholarships, and commits over R120 million annually from the Council budget to assist students. But these are stop-gap measures that do not address a systemic problem. There are no easy or quick solutions to the challenges we face, but we remain resilient and resolute in the knowledge that we can overcome any obstacles. At times like these we must garner our collective courage, ingenuity, resilience, and strength to find solutions. With new leadership in place, our centenary provides us with an opportunity to hit the reset button and presents Wits with a moment to reimagine the future of our University and to envision our moonshot that could change society for the better. We have an incredible head start — we stand on the shoulders of over 200 000 Witsies who have walked through our halls, inspiring change and making their mark on society. For 100 years, this intellectual power-house has nurtured critical thinkers and innovators, problem-posers and problem-solvers, intellectuals, discoverers and originators, who punch above their weight in the world, much like the women reflected in the
contents of this edition of the WITSReview. As a University, we continue to find the solutions to compelling quandaries, to spur innovation amidst disorder, to salvage hope from despair, and to harness humanity for good. It is at Wits that researchers are tackling the problems of the 21st Century, and preparing the next generation of scholars to address the challenges of the future, some of which are still unknown. Witsies are leading the charge on climate and global change, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, inequality, infectious diseases, vaccine trials and technology, and are preparing the future leaders of Africa for the world. Universities often flourish in flux and the time is now ripe for Wits to catapult into a new realm, and to reclaim its space in the global academy. But we cannot do it alone. It will take the collective effort of our partners and other social actors, including our alumni, funders and donors, both within and beyond our borders, to walk this journey with us. We are at the precipice of change and now more than ever, we need to be a beacon of light for society. I look forward to walking this journey with you so that we can leave a legacy for future generations.
Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-Chancellor and Principal
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SOCCER L i fe af ter Bi d ve st
Image: Wits Sport
Bidvest Wits was sold to National First Division outfit Tshakhuma Tsha Madzhivhandila and signalled the end of an almost 15-yearlong partnership between Wits University and the Bidvest Group last year. “This iconic club will celebrate its centenary next year and it is untrue that 99 years of history have been wiped out by the sale of Bidvest Wits FC. It is just one chapter that is closing,” said Wits Sport head Michael Dick. “The club has been part of the DNA of the University, and Wits Sport has been integral in its formation and over the years. The University was part of the many successes and shared in the difficult times.” The Wits FC Men’s Team is set to compete in the 2020/2021 ABC Motsepe League Season. The club has bought the status of ABC Motsepe League side Baberwa FC and has roped in former University of Pretoria coach Steve Matlou as part of its technical team while John Matlala has been appointed as the club's manager. It has also made its first two big signings after bringing in former Kaizer Chiefs striker Nicholas Mynhardt and Lesotho international Luciano Matsoso.
Image: Kaizer Chiefs football Club
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2021 ABC MOTSEPE LEAGUE
G ot it Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Brylon Petersen is now a qualified engineer. Petersen etched his name into a very short list of Premier Soccer League players with tertiary qualifications after earning his BSc in mechanical engineering. It marks the end of a six-year journey prolonged by having to combine studying with a full-time professional football career.
RUGBY S A Rug by You ng Pl ayer of the Ye ar
Former Wits 1st team and current Lions player Wandisile Simelane walked away as the SA Rugby Young Player of the Year at the 2020 SA Rugby Awards held on 3 March 2021. “Never think you know too much and that you’ve trained enough. Staying grounded and working hard has always worked for me,” he said.
Former Wits Lady Bucks forward Nicole Mangondo is now part of the South Africa Women’s Basketball Association’s Programmes Committee launched in December 2020. “The association wants to have strategic partners in the development of basketball for women at all ages, stages and platforms, be it differently-abled basketball players to officials.” she said. “It is something that most women have wanted to do. We are now at a point where technology aids in making communication, reach and development easier but, don’t forget, the future is female.” Other Witsies involved in SAWBA: Nompumelelo Ramatsoga (former Wits Basketball assistant coach), Manyani Maseko (Wits Basketball assistant coach) Ngoza PhiriMazarura (former manager), Ipeleng Nyatlo, Thandiwe Nqanda, Rudo Kaseke and Modiegi Mokoka.
Images: © Catherine Kotze
T h e f uture is fem a l e
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TECHNOLOGY TO THE RESCUE 60TH ANNIVERSARY REUNION
GRADUATION DAY ON 15 DECEMBER 1960 IN FRONT OF THE GREAT HALL
Technology came to the rescue for the Medical School Class of 1960 who could not meet in person to celebrate their 60th anniversary. Through the magic of Zoom they enjoyed a get-together without packing suitcases or leaving their homes on three occasions over November and December 2020. Their website continues to brim with autobiographical sketches and news as well as contributions of financial support for current Wits medical students through the Phillip V Tobias Bursary Fund. “This has been an amazing project and we did it in teamwork and with a unity of vision. It has been wonderful to help people connect to each other after all these years, to highlight the amazing work done by the Class, and to help raise funds for deserving students,” said US Alumni Representative Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi. See more here: https://wits_medical_alumni_1960. mailchimpsites.com/
Considered one of the top leadership coaches and speakers, Dr Alex Granger said the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the need to adjust to change with flexibility. His talk titled “Built to adapt: Better every day” kicked off the alumni webinar series for 2021 on 25 February.
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Respected Advocate Kate Hofmeyr (BA Hons 2001, LLB 2003) has been an evidence leader at the State Capture Commission since 2018. On 24 March 2021 she led alumni through three aspects of the commission: its “unusual origins”, its “machinery and mechanics” and insights into the different role advocates assume in a talk titled “Of commissions, law and evidence”. She deftly permitted herself only one personal comment: “I had the considerable privilege of working with a team of four investigators. They were without a doubt the most remarkable people I have worked with in my career… What’s important to appreciate is that each time any of us appeared at the hearings to present evidence, we were presenting the product of thousands of hours of tireless investigative work.”
B IOTRI O N W I T S I E S A R O U N D ET X HH EIW LD
DIAMONDS 65 C ARAT CS DIAMONDS
ABOVE: OKORUSOFLUORITE B A C K L I T 7. 2 C M
BELOW: NAMIBIA SANDSTONE TILE ARID LANDSCAPE
GEOLOGY THROUGH A LENS A GROUP OF Wits alumni from the Geological Museum Association — a volunteer committee that advises and assists the management of the Johannesburg Geology Museum — have organised a “Geology Through a Lens” exhibition which will run from mid-April to end-September 2021 at the Origins Centre. Morris Viljoen (BSc 1961, BSc Hons 1962, MSc 1964, PhD 1970) Richard Viljoen (BSc 1961, BSc Hons 1962, MSc 1964, PhD 1970) Bruce Cairncross (PhD 1987), Ian McKay (BSc 1984, BSc Hons 1985, PhD 1990, PDE), Gillian Drennan (BSc 1985, BSc Hons 1986, MSc 1988, PhD 1998) and Katherine James-Kleynhans (BA 2004, BA Hons 2005) dedicated several years of work to curate more than 300 rare and historically significant photographs. The exhibition focuses on southern African geological scenes, minerals and gemstones via several themed categories including Diamonds, Namibia, the Northern Cape, the Bushveld Complex, the Karoo, the Witwatersrand Goldfield, Tsumeb Mine, Namibia, “Big to Small”, East African Geology and Gemstones, and Natural Art from Around the World. The exhibition also includes displays of special fossil, gem and mineral specimens. For the first time ever, the public will be introduced to the only reconstruction of the carnivorous dinosaur Dracovenator or “dragon hunter”. This dinosaur lived in South Africa about 200 million years ago and its remains were discovered near the Drakensberg. This unique exhibition is co-hosted by the Faculty of Science and the newly established “Earth Sciences Cluster”. Images: Bruce Cairncross
WIT WATERSRAND GOLDFIELD GOLD NIGEL REEF OLD VOGEL STRUISBULT MINE 9.47 TROY OZ 10.5CM
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The map illustrates that the majority of wards in Gauteng have a greater proportion of female COVID-19 cases.
THE ADVENT OF the COVID-19 pandemic not only ignited medical and economic responses, but saw social scientists working at the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) respond with agility to advise in the planning of these responses. The GCRO is a partnership between Wits University, the University of Johannesburg, and the Gauteng Provincial Government. Years of research around Gauteng made it possible for the GCRO to use a visual analytics platform developed by IBM Research Africa, and collaborate with data scientists, to offer insights into how best to respond to the pandemic. By using a “syndemics approach” the key social forces and structural drivers that may exacerbate the spread of disease were identified — basically, a vulnerability detector in the context of COVID-19. The GCRO’s COVID-19 Map of the Month was launched as a result. It initially explored two key themes: 1) the multiple risk factors in the maintenance of basic preventative hygiene and social distancing and 2) the risk factors in contexts of major shutdowns and potential outbreaks. 10 W I T S R E V I E W
VISUAL DATA PLOTS PANDEMIC PATH A year on from its inception, the project has rapidly expanded with impressive outputs. Among others, these include COVID-19 in children and adolescents; the impact of COVID-19 on long-term care facilities; household characteristics in relation to COVID-19 risks; the impact of COVID-19 on women; income and household vulnerability; COVID-19 cases in South Africa by province; and
One output from the GCRO under its Map of the Month series revealed that working-age women have disproportionately tested positive for COVID-19 in Gauteng highlighting some of the additional burdens women have faced in the pandemic. Image: GCRO/ Ihsaan Haffejee
COVID-19 risk indices per municipality. “It is something we put out in a very visual way to try to understand where vulnerable people are. It has kind of stood the test of time. There’s lots we can do to improve on it, but it has proved itself useful. It has also now been picked up to help support a vaccination strategy,” says senior researcher and Wits alumna Gillian Maree (BSc
URP 1999). “It unfolded as the pandemic evolved — we’re paving the road while we’re driving on it. As an organisation we’ve had to be adaptive. I don’t think we quite knew in the beginning the extent to which government was going to engage with this research.” The research has enabled the GCRO to remain true to Apr il 2021 11
Image: GCRO/ Simon Wolfson
AWARD HONOURS THREE ALUMNAE FROM THE GCRO MADE THE LONG LIST IN THE HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES AWARDS 2021 IN THE DIGITAL HUMANITIES C ATEGORY AND SUB-C ATEGORY: BEST DH V ISUALIZAT ION OR INFOGRAPHIC . • Gillian Maree (above) and GCRO team for “GCRO COVID-19 Visualisations and Maps of the Month”; •Dr Alexandra Parker (middle) for “The fabric of the Quality of Life Index”; • Samkelisiwe Khanyile (below) for “Graffiti and urban art in Maboneng: a virtual tour”.
its mandate to provide direct policy support (for local and national government) as well as to inform partner officials and clinicians within Gauteng Provincial Government, yielding rigorous peer-reviewed academic scholarship at the same time. “All of the work is collaborative. Every piece put out has been done with a few people, with a range of skills. It makes it really special. In the short time we’ve had it, we’ve really made use of the wide range of social science skills at the GCRO,” says Maree. They hope to deepen analysis by exploring the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 through indicators 12 W I T S R E V I E W
such as gender, age, access to transport and amenities, and making use of clinical data such as hospitalisations and deaths in relation to population density. The list of collaborative researchers includes Dr Julia de Kadt (PhD 2011), Dr Alexandra Parker (BAS 2005, BAS Hons 2008, MArch 2009, PhD 2014), Graeme Götz (BA 1991, BA Hons 1993), Melinda Swift, Dr Robin Moore, Samkelisiwe Khanyile (BA 2014, BSc Hons 2015, MSc 2016), Christina Culwick Fatti (BSc 2009, BSc Hons 2010, MSc 2013), Yashena Naidoo, Sthembiso Pollen Mkhize, Sandiswa Mapukata (BA 2016, BA Hons 2017, MSc 2019) and Samy Katumba.
Image: GCRO/ Sello Dhlabo
COVID-19 AND WOMEN IN GAUTENG One output from the GCRO under its Map of the Month series revealed the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women. More women than men tested positive for COVID-19 in Gauteng between 6 March - 7 August 2020. The COVID-19 infection data as well as the GCRO vulnerability index point to a double burden for women. Women tested positive at a higher rate than men and have a greater social and economic vulnerability during lockdown. “There are several possible explanations for why working women may be more exposed to COVID-19 in the Gauteng context. It may be that more women are employed in higher-contact care and frontline service work (such as cashiers, cleaners and nurses). Globally, some 70% of healthcare workers are female and this may be one of the drivers for a higher rate of infection (as could the higher rate of testing of women). It is also possible that because women make up the majority of social grant recipients they are contracting the virus at a higher rate than men while standing in queues for monthly payments,” the study reads. The drivers for the higher rates of infection include risk factors such as living in a crowded dwelling; dependence on public health care facilities; reliance on public transport; existing health conditions; and access to medical aid. For more see https://gcro.ac.za/outputs/map-of-the-month/ detail/women-and-covid-19-gauteng/
The GCRO’s two risk indices related to COVID-19 vulnerabilities help to understand drivers of the higher rates of female cases. Index 1 (top) considers risk factors related to preventative measures. Index 2 (bottom) examines risk factors related to lockdown conditions that are likely to increase health and socio-economic vulnerability.
The chart shows that the proportion of female infections is higher for younger working adults (in their twenties) and drops to the average of 56% for older working adults. For cases over the age of 80 the dark orange shows a much higher proportion of female cases in line with international trends and the higher proportion of females in the population at this age. The higher proportion of male infections is really only evident for a few ages under 10 years of age.
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WHAT ARE LAMPREYS? Lampreys are primitive, fishlike vertebrates without jaws of which there are about 43 species. Lampreys belong to the order Petromyzontiformes. They live in coastal and fresh waters and are found in temperate regions around the world, except in Africa. These eel-like, scaleless animals range from about 15 to 100 centimetres (6 to 40 inches) long. Like their cousins, hagfishes, they lack bones, jaws, and paired fins —their skeletons consist of cartilage. They feed by latching onto other fish with a sucker around their mouth, securing their grip with circles of teeth and then drinking their victim’s blood after rasping a hole with special teeth on their tongue.
Family portrait: This reconstruction of the Late Devonian estuarine lake at Waterloo Farm captures the life history of a stem lamprey Priscomyzon riniensis. Three individuals representing different ontogenetic stages take a shelter in the meadow of charophyte algae Octochara crassa. Clockwise from right: a yolk-sac-carrying hatchling tucked in the charophyte; a juvenile attached to the substrate in the foreground; and an adult looming over the other individuals and showing its feeding apparatus. Art by Kristen Tietjen
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RESEARCH: L AMPREYS
RETHINKING ORIGINS OF VER TEBRATES LIKE A FORENSIC detective Wits alumnus Dr Robert Gess (PhD 2011) has found a new clue towards solving the puzzle of the origins of vertebrates. Based at the Albany Museum in Makhanda and affiliated to the Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences at Wits, Dr Gess has painstakingly chiselled through around 20% of 100 tons of shale assembled from the 360-millionyear-old Waterloo Farm heritage site which was exposed during a road construction in 1985. The shale samples were rescued ahead of further roadworks at the site in 1999 and 2007. Among thousands of fossils recovered from the shale samples are a growth series of lamprey fossils, of the species Priscomyzon riniensis, illustrating its development from hatchling to adult. The smallest preserved individual, barely 15mm in length, still carried a yolk sac, signalling that it had just hatched before entering the fossil record. Priscomyzon is the oldest species of fossil lamprey in the world, which he had already described from an adult from the site in an article in 2006. But the seven juveniles, which he has assembled over the subsequent 15 years, are completely unlike what everyone would have expected. Dr Gess, together with colleagues from the University of Chicago, published their findings in the prestigious journal Nature on 10 March 2021. “To get to the crux of the story”, explains Dr Gess, “we need to recall how living lampreys have affected biologists’ views of vertebrate origins and why. Lampreys (and their cousins the hagfish) are the only living vertebrates that branched from our shared family tree before we evolved jaws, so since the 1800s they have been intensely studied for insights into early vertebrate evolution. Their larvae, known as ammocoetes, are so vastly different from the adults that until the mid eighteen hundreds they were thought to be a completely different kind of creature. Ammocoetes are simple, blind wormlike creatures that burrow into stream beds and filter passing water for microscopic food. They then gradually transform into adult lampreys that are clearly vertebrates, have well developed eyes and swim around looking for other fish to attack. They latch onto them with a special sucker disk that surrounds their mouth, and drink their blood. Since the eighteen seventies it has been widely accepted and
THE WATERLOO FARM HERITAGE SITE The Waterloo Farm site, from which the Priscomyzon specimens were recovered, was a high latitude coastal lagoon 360 million years ago. It is also the only important high latitude site of its age to preserve vertebrate and plant remains. The fine, oxygen-poor mud at the bottom of the lagoon sometimes preserved the internal structures and outlines of soft tissue. Lampreys are virtually never fossilised as they had no bones or spines and just minute teeth, but at Waterloo Farm impressions of their soft bodies are preserved as silvery white films in the black shale. Details of their cartilaginous skeletons show through like x-rays. “This is incredibly special. Nowhere else in the world are such ancient lamprey remains found,” says Dr Gess.
PRISCOMYZON HATCHLING DETAILED Image: Tetsuto Miyashita
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RESEARCH: L AMPREYS
taught that this transformation preserves a record of the evolution from invertebrates to our earliest vertebrate ancestors. So, the last invertebrate ancestor of vertebrates is often portrayed as ammocoete-like, and the earliest vertebrate as being lamprey-like. For this to be true both ammocoetes and lampreys would need to have been around for 500 million years, since this event is believed to have occurred.” The most surprising feature of the recent baby lamprey fossil discovery is that they have almost the same appearance as their adults. The hatchlings were already sighted with large eyes and armed with a toothed sucker, much like the blood-sucking adult phase of modern lampreys. “This drastically different structure of ancient lamprey infants provides evidence that modern lamprey larvae are not evolutionary relics. Instead, the modern filter-feeding phase is a more recent innovation that allowed lampreys to populate and thrive in rivers and lakes. Therefore, distant human ancestry seemingly did not include a lamprey-larva-like stage. Modern lampreys now appear to be a highly evolved side branch, which shared a common ancestor with us – probably a jawless fish enclosed in bony armour,” says Dr Gess. The discovery calls for a rewrite of textbooks referring to vertebrate origins. Until now, it was commonly believed that modern lampreys were time capsules that could give insights into the biology and genome of a truly ancient lineage, as well as our own evolutionary heritage. “Lampreys are still really special,” adds Dr Gess, “but the long held evolutionary model based on their development turns out to have been a beguiling myth.”
A STUDENT FROM THE UNIVERSIT Y OF THE WIT WATERSRAND EXPL AINS THE SELF HIV T E S T I N G K I T. S E L F -T E S T I N G K I T S A N D VENDING MACHINES DISTRIBUTING PRESCRIPTION DRUGS ARE T WO WAY S THAT HIV TREATMENT IS BEING AUTOMATED TO REDUCE STIGMA IN SOUTH AFRICA
HOW A ROAD HELPED FOSSIL DISCOVERY In 1985 major road construction required demolition through the hills of the Waterloo Farm. This exposed the bed of black shale that contains the increasingly famous wealth of fossils. Dr Gess was one of the first people to realise its potential and in the mid nineties carried out excavations at the site. By the late nineties however the roadcut had become completely unstable and a threat to motorists, so the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) decided to cut it back. Dr Gess approached Sanral, which agreed that he become custodian of 30 tons of the shale rock which he and a workforce of six men hand-mined from the site. In 2007, another 70 tons were moved to a shed in
his garden in Bathurst built by a team from the roads agency. This has allowed for careful excavation of a palaeontological record that would never have been exposed except as a result of the road construction. Other fossils from the site include ancient coelacanths and Africa’s earliest four-legged animals. Sanral is partnering with Dr Gess to create an information centre beside the road further to the east where other similar aged fossils were found. This will include paintings of the Waterloo Farm fossil ecosystem, currently being produced by artist Maggie Newman. Construction of this node is expected to start later this year. • Dr Gess’s research is supported by the Millennium Trust
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M OR E T H A N
7.7m 62.7% 15-24
A D ULT S LI V I NG W I T H H I V I N SOUT H A FR I C A
A R E WOM EN
AG E O F YO U NG WO M E N W I T H N E W H I V I N F E CT I O N S A R E D O U B L E T H O S E A M O NG YO U NG M E N
JAB TO CHANGE HIV COURSE WOMEN IN SOUTH AFRICA bear a disproportionate burden of the HIV pandemic. According to UNAids figures, of the more than 7.7 million adults living with HIV in South Africa, 62.7% are women and new HIV infections among young women aged 15-24 were more than double those among young men. Wits University has long been recognised as a global leader in HIV research. Researchers from the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) announced on 10 November 2020 that long-acting cabotegravir injections once every eight weeks was safe and superior to the daily oral pill known as Truvada, currently used for HIV prevention among women in sub Saharan Africa. This was based on data from a clinical trial of a pre-exposure prophylaxis regime. The trial, known as the HPTN 084, was headed by Professor Sinead Delany-Moretlwe (MBBCh 1995), a research professor at Wits and director of research at the Wits Reproductive Health & HIV Institute. Her cochair in the study is Professor Helen Rees. The study enrolled 3 223 cisgender women at research sites in Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Fifty-seven percent of the participants were under the age of 25, the average age of participants was 26 years, 82% were not living with a partner, 55% reported two or more partners in the past month, and 34% reported having a primary partner who was living with HIV or had an unknown HIV status. “The intepretation of this study is that cabotegravir is 89% more effective than Truvada in preventing HIV in
women,” says Prof Delany-Moretlwe. The HPTN 084 results, along with the recent positive opinion of the dapivirine ring by the European Medicines Agency, represent a real opportunity to change the course of the HIV epidemic for women in sub-Saharan Africa. The HPTN is a worldwide collaborative clinical trials network that brings together investigators, ethicists, community members and other partners to develop and test the safety and efficacy of interventions designed to prevent the acquisition and transmission of HIV. It has collaborated with more than 85 clinical research sites in 19 countries. It has more than 50 trials ongoing or completed with over 161 000 participants enrolled and evaluated. Professor Delany-Moretlwe is also an advisor to the South African National Department of Health technical working group and serves on several WHO and other advisory committees. She was recently profiled by Forbes Africa as one of the key women leading the charge through the COVID-19 pandemic. “For Wits, it has been important that we’ve had this trial led by women and my co-chair is also a woman from the continent. At times in the trial, it was incredibly important to reflect the voices of the people who would use these products. Women and women from Africa had to reflect the context in which these products would be delivered, so that we make sure that they are able to eventually reach the people who need them,” she says. Apr il 2021 17
AGILE HUNTER IN BULKY BODY
Image: Alex Bernardini (@SimplexPaleo)
R E S E A R C H : A N T E O S AU RU S
A LIVE RECONS TRUCTION OF ANTEOSAURUS ATTACKING A HERBIVOROUS MOSCHOGNATHUS
A NEW STUDY ON Anteosaurus — a premammalian reptile that roamed the African continent 263 to 260 million years ago — found that it would have been able to outrun, track down and kill its prey effectively, despite its bulky size. Anteosaurus is not a dinosaur but belongs to the dinocephalians — mammal-like reptiles predating the dinosaurs. Much like the dinosaurs, dinocephalians’ fossilised bones are found in many places in the world. They stand out by their large size and heavy weight. The Anteosaurus’s skull was ornamented with large bosses (bumps and lumps) above the eyes and a long crest on top of the snout which, in addition to its enlarged canines, made its skull look like that of a ferocious creature. However, because of the heavy architecture of its skeleton, it was previously assumed that it was a rather sluggish, slow-moving animal, only capable of scavenging or ambushing its prey, at best. By carefully digitally reconstructing the skull of the Anteosaurus using X-ray imaging and 3D reconstructions, a team of researchers investigated the internal structures of the skull and found that the specific characteristics of its brain and balance organs were developed in such a way that it was everything but slow-moving. “Agile predators such as cheetahs or the infamous 18 W I T S R E V I E W
Velociraptor have always had very specialised nervous systems and fine-tuned sensory organs that enable them to track and hunt down prey effectively,” says Dr Julien Benoit of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits. The team found that the organ of balance in Anteosaurus (its inner ear) was relatively larger than that of its closest relatives and other contemporaneous predators. This indicates that Anteosaurus was capable of moving much faster than its prey and competitors. They also found that the part of the brain responsible for coordinating the movements of the eyes with the head was exceptionally large, which would have been a crucial trait to ensure the animal’s tracking abilities. “In creating the most complete reconstruction of an Anteosaurus skull to date, we found that overall, the nervous system of Anteosaurus was optimised and specialised for hunting swiftly and striking fast, unlike what was previously believed,” says Dr Ashley Kruger (BSc Hons 2012, MSc 2014, PhD 2017) from the Natural History Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. “Even though Anteosaurus lived 200-million years before the famous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex, Anteosaurus was definitely not a ‘primitive’ creature, and was nothing short of a mighty prehistoric killing machine,” says Benoit.
