Mask-up and social distance or face the music

Lizwi Masondo, right, with the marshals

This week, MUT COVID-19 marshals have been hard at work enforcing the wearing of masks and observing the social distancing protocols. This is another initiative by MUT to highlight the seriousness with which the institution treats COVID-19. It comes at a time where South Africa is seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 infections and there are fears that universities could become epicentres.

The role of the marshals is to patrol the campus and enforce compliance and adherence to the COVID-19 regulations, mainly social distancing and wearing of masks on campus, said Lizwi Masondo, MUT’s COVID-19 Compliance Officer. The four marshals, have been instrumental in reminding both staff and students that non-compliance with COVID-19 is also a breach of University regulations and that non-compliers could be taken for disciplinary hearings.

South African students need to treat health issues as a matter of urgency – Higher Health CEO

Dr Ahluwalia, seated, left; and Professor Marcus Ramogale, MUT Acting VC, seated right; and other participants in the meeting

Addressing about 100 student leaders from the country’s 26 universities, Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of Higher Health, impressed upon student leaders the necessity and urgency with which they must treat health-related issues that are effecting students in the higher education institutions.

Dr Ahluwalia was speaking at the South African Union of Students meeting hosted by MUT in Durban on 30 and 31 October. He drew student leaders’ attention to the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasising the need for everyone to heed the applicable protocols to keep safe. Dr Ahluwalia strongly appealed to student leaders to show leadership in the fight against the disease. We are still losing students as a result of the disease, he said. “When you are back at your campuses, let us all comply with the rules so we don’t spread the disease. We are all potential carriers of the disease,” he said.

Dr Ahluwalia said his organisation had 10 mobile clinics that would serve mainly the rural universities where they are needed the most. The mobile clinics will take care of most health-related problems that are prevalent at South African universities. “My vision is that a student does not have walk long distances to get help. The mobile clinics should bring medication to campuses,” said Dr Ahluwalia.  Students can call a toll-free number 0800363636, if they have any health-related issues.

Management Sciences staff obtains a PhD

Dr Duma

Thulile Duma, a Lecturer in the Department of Human Resources and Management has just been awarded a PhD in Human Resources. Dr Duma’s study was on how students with disabilities cope. She conducted her studies at MUT and the Durban University of Technology. Dr Duma discovered that students with disabilities did not want to be pitied or given special treatment because of their disabilities. “They just want to be treated like the other students. I also discovered that students with disabilities have the same aspirations as the other students,” said Dr Duma.  The study also found that students with disabilities have a strong self-confidence and resilience, Dr Duma said.

Dr Duma’s study can also be used by higher education institutions to inform their infrastructural planning. Such planning will be part of what Dr Duma has described as “Inclusive education”, which is “important as no student need to be left behind”. Dr Duma commented that in general, Universities were not built with students with disabilities in mind. A lot still needs to be done to make our institutions friendly for students with disabilities, said Dr Duma.

Dr Duma read for her PhD at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Forensic investigation exonerates Council Chairperson

Mr Morailane Morailane

The Council of Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) has re-instated its chairperson, Mr Morailane Morailane after he was exonerated of any wrongdoing through a Council-commissioned forensic investigation by SNG-Thornton. The final report of the investigation was tabled at the virtual meeting of the University Council held through Microsoft Teams on 23 October 2020. Council adopted the report after deliberation.

In a statement to the MUT community, Interim Chairperson Dr Zethu Qunta informed the University community of Council’s resolution that it “should invite back to Council, members of Council, such as the Chairperson of Council, whom the SNG-Thornton report has exonerated”. The investigation was commissioned to probe alleged corruption and irregularities at the University.

Dr Qunta’s statement also added that the Acting Vice-Chancellor & Principal, Professor Marcus Ramogale will continue in his acting capacity. “The university community and all stakeholders are requested to give the Acting Vice-Chancellor and his management team maximum support as they execute their duties and responsibilities,” said Dr Qunta.

Acting VC expresses gratitude to staff as first semester ends

Professor Ramogale

Professor Marcus Ramogale, Acting Vice-Chancellor & Principal of MUT expressed gratitude to staff for their contribution as he announced the official end to the first semester after the country went under Lockdown.

In his email, Prof Ramogale said, “Saturday, 31 October, marks the end of our reorganized first semester. It is appropriate, as this momentous event approaches, to write to you to express my appreciation for your contribution to our endeavour to save the academic year. Our successful conclusion of the first semester has been a collective effort, and I would like to thank each and every one of you.”

Using a powerful Zulu idiom, ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’: I am, not because I am, but because we are, Prof Ramogale expressed his humility and graciousness to both staff and students who all rose to the occasion in saving lives and saving the academic year. “The worst could have happened, but because of all your efforts to comply with the new normal, we are now able to complete our reorganized first semester without having experienced interruptions. You were called upon to do things differently, and you all adapted impeccably and unconditionally. Not a single one of you complained. Instead, some of you even went the extra mile by assuming more responsibilities.”

Second semester registration takes-off at MUT

Zolisa Gqamane

This week, Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) started its semester registration for the 446 spaces available at the University. Zolisa Gqamane, Deputy Registrar: Academic Administration and Examinations, said the University received 4 461 applications, which is over ten times the number of available spaces.

