Vice-chancellor dedicates three consecutive days for introductory meetings with staff
By: Qhawekazi Memani 14 February 2022
Keynote speakers during the Management Sciences Session
Newly appointed Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Ntate Dan Kgwadi wants to have a personal touch with each and every member of the VUT community.
This was demonstrated last week when Prof Kgwadi set aside three days just to meet and greet with all employees of the university.
Having returned to VUT no longer as an academic (his previous position as HoD – Physics Department), but as the Number One support staff member of the university, Prof Kgwadi informed staff how much they are valued by the institution.
“I cannot buy you off a shelf, not with your skills and corporate memory. I will therefore do my best to retain you. But we must be willing to work as a collective to diagnose the VUT problem and formulate solutions together”, said the VC.
Internal Stakeholder Roadshows
The meet and greet sessions were jointly coordinated by the VC’s Office and Advancement Department.
The first engagement with the new VC took place on his first day in seat (1st February), where he was formally welcomed by the Chairperson of the VUT Council Ms Refilwe Buthelezi at the Council Chambers. Also in the room also to receive the VC were members of the Senior Leadership Team (ManCom) as well as representatives of internal stakeholder groupings such as Labour (NEHAWU and NTEU), Institutional Forum, Convocation and the Student Representative Council (SRC). The following day (2nd February) the VC had another meet and greet session with the SRC alone.
Then followed the three-day programme (8-10th February) which was split into seven sessions.
The first two days were dedicated to meetings with academic staff – one session per faculty. On the 3rd day the VC met with three groups of support staff members.
Programme of Activities
· Ms Tandi Mapukata (Executive Director – Advancement and Internationalisation) chaired all sessions.
· Prof Maggie Linington (DVC – Teaching, Learning and Student Support Services) gave the opening and welcoming remarks.
· Prof Kgwadi (Vice-Chancellor) was the keynote speaker throughout and
· Ms Kedie Mokotsi (Director – Public Relations and Marketing) wrapped up proceedings with closing remarks.
On the third day (support staff engagements)
· Mr Leonard Swana (Executive Director – Operations and Logistics) and
· Ms Boitumelo Letlhaku (Acting Executive Director – Human Resources), also gave presentations about their portfolios.
· Staff were afforded an opportunity to participate in an interactive Question and Answer mini session.
Ms Tandi Mapukata: Executive Director Advancement and Internationalisation
Ms. Mapukata further explained that the engagements were coordinated in order to give the VC an opportunity to be in the same room as each member of the community – a personal touch that recognizes that the University does not exist without its people – staff and students.
In her welcoming address, Prof Linington who served as the Acting VC between October 2021 and January 2022), set the scene for the VC’s speech. She shared that 2021 was an auspicious year for the VUT- a year of significant changes.
“The right permanent Heads of Department (HoD’s) were appointed at faculty level, the university worked hard to get out of administration; policies were developed to ensure proper governance of the institution; then there was the council appointment; the introduction and rollout of a new brand which brings newness, a whole new vibe with a thoughtful and clean feel”.
“Prof Kgwadi was interviewed for the VC position in 2021 and that added a good foundation for the year 2022, and new beginnings for everything the university stands for”, said Prof Linington passionately.
The Year of the Tiger
She added: “In the Chinese lunar calendar, the 1st February 2022 ushered in the Year of the Tiger. This is the same day Prof Kgwadi took over the reigns as VC”. According to Prof Linington, the Year of the Tiger “denotes change, strength, freshness/renewal and self-reflection. It’s a time for the VC to start re-building the VUT collectively with the VUT community”.
Prof Ntate Dan Kgwadi addressing VUT Stakeholders
Delivering the keynote addresses: Prof Kgwadi said: “I have been warmly received at VUT for my second homecoming. I personally raised my hand for the VC position – I felt within myself that I needed to be part of the VUT family. Thanks a lot VUT for the opportunity to serve.”
Describing how he views VUT, Prof Kgwadi said, “A lot has been said about the University and one good thing is that there are no issues surrounding the core business of the University – teaching and learning, research and technology.”
With the recently published SA university rankings, he encouraged the VUT community to work ten times harder to improve future rankings. “Yes, we are ranked 21 out of 26 public higher education institutions out. The only direction to take now is upwards. Actually, only 21 institutions were ranked, and we sit at the bottom of that list. However, there are five universities who did not even make the cut. “
Reassuring the VUT community that collective wisdom will bring about the desired change, the VC said: “I guarantee you; all universities are present with different challenges. I am not here to impose my previous employer’s ways of doing things. VUT solutions to the existing challenges will be crafted by ourselves, working together as a collective. It is through collective efforts that I was able to achieve what I have achieved thus far in my career,” he emphasized.
Academic Programmes/Ethic of Care/ Zero Tolerance Stance for Corruption
“Academic programmes are the heartbeat of the institution and academic staff are doing very well, “said Prof Kgwadi.
Addressing the VUT community at large, Prof Kgwadi assured everyone that he will not compromise good work.
“I practice the ethic of care when it comes to staff members. No-one can get you from a shelf, you are unique, to replace someone of your caliber is not an easy thing. Let’s keep what we’ve got.”
Speaking against corruption, Prof Kgwadi expressed the following sentiments:
“I can smell corruption from afar and we should vouch to never do it again. There is no way I am going to sugarcoat it! The new brand will be compromised and everything we stand for as a university will be meaningless if the corruption issue cannot be changed. There are so many things that need to be fixed internally.”
Using the story of Philip and Nathaniel of Nazareth in the bible as an analogy: Is there anything good that can come out of Nazareth?
In VUT’s case, many could be wondering if ever they’ll be anything good that will come out of VUT.
“VUT may be in Nazareth’s position now but we need to change that. Thus far, a lot has been achieved and there’s quite a lot that can still come out,” said Prof reassuringly.
He encouraged members of the VUT community to share all good things they do with him, to speak to him about anything because his “is an open-door policy”.
“We will make sure we position the institution properly,” he said. He then shared his contact numbers publicly and vowed to give support where necessary.
Embracing the New Brand – #ProudlyMavuti
Prof Kgwadi embraces and loves the new VUT Brand. “On our own, we are brands and we ought to carry ourselves with dignity.”
A new campaign which the VC is in support of, is being led from the front by the Advancement team. It is called #ProudlyMavuti. The campaign is a call to everyone to take ownership of the VUT space and forge ahead to a better and greater institution.
An Era of Hope
During the Q+A session facilitated by Ms Mapukata, most comments from the floor conveyed lots of expectations from the new VC. His vision of transforming VUT into a true University of Technology in Africa and beyond, was received warmly. Staff shared words of gratitude to Prof Kgwadi for coming back to VUT.
“Prof, we cannot begin to express how grateful we are to have you with us. We will support you,” said a staff member.
Another one said: “We will walk/work with you Prof to ensure that our university reverts to its original state. This is now an opportunity for all of us to stand up, pull up our socks and be proud to be part of VUT.”
Delivering the closing remarks, Ms Mokotsi thanked everyone who attended and participated in the sessions. She also commended Prof Kgwadi for understanding what it means to be a brand ambassador and said:
“As the Advancement department, we look forward to working with you. I see a better future for VUT, and Prof is here to Inspire Thought and Shape Talent, in line with the new VUT brand payoff line.”
It was indeed a week filled with #proudlyMavuti moments. Exciting and great times lie ahead for VUT. With so many wins the university has secured recently, one can only envision a great future ahead.