RESEARCH: WHALES AND D OLPHINS
BIG BRAINS ACT AS HEATERS
Image: Dr Olga Shpak
SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE SHOWS specialised features in the large brains of whales and dolphins are adapted for heat production. Whales and dolphins have the largest brains on the planet, some of them weighing over eight kilograms, six times heavier than the average human brain. Scientific evidence from a study led by Professor Paul Manger from the School of Anatomical Sciences at Wits indicates that whales’ and dolphins’ large brains lack the diversity, flexibility and adaptability in their mental processes and behaviour that humans have, and that their large brains instead evolved to keep warm in icy oceanic temperatures. This research has been published in the journal Scientific Reports. “In water, mammals lose heat to the environment 90
times faster than we do to the air,” says Manger. “The brains of all mammals produce heat independently of the heat-producing mechanisms of the body. This heat is required to keep their neurons warm enough to function efficiently.” Whale and dolphin brains became exceptionally large around 32 million years ago, 20 million years after they became fully aquatic and around the time when there was a major drop in oceanic water temperatures across the planet. “Knowing how central water temperature is to their survival may allow us to understand what will happen to certain species of whale and dolphin during the inevitable rise in oceanic temperatures associated with human-induced climate change,” says Manger. Apr il 2021 19
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Wit sies wi th [BA FT 2017]
MARIAN DE PONTES 2021 Horizon Award Winner Marian de Pontes is the recipient of the 7th annual Horizon Award. The award is given to emerging female and non-binary filmmakers by a mentorship team, which includes Cassian Elwes (Dallas Buyers Club/ Mudbound), Lynette Howell Taylor (A Star is Born/ Captain Fantastic), Christine Vachon (Boys Don't Cry/ Vox Lux), and Sundance Feature Film Programme director Michelle Satter. The award is in partnership with the Sundance Institute and will be presented at the Toronto International Film Festival later this year. De Pontes is a recent graduate of Chapman University in California, earning an MFA in film production. She graduated top of her class at Wits and earned the Dean’s Award and an award for Best Cinematographer in 2015. “Wits contributed hugely towards where I am now, and it has an incredible Film and TV Department focused on the intellectual approach of art in our world. It helped me lay the groundwork with thoughtful courses ranging from the female gaze in cinema to representation and semiotics in society - these are concepts that have distinctly helped me in my approach to filmmaking,” says De Pontes, who is 20 W I T S R E V I E W
living and working in Los Angeles. She says her idea for her winning film Etana was sparked by a news article three years ago about female child soldiers who were freed from rebel armies in South Sudan. “It was a story that stuck with me for years until I decided to tell parts of it for my MFA thesis film.” De Pontes has had to learn to adjust to Hollywood in lockdown. “I was lucky, I had just wrapped on filming Etana just as lockdown started in California. We managed to edit, sound design and create the special effects remotely with the help of a remarkably talented and hardworking team. “The beginning of lockdown here was an unsure time for the industry and I had just graduated into a world that was coming to a standstill. An incredible TV director, Tucker Gates, known most for his work on the original 21 Jump Street, Lost, Bates Motel, House of Cards, and Homeland, offered me a mentorship opportunity where I could shadow him on set and learn the ropes of the television world. It has been a wonderful rollercoaster ride since then, and I’m very grateful to those who have helped me thus far in a time that has been tough on everybody.”
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t h e ed ge RECENT HONORARY DEGREES CONFERRED ON:
MARIAN DE PONTES ON SET OF HER M OV I E E TA NA, W H I CH FOLLOWS A YOUNG FEMALE SOLDIER
•H enry Nxumalo was awarded a Doctor of Literature degree (posthumously) for his role in pioneering investigative journalism in South Africa. • American literary critic, filmmaker and historian Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr was awarded a Doctor of Literature for his contribution to African-American studies. •P rofessor Khaya Mfenyana was awarded a Doctor of Science in Medicine degree in recognition of his commitment to producing graduates who focus on social accountability though community practice. • Entrepreneur and philanthropist Ms Lyda Hill was awarded a Doctor of Science degree for her transformational work in community and global service and the support of research and science. Her relationship with Wits extends over the last six years when she became involved at a critical moment in the discovery of Homo Naledi at the Rising Star cave system. • Professor Lucille Blumberg was recognised with a Doctor of Science in Medicine degree for her work in responding to many outbreaks of diseases in South Africa and abroad including rabies, malaria, acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), tumbu or mango fly parasitic infestation, lassa fever, LuJo and more recently listeriosis. • Richard (Dick) Enthoven was awarded a Doctor of Commerce degree for his philanthropic contributions to business and art.
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[BA FA 2018]
CHRIS SOAL The youngest artist chosen to participate in the international Dior Lady Art project
Twenty-six-year-old Alexander Chris Soal is the youngest artist to be chosen to participate in the international Dior Lady Art project. Now in its fifth year, the project is spear-headed by Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia-Chiuri, who hand-picked 10 artists to reinterpret the classic Lady Dior handbag. Although Soal’s work celebrates humble materials such as discarded bottle caps and toothpicks he says working on the Dior project was a great fit. “I think the beauty of the Lady Dior Art initiative is that the invited contemporary artists are allowed to bring their own visual vocabulary to the collaboration. It was a bit daunting working with an international fashion house with a 75year legacy, but I simply tried to look at my own work, trust my instincts, and bring what I could to the collaboration. I thought the contrast between the high-fashion luxury icon and the banal materials I utilise through much of my sculptural work was the perfect approach. The bags resulted in being rather humorous and ironic. I especially appreciated that they supported my desire to reinterpret the ‘O’ in the Lady Dior charm into a beer bottle top opener.” His interpretation of the bags combines lightheartedness as well as careful consideration of choice of materials. “When two members of their salon flew out from Paris in February 2020 to show me the range of samples created off the initial sketches we’d provided, I genuinely felt like 22 W I T S R E V I E W
I was transported to my childhood when I played with Lego. The possibilities of any gesture were limitless. I’m delighted that this free and playful gesture could be captured in the finished bags. Each bag has a limited edition of 100. The bent beer bottle tops speak formally to the cowrie shell, a pre-colonial form of currency which now adorns a high-end carrier of currency. The toothpicks are suggestive of fur pelts and bring these seamless objects into a more direct relationship with questions of ecology and sustainability.” At a time when the world seemed to slow down during the pandemic Soal has been quietly productive. “It’s been a very strange time. I’m incredibly grateful and fortunate to have been able to keep the studio running, to keep my assistants employed. It’s very difficult, but enormously important, for an artist to find the rhythm and pace of their own work. This period has really encouraged me to take the time that the work demands. It’s been a privilege to have time and space not only to work at my own pace, but also to give the work time to breathe before sending it out. I’ve found that much new work has been developed from observations of completed works which we’ve left hanging in the studio for extended periods of time.” He recently held a solo exhibition, “As Below So
WITSIES WITH THE EDGE
Images: Dior and Chris Soal
Above”, at Cape Town’s WHATIFTHEWORLD gallery and was the recipient of the 2020 Claire and Edoardo Villa Will Trust grant. “The fulfilment of the grant will be the installation of my outdoor sculpture in the landscape of the Nirox Sculpture Park. I’ll simultaneously install a solo exhibition of work in the new rammed earth exhibition space for the Nirox Foundation opening in April 2021.” His first international solo exhibition is set to open on 22 April at the M12 Gallery in Brussels, Belgium. “I’m looking forward to having some time to dedicate to a new body of work I’ve been developing on the side for a while. New directions and possibilities are what keeps the practice alive.”
CHRIS SOAL'S DIOR BAGS, WHICH FETCH UP TO $13 000, PL AYFULLY REINTERPET THE ‘O’ IN THE CHARM INTO A BEER BOTTLE TOP OPENER. BACKGROUND: MOTHER (2021) CREATES AN ILLUSION OF MOVEMENT WITH TOOTHPICKS THAT ARE AL SO SUGGES TIVE OF FUR PELTS. T O P R I G H T: F O L D E D BOT T L E TO P S A R E METICULOUSLY SEWN ON BY HAND
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L E F T: SUMAYYA VA L LY, TOP: SERPENTINE GALLERY DESIGN, BELOW: BRIXTON MOSQUE
[BAS Hons 2013, MArch Prof 2014]
S U M AY YA VA L LY Only architect named on Time magazine’s second Time100 Next list Wits alumna Sumayya Vally was the only architect named on Time magazine’s second Time100 Next list released on 17 February 2021. As an expansion of the established Time100 list, it aims to “highlight 100 emerging leaders who are shaping the future.” According to the editorial director of Time100 Dan Macsai: “Everyone on this list is poised to make history. And in fact, many already have.” The recognition, Vally told Time, “means that things are shifting and changing, not just for me and my voice, but for the generation behind me.” Vally is the principal of Johannesburg-based architectural firm Counterspace, which she started with other Witsies Amina Kaskar (BAS 2012, BAS Hons 2014, MArch Prof 2015) and Sarah de Villiers (BAS 2012, BAS Hons 2014, MArch Prof 2015) five years ago. The firm also received one of the biggest accolades in architecture in 2019, to design the Serpentine Pavilion 24 W I T S R E V I E W
in London’s Kensington Gardens. Delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will incorporate experiences of marginalised migrant communities via detachable components. Following community events at these locations, the parts will be returned to the central structure. The project’s aesthetic is inspired by gathering spaces common to those neighbourhoods, from open-air markets to religious centres. The design also makes use of bricks made from recycled rubbish. Vally, who grew up in Laudium, an apartheid township in Pretoria, is also a lecturer at the University of Johannesburg’s Graduate School of Architecture. Her interest in and passion for the ways in which people interact with their environment is rooted in her scholarly study. She encourages young architects to think more holistically about their environments and she emphasises that Counterspace is “interdisciplinary”. This is evident in her film Ingesting Architectures, which was screened at the Serpentine’s free online Arts and Ecology Festival in December 2020. Before lockdown, another Counterspace project included converting an old Dutch Reformed church into a mosque in Brixton. It features a minaret made of light that appears only five times a day when prayers are said.
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[LLB 1991, LLD honoris causa 2017]
THULI MADONSELA Appointed as Knight of the Legion of Honour The much-admired Wits alumna and South Africa’s former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has been appointed as Knight of the Legion of Honour (Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur) by French President Emmanuel Macron. The French Legion of Honour celebrates the accomplishments of distinguished individuals, irrespective of social background or nationality. Viewed as the highest decoration in France it was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The categories of the Order include the degrees Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand-Croix (Grand Cross). Former president Nelson Mandela (LLD honoris causa 1991) was a Grand-Croix recipient in 1994. Previous Wits alumni recipients of the degree Chevalier include Nadine Gordimer (DLitt honoris causa 1984) and André P Brink (DLitt honoris causa 1985). The title was conferred by Macron on 20 November 2020, but the official ceremony to bestow the insignia on Professor Madonsela will take place as soon as the COVID-19 situation eases. In his letter to Professor Madonsela, Ambassador Aurélien Lechevallier said Professor Madonsela was honoured in recognition of her remarkable achievements in defence of the rule of law and the fight against corruption in South Africa.
HIGH-PROFILE APPOINTMENTS • Ambassador Mathu Joyini (BA Hons 1988, MBA 1998) is the new Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations and presented her credentials to the Secretariat on 22 January 2021. She is the first woman to represent the country in this position. Among other diplomatic assignments, Ambassador Joyini served as High Commissioner and Ambassador to six countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, from 2010 to 2015. • Jean Bosco Iyacu (MCom 2007) was appointed the Country Director at Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) — a non-profit company which facilitates access to financial services by low-income people and small to medium businesses in Rwanda. “This new position means both a new challenge but also an opportunity to provide my contribution in pursuing the journey of ensuring all Rwandans have equal access to and use appropriate financial products and services. This will be an opportunity to support development of a robust and more inclusive Rwandan financial sector and the economic transformation that is already underway,” Iyacu says. Prior to his new position Iyacu was instrumental in designing and implementing a range of financial inclusion programmes. He was CEO of the Rwanda Business Development Centre — an entrepreneurship and business incubation facility. He is an expert in microfinance and digital currency and completed an executive course at Harvard Kennedy on Rethinking Financial Inclusion. “The experience at Wits has shaped me to be who I am now. The able professors and learning environment were awesome and I will always treasure that,” he says. • Professor Lynn Morris (BSc 1981, BSc Hons 1983) has been appointed as the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at Wits from 1 April 2021. She is an A-rated, internationally recognised scientist with experience in research management and leadership. She has just completed her three-year term as the Executive Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), and has led the NICD through two major health crises, namely the listeria outbreak of 2017/8 and the current COVID-19 pandemic. She has actively promoted a research agenda which has led to an improvement in the number of publication outputs as well as the number of NRF-rated scientists at the Institute.
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[DArch honoris causa 2011]
DENISE SCOTT BROWN 2007 Vilcek Prize winner celebrated in biographical manga series for her contribution to architecture
Image: Vilcek Foundation
DENISE SCOTT BROWN FAMOUSLY DESCRIBED HER LIFE AS CIRCUS HORSE RIDER, WHICH HIROKI OTSUKA INCORPORATED IN THE MANGA
The New York-based Vilcek Foundation, which recognises the contributions of immigrants in the arts and sciences via the Vilcek Prize, featured acclaimed architect Denise Scott Brown, née Lakofski, in a biographical manga series in January 2021. Scott Brown won the Vilcek Prize in 2007 and manga artist Hiroki Otsuka based the strip on Scott Brown’s acceptance speech at the time. In it she touched on her life in South Africa and her seminal book Learning from Las Vegas. She said the Vilcek Prize was a special recognition because it acknowledged her life experience as well as her accomplishments. She famously described her life as a constant balancing act, much like a “circus rider”: “As I think about it, the circus is a pretty good way to describe my life’s work. I have been a circus horse rider most of my life — a woman who works with a foot on two horses at once: Architecture & Urbanism; South Africa & The United States; History & Innovation; Traditional Architecture & The Vernacular; Provincial Capitol Building, Toulouse, France; Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery, London, United Kingdom; Nikko Kirifuri Resort, Nikko, Japan.” Born in Nkama (Kitwe), Zambia she grew
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Images: Frank Hanswijk & Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates
7TH SA MEDIC AL RESEARCH COUNCIL S C I E N T I F I C M E R I T AWA R D S PL ATINUM MEDAL
L E F T: S COT T B ROW N D E S I G N E D T H E PROVINCIAL CAPITOL BUILDING IN TOULOUSE, FRANCE AS WELL AS THE NIKKO KIRIFUI RESORT IN NIKKO, JAPAN (ABOVE)
up in Dunkeld, Johannesburg, studying architecture at Wits from 1948 to 1952. She met a fellow architecture student, Robert Scott Brown, who followed her to London and they were married in 1955. They returned to South Africa in 1957 for a few months and during this time they studied and photographed Cape Dutch, colonial and African architecture. In 1958 they left South Africa for the US. Robert died in a car accident in 1959. She continued her studies and received her Master’s degrees in architecture and urban planning from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In 1965 she became co-chair of the Urban Design programme of the University of California, Los Angeles after teaching briefly at Berkeley and she became established as an influential scholar in urban planning. She invited Robert Venturi to her classes at UCLA and together they visited Las Vegas for research on that city. They married in 1967, collaborating on projects and literature that set the stage for post modernism. In 2016 the couple was awarded a Gold Medal by the American Institute of Architects — one of the highest honours the AIA can confer on any architect. Scott Brown has received with numerous awards over the years, such as the Jane Drew Prize from the Architectural Review in 2017; the Soane Medal from Sir John Soane’s Museum in London in 2018; and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lisbon Architecture Triennial in 2019. She lives in a 1907 Art Nouveau home on the outskirts of Philadelphia. See more here: https://vilcek.org/news/postmodern-pioneer-manga-biography-celebrates-denise-scott-brown/
•P rofessor Linda-Gail Bekker (DTM&H 1992) is a professor of medicine at the University of Cape Town and director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre. She is an infectious disease specialist. With the COVID-19 pandemic she has been on the frontline with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trials as co-principal investigator. She said: “I think we’re so enriched to work here in South Africa, where the spirit of Ubuntu, the spirit of endeavour to want to find solutions to some of the most incredible challenges really manoeuvres us forward with enthusiasm to find solutions.” •P rofessor Heather Zar (MBBCh 1985) is chair in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital and also director of the SAMRC’s Unit on Child and Adolescent Health. An NRF-A1 rated scientist, she’s received the World Lung Health Award from the American Thoracic Society in 2014, the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Laureate for Africa/Arabia in 2018 and the President’s Award from the International Congress in Paediatric Pulmonology in 2019. She said: “It’s been an extraordinary journey with many people to thank that have allowed us to push the boundaries of knowledge in science, striving to ensure that children not only survive but reach their full potential and fully thrive.”
GOLD MEDAL •P rofessor Michèle Ramsay (PhD 1987) is professor of Human Genetics at Wits University’s School of Pathology and occupies the position of Director at the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience. “There could be no better time to be exploring the vast genetic diversity and the genomes of Africans and to begin to uncover the impact of this genetic variation on health and disease,” she said. • P rofessor Karen Sliwa (DTM&H 1995, PhD 2001) is a cardiologist, professor and director at the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa at the University of Cape Town. She is also the director of the newly established Cape Heart Institute and leads several research groups. In 2017 she received an Honorary Doctorate from the University Diderot-Sorbonne, in France. She is the recipient of the German Cardiac Society Paul Morawitz Award for exceptional cardiovascular research. She has fellowships from the American College of Cardiology and the European Society of Cardiology. “I had a great research enviroment at Wits, that taught me not to give up, how to pursue my ideas and work in a team,” she said during her acceptance speech. • S ee more Witsie honours: https://www.wits.ac.za/news/ sources/alumni-news/
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DIKELEDI OFENTSE PITSE The first black South African woman to own and conduct an orchestra Dikeledi Ofentse Pitse is the first black South African woman to own and conduct an orchestra. Born in Mabopane in Pretoria, with no formal music education, the 29-year-old funds Anchored Sound, a 45-piece orchestra and 30-member choir, from her work in architecture. Her love of music was nurtured by playing the flugelhorn in the Salvation Army. Her grandfather was a trumpet player and her first instrument was a gift from an uncle, at the age of 12. The orchestra started in a classroom in Tembisa on the East Rand in Ekurhuleni in 2017.
Pitse selected interested youth from Tembisa, Katlehong and Soweto who wanted to sing and “jam”. Today they perform everything from Sibelius to Vivaldi and are working on classical African pieces, bolstered by mentorship from the University of Pretoria Symphony Orchestra conductor Gerben Grooten. “Apart from classical music, I infuse some jazz and pop elements,” she says. “It’s 28 W I T S R E V I E W
very collaborative. I don’t want to close off access too much because I believe everyone is teachable. I am learning a lot myself.” Pitse, who was invited to participate in the 6th Forbes Woman Africa #LeadingWomanSummit on International Women’s Day in March, says she’s growing into her role. “How you stand, how you walk into rehearsal or the music DIKELEDI OFENTSE PITSE stand — there’s a certain way that commands trust and respect. The confidence I get to stand there comes from preparation and architecture. At Wits, we constantly had to defend our ideas. Lecturers asked why you used a specific design element, as a result you gain assertiveness and find your voice. What I learned from my conducting coach added to what I learned at Wits.” At such a young age, Pitse has an understanding of what it takes to be a leader and she’s had to dip into her own resources to meet the needs of the communities from which the members emerge. “For something as simple as having taxi money to come to rehearsals, I’ve had to make a lot of e-wallet and money transfers through supermarkets. I didn’t want them to feel that just because they were from a home below the basic income, they couldn’t be part of the orchestra. Beyond the music, it is a form of belonging, meeting up with people who are as enthusiastic and equally talented. I had to make a plan.” The expenses extend to booking rehearsal space and ensuring the musicians have something to eat. Pitse knows what it takes to overcome obstacles and she’s said “I am a believer in the black narrative and a believer in the black child” during numerous interviews. “I believe that they can occupy spaces where they are not easily welcomed. I speak a lot about my dream about performing in the Sydney Opera House. Even while we
“I know struggle and because I know it first-hand I am very aware. This is what fuels my passion. If I am able to influence another young person’s life, I will make it my mission until it happens.”
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MORE NOTABLE WITSIE HONOURS BERNICE SAMUELS
OFENTSE PITSE WITH SOME MEMBERS OF ANCHORED SOUND: SEAN MATHIBE (TENOR SAXOPHONE), SAKHILE MTSATSI (TENOR), YONEL A MADEL A (ALTO) AND NQOBILE MHLUNGU (FLUTE)
were in this tiny, hot classroom and many there were thinking ‘to what end?’. Representation is something that is important. They shouldn’t stop dreaming or feel less than because of where they come from. “I grew up in a tough space raised by a single parent. The family value that we were raised on is ‘no one can steal education from you’. I woke up at 4am to make assembly at 7.30 am at an art school in an affluent neighbourhood. I had no business going to that school. I did not fit in by virtue of where I come from. I know what it feels like to be excluded.” The acknowledgement of these feelings enables her to reach out today. “I understand what it feels like to be black. When I got to Wits I had two pairs of shoes. There were days when I went without food. I would go into the architecture studio to check who left some lunch during the break and just nibble on what I could. I know struggle and because I know it first-hand I am very aware. This is what fuels my passion. If I am able to influence another young person’s life, I will make it my mission until it happens.”
•B ernice Samuels (PDM 1992, MBA 1994), who is Group Marketing Executive at MTN, was awarded a Lifetime Achiever Award at the FM Ad Focus Awards, held in November 2020. She has led MTN to be rated as “the most valuable telco brand in Africa” by Brand Finance for three consecutive years. Under her leadership it has also been rated as most admired African brand by Brand Africa in 2020 and in 2019 it was the number one telco brand, winning the most Loeries ever won by MTN in a single year. In 2020, for the first time in MTN’s history, the company launched a multi-market, multi-language, multi-channel campaign that went live simultaneously across all 20 markets where MTN is present. The “Wear It For Me” campaign took just six weeks to produce, all under lockdown. Samuels told FM she’s pedantic about getting it right and consumed by the quest for excellence: “I’m always looking for ways to spit and polish.” • The Department of Trade and Industry CFO Shabeer Kahn (BCom 2002) was winner of the Young CFO of the Year Award, the Public Sector CFO Award and the Compliance and Governance Award at the 2020 CFO Awards. “It is such an honour to be recognised by the finance community. It is especially amazing to win the Public Sector CFO Award, especially in such a difficult year,” he said at the award ceremony at the Polo Room in Inanda in November 2020. • Manqoba Kubheka (BCom 2010) is general manager of the licensing division at the South African Music Rights Organisation, where he was responsible for the music rights body receiving R500 million in revenue for the first time since its inception in 1962. He received the 2020 Game Changer Award from the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, honouring the country’s top under 35s. Wits alumna Millycent Mashele (BCom 2007) was also among the finalists.
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Images: Benjamin Lehman/CDC, Unsplash
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WITSIES RESPOND TO
THREE WITSIES IN THE UNITED S TATES ARE PL AYING THEIR PART IN VACCINE RESEARCH AND SUPPORTING HIGHDEMAND LOGISTICS. THEY ARE SURGEON, BUSINESSMAN AND B I O - S C I E N T I S T PAT R I C K S O O N SHIONG (MBBCH 1975), ENGINEER DAVID BERCHOWITZ (BSC ENG 1975, MSC ENG 1978, PHD 1986) AND ENGINEER AND S TRATEG Y INNOVATOR NEILL LANE (BSC ENG 1982).