Students who applied to the Faculty of Management Sciences got the opportunity to register first this week. “The programmes that we are registering at this time from the Faculty of Management Sciences are those that are being phasing out,” said Zolisa. “These are B. Tech programmes in the Department of Accounting and Law, and some programmes in the Department of Public Administration and Economics.”
Students in the Faculties of Engineering and Natural Sciences will follow next week. The Department of Electrical Engineering received 1113 applications alone, making it the most popular department for applicants.

Programmes in the faculties of Engineering and Natural Sciences will register from 2 November 2020, taking both new and returning students. All students will register online, in line with the COVID-19 protocols and regulations.

“A link will be sent to new students to guide them as to how they will register online,” said Zolisa. Applicants were further advised to consult the University website for information; alternatively, they can also contact University Admissions call centre during office hours, on 031 819 9287, or 031 819 9286. He further added, “Only applicants that have accepted their offers, or would have accepted their offers before 2 November 2020, will be registered. There will be no walk-ins. Applicants who fail to accept their offers before the closing date may have their offers withdrawn and space given to other applicants. Lectures for the second semester are set to commence on 9 November 2020. The University has re-adjusted its academic calendar as a result of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

New LED screens as communication platform

Additional communication platform

Both the main and Faculty of Natural Sciences campuses are now spotting huge LED waterproof screens. These new screens will add another communication platform for the University’s message.

Mbali Mkhize, Senior Director: Marketing and Communications, said the screens were part of a grand strategy by her department to ensure that staff and students received the messages meant for them. “This is a massive addition to our communication platforms. It comes at a time when we have to see to it that our communication processes are streamlined, given that the messages we have to communicate are urgent and could be life-saving. The screens will give us a chance to post multiple messages within a reasonably short time,” said Mbali.

Mbali said inputting will be controlled by the department, and that would drastically improve communication with staff and students.

MUT applauds neighbouring school’s performance and offer assistance

Sibongile Bulose, standing, right, addressing the learners

Good performance should be recognised and encouraged. This was the case when the Schools Liaison at MarComms and Student Counselling staff at Department of Student Affairs paid a visit to Umbelebele High School in Umlazi Township’s Q Section on 27 October 2020.

Sibongile Bulose, Schools Liaison Officer in the Department of Marketing and Communications, said the trip was sparked by the latest news from the school. “Recently the school has shown a marked improvement. In the September trials it achieved 85.5% pass rate. This is a strong commitment on the part of both learners and teachers,” said Sibongile.

The visit’s purpose was to motivate learners to do well in their academic studies, particularly in the upcoming examination, with the emphasis on balancing studies and social life.

Addressing the learners, Ayanda Bulose, Schools Liaison Assistant at MUT said: “In your preparation for exams always remember the five Ps – Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Dream big. Do not be afraid to be true to yourselves. Work hard. Hard work pays. Pace yourselves well.”

The MUT teams also talked to the learners about the careers; this was also a way of preparing the learners for life in general. The Schools Liaison team encouraged learners who have not applied to take advantage of the late application date.

The visit, which was part of the University’s Anchor Strategy, indicated a need to work with Umbelelebele High School for various developmental programmes. The school has been under-performing in the previous years. Lungile Mkhize, a psychologist at the Student Counselling unit, told learners about the services that the unit offers, and that the unit was open to the general public.

Nature Conservation department hosts Marine Life Awareness Campaign

The meeting was held outdoors because of Covid-19 regulations

Nature Conservation and Ecosystems Rehabilitation and Restoration (ERR) hosted the Marine Life Awareness Campaign at the University on 21 October 2020. Sithembile Nkosi, a Lecturer in the department, said the event highlighted the damage that humans are causing upon the marine ecosystem. According to Sithembile, the event also brought to the fore the importance of the marine ecosystems, the threats to such ecosystems, and the mitigation measures.

“There is a number of major threats, and these interfere with the marine food chain, and the general marine ecosystem. For instance, the plastics that are dumped into the sea end up choking the turtles that mistake them for food. The oil spills also cause a lot of damage on the marine life, as do the domestic affluence. The latter changes the temperature of the water, and forces marine animals to the surface where they are picked up by predators,” said Sithembile.

Sithembile said the main mitigation measure was the knowledge that people should have regarding the causes of problems in the marine ecosystem. “The level of awareness of the problems, and improving the enforcement of the applicable regulations, and ensuring the proper environmental impact assessment process are followed, will go a long way in protecting the marine ecosystem,” said Sithembile.

Like last year, the Department of Nature Conservation students were a big part of the campaign. Sithembile added that the students did the presentations and she was more than pleased with the quality of their presentations.

“What was even more heartening was the fact that those were first-year students. This highlights the commitment of our students, even at this level of their study. This augurs well for the kind of graduates we are going to produce. These students are already environmentally sensitive,” said Sithembile.

Department of Infrastructure hands over new walkway to Maintenance

The new walkway on the main campus

On 29 October 2020, the Operations Department handed over a campus beautification and health and safety improvement project to the Department of Maintenance. Lindokuhle Mzolo, Infrastructure Projects Coordinator, said the walkway project added another structure that both staff and students would use.

