COVID-19 Memos

Staff and students should continue to follow the return to campus practices introduced under Alert Level 2, as the University makes the necessary risk assessment adjustments in preparing for the less restrictive Alert Level 1.

In preparation for the gradual return to campus, a lot of work has gone towards ensuring that staff and students come back to a safe and COVID-19 compliant environment on campus.

Whether it is fighting a pandemic, changing your behaviour or boosting morale – ‘It is in your hands’.

I greet you all, as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic as one world.

More than 11 800 students have already accepted the opportunity to return to campus to continue their studies, albeit in new ways and in very different conditions.

As increasing numbers of students prepare to return to campus in line with Lockdown Level 2 regulations, so our vigilance at maintaining the present low transmission status at Nelson Mandela University must be retained.

The 2021 academic year at Nelson Mandela University looks set to begin in March 2021, as the current academic year will be extended to ensure its successful completion.

We have learnt much from the COVID-19 pandemic, not least the critical role of those staff members who have kept Nelson Mandela University functioning and safe – our frontline workers.


Nelson Mandela University will follow the same cautious and controlled approach in welcoming more staff and students back onto campus in the forthcoming weeks.  Up to 66% of our staff and returning students are permitted to be on campus, as per the Lockdown Level 2 regulations.

In a bid to create awareness, destigmatise the coronavirus and offer hope, four more University staff members have shared their stories, each emphasising the importance of support they received during their recovery from COVID-19.

With no new COVID-19 cases on any of its campuses in the past week, the University is committed to doing all that it can to maintain the status quo by calling on the support of all staff and students to make this possible.

In our previous message, we indicated that a Revised Academic Calendar for 2020 is being developed and will be presented to the Executive Committee of Senate (ECS) for approval.

In anticipation of your return during Lockdown Level 2 and the lessons learnt during the present restrictions, please be reminded of the steps to be followed in returning to work on campus.

Nelson Mandela University is symbolically recognising the recovery of its staff members from COVID-19 with Olive Trees.

The same controlled, phased approach for the “return to campus of staff and students” under the present regulations, will be followed for the new Lockdown Level 2 restrictions, to ensure that health and safety compliance continues to be well managed.

A new online meal booking system as part of the University’s drive to improve the safety of students while on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be launched on some Port Elizabeth campuses today.

The scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the poor, in particular, has once again highlighted the need for intervention in the country’s most vulnerable communities.

The working, learning and teaching experience at higher education institutions in the last few months has been extraordinarily different to the way it was when staff and students left campuses on early Recess in March 2020.


The University’s Coronavirus website ( is your go-to destination for all matters relating the pandemic and is consistently updated in line with both internal and national changes.

In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 (OHSA), an employer is obliged to, as far as reasonably practicable, create and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of its employees.

HIGHER HEALTH is the national agency of the Department of Higher Education and Training, dedicated to student and staff wellbeing. This organisation is currently addressing the mental health needs of over two-million students and staff, as the mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you to those staff members who have completed the health declaration form and online COVID-19 prevention measures training.

Whether you are on or off campus, as a Nelson Mandela University student, we are here to support you, especially if you have tested positive for COVID-19. 

To monitor your own wellbeing, all staff and students should use the University’s own online COVID-19 self-screening tool.

Just as no-one could have predicted the COVID-19 virus or its global impact, so no individual, institution or country has all the answers in navigating the safest and most economically astute way forward. What’s more, no-one is able to accurately predict when this crisis will end.

With health and safety the overriding priority at Nelson Mandela University in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, students who have been notified to return to campus will need to follow stringent processes, including the mandatory use of three key items to enable safer ease of movement.

The University’s student transport system has resumed in line with the gradual, phased return of notified students to campus.

It is in your hands.” That’s the key message Nelson Mandela University will be driving in an external marketing campaign to encourage every individual to play his or her part in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the University welcomes 33% of our students back to campuses in a staggered manner in terms of the directives by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, we are aware that the University community is anxious to receive information on the adjusted academic dates for the 2020 academic year.

Unsure of what to do if you test positive for COVID-19? Want to know about cleaning support at the University? Seeking wellness help? For answers to these and countless other questions relating to new ways of working, studying, learning and teaching, and living at Nelson Mandela University during the coronavirus pandemic, please refer to our new Return to Campus Guide

A new cartoon called eRona Times depicting real people in real settings playing their part in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic will be released today.

As South Africa nears 100 days of Lockdown and COVID-19 case numbers rapidly rise, the University continues with its cautious but controlled approach towards completing the 2020 Academic Year.

We are mindful that the disruption brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has not been an easy journey for our students and academic staff, who have had to switch to blended learning in the quest to complete the 2020 Academic Year.

To assist you with information and / or to provide guidance on all matters relating to the COVID-19 pandemic please make use of the following:

The Nelson Mandela University Convergence Fund has been gaining traction, attracting donations from various members of the University community around the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on every facet of life, not least the way we work. At Nelson Mandela University we are committed to ensuring that our students complete the 2020 Academic Year while also adhering to national safety regulations.

