ASSAf elects new Office-bearers and Council members

ASSAf elects new Office-bearers and Council members

ASSAf recently elected new office-bearers and Council members to serve the Academy. ASSAf is governed by a Council, comprising 12 elected Members and a 13th Member appointed by the Minister as a representative of the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI). The Academy is pleased to announce its new office-bearers and Council members for the 2020 – 2024 term.Office-bearers and Council members may serve two consecutive terms of four years each.

Newly elected Office Bearers and Council Members 


Prof Stephanie Burton is Professor in Biochemistry, and Professor at Future Africa, at the University of Pretoria. From 2011 to 2020, she was the Vice-Principal for Research and Postgraduate Education at the University of Pretoria.  She holds an MSc in Organic Chemistry (1990) and a PhD in Biochemistry (1994) from Rhodes University.  Professor Burton’s academic career started in Biochemistry and Biotechnology at Rhodes University, and then as Professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town. She served as Director of Postgraduate Studies and Director of the Biocatalysis and Technical Biology Group at Cape Peninsula University of Technology before her current appointment.  Her research interests are in sustainability, applied biochemistry and biotechnology, and she has held a National Research Foundation B rating. She has published widely and supervised numerous postgraduate students.

Prof Sabiha Essack is the DST-NRF SARChI Research Chair in Antibiotic Resistance and One Health and Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the UKZN. Prof Essack also continues to serve as ASSAf General Secretary.

Council members 

Prof Irvy (Igle) Gledhill is Visiting Adjunct Professor in Flow Physics at the University of the Witwatersrand. She holds a PhD in plasma physics from the University of Natal. She did her post-doctoral work at UCLA on thermonuclear fusion, and at Stanford on Space Shuttle physics. For 30 years, she specialised in transonic computational fluid dynamics at the CSIR, South Africa. She also contributed as a computational physicist within diverse multidisciplinary collaborations including rational drug design, ocean engineering, and mine safety. Her current research interest is in unfolding and exploiting the aerodynamics of accelerating objects. She serves on the executive of the Gender Gap project of the International Science Council and 11 international unions.  She is a Member of Sigma Xi, a Past President of the South African Institute of Physics, and a council member of the SA Council for Natural Scientific Professions. She has served as a member of the World Cultural Council Interdisciplinary Committee. She is currently as Editor-in-Chief of African Physics Newsletter and serves as one of three Vice-Presidents of the Network of African Science Academies.

Prof Evance Rabban Kalula is Chairperson of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA). He is also Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Cape Town (UCT), as well as Honorary Professor at the University of Rwanda, fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Studies (STIAS) and ad hoc Executive Policy Advisor to the University of Lusaka (UNILUS). He held various positions at the University of Cape before going into active retirement in 2017, among them as Director of the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO) and the Confucius Institute. He was a holder of a personal chair as Professor of Employment Law and Social Security. He holds several degrees in law, including a PhD. He was educated at the University of Zambia School of Law; Kings College, London; Balliol College, Oxford (where he was a Rhodes Scholar) and the University Warwick School of Law. His academic, policy and research interests are in international and comparative labour law, international trade, regional integration and social protection. He previously served as Chair of the South African Employment Conditions Commission (ECC), member of the ILO Commission of Inquiry on Freedom of Association in Zimbabwe, and Chair of the University of Lusaka Council (UNILUS). He was until recently a member of the Ministerial Advisory Panel of the then South African Department of Economic Development Department (EDD). He is a fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and serves on its Governance and Nominations Committee (GNC), advisor on Council of the South African Academy of Science (ASSAf) and is a member the Institute of African Alternatives (IAA) Board. He serves on the editorial boards of a number of leading local and international journals, including the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Press Editorial Board.  He is a past President of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA).