He added that the project achieved its intended purpose, which was to turn the walkway towards the Seme sports grounds into a conducive structure that can be used without the risk of slipping. The walkway can now also be used as a training facility as it has steps that extend to about 100 metres.
Lindo said that the project was the first phase of projects of a similar nature which are being rolled out to provide conducive walkway facilities as part of the broader University infrastructure improvement in line with the University’s goal of creating an enabling and supporting environment at the institution.

Accepting the project, Kenyatta Makhoba, MUT Works Manager, congratulated the Infrastructure division for a job well-done on the project. “We will ensure that we maintain the standard of the project.”

Health & Safety enforces the wearing of masks

In spite of the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ramogale’s pleas to staff and students to adhere to protocols of preventing COVID-19 infections, there is still a huge number of both of these stakeholders that refuses to wear masks and to social distance. Fearing the worst that could happen, Mr Lizwi Masondo, the Compliance Officer and Sr. Nomusa Mkhwanazi, the COVID-19 Convenor set up a meeting to discuss how best students and staff could be forced to prevent infections. The meeting agreed that naming and shaming will be part of the strategies to mitigate infections. There will be marshals across the University who will be looking out for those individuals who refuse to protect others. This week, we present the Khovy of the week campaign For those of you who have not followed the story of Khovy, remember to tune in on Reflections, to get a sense of what a wayward person Khovy is. You do not want to be like Khovy!

MUT’s first semester draws to a close

Mike Naidoo, MUT Registrar

It must have been with a great relief for MUT’s executive management that the first semester is drawing to a close. Most semester students have completed their first semester assessments. In preparation for registration from 2-6 November 2020, MUT Registrar, Mike Naidoo’s office could not have been prouder. It rolled these assessments under very difficult COVID-19 protocols. The unchartered territory became the new norm. No COVID-19 cases emerged during this new norm. Mike Naidoo has sent details of new semester registration protocols under COVID-19. “One of the main focus in this new normal is less contact. The new registration protocols see to it that students may not even need to move to new residences. They should be safe where they are. Even coming to campus during registration is strictly discouraged. Most of the registration will be online,” said Mike.

Student recruitment under strict COVID-19 protocols

Ayanda Bulose, middle, with learners

The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated an immediate mind-shift in all sectors. MUT has not been spared.  In order to keep the new applications coming through for the MUT class of 2021, the student recruitment team at Marcomms has had to brace themselves for more strategic ways of getting the job done.  To a large extent, student recruitment has shifted to online platforms and the MUT team has been employing a range of integrated marketing communications activities; taking student recruitment to platforms such as Facebook Live, WhatsApp channel, and email.  The demand of the new normal has laid bare the challenges of learners in rural schools. Most of these leaners do not have access and the means to access online communication.

“Our statistics show that MUT enjoys a big supply of quality students from schools in far-flung areas like kwaHlabisa, Nquthu, Vryheid, Newcastle and other deep rural areas.  We had to literally go straight to the eye of the storm in search of these learners.  Since the country moved to Lockdown Level 1, we have visited more than 300 deep rural schools to recruit students.   In doing this, we never let our guard down because we are fully aware that COVID-19 is still with us.  We take extra precautions like making sure that we constantly sanitise our hands, wear masks and shields and if necessary we quarantine ourselves after attending student recruitment events where we interacted with large crowds,” said Ayanda Bulose, Schools Liaison Officer at Marcomms.

This week the team has dedicated more time visiting Umlazi schools to assist learners with applications for admission as well as assisting with NSFAS applications.  Later in the week the team will be at KwaHlabisa providing a similar service to learners in that area as well.  The extension of the closing date for applications to 30 November 2020 has provided an opportunity for MUT to intensify student recruitment targeting diverse learners across all quintiles.

It has been a very stressful time for matric learners and educators. The visits by the MUT student recruitment team has received very positive feedback and has been applauded as giving learners hope to look forward to their first year at tertiary next year.

Management Sciences hosts workshop to strengthen research culture

Prof Logan Naidoo

As many staff members receive their terminal qualifications and more postdoctoral fellows join MUT, research continues to get imbedded in the institution. The research professors have been a useful resource for staff members pursuing their terminal qualifications along with those who want to publish their work in peer-reviewed journals.

This week, the Faculty of Management Sciences hosted a research workshop seminar to discuss inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary research, which is research produced through a combination of two or more academic disciplines. This type of research has been touted in academia as the potential solution to many of society’s problems. The day’s presentation, titled Introduction to inter-disciplinary and transdisciplinary research, was delivered by Professor Evan Mantzaris and Professor Logan Naidoo, Head of Department of Human Resources Management.

Speaking during the virtual seminar, Dr Bheka Ntshangase, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences said the purpose of the seminar was to enhance the culture of research in the faculty.

In their presentation, Professors Mantzaris and Naidoo took their audience through what inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary research entailed from a theoretical framework point of view, the methodology, data analysis and research ethics.

Professor Naidoo said: “The world is going through a complex, challenging and dangerous era. What has been called ‘contemporary sustainable development’ can only become a reality through the cooperation of politicians, innovators, researchers, academics and specialists with diverse backgrounds.”