BY UFRIEDA HO
ack in the mid-1970s when Patrick Soon-Shiong was a recently graduated medical doctor he spent some time working in clinics in the Eastern Cape. It would deliver one of his a-ha moments. By then he had completed his internship, breaking barriers by becoming the first doctor of colour working at the then Johannesburg General Hospital. But he turned down an offer of a permanent position there and took up work at TB clinics in the Eastern Cape instead. “I realised then that there wasn’t any technology that I had in my hands except a streptomycin injection, not even an X-ray. I was either hurting these children or not helping them and that’s when I said to myself I will go away and come back and bring technology to South Africa. I thought it was going to take me five years – I miscalculated,” Soon-Shiong said, with an ironic laugh. He was speaking during an in-conversation webinar with Professor Shabir Madhi, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, held on 5 March 2021. Soon-Shiong has lived abroad since the late 1970s and has been based in Los Angeles since the late 1980s. One of his companies, ImmunityBio, is in the clinical trial phase of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate known as hAd5-Covid-19. Since receiving US Food and Drug Administration approval and the green light from the South Africa Health Products Regulatory Authority, trials have also been underway in South Africa at the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa’s Khayelitsha site. These trials have been overseen by researchers from the University of Cape Town. Also in trial is an oral (pill form) booster vaccine. A vaccine in pill form will obviate the need for a healthcare professional to administer an injection and will be more stable Image: © Ringo HW Chiu
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and easier to transport and distribute. In the company’s press release Soon-Shiong said: “We believe that the key to creating long-term immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and overcoming the variants that are rapidly developing around the world is to create a vaccine that activates not only antibodies but also memory B and T cells to multiple antigens. Furthermore, room-temperature stable formulations for oral delivery have the potential to solve the cold-chain challenges of distribution and the ability to generate mucosal IgA antibody barriers to the virus in the upper respiratory tract where it first enters the body.” Soon-Shiong’s message for South Africa to be able to better navigate the vaccine landscape is for leadership at all levels — from government through to academia and
the private sector — to focus on building sustainable capacity. He said: “South Africa needs to be generating capacity, generating material so it is self-sufficient and can control the supply chain.” During the webinar, Soon-Shiong paid tribute to “the giants on whose shoulders we stand”, mentioning some of the professors he trained under (Daniel du Plessis, Bert Myburgh, Harry Seftel, Michael Boswell, and John Barlow) and also praised the leading role Wits researchers are playing in the science on COVID. The Gqeberha (formally Port Elizabeth)-born SoonShiong is part owner of the LA Lakers and remains a keen basketball fan. He signed off the webinar inviting his former Wits classmates to a friendly match when he expects to visit South Africa in the future.
WHERE DO WE WANT TO GO FROM HERE? “I believe this is the future, not just for COVID, but for influenza, TB, leprosy, Lassa fever, chikungunya. This the opportunity for us to take this technology and expand it for countries that really need this kind of vaccinology,” Soon-Shiong said during the webinar. “I think this is what the WHO calls constructive disruption.” On 18 March 2021 local pharmaceutical company Biovac announced a partnership with ImmunityBio. “The technology transfer with ImmunityBio will build Biovac’s capability for active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing,” the companies said in a statement. Working together will help build “a solid foundation for an independent local response to future pandemics.”
or Neill Lane, who is chief strategy officer at Stirling Ultracold, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant his company has had to adapt its technology and product offerings to meet new demands from customers with needs specific to their part of the world. It’s seen the company merge its technology into a range of products to accommodate more specifications. There are large-sized units for commercial-scale storage facilities and units designed to fit under counters, suitable for small, remote clinics. The coolers are made up of stacked trays and designed to accommodate the storage and safe transportation of the glass vials the vaccines come in. Lane is a qualified mechanical engineer but has been pivotal in steering his company’s strategy to promote adoption of new energy products. He’s also been instrumental in developing the market for his company’s products for commercial, scientific and aerospace applications. Lane was born in Zimbabwe and came to South
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Africa as a student. At Wits, like his colleague David Berchowitz, he studied under Professor Costa Rallis, who was his graduate advisor and later someone he would come to call friend. “I had intended to finish my PhD remotely. Of course, that never happened when I left the country in 1988,” he told WITSReview. He said: “Growing up in Zimbabwe and subsequently visiting southern Africa many times, I am acutely aware of the global disparities in how we respond to the pandemic. Our small, portable freezers are well suited for resource-poor areas, and a number of international aid organisations are evaluating them to help in vaccine transportation and storage.” Being a student in the 1980s was also an education beyond the lecture halls. “Wits was foundational to my career in technology, later in entrepreneurship, and my belief in the importance of job creation. Being in South Africa and on the Wits campus in the 1980s also taught me so much about inequality, racism and the need for social justice.”
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ne of the biggest logistical dilemmas in the rush to get vaccines to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, has been to find solutions to safely transport and store vaccines at ultra-cold temperatures. In the case of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine “ultra-cold” means temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to be among South Africa’s choice of vaccines in the future. The man behind refining the technology that has made refrigeration at these temperatures possible is David Berchowitz. He is chief technology officer of Stirling Ultracold, a company based in Ohio in the United States. The technology for their ultra-low temperature fridges is based on using cycles of expanding and compressing gases to create the heat energy that powers the fridges’ engines. Berchowitz told WITSReview: “Our freezers use very little power and operate without difficulty over a wide range of voltages and frequencies. This makes them ideal for any situations where power is at a premium and/or unstable, which often go together.” Berchowitz said COVID-19 meant shifting gears. “I had not anticipated deep temperature vaccine storage until the pandemic, though I fully understood that some refrigeration was needed for the so-called ‘cold-chain’ to bring medicines and vaccines to point-of-use.” He also noted: “The very first commercial unit
Left to right: The under-counter SU105UE (below) is ideal for pharmacies or clinics. The bigger upright SU780XLE is being used in the giant cold-storage facilities known as freezer farms to store larger quantities of vaccines in one place until they are ready for distribution. The portable ULT25NEU can operate on power from an automotive source or with external batteries during transport
using our technology was a portable cooler developed by Twinbird, our licensee, in about 2004. In fact, I had two units shipped to Wits Mechanical Engineering as examples of this unique technology.” Berchowitz calls the US home now but visits SA occasionally. His sister still lives in the house he grew up in in Potchefstroom. He said of his Wits student days: “I loved being at Wits; I had the enormous good fortune to have Prof Costa Rallis (BSc Eng 1947, MSc Eng 1948, PhD 1963, DSc honoris causa 2003) be my advisor. He was a giant among those who have influenced my way of thinking. Of course, it was during the apartheid years, so things were never without immediate moral implications which often flavoured our discussions.”
WHO WERE THE FOUNDING FATHERS? Robert Stirling was awarded a patent for the first Stirling engine in 1816. His invention was first used as a cooling tool in 1834 by astronomer John Herschel and in 1876 John Gorrie was recognised as the first person to use the engine to produce ice. These three men are considered by Stirling Ultracold to be the founding fathers of the Stirling engine. They charted the way that has led the company to produce the industry’s most energy-efficient ultra-low freezer.
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BOUND FOR THE GIDON NOVICK (BCOM 1991, BACC 1993), FOUNDER OF KULUL A AND FORMER CEO OF COMAIR, HAS BEEN FASCINATED WITH FLIGHT HIS ENTIRE LIFE AND IN DECEMBER HE L AU N CH E D H I S N E W A I R L I N E , L I F T.
Image: Kovah, Unsplash
BY HEATHER DUGMORE
idon has flown countless times, but says each flight is still exciting for him: “It’s not new technology but it’s amazing technology and it epitomises what humans can do – create machines that transport people around the country and world. It’s an incredible enabler that facilitates human connection and one of the biggest human aspirations – to explore and travel.” The aviation industry has of course been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Six thousand commercial aircraft are parked around the world doing nothing,” says Gidon. His response to this crisis is characteristically counterintuitive – he started a new airline.
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“The opportunity was to make use of aircraft that weren’t doing any work and partner with owners who are willing to allow the aircraft to be used on a variable cost basis.” Lift was launched in December 2020 with two routes: Johannesburg-Cape Town and JohannesburgGeorge. The airline’s partner is Global Aviation, which has sophisticated maintenance and COVID-protocol capability and a good track record over 20 years. Gidon and co-founder Jonathan Avache created a “customer obsessed”, agile operational model for Lift. Where Kulula introduced low price air travel, Lift has introduced value added air travel with innovations
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SKY GIDON NOVICK
including flexibility with free booking changes and cancellations, Vida e Caffé on board and happy hour on the afternoon flights. He says two key business elements he has always pursued are agility and adaptability, both essential in a COVID and post-COVID world. “Our operational model allows us to upscale and downscale our flights and routes as demand dictates. We currently offer the Joburg–Cape Town route but during the December holidays we added the Joburg-George route.” Building “a brilliant team” is key for Gidon. He looks for smart, enthusiastic people with plenty of energy. “You quickly pick up how energetic someone is from their walk; if they walk slowly I get worried.” Flying and running airlines is second nature to Gidon whose family were shareholders of Comair for decades. His chartered accountant father, the late Dave Novick (CTA 1960), was one of the early founders of Comair and played a vital role throughout his 50-year career, first as an accountant and subsequently as MD and then Chairman until 2011. Gidon, in turn, was with Comair for 13 years – as Co-CEO and founder of Kulula. Kulula was launched in early 2000 shortly after he returned from the US, where he did his MBA at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Chicago. “I went there with my wife Lindie for a few years, always with the intention of returning,” he explains. “I spent a fair amount of time studying Southwest Airlines, which was the first really innovative airline model from not only an efficiency and cost point of view but also a cultural point of view. Founder Herb Kelleher's leadership strategy included offering low fares to its passengers, eliminating unnecessary services, and predominantly using a single aircraft type. Meeting him in person had a profound impact on me.” Another influence on Gidon was technology: “It was the early days of the internet and companies like Amazon were emerging in the US. At Kellogg I had the opportunity to meet business leaders and learn about what they were doing and how technology and the internet were going to completely change business. Flight and travel Image: Lift
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were among the earliest industries to be impacted by the internet, with online booking in particular and direct customer relations, as opposed to only working through traditional channels. “At the same time, as a CA, I discovered a deep love for marketing, branding and company culture which all fit together. I was less interested in the hardcore analytical side of business and more interested in the culture, and leadership side, and when we came back home I wanted to test those skills. South Africa was ripe for disruption in the airline industry, which was quite restrictive in terms of the price points it targeted, excluding a big chunk of the market; only 1% or 2% of South Africans were using air travel and today it’s closer to 10%.” Ahead of the launch of Lift, Gidon and Jonathan asked members of the public to suggest a name for the airline and received 25 000 submissions, with Lift emerging as the winner. Others included Ubuntu Air, FlyMzansi, and Gravy Plane, about which Gidon said “they must have confused us with another airline!”. Lift’s head office is in Gardens, Cape Town in a shared office called Workshop 17, but the airline by its nature is a distributed business with an operations team in Johannesburg, and technical staff and crew at the airports in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Gidon, his wife Lindie and their four children live in Cape Town; they moved there five years ago after living in Joburg for 20 years. “Lindie is from Cape Town and we have the support of her parents here.” Five months before the start of lockdown, Gidon joined a nascent food rescue non-profit called SA Harvest (https://saharvest.org/) which sources food that would have gone to waste. “I was deeply affected by the thought that every day 18 million South African men, women and children go to bed hungry and yet 10 million tons of food goes to waste here every year,” he explains. “This was an escalating crisis long before COVID, which then multiplied the numbers and brought huge attention to an issue that had somehow drifted off the consciousness of people and donors.” SA Harvest drew inspiration from similar organisations such as OzHarvest in Australia, founded by a South African and one of the best food rescue examples in the world. Initially he had one truck parked outside their home in Camps Bay and they would collect food from Vida e Caffé and drop if off at a soup kitchen. “But when COVID hit, SA Harvest was catapulted into massive volumes and in an instant we had to build every dimension, raise funds, hire key people, buy infrastructure, invest in technology and build a logistics system. Four months into lockdown we were operating at full speed, with Alan Browde at the helm. This year 36 W I T S R E V I E W
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GIDON WITH HIS DOG, HAROLD, A FREQUENT FLYER
we will deliver five million meals though the food rescue process – and we are working with farmers and several of the largest food producers in South Africa, as well as about 100 beneficiary organisations. “We now have a big operation in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban and an incredible team. I’m so excited about SA Harvest’s growth. Unlike most businesses whose core metric is profit, it is really rewarding to be part of an NGO whose key metric is community impact.” Gidon also views investment in tourism as a key opportunity for social impact and creating job opportunities. “In South Africa we have a unique culture in terms of hospitality and treating people in a kind, generous way. There are a huge number of semi-skilled people with the right nature and willingness to learn and become service focused ambassadors in the tourism industry. We also have one of the most desirable tourism
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STUDENT EXPERIENCE “I loved my time at Wits. It was at the time that South Africa was finally becoming an inclusive democracy, and it was exciting to experience the activism on campus and the early transformation of the student body. The best course I did was international relations. I loved it. Winnie Mandela was one of the students in the class. “My brother Dan Novick (BCom 1991), who is a few years older than me, was at Wits at the same time, as he had been to the army [military conscription service] before studying. It was special to be at university with him. As kids we fought a lot but at university we became the best of friends and graduated in the same year. He now lives in Australia and is a great entrepreneur, involved in property development, solar financing and gold recycling.”
destinations in the world. Pre-COVID there were 1.5 billion tourists travelling the planet, which will take a while to return, but the opportunity for us in South Africa is huge.” This inspired him to create a company called Lucid Ventures to leverage the 12J tax deduction incentive the government offers investors to encourage economic growth and job creation in the country. He launched Home*Suite Hotel – a group of boutique urban hotels they built from scratch in prime locations. “We have hotels in Rosebank, Johannesburg and The Cape Quarter in Cape Town, with a third and fourth set to open in Sandton and Sea Point later this year,” says Gidon. “Demand for hotels is still low, especially in Cape Town; to compensate we have introduced an attractive long stay offering for our regular short stay guests.” Also through Lucid Ventures’ 12J fund, Gidon and his team recently launched a retirement living fund focused on developing centrally-located luxury retirement living spaces with all the amenities for a growing proportion of healthy, fit, older people who do not identify with the traditional concept of retirement homes. “We saw an opportunity to provide something disruptive and more consistent with their current lifestyle.” Gidon says he had a vast pool of talent from which
to select staff: “Many talented professionals, particularly in the tourism industry, lost their jobs as a result of COVID. For us it was an opportunity to bring together bright, enthusiastic, energetic people together at all levels of SA Harvest, Lift, Home*Suite Hotels and Lucid Ventures. Additionally, there is a pool of talented senior people sitting in organisations where they just don’t have the scope to shine. They are given tight parameters and they get stifled by politics and overloaded with bureaucracy,” he explains. “People thrive on being enabled to explore their own potential, make decisions and take responsibility for what they are good at. For me the most rewarding part of these ventures is seeing people getting into their own rhythm and flow, and becoming more brilliant than even they thought they could be. Organisations obviously need capital and regulatory issues sorted out but at the core it is about finding the kind of people who get things done and don’t waste time on politics. “We all know that South Africa has massive issues that shouldn’t be underestimated but history shows that barring a nuclear wipe out, there is always opportunity to grow and flourish. Currently, politics and corruption are stifling us and this combination has destroyed many a country and it can do the same to ours if we don't sort it out. If we do, we have everything it takes to grow.” Apr il 2021 37
WITSIES AROUND THE WORLD
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LIFE LESSONS LOCKDOWN PROJECT INITIATED BY JONI BRENNER AND KATE BERNBERG
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IN RESPONSE TO THE ISOLATION OF REMOTE LEARNING, A NEW ASSIGNMENT IN FVPA (FILM, VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS) AT THE WITS SCHOOL OF ARTS ASKED FIRST YEAR STUDENTS TO SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES OF LOCKDOWN IN AN IMAGE AND 100 WORDS. THE STORIES MIRROR OUR TIMES AND REFLECT A RANGE OF RESPONSES FROM DASHED HOPES AND DREAMS TO DISCOVERIES OF SMALL AND EPIC PROPORTIONS.
HANNAH BRANKEN STUCK WITH YOU In January 2020, my boyfriend and I moved in together into a small open-plan cottage. By March, we had just settled into our new exciting routine when COVID-19 hit. We found ourselves stuck in this small space. You can never truly claim to love someone until you have spent every minute of every day for six months by their side. As I was separated from my place of work, my friends, and even my family, I retreated into and was continuously embraced within this small space.
SHEPHERD MHLONGO BONDING WITH GOGO During the lockdown I spent time with my grandmother because she lives alone. I figured because she couldn’t go to church or do other recreational activities, she’d be lonely. I had not seen her for more than a year, so it was a great time to catch up. At her house we watched TV, cooked, made traditional mats and organised the recycling together. These were skills I did not know a thing about. I found they were important to preserve our traditions and environment for future generations.
ZOË JULIES LETTING MY HAIR DOWN Lockdown forced me into a period of introspection and self-reflection. Once businesses re-opened, I was encouraged to go to the hairdresser to be “neat” and feel “pretty” again. In my experience, being a coloured woman, this means trimming, and straightening my hair until smoke appears. Once my hair had been dried, the technician grabbed my hair and in one action tried to cut my hair to my shoulders — an aggressive action that shocked and enraged me. Thankfully, because of my hair’s volume, the scissors broke. I felt assaulted, yet proud of its resistance. A few weeks later, having realised no one loves my natural hair as much as I do, I started cutting it myself.
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PULE BUYS THE TOUGHEST GOODBYE
On Monday 3 August, through the loud cries of my mother, it was confirmed that my great-aunt had been taken away by this evilness COVID-19. Four days later, on the day of her burial, we couldn’t even see her face and start the process of closure. What made matters worse was we weren’t able to visit her in hospital so it was as if she had disappeared from the face of the earth without warning. I have never attended such a heart-breaking funeral. It still hurts my family to this day.
MOM AND DAD HAVE MY BACK My father and I are not close. We never bonded when I was younger. But my mother and I, on the other hand, are besties. He was always the one to say “no” to me going on school trips, the mall with friends, basically everything that involved me asking for money. During lockdown I realised he was only trying to save money for emergencies such as this pandemic. When my mom couldn’t go to work for a few months, he was here taking care of us with the money he had saved over the years.
M O JA LE FA P E TA
LOCKDOWN DOMESTIC ATED ME I have been truly blessed to have all my family still with me living in a good environment. My parents are very busy people, they work as principals and educators. They are workaholics. My mother would always be the one cooking and cleaning the house. Surprisingly, my brother got a job during lockdown and everything fell to me. Now, I clean the house, cook and wash the dishes every day. I seldom get a day off.
T RU LY FA M I LY OW N E D
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CHRIS CHIDRAWI My parents own a little pharmacy in Illovo. During Level 5, my brother and I helped my parents at the shop as the employees were restricted to their homes. My family definitely grew closer as we worked together for up to nine hours a day. I helped customers, my brother unpacked stock, my mother did the financial statements and my father dispensed all medicine. I pitched the idea to take a selfie with our shields and masks for our selfie book.
NONHLANHLA MAT HEBULA W H E N DAY S A R E DA R K , B E T H E L I G H T
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During the first week of June my mother was infected with COVID-19. At first, no one could figure out what was making her so sick. Even though everyone else in the house tested negative, we felt stigmatised because people did not want to be seen near us. I had to find something to do to distract me from this stressful situation. So, I braided my own hair and it looked good. I practised braiding more on my mother when she returned from hospital. I now run a successful home-based salon.
NONHLANHLA PINKEY DIPUO YENDE
DEALING WITH DAD
23 9 31 T S H E G O FAT S O MABENA
When my best friend announced she was pregnant, I was disappointed. Questions flooded in my head: “You’re only 20, does this mean you’re dropping out of school?”. Her mother kicked her out the house and I couldn’t offer a pillow. We only had daily phone calls. I felt useless. When she called me at 2am, I knew it was time. I couldn’t go to the hospital and her useless boyfriend couldn’t care less. All I could do was stay up and pray. During Level 1, I visited her and baby Takura. Seeing her so responsible and nurturing was beautiful. She’s a wonderful mom.
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
My father was employed at the beginning of this year, however, during the pandemic, he lost his job. Nobody was ready for this. He was in a negative space and the number of deaths made it worse. He has worked for most of his life and my mom and I encouraged him to see this as a blessing in disguise and to think of a positive future. He is now closer to God and his family. He tries to smile here and there, but sometimes I catch him with a distant expression on his face.
N TA N D O M LA NG E N I L O N E LY DAY S O F H A R D S H I P
It all started as a joke about something that existed far away. Time went by and things got tough. I was sad when the president announced that the country will be on lockdown. During lockdown I was always busy with house chores. I cooked, cleaned and did everything alone in the house because my brother could not even help me. My parents believe because I am a female, I should do all the house chores. This proved that we are not treated equally.
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3 JORDAN MCLEAN KEEPING BUSY
Surely excitement is the first emotion a homebody would feel hearing of a lockdown for an undetermined length of time? It was for me. That was until the cult of productivity took over, turning my excitement into an obsessive need to ”do“. I started a spinach garden to overcome my fear of being unproductive. We cannot see the seeds under the soil as they grow, but they grow. That’s how I view my lockdown in retrospect. The moments of doing nothing became opportunities to “grow” my self-understanding and to think up great spinach recipes!
Some feel trapped — I feel liberated. Dire circumstances, but a dream in the eyes of an introvert. I came back to Zimbabwe just before the lockdown and the only thing I need is more than 24 hours in a day. Balancing time for school, family, gym, practising musical instruments and having time to myself isn’t easy but it’s great because I get to do it at home. I’ve also been examining my religious beliefs in depth, particularly why I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. I spend most of my time studying the Bible and sharing the importance and significance of the Sabbath.
A LIBERATING LOCKDOWN
I CAME OUT WHEN I COULDN’T GO OUT My lockdown experience has been an emotional rollercoaster. At the very time that I couldn’t go out into the world, I chose to unmask myself in a way I have never before. I decided to come out as gay. One could wait until life returns to normal to make such a big decision, yet I chose the time that I was most alone to live my truth.
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Before lockdown, my life consisted of juggling between university, my waitressing job (that was three nights a week), seeing friends and going out. I always had something to do, somewhere to be or someone to see. When lockdown started my life went from a literal 100 to 0. Small things matter more now, like Scrabble games, making breakfast and handsanitiser. My sense of stability and normal has been challenged and I’ve tried to make the best of my situation amid the uncertainty.
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THE NEW NORMAL STILL DOESN’T FEEL NORMAL
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MAKAZISWE NELISA GUMEDE
Since lockdown began and daycare centres closed, I was tasked with taking care of my three-year-old brother, Anathi, while my parents were at work. I had to create a schedule for him. This was challenging as I had to prepare for breakfast time, bath time, snack time and play time while simultaneously doing my coursework to the best of my ability. I complained a lot in the beginning, but after we got into our groove, I was able to balance little Anathi and studying. It felt good to help my parents out and we had lots of fun together.
NICOLA BONGANI F I NA L LY R E U N I T E D My mother is the best. For the past year she had been abroad but came home because of the lockdown. It brought joy to my heart because I couldn’t imagine how I would’ve survived all these months trapped in the house with only my father and sister. Waking up to kitchen noises would usually annoy me, but this time they sounded pleasant. Chilling in her room late at night, hearing all her stories and snacking on whatever we can find, I finally got to have mother and daughter moments.
KHAYALET HU NGUBENI F I NA L LY H A P P Y B E I NG H O M E My father and I did not have a relationship for the past three years because of sexual identity and spiritual differences. Although he raised and took care of me, I did not have a father figure in my life. Being trapped in a house for five months with him really allowed us to see the changes in ourselves. We finally listened to each other, seeing how we have hurt each other and how we can grow moving forward. My home life is so much happier with our mended relationship. It is so much easier for me to have a reason to smile.
NTOKOZO MALOBOLA P E R S O NA L A S S I S TA N T FO R BA DEGREE As an anti-social person who took a gap year the previous year, I found it easy to not be bothered by the lockdown restrictions. My biggest issue was having to stay with my siblings 24/7 in our small apartment. The youngest of my little brothers is six. He involved himself in everything I did once he was tired of watching television. He did all my assignments and attended my online lectures with me. While it got irritating at times, it also became a bonding session as time went by. Whether I appreciate it or not depends on my mood.
