Nuclear Physicist Named New Vice-Chancellor of Wits

Zeblon Vilakazi, a professor who is “globally recognised for his scientific work,” has been selected to replace Professor Adam Habib as the next vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Witwatersrand. He will take over his role on 1 January.

zeblon vilakazi wits chancelor south africa
Professor Vilakazi. Photo” University of Witwatersrand.

Professor Vilakazi’s appointment was announced today by the Council of the University of the Witwatersrand today. Habib is leaving to take the lead at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Vilakazi, who was born in Katlehong and got his PhD from Wits in 1998, is the current Vice-Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduate Studies at Wits. Under his leadership, Wits’ research output has more than doubled, with the university increasingly producing more research with impact. He is widely published, with 325 papers.

“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,” said Isaac Shongwe, Chairperson of the Wits Council.


Vilakazi chairs South Africa’s National Quantum Computing Working Committee, which seeks to develop a Framework for Quantum Computing and Quantum Technology driven research and innovation in South Africa.

“It is an honour for me to have been appointed to this prestigious position,” Vilakazi said. “I am committed to working with my esteemed colleagues, fellow academics and smart, savvy students to create new knowledge, and to develop the high level skills required to move South Africa, and our economy forward. We also need to continue to develop the originators, innovators and critical thinkers who can help us solve the problems of the 21st Century.”

Vilakazi is globally recognised for his expert knowledge in physics and nuclear research. He was instrumental in establishing South Africa’s first experimental high-energy physics research group at CERN focusing on the development of the High-level Trigger for the CERN-ALICE experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). He also served as a visiting scientist at the Atomic Energy Commission and Alternative Energy in Saclay, France.