However, Professor Mantzaris explained that although this kind of research was instrumental in solving society’s problems, it also presents a challenge of ownership for academia. Since postgraduate students are registered to specific departments and there is currently no department of transdisciplinary research, he wondered who would receive credit for a student who completes research in transdisciplinary studies.

The seminar produced stimulating intellectual debate on combining qualitative and quantitative research and issues of validity and reliability of results.

eThekwini Municipality conducts virtual workshop to empower MUT students interested in waste management

Sihle Mbeko

In line with health protocols to prevent COVID-19, eThekwini Municipality conducted a workshop for MUT students who are part of the Waste Management Ambassadors (WMA) Community Engagement project. This workshop is conducted face-to-face annually to capacitate students who are interested in managing one of the world’s biggest problems, waste. This year, 60 students from the Departments of Community Extension, Environmental Health and Nature Conservation participated in the workshop.

Sihle Mbeko, Education Officer from eThekwini Cleansing and Solid Waste Division, presented the municipality’s Integrated Waste Management Approach to students, highlighting the value of “Reuse, Reduction and Recycling of waste”.

“Let us start recycling now, for our benefit and the benefit of our future generation,” said Sihle. “Think before you throw anything as it might be of great value.”

The workshop was chaired by Kwanele Chiya, Community Extension student and WMA mentor. Kwanele encouraged other students to think outside the box and come up with innovative ways to help the university with finding solutions to waste management. He encouraged fellow students to consider waste management entrepreneurship as waste is a growing problem. Waste management entrepreneurship could potentially provide much needed income generation stream given the high rate of unemployment in South Africa.

Mechanical Engineering Lecturer receives Master of Engineering from CPUT

Zakhele Zondi

It was all fanfare in the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Engineering’s office as Professor Babatunde Bakare received wonderful news of the addition of yet another Master of Engineering (M.Eng) qualification to the Faculty. This time, it was Mechanical Engineering Lecturer, Zakhele Zondi, who received his qualification from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

Zakhele was reading for his M.Eng in the area of vibrations where his thesis title was Numerical and experimental procedures for determining characteristics of Stockbridge dampers. He explains that a Stockbridge damper “is a tuned mass damper used to suppress wind-induced vibrations on slender structures such as overhead power lines, long cantilevered signs and cable-stayed bridges. The damper is designed to dissipate the energy of oscillations in the main cable to an acceptable level.”

Supervised by CPUT’s Dr Modify A.E Kaunda, Zakhele’s work will contribute to the sustainability of electricity supply, an area that has received significant attention in South Africa given the electricity supply challenge and its resultant load-shedding. “The purpose of the research is to propose improvements to the structural arrangement of Stockbridge dampers used on transmission lines, in order to increase the life of these dampers. Failure of a damper leads to failure of the transmission line, which then leads to power outage. An increase in the lifespan of Stockbridge dampers will reduce the life-cycle costs of transmission lines,” said Zakhele.

This meant that Zakhele had to study the characteristics of asymmetric Stockbridge dampers to determine their efficiency and reliability. Mathematical models had to be developed and experiments were conducted on sample Stockbridge dampers. The results of all this work will be used to develop a new model. Zakhele will not have to wait long before he can put all his work to practice.

Like adding icing to a perfectly baked cake, Zakhele has already registered to continue the study at Doctor of Engineering level. It is here where the work he did for his M.Eng will be developed into a real life model that could be used. “I will be designing a new Stockbridge damper, manufacture it and (it will) be tested in the vibration research facility,” Zakhele said.

MUT Waste Management Ambassadors team up with partners to celebrate national marine month

Hard at work! Waste Management Ambassadors on clean-up

October is the national marine month. This important occasion is celebrated by raising awareness of the dangers that threaten the marine ecosystem and encourage the public to take part in the protection and conservation of this ecosystem. For the MUT Waste Management Ambassadors (WMA), this has meant partnering with industry and other key role players to reduce ocean pollution.

This year, the WMA partnered with Pick n Pay People and Planet Division, KZN Beach Cleanup Association, Durban Solid Waste and Isphepho Enviro Ambassadors to clean the Durban beach and raise awareness on marine pollution.

Londiwe Mbuyisa, Nature Conservation Senior Lecturer and WMA project leader said community engagement projects like the WMA allowed MUT students and lecturers to become part of practical solutions to environmental problems.

The recent rainfall that Durban received over the past weeks brought deposition of solid waste from various stream channels into Durban beaches. Matthew Lecheko, Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Health and one of the project facilitators, said marine ecosystems play a vital role in regulating our climate, controlling pollution and in providing important breeding and nursery habitats for our marine life. Matthew was delivering a morning brief to the team of 40 MUT WMA students that participated in the clean-up.

Zwelakithi Dlamini, a student in the Department of Nature Conservation and a Mentor to junior WMA members, said that the team collected over 60 bags of waste that could have ended up in the ocean, killing marine life.

Students who took part in the clean-up were from the Department of Nature Conservation, Environmental Health and Community Extension.