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F E AT U R E : KG M O HA L A
Images: KG Mohlala/Unsplash
A RELENTLESS PURSUIT TO FIND HIMSELF LED TO A SIDE CAREER IN HOME IMPROVEMENT FOR WITS CHAR TERED ACCOUNTANT KGAOGELO ‘KG’ MOHLALA ( B AC C 2 010 , H D I P AC C 2 011 ) . BY HEATHER DUGMORE
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hen Kgaogelo, known simply as “KG”, bought his first apartment in Northgate, Johannesburg at the same time as his friend, Themba Palagangwe, bought his house, they discovered they thrived on designing and renovating their homes, and an entrepreneurial side career in homeflipping was born. They initially specialised in feature and custom-painted walls after receiving positive feedback when they posted a photo of themselves on Instagram, sitting on a couch
F E AT U R E : KG M O HA L A
KG MOHL AL A AND SOME OF THE HOMES HOMEFLIPPERS HAVE REDONE
in KG’s apartment with a feature wall they had done as a backdrop. People wanted to know who had done the wall and that’s when they realised they were onto something. From then on, Instagram, Facebook and word-of-mouth became their advertising platform, and the commissions started rolling in. “YouTube became our best friend and greatest teacher – I’m a handy guy but I literally learned how to paint, install and renovate watching videos. My other teacher was my late father Michael Mohlala, who was an electrician
by trade but could literally do anything and everything with his hands. My father, my brother and I built most of our home in KwaThema ourselves. After school was a manual labour shift for us and he was a perfectionist, so we paid our dues. I didn’t know then how much it would assist me now.” For inspiration, KG and Themba look everywhere – on social media, in magazines, at expos, in books about the history of design and architecture. “This is how our personal style developed. Combined with our accountancy Apr il 2021 45
F E AT U R E : KG M O HA L A
skills and my legal studies, it worked well.” KG qualified as a CA doing his articles at Deloitte and obtained a BCom Law degree from Unisa while Themba has a BAcc degree from UCT and MBA from GIBS Business School As their business grew, they branched out from interior finishes to architectural reconfigurations and new builds in collaboration with architects and engineers. It paved the way for increasingly ambitious projects, including branching into construction – their first jobs include a duplex and office studio. “We are now in our fifth year of homeflipping and we’ve considerably widened our skills and supplier network. My life partner Lonwabo Mavuso (BA DA 2010, PDM 2017), has been a catalyst in connecting us to some great young designers. He runs a research and insights company with a core focus on the creative industry worldwide called Andani Africa. “We get commissions from all over the country – in the cities, suburbs and townships. We both still do it part time in the evenings, early mornings and on weekends, as we have full-time jobs.” KG is the financial accounting manager for Siyanda Bakgatla Platinum Mine in Limpopo. It requires spending
most of the week in Limpopo and overseeing the homeflipping after hours and on weekends. Themba is the Joburg-based GM of Governance and Transformation for the South African Insurance Association. “It means getting up at 5am and sometimes 3am to get the work done. Themba works deep into the night so it’s a compatible difference as I can then continue what he’s been working on when I awaken.” Spare time is a foreign concept for KG but he says he’s learning to be deliberate about taking short breaks, catching up with friends, going to the gym and jogging. He also loves cooking and spending time somewhere in nature. “I enjoy going to natural environments, even if it’s just a quick trip to the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens or Emmarentia Dam. Where I grew up there was only paving all around, not a strand of grass in our yard, but when I went to Wits I started appreciating greenery and gardens. Later when I made a bit of cash, I explored natural environments and places further afield.” What has helped ease the homeflippers’ pressure a bit is they now have teams working for them. “Once work has been commissioned and proposals signed off by clients,
KG’S FAVOURITE WIT S MEMORIES MEN’S RES
THE JACARANDA TREES
O-Week at Men’s Res was quite a jam. I hated it but I also loved it. I hated it because you are woken up at 2am and told to run 5km across Wits with water thrown at you at every turn while being screamed at. It felt like torture but at the same time it was fun as we were doing it as a group of about 200 and there was wonderful camaraderie. The first two guys I met, with whom I am still friends, are Ndumiso Mkabinde (BEconSc 2011), who studied mathematics and statistics and is now a successful entrepreneur, and Maswazi Nkosi (BAccSc 2010), now a CA.
The jacaranda trees in blossom were always amazing but equally a reminder that exams were nigh. One of the myths that stuck with me is that if one of the flowers falls on you, it meant good luck for the exams. I remember chilling under the trees waiting for a flower or two to fall on me but it never happened, which might explain why I failed some of my tests! But I still passed and got my degree so it worked out well for me regardless!
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KGAOGELO “KG” MOHL AL A, DOING A VICTORY DANCE ON GRADUATION DAY
HOMEFLIPPER TIPS • Don’t compromise on your BED or COUCH; don’t try to save costs with these as they are the most personal pieces of furniture that you will use and you will use them for a good number of years. • FABRIC - always ensure it has some sort of fabric guard on it as it protects it from spills and dirt. • PAINT is your best friend, it is the most inexpensive tool to change your space. • If you are living in a house with kids, don’t spend R5000 on a VASE as it might break; rather spend R500 on a vase that can be equally beautiful, and you can use the R4500 elsewhere. • You can find lots of attractive, quality items at affordable prices. Some of the lower end retailers have some of the most beautiful ACCESSORIES. Don’t be stuck on brand names as you might be throwing money out of the window. Images: Unsplash
we brief all our teams in terms of the duties that lie ahead. We have a project manager for each commission, and we are regularly sent videos of their progress. Themba generally oversees all the quality control midweek. He goes on site after hours. With lockdown I’ve been doing the same as I’ve been in Joburg for most of the year.” The lockdown period has boosted their business as people increasingly realise they need more comfortable and adaptable work from home spaces. “Most of our work is in Joburg but we also do virtual consultations far and wide. We recently designed for a client in Namibia.” KG believes that what makes them attractive is that they are “entry-level affordable”, which means a far greater number of people can afford to make changes to their environments, big or small. “As accountants we find ways to cut costs and work with strict budgets while maintaining high quality work.” KG and Themba pride themselves on giving their clients more than what they want. “We really listen to their brief and work with them. Many times clients actually don’t know what they want. Adaptability is core because clients come from different backgrounds and therefore relate differently. If your client is in the townships, then you need to speak the language people speak and understand what they need.” An example is a project they did at a grandmother’s township home. “Her grandchildren came together to
have her home renovated. It turned out we couldn’t change the inside because the 87-year-young lady would not let us touch her furniture because her late husband had bought it for her 30 years ago. So what we did was give the exterior of the building a facelift. Handing over the home to Gogo was truly one of the most special experiences I have encountered in my life. The love for one another as a family was so evident. It became apparent to us that this was a send-off for Gogo as she passed on a couple of months later.” One of their biggest jobs was a home in Sandton. “We played around with different paint tones, patterns and textures, and a range of wallpapers and art pieces and we even landed up moving the staircase as it was cutting the house in half. The client battled to commit, so we said ‘we’ll do it and if you don’t like it, we’ll change it’. Fortunately, he liked it.” KG says they have learnt hard lessons along the way that they hope to help other people avoid. Rule number one, he says, is never to take shortcuts. In terms of growing a business, he says it’s tempting to accept jobs for which you have no experience. “When we first started out, a client wanted us to make decisions about breaking down walls in a double-storey house. We have since learnt which are the structure and support-bearing walls but we know when something is beyond us. In this business, there are risks that are definitely not worth taking!” Apr il 2021 47
F E AT U R E : W I T S C E N T R E F O R D E A F S T U D I E S
LET YOUR HANDS DO THE TALKING THE CENTRE FOR DEAF S TUDIES S TAR TED AS A DREAM OF ONE WOMAN, BUT TODAY IT HAS GROWN INTO AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR THE COMMUNIT Y IT SERVES. BY UFRIEDA HO
L E F T: P RO F E S S O R C L AU D I N E S TO R B E CK R I G H T: D R LUC AS MAGONGWA OPPOSITE: ART WORK S IN THE DEAF ARTS GALLERY COME FROM AS FAR AFIELD AS CONGO, CANADA AND IRAN
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here’s a wooden puppet hand on Professor Claudine Storbeck’s desk and the fingers are curled in the sign for love. It’s an almost perfect summing up of what has underpinned her journey at the Wits Centre for Deaf Studies in the past two decades. The centre’s evolution over 23 years can’t be separated from her personal driving force, passion and purpose. Professor Storbeck is director at the centre, which she started as a one-woman show. She joined Wits after leaving a teaching career of about six years at St Vincent’s School for the Deaf in Johannesburg. One of her first decisions as director was to reach out to a friend and fellow teacher, Dr Lucas Magongwa (BA Ed 1994, BA Ed Hons 2004, MA 2008, PhD 2020). Dr Magongwa was a teacher and one of the first deaf principals in the country at the time. She convinced him to join her on the journey in tertiary education in 2002. Today Dr Magongwa is a lecturer and the head of deaf education at the university. The centre now offers honours and masters level training and constantly raises the bar for quality education and learning focused on the deaf child’s needs. It doubles as a platform for the deaf community to define their needs themselves and to push for better services and standards. Dr Magongwa says: “Coming to Wits to assist Claudine in the training of teachers of the deaf was a bigger contribution than focusing on a single school for the deaf – and I love it.” It was also an adjustment from teaching deaf school children to training hearing educators. It wasn’t easy in the early days. Professor Storbeck remembers: “I had to find the soft funding for Lucas’ position initially because there wasn’t a budget for a salary at
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F E AT U R E : W I T S C E N T R E F O R D E A F S T U D I E S
ABOVE: AR T WORK BY TOMMY MOTS WAI. THE DEAF AR TS GALLER Y AT THE CENTRE IS THE PRIDE AND JOY OF DEAF FILMMAKER NENIO MBAZIMA (PICTURED RIGHT ABOVE)
the time – no one had done something like a Centre for Deaf Studies in South Africa.” But her can-do attitude paid off and today the centre prides itself on successfully merging academic and research rigour with outreach, support and advocacy initiatives. The centre’s “Hi Hopes” programme focuses on babies who are born deaf and on supporting their parents. “EyeBuzz” is an initiative for high school children and young adults, teaching them to use film and photography to create content and platforms to deepen engagement with the deaf community. The centre also has its own cafe, Chatterhands, on the education campus, run for and by deaf people. And there’s a burgeoning deaf arts gallery. At its heart the Centre for Deaf Studies is about fostering equal opportunities for the deaf community and responding quickly to needs that arise. One of the biggest needs lately has been to ensure that the deaf community has information about COVID-19. Professor Storbeck says the pandemic has brought challenges (such as trying to lip read and pick up clues in 50 W I T S R E V I E W
facial expressions behind a mask) but also opportunities. “The deaf community around the world was demanding not to be left out, so virtually every public information broadcast now includes a sign language interpreter. That’s been amazing to build awareness,” she says. Normalising sign language interpretation in COVID-19 public service announcements is a move in the right direction. Next is the goal to extend services at other key facilities such as police stations, healthcare facilities and rape crisis centres. The centre has been working on this through its Safe Spaces programme. It’s about inclusion, rather than being sidelined or pitied. Dr Magongwa adds: “The deaf community wants to be supported and respected. Early identification and intervention are key. Deaf children should not be hidden and only introduced to education when they are of school-going age.” At the Centre for Deaf Studies, based on the Education Campus, the enabling environment starts with office
Images: Courtesy deafcamsa.net
F E AT U R E : W I T S C E N T R E F O R D E A F S T U D I E S
A RESEARCH PROJECT BY THE UNIVERSIT Y OF THE WIT WATERSRAND AND THE UNIVERSIT Y OF MANCHES TER (UK) USES COMMUNIT Y BASED FILM METHODS TO EXPLORE ISSUES OF VULNERABILIT Y AND RESILIENCE THAT DEAF YOUTH FACE
design. It’s light and airy for maximum visibility. Glass is used so that a deaf person can pick up visual clues. There are many gathering spots, and corridors are wide enough to ensure that two people can sign to each other uninterrupted even if a third person has to pass. The deaf arts gallery at the centre is the pride and joy of Nenio Mbazima. He joined the centre in 2018 as a video producer. For the 20th anniversary of the centre that year, artists were invited to submit work and some of this now makes up the gallery’s collection. Mbazima says, through signing: “The gallery means deaf people can come here and enjoy art in a comfortable space. A hearing world is not a comfortable space if you’re deaf. But the centre is a deaf world – we have more deaf staff than hearing staff.” The artworks include photographs, mixed media and sculpture from as far afield as Congo, Canada and Iran. There are artworks that embody deaf culture as well as deaf activism. There are pieces that show the struggle and exclusion of the deaf community and the fight that continues still for a hearing world to listen, to really open its ears. Mbazima says not so long ago, some teachers punished children for using sign language; he shows art depicting hands being slapped for signing.
“Now sign language is encouraged in schools but there are still teachers in these schools who don’t know sign language,” he says of the work that still needs to be done. The centre is working on creating a virtual tour for online access to the gallery; it’s especially useful under lockdown restrictions. For Professor Storbeck each new project that takes off and touches more lives is a win and testament to the resilience and talent within the deaf community. She herself isn’t deaf. Growing up she didn’t know anyone who was deaf. But she says working in deaf education and with the deaf community was something she knows she “was born to do”. “I remember telling my parents when I was eight years old that it was what I planned to do. I believe it’s the reason I’m on this earth,” she says. Jumping in at the deep end all those years ago helped her keep her expectations in check. It also made her an open-hearted learner – from the first classroom she turned up in, armed only with a crash course in signing. She remembers looking at a sea of faces and feeling quite helpless. Luckily the school children took her under their wings. They taught her to sign and in doing so showed her that their world was also her world – they just needed better bridges. She has been building them ever since. Apr il 2021 51
F E AT U R E : M O N I C A S I N G E R
“EUREKA!” MONIC A SINGER (BACC 1987) IS A VOC AL ADVOC ATE TO ADOPT BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY IN AFRICA. SHE BELIEVES SHE'S F OUND A WAY TO ELIMINATE FRAUD AND CORRUPTION. BY JACQUELINE STEENEVELDT
n 1983 Monica Singer ran away from home. The only daughter of a granite quarry miner in Uruguay, she followed her boyfriend, whom she later married, to South Africa — escaping the sheltered South American country and a difficult family background. “I didn’t tell my parents until a week before I left and a friend paid for the ticket. That was my opportunity,” she recalls. Monica had been biding her time. At 21, she was in her second year of studying towards a degree in accountancy. But the family business was off limits to her as a woman. “I was kept away from business things. The thinking was women get married and a husband can look after them. With my personality I wasn’t going to settle for that.” Accountancy suited her taste for order, but what she found in Johannesburg was a blow. Apartheid. “It was traumatic — a terrible time. I thought God punished me for what I did.” She found a job at Arthur Young (currently EY) and was given credits to start the second year towards a Bachelor of Accountancy at Wits. “I worked during the day and took a bus after 5pm to attend lectures until 8.30pm and that was my life. It was hard, very hard. “But the happiest time of my life was to be at Wits. I had such an absolute desire to be there. I didn’t ever miss a lecture. In the final year of doing accounting part-time, I was one of the top 10 students.” Yet she never took her success for granted. “After every exam, I’d cry thinking that I’d failed. I was obsessed with a dream of being a chartered accountant.” Today, she chats from the slopes of Lion’s Head overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Bantry Bay — much like the coastline of her home town, Montevideo — for a Zoom
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interview. Monica is the South Africa lead at ConsenSys, one of the world’s biggest blockchain companies, based in the US. She has been working from home since 2017 and is a vocal champion for the adoption of blockchain technology in Africa. “We can run a company from anywhere in the world. From day one, we were remote at ConsenSys.” As she’s a board member of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Accounting Blockchain Coalition (which sets the audit, accounting and tax guidelines for crypto assets based in the US), Monica’s predictions about the future of money and the impact of blockchain technology on all industries are getting attention. She brings to it not only youthful energy and curiosity, but three decades of experience in executive roles. “At the moment it feels daunting because the technology is a bit raw, but it’s similar to the evolution of the internet. In the beginning it was complicated and scary. Nobody wanted to use it, but now my mother can send emails, Facebook, send WhatsApps. Everybody can use it. That’s what I predict is going to happen,” she says. Her career seems to have come full circle, since she began at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1990. Within a year she was made technical director representing South Africa on the international standards and auditing committees, a position she held until 1995 when she was poached by the World Bank. “I packed up my family and flew them to Washington, DC.” But when she got there she was disillusioned by the red tape and seeming lack of desire for change. She lasted eight months. “I quickly found out that less than 40% of funds allocated for social impact projects actually went to the right place.”
Image: André van der Merwe (SAICA)
“All my life since I started to work as a chartered accountant I wanted to prevent corruption and audit failures. But it still happens because the system is broken.”
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On her return to South Africa in 1996, she turned to Roy Andersen (CTA 1972), Executive President of the JSE at the time, for guidance. He offered her the challenge of re-engineering the way financial markets worked in South Africa. Although the banking system was one of the best in the world at the time, the stock market had fallen behind badly because everything was still settled with share certificates and cheques. “The process was slow and open to fraud, and investors were losing faith in the system,” she says. Andersen thought Monica would be the ideal person for the job. “I said: I know nothing about the stock market. He said: don’t worry, you’ll learn.” Her impact was phenomenal. She created and led a company, Strate Ltd, to bring electronic settlement to the JSE and introduce transparency and efficiency. “When I started there were 4 000 trades a day. By the time I left there were 350 000.” In 2012 the World Economic Forum ranked South Africa the most progressive central securities depository. The country was also ranked top for regulation of securities exchanges — largely due to the work of Monica and her team. Professor Emeritus Barry Dwolatzky (BSc Eng 1975), Director at the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering, has described Monica’s career crisply — “anticorruption” and “digital transformation”. After running Strate successfully for 19 years, Monica still wanted to streamline transactions and do it all online. At the time the technology wasn’t up to the task. Until, in 2015, she read a document titled: ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’. It made her cry.
“This technology is going to evolve and everyone in the world is eventually going to have access to it, no matter what their age group or status.”
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In 2008, the document’s author, Satoshi Nakamoto (a pseudonym), outlined a way to verify transactions without any central authority. This was at a time when many questioned the stability of the global financial system. It offered a decentralised, transparent but secure solution to record transactions. Monica understood that the technology behind bitcoin — blockchain — had changed the equation. “I realised that’s exactly what I was looking for. All my life since I started to work as a chartered accountant I wanted to prevent corruption and audit failures. But it still happens because the system is broken.”
W I TFSEI A ET S UARREO: UMNODN T I CHAE SWI N OG R LE D R
MONIC A'S KEY TAKEAWAY S MONIC A IS AT ONCE AN IDEALIS T AND DREAMER AS WELL AS A S TOIC WHO SEEMS UNAFRAID TO CONFRONT REALIT Y HEAD-ON.
WITS MEMORIES Wits is one of the best universities in the world – it lets you be, but if you need help, it’s available. The spirit of co-operation is what makes it a special place. I sit on international boards and the education I got from Wits was the best foundation I could have had. You get such value for money that doesn’t saddle you with debt for the rest of your life.
WORK-LIFE BALANCE I was divorced and raised two children on my own. There was no balance – that’s wishful thinking. I missed out on many of the kids’ activities. When I was at home, I was 100% present. I raised them to be very independent and practical. Today they are unbelievable people and I am in awe of them.
WHY CHOOSE SOUTH AFRICA It is a country of miracles – I saw how apartheid was overcome and the country transformed. South Africans just get on with things. I love that. South Africans are not superficial and have the ability to laugh at everything, which makes it easier to look at the bright side of life.
ABOVE: WHILE MONICA WORKED AS CEO AT S TRATE, THE COMPANY WON THE INAUGURAL CONSCIOUS COMPANY ON 11 M AY 2 017 O U T O F 75 COMPANIES NOMINATED. BESIDE HER ARE PROF MERVYN KING AND CEO OF CONSCIOUS COMPANIES BRENDA KALI
BLOCKCHAIN VS BITCOIN Bitcoin is a store of value. Its central technology is blockchain. This is a register that is immutable and has one version of the truth of all transactions.
Unable to convince the Strate board to adopt the new technology, she left to concentrate on being an ambassador for blockchain applications across a number of industries. In May 2019 she was appointed as a Professor of Practice in the School of Accounting at the University of Johannesburg. A confluence of circumstances such as increased connectivity accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the appetite to apply blockchain technology. Monica is a sought-after speaker for conferences and webinars. Even the country’s banks are now willing to get involved in a simulation of a new kind of payment system.
L E F T: M O N I C A AT H E R WITS GRADUATION IN 1987
The trial, Project Khokha 2, will explore the use of digital currency, blockchain and tokenised money in South Africa. Monica says this could be a game-changer. If all South Africans had a digital currency account, there’d be no queueing for social grants, no ATM bombings, no cash bribes. She says the decentralisation of finance that is unfolding worldwide will benefit the 1.7 billion people who have been left out of the banking system. “This technology is going to evolve and everyone in the world is eventually going to have access to it, no matter what their age group or status.” Apr il 2021 55
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WE FOLLOW THREE ALUMNI ON THEIR DIVERSE CAREER JOURNEYS...
Witsies around the world A GPS FOR NAVIGATING LIFE
BY HEATHER DUGMORE
IF YOU WANT TO MAKE IT IN LOS ANGELES YOU NEED CHUTZPAH AND TO WORK HARD, SAY S L AWYER, BUSINESS DEVELOPER, RABBI, MOTIVATIONAL COACH AND TALK SHOW HOS T ANTONY GORDON (BA 1984, LLB 1988).
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TALK SHOW AND PODCAST HOST ANTONY GORDON HAS OFFERED HELP TO MANY SEEKING GREATER FULFILMENT IN THEIR LIVES
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uring the pandemic people have been compelled resigned and Antony was fast approaching graduation. to do more soul-searching and because of this, my But Tisch took the Wits/Harvard alumnus under his show has seen a spike in listenership,” says Antony. wing, and Antony was invited to join a major entertainHis podcast The Antony Gordon Show is about ment law firm in LA, Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell. helping people find more personal fulfilment or what he From here he moved into the financial services induscalls “your GPS for life”. The show reaches large audiences try, including time with UBS’s Private Client Group and of all ages, on platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, YouTube Morgan Stanley, where he rose to Senior Vice-President. and Sling. In 2017 he joined MGO, a Los Angeles-based professionAntony quickly recognised the power that social al services firm, where he was MD before being recruited media provides to get his message out and develop a fol- to head the JAF Family Office and Stealth Consulting lowing in the highly contested media and entertainment Management Inc, representing super wealthy clients in industry, of which he has been a part for 35 years. the sports, media and entertainment industries. “It all started at Wits, which was a very rich, imToday, he lives in LA’s Hancock Park area with his portant part of my life,” he explains. “I was on the SRC, speech therapist wife Lebe Gordon, born and bred in LA. I spearheaded Rag Dynamics and served as the Chair They married in 1993. “I met Lebe when I was studying of the Free People’s Concert (FPC) from 1984 to 1986. in Yeshiva (rabbinical school) in Jerusalem. Back in LA I The experience I gained from this, particularly from the asked her out and took her to Pat’s, the most famous koFPC, was the catalyst for getting involved in the Harvard sher restaurant in LA, owned by a South African couple, International Rock for Education Concert after I gradu- Pat and Errol Fine. ated from Wits and went to Harvard “We married soon after, and we Law School on a Fulbright scholarhave six children — two daughters “It all started at Wits, ship to do my Master’s.” and four sons — and we still go to which was a very rich, Harvard’s President at the time, Pat’s. In fact, our second oldest son, Derek Bok, wanted to raise a billion Joshua, trained at Pat’s from age 13 important part of my dollars for the Harvard endowment and is now an accomplished kosher life. I was on the SRC, — a critical source of funding for the chef working in Orlando.” I spearheaded Rag university. “The Vice-Dean, David Antony chairs the advisory board Dynamics and served Smith, was aware of my role in the of America’s Voice in Israel and has as the Chair of the Free FPC as well as the Concert in the regularly taken athletes and celebriPark at Ellis Park in 1985 where Paul ties to Israel “to see for themselves if People’s Concert from Simon performed. He asked me the way Israel is portrayed is accurate 1984 to 1986.” what contribution I could make to or not. It’s so important to transcend ANTONY GORDON the Harvard concert. I said: ‘I know our prejudices and differences.” how to put on a music concert’; I As a motivational speaker and then set about planning it for the Harvard football sta- rabbi, he presents for a range of media and audiences — dium,” says Antony, who found himself on the phone to from the celebrity pop culture channel HollyWire, which Bruce Springsteen and Sting. has a huge millennial following, to the Jewish speaking “It’s all about ‘chutzpah’ (self-confidence and audaci- circuit that has taken him from Panama to Mexico, ty),” laughs Antony. He also reached out to Larry Tisch, London to South Africa. His most recent visit to South the CEO of CBS at the time. “Here was some greenhorn Africa in 2016 was through a speaking invitation and he from Johannesburg contacting one of the biggest players took the opportunity to visit Wits and the house where in the entertainment industry. I was really surprised and he grew up in Savoy while attending Bramley Primary delighted when I was invited to a meeting with Larry. School and King David Linksfield High. I pointed out to the CEO that based on the Nielsen His late mother, Hessie Gordon, was a renowned psyrankings, CBS had lost the youth. I proposed a solution: chiatric social worker who saved the lives of many in deto give CBS exclusive broadcasting rights to the Rock spair. “She never clipped my wings, she allowed me to be for Education Concert, which I described as ‘a 1990s me and in my family it was completely normal to express Woodstock’, which would win back the youth.” Tisch emotions”. His late father, Sol Gordon, was a Chartered responded well to Antony and speed-dialled some of the Secretary with JH Isaacs and Antony credits him with other huge entertainment names in America, including “wonderful humour”. Jeffrey Katzenberg at Disney and Mike Ovitz of CAA. This year Antony is launching a new 24-part TV seUnfortunately the concert never happened as Bok ries on several digital platforms (Google Play, Apple TV,
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Android TV, Chromecast, Amazon’s Fire TV) targeting 80 million screens worldwide. “My shows dispel several pop culture myths. One of these is that if you are wealthy and famous you have a better chance of being happy and living life with a sense of accomplishment. “Another myth is that a happy life means a painfree life. It’s absurd, yet the notion of happily ever after is repeated by pop culture and Hollywood as a truism. Across American culture, pain is portrayed as something
bad and so people do all sorts of things to take the pain away, including substance abuse and other vices. The small percentage of people who have found the way to lead happy, successful lives have usually had to transcend a lot of pain. “Through my shows I dispel this illusion that one day you wake up and it’s nirvana, with a great career, money, the perfect spouse and a Labrador in the garden. It takes years and years to hone your skills and get somewhere.”
