College of Human Sciences

Best and brightest researchers take their place in the spotlight

Awards Platinum sponsor—Taylor & Francis: Oscar Masinyana (Managing Editor: Africa, Taylor & Francis), HE Thabo Mbeki (Chancellor of Unisa), Prof. Mandla Makhanya (Principal and VC), and Janet Remmington (Regional Director: Africa and Editorial Director: Global Arts & Humanities Journals, Taylor & Francis)

Times of austerity these might be, but when it comes to honouring its top researchers, Unisa does not stint on praise or prizes.

A grand total of 71 research awards were handed out on 2 March 2018 when Unisa held its annual Research & Innovation awards ceremony, the seventh since the awards were introduced.

The guest of honour was Unisa Chancellor Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, who presented the Chancellor’s Prize—one of the most prestigious research awards at Unisa—to 10 recipients across all eight colleges.

Chancellor's prize for excellence in research: Prof Babatunde Fagbayibo (CLAW), Prof François Mulenga (CSET), Prof Anthony de Villiers Minnaar (CLAW), Prof Patrick Ngulube (CGS), Prof Renier Steyn (SBL), Prof Azwihangwisi Mavhandu-Mudzusi (CHS), Prof Themba Dube (CSET), Prof Godwell Nhamo (CEMS), and Prof Barry Ackers (CAS)

The ceremony saw Unisa paying tribute to the 39 researchers who received National Research Foundation (NRF) ratings in 2017. Among them were two A-rated researchers, professors David Glasser (A1) and Anthony Reddie (A2), who both received their awards in absentia.

Women in Research Awards were presented to six women researchers, two in the emerging researcher category, three in the leadership category, and one as the youngest female doctoral graduate of 2017. The latter went to Dr Shandré Jansen van Rensburg from the College of Law, who was 28 years old when she obtained her PhD.

Elsevier 2017 Women in Research: Thulile Shandu-Phetla (CHS) (Emerging researcher), Dr Shandré Jansen van Rensburg (CLAW) (Youngest female doctoral graduate), Prof Hasina Ebrahim (CEDU) (Leadership), and Prof Amanda Spies (CLAW) (Emerging researcher)

The fourth category of awards was for the 12 researchers who received prestigious external research awards and recognition in 2017. Two of these researchers received more than one external award last year:

  • Prof Malik Maaza of the College of Graduate Studies won three external awards, including an African Union Kwame Nkrumah Continental Award for Scientific Excellence.
  • Prof Diane Hildebrandt of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) won two external awards, one being the NRF Special Award for Champion of Research Capacity Development and Transformation at South African Higher Education Institutions.

External awards and recognitions: Prof Diane Hildebrandt (CSET) (NRF Special and NSTF-South 32 Awards), Prof Zingiswa Jojo (CEDU) (Membership of the African Mathematics Union (AMU) Commission for African Women in Mathematics), Prof Veronica McKay (CEDU) (Honorary Fellow of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning), and Prof Bhekie Mamba (CSET) (NSTF-South 32 Water Commission Award)

Two other researchers acknowledged at the ceremony were also multiple award-winners for 2017. They were Prof Godwell Nhamo of the College of Economic and Management Sciences, with three awards (Chancellor’s Prize, C3 NRF rating, and Distinguished Old Rhodian Award), and the College of Human Science’s Prof Azwihangwisi Mavhandu-Mudzusi (Chancellor’s Prize and Department of Science and Technology Distinguished Woman in Science Award).

The fifth and final award category was the Hiddingh-Currie Award, a literary award that Unisa Press presents annually to an outstanding author or authors of a published work within Unisa Press. The winning book of 2017/18 was Three decades of making space: Magnet Theatre.


NRF Y-rated researchers: Dr Clayton Bhondayi (CSET) (Y2), Prof Yolandi Slabbert (CHS) (Y2) and Dr Ngonidzashe Chimwani (CSET) (Y2)

Congratulating all the winners, Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said: “Tonight, we have gathered to honour our brightest and best for their professionalism, their consistent dedication to research and innovation and the demonstrable success that they have achieved…It is not easy to conduct research while teaching. It requires of you to go the extra mile—and this is often at the expense of those at home, and so we thank we thank your families and significant others as well for their support and sacrifice.”


A winning formula. Dr Clayton Bhondayi (CSET) Y2, Prof François Mulenga (CSET) (Chancellor's prize for excellence in research), Prof Diane Hildebrandt (CSET) (NRF Special and NSTF-South 32 Awards), and Dr Ngonidzashe Chimwani (CSET) Y2


NRF C ratings: Back, Prof William Wessels C2 (CHS), Prof. Patrick Ngulube C1 (CGS), Prof Godwell Nhamo C3 (CEMS), Prof Kobus Wessels C2 (CEMS), and Prof Barry Ackers C2 (CAS), and, middle, Dr Emile Doungmo Goufo C2 (CSET), Prof Zenghui Wang C2 (CSET), Prof Marilyn Naidoo C2 (CHS), Prof William Wessels C2 (CHS), Dr Sehlare Makgetlaneng C3 (CGS), Prof Madelene de Jong C1 (CLAW), Prof Elelwani Farisani C3 (CHS), Prof Christopher Enweremadu C3 (CSET), Prof Hasina Ebrahim (Elsevier 2017 Women in Research Leadership Award) (CEDU), Prof Rene van Eeden C2 (CHS), and Dr Ntanganedzeni Mapholi Y2 (CAES), and, front, Prof Rachel Barker C2 (CHS), Prof Elmarie Kritzinger C3 (CSET), and Prof Marisa Keuris C3 (CHS)

Awards Gold sponsor—Elsevier: Tanya Benade (Elsevier Account Manager, South Africa), HE Thabo Mbeki (Chancellor of Unisa), Raymond Mbatha (Elsevier Customer Consultant, Southern Africa), Lucia Schoombie (Elsevier Customer Consultant Research Intelligence, Africa), and Prof Mandla Makhanya (Principal and VC)

Welcome and opening address: Launch of the Research and Innovation Week

View the VC’s full speech in SA’s eleven official languages:

Keynote address: Gala Dinner and Research Awards Ceremony

View the VC’s full speech in SA’s eleven official languages: