Unisa appoints Prof Puleng LenkaBula first female Vice Chancellor in 148 years. Photo: University of South Africa
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Unisa appoints Prof Puleng LenkaBula first female Vice Chancellor in 148 years

The University of South Africa (UNISA) has appointed Professor Puleng LenkaBula as the new Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University. Prof LenkaBula becomes the first female to be the VC and Principal since the establishment of the university 148 years ago.

In a move unprecedented since the establishment of the university 148 years ago, the Council of the University of South Africa (UNISA) appointed its first female Principal and Vice Chancellor.

Professor LenkaBula will take up the post on 01 January 2021.

In a statement, the university said LenkaBula’s appointment was a unanimous decision from the Unisa council.

According to an announcement by the university, the “appointment is further testimony of the commitment of Council to the transformation project it introduced and drove relentlessly in the university over the years; as well as ensuring that its workforce is alive to and reflective of the demographics of the country 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 (VCO) 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.

Commenting on the historic appointment Mr Sakhi Simelane, Chairperson of the UNISA Council said in a statement, “Council is of the firm belief that this appointment bodes well for the future of our university…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”.

Her appointment is indeed commendable as a significant step towards transformation and inclusivity. The appointment of Prof LenkaBula to such as powerful and influential position at UNISA, will surely give the much needed momentum to the university’s ongoing transformation agenda, and initiatives.

A number of South African universities have made historic senior appointments in the past few years, in efforts to address race, and gender imbalances. Professor Tshilidzi Marwala was inaugurated in March 2018 as the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Vice-Chancellor and Principal. In the same year, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng was also appointed as the  Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT).  With the appointment, Prof Phakeng became the second black woman to be the VC at UCT. Mamphela Ramphele was the first black woman VC at UCT and the first to hold that position at a South African university.

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