ANTONY'S NO STRANGER TO THE SPOTLIGHT AND LIVES IN LA WITH WIFE LEBE. OVER THE YEARS HE'S HAD MANY HIGH-PROFILE CLIENTS SUCH AS BOXER MANNY PACQUIAO (ABOVE) AND FORMER IBO WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION CHRIS VAN HEERDEN (BELOW)
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A HEART ACTIVATED BY NATURE BY HEATHER DUGMORE
WHERE DO I BELONG? WHERE IS HOME? THESE ARE QUESTIONS H O L LY WO O D S C R E E N W R I T E R , AU T H O R AND RHINO CHAMPION HELENA KRIEL (BA DRAMATIC AR T 1982) HAS PURSUED THROUGHOUT HER CAREER.
elena Kriel has been living a nomadic life between her home in Los Angeles’ Santa Monica mountains, her family home in Johannesburg and her “heart home” at a baby rhino rehabilitation sanctuary bordering Kruger National Park. This is the place that inspired her new book, Meditating with Rhinos (Melinda Ferguson Books, 2020) and reappraisal of life. “I have found a profound sense of belonging in the natural environment, and I have learnt from the rhinos that you grow where life puts you down.” Helena’s life on the move requires flexibility and robustness. “It gives me a lot of freedom and I have learnt the discipline of sitting down with my laptop and working wherever I am,” she says. She HELENA KRIEL'S currently rents out her Los Angeles home to fund her freedom REL ATIONSHIP WITH and travel. NATURE — BE IT IN THE Before the pandemic this included leading groups on advenMOUNTAINS OF SANTA MONICA OR THE SOUTH tures in India, “to extreme and very beautiful landscapes like the AFRICAN BUSHVELD — Himalayas”. Helena loves wild places — be it mountain ranges HAS ALWAY S BEEN THE in Asia or the Santa Monica mountains. “LA has very beautiful MOST RELIABLE ONE THROUGHOUT HER LIFE natural areas. My house in Topanga Canyon that I designed with
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architects and built in 2002 is on an acre and a half in the mountains. It feels incredibly remote and yet it’s 10 minutes from Malibu.” Her journey began in South Africa as a playwright and actress, followed by a move to America in 1991 with a dream of becoming a screenwriter. She made it to Hollywood’s A-list, with credits and contributions that include The Day the Mercedes Became a Hat (1993), Kama Sutra (1996) and Skin (2008). “In South Africa I was not initially accepted by the theatrical establishment because the mid-1980s were all about protest theatre, while my writing was about human relationships and the struggle we have with one other, the complexity, the search for ‘the one’, the sexual games and betrayals. My standpoint was ‘aren’t we men and women before politics?’, and IN 1991 HELENA WON THE S TEVEN SPIELBERG AWARD FOR HER SCREENPL AY VIRTUOSO. IT WAS PRESENTED BY MICHAEL DOUGLAS AND SNOWBALLED MANY OPPORTUNITIES IN HOLLYWOOD
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‘shouldn’t we also look at what it means to be a human being?’, and so I would write plays about this, act in them myself, and finance them.” She persisted and by the late 1980s she had gained recognition in the theatre world and decided it was time to head for Hollywood. “My audacious plan was that if I won a screenwriting award in America it would be my way in. So I looked at all the awards and writing programmes and came across the Steven Spielberg Award and a programme at UCLA.” She left South Africa in 1991 not knowing if she had been accepted into the programme. “Fortunately I was, and the lecturer, Hesper Anderson, an Academy Award nominated writer, responded to my work. It had the South African stamp, it was honest, and hard hitting. Hesper took me under her wing and I developed a screenplay called Virtuoso about a South African woman flautist who is a musical prodigy. It’s a brutal love story about creativity and collaboration and how love can be an agent of good and complete destruction.” She submitted it to the Steven Spielberg Award, was chosen for the finals and was allocated a top Hollywood screenwriter to workshop her script. Scott Frank’s work includes Out of Sight, Godless and The Queen’s Gambit.
WITSIES AROUND THE WORLD
“We worked very hard on it and I books, her first being The Year of “We are all trying to make Facing Fire (Melinda Ferguson won! Michael Douglas presented the love work; all the pop award and here I was, seven months Books, 2019), and she met the perin America, with this award in hand. son she believed was ‘the one’. “We songs are about love, so I immediately got an agent, doors much of Shakespeare and enacted the whole fantasy of romanopened for me and I was in meetings love until everything fell apart Dickens is about love, love tic from morning to night. Hollywood and I had to leave the relationship. is a small place and if you are con- is always there and why do The romantic hankering I had been we get love wrong? And sidered ‘hot’ everyone wants to meet fascinated with creatively revealed you. Within a month I got my first when we get it wrong love its shadow side, this time in my own commission and was a working life. Work-wise, I had a lot of high becomes hate.” Hollywood writer. It was a very lucky pedigree movies I was hoping would HELENA KRIEL break. go into production but I was not “Part of what I do now is teach being paid for my work. So it was a screenwriting in a Master’s programme and I see all the crisis time all round; a real low point.” young hopefuls learning the craft with dreams of being In 2013 she decided to head back to South Africa for a paid writer in Hollywood, just as I did. I feel for them a while to reassess her life. Back home she accompanied because it is so tough, and I often cannot believe I pulled her sister in volunteering at an animal sanctuary near the it off.” Kruger National Park, which turned out to be for orphan For Helena, the 1990s and early 2000s were the “gold- rhinos. en age for Hollywood writers” where each studio had a “Here are these shattered baby rhinos and the expedevelopment branch, working with writers to develop rience of how they turn around emotionally had a great scripts. Less than 5% of developed projects ever became impact on me. As an emotional and creative person it is a movie or TV show, but the model enabled writers to a privilege to have access to these highly emotional and make a good living. intelligent wild creatures. I was amazed to see how easily “My theme at the time was the promise and lie of ro- they received my love, respect and fascination. mantic love. We are all trying to make love work; all the “It opened my passion for the wild even more. We pop songs are about love, so much of Shakespeare and share our world with these sentient animals, and yet we Dickens is about love, love is always there and why do we are not in relationship with the natural environment get love wrong? And when we get it wrong love becomes anymore. It has receded for most people; it has become hate.” something in the background or that we occasionally That’s when Mira Nair entered the picture and asked look at through binoculars.” Helena to co-write the script of Kama Sutra. From here, Today, Helena is interested in a different kind of love she was in the 5% of working writers whose films were — a love for the natural world. “The natural environment getting produced. is always present and reliable. It is a relationship that has Things went well for Helena until 2007/8, when over grown and developed and continually delivers.” 12 000 screenwriters went on strike for a better share Her experience with rhinos has opened a new way of the takings. They achieved this but it ended the forward for her: “I started a non-profit for orphaned “payment for development” model, as Helena rhinos, I wrote my new book, and I wrote an action explains: “You would still develop scripts but adventure love story with a baby rhino at the heart of it. it was all on spec. So you would work Together with South African producer Helena Spring and very hard but most projects would a Hollywood producer I’m moving forward with it, and in not go into production.” a perfect world it will get produced.” During this period Helena says her motivation is to reveal that the natural she she started writing world is our most extraordinary inheritance and that if we don’t reinvent our relationship with it, it is doomed. “This COVID nightmare has revealed this. We are almost at the point of no return and we can only turn things around through the heart because that is when action happens. When our hearts are activated we can do impossible things. And a relationship with the natural world activates the heart.” Apr il 2021 63
WITSIES AROUND THE WORLD
PAYING IT FORWARD BY HEATHER DUGMORE
“IT’S BEEN A WONDERFUL LIFE HERE; THE PEOPLE OF MELBOURNE WELCOMED US AND TRUSTED US, AND AFTER 34 YEARS THEY G AVE ME A MEDAL,” SAY S PHILIP MAYERS (BA 1970, LLB 1973).
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n 1987 we came to Australia as strangers from South Africa and chose to settle in what I call ‘the world’s most livable city’ , ” says Philip. “It’s because of the warmth of the people. I also love Sydney, it’s very sexy, but for me Sydney is for visiting while Melbourne is for making a home because of the people, and it’s very green with lots of parks.” For the past 34 years Philip has served in leadership positions on boards of numerous community organisations and charities in Melbourne, where he lives with his Witsie wife Rhona (née Jackson, BA 1970). For his significant service to the community, this Australia Day (26 January) he was honoured with the award of Member of the Order of Australia. The organisations he has served include the Royal District Nursing Service, Freemasons Foundation, Link Health, South Port Uniting Care and, his favourite, Make-A-Wish Foundation International. Philip, with his son Rick, is the founder director of Mayers Recruitment, which recruits chief executives for community non-profit organisations serving the aged,
WITSIES AROUND THE WORLD
disabled and indigent, education, sport and the arts. “Melbourne is a very philanthropic community and top executives apply for the posts. The person naturally has to have all the managerial and leadership competencies, but equally important are ethical values and a good cultural fit.” Prior to this he was in the commercial executive recruitment business and he has appointed over 700 CEOs in 30 years. Philip says lockdown was very bad for business, but from a personal point of view it gave him a lot more time to spend with Rhona (who teaches) instead of rushing off to work in the city at seven every morning. “In the beginning, the management of the pandemic in Melbourne was poor and there were 800 deaths last year. But the city of five million quickly adapted to what was required and there have only been a handful of cases since the beginning of 2021. Contacts are immediately traced, anyone who tests positive is instantly quarantined and a snap lockdown for five days is implemented throughout the entire state
PHILIP MAYERS LOVES MELBOURNE FOR ITS CULTURE AND PROXIMIT Y TO NATURE
Apr il 2021 65
FOR HIS SIGNIFICANT SERVICE TO THE COMMUNIT Y PHILIP WAS HONOURED WITH A MEMBER OF THE ORDER OF AUS TRALIA AWARD IN JANUARY 2021. PHILIP WORKS WITH THE AUSTRALIAN BRANCH OF MAKE-A-WISH INTERNATIONAL, AN ORGANISATION THAT GRANTS WISHES TO CHILDREN WITH CRITICAL ILLNESSES
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of Victoria to ‘break the circuit’. Most people think it’s After qualifying with his legal degree Philip be‘overkill’, as the lockdown affects country communities came a corporate legal advisor for Jacksons Metals in 400km away in all directions, which have no connection Johannesburg, of which Rhona’s father and uncle were with metropolitan Melbourne.” the founders. At the same time, he was asked to join the Nonetheless, Philip says Australians are very compli- board of Temple David in Morningside and ultimately ant, “they obey the rules”, and during hard lockdown they became the president of the synagogue. respected the restriction to remain within a 5km radius “Temple David started the Mitzvah School in Sandton from home. “During lockdown we’ve gone to a coffee in 1986 as a crisis class for matric students from Alexandra shop called Saki’s every day since 23 March 2020 for Saki’s Township. It was at the height of the apartheid-era State of fantastic coffee and warm friendship. It’s a kilometre from Emergency and the student slogan was ‘Liberation before our 1928 townhouse in our suburb of Toorak.” Education’. There were, however, students who wanted He says Toorak is like Rosebank to complete their schooling. They in Johannesburg was 50 years ago, felt their parents had worked hard “Our main focus is to with street shops as well as open to send them to school and that raise funds and we donate air restaurants. “The crime rate is being involved in politics was not about $3 million per year very low and we love to walk the helping them shape a future for streets of our suburb and go to the themselves.” to the health, education Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens, The school secretly operated at and community support which is about 4km from home. It the synagogue. No one could know sectors. In 2020 we gave opened in 1846 and it has plants that the students were there as it to the Monash Children’s from all over the world and a sciput them at risk of being harmed entific research institute. On the for going to school. Voluntary Hospital, breast and outside of the gardens is the 4km teachers helped students pass their prostate cancer, and the ‘Tan Track’ and we ‘walk the tan’ . ” matric and two women in particufarmers affected by the On many occasions they’ve heard lar – Lesley Rosenberg and Molly devastating bush fires. We a South African immigrant accent. Smith – were the school’s driving look after everybody, not He estimates that approximately force. 7 000 South Africans have moved The following year Philip, just Freemasons.” to Melbourne since 2011. “It’s terRhona and their two children, PHILIP MAYERS rible because it represents a brain Shaun and Rick, migrated to drain and it’s not stopping.” It Australia. “We decided to go as we includes about 1 000 Witsies in Melbourne, where Philip had always hoped there would be positive change but we has served as an alumni ambassador for 30 years. had lost heart.” Of all the organisations to which he has devoted his One of the organisations Philip now chairs that has time, his work with Make-A-Wish International and been a source of friendship for him is the Freemasons its Australian branch are particularly close to his heart. Foundation, Victoria. The mention of Freemasons raises “These are seriously ill children who show such courage. a few eyebrows but Philip says their charter is all about When their wish is granted, it gives them hope, strength friendship and charity. “In my lodge we have Sikhs, and joy, and you can see the happiness it brings.” Muslims, Jews and Christians and I have good friends Community commitment is in Philip’s genes. His from so many backgrounds. To be a member you do need maternal grandmother, Augusta ‘Gussie’ Sussman, was to believe in a supreme being, but how you interpret this renowned for her commitment to the health and welfare is up to you.” of communities in Kimberley, South Africa. He says that in times gone by the organisation was In turn, while Philip was a Wits student, he taught secret but now they openly talk about it. “Our main focus mercantile law, economics and commerce at a night is to raise funds and we donate about $3 million per year school for adult black students. Also at Wits he met to the health, education and community support sectors. Rhona, who was a member of his sales team in the Wits In 2020 we gave to the Monash Children’s Hospital, Wits Rag magazine distribution committee. “We sold the breast and prostate cancer, and the farmers affected by magazine on street corners and on the morning that we the devastating bush fires. We look after everybody, not gathered to do this, I hadn’t eaten breakfast and Rhona just Freemasons,” says Philip. His ethos is that “life is pregave me an apple. It was the beginning of a wonderful cious; every person has an equal right to a happy, healthy, life together.” joyful life, and I am grateful for every moment.” Apr il 2021 67
Namib is more than a work of scientific research; it is a love song to the desert and its people ›› 68 W I T S R E V I E W
GROUP OF HIMBA WOMEN DANCING DURING THE DAY
Getty/Gallo Apr il 2021Images 69
Namib offers a radically different narrative, digging beneath the usual evidence of archaeology to uncover a world of arcane rituals, of travelling rainmakers, and of intricate social networks which maintained vital systems of negotiated access to scarce resources.
NAMIB: THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF AN AFRICAN DESERT BY JOHN KINAHAN UNIVERSIT Y OF NAMIBIA PRESS, 2021
he Namib Desert, on the southwestern coast of Africa, is one of the most hostile environments on Earth. Wits alumnus and Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, Dr John Kinahan (BA Hons 1982, PhD 1989) has spent the past 40 years in a detailed archaeological study of the desert, searching its vast dune-fields, mountain ranges and gravel plains to piece together a human history covering the last one million years. 70 W I T S R E V I E W
It is a story of extraordinary resilience and inventiveness which also tells of tragic loss, as tens of thousands of indigenous Namibians died at the hands of German settlers and soldiers in a genocidal frenzy that eerily prefigures events in Europe a few decades later. The desert was emptied of its people and re-imagined in the colonial mind as a pristine and romantic wilderness. But Namib: The archaeology of an African desert (University of Namibia Press, 2021) offers a radically different narrative, digging beneath the usual evidence of archaeology to uncover a world of arcane rituals, of travelling rainmakers, and of intricate social networks which maintained vital systems of negotiated access to scarce resources. Kinahan has developed a unique regional synthesis which reviewers have praised for its originality and rigour. Rock art, usually treated as a field of study by itself, is marshalled here alongside archaeological evidence to present completely new insights into precolonial hunter-gatherer society, its effective domestication of the desert landscape and eventual adoption of domestic livestock. Much new ground is broken; Kinahan and his family lived
among nomadic Ovahimba in the remote northwest of the country to learn the skills of pastoral life; there is also a careful interweaving of other sources that are not usually considered by archaeologists: women’s praise poems, missionary accounts, rainfall measurements and medical records from colonial concentration camps. Namib is more than a work of scientific research; it is a love song to the desert and its people.
R I G H T: O N E O F DE MEILLON'S WATER COLOURS
D E M E I L L O N ’ S L E G A C Y: A R T, S C I E N C E A N D WA R BY LOUIS J CABRI AND ROGER W JAMES FOOTPRINT PRESS, 2020
ne of the world’s authorities on platinum minerals has turned his gaze to family history in his latest book De Meillon’s Legacy: Art, Science and War. Dr Louis J Cabri (BSc 1954, BSc Hons 1955) first became aware of Henry Clifford De Meillon (1800-1859) when Botha De Meillon, Cabri’s father-in-law, presented Cabri’s daughter Mimi with a copy of Anna Smith’s Cape Views and Costumes (1978) — a book on De Meillon’s water colours. De Meillon is recognised as one of the most significant South African artists of the early 19th century. Although Smith reproduced works from the Brenthurst Library and tried to establish the facts of De Meillon’s life, many questions remained. Dr Cabri’s interest in genealogy and the family tree grew out of anecdotal comments, including that De Meillon’s ancestors were French Huguenots. His search for confirmatory documents led to many friendships, in particular with Roger James, a pathologist by training and himself
a fifth generation descendant of De Meillon. Their collaboration has unearthed new discoveries, including a large body of unpublished art works, such as hydrographic charts, Cape wild flowers, views of the Cape, as well as later paintings from the Eastern Cape wild frontier. These add significantly to the portfolio of De Meillon’s known art, increasing his stature as an important South African artist. Many of the puzzles about his life and family have also been solved. The De Meillon family typifies many South African families. Their origins are diverse, and by the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, descendants found themselves on opposing sides of the conflict. Dr Cabri was born to a Belgian father and Egyptian mother in Cairo in 1934. In 1946 his parents moved the family to the US 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
DR LOUIS J CABRI
complement his interest in chemistry, and after graduating at Wits he worked as a junior field geologist. After a few years in 1959 he married Mignon De Meillon, who went on to become a respected Canadian ceramicist. Dr Cabri furthered his studies at McGill University in Canada. The mineral cabriite was named after him in 1983 by Soviet scientists and he is the author of two books on platinum elements. Apr il 2021 71
“We can learn from them, we can understand what they gave to the country and how South Africa was not just built by whites and racists.” MARTIN PLAUT
D R A B D U L L A H A B D U R A H M A N : S O U T H A F R I C A’ S F I R S T E L E C T E D B L ACK P O L I T I C I A N BY MARTIN PLAUT JACANA, 2020
artin Plaut (BA Hons 1977) is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London. He has reported extensively on Africa for the BBC as Africa Editor. He’s led the Africa programme of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and is an active member of the Royal African Society. He has numerous books under his belt such as Understanding Eritrea: Inside Africa’s most repressive state (Hurst, 2016), Promise and Despair: The first struggle for a non-racial South Africa, 1899 – 1914 (Jacana, 2016) and Robert Mugabe (Ohio University Press, 2018) with Sue Onslow. His latest is Dr Abdullah Abdurahman: South Africa’s First Elected Black Politician which attempts to unearth a forgotten figure in South African history. Dr Abdurahman (1872–1940) first won a seat in 1904 and served the city of Cape Town for 36 years, representing some of city’s poorest. Beloved by the people of District Six, he led the African Political Organisation — the leading coloured party of this period. He was a grandson of slaves, who trained as a doctor in Scotland, returning to the Cape with a Scottish wife, Nellie. He was a friend and ally of key political figures of his time: Sol Plaatje, Walter Rubusana, Mahatma Gandhi and WP Schreiner. Stephen Langtry, a reviewer for Johannesburg Review of Books, writes that the project is “very much
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like salvaging a sunken ship or excavating an archaeological site” and “one wishes to understand why a ship sank or why a once majestic structure was abandoned”. Much of the material of Dr Abdurahman’s life has been lost, but drawing on previously undiscovered material, this biography lifts Dr Abdurahman from obscurity – explaining his life against the background of the difficult times in which he lived. “I hope that this is only the first biography about Dr Abdurahman. I hope that others find other elements that I have missed, because he is somebody who deserves it. “We have begun to see over the past few years people of colour who took these kinds of positions. We can MARTIN PLAUT
learn from them, we can understand what they gave to the country and how South Africa was not just built by whites and racists. It was built by people who stood in the completely opposite corner,” said Plaut in a radio interview. The biography does a good job of giving insight into the early anti-apartheid movement. “He wasn’t somebody who only looked at state politics. He was an extraordinary man. He intervened to try and ensure that cricket could be played by ordinary people on the parade. He is somebody who ensured the New Year festivities would be celebrated. He was passionate about the False Bay area, he loved fishing, he was one of the first supporters of the Nature Reserve at Cape Point,” said Plaut.
SAVING A S TRANGER’S LIFE: THE DIARY OF AN EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR BY ANNE BICCARD JACANA, 2020
DR ANNE BICCARD
r Anne Biccard (BA 1988, BA Hons 1989, MSc Med 1994, MBBCh 1996) is an emergency room doctor with more than 30 years’ experience. Her memoir — with the added dimension of COVID-19 — gives readers a view of life in a hospital, which the publisher describes as “both terrifying and thrilling, where death can be outwitted by skill and quick thinking, and the pressure eased by dark humour”. As a child she read The Family Doctor: A counsellor in sickness,
pain and distress by Prof Henry Taylor, with its hand-drawn pictures, explanations of diseases and treatments, but she took a circuitous route to become a doctor. Originally studying law, she majored in psychology and English. “I had a morbid fascination with things medical. Medicine is my true love. It was the right thing to do, go back to medical school and spend 13 years at university,” she said during her virtual book launch. The coronavirus pandemic threads throughout and Dr Biccard pays homage to the camaraderie among healthcare workers who purposefully and bravely place themselves in the line of fire to save strangers’ lives. Death is a constant companion: “I sometimes joke with my colleagues about the Grim Reaper. I call him Grim, rather than Mr Reaper. No one can work in an ED without forming some kind of relationship with him. Grim always wins in the end, of course, but it is really pleasing to get a point on the board every now and again.” The memoir is filled with anecdotes about the
patients she encounters such as the woman who mistook Dettol for beer, a guy who tried to pull his own tooth with cable ties and someone who attempted to run down his cardiologist. There are lyrical descriptions of life with her partner on a small farm where they provide a home to rescued greyhounds. She drives a motorcycle and finds solace in playing the piano or cello: “The music curls around the farmhouse and out of the open windows. A steady pull and slide, humming and purring under my touch. The gleaming cello sings to the silent furniture and polished floor. A breeze rustles the leaves in huge trees outside and shuffles the sheet music on the stand. It feels like the universe is breathing deeply.”
