On 30 September, UP held a ceremony to inaugurate Justice Emeritus Sisi Khampepe as UP’s 10th chancellor – the first black female chancellor of UP. Justice Khampepe’s tenure as chancellor commenced on 28 June, and will continue for a five-year term – with a possibility of renewal pending due process. The ceremony was held at Aula auditorium and the program was directed by Prof. Lucy Moleleki from the department of Biotechnology, Genetics and Microbiology.
In her 20 minute speech the new chancellor began by thanking the electoral college for electing her and paid tribute to her predecessor Prof. Wiseman Nkuhlu. “It is a great honour for me to address you today at my inauguration as chancellor of this distinguished institution, the University of Pretoria. I am deeply humbled to have been nominated and elected to this position. I would like to thank the electoral college of the university, comprising members of council and senate and the president of the convocation for entrusting me with this very important role over the next five years. I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Prof. Wiseman Nkuhlu who provided three consecutive terms of faithful service”, said Chancellor Khampepe.
The 65-year-old Sowetan, showed her mettle to be sharp in spite of her age when she recalled events from 45 years ago that coincided with her inauguration. This was done by acknowledging the efficient archives of the University of Pretoria, where she sourced a headline from the then Perdeby . In this remark the Chancellor showed her grasp of historical injustices in relation to her new responsibility in the university – that of which is the attainment of social equality. “Thanks to the efficiency of UP archives, which preserve the university’s history, I was easily able to revisit the 30th of September 1977. This day 45 years ago coincides with the time when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Zululand. On this date, Tukkies student newspaper The Perdeby today called the PDBY invited average student swimmers to register and participate in the upcoming inter house gala. It specified that no national or provincial swimmers were allowed, in order to allow first competitors an equal chance. I was intrigued to travel back to this fairly innocuous moment in time. And to consider how radically different the demographic context was from what we see today. […]”, said Chancellor Khampepe.
In the same breath the chancellor asked a critical question that seeks to question the trajectory of our current path, “allow me to travel 45 years into the future. In 2067, what will the headline of today’s PDBY be? More importantly, will UP still have her presence amongst the top 1,9% of universities worldwide?” asked Chancellor Khampepe.
The chancellor has shown in her speech that she has a love for poetry as she mentioned prominent poets in her speech, including the iconic Mongane Wally Serote, to make her points. In her closing remarks, the new chancellor quoted the iconic poetess Maya Angelou’s most famous work of contemporary poetry, Still I rise. “[…] as Angelou says in verse three, Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise.[…]’’, said Chancellor Khampepe.
Messages of support came from the UP student community leadership including the SRC represented by the President Thuto Mashile. In her five minutes congratulatory speech the SRC president spoke at length on the hopes the student body has pinned on her as the chancellor, majorly she spoke to inclusivity and access “[…] as we stand here, as students our one request to you Justice is that you aid all students. Through advocating transformation, through advocating for access, through advocating for safety and for this environment to be conducive for all students to thrive. […] and we want to say welcome to the University of Pretoria, thank you” closed Mashile.