Faculty highlights

19 October 2022 Read time 8 min.
<b>Photo</b> Lerato Maduna.
Photo Lerato Maduna.

UCT tobacco taxation e-library a world first

A comprehensive new e-library focusing on tobacco taxation and illicit trade was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Knowledge Hub at the Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP) in the School of Economics. The e-library is a valuable resource for students, researchers and policymakers and forms part of a global network of seven WHO FCTC Knowledge Hubs, each of which has a different area of expertise.

Major boost for UCT-led national Youth Explorer portal

The Youth Explorer portal, an initiative of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) in the School of Economics, aims to understand the “multiple deprivations” that young people in South Africa face. The optimised portal now lists basic services such as healthcare facilities, learning institutions and labour centres relevant to young people in the country.

UCT team nets inaugural agri-entrepreneurship prize

Economics PhD candidate Julian Kanjere and his team won the inaugural Inqola Food, Equity, Equality and Democracy (FEED) Innovation Prize for their FoodPrint platform. This is an agritech start‑up that’s building a digital and blockchain‑enabled food traceability platform for producers, consumers and others involved in food supply chains.

Using the power of language to open a window on economics

The School of Economics launched the EcoDoc app, a tool that translates over 1 000 economic terms into South Africa’s 11 official languages. The aim is to make it easier for economics students to understand terms and definitions in their home languages.

Asonele Gevenga’s business helps students build a credit history

Building a good credit record while studying is virtually impossible. Yet, it’s a fundamental requirement for life after university. Because Fleeker Finance understands this, the student-led registered credit provider has centred its innovative business model around it. Headed by Asonele Gevenga, a final-year BCom student, the business allows students to borrow small amounts of cash at a nominal interest rate of 2% per month. This enables students to build a healthy credit record while at university.

Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment

Photo Lerato Maduna.

UCT’s first-ever Google Research Scholar Program recipients

Associate Professor Amir Patel and Dr Mohohlo Tsoeu were each awarded the 2021 Google Research Scholar Award. The prestigious award aims to support early-career researchers who are pursuing research in fields relevant to Google. Associate Professor Patel and Dr Tsoeu are the only recipients from an African university to be selected in 2021 and UCT’s first-ever recipients. They are both members of the newly formed African Robotics Unit in the faculty.

UCT prof honoured by the Royal Academy of Engineering

Associate Professor Nico Fischer from the Department of Chemical Engineering was named as a Distinguished International Associate of the Royal Academy of Engineering. This is a new programme for excellent international engineers working across all sectors who are at the cutting edge of engineering research or innovation and have existing collaborations or connections to the United Kingdom, which they would like to intensify.

Prof Abimbola Windapo wins Best Women in African Construction award

In November 2021, Professor Abimbola Windapo received the Best Women in African Construction award, which was announced at the BIM Africa Awards. The award citation said, “Recognised as an exceptional woman of African descent with outstanding performance, amazing feats, and immense contribution to the growth of the African construction industry.”

2021 Corporate Leadership award

The Department of Construction Economics and Management received the 2021 Corporate Leadership award from the International Real Estate Society. The award recognises outstanding leadership at international level in support of real estate research and education. It also acknowledges the department’s support of the African Real Estate Society.

Prof Marianne Vanderschuren DST-NRF/CSIR Smart Mobility Research Chair

Professor Marianne Vanderschuren, from the Centre for Transport Studies in Civil Engineering, was awarded a DST-NRF/CSIR Smart Mobility Research Chair, part of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI).

Faculty of Health Sciences

Photo Lerato Maduna.

Health Sciences Faculty Research Office receives VC Service Excellence Award

The exceptional commitment, expertise and energy of the Health Sciences Faculty Research Office at UCT received acknowledgement when it won the Vice-Chancellor’s Service Excellence Award for 2021. “This award means a lot to us,” said Dr Yolande Harley, the director of the Faculty Research Office. “It’s fantastic, and understandable, that academic staff receive accolades all the time; but it’s not built into the system for PASS staff in the university to receive recognition in the same way. That’s why an award like this is so important.”

