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More than equal to the task of leading Africa's mega university

Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Unisa

Prof Puleng LenkaBula has fearlessly accepted the huge responsibility and expectations that come with the VC position at Unisa, and she is more than equal to the task of taking the university’s brand and ethos to new heights. On Thursday 2 September 2021, she will be inaugurated as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Unisa.

LenkaBula’s strength lies in her ability to traverse disciplinary parameters, research and stakeholder cultivation and development.  She also has a wide local and global footprint, which has led to her acting as a board member in premier academic and global institutions, including the Council for the Development of Social Sciences Research in Africa, which was ranked as the number 1 think tank in 2016.

Her research interests are intersections of ethics, political economy, ecology and feminist theory, particularly on the themes: a) justice; b) intellectual property rights on life forms and implications for ecology and society; c) ethical questions on the economy, particularly on bioprospecting and IP issues on life forms; and d) feminist political/ethical thought.

She holds a Doctorate (2006/7) in Ethics (Theology and Philosophy) with specialisation in Ethics of the Economy, Ecology and Politics (Social Ethics) from Unisa. Her doctoral thesis deployed multidisciplinary 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. She studied the ethical implications of multilateral finance and financing institutions on economies and economic policies in Africa. Her thesis was entitled "I Am Because We Are: An African Womanist Reflection on the Structural Adjustment Programs of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund". Her junior degree was a Bachelor of Education with three majors in English, Theology and Education, conferred by the National University of Lesotho.

Notable publications and papers

LenkaBula has published widely, with more than 25 articles in refereed local and international academic journals, including a commissioned book by the World Communion of Reformed Churches, Choose Life, Act in Hope, a collaborative book with Dr Dibeela and Prof Vellem on the Prophet of the South. This book entailed articles from globally renowned intellectuals in ethics, including former President Obama’s mentor, Rev Dr Jeremiah Right, the founder and father of Black Theology, Prof James Cones, and many more.

Prof LenkaBula has read and presented academic papers in numerous places and some of her highlights are as follows:

  • The World Summit on Sustainable Development - the Civil Society Section, in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August/September 2002
  • The United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women - Civil Society Programme on Financing for Development Agenda - Review of the Monterrey Consensus, in New York, USA, 2008
  • The joint Africa-European Union Strategic Partnership Policy Conference at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, in October 2009

Not new at Unisa

From 2011 to 2014, LenkaBula held a position as Advisor to Unisa’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, and Director in the Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor. Her responsibilities, inter alia, entailed the following: key leadership of Unisa’s efforts at advancing African intellectuals, knowledge systems and Africa’s futures; aligning Unisa’s institutional mandate to the national development trajectory and international competitiveness of the university; and cultivation of innovative partnerships, especially with the corporate sector for research partnerships aimed especially at yielding a prospective intellectual property footprint and centring ethics at the pulse of the university.

What does she profess?

Explaining her vision as VC, Prof LenkaBula says she intends to ensure that Unisa becomes not only a centre of academic excellence, success and opportunities for the marginalised, but also a lever of optimum and impactful participation in the global knowledge arena.

LenkaBula’s inauguration will be held under the theme "Reclaiming Africa’s Intellectual Futures”.

* Compiled by Tshimangadzo Mphaphuli, Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2021/09/01