SAIAB News » SAIAB – On a Journey to Transformation

SAIAB – On a Journey to Transformation

Tuesday, 08 May 2018                                                                                                                    

By: Lucky Dlamini – DST/NRF-SAIAB Communications Intern


Fig.1: Session Presentations.

Amidst the controversial national conversations about transformation, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) showed that it is not afraid to have robust conversations about transformation and diversity. SAIAB showed its commitment to the transformation agenda when it spearheaded a compulsory all-day transformation workshop for all staff, interns and students at the Gavin Reilly Post-Graduate Village – Rhodes University, on Thursday 19th April 2018.

The workshop was facilitated by Busisiwe Dlamini and Kirsten Klopper from the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies (WiCDS). This followed two earlier transformation workshops that SAIAB hosted in September 2015 and in October 2017 as steppingstones for the implementation of transformation at SAIAB.

The purpose of the 2018 workshop was to build on the previous transformation workshops – as well as to highlight some issues which are still prevalent in the institution such as: patterns of dominance and imbalance in leadership and management, cultural divisions, gender equity, disability issues and opportunities for growth and development of all staff. Having identified these issues, the next step was to explore possible paths to improving the organisational culture and productivity for all its staff, interns and students.

The workshop provided a teambuilding experience with activities that foster relations, understanding and team cohesion. One of the most pleasing activities was the speed dating. This was a speed-networking opportunity for all staff members to briefly meet each other and converse on a given topic/question for about 2-3 minutes at a time. However, one of the elements that SAIAB Librarian, Maditaba Meltaf, felt was missing was a chance to give one’s own view of what transformation actually is.

SAIAB has furthermore shown its commitment to transformation by establishing an internal ‘Transformation Committee’ – constituted of elected representatives from SAIAB management, students, interns, Wellness Committee, Employment Equity Committee and an elected shop steward from the National Health Education & Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU).



Fig.2: Speed dating activity.

Alongside the positive willingness to engage, SAIAB remains determined to work together and meaningfully address the transformation agenda. It also continues to recognise that it is on a continuous journey in relation to addressing the challenges that remain in the institute.

“The good participation of all staff was very encouraging and we hope that this momentum will be sustained and even pick up into the future,” said Garth van Heerden, SAIAB Human Capital Development Manager.


Fig.3: Teams reviewing/reflecting on what is currently working
for SAIAB and what is not working that needs to be improved.

 Comments from the workshop

SAIAB’s IT specialist, Andrew Grant, said that, “the tone of the 2018 workshop was very different to that of the previous years. The general sense of optimism was astounding and especially seeing the process being lead from top down in the sense that management was showing an acceptance that challenges remain.”

DST/NRF-SAIAB intern, Tholoana Ntokoane, expressed that, “working for an institute that prioritises transformation matters gives me hope that transformation for the better will happen [and that] work is [being] done to make sure [transformation] happens. Transformation is no longer just an idea.”

SAIAB Research Student, Delsy Sifundza, said that, “it is good to see that the people who have been at SAIAB for a longer period of time see the need to provide a transformative space as a way of contributing to and implementing the institute’s values.”

 “The transformation process is long-overdue in this country and I feel fortunate being part of constructive conversations in the workplace. What is learnt here can be applied to other areas or circles of life that aren’t work related that encourage treating people with dignity, respect and humanity,” said Grant.