Alumni

Sterling Unisans shine at national honours

Professor Malik Maaza, incumbent of the UNESCO-Unisa Africa Chair in Nanosciences and Nanotechnology, and Yvonne ‘Chaka Chaka’ Mhinga, Unisa alumna, were awarded the Order of Mapungubwe in Silver and the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver respectively by President Cyril Ramaphosa at an award ceremony on 25 April 2019 at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse.

Speaking at the ceremony, the president said that the orders celebrated individuals who had excelled and whose actions and works represented the triumph of the human spirit. “They are men and women driven by purpose and service.”

He said that the recipients of the orders represented endeavour and achievement of immense scale and breadth, and gave each and every South African cause to be proud: “Proud of your determination, of your courage, of your unwavering patriotism, and of your persistence in pursuit of the common good.”

You can watch the ceremony here.

Top scientist takes top award

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President Cyril Ramaphosa bestows the Order of Mapungubwe in Silver on Prof. Malik Maaza.

Bestowed from the seat of power, the prestigious Order of Mapungubwe in Silver acknowledges the excellent work done by Unisa’s Professor Malik Maaza in the country and around the globe.

For his pioneering contributions to the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology, Maaza was honoured by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at an award ceremony on 25 April 2019 at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse.

Granted by the President of South Africa and named after an African nation that existed a millennium ago in Limpopo, the order of Mapungubwe is South Africa’s highest honour, instituted on 6 December 2002 for achievements in the international area that serve South Africa’s interests. This order recognises South African citizens for excellence and exceptional achievement.

A letter from Dr Cassius Lubisi, Chancellor of Orders from the Office of the RSA presidency describes Maaza as a pioneer on the African continent. “Your work has improved our knowledge and made headway in the development of cutting edge modern technology,” he wrote.

We are proud of you!

In his congratulatory message, Unisa’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mandla Makhanya, said Maaza is an exemplar of the calibre of researcher that Unisa aims to nurture, develop and employ. He is the role model for all aspiring scientists, not only regarding his professionalism and outstanding work ethic, but the kind of acknowledgement and recognition that generally emanate from such endeavour.

Makhanya said the award comes hot on the heels of other accolades bestowed on Maaza in 2018, including the José Vasconcelos World Award of Education at the 35th World Cultural Council Award Ceremony in Hong Kong, the NSTF-GreenMatter Award at the 2017/2018 NSTF-South32 (a joint award), and the 1.2 million Kwame Nkrumah award for Scientific Excellence (a joint award).

Putting Unisa and SA on the (nano)map

In her capacity as the Executive Dean of the College of Graduation Studies, Professor Lindiwe Zungu lauded Maaza for publishing widely and scooping awards that culminated in a partnership with Springer Nature Publishing House, with open access to cutting-edge scholarship on nanotechnology. “It is deeply satisfying that beyond the prestige and monetary value of Maaza’s work, the expanse body of work has significantly put the university and South Africa on the map,” she praised.

A Unisan such as Maaza defines the quality and excellence of the university, said Zungu. “We join celebrations that take stock of the advances he has made on the back of NANOSMAT-AFRICA-2018, as well as the advances in knowledge it has occasioned. There is no doubt that Maaza has had global impact through the Neutron Small Angle Scattering and Neutron Reflectometry in Dubna/Russia, the H+ induced Magnetism in Carbon-based Nanomaterials in Germany, Thermoelectrics and MPI-Solid State Physics and Condensed Matter in Germany, and advanced collaborations on Solid Mercury Modelling with colleagues in Iran and the United States of America,” she said.

National and continental partnerships

Apart from the awards mentioned above, Maaza believes that this honour is not only a personal recognition, but one that acknowledges the National System of Innovation, Science and Technology of South Africa as well as the South African Nanotechnology initiative Strategy (SANi) launched by the DST in 2006 and implemented by the National Research Foundation (NRF) via several platforms among which the National Nanotechnology Equipment Programme (NNEP).

It is also a recognition of the continental UNESCO-Unisa Africa Chair in Nanosciences and Nanotechnology (U2ACN2), a trilateral partnership between the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO), Unisa and iThemba Laboratories Accelerators Based Sciences of the National Research Foundation (iThemba LABS-NRF), he said.

Maaza believes that this award is a recognition of the vision of Unisa and its leadership in identifying the multidisciplinary field of Nanosciences and Nanotechnology as a strategic research and development area in view of preparing a large cohort of postgraduates to respond to the demand of the future workforce and climate change.

Quoting the late Nelson Mandela, who also was the recipient of the Order of Mapungubwe (Platinum), Maaza’s motto is “it always seems impossible until it’s done”.

A voice that resonates across the world

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President Cyril Ramaphosa bestows the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver on Yvonne ‘Chaka Chaka’ Mhinga.

In recognition of her life of service to the arts, Unisa alumna Yvonne ‘Chaka Chaka’ Mhinga, affectionately known as Mama Yvonne and the Princess of Africa, was honoured by President Cyril Ramaphosa with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver on 25 April 2019.

The order is bestowed upon extraordinary individuals who have achieved excellence in the arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sports. Mama Yvonne was especially recognised for her contribution to music and social cohesion. “Her melodic voice reverberated and found resonance across our continent and around the world.”

Musician and humanitarian

The internationally acclaimed singer has been in the music industry for the past 34 years and has rendered outstanding humanitarian work as UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador since 2005. She has been recognised the world over for her vocal prowess and her work to uplift women and children. She is passionate about curbing the ravages of malaria. In a fitting tribute, this Order was given to her on World Malaria Day.

Regarding the award, Mama Yvonne says that she is humbled. “It means South Africa, my country, is appreciating my work,” she says. “I am grateful for the recognition given me. It grounds and humbles me and, in many respects, elevates me. The award does not say I should fold my arms and not do anything anymore. In fact, there’s so much work to be done. I will continue to contribute to society.”

Influential in business and philanthropy

Mhinga is the managing director of entertainment company Chaka Chaka Promotions and Chairperson of Chaka Chaka Investments. She advocates for adult basic education and training. Her other achievements are in business and philanthropy, and she was named one of the Influential Women in Business and Government in 2009. She is the patron of SANCA, the Molteno Foundation, and Giving and Sharing.

National orders are the highest awards bestowed on ordinary South Africans or foreigners who are doing or have done extraordinary things for South Africa. The President of South Africa is the Grand Patron of the awards.

*By Lesego Ravhudzulo and Busisiwe Mahlangu

Publish date: 2019/04/29