As the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic spikes across the Eastern Cape, Nelson Mandela University continues to intensify efforts to contain the virus through screening and targeted testing of significant contacts.  This, after Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Buffalo City Metro, OR Tambo District Municipality and Chris Hani District Municipality were named as hotspots in the province, a great concern for all in the province, including students and staff at the University.

The number of staff members who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus at Nelson Mandela University has risen to 19, with four additional cases confirmed over the long weekend and an additional one today.
The management of vulnerable employees based on their risk assessment will be implemented by line managers, heads of departments, and divisions throughout all levels of the University.

Prevention is our best defence in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, each staff member needs to know what these prevention measures are and how to practice them. 

A new online COVID-19 self-screening tool aimed at monitoring the wellbeing of Nelson Mandela University staff and students and to facilitate easier access to campuses and residences is now officially in use.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University is required to identify all vulnerable staff members and put appropriate procedures in place to address their specific needs.

Status update

Preparing our campuses, facilities and residences for a new way of learning and living in the face of rising COVID-19 cases throughout the country, and in the Metro, has been a particularly anxious time for staff at the University.

To ensure a safe and controlled return to campus by those critical and essential staff members identified and approved to physically work on the University’s grounds to prepare for a gradual resumption of activities, a series of interventions has been put in place.

As the safety of staff and students comes first, the University has taken the precautionary decision to quarantine members of its Port Elizabeth-based Protection Services team.

The University is aware of the many concerns relating to the return to campus of a limited number of staff and students later this month. Please be assured that plans to this end are well advanced, and that you will be given ample time to prepare, should you be identified to be among the first to return.


Following the first confirmed COVID-19 case in South Africa, Nelson Mandela University put together a multi-stakeholder Coronavirus Task Team (CTT), which was tasked with coordinating the institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 surveillance and disease management plans were implemented in full this week as more support staff members returned to Nelson Mandela University campuses to begin preparations for an incremental return of identified staff and students, later this month.

This letter on the completion of the academic year and the phased return to campus was sent to students.

A national state of disaster was published in Government Gazette No. 43096 on 15 March 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The University, like all other institutions, has been under Lockdown alert Level 5 and Level 4.

“At this time, more than any other, we are reminded of the words of Madiba, when he said: ‘It is now in your hands’.”

Nelson Mandela University has devised a process to ensure a safe and controlled opening of its facilities in managing the gradual return to campus of identified staff and students in line with national regulations.

We will be provisioning the next allocation of data to students on the 3/4th June as the previous allocation will expire.

Wellness Check-in

After more than 60 days of Lockdown, trying to work and study in new ways in a new environment, while also balancing a home life against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, can understandably cause great stress and anxiety.

As the country prepares for the next step in its phased return to work from 1 June, so Nelson Mandela University is readying itself for new ways of working, teaching, living and being without compromising the safety and wellbeing of its staff and students.

Posters aimed at increasing awareness around the important role each of us – staff and students - has by wearing masks in public, are available free for download from the University’s #MaskUp website.

Support Services line managers and other managers whose team members are returning to campus shortly are urged to contact HR soonest to arrange for a virtual training session on COVID-19 prevention measures.

Nelson Mandela University launched its Convergence Fund in April 2020.  The rationale for the establishment of the Convergence Fund was provided in an earlier memo, with more information to be found here:

The global COVID-19 pandemic saw the Government announce a national disaster and introduce Lockdown restrictions on 27 March to prevent the spread of the virus and “flatten of the curve”. The regulations promulgated under the National Disaster Act, 2002, directed for a national Level 5 national lockdown of economic activity.


Nelson Mandela University’s Occupational Health doctor has received a positive COVID-19 result for one of our critical on-site services staff members.

The first batch of laptops to enable additional Mandela University students to continue their studies online during the lockdown period will be dispatched later this week.

As the #MaskUpMandela movement gains momentum as part of a collective national drive to change behaviour and save lives, the University is seeking material donations to make masks.

Changing behaviour to save lives is the overriding hope of the #MaskUpMandela movement.

To date a total of 27 766 students subscribing to the major Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have received data bundles that enable them to participate in online learning during the lockdown period.

In recent weeks, several announcements have been made on developments in the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic generally and, with regards to the higher education sector.

Can you sew? Do you have material? Are you available to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus by making masks?

Recently, government has made several announcements in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In the main, we shift from a national lockdown alert Level 5 to alert Level 4, with the announcement of the plans for the higher education sector to commence the roll-out of a phased return to campus.

In keeping with the strategies to support a multi-modal flexible remote learning and teaching pathway during Level 4 of Lockdown announced by the Minister for Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, Nelson Mandela University is putting the following measures in place...