UCT leads in training aspiring African neurologists

Training a pool of neurologists in sub-Saharan Africa is an important step towards Africanising the vital discipline of neuroscience on the continent. In addition, it will help to facilitate inter- and cross-disciplinary research and accelerate treatment options for common neurological disorders like stroke and epilepsy, and neurological infections such as tuberculous meningitis (TBM) and HIV-related dementia.

But according to Dr Lawrence Tucker, the head of the Division of Neurology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH), not nearly enough young physicians on the continent are opting to specialise in this branch of medicine. As a result, the discipline is severely under-represented across the African continent.

Neurology is the branch of medicine that diagnoses and manages disorders related to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (the nerves and muscles).

Scientific Leadership Prize for Graeme Meintjes

Professor Graeme Meintjes, an adult infectious diseases physician and the second chair and deputy head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT), has been awarded the 2020 European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) Scientific Leadership Prize for his significant contribution to the improved understanding of HIV and its complications. This prize comes shortly after Professor Meintjes was awarded the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Scientific Merit Award: Gold Medal.

These prestigious awards both honour and acknowledge the important work Meintjes and his team are doing to improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of conditions that affect patients with advanced HIV disease in Africa, in particular, HIV-associated tuberculosis (TB), HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis, immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), the complications of antiretroviral therapy and drug-resistant TB.

New Health Sciences deputy dean talks research, community and service

Taking on the role of acting deputy dean for research in the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Health Sciences just before the predicted third COVID-19 wave was perhaps like surfacing in the brief eye of a storm. But for Professor Liesl Zühlke, the challenge of being part of a multidisciplinary deanery and serving the faculty during the pandemic couldn’t be ignored.

“I think you know me by now. I enjoy new challenges,” she quipped. Before taking the reins from Professor Ambroise Wonkam, whose three-year term ended in April, the paediatric cardiologist was usually to be found at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. In her new role, for a six-month acting period, Professor Zühlke will split her time between the deanery and her clinical and research responsibilities at the hospital.

Health Sciences PhD student awarded Google Fellowship

PhD student Dennis Dogbey, from the Medical Biotechnology and Immunotherapy (MB&I) Research Unit at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine based at the Faculty of Health Sciences, was awarded a 2021 Africa PhD Google Fellowship for Human-Computer Interactions – this year’s only African recipient in this subfield.

Faculty of Humanities

Photo Lerato Maduna.

Prof Asonzeh Ukah appointed editor of prestigious journal

Professor Asonzeh Ukah is the first Africa-based scholar to be appointed editor of Africa in its 95 years of existence. Established in 1926, Africa is the premier journal devoted to the study of African societies and culture and is housed at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

GCRF grant for Assoc Prof Elena Moore

Associate Professor Elena Moore secured a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) networking grant, and has developed a Care of Older Persons in Southern Africa network. The network includes scholars, policy makers and government officials from Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. By building capacity, identifying gaps in knowledge, and prioritising research direction, the network’s activities will have a significant long-term impact on older people in southern Africa. The network will help scholars to understand region-specific issues and will assist leaders, donors, and technical experts in the process of policymaking for elderly care provision.

Prestigious award for UCT’s Dr Portia Malatjie

Dr Portia Malatjie of the Michaelis School of Fine Art has won a prestigious American Council of Learned Society’s African Humanities Fellowship award for 2021. The award will enable Malatjie’s research project titled “An Investigation into the Intersection between Spirituality, Sound and Blackness in Contemporary African Art”, which investigates the relationship between African spiritual practices and African sonic practices as a way of understanding a specifically African conception of Blackness.

Alan Pifer Award for Prof Catherine Ward

Professor Catherine Ward, who leads the Parenting for Lifelong Health research team at UCT, won the 2021 Alan Pifer Award, which is given in recognition of outstanding research that contributes to the advancement and welfare of South Africa’s disadvantaged people. Professor Ward shared the prize with Professor Ambroise Wonkam from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

UCT launches first Sesotho open-access book

Dr Rethabile Possa-Mogoera has authored the institution’s first online Sesotho book. The story shines a spotlight on teenage pregnancy in South Africa and emphasises the importance of strong family ties during a stressful time. Dikeledi ha di wele fatshe (loosely translated as “Tears do not fall in vain”) has been published by UCT Libraries and is available on the open-access continental platform, which means it’s accessible to readers outside the campus community. The book is aimed at high school learners and introduces the concept of teaching and learning an indigenous language using technology.

