The Durban University of Technology (DUT) Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, hosted the Hlomisa Skills Academy Gala Dinner at the Capital Pearls in uMhlanga, on Thursday, 8 September 2022. The program is part of the Grow-Your-Own-Timber (GOOT) suit of programs that the Executive Management Committee (EMC) has approved over the years with the aim of ensuring that DUT has the right people who play and will play their roles right. In this context, the Hlomisa Skills Academy contributes direct to the Sustainability Strategic Objective of ENVISION2030 when it comes to investment in people as the source of everything that DUT does.
The dinner was held for past and present Hlomisa Fellows, with participation of DUT Executive Management Team, the Student Representative Council and other staff members who have been involved in Hlomisa processes in one way or another. Welcoming the guests at the start of the formal proceedings, the Programme Director – Mr Zwakele Ngubane who is the Director of Advancement and Alumni Relations – reminded the attendees of the significance of Heritage Month.
“I think it’s quite fitting that we coincidentally are hosting this gala dinner in Heritage Month because heritage is not just about preserving that that is dear and valuable to society, but it’s also about sharing and transferring all of that to the next generation. In this day and age, we know knowledge, skills and valuable learnings are very important and we need to make sure that we transfer that to the next generation,” he said.
Mr Ngubane also took a moment to introduce Hlomisa Fellows, whose profiles were shared with attendees in a brochure. The Fellows are:
· Kenneth Shandu, a Master’s Fine Art student.
· Mandisa Zekhethelo Ntshangase, a Master’s Financial Accounting student.
· Nonsikelelo Precious Mthethwa, a PHD Health Sciences student.
· Menzi Ngcobo, a Master’s in Management Sciences-Business Administration student.
· Thembelihle Thobani Ntuli, a Master’s in Information and Communications technology student.
· Zama Nonhlanhla Mncube, a Master’s in Management Sciences student.
· Nkululeko Mbatha, a Master’s Management Sciences-Business Administration student.
· Siphiwe William, a Master’s in Management Sciences-Hospitality and Tourism student.
· Musa Grace Mbonambi, a Master’s in Management Sciences in Information and Administrative Management student.
· Namhla Faith Mtukushe, a PHD in Electrical and Informative Engineering student.
· Sibusiso Sithole, a Master’s in Accounting-Cost and Management Accounting student.
· Thobeka Shozi-Nxumalo, a PHD in Higher Education-Student leadership student.
· Lindelwa Judy Cele, a Master’s in Administration student.
· Mokgadi Ursula Makgobole, a PHD in Health Sciences student.
· Napolean Motimele, a Master of Commerce-leadership studies student.
· Khulu Khwezi Kwazi Gama, a Master of Science-Epidemiology and Biostatics student.
· Sanelisiwe Precious Dlamini, a PHD in Business Administration student.
· Nokwanda Shezi, a PHD: Electoral Engineering student.
· Khayakazi Matangana, a Master’s: Built Environment student.
· Philiswa Charity Dlamini, a Master’s: Business Administration student.
· Mzwandile Khumalo, a PHD: Education and Development student.
· Andile Samkele Masuku, a PHD: Health Sciences student.
· Thabiso Sthembiso Msomi, a PHD: Accounting student.
· Sibusisiwe Sibongile Yaka, a Master’s: Business Administration student.
· Mbali Amenda Mbhele, a Master’s: Taxation student.
· Bongeka Sithole, a Postgraduate Diploma: Management-Business Administration student.
Dr Matheakuena Mohale, Director: Special Projects in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, provided a brief history of the program and the possibilities going into the future. He said that the Office of the Vice-Chancellor (VCO) conducted an analysis of DUT age profile in 2017 and realised that a number of skilled personnel would be retiring in the following 10 years – 2017-2027.
According to Dr Mohale DUT at the time also exuded a number of pathologies that Vice-Chancellor and his management team had to confront. While on the other hand there was an objective reality of staff attrition, there was also a subjective problem of a number of younger people who were part of the workforce but were not appropriately skilled; some as a result of how they surreptitiously got employed. It is at this point that Dr Mohale emphasised the importance of the Stewardship Perspective in ENVISION2030. “We have the Stewardship Perspective at a foundational level because we want to see our people living our Values and Principles. Without them, we cannot talk of Institutional Culture”.
In his own words, he said that DUT was somewhat moribund around 2017. He provided an example of the well organised fraudulent scam in which some staff members were submitting false spousal claims. The launch of Hlomisa Skills Academy, therefore, is not only meant for the development of technical skills and attainment of higher qualifications. It is also meant to deepen the institutional culture that embraces honesty, integrity, responsibility and excellence amongst some of the values and principles.
