Mathematician on course to be Wits' first black v-c

May 9, 2003

The University of Wi****ersrand is close to appointing Rhodes scholar and mathematician Loyiso Nongxa as its first black vice-chancellor. Professor Nongxa is currently acting vice-chancellor of the Johannesburg university.

A 16-member selection committee unanimously agreed to present him as the only contender for a position that attracted 24 candidates from South Africa, Canada, the UK, India and the US.

Professor Nongxa delivered a presentation to the Wits community in Johannesburg last Monday. If, as expected, he sails through the remaining selection processes, Wits will become the third of South Africa's historically white English universities to appoint a black vice-chancellor.

The University of Cape Town has its second black vice-chancellor, literary expert and author Njabulo Ndebele. Last year, the University of Natal selected medical scientist Malegapuru Makgoba to replace Brenda Gourley, now vice-chancellor of the Open University.

Professor Nongxa has been deputy vice-chancellor (research) of Wits since 2000, and became acting vice-chancellor after the university was rocked last year by divisions that ended with the acrimonious exit of vice-chancellor Norma Reid-Birley in November.

Fifteen of the applicants hold chief executive or senior management positions, or are well-established academics in their fields, council chair Edwin Cameron says in a statement. However, the selection committee agreed that only Professor Nongxa met the criteria in all key performance areas identified for the post.

It felt that he "fulfilled the requisite criteria with such distinction that further short-listing or search procedures would not be justified", Judge Cameron said.

After graduating with a mathematics degree from the University of Fort Hare, Professor Nongxa became South Africa's first black Rhodes scholar and went on to obtain his doctorate at Oxford University.

He has held visiting appointments and fellowships at the universities of Harvard, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois and Baylor (Texas), and worked for ten years at the University of the Western Cape before joining Wits.

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