Zeblon Vilakazi. Picture: SUPPLIED
Zeblon Vilakazi. Picture: SUPPLIED

Nuclear physicist Zeblon Vilakazi has been appointed as Wits University’s new vice-chancellor and principal.

He will take over from January 2021, replacing Adam Habib who leaves at the end of the year to lead the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Vilakazi is the current vice-principal and deputy vice-chancellor for research and postgraduate studies at the university.

The institution said on Thursday that its research output has more than doubled under Vilakazi's leadership, with the university increasingly producing more research with impact.

The institution said Vilakazi was widely published (325 papers) and highly cited.

“Professor Zeblon Vilakazi is the epitome of a world-class researcher who is globally recognised for his scientific work, and for his contribution towards developing higher education in Africa.

“He is a truly talented individual who is an inspiring exemplar for all Africans,” Isaac Shongwe, chairperson of the Wits Council, the highest decision-making body of the university, said on Thursday.

Shongwe said the council was confident Vilakazi would lead Wits to its centenary in 2022 and beyond, drive a new vision for the academy, and reinvigorate the academic project in a higher education context that was rapidly changing.

Vilakazi chairs SA’s National Quantum Computing Working Committee which seeks to develop a framework for quantum computing and quantum technology-driven research and innovation in SA.

“It is an honour for me to have been appointed to this prestigious position,” Vilakazi said.

Vilakazi joined Wits in January 2014 as the deputy vice-chancellor: research and postgraduate affairs and was promoted to the position of vice-principal in April 2020.

He has served as the group executive for research & development at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA and as the director of iThemba LABS.

Born in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, Vilakazi obtained his PhD from Wits in 1998. He was one of the first students from Africa to conduct PhD research at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (Cern) in Geneva, Switzerland.

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