The University takes drastic steps to enforce COVID-19 protocols

Lizwi Masondo

Being concerned with the lack of adherence to the COVID-19 protocols; Lizwi Masondo, the MUT COVID-19 Compliance Officer, convened a meeting with strategic colleagues at the University to find solutions to the problem. Such colleagues were from the Student Affairs department, Protection Services, the Marketing and Communications department, and the Clinic. Lizwi said: “The problem is so big, it is scary. It looks like some of us think that moving the country to Lockdown Level 1 has meant that the Coronavirus is no longer with us. On a number of occasions, I have noticed both staff and students not wearing their masks; or they wear them, as soon as they have gone beyond the gate, they take them off, or push them down and expose the nose and mouth. Obviously this is not how the mask is supposed to be worn. Some staff members refuse to be sanitised at the gate. They say they have their own sanitisers. That is risky. What if they forget to use their sanitisers as they leave the car? Everybody becomes exposed,” said Lizwi.

During the meeting the team took a number of resolutions which are aimed at ensuring that everyone complies with COVID-19 protocols so that the University and the public are safe from the pandemic and the possibility of a second wave.

Lizwi said one of the resolutions taken at the meeting was for the Marketing and Communications department to run a campaign to remind staff and students to adhere to the applicable protocols. “The Department of Marketing and Communications has already started preparations for the campaign to remind staff and students about adhering to COVID-19 protocols and the consequences of failure to do so,” said Lizwi. Lizwi also mentioned that the University will take measures against non-compliers.

The other resolution is for MUT management to conduct a walk-about across the University, impressing upon those not complying that drastic steps would be taken against them.  “Our hands are tied in many ways. We are no longer able to distribute flyers to students and staff as scientists have said the virus can survive on the paper surface for some hours. We will use word-of-mouth, and the loud hailer to get our message across,” said Lizwi.

Lizwi also appealed to staff and students to look after the sanitisers, and report if sanitisers are no longer available at the sanitising stations.

Brotherhood and Sisterhood events empower students to be positive role-models

On 14 and 15 October 2020, the Department of Student Affairs hosted its annual Sisterhood and Brotherhood programmes online. Dr Paulette Naidoo, the Director: Student Counselling said they did not want to “disappoint” the students, and decided to use technology to run the programmes.

The theme of the Brotherhood session was “Man of Substance”. The theme aimed to encourage young males to consider the values, principles and behaviours that constitute a ‘man of substance’. “The Student Counselling unit is particularly concerned about rates of GBV, alcohol and drug abuse, and the tendency to give in to peer pressure, and engage in negative activities which can adversely affect one’s academic progress at University,” said Dr Naidoo. The guest speakers were Sithembiso Ndlazi from the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA), and serial entrepreneur, Sbusiso Leope (popularly known as DJ Sbu).

The speakers advised students about respect for themselves and others; be authentic and true to oneself as opposed to giving in to peer pressure and negative male stereotypes; have the right priorities; and hold oneself and other males accountable for irresponsible and unjust behaviours and actions, like alcohol and drug abuse, and Gender-Based Violence.

Students who attended the event emphasised the need for more frequent Brotherhood sessions that continued to focus on male mental health, poor help-seeking behaviours, and alcohol and drug abuse.

The Sisterhood theme, on the hand, was “Real queens fix each other’s crowns”. The event sought to highlight the need for women to look after each other, and not let each other down. Dr Naidoo said they expected the MUT female students to inspire each other by doing what is good.  “This is especially important in the context of GBV, where women need to build each other up and collectively stand against GBV perpetrated against women” said Dr Naidoo. Guest speaker Jabulisile Langa, Site Manager at Thuthuzela Care Centre, an affiliate to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), emphasized the importance of female codes of solidarity, loyalty and respect for each other. Jabulisile also informed the students about the resources they could utilize to educate and support each other. The Thuthuzela Care Centre is at Umlazi Township.

The second Sisterhood speaker, Ayanda Borotho, an acclaimed actress, former model, author and motivational speaker; emphasized the importance of females reflecting on and confronting their own pain and underlying insecurities which manifest in the ‘degrading and dethroning’ of female peers.

Ayanda reminded students that they “cannot heal what we do not reveal”. She challenged the female audience to interrogate what the concept of ‘sisterhood’ embodies, and to strive towards creating ‘sisterhood spaces’ where aspects such as solidarity, inclusivity, safety and security, honesty and pen-mindedness could be nurtured and expressed collectively.

Nature Conservation celebrates annual Weed Buster Week

Sithembile Nkosi

The Department of Nature Conservation has used its participation in the annual weed busting celebration by removing alien plant species on the verge of the Faculty of Natural Sciences fence.

Sithembile Nkosi, a lecturer in the department, said the removal of alien plants by Nature Conservation students on 8 October 2020 was part of the Ecosystems Rehabilitation and Restoration Community Engagement Project (ERR) mandate to identify, prioritise and restore degraded ecosystems around KwaZulu-Natal.  Weed busting celebration was part of the South African Weed Buster Week, an annual event that was initiated by the Department of Environmental Affairs. The event is aimed at highlighting the importance of controlling, managing, and eradicating alien plants in the country.

Winile Dludla, second year Nature Conservation student who took apart in the removal of alien plants, said the initiative was important because alien plants took up too much space at the expense of indigenous plants, and consume a lot of water. She said they identified 31 alien plants and removed them in a manner that ensured that they did not regrow. “We use hand pulling, slashing, and herbicides,” said Winile.

