University of Johannesburg Chancellor Speech over University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy
In todays latest UJ News– Yesterday, a handful of students staged a demonstration outside of the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus against our University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy. They were joined by a few individuals claiming to be former students. I must hasten to point out that there is nothing unusual or alarming about this. Demonstrations and protests are a fundamental part of our democracy.
They are part of the rights that are enshrined in the Constitution. As stipulated in the Bill of Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of expression as well as the right to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions – as long as it is done peacefully and does not infringe on the rights of others.
As extensively communicated, the adoption of the Mandatory Vaccination Policy makes provision for employees, postdoctoral research fellows and students who cannot be vaccinated to apply for exemptions. Exemptions are granted based on medical or religious grounds. I wish to remind you that in our approach to this policy, UJ seeks to balance the rights of individuals against the collective rights of the University and the broader community. As the collective rights take precedence, the rights of individuals may be limited, in terms of section 36 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.
I have tried not to invoke recent court judgments on the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination policies to justify our University’s policy. This is because I am confident about our University’s approach to the matter. We have always been guided by the principle of transparency, openness and accountability, taking into account the interests of our University community. However, there are some recent cases that makes it not only tempting but also compelling to refer to.
Earlier this week, the Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda dismissed an urgent application for an interim interdict against the vaccine mandate at Rhodes University. The application was brought by the Makhanda Against Mandates group, which sought for an interim interdict pending a court review to declare the policy unconstitutional. The judge, however, ruled in favour of the University and struck the matter off the roll with costs. This came after the High Court in Bloemfontein last month struck off the roll an interdict application to stop the implementation of the vaccination policy at the University of the Free State (UFS). The application was brought by a group calling themselves the Free State for Choice (FS4C).
At UJ, I am pleased to see that a carnival atmosphere pervades our campuses, quite literary. Indeed, it is evident that our staff and most of our students are embracing the Mandatory Vaccination Policy. It has been encouraging to see our students and postgraduate research fellows demonstrate excitement and enthusiasm about being back on-campus. It is evidently clear that they want to get on with learning and research activities.
To this end, I wish to remind our employees who still intend to apply for exemption that employees have until today (4 March 2022) to submit such requests. Students have until next Wednesday (9 March 2022) to do so. Staff, postdoctoral research fellows and students can apply via the online system http://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac. After the above respective closing dates, no further requests/applications for exemptions will be considered.
On a different note, the Gauteng province accounts for more than half (55%) of the country’s electronic waste, also known as e-Waste. I am pleased to announce that UJ has partnered with the Gauteng Provincial Government and the Gauteng Department of e-Government on the e-waste programme. Our Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS) led this bid, in partnership with Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges (TVETs). The enterprising ecosystem proposed (learning by doing) incentivises various facets of the e-Waste programme as well as the technical phases of e-waste recycling (circular economy and the fourth industrial revolution).
The strategy was developed with inputs from our Process, Energy and Environmental Technology Station (UJ PEETS). I am confident that this collaboration will see people being trained to recycle, refurbish, and create meaningful items from e-waste, and ultimately turn e-Waste into economic opportunities. To everyone involved in this project, particularly Professor Babusena Paul (Director: IIS); Ms Nickey Janse van Rensburg (Head: PEETS); and Ms Daphney Nemakhavhani (Director: Development Office), well done!
I would also like to congratulate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Refilwe Phaswana-Mafuya, in the Faculty of Health Sciences on her appointment as Director of the newly secured South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Extramural Research Unit (EMU). We are honoured to have the SAMRC/UJ Pan African Centre for Epidemics Research (PACER) established at UJ. Prof Phaswana-Mafuya’s research is focused on improving the understanding of epidemics and pandemics using epidemiological and public health approaches. It involves conducting collaborative, multi-site, inter and multi-disciplinary studies using novel methods and approaches for scientific rigour for the generation of new knowledge and high-quality data. The new SAMRC Extramural Research Unit will begin running as of April 2022. Prof Phaswana-Mafuya, a hearty congratulations!
In the same vein, please also join me in congratulating Professor Shireen Motala on the inauguration of her SARChI Chair: Teaching and Learning. Prof Motala is a rated established researcher who has an outstanding research record in both schooling and higher education. Her research contributions on Teaching and Learning in higher education have been timely, given the rapidly changing current context. This week, the Inaugural Launch Seminar under the theme Higher Education in the Era of 4IR – Teaching and Learning beyond COVID-19: Promises and Peril, provided much food for thought. Well done, Prof Motala and thanks for continuing to fly the UJ flag high!
More good news is that Professor Fiona Tregenna, SARChI in Industrial Development, UJ, and SARchi Professor of Practice Arkebe Oqubay has been appointed to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Trade and Industrial Development Advisory Council. The Council is composed of eminent persons from across the continent, and has been endorsed by the recent Summit of Heads of State and Government. They will advise on trade integration and industrialisation across Africa, and the implementation of the AfCFTA. This is an exciting and important development for the continent – well done!
Last week on this platform, I shared my views on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, where I emphasised the futility of war and its destructiveness. This week, I wrote an opinion article expanding my views on this matter. Please click here to read my insights.
Additionally, last week I was delighted to share my academic journey under the theme, ‘The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born’, organised by the Division for Teaching Excellence. Starting with my beginnings at a small school in Duthuni, I tried to take the 107 UJ academics who attended on a virtual journey from my home in Venda to London, to Cleveland USA, to Cambridge UK, to Pretoria, to Wits, and now to UJ. My emphasis was on the need to read and think widely, to be open to learning from others and to write outside your own discipline – both from fiction and from science – to accept the mentorship of others, and to be a mentor for those around you. As I fielded questions, I reflected on the ways in which we at UJ strive to create a new generation of ‘beautyful ones’, by inspiring the next generation of leaders and thinkers who will take South Africa and the world into the future.
Back to COVID-19 matters, please remember that employees must be full
vaccinated by 15 March 2022 (fully vaccinated does not include the booster shot, where applicable), or have been approved for exemption from vaccination. As for students, they are required to be fully vaccinated by 31 March 2022 or have been approved for exemption from vaccination. Staff, postdoctoral research fellows and students can upload their proof of vaccination on http://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac. Under “COVID-19 Services”, select “UJ Covid-19 Mandatory Vaccine Disclosure Facility”.
As indicated last week, our University will have COVID-19 vaccinations taking place on three of our campuses, starting from 7 – 30 March 2022, from 9:00 until 15:00. Both the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines will be available for individuals to choose from. The schedule is as follows:
- DFC: Mondays – 7, 14, 21 and 28 March – A and B Atrium, John Orr Building (011 559-6544)
- APK: Wednesdays – 09, 16, 23 and 30 March – Auditorium Foyer (011 559-3837)
- SWC: Fridays – 11, 18, 28 March – Kopanong Foyer (011 559-5571)
NB: APB will be catered for at APK.
For any additional information needed please call the numbers provided for each campus.
For more information on mandatory vaccination protocol, as well as assistance for vaccination and downloading of certificates, please visit our University website, www.uj.ac.za.
The University leadership will continue to monitor the national and provincial COVID-19 outlook, and an update will be provided accordingly. This information may be verified by visiting:. http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19Should any of you experience symptoms of the coronavirus, please use the National Hotline of 0800 029 999 or WhatsApp line 0600 123456 or go to the following link for more information: http://sacoronavirus.co.za/.
As usual, we appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing (http://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all times.
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.