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​Mistra Fellows


To achieve its objectives, MISTRA has brought together experts and researchers in various fields as full-time and part time researchers, research fellows and as partners of various kinds.

A MISTRA Fellowship system has been established to bring into the MISTRA fold experts in a variety of fields as researchers on specific themes or high-level partners in the content work of MISTRA.

MISTRA Fellows for 2014


Prof Thaddeus Metz

is an NRF-rated Humanities Research Professor at the University of Johannesburg. The Iowa-born scholar relocated to South Africa in 2004, joining Wits University where he was Professor of Philosophy and founding Director of the Centre for Ethics. He has worked on an eclectic range of topics and is recognised internationally for his rigorous research into value theory, including the sub-Saharan ethic of ubuntu. Professor Metz argues that ubuntu, in the African milieu, is the most defensible moral theory and be should be developed further for its contrasting potential with dominant Western/Eastern theories and belief systems such as utilitarianism and Kantianism. Included in his research repertoire is Kant’s notion of justice, grounded on the concept of human dignity to which he has applied a variety of contemporary social issues of particular concern to South Africa and the world.  He is the project leader of MISTRA’s priority research project titled The Philosophy of Chinese Civilisation: The Rise, Decline and Rise of Civilisations. Part of his contribution to this project is to compare the value systems of ubuntu and Confucianism and their role in a country’s economy, technology, innovation, politics, and society.


Prof Mary Gulumian

is a graduate of Wits University. She joined the National Centre for Occupational Health (NCOH) which later became the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH).  Currently she is the head of the Toxicology Section at the institute while holding an honorary professorial post in the Haematology and Molecular Medicine Department, University of the Witwatersrand. In her university post she is involved in post graduate training and presents short courses in Toxicology and Health Risk assessment.


Amongst her many associations, Professor Gulumian represents South Africa in the OECD Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterial’s as well as serving on a related national expert technical committee. She is a member of the Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine (SFRBM), Society of Toxicology (SOT) and Society of Risk Analysis (SRA).


Professor Gulumian’s research interests include hazard identification and communication as well as elucidation of mechanisms of toxicity of micro and nano particles, toxic metal ions, and pesticides. She leads numerous nationally funded research projects, has authored and co-authored several scientific publications and has been invited to present at conferences across the globe. She has provided expert consultation to industry and government departments on the toxicity of chemicals in working and ambient environments. MISTRA is privileged to have Professor Gulumian providing an advisory role on its priority research project Beyond the Imagination which is focusing on nano technology.


Prof Hamsa Venkatkrishnan

currently leads the division of mathematics education at the School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand. She further leads the Marang mathematical literacy programme.  Professor Venkatkrishnan completed a PhD in mathematics education in 2004 at Kings College - her doctoral thesis was awarded the British Educational Research Association award in 2005 with the distinction of being the best educational thesis submitted for 2004. Her research has focused on the impact of policy initiatives on mathematics teaching and learning in schools in the UK and South Africa. Her recent publications focus on understanding the implementation of Mathematical Literacy in the FET phase in South Africa. In addition to this ongoing focus, she is currently working on the development of a primary mathematics specialism within mathematics education teaching and research, spanning the work of the school and Marang. MISTRA is honoured that she has agreed to contribute to the priority research project, The Pedagogy of Mathematics.


Dr Yongjun Zhao

has worked in a wide range of sectors — businesses, non-governmental organisations, international development organisations and academia, in China, South Africa and The Netherlands.


He gained his PhD in International Development Studies at the University of Groningen, Netherlands. His research covered social, institutional and political economic dimensions of natural resource governance in China and Africa, and China’s engagement with Africa on agricultural and sustainable development issues. Professor Zhao has produced three books on land reform, and his most recent book China’s Disappearing Countryside: Towards Sustainable Land Governance for the Poor was published by Ashgate in 2013. He has also been widely published in journals and these cover his work collaborations on research projects in Africa, the sub-continent, South East Asia, China, South America and Europe.


Professor Zhao spent many years working in China and more recently joined the (UK) Department for International Development (DFID) in Beijing as an advisor. He has since occupied a variety of posts at the University of Groningen. Currently he is Assistant Professor in Globalisation Studies and Humanitarian Action at the university, and MISTRA is honoured to be associated with him as he contributes to the priority research project, The philosophy of Chinese civilisation: the rise and decline and rise of civilisations.


Prof Pitika Ntuliis a scholar with wide ranging expertise. He is an artist, sculptor, poet and a respected arts activist. Deeply connected to South Africa’s struggle for liberation, Professor Ntuli actively pursues through his art, a campaign to preserve memory and forge a path of healing in our country.


Professor Ntuli has chaired the arts and culture ministerial task team as well as the ministerial advisory committee on indigenous advisory systems and a range of other related issues over the past twenty years. In addition, he has contributed to a wealth of committees including the National Film and Video Foundation, World Congress of Sociologists, Womad (World of music, art and drama), the 1995 Venice Biennale and the SA Art and Cultural Association, to name a few.