The species which were eradicated included Ricinus communis (Castor oil plant), Annona glabra (Monkey Apple), Ipomoea purpurea (Morning glory), Senna didymobotrya (Peanut-butter cassia), Solanum mauritianum (Bugweed), Lantana camara (Tickberry) and Sesbania punicea (Red sebania).

Peer Helpers reinvigorate student support

A Peer Helper at one of the student residences

Recognising the role of peers in supporting fellow students, the Student Counselling Unit at the Department of Student Affairs has conducted two programmes to assist students with their academic challenges. The programmes are a result of the department’s recognition of some of the pressures that students face as a result of the COVID-19.

On 2 October 2020, the Peer Helpers set up tables in student residences and invited students to share their concerns and problems. Lungi Mkhize, Student Counsellor at the unit, said the “Friday Table” was being used “as a platform to engage with students on their current adjustment challenges and needs; and to create awareness about the range of student support services and resources available at the Student Counselling Unit.”  This programme happens on Fridays.

In August and September, Peer Helpers conducted a programme that was aimed at supporting University students in residence during Covid-19 Lockdown. ‘Touching Base’, as the programme is called, was run with students at their residences. Lungi said the online programme afforded students the opportunity to discuss topical issues affecting them since their return to University. “Evident from the ‘Touching Base’ programme was that MUT students were experiencing a range of personal, academic and learnership/employment-related anxieties stemming from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. Lungi added that that students and peer helpers were able to share information, and support each other. Students also collectively brainstormed ideas and solutions to their challenges under the supervision and guidance of Student Counsellors in the unit.

Birthday surprise for Acting Vice-Chancellor

Professor Ramogale, sitting, with his colleagues on his ‘happy day’

A very stunned Professor Marcus Ramogale had to compose himself after his colleagues decided to organise a surprise birthday celebration for him on 14 October 2020. Offering the usual smile that has given MUT assurance over the years, Professor Ramogale said to the ‘conspirators’: “you all can act”, as his colleagues burst out singing Happy Birthday! Most of these colleagues were Executive Committee Members. Professor Ramogale had planned to have a quiet birthday with his family.

The University senior staff highlighted Professor Ramogale’s quiet but effective leadership. Dr Johan van Koller, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Resources and Planning, pointed out the calmness with which Professor Ramogale was leading the University, and that Professor Ramogale was an objective individual. Dr Manyane Makua, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, applauded Professor Ramogale for his leadership, particularly at these tough times.

Responding to comments by his colleagues, Professor Ramogale highlighted that the contribution by his colleagues was making it easy for him to meet the obligations and expectations of the Department of Higher Education and Training. “Your contribution has led to stability at the University,” said Professor Ramogale. Responding on comments about his leadership skills, the Acting Vice-Chancellor told staff that everyone could be a leader as “leadership could be learnt”.

He said that a leader must have the right approach. He said power alone was not enough. “You need to be a philosopher king,” he said.

Hands Off Me, Perve campaign against sexual harassment

Hands off me

In less than six weeks, South Africa will be rallying behind the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign. There will be lots of speeches and campaigns and the world will continue later on as normal. Women and children will continue to be abused because ill-minded individuals cannot admit their addiction towards abuse. Today, we are pleased to announce a campaign against sexual abuse of students and staff spearheaded by Dr Manyane Makua. The campaign is ‘Hands Off Me, Perve’. It is a call to action for the University community to root out abuse on women and children. Speaking at EMC last week, Dr Makua who was acting as Vice-Chancellor at the time said, “I cannot believe for the life of me that some people could be preying on our students. These are children sent to study and we should be parents to them and help them navigate a successful student experience.” Dr Makua insisted on a sustainable programme that will protect “our students and staff as there could even be staff impacted by sexual harassment activities”. The ‘Hands Off Me, Perve’ campaign purports to show students that the University has taken a serious stand against Gender-Based Violence; and the campaign is strongly aligned to the Draft Policy on Sexual Harassment against students. With support from management, the focus on sexual harassment is meant to provide students with a great experience while on campus and an assurance that the university will not tolerate any acts of abuse. To report abuse, use the following platforms: 0800 228 999 | | The identity of those who report will remain anonymous.

Natural Sciences lecture warns against lowering guard against COVID-19

Dr Kuben Naidoo

The rate of new COVID-19 infections might be low but South Africa and the rest of the world are not out of the woods yet. This is according to Dr Kuben Naidoo, Senior Lecturer at MUT’s Department of Nature Conservation, during a lecture he delivered on Tuesday, 6 October 2020.

In his lecture address, titled COVID-19: A threat on a global scale, Dr Naidoo gave an explanation of the nature and behaviour of the notorious Coronavirus, and how it transfers from animals to human being. Dr Naidoo reminded virtual attendees that South Africa was at risk of being hit by the second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Responding to a question from one of the attendees, Dr Naidoo mentioned that “there will be a second wave” in South Africa; a sentiment that was also echoed by Professor Roger Coopoosamy, Acting Head of Department of Nature Conservation. Dr Naidoo appealed to everyone not to be complacent. “The Coronavirus is going to be with us for a long time since there is no vaccine yet. We just need to learn to live with the virus,” he said. He added that there was still to learn about the Coronavirus.

