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Metro know-how gains intellectual muscle in ground-breaking MoU

On 5 June 2019, the City of Johannesburg, the University of South Africa (Unisa), the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the aim of leveraging the intellectual capital and expertise offered by higher these higher education institutions in order to enhance service delivery.

This collaborative model is in keeping with the international trend for large cities to strategically partner with higher education institutions to the benefit of all concerned, most notably residents and students. The MoU replaces one concluded in 2010, to which Unisa was not a signatory.

Toasting an exciting partnership are Prof Adam Habib, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Wits, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of UJ, Cllr Herman Mashaba, Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, and Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor


Student housing a priority

Cllr Herman Mashaba, Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, and Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, share a smile

In his message, the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Councillor Herman Mashaba, said that South Africa’s survival as a nation is dependent upon building the educational capacity of the nation. "I have identified one of the greatest opportunities this country has ever seen since the discovery of gold," he said. "The City of Johannesburg is sitting with a housing backlog of around 300 000 units. It is home to three major universities. On a daily basis, their students are robbed. Some of them sleep in libraries. Yet we expect them to perform to the best level. I have vowed to take this city back from the criminal element. To date, with the support of Council, we have reclaimed 154 buildings from criminal syndicates. 84 of these buildings are being redeveloped with investment of R20 billion and the creation of 11 000 jobs – a first for South Africa. The balance of the buildings will be developed from September with yet more investment and job creation. We have made it clear to the developers that we want a minimum of 30% of all the housing units being developed to be allocated to student housing."

In conclusion, the Executive Mayor thanked the three Vice-Chancellors present for showing commitment and passion for human capacity development, and for their willingness to collaborate in order to take the country forward.


Harnessing technological research

Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, said that the City of Johannesburg is the city of the fourth industrial revolution. "The technological research done at universities can go a long way to alleviate and, indeed, solve many of the problems experienced by the city, for example traffic congestion and faulty traffic lights. All of these have an impact on the economy. The City of Johannesburg is a major driver of the South African economy. If the City grows, the country grows."

The four signatories and their respective support teams. Supporting Prof Makhanya are (back row, far right) Dr Somadoda Fikeni, Director of VC Projects and Advisor to the Principal, and Ms Khanya Mahlare (back row, third from right), Executive Director: Department of Institutional Advancement

Home-grown solutions

Prof Adam Habib, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, said that to address global challenges, global communities of practice are required. "These must be multi-institutional, multi-national communities of practice," he said. "We cannot rely on overseas researchers to devise solutions to our problems, because they do not understand the local environment. Inequality is our biggest challenge, and can best be addressed by two institutions: metropolitan government and institutions of higher education. The former creates the enabling environment and service delivery; the latter enable access to quality education. That’s what’s exciting about today’s ceremony. It brings together the two institutional mechanisms that are necessary to address inequality."


Rising above politics and ideologies

In his message, Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said that Unisa already has a similar MoU with the Tshwane Municipality, and that the university is delighted to broaden its collaboration to include the City of Johannesburg, UJ and Wits. "This MoU provides a visible manifestation of agreed strategic collaboration and a shared commitment to the leveraging of our collective intellectual capital and expertise, and resources and capacities, in the advancement of our respective visions and strategic and operational interventions," he said. "It is a win-win collaboration, which, fully explored and exploited, has the potential to deliver quite far-reaching and impactful results for our students and the citizens of Johannesburg. In my view this is a true expression of Ubuntu/Botho. It is the magic that happens when people work together with common purpose and for the common good – irrespective of political affiliations or ideological agendas."

* By Philip van der Merwe, Editor, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/06/07