“I sometimes joke with my colleagues about the Grim Reaper. I call him Grim, rather than Mr Reaper. No one can work in an ED without forming some kind of relationship with him.” DR ANNE BICCARD
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N U T S & BO LT S : S T R E NG T H E N I NG A F R I C A’ S I N NOVAT I O N A N D E N T R E P R E N E U R S H I P ECOSYSTEMS BY DR MCLEAN SIBANDA TRACEY MCDONALD PUBLISHERS, 2021
n his debut book, Nuts & Bolts, Dr McLean Sibanda (BSc Eng 1992, MSc 1995) captures insights from key players who sketch the “nuts and bolts” of their journeys of entrepreneurship and innovation. Dr Sibanda is an accomplished C-suite executive, patent attorney, engineer and internationally respected promoter of innovation. He was central to sub-Saharan Africa’s repositioning in Africa’s first internationally recognised science and technology park, the Innovation Hub, working as its CEO for seven and a half years (2011-2018). The Innovation Hub, established as an innovation agency of the Gauteng province, seeks out innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs to work on novel ideas to improve the province’s service delivery and increase competitiveness of the local economy through ICT, bioscience, and the green and township economies. The book provides a perspective on challenges he faced overseeing the turnaround at the organisation and he gives insight into innovation initiatives that yielded value. “During the lockdown I started to reflect on a number of things. People asked me about the Innovation Hub and the work done – stories of entrepreneurs. I hope the book will add value to developing a prosperous Africa,” he said in a recent interview with the SABC. Nuts & Bolts is full of stories about real people and companies who are making a difference, with testimonies from entrepreneurs, experienced ecosystem builders and innovators. These include among others
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is, those who succeed are not the ones who set out to make a lot of money. The ones who succeed are the ones who set out to solve a problem, creating benefits to others and improving the wellbeing of society.” Dr Sibanda is currently DR MCLEAN the MD of Bigen Global SIBANDA Limited. In 2007, he co-founded intellectual Martin Phakathi (founder and CEO property firm Sibanda & Paks Acoustics); Nathacia Olivier Zantwijk Attorneys and Intangible (founder and CEO Ndoni Beauty Consulting/IdeaNav. He was the Range); Paseka Lesolang (founder chief drafter of South Africa’s of Water Hygiene Convenience Intellectual Property Rights from and Global Partnership Southern Publicly Financed Research and Africa); Terence Pokane (co-founder Development Act and consults to and Managing Director Makhamisa the World Intellectual Property Foods); Ntuthuko Shezi (founder Organisation in addition to being a of Lifestock Wealth) and Tiyani visiting lecturer at Africa University Nghonyama (chief operating officer in Zimbabwe. of Geekulcha). “The important thing Dr Sibanda displayed his
[BA 1987, LLB 1991, LLM 1999]
DR GIGI FENSTER Winner of 2020 Michael Gifkins Prize Dr Gigi Fenster (BA 1987, LLB 1991, LLM 1999) won the 2020 Michael Gifkins Prize for her unpublished novel A Good Winter. The prize, open to New Zealand authors, honours the late Michael Gifkins — a New Zealand literary agent, writer, critic and publishing consultant — and is funded through a sponsorship from Gifkins’ family and Text Publishing. She received a contract with Text, Australia and an advance of NZ$10,000 (R109 000). The novel will be published internationally in September this year. Dr Fenster is a qualified lawyer and holds a PhD in creative writing from Victory University of Wellington. She told New Zealand’s Stuff magazine that she started writing as an antidote to loneliness she felt when she moved from South Africa and got a job with the Commerce Commission as a legal policy analyst. She lives in Ōtaki, a town in the Kapiti Coast
leadership and entrepreneurial talents during his time at Wits too as an avid tennis player. He is described as a “shining light” in the archives of the university’s sport. “I coached the Wits University 1st Team Tennis in 1993 till 1995. I was intimately involved with the merger of the Wits University chapters of the All Sport Council and the SATISCO leading to the birth of the Wits Sports Council of which I was second vice chairman and third chairman.” In addition, he was the assistant manager of the Wits Sports Council team that went to the
District of the North Island of New Zealand, and teaches creative writing at Massey University. Her debut novel The Intentions Book (Victoria University Press, 2012) was shortlisted in the fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards. She teaches creative writing at Rimutaka Prison and is a member of the Write Where You Are Collective, which received a Corrections Volunteer Award in 2016. Her second book Feverish: A Memoir (Victoria University Press, 2018) is a work of creative nonfiction that examines fever, identity and the creative mind and emerged from her PhD. She has also been awarded a Todd Bursary, a Michael King Fellowship and a CLNZ grant.
Commonwealth Games in Australia in 1994. Hendrick Ramaala (BProc 1995, LLB 1997), winner of the New York City Marathon in 2004, was part of that team. He started tennis coaching training – in addition to doing development coaching every Saturday morning in Westbury, Johannesburg. By the time he graduated he was a qualified tennis instructor, coaching for three hours a day Monday to Friday and seven hours on Saturday. “My tennis business grew largely out of referrals more than through any effort to advertise. I was making
more money as a tennis coach than as an engineer in my first job. In fact, my first car was bought in 1993 with proceeds from tennis coaching.” Dr Sibanda ran tennis coaching sessions for prospective coaches — which was later called Tennis Coaches South Africa (TCSA). He served in various leadership capacities at TCSA including the EXCO (1995-1998), Vice Chairman (19982002), National Board of Examiners (1995-2007) and Advisory to EXCO (2003-2006). TCSA bestowed him with Honorary Life Member status in 2003. Apr il 2021 75
“With about 30 kilometres left to run in the Comrades Marathon, you suddenly meet someone you deeply admire and respect, and that person is yourself.” BRUCE FORDYCE
WINGED MESSENGER: RUNNING YOUR FIRS T COMRADES MARATHON BY BRUCE FORDYCE KWARTS PUBLISHERS, 2021
ith a record nine Comrades Marathon titles under his belt, Bruce Fordyce (BA Hons 1979, LLD honoris causa 2007) is one runner who completely understands the demands of this ultramarathon. He has written several books for runners, but Winged Messenger is his first guide specifically written for Comrades novices. Fordyce says the book grew out of prompting from his wife Gill. “At this time of the year, in a normal non-COVID year, I would be giving quite a few talks to novice Comrades runners at running club functions. Obviously this could not happen so I decided to write a book for novices using my old training diaries from my first year of running as a guide. The book became a nice mix of professional training advice, personal anecdotes and the history and politics of the time.” The title refers to Hermes, the winged messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and chosen emblem of the Comrades Marathon. He is also the god of land travel, and patron of roads. The book looks back at the year of 1976, when South Africa was gripped by a different lockdown – apartheid. Nelson Mandela is in prison on 76 W I T S R E V I E W
Robben Island; South Africa is isolated from the rest of the world; and revolution is in the air. Against this background, as a young student at Wits, Fordyce decides to try and take control of his life, and his destiny, and give himself a sense of purpose. He finds it running. As self-effacing as ever, Fordyce says: “My book is fairly simple and won’t join the great classics. Harper Lee and Chinua Achebe have nothing to fear.” But novices will enjoy reading about how he took his first
stumbling, rudimentary steps and how, as an ordinary runner, he began to understand the demands of the race. He says: “If you are interested in learning about how I trained for my first Comrades Marathon while leading a relatively normal life then this is the book for you.” Fordyce lives in Parktown, Johannesburg and still runs regularly, though now with a dodgy knee. He expresses frustration at not being able to hold weekly Parkruns because of the pandemic. The Parkrun initiative, which he was instrumental in forging, has grown to 230 venues around southern Africa and boasts around 1,3 million registered members who join the Saturday morning 5km free-timed runs.
MY MOTHER, MY MADNESS BY COLLEEN HIGGS DEEP SOUTH, 2020
n 2007 Colleen Higgs (BA 1985) started Modjaji Books, an independent publishing company, which “makes rain for southern African women writers”. Over the years many of its titles have won literary awards both locally and internationally. My Mother, My Madness is a memoir of Higgs’s secret blog entries while caring for her mother in a “luxury retirement resort” years before her mother’s death. (Roughly at the same time she started her publishing venture). The book has made it onto the 2021 Humanities and Social Science Awards longlist in the Best Non-Fiction Monograph category. The title is a frank nod to Higgs’s own mental health battle as well as the fraught relationship with her mother, who had a history of bipolar disorder, depression and failed suicide attempts. “The blog was a way of processing and dealing with what was going on. I have had my own mental health issues, partly because of having a mother like that and maybe it’s genetic. I have tried to take it on and find help and healing,” she
said in an interview in August 2020. Higgs’s prose is sparse, matter of fact and occasionally filled with dark humour. It’s a role reversal of parenting. She details incidents of underwear flushed down the toilet, and her mother’s seemingly inexhaustible demands for Coke, cigarettes and toilet paper. All of this unearths ambivalent emotions for Higgs as a working professional, sibling, mother and wife. It is “an odd concoction of love, guilt, duty, anger, resentment, longing,” she writes. Here’s a short excerpt: “I feel defeated and tired and yet comforted by my brother as we drive back home. My mother’s parting shot to us was, ‘Thanks for coming, even though it wasn’t very pleasant.’ This was on Monday.
“Today is Sunday. All week I’ve been tired, irritable and overwhelmed. It’s been one of the hardest challenges of my whole life, managing my mother in her decline. Having to make decisions for her. Hearing from her carers how impossible she is.” COLLEEN HIGGS
“Today is Sunday. All week I’ve been tired, irritable and overwhelmed. It’s been one of the hardest challenges of my whole life, managing my mother in her decline. Having to make decisions for her. Hearing from her carers how impossible she is.” Most recently Higgs’s short story “Plumbing” was included in a volume of short stories in French published by Editions Magellan. The collection is titled Minature Afrique du Sud (Miniature South Africa). Apr il 2021 77
RADAR’S EARLY DAY S AT WITS
he first radar set in South of the Central Block. And above, on Africa was born on the Wits its roof, was the transmitting antenna. campus within the three The communication between them months of the outbreak of went via the university’s telephone World War II under the direction exchange. Since radar antennas are of Professor Basil Schonland designed to be directional so as to be (DSc honoris causa 1957), who able to determine the direction of a was the director of the Bernard reflecting object — the target in the Price Institute of Geophysical ultimate application — they agreed Research (BPI). over the telephone in which direction Schonland assembled his to point their respective antennas. design team from engineers who This involved a fair amount of were specialists in radio engistair-climbing and physical exertion. neering: Guerino ”Boz“ Bozzoli As they rotated their antennas in (BSc Eng 1934, DSc Eng honoris rough synchronism from north to causa 1948, LLD honoris causa west Schonland suddenly observed PROFESSOR BASIL SCHONLAND 1978) at Wits, Noel Roberts at the a signal on the display. He shouted University of Cape Town and Eric to Bozzoli and so they carefully rePhillips in Natal. They were joined versed the headings of the antennas by the BPI’s physicist Dr Philip and slowly brought them back to that Gane. previous position. Sure enough there On 16 December 1939 was the echo. Both men now met on Schonland and Bozzoli went to the roof of the BPI and peered in a Wits to make some last-minute north-westerly direction from where adjustments to the equipment and the reflected signal appeared to have while there they carried out a trial come. And there, about 10km away, THE BPI BUILDING, WITH A run of the elementary apparatus. was Northcliff Hill and on top of it RADAR ANTENNA ON THE ROOF Two previous tests of the radar was its concrete and steel water-towhad failed to produce the telltale er. Further careful variations of the “blips” on the cathode ray tube of the display. In the first antennas’ headings confirmed, without a doubt, that they they had used a helium-filled balloon to suspend a mesh were indeed seeing a signal that had been reflected from of copper wires as it floated skywards from a point a few what was initially thought to have been the water-tower kilometres from the campus. But no radar echoes were but which, given the wavelength of the radar, was more seen. likely Northcliff Hill itself. Then Schonland arranged for a flight by a South It was a remarkable day, considering the total lack of African Air Force aircraft whose pilot had been instructed familiarity about radar that any of Schonland’s team had as to the course he had to fly. However, on the appointed had a mere few months before. They had proved by way of day, he deviated from this carefully planned route and, a convincing experiment that their equipment did indeed instead, chose to fly over the house of his girlfriend in work and it had taken them just three months to get there. Roodepoort. Unsurprisingly no blips were seen. Source: Brian Austin Bozzoli had erected the transmitter in a top-floor office (SA Military History Society Journal and the Heritage Portal) 78 W I T S R E V I E W
‘LUCKY’ YEARS Rose Norwich (BArch 1943, MArch 1988) celebrated her 100th birthday in Johannesburg on 2 January 2021. This Wits alumna was one of few women to qualify in the field of architecture during the 1940s. In 1988, she was awarded her Master’s degree, with distinction, for her Master’s dissertation “Synagogues on the Witwatersrand and in Pretoria before 1932: their origin, form and function”. Norwich was also the joint convenor of a documentary project to record the history of Jewish communities in country areas of South Africa, co-heading a team with Adrienne Kollenberg and Phyllis Jowell. It was exhibited at the Tel Aviv University in 1980 and has since grown into the publication of six volumes by The South African Friends of Beth Hatefutsoth. With the title of “Jewish life in the South African country communities”, the books cover more than 1 500 centres across the country. The collection provides a unique record of the estimated 10 000 to 20 000 Jewish people who lived in the country districts of South Africa at various times from as far back as the 1820 Settlers, to almost the present day. Norwich’s father was a Lithuanian immigrant who came to South Africa in 1895 where he started work in a pharmacy. Her mother’s family originally came from England in the late 19th century. They were married at the end of World War I. She was one of four children who grew up in Johannesburg. She graduated during World War II, and there were few jobs for architects - even fewer for women architects. She met and married Isadore “Oscar” Norwich (MBBCh 1933) in 1945. He was a Johannesburg surgeon, who was an avid collector of Africana maps. After his death in 1994, the collection was sold to the David Rumsey Map Centre at Stanford University in the US.
In total, he wrote three books: Maps of Africa (republished after his death), Maps of Southern Africa, and A Johannesburg Album: Historical Postcards. Norwich has always been involved in community life. She served as Vice President and later President of the Union of Jewish Women of the South Africa in the 1970s, at an important time in the country’s history. She was outspoken in her opposition to apartheid, saying at the Union’s 1979 conference that “history has shown us that it is not possible for one section of the population forever to dominate another”. Three of her children live in the US and the fourth in England. She has eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Sadly, because of the pandemic, none of them were able to attend the birthday celebrations in early January, but celebrated with her via digital platforms. She modestly describes herself as having been “lucky in life”, with good parents, an excellent education, a happy marriage, and a family who are all good human beings. She is also grateful to her family and friends for the support they give her — “you can’t do it all yourself ”. Source: Ruth Coggin
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WITS UNIVERSIT Y FONDLY REMEMBERS THOSE WHO HAVE PASSED AWAY
[BA Hons 1983, HDipPM 1984]
In the sleeve notes of her 2005 eponymously titled album, beloved vocalist and musician Sibongile Khumalo writes about a formative experience she had around the age of 13, when her father made her listen to Constance Magogo kaDinuzulu, the Zulu princess and musician known for her prowess as singer and composer. “My dad made me sit at her feet to listen to her play ugubhu and sing. At the time it did not make sense to me, but I had to obey. I thought he was being very unkind to me because all the other children were out in the yard playing. It must have been destiny. In my professional years the music came back and it began to make sense.” Khumalo was introduced to music at the age of eight. Guided predominantly by her father’s influence, Sibongile studied violin, singing, drama and dance under Emily Motsieloa, a pianist and leader of an all-women’s band and influential musical personality in township circles. Her parents Grace and Khabi Mngoma were active community members involved in cultural upliftment, and instilled in her an abiding love and appreciation for South African music. Her mother, Grace Mngoma (née Mondlane) worked as a nursing sister. Her father, Professor Khabi Mngoma (DMus honoris causa 1987), was an historian and professor of music at the University of Zululand, honoured by Wits in recognition of his service to the culture of the nation and its music. She inherited her father’s passion for education and earned two undergraduate degrees from Wits and University of Zululand — she received honorary doctorates from the University of Zululand, Rhodes, and Unisa and will posthumously receive one from Wits. She held 80 W I T S R E V I E W
teaching and administration positions at the Federated Union of Black Artists Academy and Madimba Institute of African Music in Soweto. In 1993, she won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival and she released her debut album in 1996, Ancient Evening. Over the next two decades she released a steady stream of albums, earning four South African Music Awards and garnering three Vita Awards for her stage performances. She was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver in 2008 in recognition of her ‘’excellent contribution to the development of South African art and culture in the musical fields of jazz and opera’’. In 2013 the Naledi Theatre Awards bestowed Khumalo with the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her talents in acting, opera, jazz, teaching and being a strong activist for the advancement of theatre in South Africa. Her work transcended genre, moving easily between traditional South African indigenous music, to opera and jazz, with equal aplomb. She sang in major venues around the world including the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican Centre, the Kennedy Centre in Washington and Ronnie Scott’s in London. Ahead of her performance at the Joy of Jazz Festival in 2019, Johannesburg, Khumalo said that no matter the symbolism, her main commitment was to the singularity of her own voice. “While exposing yourself and opening yourself up to what is out there, it is also important to remain true to yourself, so that even when you allow yourself to be influenced by others, you retain an identity that clearly defines you,” she said. “It is the truth in what you express, and how you express it, that is paramount.” Khumalo died on 28 January at the age of 63, preceded in death by her husband Siphiwe in 2005. She leaves behind her daughter Ayanda; two sons Tshepho and Siyabonga; and bereft music lovers. Sources: Wits archives, The New York Times, The Conversation
[BSc Eng 1951]
Acclaimed for his ideas on pattern formation in the embryo and “positional information” by which cells recognise where they ought to be in the field of a developing organ, biologist Dr Lewis Wolpert died at the age of 91 on 28 January 2021. He was a polymath and public figure, contributing to topics ranging from religion and depression to old age and philosophy. He made evolutionary thought more accessible and argued that the “truly most important time in your life” was not birth, marriage or death, but gastrulation – the stage in which a uniform ball of cells folds to become differentiated layers with the beginnings of a gut. He graduated with a civil engineering degree from Wits and after working for two years on soil mechanics as assistant to the director of the Building Research Institute in Pretoria, he left to hitchhike in Europe. He worked briefly for the water planning board in Israel and decided to study soil mechanics at Imperial College London. He was accepted as PhD student with biophysicist James Danielli at King’s College. He was later promoted to lecturer and reader (in zoology) at King’s before taking up the chair of biology at Middlesex (and transferred to University College London after the two institutions merged), where he remained until he retired at the age of 74. In a 2015 interview with Development he said: “Changing so many times, from civil engineering to biology and then to different systems, required me to work very hard. For example, during my PhD I had to learn quite a lot and pass exams in zoology. It was a little difficult but interesting.” Wolpert was born in Johannesburg into a conservative Jewish family, the only surviving child of William, a manager in a newsagent and bookshop, and his wife, Sarah (née Suzman). Wolpert took Hebrew lessons, had a bar mitzvah, went to synagogue every Saturday – but turned away from the faith at the age of 16. He considered himself a secular humanist. In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast (WW Norton & Company, 2006) he investigates the nature of belief, pondering the origins of religion. In 1969 in a landmark paper he proposed that the way an embryonic cell interprets its genetic instructions depends on its position. The cell “knows” where it is in relation to sources of chemical signals called morphogens, because the strength of the signals varies with the distance from the source. It wasn’t well received at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole in
Massachusetts, in the US. He recalled how fellow Witsie Sydney Brenner (BSc 1945, BSc Hons 1946, MSc 1947, MBBCh 1951, DSc honoris causa 1972) comforted him: “The next morning, while I was bathing, Sydney Brenner found me crying in the water and said ‘Lewis, pay no attention. We like your ideas. Pay no attention to people who don’t like it.’ And he’s the one who saved me. He gave me total encouragement, so I didn’t care that all these Americans didn’t like what I was doing. If Sydney liked it, that’s what mattered, because Sydney is an amazing man.” Over the years Wolpert combined his interest in cell development with a career as science communicator. “Science is the best way to understand the world,” he said and frequently broadcast on BBC radio and TV as well as writing a number of popular books. The best known of
In You’re Looking Very Well: The Surprising Nature of Getting Old, Wolpert presents research arguing that happiness peaks at 74. He regularly cycled, ran and played tennis into his eighties. these, Malignant Sadness (Simon and Schuster,1999), was an attempt to understand his own experience of severe depression at the age of 65 and compared the merits of drugs and psychotherapy. Other popular books included How We Live and Why We Die: The Secret Lives of Cells (Faber & Faber, 2009), and The Triumph of the Embryo (Courier Corporation, 1991). In You’re Looking Very Well: The Surprising Nature of Getting Old (Faber & Faber 2012), he presented research arguing that happiness peaks at 74. He regularly cycled, ran and played tennis into his eighties. As a theorist, Wolpert’s influence on the field of genetic biology was immense. He was lead author of the definitive textbook Principles of Development, now in its sixth edition. In 2018 the Royal Society awarded him its highest honour, the Royal Medal. Wolpert married Elizabeth Brownstein in 1961, and they had four children, two of whom, Daniel and Miranda, also became at different times professors at UCL, in neuroscience and clinical psychology, respectively. The marriage to Elizabeth ended in divorce, and in 1993 Wolpert married the Australian writer Jill Neville, who died suddenly of cancer in 1997. In 2016 he married Alison Hawkes. She survives him, along with his children, Miranda, Daniel, Jessica and Matthew, two stepchildren, Judy and Luke, and six grandchildren. Sources: The Guardian, FT, Development, drugdiscoverytoday.com
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Percy Tucker recognised early that the romance of an arts event could be built on hardnosed business practices. The founder of Computicket, born in the small mining town of Benoni in 1928, died on 29 January 2021 at the age of 92 from COVID-19-related complications. He told WITSReview in 2012 that his love for the theatre – which spanned classical music in all its forms to ballet, modern dance, popular music, variety and spectacle – started at the age of seven when he heard Gracie Fields sing live. “The lights in the Criterion Theatre in Benoni dimmed and the orchestra struck up. The entrance of Gracie Fields is as vivid in my mind as if it was yesterday. Tall, blonde and wearing a long blue dress that sparkled under the spotlight, she seemed to me to be the most glamorous of creatures. As her clear and resonant voice soared over the auditorium, I was filled with total happiness, and thus began my abiding love of the theatre. I have been starstruck and stagestruck ever since.” As someone who couldn’t act, dance or sing, his biography Just the Ticket! (Jonathan Ball, 1997) documents a life surrounded by glamorous artists such as Marlene Dietrich, Margot Fonteyn, Shirley MacLaine and Luciano Pavarotti. Pieter Toerien, renowned producer and theatre manager, wrote of him in the foreword: “A wonderful showman, he has inspired people to think that the theatre is not only important but also
[DSc Med honoris causa 2014]
Former UCT Vice-Chancellor and Emeritus Professor Stuart Saunders died in his sleep on 12 February 2021, aged 89, after a short illness. After graduating with an MBChB from the University of Cape Town, Professor Saunders undertook post-graduate work at the Royal Post-Graduate Medical School at Hammersmith in London, and at Harvard University. He returned to UCT in the late 1960s and co-founded the university’s Liver Clinic and Liver Research Unit (now the Liver Research Centre). In 2002 he became a Grand Counsellor of the Order of the Baobab, Silver, bestowed by then President Thabo Mbeki. His memoirs 82 W I T S R E V I E W
indispensable to our lives. Self-effacing (‘And what do you do, Mr. Tucker?’ ‘Oh, I just sell tickets’), always optimistic and supportive, generous with advice and encouragement, he has been a true patron of the arts.” Tucker matriculated from Benoni High School and graduated with his BCom from Wits in 1950. He was asked to be the business manager of Leon Gluckman’s production of King Lear at Wits in 1954 but discovered there were no systems in place for organising bookings and marketing, and the process was made more complicated by having to deal with boxes overflowing with postal applications. His first theatre business venture was a booking service called Show Service, which he opened in 1954 and grew successfully, yet he relentlessly looked for ways to eliminate queueing. He started investigating the use of computers in the 1960s and travelled to Los Angeles in 1968. In 1970 he travelled to London after learning about an abortive computerised system. Within five weeks he relocated the 12 top team members in Johannesburg. In 1971, he founded a company called Sigma Data. He launched Computicket on 11 June 1971 – the first electronic theatre booking system in the world, which marks its 50th anniversary this year. He was the patron of the Wits Best Director Award, the Naledi Awards and the Cape Town City Ballet Awards and had a long list of Lifetime Achievement Awards: The Moyra Fine Vita Award; the Theatre Management of South Africa Award and the ‘Fleur de Cap’ Award for Lifetime Contribution. His partner for 50 years, Graham Dickason, died in November 2020. Sources: Wits archive, Percytucker.com
were published in Vice-Chancellor on a Tightrope (David Philip, 2000). Professor Saunders was senior adviser to the Andrew W Mellon Foundation of New York (a generous benefactor of South African higher education research projects). Wits benefited enormously from the philanthropic work and support of the foundation. The long-term commitment of Professor Saunders, as a philanthropic player, benefited research, teaching and postgraduate studies at Wits. He was awarded honorary doctorates from the Universities of Aberdeen, Sheffield, Rhodes, Cape Town, Princeton, Toronto and Wits. He was a Fellow of the College of Physicians of South Africa, the Royal Society of South Africa and the Royal College of Physicians London. He was an honorary fellow of the College of Medicine.
Pioneering AIDS researcher and clinician Dr Joseph Sonnabend died on 24 January 2021 at Wellington Hospital in London after suffering a heart attack on 3 January. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, to a physician mother and university professor father, Dr Sonnabend grew up in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He trained in infectious diseases at Wits and the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. In the 1960s, Dr Sonnabend worked in London under Alick Isaacs, the co-discoverer of Interferon (a medication used to treat various cancers), at the National Institute of Medical Research. In the early 1970s, he moved to New York City to continue Interferon research as associate professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He lat-
“My involvement has been as a laboratory scientist, as a physician, as a clinical researcher, as a community activist, and as a sexually active gay man. And all these involvements have been intertwined over time, and it has been burdensome.” er served as Director of Continuing Medical Education at the Bureau of VD Control at the New York City Department of Health, where he advocated for a focus on gay men’s health, particularly programmes to reduce sexually-transmitted infections. In 1978, he volunteered at the Gay Men’s Health Project in Greenwich Village, New York City and started a private clinic for treating sexually transmitted infections. When gay men in his practice began to get sick, he was among the first clinicians in the US to recognise the emerging AIDS epidemic. “I wrote to the city health department, asking, ‘Are people reporting this? Am I the only one seeing this? Is there something going on in the city that other doctors are reporting to you?’ he told a BBC Radio 4 programme in 2018. “They didn’t even bother to respond to me.” The US president at the time, Ronald Reagan, came under fire for ignoring the emerging AIDS crisis and when he finally addressed the epidemic — in 1987 — nearly 23,000 people had died of the disease. In 1983, Dr Sonnabend founded the AIDS Medical Foundation, later to become the American Foundation
for AIDS research, with virologist and philanthropist Mathilde Krim. He resigned as chair of amfAR’s Scientific Advisory Committee in 1985, protesting what he believed was the organisation’s over-hyping, for fundraising purposes, of the threat of heterosexual female-to-male HIV transmission. The same year, he would also prove instrumental in helping to write the first ever safer sex manual for gay men, How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach, with activists Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen. Dr Sonnabend also pioneered community-based clinical research, helping to launch the Community Research Initiative (now ACRIA). In 1983 he founded and, until 1986, edited the journal AIDS Research, the first professional peer-reviewed publication focused on the epidemic. From the earliest days of the epidemic, Dr Sonnabend championed the rights of people living with AIDS. He was particularly concerned by the ethical issues around the AIDS crisis, winning the Nellie Westerman Prize for Research in Ethics with his co-authors in 1983 for the article “Confidentiality, Informed Consent and Untoward Social Consequences in Research on a ‘New Killer Disease’ (AIDS)” in the journal Clinical Research. His work inspired the New York State Legislature to pass the first confidentiality protections for people with AIDS. In 1984, he initiated, with five of his patients and the New York State Attorney General, the first AIDS-related civil rights litigation, suing his landlord for attempting to evict him for treating people with AIDS at his office. In 2005, he retired from medical practice, moved to London and was awarded a Red Ribbon Leadership Award from the National HIV/AIDS Partnership. In 2000, he was recognised as an inaugural Award of Courage Honoree by amfAR. When he accepted the award he said he had felt “the burden of history.” “My involvement has been as a laboratory scientist, as a physician, as a clinical researcher, as a community activist, and as a sexually active gay man,” he said. “And all these involvements have been intertwined over time, and it has been burdensome. “I’ve witnessed so much failure,” he said. In 2018, at the age of 85, he made his public debut as a composer of classical music, although he had been composing music for years to deal with the trauma he saw as a result of his work. He participated in a concert at London’s Fitzrovia Chapel as part of the AIDS Histories and Cultural Festival. He was pre-deceased by his sister, Yolanda, the renowned theatre designer and artist. A documentary film, Some Kind of Love (2015), documented their relationship. He is survived by his two sons. Sources: Thomson Reuters Foundation, Wikipedia, POZ.com
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followed by a not-so-grand tour of Europe and India. Back in South Africa, these influences led to his interest Clive Chipkin in the Baker-Lutyens visible imprint on the Union build[BArch 1955, DArch honoris causa 2013] ings, Parktown grandeur, the Johannesburg Art Gallery and the Rand Regiments Memorial. He was also interestDr Clive Chipkin died peacefully on 10 January 2021 ed in Le Corbusier’s ideas for a modernist metropolis at in Johannesburg, aged 91. Dr Chipkin was born on Chandigarh. This was all background to how he began to 21 March 1929 in Johannesburg, the city he made his study and observe Johannesburg. own. He was an extraordinary person who lived a rich He established his own practice in 1958; it was a small and full life. office he described as “an overworked and underpaid His books Johannesburg Style: Architecture and Society practice”. Over time he worked in association with firms 1880s to 1960s (David Philip, Cape Town, 1993) and such as Trident Steel and then Cape Gate and with Jeff Johannesburg Transition: Architecture and Society from Stacey designed a series of industrial buildings at the 1950 (STE Publishers, 2009) are seminal monographs Vanderbijl plant of Cape Gate. These buildings were which represent a lifetime of research, extraordinary considered to be progressive, delivering on quality and knowledge and critical analysis. The two Johannesburg optimism. volumes give an understanding of the making and shapDr Chipkin was a man who lived his values and in ing of the city of Johannesburg and its cultural, social 1986 was a founding member of the group “Architects and historical underpinnings. They show a remarkable Against Apartheid”, an informal pressure group that breadth of knowledge and the capacity to pose difficult included architects such as Chipkin, Hans Schirmacher, questions about the roots of design and the shaping of Henry Paine, Ivan Schlapobersky, and Lindsay Bremner. architectural styles and fashions. His lens is architectural They tried to make colleagues aware of how the gross history, but his breadth of scholarship is such that he application of apartheid ideology to architecture was enables the reader to see the city and its buildings with a distorting the moral and ethical basis of the profession fresh understanding about why certain styles were adoptin South Africa. They argued that it was unethical to ed in particular periods and why the city has been rebuilt participate professionally in the design and planning of through successive waves of capitalist expansion. He was apartheid buildings. particularly enthusiastic about Modernist architecture Dr Chipkin’s most enduring contribution to South in Johannesburg because he was African architecture was in the a product of the flowering and of his city in his “He was “a Fifties man” full of interpretation nurturing of those ideas at Wits in writing. He worked closely with the optimistic ideal of a better his wife of more than 50 years, the 1940s. society, fair to all. He wanted Valerie Francis Chipkin, who Dr Chipkin grew up in Yeoville and was educated at King Edward was his editor and who shaped architects to deliver on the VII boys’ school – which he saw as his archives. He was awarded an dream of a better society.” Edwardian in architecture, ethos Honorary D Arch degree by the and education. He was proud Wits in 2013 and in 2015 gave his of his old school and it was a strand in his embarking archive to the School of Architecture and Planning. The on understanding how the imperial culture played out archive was named for his wife. in Johannesburg as the town shifted from a temporary Dr Chipkin was a fun person to be with, embracing camp that drew adventurers from all over the world his city on tours and trips of exploration. He drew maps to being a permanent town with its first steel-framed of the route to give the best view of the Witwatersrand buildings and first lifts, like the third Corner House and Ridges. He gave readily of his knowledge in lectures, Victory House or the Carlton Hotel, or indeed his very interviews and tours, but he was always so self-effacing, Edwardian school. modest. He was a caring person who gave to everyone he He became excited by the modern movement and a encountered. At the time of his death, he had completed completely new approach to office blocks, skyscrapers the third volume, Johannesburg Diversity. It is heading and homes. His son Ivor (BA Hons 1992, MA 1998) towards publication. described him as “a Fifties man” full of the optimistic He is survived by his three children, Peter (BSc ideal of a better society, fair to all. He wanted architects 1984), Lesley and Ivor, four grandchildren and his close to deliver on the dream of a better society. friend Marcia Leveson (MA 1968, PhD 1993). He gained experience working for the old London Sources: Kathy Munro (BA 1967, Honorary Associate Professor), Daily Maverick, The Heritage Portal County Council. It was a fairly short stay in London 84 W I T S R E V I E W
[LLB 1983, HDip Tax Law 1991]
Business stalwart and human rights lawyer Dolly Mokgatle leaves a legacy as an authentic leader with a passion for South Africa and its people. The 64-yearold Mokgatle, who held numerous senior positions in listed companies and state-owned enterprises, died on 9 January 2021. Born on 16 May 1956 into a family of eight children in Springs, Mokgatle (née Moloko) held a qualification in procurement from the University of the North and an LLB and a diploma in tax law from Wits. Before democracy, she worked as a litigation officer at the Black Lawyers Association Legal Education Centre where she focused on political cases, housing, labour and other human rights violations. She was also a research officer with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits and professional assistant at Cheadle, Thompson and Haysom Attorneys. In 1991, Mokgatle joined Eskom as a senior legal adviser and moved up the ranks to be the first black person and first woman appointed as MD of the utility’s transmission group, which she turned from lossmaking to profitable within a year. She was involved with the restructuring of the electricity distribution industry and chaired the board of the holding company. She was involved in energy regulation in South Africa and was deputy chairperson of the board of the National Energy Regulator. From 2003 to 2005 she was CEO of state rail parastatal Spoornet, now Transnet Freight Rail.
[BSc Eng 1953, PhD 1964]
Dr Dennis Laubscher, South Africa’s foremost authority on block caving techniques, died on 3 February at the age of 91 at Bushman’s River Mouth in the Eastern Cape after a long fight with stroke-related complications. Born in Tulbagh on 1 October 1929, Dr Laubscher won numerous awards: the South Africa Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) Gold Medal in 1995; a Lifetime Achievement Award from the South African Institute of Rock Engineering in 1998; the De Beers Mass Mining Award at Massmin 2000; and the Brigadier Stokes Platinum Medal from the SAIMM in 2007. In the 1970s, Dr Laubscher’s first major contribution
In 2005, she founded Peotona Group Holdings, a majority black women-owned investment firm, along with prominent businesswomen Cheryl Carolus, Wendy Lucas-Bull and Thandi Orleyn. She was a respected businessperson and held senior positions in numerous listed companies and state-owned enterprises such as Telkom, Total SA, Zurich Insurance, Kumba, Lafarge, Sasfin Bank Ltd and the Woolworths Employee Share Ownership (as chairperson) among others. She also served on various trusts and foundations, including Junior Achievement SA, the Rothschild SA Foundation, Michaelhouse School governing body and at the Wits Foundation. A devoted wife and mother of five, Mokgatle channelled her creative flair into fashion and the culinary arts. A longtime avid golfer, she took up horse riding in recent years. She was deeply involved in church activities and was appointed deputy chancellor of the board of trustees of the Anglican Church Diocese of Johannesburg. Pro bono work epitomised Mokgatle’s altruistic nature. She was a prominent advocate for the empowerment and development of young leaders and women in particular. She was the founder of the Palesa Ya Sechaba Foundation, an initiative to assist learners of Tlakula High School in KwaThema to improve their mathematics, science and accounting marks. In addition, she served on the board of the Unisa School of Business Leadership in 2012, later becoming chairperson. At the time of her death, she was a non-practising attorney of the High Court. She leaves behind her husband and five children. Sources: Business Day, Sunday Times and WBS archives
to the caving industry was the introduction of the mining rock mass rating system. It was intended to help mining practitioners effectively communicate between disciplines and to provide a tool for developing empirical guidelines for mining method selection and cave design. In 2000, he published the first comprehensive practical manual on block caving. In 2017 the University of Queensland in Australia published the Guidelines on Caving Mining Methods, co-authored by Dr Laubscher, Alan Guest, and Jarek Jakubec. As he travelled the world, Dr Laubscher made unique and lasting friendships and was a mentor to many. He is survived by four adult children from his first marriage to Patricia May, who died on 20 August 2002, their elder son Carl having also passed away. On 27 February 2004, he married Michelle Broster. Sources: RK Consulting, Alan Guest, and the Northern Miner
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[BSc 1964, BA Ed 1974, M Ed 1980]
Respected science educator, community leader and lifelong friend of Wits Professor Kantilal “Kanti” Naik died on 16 February at the age of 82. He started his career as a senior science teacher at Lenasia Indian High School in 1965, but also taught at the Roodepoort Asiatic and the Transvaal College of Education. In 1969 he wrote a physical science textbook Calculations in Physical Science, for matriculants and first-year students. The book was used widely across the racially segregated education departments. In 1971 Naik was a teacher at Roodepoort Indian High School (where Ahmed Timol taught) and he was detained for six months and subjected to interrogation by security police using the “helicopter method”. He lost mobility of his hands and had to undergo physiotherapy to regain movement. His experiences while in detention are now part of the historic record maintained by the South African History Archive entitled “Between Life and Death in detention at John Vorster Square”. He testified at the Ahmed Timol inquest into the anti-apartheid
Kgopotso Rudolf Mononyane [BPharm 1988, MBBCh 2002]
Dr Kgopotso Rudolf "Ruddy" Mononyane was tragically killed when a Netcare 911 helicopter crashed on a medical retrieval flight for a COVID-19 patient. He was aboard as one of the specialist medical team as a transfer from Bergville to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg. He was born to Paulinah and Joseph Mononyane as the second of five siblings. After receiving a full bursary for engineering, Dr Mononyane took two weeks to realise that engineering was not for him and enrolled for pharmacy. His decision to forgo a full bursary in favour of pursuing work in healthcare meant he took personal responsibility to fund and pursue his decided path. After completing his degree in pharmacy in 1998 and after one month in practice he was accepted to study medicine. He completed his internship at Mankweng Hospital and Community Service at 1 Military Hospital and pursued anaesthesia as a speciality, obtaining his Diploma in Anaesthesia in 2005 and his Fellowship in 2009 on the Wits circuit with his base hospital being Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital. He remained in the 86 W I T S R E V I E W
activist’s death: “On my release police spread rumours that I was their agent. I suffered mental and physical pain as a result of my incarceration. I still cannot understand why I was tortured and detained.” His association with Wits began when he joined the Department of Statistics as a senior tutor in 1981. He transferred to Computational and Applied Mathematics in 1986, the same year he won the Distinguished Teacher Award. He remained in the department for 17 years before retiring in 2003 as an Honorary Adjunct Professor. In the same year he won the Benjamin Pogrund Medal for his contribution to teaching. He was a board member of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management (1987- 2003). He continued to serve the university as a member of the Executive Committee of Convocation. In 2013 he was awarded a Gold Medal for his contribution to the university and the community of Azaadville. He was instrumental in the name change of the school in his hometown from the Azaadville Secondary School to the Ahmed Timol Secondary School by then President Nelson Mandela in 1998. He loved calligraphy and played the Indian musical instruments — harmonium and Bulbul tarang. Sources: Wits and South African History archives
department for three years and moved to full time private practice in 2013. Dr Mononyane was a committed Part 1 examiner in the College of Anaesthetists for over a decade and was involved in numerous training initiatives. He was also committed to research as a regular reviewer for the South African Journal of Anaesthesia and Analgesia. He was elected to serve on the South African Society of Anaesthesiologists Council in 2016 and joined the Private Practice Business Unit in the same year. He was particularly passionate in outreach and ensuring education and training was made available to underserviced areas through training workshops. He was head hunted by both the cardiac surgery and cardiac transplant unit at Milpark Hospital and the organ transplant unit at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre where he served until his tragic passing. In his “private” time, he completed the Comrades Marathon, summited Kilimanjaro, and continually challenged himself to achieve. He was a founder member and chairperson of the Game Changers Coalition, a business initiative. He leaves behind his wife Kgomotso and two children, KJ Kgopotso Junior and Kgatliso. Sources: South African Journal of Anaesthesia and Analgesia
[BA 1963, LLB 1965, HDipTax Law 1974]
Andrew Philip Faure Williamson, who died aged 78 on 12 January, distinguished himself both as a lawyer in several key anti-apartheid trials in South Africa and as a labour and employment lawyer of significance. Born in South Africa to appeal court judge Arthur Faure Williamson and Erna Templin, Williamson married Patricia Jill Denoon in 1968. She was awarded an OBE in 2013 for her charitable work on human rights and the rule of law in South Africa. Williamson began his career at Bowman Gilfillan, having studied at Wits where he graduated magna cum laude. He became a partner, specialising in commercial litigation and the defence of anti-apartheid activists. His
[BA 1967, BA Hons 1970]
Professor Belinda Bozzoli, distinguished academic and strategic leader, passed away on 5 October 2020 after a long battle with cancer. She was the daughter of former Wits Vice-Chancellor Guerino “Boz” Bozzoli (BSc Eng 1934, DSc honoris causa 1948, LLD honoris causa 1978) and remained a proud alumna. She was appointed to the university’s top position for research in 2003 at the age of 63 after starting her career in the Faculty of Humanities, moving through the ranks as head of the Department of Sociology in the late 1990s before leading the entire School of Social Sciences from 2001 until 2003. She completed her MA and PhD at the University of Sussex. At the time of her appointment as Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research at Wits, she said: “I was a student at Wits and it’s like home. It’s a place which elicits loyalty and even when it behaves badly, it still manages to draw affection.” Professor Bozzoli contributed to the prestige and reputation of the university through her academic achievements and institutional roles. An excellent academic administrator, Professor Bozzoli was awarded an A-rating by the National Research Foundation (NRF) in 2006, making her the first sociologist in the country to obtain this rigorously peer-reviewed ranking. She was committed to creating an enabling environment for academics and was instrumental in the establishment of six 21st-century research institutes at Wits. She served as
strong opposition to apartheid persuaded him to leave South Africa in 1978 and start a new life in the UK. In 1978 he requalified as an English solicitor, becoming a partner at Lovell White & King in 1982. He focused on employment and labour law, setting up the firm’s employment practice, which became a prominent European practice. He was a founder member and the chairman of the City of London Law Society Employment Subcommittee from 1993 to 1996. From retirement in 2002, Williamson channelled much of his intellectual energy into nature and climate crises. He began to correspond with the noted environmentalist, Jonathon Porritt, and was supportive of Porritt’s organisation Forum for the Future. He is survived by his wife Jill, daughter Jessica, son Matthew, granddaughters Lyra and Rosie and grandson Nathaniel. Sources: John Battersby, Daily Maverick, The Guardian
the acting director of WISER, the pre-eminent interdisciplinary research institute in the humanities and social sciences in South Africa. She was an Associate Fellow at Yale University, a Research Fellow at Cambridge and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in France, a visiting Fellow to Oxford and served as a board member of the NRF. She authored three internationally published books and was editor or co-editor of a further four and the author of numerous articles. In 1991 her book Women of Phokeng, which drew on the oral histories of 22 black women from a small town near Rustenburg, won her the Human Sciences Research Council’s Top Researcher Award. In 2014 Professor Bozzoli stood for election to the National Assembly as 77th on the Democratic Alliance’s national list. At the election she won a seat in the National Assembly. She became the Shadow Minister of Education and Training. She was re-elected to Parliament in 2019 and was made Shadow Minister for the newly created Higher Education, Science and Innovation portfolio. DA MP and chief whip Natasha Mazzone said that as an MP Bozzoli was “deeply committed” to her work. “She was kind, smart, knowledgeable, a voice of reason and love.” Professor Bozzoli is survived by her husband, acclaimed historian Professor Charles van Onselen (BA Hons 1971), and their three children Jessica (BA DA 2002, PDM 2005, MA 2009), Gareth (BA Hons 1999, MA 2001) and Matthew (BA Hons 2007, MA 2010). When asked how she managed a family juggling life as a top researcher and administrator she said: “Isn’t it what all women do?” Source: Wits University and Wits Review archives, Wikipedia, Daily Maverick
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[BSc 1978, BSc Hons 1979, PhD 1984]
Christian Peeters was an internationally recognised and celebrated myrmecologist, born in Belgium on 30 April 1956. He passed away suddenly in Paris on 1 September 2020 at the age of 64. Professor Peeters’s father, Paul Peeters, and mother, Paulette Peeters, immigrated to South Africa in 1970 with their children Christian, Annie and Françoise from Belgium. The family lived in Mountainview-Observatory, Johannesburg and Christian matriculated from Marist Brothers College. His father was an electrical engineer and was the director of sales for Schindler Elevators, a Swiss company. In 1978 the company shut its offices in South Africa and repatriated Professor Peeters’s father. The Peeters family moved to Lucerne, Switzerland and he remained at Wits to complete his studies. Professor Peeters was determined to become an academic zoologist when he began his undergraduate studies at Wits in 1975. With Professor Robin Crewe as his supervisor he graduated with a PhD in Zoology, and remained in contact with Professor Crewe for the remainder of his life on academic collaborations and as friends. During his studies he was active in adventurous outdoor activities as a member of the Wits Mountain Club, and Wilderness Leadership School, and he was one of the climbers who went out every September to ring Cape Vulture chicks in the Magaliesberg and other mountainous localities for the Vulture Study Group led by Peter Mundy and John Ledger (BSc 1965, BSc Hons 1966, PhD 1976). After his PhD, Professor Peeters went to Australia to
Jack Lampert [MBBCh 1958]
Dr Jack Arthur Lampert matriculated from Parktown Boy’s High School in Johannesburg aged 16 years. He completed his internship at the Johannesburg General Hospital and developed an interest in obstetrics and gynaecology. He served as registrar at the Bridgman Memorial Hospital in Brixton (now Garden City Clinic) and became a member of the Fellowship of the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of South Africa in 1965. Soon after he joined his long-time friend Dr Les Picker (MBBCh 1959). He took up the position of Chief 88 W I T S R E V I E W
work as a postdoc at the University of New South Wales, with Ross Crozier. He later moved to Nagoya in Japan to work with Yoshiaki Ito and then to Wurzburg, Germany to work with Professor Berthold Karl Hölldobler. Settling in Paris, he was Research Professor at the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences in the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Sorbonne University, and Director of Research at CNRS, the French National Scientific Research Agency. Professor Peeters’s impact in myrmecology started with the discoveries that he made as a PhD student, finding that primitive ponerine ants could lose the queen caste and have colonies headed by mated, workers for which he and Bill Brown of Cornell University coined the term gamergates (married workers). Recently he turned his attention to the ant genera Melissotarsus and Rhopalomastix, which chew tunnels in healthy wood to accommodate their scale insect symbionts and are the only ants in which adults spin silk used in nest construction. The strength of ants in lifting loads led to an interest in the biomechanics of load transport in insects. The queenless ponerine ant Streblognathus peetersi was named after him. When asked what he planned to do post retirement he replied: “Continue with my research of course!” After his death, his students and colleagues paid tribute to his impact on their lives and research. Their admiration and respect for him was evident in comments on his insights, thoughtfulness and kindness. Professor Peeters is survived by his sisters and their families in Australia, Annie and Bryan Downes; Françoise and John Schilter and sons Nathaniel and Nicolas; and by his partner Naret Phansua and extended family in Thailand. Source: Nigel Gericke (BSc 1978, BSc Hons 1979, MBBCh 1984)
Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Vaal Med, moving to Vanderbijlpark in 1985. After 17 very successful years in this position he retired in 2002 and moved to Fish Hoek, Cape Town. Dr Lampert loved medicine, and often said there was not a day in his working life that he did not want to go to work. He had many interests, among them target shooting and fishing. His remarkable acumen, and his quick wit remained with him. A few years after Penelope Machanik, his wife of 52 years, passed away, he returned to spend the last five years of his life in Johannesburg, where he died on 22 July 2020. He leaves his partner Gail Wilson (BSc Physio 1968) and three sons. Source: Gail Wilson
Coomarasamy N Pillay [MBBCh 1954]
Dr Coomarasamy Nithianathan “CN” Pillay died at the age of 90 on Christmas Day 2020. He worked for decades at the RK Khan Hospital and was key in the formation of the Chatsworth Regional Hospice. Dr Pillay was born on 10 July 1929 in Greenwood Park, the child of Kistan and Amurtham Pillay. His father worked in a managerial position at the Coronation Brick and Tile Company in Briardene. His paternal grandfather, Kumarasamy Kistan (KK) Pillay, came from a wealthy family of tobacco farmers in India. He wrote exams to enter high school at a government school in Umgeni Road and was accepted to Sastri College. In Standard 7, he received a book prize The Healing Knife by George Sava, which was his first introduction to surgery and this moulded his life. Under a special permit, he was able to study medicine at Wits. He applied for an internship at McCord Zulu Mission Hospital. In 1954, Chief Albert Luthuli was critically ill and was brought to the hospital after suffering a heart attack. Dr Pillay was tasked with spending the night at Chief Luthuli’s bedside, recording his blood pressure every 10 minutes and regulating the intravenous infusion accordingly. Dr Pilllay went into private practice in Avoca,
Noel Cuthbert Pope [BSc Eng 1949, PhD 1960]
Dr Noel Cuthbert Pope was born in Queenstown, attended Queens College and matriculated in 1942. He completed a year of mechanical engineering at Wits before joining the South African Air Force, where he earned his wings on his 19th birthday. After World War II ended he returned to Wits to complete his degree. During this period Dr Pope rowed for Wits as stroke (usually the most competitive rower in the crew) at the Henley Royal Regatta in 1948. His airforce exposure led him to pursue an interest in aerodynamics and he started an MSc on supersonic wind tunnel design, which was later upgraded to a PhD. This led to a post at Farnborough, UK where the “faster-thansound” aircraft had arrived and supersonic bangs were then a great novelty. After a year there, the call home and the persuasion of the company Boart Products who employed him for a year before leaving for the UK, brought
