Words by Julia Fish
After months of speculation as to who would take over from the distinguished Dr Saleem Badat, it was announced in an e-mail to staff that the post will be filled from within.
Acting Vice-Chancellor and distinguished mathematician Dr Sizwe Mabizela, has been announced as the incumbent “6th Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University with effect from 1 November 2014”.
Dr Mabizela has quietly and confidently been running the show since Dr Badat stepped down earlier this year. The choice to retain institutional memory, promote from within and show commitment to the ethos that Rhodes has maintained, is expected to be widely respected.
In a release made to staff on Sunday 12 October, the Rhodes University chairman of the council, Mr Vuyo Kahla, stated, “Dr Mabizela enjoys the support and confidence of Council to lead the University out of who he is and drive the finalization of the Institutional Development Plan intended to address the grand challenges faced by the University, to sustain Rhodes University, where leaders learn”.
Mabizela’s CV is formidable having studied at Fort Hare and Pennsylvania State University; he has held the position of Rhodes University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic and Student Affairs since 2008. According to the glowing report of his achievements in the announcement e-mail, Mabizela’s “academic history includes having been an Associate Professor and Deputy Head of the University of Cape Town’s Department of Mathematics
and Applied Mathematics; Visiting Professor of the University of Zimbabwe’s Department of Mathematics and Professor and Head of Department of the Rhodes University’s Department of Mathematics (Pure and Applied)”. Mabizela holds several chairmanships and board positions both locally and internationally.
A 17 member committee began the hunt for a new VC in April this year. The committee includes the Chair of Council, members of Council and Senate, executive members of Rhodes’ administration, Deans, the SRC President and Rhodes’ two Labour Unions and were expected to make the announcement by the latest at the beginning of next year. Kahla stated that the recommendation of the appointment of Mabizela was unanimous from both the selection committee and the University’s senate.
According to a press release earlier this year, Dr Fourie; the university’s Registrar, who has served alongside three Rhodes VC’s, said financial stability would be the greatest challenge facing a new Vice-Chancellor. Kahla agreed stating the VC would have to “inclusively address what needs to be done to sustain the momentum of transformation and progress that has characterised the era of the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Dr Badat”. A strong mathematical mind of someone who has admitted to enjoying playing and doodling with sums should place the university in good stead for the seven official years of his term.
Congratulations Dr. Sizwe Mabizela.