“You are part of the crew that has been identified, moreover for the sustainability of the university. We are at the point where we have taken a decision that we need to evaluate the programme to determine how we have performed thus far, with an intention to migrate the programme from the VCO to Human Capital Services (HCS) so that it becomes institutionalised. In closing his input, he reminded the Fellows that Hlomisa Program is meant to prepare them to contribute to the agenda of building a different South Africa, a different Africa and a different world.
Two Hlomisa Fellows, Ms Sibongile Yaka and Mr Andile Masuku had an opportunity to share their own experiences with the audience. Speaking on behalf of other beneficiaries, Masuku said that they knew this would be a life-changing opportunity when they received Letters of Award from the VCO. “This would soon catalyse the realisation of scholarship and research journey we had already embarked upon”, he said. Visibly emotional and holding back tears, Ms Yaka thanked the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Mohale and Ms Sushi Moodley for both the opportunity and the ongoing support they enjoy from the Office. “If you asked me few years back if I would studying my MBA now, the answer would have been an emphatic ‘No’, said Ms Yaka. Echoing similar sentiments, Mr Masuku added: “This was indeed an exciting moment us. Further, while most of scholarships focus only on academic achievements of their awardees, Hlomisa focuses not only on academic development, but it also focusses on developing the awardees holistically which enables us to be well-rounded,” he said. “We must also thank members of the Executive Committee who align themselves with your vision. We see your vision we also support it because it is just right- ‘growing your own timber’. Forward with being Creative, Distinctive and Impactful – Doing things the DUT Way,” said Masuku.
Ms Tsakane Mpikwane and Tumelo Chaka were two external speakers who were invited. They are the graduates of the similar programme that Professor Mthembu ran at the Central University of Technology (CUT). They shared with the audience the rich experiences they had, and how they have grown in leaps and bounds since they attained their respective qualifications. They encouraged the Hlomisa fellows to use this opportunity in order to foster change in society.
The keynote address was given by Professor Fulufhelo Nemavhola, Executive Dean: Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, who is also a recipient of the CUT development program – the Stars of Research (SOAR). He shared three personal stories that shaped his life, the first being to live as if there is no tomorrow and doing one’s work with dedication and great sacrifice. He mentioned that as a graduate engineer he was fortunate enough to be paired with an experienced engineer in the railway environment. He relayed that one day he heard a man “heavily” coughing and looked at the man who said to him, “don’t worry young man you will die too,” and he went home and thought about it that night. Prof Nemavhola said there was this nagging question: what do I leave behind if I were to die tomorrow?
“I took a resolution that from that day, I am going to live as there is no tomorrow. The following year I then decided to register for my Postgraduate studies, I have never looked back. The words are still stuck with me even today,” he said.
Prof Nemavhola’s second story pertained to a gift of education from nature, from men, or from things. This actually means that education is not only formal but as people we could learn from nature and experience. In fact, Prof Nemavhola stressed that the views of these who may be seen as not formally educated should never be ignored. He recalled an incident where during the height of apartheid, his uncle was once arrested for sleeping in the streets of Pretoria.
He explained that in court his uncle was acquitted because the policeman who arrested him could not indicate what colour his underwear was at the time of his arrest.
“There are a number of great inventors who did not or who drop out of school, many, for example the Wright Brothers and Thomas Adson. Like my uncle, maybe Adson was also educated from the things and nature,” he stressed.
The third story conveyed by Prof Nemavhola was to know what one wants.
The story entails a man asking for a massage through room service at a hotel in China and when the elderly man opened the door he realised the masseur was a man and not a woman which made him angry. “We learn that we need to be clear in our message or direction, let us not leave something to interpretation. Things that we have learnt from these stories is to play an active role in society, put your dreams to action and interact with all human beings irrespective of social status,” he said.
Prof Nemavhola stressed that all Hlomisa past, current and future recipients should do three things, (i) play an active role in society (ii) interact with all people irrespective of their social status, and (iii) Do good and be honourable in the societies we serve.
In conclusion, Prof Nemavhola said one is more capable than one may be aware.
“However hard the path you chose, as long as it is the right choice, do the best you can. However, be ready to be alone because it is necessary in the journey and be ready to encounter failure, and expect it. Our country needs your perseverance today more than ever before. And lastly, act honourably in all your dealings,” he stressed.
After the inspirational addresses, the handover of gifts to the guest speakers was done by Prof Mthembu.
The vote of thanks was then delivered by the Registrar, Dr Maditsane Nkonoane.
“Whenever we reflect on our ENVSION2030 which is of course a great vision, but a great vision without great people is irrelevant. We owe it to the next generation to unfailingly pursue greatness,” he said.
Pictured: Prof Thandwa Mthembu, Vice-Chancellor and Principal with past and present
Hlomisa Fellows and Executive Management members.