Rhodes University to celebrate the inauguration of Dr Sizwe Mabizela
The first black African Vice-Chancellor of the 110-year-old institution, Dr Sizwe Mabizela will outline his vision during the inauguration ceremony at the 1820 Settler’s National Monument on Friday, 27 February 2015
Commenting about being the first black African Vice-Chancellor at Rhodes University, Dr Mabizela said: "I don't want us to be hung up on this. For me it is whether the university has identified a suitable and competent person to serve as its Vice-Chancellor and provide leadership for the institution at this time.
Dr Mabizela has been at Rhodes for 10 years. He was the frontrunner for the position of Vice-Chancellor, out of 17 applications.
Dr. Mabizela is eminently worthy of his appointment as the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of this prestigious University.
Prior to his appointment as Vice-Chancellor, he served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic and Student Affairs since 2008. He was a Professor of Mathematics and Head of the Department of Mathematics (Pure and Applied) from 2004 to 2008. .
Following the resignation of Dr Badat as Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University in July 2014 to take up a post in New York with the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, Dr Mabizela was requested by the University Council to serve as the Acting Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University.
Addressing a media conference in November last year, shortly after his appointment, Dr Mabizela discussed three pillars which he believed would ensure that the University and the town functioned to their full potential.
The first pillar is the university's relationship with the municipality. "The future of Rhodes is dependent on the municipality discharging its responsibility competently," he said.
His second pillar, is Grahamstown becoming a centre of academic excellence, starting from early childhood development to university level.
The third pillar is to see Grahamstown become a ‘wireless city’. He said, this plays a vital role in the success of the other two pillars. "Other cities have achieved this. We can also achieve this," he added.
As the new Vice-Chancellor, he aims to lead by example in producing graduates who are not consumed with material gain.
"I have never had dreams of vast financial wealth, owning a multi-storey home or driving a fancy car. What is important is to gain knowledge that can help us understand our natural environment, human interactions and our place in the universe. It is all about developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of how we can live in this world in a sustainable manner, and in a manner that enhances the humanity of others.”
“And if, along this path, our graduates acquire significant material wealth, then my hope is that they will use it to make a change in the lives of those who are less fortunate in material and educational terms."
Dr Mabizela grew up in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal and matriculated in 1980 from St Chad's High School. His mother, Sibongile Mabizela, was a nurse and his late father, Christopher, a teacher.
"They were very loving parents who instilled in us the importance and value of education," he explained. "My father constantly reminded us that he didn't have any material possessions to bequeath us but what he could do for us was to make sure we received a quality education”, he said.
"My mother was a wonderful role model and she had a big influence on my interest in mathematics as she was very good at it. I was fascinated by it, and it came naturally to me. I was also very fortunate to have excellent mathematics teachers all the way from primary school through secondary school who developed my love of mathematics and gave me challenging problems, over and above the standard homework, to keep me interested."
This led to him enrolling for a BSc degree at the University of Fort Hare in 1981. At that time, as a black person, you needed a ministerial permit to study at the "white" universities, and you could only get one if the "black" universities did not offer the particular degree programme you wanted to pursue. The BSc was not one of these.
Dr Mabizela has a PhD in Parametric Approximation from Pennsylvania State University in the US. "The beauty of mathematics is that it inculcates in one ways of thinking systematically and innovatively about the widest range of challenges."
He and his wife Dr Phethiwe Matutu, chief director in the Department of Science and Technology, share a love of maths and education, which they impart to their daughters, Zinzi and Zama.
By Zamuxolo Matiwana
Photo by: Mike Dexter