Faculty of Law

Photo Je’nine May.

New research unit established

Professor Jacqui Yeats led the launch of the new Corporate Law and Governance Unit (CGLU). The CGLU will enhance the Commercial Law department’s focus on corporate law and corporate governance. The launch was a hybrid event held at Webber Wentzel’s Cape Town offices on 14 October 2021, and included inputs from unit director, Professor Yeats; Dr Tebello Tabane; Dr Helena Stoop; Giles White (adjunct associate professor); and Mikovhe Maphiri.

Faculty unit signs MoU with the UNHCR

The Judicial Institute for Arica (JIFA) resides in the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit. In July 2021 JIFA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the International Association of Refugees and Migration Judges and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This collaboration complements the work of the faculty’s Refugee Rights Unit, which has worked in partnership with the UNHCR for several years. This new MoU opens the way for, among other benefits, ensuring easy access to legal resources, policy development information and legal insights for judicial officers and law professionals. This includes ensuring searchable access to 15 legal information institutes across the continent through a federated search tool.

Ties strengthened with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in The Hague, the Netherlands, andUCT in 2021. This memorandum will, inter alia, see a South African drawn from UCT’s Faculty of Law serve as a representative on the PCA and a fellowship programme for UCT graduates established in The Hague.

The PCA is an intergovernmental specialised arbitral institute established by the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. The organisation specialises in the administration of arbitration, conciliation and other dispute resolution procedures among various combinations of states, state entities, intergovernmental organisations and private parties. The PCA also has a strong academic and research arm through its association with the International Council for Commercial Arbitration, which produces key international arbitration publications.

In terms of the new MoU, the PCA’s representative to South Africa will be selected from among UCT law academics, teaching assistants and doctoral students.

Centre for Comparative Law in Africa marks 10 years

The Centre for Comparative Law (CCLA) celebrated its 10th anniversary on 5 December 2021. Professor Ada Ordor, the director of the centre, presented an overview of the work of the CCLA over the past decade. This was followed by an engaging panel discussion featuring fellows of the centre who discussed a range of topics, including, the movement of people in Africa, Chinese Law and Investments in Africa, regional integration and development in Africa, and international trade and the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The centre, which was established to promote the study of the diversity of legal cultures in Africa, draws on the strengths of comparative methodology to research the multi-faceted field of law in Africa.

The centre offers a taught LLM/ MPhil programme in Comparative Business Law in Africa, a research masters, a postgraduate diploma in Comparative Law in Africa and a doctoral programme. Centre research focuses on three major themes: Legal Integration in Africa, Comparative Law, Development and the Rule of Law in Africa, and Comparative Energy Law in Africa.

Honours for faculty colleagues

The UCT College of Fellows recognised Professor Hanri Mostert, SARChI Chair for Mineral Law in Africa, who was officially inducted into the College. Faculty Academic, Ms Lauren Kohn, was also recognised with a College of Fellows Young Researcher Award.

Professor Dee Smythe (Centre for Law and Society) was appointed as the inaugural Coordinator of Global Activities for the international Law & Society Association. The newly created position was specifically designed to bolster the Association’s commitment to expanding its international collaboration, and key responsibilities of this role include advising the LSA president and the trustees on all matters relevant to the LSA’s global role in connecting socio-legal scholars from around the world; and promoting close relations between LSA and other associations, institutions, and centres outside the United States. This appointment recognises and acknowledges the pioneering role Professor Smythe and CLS have played in the field of Law and Society in Africa.

Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric, Philippe-Joseph Salazar was awarded the 2021 UCT Book Award for his work: Words are Weapons: Inside Isis’s Rhetoric of Terror. The book is described as the first to offer “a rigorous, sophisticated analysis of ISIS’s rhetoric and why it is so persuasive”. The UCT Book Award recognises outstanding publications by UCT academics.

Dr Tabeth Masengu is the inaugural recipient of the Christof Heyns Memorial Thesis Award awarded by the Pretoria University Law Press (PULP) in 2021 for the best thesis completed in 2020 by an African doctoral candidate. Dr Masengu’s thesis, titled “What lies beneath the complex nature of appointing women judges in Zambia and South Africa”, will be published by PULP. Professor Hugh Corder (UCT) and Professor Eva Brems (University of Ghent) were co-supervisors for the thesis.

