The USAf Board welcomes a new member while bidding goodbye to a long-serving USAf employee

Published On: 26 March 2024|

The first ordinary meeting of Universities South Africa’s (USAf’s) Board of Directors on 19 March opened with the Chairperson, Professor Francis Petersen, officially welcoming the new Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Vaal University of Technology, Professor Khehla Ndlovu, to the USAf Board. Professor Ndlovu assumed this new position on 1 February 2024.

Previously Vice Principal: Strategy, Risk and Advisory Services at the University of South Africa (UNISA), Professor Ndlovu (left) is credited for transformative leadership in various South African universities including the Durban University of Technology (DUT), where he served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor: People and Operations, and Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), where he was Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Resources and Planning.

He has held senior other leadership roles at universities within South Africa and abroad, and made notable contributions to organisations outside academia, including the Department of Higher Education and Training, the United States Agency for International Development and the American Institute for Research. His broad expertise and global engagement are a testament to his commitment to advancing higher education and research.

Professor Francis Petersen said he looked forward to Professor Ndlovu’s participation in and contribution to Board deliberations in the years ahead.

Ms Jana van Wyk hangs up her hat

In the same meeting, Professor Petersen extended best wishes to Ms Jana van Wyk, Senior Manager in the Office of the USAf CEO, who also served as the Board Secretary.

After 33 years of service, Ms Van Wyk (right) announced her intention in January 2024 to take early retirement.

“Thank you for the support you have rendered to various boards of USAf through the years,” said the USAf Chair to Ms Van Wyk. “We will miss the quality of minutes you produced from Board meetings throughout your service.”

Professor Petersen’s words were echoed by those of the USAf CEO, Dr Phethiwe Matutu, who had nothing but gratitude for Ms Van Wyk’s contribution to USAf and its predecessor organisations. “We’ve learnt a lot from her and her institutional memory, which we will continue to tap into, in the foreseeable future.” Dr Matutu said she was equally appreciative of the three months (from March to May), that Ms Van Wyk had agreed to grant USAf while the organisation searched for a successor.

The Chair’s sentiments on Ms Van Wyk also resonated with other members of the Board, who scribbled their congratulatory messages on the zoom chat platform. “Congratulations on your retirement, Jana,” Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg, wrote. “Thank you for your years of service.”

“I join our Chair and CEO in thanking Jana for her exceptional contribution and professionalism,” Professor Sibongile Muthwa, former Chairperson of the Board for two consecutive terms from 2020 to 2023, also wrote. Professor Muthwa is the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Nelson Mandela University.

In response, Ms Van Wyk said serving USAf for 33 years had been her greatest pleasure. “I learned a lot in the years that I watched this Board lead our member universities. I also thank you, directors, for your support through the years, and I am happy to continue providing support in ways that I am still able to.”

Her contribution to USAf, in a nutshell

Ms Van Wyk first joined USAf in its days as the Junior Administrative Officer on 1 May1991. She served in various positions (Administrative Officer, Senior Administrative Officer, and Project Manager) before being promoted to Senior Manager in CEO’s Office, then serving under Professor Duma Malaza. She would go on to serve under four other CEOs thereafter.

Her highlights of the past 33 years include playing a key role in shaping the organisation’s strategic direction by working closely with the CEO and the Management Team in formulating and executing strategy, providing crucial support to the USAf Board, its Executive Committee, and the CEO. Her portfolio included managing communications, scheduling and facilitating decision-making processes, building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders including board members, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). She collaborated with various business units and teams across the USAf Office to ensure alignment with the vision and goals and fostering a culture of teamwork and cooperation.

In 2010, she introduced the annual conference/workshop of Vice-Chancellors’ executive secretaries, which saw all 26 personal assistants, secretaries and executive secretaries gather under one roof for two days in December of each year. This is a time to reflect on the year’s highlights; share information on relevant higher education issues and the impact and implications for the sector. The workshop also identifies ways to enhance effective communication between the USAf Executive Office and the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.

The annual workshop of Vice-Chancellors’ executive secretaries is always an occasion to learn, network and strengthen teamwork. In 2023, the team converged on South Africa’s Mother City.

This grew to become a premium event – hosted in South Africa’s main centres and metropoles. The hosting venue rotates by region each year to spread the benefit and enable staffers, who would otherwise not have had the opportunity, to travel to other parts of the country. To this day, all secretaries look forward to it and attend the event without fail.

According to Ms van Wyk, the biggest outcome of this gathering was the networking opportunity for those who ordinarily were limited to telephonic contact. They got to meet others in person, interact and discuss matters of mutual interest. She says she hopes that USAf resources will continue to carry this invaluable event that is cherished by the VCs’ administrators as well as those in the Office of the USAf CEO. She also trusts that her successor will continue this tradition with zeal.

Jana will be sorely missed for her efficiency, high levels of responsiveness, ability to multi-task and deliver on her mandate and her solid understanding of South Africa’s university sector and its stakeholder landscape.

‘Mateboho Green is USAf’s Manager: Corporate Communications.