Professor Puleng LenkaBula Picture: Twitter
Professor Puleng LenkaBula Picture: Twitter

Puleng LenkaBula to become Unisa’s first woman chancellor

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Nov 6, 2020

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Cape Town – The Higher Education Transformation Network is among many who have welcomed the appointment of Professor Puleng LenkaBula as the new vice-chancellor of the University of South Africa (Unisa).

Since May 2018, she has been the vice-rector of institutional change, student affairs and community engagement at the University of the Free State and will take over at Unisa in the new year.

LenkaBula becomes the country’s fifth woman vice-chancellor and Unisa's first – joining University of Zululand's Professor Xoliswa, Professor Sibongile Muthwa from Nelson Mandela University, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng from the University of Cape Town and the University of Mpumalanga’s Professor Thoko Mayekiso.

She replaces Professor Mandla Makhanya, who has been at the helm since 2011, in February. Lenkabula was shortlisted for the post with Professor Sandile Songca.

Before moving to the Free State, she was the dean of students at Wits University. Lenkabula has worked at Unisa as an associate professor of ethics, as dean of students and in Makhanya’s office as a director and adviser.

At a webinar hosted in August by Higher Education Resource Services, an organisation dedicated to advancement and leadership development in the higher education sector, and Universities South Africa, it emerged that since 2015 there have been 20 vacancies for vice-chancellors and that only four women filled those positions. Mvalo said there were 12 women in deputy vice-chancellor positions out of about 30 posts.

The Higher Education Transformation Network said in a statement on Friday: ’’We welcome the appointment of Prof LenkaBula, which is line with the Employment Equity Act of 1998 and the objectives of the National Development Plan Vision 2030, which states that the higher education sector must ensure that black South Africans and women make up 50% of the teaching and research staff of universities.

’’The appointment of Prof LenkaBula is a historic success in higher education given that there are currently only three (sic) female vice-chancellors and black female South African professors constitute less than 17% of the total academic workforce. There is an urgent need to focus on the development of black female South African academia.

’’We commend the Unisa Council, Senate and Institutional Forum and further encourage all university councils to follow suit and act in line with the transformation policies and laws of the Republic of South Africa. We call on all role-players in the higher education sector to ensure that the objectives of the National Development Plan Vision 2030 are met.’’

In a profile on LenkaBula, Free State University said on its website: “LenkaBula is of mixed decent (Lesotho and South Africa). She holds a Doctorate (2006/7) in Ethics (Theology and Philosophy) with specialisation in Ethics of the Economy, Ecology and Politics (Social Ethics) from the University of South Africa.

’’Her doctoral thesis deployed multi-disciplinary approaches, drawing from ethics, legal and economic questions. The title of her thesis was: Bioprospecting and Intellectual Property rights on African Plant Commons and Knowledge: A New form of Colonization viewed from an Ethical Perspective.

’’She gained a Master’s degree (MTS) with specialisation in Social Ethics from St Andrew’s College at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada, in 1995.

’’The Master’s dissertation undertook to study the ethical implications of multilateral finance and financing institutions on economies and economic policies in Africa. Her thesis was titled, I am because we are: An African Womanist Reflection on the Structural Adjustment programs of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.’’

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