Faculty of Science

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Science “Oscar” for Professor Sheetal Silal

In recognition of her outstanding contributions to science, engineering, technology and innovation in South Africa, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Professor Sheetal Silal received the TW Kambule-NSTF Emerging Researcher award at the NSTF-South32 event. This award is in recognition of Professor Silal’s contribution through combining knowledge from biology, clinical medicine, public health and economics to develop mathematical disease models to help shape health policy and improve the health of the people.

Two UCT profs inducted as members of the Academy of Science of South Africa

Professor Patrick Woudt (Department of Astronomy) and Professor Shadreck Chirikure (Department of Archaeology) were inducted as members of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf).

ASSAf’s core function includes honouring the country’s most outstanding scholars by electing them to membership of the academy. Membership of the academy is a great honour and is in recognition of scholarly achievement. Members give of their time and expertise voluntarily in the service of society.

Climate change expert bags Social Responsiveness Award

Associate Professor Gina Ziervogel has received UCT’s prestigious Social Responsiveness Award in recognition of her work on urban water resilience and social justice and her ongoing efforts towards achieving social justice in her discipline.

Prestigious award for UCT’s Dr Rosalie Tostevin

Dr Rosalie Tostevin has been recognised by international peer reviewers for her potential as a leader in her field. Dr Tostevin, who heads up the Ancient Life and Environments Lab in the Department of Geological Sciences, is the latest UCT researcher to be awarded a prestigious P-rating from the National Research Foundation.

UCT drug discovery trailblazer among Juneteenth biotech leaders

Professor Kelly Chibale, the founder and director of UCT’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D), has been named among 22 rising black biotech leaders in the Timmerman Report, published in the United States (US). Professor Chibale is the only Africa-based scientist included in the group. The list was published to honour innovative black biotech leaders who are changemakers in their fields. Its publication marked Juneteenth (sometimes called Black Independence Day) on 19 June, a US federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of African-American slaves in 1863.


Photo Je’nine May.

The Academic Staff and Professional Development Leadership project unit is established to enhance teaching and learning and student success

In 2021, CHED established the Academic Staff and Professional Development and Leadership (ASPDL) project which aims to support academics by developing and enhancing their ability as university teachers, researchers and members of the UCT academic community at various stages of their academic career. The ASPDL’s cluster of offerings are specifically designed as contexualised and well conceptualised interventions to foreground a critical and socio-cultural approach to professional development in the context of a complex and changing higher education sector. The current suite of programmes are targeted at different stages and phases of the academic’s career from emerging scholars to established academic practitioners and heads of departments. Each of the programmes draw on expertise across CHED.

UCT_CARES chatbot launched

In 2021, UCT_CARES enhanced its central advising and referral services to students by launching an additional chatbot service. The central helpdesk and referral system was implemented by CHED’s Academic Advising Project in 2020. The bot can be accessed via WhatsApp and provides a drop-down FAQ menu, help option and live agent engagement. Through this, UCT_CARES will continue to help students and the greater UCT community to navigate and connect to the help they need.

UCT’s Careers Service holds its lead as Best Careers Service in the country

For more than a decade, CHED’s Careers Service retained its title “Best Careers Service” in 2021, and set the benchmark for best practice among the 26 higher education institutions in South Africa. The prestigious award is given annually by the South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA).

CHED’s One Button Studios go live

The year 2021 saw the successful completion of CHED’s One Button Studios in the Centre for Innovation in Learning & Teaching (CILT). The new multimedia recording studios are designed to support teaching and learning and enhance student success. The media studios are enabled for the integration of outputs into Amathuba and are available for use by staff. They provide an easy to use one-button recording system as well as a mobile podcast studio, and expert support staff who will help newbies master the live on-camera experience.   

UCT secures a new learning platform

In 2021, CHED’s Learning Platforms Update Project selected and secured a new cloud-hosted digital learning platform to meet UCT’s teaching and learning needs for the next five to 10 years.

D2L Brightspace, which will be known as Amathuba at UCT, will enhance the university’s digital learning infrastructure to support student success and provide staff and students with rich and engaging teaching and learning experiences.

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