Dr Naidoo further emphasised the need for everyone to abide by the COVID-19 protocols to limit the spread of the disease. Professor Coopoosamy reminded fellow attendees that the total eradication of the virus was not possible as yet. Professor Coopoosamy explained to participants that there is no vaccine for the common flu, even though people have been living with this flu for ages. He pointed out that the same could be true with the Coronavirus, which is in fact a kind of flu.

The battle is still on – messages in restrooms

Messages everywhere to keep everyone safe

Although things seem to be almost back to normal after the national Lockdown, the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic remains real despite the lowering of Lockdown alert levels. MUT remains on high alert. The University’s Department of Marketing and Communications is not leaving anything to chance; it has now extended its awareness messages to the restrooms. The Senior Director: Marketing and Communications, Mbali Mkhize said one of the ways to get the message across was through putting up messages in places where they are least expected. “Restrooms are one of the places that are frequented by staff and students. We thought we needed to post some of the messages there so that all will remember that we are still in the war against COVID-19. As much as we appreciate the fact that students and staff are doing their part, we are aware that everyone still needs to be careful. In fact, this could be the most dangerous time when people might think that things are back to normal since the President’s last announcement. We want to remind our stakeholders to remain on high alert despite the opening of the economy,” said Mbali.

Kudos to tutors for closing the academic gap

Dr Bwapwa, fourth from left, with his tutors

Like all post-school education institutions, MUT utilises tutors to assist students with their course material to improve their academic performance, which leads to a better throughput rate. At least two of the University’s academics, Dr Vince Ndou of the Department of Community Extension, and Dr Joseph Bwapwa of the Department of Civil Engineering, rely on the work of tutors to help students with their academic work. “Tutors can help strengthen subject comprehension, boost confidence, and build important learning skills to students,” said Dr Ndou, who is a Lecturer. Dr Ndou said he has always believed that supplemental learning to students was the best way of improving understanding of course content because tutoring gives students individualized attention that they do not get in a crowded classroom during the normal lecture times. Dr Ndou said he uses tutors from the Department of Community Extension to increase the throughput rate for the agricultural modules he teaches. He said one of those tutors also helps to keep students on track during their study time during recess.

Similarly, Dr Bwapwa said that unlike lecturers, tutors form personal relationships with students, which makes it easier for students to approach tutors about their academic challenges. Dr Bwapwa also said that the relationship between tutors and lecturers channels the former towards a career in academia. “Such a relationship may be part of succession planning,” said Dr Bwapwa. Dr Bwapwa added that he picked one of the best students to help in tackling students’ academic issues in order to produce well-equipped engineers.

Dr Bwapwa has nine tutors who assist over 400 students that he lectures across three levels of study. Some of these tutors are Thabani Sikhakhane, an S4 student; Ngcebo Kunene, an S3 student; Xolani Nkosi, another S3 student; Ayanda Gumede, an S2 student; and Ximba Minenhle, another S3 student. Dr Bwapwa said that what encouraged him was that he had people he looked up to when he was a student. For him the tutoring system gives tutors the same opportunity.

One of the tutors, Mfundo Mlambo, an S3 student, said his duties were helping students to cope with academic work. “I inspire them and share tricks on how to master exam questions, and understand the dynamics of life at the university,” said Mfundo.

Tshifhiwa Muravha, an S4 student, said that being a tutor has helped her personally and professionally. She said she learnt time management, among other things. Tshifhiwa heaped praises upon Dr Bwapwa for guiding her through S1.

New HoDs for Electrical Engineering and Nature Conservation

At the meeting of Senate on Thursday, 8 October 2020, Acting Vice-Chancellor & Principal, Professor Marcus Ramogale announced the appointment of Richard Chidzonga as Head of Department of Electrical Engineering and Professor Roger Coopoosamy as Acting Head of Department of Nature Conservation. MUT wishes them the best in their new positions.

LIVING FIT – by Lungi Nhlanhla, nutritional advisor


Lungile Nhlanhla

LIVING FIT – by Lungi Nhlanhla, nutritional advisor



Start your LIVING-FIT journey today! Joining the MUT LIVING-FIT movement is free to all staff members and students.  Book your free cardiovascular assessment done at the campus clinic. Talk to Lungi our in-house nutritional advisor (0319077254/ and then follow our regular posts on the GnF.

This week’s LIVING FIT topic is ‘obesity’. This year’s theme is: “Make eating whole foods a way of life”.  This theme will have a big impact upon the health talks we are going to have in the coming weeks, starting this week. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines obesity and overweight as “having excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health”. WHO’s ‘crude’ population measure of obesity is the body mass index (BMI), a person’s weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of his or her height (in metres). In terms of this measurement, the relationship between your height and weight is important. It determines if you are obese or not.

Did you know that 31% of men, and 68% of women in South Africa are obese? Being overweight or obese not only affects your self-esteem; it also leads to heart diseases, and potentially an early death. This is a big problem, not only in adults but also in children. In South Africa, 13% of children are obese.  As a parent, you can reduce the risk of obesity in your children by ensuring that they eat healthy at home and at school and that they play or exercise regularly.

