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All in the name of science – Science Campus buildings renamed

If South African icons such as Anton Lembede, Sol Plaatje, and Prof Jakes Gerwel were still alive today, they would proud of their legacies starting a new chapter in South African higher education. Unisa officially launched the brand new Science Campus with these new names selected for the various blocks at the site. The unveiling took place on 30 July 2013.

Relatives of some of those after whom the Science Campus buildings are named were present at the official launch. From left: Prof Barney Pityana (former Principal and Vice-Chancellor), Kagisho Kambule (daughter-in-law of Prof Thamsanqa Kambule), Elizabeth Molema (wife of Solomon Molema, who is the grandson of Sol Plaatje), Thabo Kambule (son of Prof Thamsanqa Kambule), Sibongile Lembede (niece of Anton Lembede), Minister Derek Hanekom (Department of Science and Technology), Phoebe Gerwel (wife of Prof Jakes Gerwel), Daniel Plaatje (greatgrandson of Sol Plaatje), Prof Mandla Makhanya (Principal and Vice-Chancellor), and Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng (Vice-Principal: Research and Innovation)

The university decided that the best way to rename the buildings would be to open the floor for suggestions from students. They were asked to submit names for the 12 buildings, a library, two auditoriums, and a study area. There was a flood of entries, which were narrowed down to the 16 names that can currently be seen at the campus. People honoured are NB Pityana, GJ Gerwel, Anton Lembede, Helen Joseph, Euclid, Sol Plaatje, Bram Fischer, and Thamsanqa Kambule. Names referencing symbols and myths are Calabash, Mapungubwe, Tswelopele, Phapha, Ceres, Eureka, Dionysus, and Ntokoto.

Prof Gugu Moche, Executive Dean: College of Science, Engineering and Technology and Prof Maggi Linington, Executive Dean: College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences narrated a slideshow that explained the significance and heritage of the new names and how they fit into Unisa’s theme of shaping futures. You can explore the Science Campus virtually here.

In keeping with the tradition of naming key buildings after vice-chancellors who have made their mark on Unisa, it is only fitting that the main building on the campus be named after Prof NB (Barney) Pityana, the previous Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Unisa. This serves as recognition of his outstanding leadership and transformation of Unisa during his tenure of a decade at the helm.

This building has been named after a South African heritage site, located at the borders of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The name is that of an ancient African kingdom thought to have existed on this site many centuries ago.

More often than not laboratories are where exciting discoveries are made, and the name of this building, Eureka, is an interjection used to celebrate a discovery or invention. It is a transliteration of a word attributed to Archimedes.

This building is named after another trailblazer of note: Anton Lembede, contemporary of Nelson Mandela, founding president of the ANC Youth League, and graduate of Unisa in 1945.

As this building houses the cafeteria for the Unisa Science Campus, it is fitting that it be named after the Greek god of wine, parties and festivals.

This building is named after Prof GJ Gerwel, known fondly as ‘Prof’ or ‘Jakes’, who earned both national and international acclaim and a towering stature in academia and in public service.

Named after Helen Joseph, a founding member of the Congress of Democrats and one of the leaders who read out clauses at the Freedom Charter at the Congress of the People in Kliptown in 1955. This powerful woman was also a defendant at the historical 1956 Treason trial.

*Article by Rajiv Kamal

1 comment to All in the name of science – Science Campus buildings renamed

  • Nomsa Semata

    The ugrading done at Florida Campus is BREATHTAKING!!! Can the University publish the names of those students whose suggested names were adopted as suitable names for these buildings?

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