Professor Ntuli has held various posts at universities, (UKZN and UDW, Wits) institutes and art schools, and was the Artistic Director at the Jenako Arts Community Arts Centre in Brixton, London.


Professor Ntuli has published and exhibited widely. He has been an artist in residence, a curator of exhibitions and has made a rich contribution to film and television. MISTRA is honoured to have him lead the priority research project Arts and national development: an evolving South African challenge.


Dr Edmund Thamsanqa (Thami) Mazwais executive chairman of Mtiya Dynamics (Pty) Ltd a company specialising in the development of enterprise and supply. Formerly a journalist and editor, he changed direction towards small business development because of his interest in entrepreneurship. Dr Mazwai started the business section of the Sowetan and later ran his own business magazine, Enterprise, which focused on black entrepreneurs.  He was formerly director of the Centre for Small Business Development at the University of Johannesburg and is currently Resident Executive at the Wits Business School, advising on small business support programmes. 

He is Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Fort Hare.  In January 2013 Mazwai was in Russia, part of a panel of experts looking at methodologies to integrate small business into the value chains of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) countries. He is a member of the Skills System Review Technical task team of the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa and his brief is to help integrate small business into the national skills development agenda.

Dr Mazwai has an MBA from the UK-based Henley Management College and a D.Comm from the University of Pretoria. He has designed, and is currently working on, an enterprise development strategy for rural areas pioneered by the Services Seta, and has designed a strategy for the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) that seeks to identify robust small businesses that can grow into formidable entities. The small business strategy will be launched later this year by the dti and will be implemented by the Small Enterprise Development Agency.

Dr Mazwai has published books and papers and he contributes regularly in the media on issues pertaining to Black Economic Empowerment and SME development. He was the founder chairperson of the Black Editors Forum and founder chairperson of the South African National Editors Forum. He is a past chairperson of the Wholesale and Retail Seta (WRSeta).

Prof Gauhar Razais based at the New Delhi based Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research, and chief scientist and Head of the Science Communication through Multimedia Division, at the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources.  He was a member of the core team that conceived and planned a national science communication incentive Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha in India in the 1990s. Professor Raza is an electrical engineer by qualification, a scientist by designation, a communicator and a poet by passion. He initiated research on public understanding of science in India and has conducted large-scale public understanding surveys. The national project conceived and directed by him has probed attitudinal shifts in public understanding among the Indian population for the past 25 years. His published work includes books, research papers, and monographs on public understanding of science, science communication, cultural studies and indigenous knowledge systems. He  has  produced  a  number  of documentary films on various topics of science and technology, and produced the first science serial for TV in Hindi, and anchored a number of popular science serials for television channels, including Kasauti (the Touch Stone), Scientifically Yours and Eureka.


Professor Raza is a member of the MISTRA research team on The philosophy of China: rise, decline and rise of civilisations.


Dr Oscar van Heerden

is a scholar of International Relations focusing on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and southern Africa in particular.  He completed his PhD study at the University of Cambridge (UK) in 2010 on trade relations looking empirically at the UN Security Council, SA-European Union Bilateral relations and mediation in Zimbabwe, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Johannesburg under the NRF chair for International Relations and African Diplomacy in 2013/14.  He lectures on international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)


Dr van Heerden’s work experience over the last 2 decades has been in strategic support to the ANC in the late 1990’s, the South African Qualifications Authority in 2000, and independent management consultancies. He will be publishing his thesis in due course, and is currently writing chapters for the Institute for Global Dialogue (on development diplomacy) and the CSIR (on South African foreign relations), respectively.


For the past year, Dr van Heerden has worked for the City of Johannesburg. He is currently in the Executive Mayor’s office, responsible for the strategic orientation of both the domestic and foreign stakeholders of the metropole. Dr van Heerden remains an active member of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation’s ‘Concerned Africans Forum’ and the Mapungubwe Institute of Strategic reflections (MISTRA).


2011 Fellow of the Mapungubwe Institute (FMI)work with and at MISTRA as and when the need arises


  • Professor Yoga Coopoo - Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Peter Delius - Department of History, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Dr Hester du Plessis - Senior Researcher, Sustainable Energy Technology and Research, University of Johannesburg
  • Professor Harry Dugmore - MTN Chair Media and Mobile Communication, University of Rhodes
  • Mr Barry Gilder – Specialist Researcher & Former Director Operations, MISTRA
  • Dr Vusi Gumede - Associate Professor, School of Public and Development Management, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Professor Kwandiwe Kondlo - Director, Centre for African Studies, University of the Free State
  • Professor Vladimir Linkov - Senior Professor, SA Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry, University of the Western Cape
  • Professor Tshilidzi Marwala - Dean of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Johannesburg
  • Mr Vele Neluvhalani - Specialist Researcher
  • Professor Andries Oliphant - English Department, University of South Africa
  • Dr Ven Pillay - Strategic Advisor, Institutional Citizenship, University of Pretoria
  • Mr Tony Trew - Specialist Researcher
  • Professor Nicola Viegi - Chair, Monetary Economics, University of Pretoria
  • Professor Francis Wilson - Emeritus Professor, University of Cape Town