Prof Julian May is the Director of the Centre of Excellence in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape. He has worked on options for poverty reduction including land reform, social grants, information technology and urban agriculture in Southern, East and West Africa and in the Indian Ocean Islands.  He has also worked on the development and use of systems for monitoring the impact of policy using official statistics, impact assessment and action research.  He has been an associate research at Oxford University, the University of Manchester and the International Food Policy Research Institute. In 2009 the National Research Foundation awarded him a Tier One South African Research Chair in Applied Poverty Reduction Assessment. He has edited 4 books and published over 60 papers in books and academic journals.

Prof Christian Pirk is a Professor and heads up the Social Insects Research Group (SIRG) in the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria.  Born in Berlin, Germany, he studied Biology and Mathematics at the Technical University Berlin before finishing his PhD at Rhodes University in 2002. His research focuses on the behavioural and chemical ecology of social insects, in particular honeybees. He is involved in international networks with an interest in pollinator and honeybee health and collaborates with colleagues in Europe, Asia, America and Africa. He provides a base for students interested in behaviour, chemical ecology, mathematical modelling, nutrition and social insects in general.

Office bearers and Council Members who continue to serve: 


Prof Jonathan Jansen is Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Stellenbosch. He is President of the Academy of Science of South Africa and in 2020 will be a Knight-Hennessey Fellow at Stanford University.  He started his career as a Biology teacher in the Cape and holds a PhD from Stanford as well as honorary doctorates from Edinburgh, Vermont, Cleveland State and the University of Cape Town. He is the author of the award-winning book, Knowledge in the Blood (Stanford University Press) and his 2019 books include Inequality in South African schools (with Nic Spaull, Springer Publishers) and Decolonization in universities (Wits U Press), His 2020 books include Race, Science and Society (SUN MEDIA) and Who gets in and why: the politics of admission in South Africa’s elite schools (with Samantha Kriger, UCT Press). He was recently elected as a Fellow of the International Academy of Education. 


Prof Thomas Eugene Cloete is Vice-Rector, Research and Innovation at SU. He is a former recipient of the ASSAf Science-for-Society Gold Medal award. He is the Founding Director of the SU Water Institute.


Prof Wim de Villiers is Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, Vice-Chairperson of Universities South Africa (USAf) and a Council Member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).

Prof Norman Duncan is Professor in Psychology and Vice-Principal: Academic at UP.

Prof Refilwe Nancy Phaswana-Mafuya is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Research and Innovation at North-West University (NWU). She is one of the few qualified black female epidemiologists in South Africa. She is an ASSAf member, AAS Fellow and NRF rated scientist. She is also member of the International Panel on Infectiology of the German Research Foundation where she represents the African Continent, technical health expert (HIV/Chronic NCDs Scientist)on Higher Health Board, member of USAF Research & Innovation Strategy Group, and also serves on the NRF Board. She chaired the 9th SA AIDS Conference in June 2019, the second largest medical meeting in the world. Prof Phaswana-Mafuya was awarded the NSTF TW Nkambule Science Award IN 2016/2017, for Research and its outputs 15 years after obtaining PhD. Her passion is to contribute towards closing science disparities in South Africa through developing research capacities among emerging scientists. In this regard, she has been involved in the NSTF Share & Dare Programme, NSTF Young Brilliants, SAYAS, SAYSP as well as media talks to motivate young people to choose science careers.

Prof Mary Scholes is a Professor in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences at Wits. She serves as Vice-Chairperson for the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Committee, Max-Planck-Institute for Chemistry and the Secretary-General for the Standing Committee of Public Enterprise. She succeeded Prof Shireen Hassim who resigned to accept a position abroad.

Council Advisors 

Prof Stella Nkomo

Prof Thokozani Majozi 

The Ministerial appointment of the 13th member, a NACI representative, is pending.

We express our sincere appreciation for the contribution and for the service of the following Council members whose terms have come to an end and who cannot be considered for re-election:

Prof Johann Mouton

Prof Zeblon Vilakazi

Prof Brenda Wingfield (Vice-President) 

We also extend our appreciation to Prof Barney Pityana who signalled his intention to step down as Vice-President and Council member due to personal commitments.

We wish the newly elected Council members both a successful and rewarding tenure.