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Unisa SBL military programme a 'restoration of hope'

Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor

On 12 October 2020, the Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL) started a four-day security cluster research seminar at the Midrand Campus, bringing together military veterans and officers to situate their research within broader transformation plans resolving socio-economic issues in South Africa.

This project included all military officers who are currently registered for their postgraduate degrees and those who will be joining the 2021 Master of Business Leadership (MBL) class. Most senior military personnel were in exile during the period 1971 to 1991, and during this time they had to undergo defence and diplomatic-related training and education. The Department of Defence and Military Veterans, a project strategic partner, decided that members should be granted opportunities to better their education and to empower them for higher responsibilities in both defence and diplomatic service, and the SBL was identified as the centre that would deliver on this partnership.

In his welcome address, Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said many people, when questioned about strategy, would have a number of things to say, but they often forgot that strategy, as a concept, is a creation of the military. He said the military has a highly sophisticated outlook in that they look at what happens so many years down the line, and "that’s why they are prepared to make an investment that none of us as ordinary men and women will ever understand."

Prof Noel Ngwenya, Manager: Security Cluster Project, SBL

According to Makhanya, militaries strategise imagining the future, hence they don’t do things accidentally or simply because they want to satisfy the next person. In everything they do, they put calculated means in each and every step of the way that when all put together will deliver the end results. He said that if you look at what they do closely and analyse this, you will become the best student of strategy. "That’s really where it lies; it is in what they do every day. Even if you read everything about strategy, you will discover and realise that everything lies in the core of the military. It’s because it is a science of a high level of sophistication," he concluded.

Outlining the purpose of the seminar, Prof Noel Ngwenya, Manager of Public Sector Programmes and Training at the SBL, stated the importance of providing education to military veterans. He perceives this project as a restoration of hope for this country as it serves the education interest of black people. For him it’s about black people who were never given an education. "Many people we see on television today have not tasted living in exile. At some point when we came back home, the fact that we were bringing back hope was not realised. There is no better price than putting your own life for a better cause," said Ngwenya, who is himself a military veteran and also the project leader.

Ngwenya encouraged the students to participate in the programme, explaining that the opportunity would re-orientate them on what to expect in their course of study. "We have agreed that all the military personnel who will be completing their PGD at the end of November 2021 should be exposed to 'research orientation as well as pre-MBL awareness' to get them ready for the task ahead of them."

Prof Pumela Msweli, the acting Executive Dean & CEO of the SBL, declared that when she tutored this cohort in the previous year, she realised that these were the best students she had ever taught in her 26 years of teaching. "We dreamt together," Msweli said, adding that the students encouraged her to start blogging about research tips and publishing poems they did in their class.

During the programme, the VC gave a token of appreciation to Lieutenant General Fabian Msimang, Chief of the South African Air Force (SAAF), who retired at the end of September this year. Msimang and Major General Mzayifani Buthelezi, Deputy SAAF Chief, were prime movers in cementing the partnership between SAAF and SBL. Msimang was recognised for committing all his efforts to make this partnership work.

Prof Mandla Makhanya (Principal and VC) (right) presents a token of appreciation to Lieutenant General Fabian Msimang (Chief: SAAF), who retired at the end of September this year.

* By Lesego Ravhudzulo, Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

SBL launches education programme for military veterans

A first for South Africa

Publish date: 2020/10/13