Newlands and Harding. He furthered his studies at the Royal College of Surgeons in London and the Edinburgh Royal College of Surgeons. He had 30 years of unbroken service at RK Khan Hospital where he retired as principal surgeon in 1992. He became president of the Natal Coastal Branch of the Medical Association of South Africa, was chairperson of the board of Emergency Medical and Rescue Service of KwaZulu-Natal and served as trustee on various community organisations. He received a Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Surgeons of South Africa in 2007; as well as a dedicated service in medicine award from the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa and the Mahatma Gandhi award for humanitarian service to the community. He was described as “the quintessential role-model — high on morals, a stickler for detail, and a technically gifted surgeon. A man who paid close attention to detail, meticulous planning, passion for patients’ rights and commitment to service. The standard set by the surgical departments at RK Khan Hospital was to become the benchmark for other surgical departments and units to emulate.” He married Dayanithy (Babse) Pillay in 1956 and she died in 2016. He is survived by his three daughters Jayashree, Thikambari and Udeshni and two grandchildren. Sources: Sunday Tribune and The Witness
him back to Africa to pursue his other compelling interest, metallurgy. He spent the next 36 years with Boart International. On his retirement in 1985, he and his wife, alumna Vivia (BMus 1950, BEd 1970, Med 1979) née Jones, moved into the Magaliesberg and lived on a small holding where they grew oranges, avocados, kiwis and pecan nuts for the co-op and all who visited. They joined the Mountain Club and walked through all the kloofs and valleys in the region. They also hiked nearly all the trails available in South Africa and went on “safari” in their Landrover with the “tenton top” to Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Dr Pope started the Buffelspoort Valley Conservancy. Dr Pope and his wife were very proud Witsies. It is where they met and they said Wits helped shape their minds and attitude to life. Dr Pope is survived by his wife, Vivia, son Trevor (BSc Eng 1980, MSc Eng 1983) and daughter Jane. Trevor’s children Alexander (BSc Eng 2009) and Sarah (BSc 2015) are also proud Wits graduates. Source: Vivia Pope
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[Gold Medal, 2007]
Often referred to as the doyenne of South African art and founder of the Goodman Gallery, Linda Givon passed away on 5 October 2020 at the age of 84. Givon was born in Johannesburg on 2 August 1936, to Morris and Hetty Finger, who had immigrated to South Africa from Eastern Europe. She read towards a BA in 1954, but travelled to England before its completion and obtained a diploma in acting and teaching from the London School of Dramatic Art. During the 1960s she trained at the Grosvenor Gallery in London under the tutelage of its founder Eric Estorick and returned to South Africa in 1966. At the age of 30, Givon opened the Goodman Gallery. Located initially in Hyde Park, it soon gained a reputation for exhibiting work which confronted issues unlike other galleries at the time that exhibited “pretty scenes of life in the townships”. Thirty years later the gallery moved to the heart of Rosebank in 1996. In 2018 Givon sold the space and its brand at an enormous price. Through her work at the Goodman, she brought an unapologetic vision. Givon was on the boards of community art centres such as the Johannesburg Art Foundation and the Ainslie Remembrance Trust, government bodies such
David Edwin Proctor [BSc Eng 1962, PhD 1977]
Dr David Proctor died in Johannesburg on 26 September 2020 of complications following surgery at the age of 88. He had spent his career at the National Institute for Telecommunications Research (NITR) of the CSIR. Born in Johannesburg and educated at Kearsney College, the young Proctor moved around the country, as his father was a Methodist minister. After he left school, Dr Proctor’s interest in radio and electronics led him to work as a technician at the NITR but it was clear that he had the academic ability to attend university. The Faculty of Engineering at Wits had set up a part-time process by which ex-servicemen were able to complete their degrees over six years. And so, after spreading the first two years of the degree over four, while continuing to work at the NITR, he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and immediately became a research officer at the NITR. 90 W I T S R E V I E W
as the National Arts Council and heritage sites such as Constitution Hill. She saw the need to invest in the future, making provision for educational bursaries at many educational institutions. Over the years she supported the Funda Centre in Soweto, and helped raise funds to rebuild the Artists Proof Studio, a teaching facility for young artists, after it burned down. There are many instances throughout her career of charitable giving in which she facilitated donations, gifts, sponsorships and patronage from others through her determination to “grow the arts” or enable a project. She personally donated funds to the Children’s Hospital Trust and inspired close friends to donate over R5 million. She received the 2008 Inyathelo Philanthropy Merit award. At Wits she made donations to the Wits Art Museum, and to other Wits art galleries, many of which reflect important moments in South African art history. This was essential at a time when the university’s budget for the acquisition of contemporary art had been suspended. In 2016 Off the Wall: An 80th birthday celebration was mounted in her honour. She donated funds towards projects such as the library mural by Cyril Coetzee and the Rock Art Research Institute. In 2007 she was awarded a Gold Medal by the university, in recognition of her immense contribution to South African art. She leaves her brother Michael, daughter Lee and son Robert and their families. Sources: Wits University archives; Robyn Sassen, New Frame
In 1967 Dr Proctor established a new research programme with the purpose of measuring and characterising radio emissions that occur during lightning activity. In doing this, he was following in the footsteps of Basil Schonland (DSc honoris causa 1957) and David J Malan who had made discoveries in the field of lightning research when based at the Bernard Price Institute of Geophysical Research at Wits. Dr Proctor’s dedicated and almost single-handed research programme became his life’s work and over more than 30 years he established himself as a leading authority in the field of lightning investigation using both radio and radar techniques. Dr Proctor was an extremely nice man. As is so often the case with people who don’t set out to beat their own drum, his remarkable achievements in the fields of radio science and geophysics went unsung almost everywhere except in the closest confines of the NITR and among those scientists around the world whose fields overlapped with his. He married Judy Stone in 1963 and they had four sons, all engineers. Source: Brian Austin
[MBBCh 1948, MMed 1956]
Professor Lynn Gillis, who died aged 96, was founding head in 1962 of the department of psychiatry and mental health at the University of Cape Town and played an integral role in changing the custodial care to a comprehensive service for the region. He initiated groundbreaking community services and clinics, unusually led by nurses. Under his guidance a day hospital was established, and a psychiatric social club promoting continuity of care for patients in the community, with outreach provisions to destigmatise mental illness. At Valkenberg Hospital and Alexandra rehabilitation centre he courageously defied apartheid segregation by integrating staff across wards. Professor Gillis was born to emigrant parents in Kroonstad, South Africa, a small town where his father, Julius, a dentist, grew competition prize roses as a hobby, and his mother, Annie (née Lynn), a concert pianist, gave music lessons. This background grounded Lynn’s fluent Afrikaans and underpinned his initiatives in social psychiatry. When World War II broke out, he served in makeshift hospitals in northern Africa and Italy. Between 1945 and 1962 he worked at Tara Hospital, a pioneering
Irvin Alexander Lampert [MBBCh 1964]
Dr Irvin Alexander Lampert, “Irv” as he became known to his friends and colleagues, was born in Johannesburg in November 1941. He matriculated from King Edward VII School in Johannesburg and entered Wits Medical School in January 1959 and ultimately specialised as a pathologist. Dr Lampert worked briefly as a junior doctor in Johannesburg and in the late 1960s left for London. In 1971 he married Dr Jo Boxer. He was treated for bladder cancer, which eventually resulted in renal failure, and he died on 17 October 2020. Jo and their two children and two grandchildren survive him. On his arrival in England, he first took up a post at the Nottingham University Hospital where he was mentored by Prof Ken Weinbren. He attained his Diploma in Clinical Pathology at Hammersmith Hospital, in London, where he made lifelong friends. He subsequently gained his Membership of the Royal College of Pathology, becoming an FRCPath (Fellow). He was a
mental health facility in Johannesburg, taking a break in the 1950s to hold positions at the Maudsley Hospital in London, and becoming a founding member of the Royal College of Psychiatry. These formative experiences bore fruit when he was recruited in 1962 to fill the position of head of department of psychiatry and mental health at the University of Cape Town. He remained professor of psychiatry until his retirement in 1989, when he became professor emeritus. Professor Gillis won many awards and held esteemed positions, among them president of the SA National Council for Mental Health and director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Clinical Psychiatry Research Unit, which was key in initiating a series of studies and mentoring a number of careers. Ever curious, Professor Gillis was drawn to psychoanalysis, and in retirement pursued Buddhism, studied sculpture and created austere carvings in marble and rare woods. An avid mountaineer, he remained healthy and agile, lucid and fiercely independent to the end of his full and fulfilled professional and artistic life. Shirley (née Lurie), whom he married in 1950, died in 2015. He is survived by their daughter, Jenny, four grandchildren, Josh, Gabrielle, Jason and Danielle, and three great-grandchildren, Nomi, Yael and Lev. Sources: Joan Raphael-Leff, The Guardian
senior lecturer at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, and at Hammersmith Hospital, and retained this honorary post until retirement. He was also a National Medical Examiner for maternal deaths for several years. He was the joint author of Bone Marrow Pathology, the definitive work on the subject. He moved to Ealing Hospital in the early 1980s where he started research, in addition to his full time diagnostic work, and became involved in working voluntarily with clinicians in Malawi and with his long-term collaborator, Dr Susan van Noorden. It was widely agreed amongst his colleagues and his family that Dr Lampert possessed personal and intellectual integrity, even if speaking his mind could irritate people. He was a faithful and very affectionate husband, with whom life was described as always interesting, if sometimes noisy! He was also always abreast of politics. His children recall – now with good humour – having to endure, on a family holiday to America, visiting Civil War battle fields instead of Disney World! He was an immensely warm and generous man. He died just short of 79 with still so much to give. Source: Professor Harry Rajak (BA 1962, LLB 1964)
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[BA FA 1967]
One of the most prominent theatre personalities and advocate for the arts, Dawn Lindberg passed away from COVID-19 related illness on 7 December 2020 at the age of 75. Lindberg was the founder and CEO of the Naledi Theatre Awards – one of most prestigious awards events in South Africa. Lindberg matriculated from Parktown Girl’s High School and completed her degree in 1962, meeting her husband and long-time partner in music and theatre, Desmond Lindberg (BA 1963), at Wits. She said: “He was like a gentle Viking, tall, with blond hair falling over his eyes and a guitar slung over his back.” In 1965, Des and Dawn were married; they embarked on a tour of South Africa and then Rhodesia, visiting small towns and cities with their legendary show, Folk on Trek. It was promptly banned on the grounds of obscenity because of adjusted lyrics to the nursery rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and the spiritual, Dese Bones Gonna Rise Again. They went on appeal but lost the case, and all copies of the album were ordered to be destroyed. In 1973 they produced the groundbreaking musical Godspell, the first multiracial show to be staged publicly in South Africa. When the couple brought the show to South Africa, it was promptly banned by the censors on the grounds of blasphemy. Des and Dawn took the case to the Supreme Court, and they won after the show was allowed one performance so that Judge Lammie Snyman and the censors’
Daniel Plaatjies [PhD 2008]
Chairperson of the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC), Professor Daniel Plaatjies passed away “unexpectedly of natural causes” at the age of 57 on 10 October. He was born on 21 May 1963 in Netreg, Bonteheuwel, and educated at Modderdam High School. He obtained an honours degree in social science from the University of Cape Town followed by a master of philosophy degree from the University of the Western Cape. At Wits he earned a doctorate in governance, public policy and public finance. He edited three books which reflected his passion for building state capacity, governance, public accountability and public finance. Professor Plaatjies 92 W I T S R E V I E W
legal team could view it. Godspell went on to triumphantly tour the country for 18 months. It spearheaded the opening of theatres to all races in 1977. The success of this production prompted the Lindbergs to move more into the theatrical arena and over the years they staged a succession of musicals and plays that included Pippin; The Black Mikado (the first West End musical to premiere in Soweto); The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (the title was banned); and The Vagina Monologues about the abuse of women. Des and Dawn participated in the Free People’s Concert at Wits and showed what a vibrant, non-racial free South Africa could be like. The couple’s most famous songs included The Seagull’s Name was Nelson in 1971, which topped the charts for 20 weeks. Lindberg’s influence in the South African theatre industry was far-reaching and significant: her greatest achievement was the creation and nurturing of the internationally recognised Naledi Theatre Awards, which have honoured many artists and theatre makers, and awarded over 60 Lifetime Achievement Awards. She believed that “theatre and the arts are much more reflective of our current society and the demographics of the practitioners. New voices are telling our own stories and expressing our unique cultures through dance, music and the visual arts.” In 2015 the couple were appointed “Living Legends” by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa. Lindberg is survived by her husband Des, children Adam, Josh, daughter-in-law Zuraida and grandchildren, Zaria and Shia. Sources: www.desdawn.co.za and www.sapeople.com/2020/12/08 tributes-pour-in-for-south-africas-theatre-legend-dawn-lindberg/
was a senior manager of the public finance unit at the National Treasury and special adviser to the Human Sciences Research Council. Academics, colleagues, politicians and diplomats paid tribute to Prof Plaatjies as a South African patriot who dedicated his life to social justice and non-racialism. His acute and insightful contribution to financial and fiscal debates will be missed in Parliament and public life. Chris Barron wrote in the Sunday Times that he “was a voice in the wilderness, warning about the collapse of municipalities and making bold, evidence-based recommendations about how they could be turned around. No public servant ever spoke truth to power more persistently than he did, or was more persistently ignored.” He is survived by his wife Lydia-Anne (MA 2012) and three children. Sources: Cape Argus, The Sunday Times
Richard Mankowski [PhD Mech Eng 1983]
Born in 1938 in the rough industrial world of Kenosha in Lake Michigan, Dr Richard Mankowski was raised to be tough and control his emotions. It is possible that the stutter he developed as a youngster was the involuntary result of curbed sensitivity. At school he was castigated for his classroom inhibition when teachers heard him speaking normally with friends. His father, Stan, a self-made man, taught him the practical skills of carpentry, plumbing, building and handling electricity. Dr Mankowski turned to ham radio in his teens. He built his own radio and learned Morse code — the first of many codes he loved. Meanwhile his mother Adeline Manko taught him guitar and piano — music being another code. Dr Mankowski didn’t shine academically and left school a bit of a dropout. He had a four-year spell at Fort Ord in the military (where he volunteered). There he met one or two mature young men who encouraged him to study further and an African American teacher who inspired in him a love of maths. He passed his university entrance level easily and registered for a music degree. He finally addressed his speech problem with therapy. He never looked back, developing a breadth of vocabulary that allowed him to circumvent problem words. Dr Mankowski first travelled abroad in the early sixties, winding up in Milan, Italy where he met the cultured Cancogni family and learned Italian by ear in no time. He taught English using the old-fashioned grammar approach while cultivating a love of opera, particularly Verdi’s works. He married Anna Concogni and they had a son, Lance, and returned to the States. Here Dr Mankowski developed a keen interest in maths and registered for a science degree. He worked part-time at the
[BSc 1970, PhD 1973]
Physical chemist Professor Fabrizio Marsicano, who worked in the Wits Department of Chemistry for 20 years, died on 29 December 2020. He was born on 20 November 1947 and matriculated at Jeppe Boys’ High School. He graduated with a PhD in Chemistry in 1973. He initially worked as a chemist at research institute MINTEK, after which, in 1977, he embarked on an
University of Wisconsin and again at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he completed a master’s in mechanical engineering. His marriage fell apart at this stage and Lance went to his grandparents in Italy to be raised as a real Italian American. In 1973, shortly after coming to South Africa on a whim, he met Patty at Wits, who was a PhD candidate employed as a research assistant. His humour endeared him to many. He could bring out the imp in many a man, unaided by beer, though that also helped. Edward Moss (BSc Eng 1971, MSc Eng 1974, PhD 1985) in mechanical engineering was his first friend and they kept in touch throughout. He married Patty in June 1975, moving to Polokwane and then Tshwane where Dr Mankowski inspired many a rural student in maths. Ethekwini became his final destination where he had a distinguished lecturing career in mechanical engineering at the University of Durban-Westville. His research and background in music led him into mechanical vibrations and mining cables. Dr Mankowski’s maths led him to toy with the Fibonacci series of numbers, his final and lasting code. He was fascinated by the configurations of fruits! His research papers were laboured over so long his wife often said: “Stop polishing the pineapple.” He was admitted to the South African Professional Engineers Council on the strength of designing an original anemometer. He would make things for friends at his going rate – a six-pack of ambients, as he called his little Castle friends. You don’t often find a genius with the common touch. The last code Dr Mankowski showed in his own person. It was his dress code – recognised by his students who referred to him as Mr Three Layers because his T-shirt, shirt and sweat shirt hung at different lengths. But as he would say “small potatoes”. He is survived by his wife Patty, two sons Lance and Brett, daughter Peta and five grandchildren. Source: Patty Mankowski
academic career as a lecturer at Natal University, where he remained until 1988, before taking up a post as an Associate Professor at Wits. He was at Wits for 20 years until his early retirement due to Parkinson’s disease. He was a physical chemist, and his research at Wits was in the field of the computational modelling of molecules. Over the course of his academic career, he lectured thousands of students and supervised a number of research degree candidates. A dynamic and popular lecturer, he is still fondly remembered by students. Source: Deborah Marsicano (BSc Eng 1993)
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Rashid Ahmed M Salojee [MBBCh 1958]
Dr Rashid Ahmed Mahmood Salojee, a prominent activist who participated in the anti-apartheid movement, died on 2 December 2020 at the age of 87 in his Lenasia home. Fondly called “Ram” because of his initials, Dr Salojee was an ardent cricketer and sports administrator, a committed medical and health professional, and a dedicated civic, welfare and business leader. He was a devout follower of Islam and an ANC stalwart. Dr Salojee was born on 24 March 1933 and was educated at the Ferreira Indian Primary School, Waterval Islamic Institute, and Johannesburg Indian High School, learning his medical degree from Wits in 1958. He practised as a general practitioner for almost 45 years and retired in 2011. Dr Salojee actively supported the 1980s students’ boycott of classes and went on to become a prominent leader of the Congress Movement with Dr Essop Jassat, the late Ebrahim “Cas” Saloojee, Ismail Momoniat, Ama Naidoo, Samson Ndou, Mohammed Vali Moosa and Maniben Sita. He was detained several times during the states of emergency in the late 1980s and banning orders restricted him to the district of Johannesburg. Dr Salojee was a leading figure in the Liberation Movement in the 1980s and 90s, which eventually led to the release of Nelson
Tshiamo Matlapeng-Vilakazi [LLB 1990]
Tshiamo Daphne Matlapeng-Vilakazi was born on 22 August 1964 to Keutlwile and Rebontshitswe Matlapeng in Molatedi. She attended school in Dinokaneng and later went to Fort Hare University where she obtained her social work degree. She earned her LLB degree from Wits University, where she met and married Mthetho Vilakazi (BProc 1989). Her drive, passion and commitment to her work led to a respected career. She served as an independent
Mandela. Several ban orders were placed on him, but Dr Salojee defied them and continued to host civic, provincial and national resistance organisations, including the erstwhile Transvaal Indian Congress, an organisation similar to the Natal Indian Congress started by Mahatma Gandhi. His son Mahmood (BA 1994) said: “For the past 60 years, my father played a significant role in the lives of people. My father was the Vice President of the Transvaal Indian Congress and the Vice President of the United Democratic Front Transvaal. He accompanied Nelson Mandela on an ANC delegation to Iran, France and Saudi Arabia in 1993. He later attended several conferences of the International Parliamentary Union.” The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said he had a remarkable ability to blend his civic, moral and spiritual activism. Dr Salojee was diagnosed with diabetes in 2011 and two limbs were amputated. He received numerous local and national awards for his lifelong community service, which also included work in the local community’s health sector. Others included The Star Community Award, the Indicator’s Newsmaker of the Year Award, the Lenasia Human Rights Achiever Award, the South African Medical and Dental Practitioner’s Award for Contribution to Medicine and Community Service and the 75th Jubilee Medal from the Health Sciences Faculty at Wits. He is survived by daughter Yasmin and son Mahmood, and their children. Sources: Daily Maverick, The Post
non-executive director on the board of directors of Fortress for nearly five years and acted as chairperson of both the remuneration and social and ethics committees. She established valuable professional relationships and founded Vilakazi Commercial Attorneys, Notaries and Conveyancers. She met her untimely passing in a freak accident at a time when she was highly diversified in her business portfolio including agriculture, which was close to her heart. Being at the farm was when she was most at peace. She is survived by her four children, Mziwakhe, Gomolemo, Xolani and Thando; grandchild Cordell; siblings, and a large family which includes Coco, Chico, Bruce and Rocky — her dogs. Sources: Matlapeng and Vilakazi families
S E E M O R E A N D F U L L- L E N G T H O B I T U A R I E S O N T H E A L U M N I W E B S I T E : WWW.WIT S.AC.ZA/ALUMNI/OBITUARIES/
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LAUGHTER AMID BLEAKNESS BY CHRIS THURMAN
othing is funnier than unhappiness,” observes a character in Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame, “I grant you that. Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world.” Beckett was a master of grim humour, of finding laughter amid bleakness – or should that be laughter at bleakness? It’s an important distinction. One implies compassion, optimism, comfort and camaraderie; the other suggests indifference, vindictiveness, meanness and the end of hope. Endgame and its better-known precursor, Waiting for Godot, were products of a particular historical Apr il 2021 95
the real thing. Half of them are fabrications, and the other half are either recollections or projections: the way we thought things were or the way we want things to be. Yet Magritte’s lesson has only really hit home for most of us over the past year – a year of seeing faces and places on screens but not in person. In the Age of Zoom (insert your preferred platform here: MS Teams, Google Meet, FaceTime, WhatsApp video call or ... a name uttered with dread by tech-phobic Wits staff and students in the early months of 2021 ... Canvas Conferences) we have to accept displacement as the working premise of our online interactions. I’m there where I am, but I’m not there; I’m here with you, but I’m not here. RENÉ MAGRITTE’S THE TREACHERY OF IMAGES UNDERMINED BY THE WORDS, “CECI N’ES T PAS UNE PIPE” (“ THIS IS NOT A A digital meeting makes the miraculous PIPE”) mundane, connecting people around the world without contributing to their carbon moment: the decade after the Second World War, in the footprints. As any teacher will tell you, however, a virtual shadow of the Cold War and the atomic bomb, when classroom just ain’t the same as a physical one. Sometimes the middle-aged Beckett (never the most sanguine of it feels like you spend a lot of energy trying to persuade Irishmen) saw little in humanity’s future that encouraged your students that you’re not a cat – useful if you’re him. I wonder what he would have made of our current lecturing on art history, or trying to make a point about global context. Nothing is funnier than unhappiness – American jurisprudence, but otherwise a distraction but only because Beckett died before the advent of viral from the matter at hand. cat videos. Okay, I’m muddying the analogy here. You know what It was almost inevitable that one of the defining imag- I mean: es of our digitally-driven Covid era would be a cat on a Zoom call. Or rather, a lawyer on a Zoom call in a virtual “I think you’re on mute. Yes, you’re on mute.” court room, unable to turn off a filter and finding himself “Can you see my screen? I’m trying to share my uttering those immortal words: “I’m not a cat.” screen.” It’s the plea that spawned a thousand memes. Notting “Sorry, I had to leave and come back again.” Hill fans chuckled at Julia Roberts’ lines reconfigured: “You’re breaking up. You’ve frozen.” “I’m just a lawyer, standing in front of a judge, asking him “Can you hear me, judge? I’m not a cat.” to believe that I’m not a cat.” Art aficionados congratulated themselves for getting a joke based on René Magritte’s This is the stuff of tragicomedy. Beckett would have famous painting La Trahison Des Images, in which a pic- loved it; the funny side of unhappiness. The challenge ture of a pipe is undermined by the words, “Ceci n’est pas for all of us is to ensure that we never confuse laughing une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”); this time round, it was a despite our frustration (which is really a form of laughing case of Ceci n’est pas un chat. at ourselves) with laughing at others’ misery. There is actually something profound in all this. When you’re in a cynical mood, there is something Magritte’s painting, whose French title is commonly absurd about human beings and our attempts to commutranslated into English as The Treachery of Images, con- nicate. It’s laughable. And yet, precisely because we can’t veys one of the core dilemmas of being human. We make ever know about the inner life of another person – whethimages of the world we live in – the world as we see it, or er they are in the room with us or on the screen in front would like it to be seen – and we share these with others. of us – maybe we should err on the side of earnestness. But those images are not themselves the world we live in; they neither replace it nor fully represent it. Chris Thurman is Associate Professor in the English Department and We knew this before the Great Pause of 2020-21. Director of the Tsikinya-Chaka Centre (School of Literature, Language and Pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are not Media) at Wits 96 W I T S R E V I E W
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