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Historic first as Unisa appoints black female vice-chancellor


THE University of South Africa (Unisa) – one of Africa’s biggest tertiary education institutions – has appointed its first female vice chancellor and principal in 148 years.

Professor Puleng LenkaBula has been appointed to succeed Professor Mandla Makhanya from January 2021.

Unisa announced that the decision to appoint LenkaBula was unanimous and followed a rigorous selection process.

The institution said LenkaBula’s appointment was testimony to the transformation project it introduced and drove relentlessly in the university over the years. The appointment also ensured that  Unisa’s workforce was alive to and reflective of the demographics of South Africa and the gender empowerment wave sweeping the country.

Professor LenkaBula, who is currently the Vice Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs and Community Engagement at the University of the Free State (UFS), has extensive managerial experience in higher education. 

Prior to occupying the Vice Rector position at the UFS, she was the Dean of Students at Wits University, where she was a member of the Vice Chancellor’s Office and the Senior Executive Team. She also previously held management positions at different institutions, including at UNISA where she had a successful stint as Dean of Students. 

Professor LenkaBula is also an internationally revered scholar who has published widely; and serves as a board member on local ecumenical and academic formations, including the Council for the Development of Social Sciences Research in Africa (CODESRIA).

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“Council is of the firm belief that this appointment bodes well for the future of our university, as we intensify our endeavour to move towards a fully-fledged Open Distance and eLearning dispensation and to solidify our stature as a truly African university in the service of humanity. In Professor LenkaBula, we have appointed the right caliber of leader; who is student-centred and shares our institutional vision on decoloniality and transformation, knowledge-production, innovation and advancing the socio-economic development of South Africa, Africa and the world, in particular for the benefit of Africa. As Council, we commit ourselves to providing her with the necessary support to ensure that she succeeds in taking our vision of transformation and excellent service delivery to the next level”, said Sakhi Simelane, Chairperson of the UNISA Council.

Unisa said to ensure a smooth hand-over, Council resolved to extend the term of office of Makhanya, until April 2021.

By The African Mirror