Some sobering statistics include that physical inactivity is responsible for 9% of premature deaths worldwide, yet 31% of adults worldwide (50% of South Africans) are physically inactive. To reduce the chances of obesity, please exercise regularly. Start small so you are not overwhelmed. Make good preparations. This is a change in your lifestyle. You will need to make some changes in your diet. You may need to buy a new training gear. Make sure you buy a good pair of training shoes. A discussion with a well-informed salesperson at a sport shop will help. Using wrong training shoes will hurt your joints, and discourage you from exercising.

Below is this week’s recipe. No Deep Fry Quick Crispy Fish and Chips

3 Fillets of fish (your choice and with skin on)
2 tablespoons (30ml) Dijon mustard
1/2 cup (125ml) Panko Crumbs (or any bread crumb or crumbing, preferably brown or whole wheat)
1 tablespoon (15ml) Seafood Spice Mix

1. Pat each fillet dry using a paper towel.
2. Brush each fillet with Dijon mustard covering only the fleshy surfaces.
3. In a bowl combine the crumbs with seafood spice and dip the mustard-covered parts of each fillet to evenly coat.
4. In a hot pan, heat a little amount of oil and sear each fillet skin side down first for a minute on each side to brown evenly.
5. Place the pan into a preheated oven for 3-5 minutes. Once removed, serve the fish with crispy veggie fried and salad. link for a step-by-step recipe video.



Females should have a waist circumference of 88cm or less. Males should have a waist circumference of 102cm or below.

Exercise of the week


Planks are great because they work your core and will help you reduce your waist circumference. Planks work the whole body. This naturally results in a strong posture and overall strength.

On an exercise mat, or a beach towel, lie down on the floor face down, palms on the floor. Bend elbows to your chest. Your elbow and shoulder must be in a straight line. Keep your palms on the floor. Balance on your toes, keeping legs and shoulders width apart. Keeping your body straight, raise your body off the floor by tightening your stomach, thighs and bum muscles. Take care not to raise your bum, use your back or dip your hips, then hold this plank position for a minimum of 30 seconds. Keep your body straight and parallel to the ground.

Do three sets per day. Start from 30 seconds and build up to 50 seconds per day. Try to push to 60 seconds. The target is three 60-second sessions per day by the end of one month.

Until next week, cheers everybody.

University network set to be more secure as staff get empowered

Njabulo Xaba

Today is the last day of Cyber Security Awareness Week presentations. Njabulo Xaba, IT Security Specialist at the Department of Information Technology and Networks (IT&N) said MUT staff have been attending the presentations in their numbers. “This is a clear indication that staff take security of our network seriously. We hope this will translate to a massive improvement in the protection of our data, and information. The presentations are meant to empower our staff,” said Njabulo.

The MUT Registrar, Mike Naidoo was very appreciative of this initiative. “As an institution we need to ensure we have systems in place to prevent cyber infiltration, and in this regard, we rely on the expertise of our IT personnel. Should there be a data breach then as per the Protection of Personnel Information Act (POPIA) we could be fined up to a R1 million,” said Mike. The Institution stores large volumes of personal data which belongs to all its stakeholders. The Registrar said that any breach in the security of the system would have disastrous results for the University.

Dr Manyane Makua, who is the Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal this week, thanked staff for taking part in the initiative, and applauded IT&N for organizing the presentations, and for bringing experts with requisite knowledge and expertise. Dr Makua said that management had noted that the efforts of the IT&N had helped in bringing to the attention of everyone the risks and dangers in the cyber space that could cause damage on the University’s systems.

Throughout the week staff also got a chance to win prizes. Today one of those winners will walk away with the ultimate prizes.

Nature Conservation plants trees to celebrate Arbor month

Themba Shiba, Enduduzweni community leader, in blue, plants the first tree. Looking on are Sithembile, on Themba’s right, and the students

On the last day of September 2020, the Department of Nature Conservation planted trees at Enduduzweni, a place for the visually impaired. This was part of the department’s Arbour Month celebrations.

September is recognised the world over as Arbor Month, a time to plant trees, and to revive the relationship people have with the environment. Enduduzweni is neighbour to the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

Sithembile Nkosi, a Lecturer in the department, said they decided to plant these ‘lungs of the earth’ because they are an important source of life and contribute to the environmental process. Sithembile said during September various efforts are coordinated planting trees and raising awareness on the importance of plants.

Quoting the Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries, Makhotso Sotyu, Sithembile said the protection of the trees and forests was key to a healthy environment. “This includes the reduction of greenhouse gases through the absorption of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. The rate of developing industries should be equal to the rate of tree planting; in that way, we can enjoy luxuries provided by current developments while not compromising our future and the future of the next generation.”

Sithembile also said that planting trees was also a form of atonement for the damage that humans are causing upon the environment, and that involving communities would allow them to take ownership of tree planting. This was the case for the community of Enduduzweni; they showed interest in the planting of the trees and asked important questions, one of which was whether the yellowwood tree that was planted would not damage their environment. Some members of the community described the yellowwood as a ‘umnqumo’.

The planting of trees was an initiative of the Ecosystems Rehabilitation and Restoration Community Engagement Project (ERR), which the department runs. ERR believes in partnering with communities, especially the University’s immediate neighbours.