‘Let’s work together on transformation’

Posted on August 28, 2020

Nontsikelelo Loteni has been appointed to serve in the newly formed role of Director of Transformation at UP. She details what her role involves and implores the University community to collaborate with her to drive transformation at the institution.

Nontsikelelo Loteni has been appointed as UP’s Transformation Director with effect from 1 September. Some of the key responsibilities of Loteni, who will report to the Registrar, Professor Caroline Nicholson, includes managing the University’s Transformation Office and coordinating its activities; driving the institution’s transformation agenda; and ensuring that UP complies with legislation pertaining to the transformation of universities in South Africa. In this regard, the Transformation Director will liaise directly with the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation.

Moreover, Loteni will have the important task of providing strategic direction for diversity and inclusion as well as overseeing initiatives that address harassment and sexual- and gender-based violence at the University. “In a tertiary education institution, you look at transformation from a broader perspective,” she explains. “The type of stakeholders that you engage with and the issues that one deals with at a University are slightly different to the ones I have been exposed to in the past in that now I will no longer be focusing exclusively on issues that affect employees. Now I can also contribute in terms of student affairs and the issues they have to deal with, particularly in the context of transformation.”

Loteni joins the University after having served in the public sector for more than 15 years. She has a Master of Management degree in Public Sector Monitoring and Evaluation, which she obtained from the University of the Witwatersrand. However, what makes her well suited for a role of this nature is her experience in human resource management, which has seen her managing transformation, employment equity and employee relations portfolios in government departments such as the Department of Trade and Industry, and the National Treasury.

Loteni was born and raised in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape. She says that as someone with albinism, she was often teased and bullied. She believes the single most important lesson she learnt during her formative years was that you should never allow others to define who you are. “You have to be yourself,” she says. “You have to know who you are as a person. Never allow anyone but yourself to define you or give you an identity. In hindsight, this has helped me overcome many challenges that I have had to deal with.”

Although Loteni has a myriad of roles and responsibilities as the Transformation Director, there are three main things she would like to achieve during her tenure. “I want to make sure that there is representation within the institution,” she explains. “I want to ensure that everyone is able to participate in any opportunity that the institution is offering without anyone feeling that they are being discriminated against in any way. “Secondly, I want to build a culture that will embrace diversity and inclusiveness. Building on the culture of the institution is going to be imperative. Lastly, I would like to get to a place where all stakeholders take responsibility for the transformation agenda at the University. We want to educate individuals and ensure that we develop them into change agents within the institution, because if we are all talking the same language, then everyone is accountable.”

Policy and strategy documents that address matters pertaining to transformation tend to use race and gender as key indicators to gauge whether certain spaces are diverse or not. Certain minority groups that are often discriminated against are therefore overlooked because of this, such as people living with disabilities and individuals who form part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Loteni believes ignorance is a stumbling block in this regard and that in order for people to be accepted for who they are, a lot of work needs to be done to create awareness and foster understanding before any substantive change can happen.

“We need to put more emphasis on these groups because they are marginalised in our community,” she says. “The stereotypes and negative perceptions people have of these individuals need to be done away with and changed. It will not be easy, but it is something that can be done if we work together. As you get to know more about disabilities and people who don’t conform to heterosexual norms and you make an effort to understand them, it becomes easier to accept them.”



- Author Khayalethu Nocanda

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