In recognition of UNESCO’s International Jazz Day 2020 in the midst of the present pandemic, the University wishes to honour the COVID-19 front-line workers with its own tribute.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in the history of our young democracy. Government has shown great initiative in introducing measures to manage the pandemic and its impact on South African society.

The University is actively pursuing a number of initiatives to support students in utilising online learning platforms, as well as for staff to work remotely.


Today, as Nelson Mandela University confers the awarding of qualifications in absentia, we salute the 4 447 students who would have been celebrating at Autumn Graduation this week.

As our Vice-Chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa indicated in her Memo on Monday this week, we have started to phase in new ways of learning and teaching since 21 April.

Throughout the world, people from all nations, races, ages and capabilities are coming together to do what they can to fight the pandemic that has changed life as we know it.

The global cybersecurity landscape has seen a spike in criminal activity since employees were allowed to work from home.  Criminals have realised that employees are no longer working within their organisation where they are protected by the full extent of the organisation’s security systems.

Graduation in absentia for students who completed their qualifications during the 2019 academic year. April is the annual Graduation season at Nelson Mandela University. As previously shared the Autumn Graduation season has been postponed to later in the year due to the current lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

As you would be aware, we remain in a highly volatile period as a country, sector and university. The fluidity of the situation we find ourselves in is one that makes planning and implementation extremely challenging, particularly because the scourge of the COVID-19 disease is beyond our present control.

While we support the need for Universities to respond as a collective, as to when and the way in which academic activities will resume, we also realise that some responses, will have to be tailor-made to institution-specific conditions.


Join the live session on Friday, 17 April 2020 via this link:

The world as we know it has been tipped on its head, and we find ourselves in uncharted waters, not knowing what the future holds.


The creation and production of various types of personal protective gear (PPE) is underway at Nelson Mandela University, thanks to staff from the Department of Fashion and Textile Design.

As the number of (COVID-19) novel Coronavirus cases escalates in South Africa and the Eastern Cape, efforts to curb the spread of the virus are being intensified, with Nelson Mandela University availing its suite of skills and expertise to support local and provincial government’s efforts in the fight against the unfolding pandemic.

COVID-19 continues to have a tremendous impact on the lives of many, as its ripple effect is felt across the world. For high school learners the uncertainty around their ability to successfully complete the 2020 academic year has left many adrift, but we are confident that the interventions currently being implemented by the Department of Basic Education and other key stakeholders to help learners in all grades complete the 2020 academic year, will alleviate some of the concerns they currently face.

The university continues to encourage and enable staff and students to adhere to and find ways to cope with the national lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Nelson Mandela University is hosting a dedicated Coronavirus website for the convenience of all staff and students.

In a bid to keep staff abreast of developments and support mechanisms during the lockdown period, the University has introduced a Staff Resource page on the staff portal for your convenience.

The University is actively pursuing a number of initiatives to support students in utilising online learning platforms, as well as for staff to work remotely.

As South Africa goes into a national lockdown from today, as part of government’s efforts to flatten the curve and contain the virus, the country woke up to news that it has also registered the first two fatalities as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) may have a tremendous impact on the wellness of many, as its ripple effects continue being felt across the world.

Kindly note that Resources for Staff that may be required during the 21-day lockdown are all available on the staff portal

“We will prioritise the lives and livelihoods of our people above all else …”

The impact of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues its ripple effect across the world, and continues to affect South Africa’s higher education sector deeply.

Firstly, I would like to thank our President Cyril Ramaphosa, for his courageous and decisive leadership.  Worldwide the COVID-19 pandemic is rampant and is increasing much faster than initially anticipated.

We note President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a nationwide lockdown for 21 days from midnight on Thursday, 26 March 2020 to midnight on Thursday, 16 April 2020.

The Eastern Cape recorded its first confirmed novel coronavirus (COVID-19) case on Saturday, 21 March 2020, with the figure increasing to two as at the latest official update on Sunday, 22 March 2020.

Travel register

An international travel ban is presently in place, and all other internal travelling for business or private matters should be postponed for now, in line with national directives to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The impact novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which has been declared a global pandemic and a national disaster in South Africa, has created a highly volatile situation that has necessitated a great deal of flexibility in the way that work is conducted.

The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in South Africa continues on the rise, presently at 202, with infections reported at some higher education institutions.

New working arrangements, production of our own hand sanitiser and the training of Contact Centre staff are among the many measures that have been implemented in the past week to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the University.

The University will be adapting its usual working arrangements to limit the number of staff on its seven campuses while still ensuring operational continuity during the Recess period starting today.

The number of confirmed novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in South Africa continues to rise, with the latest figures from Government showing that the country presently stands at 116 infections. This figure is up from 85, as at yesterday (17 March 2020).

Following a consultative meeting today between Dr Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Universities South Africa (USAf) Executive Committee and other stakeholders, a decision was reached to advise Universities and TVET colleges to call for an early Recess from Wednesday, 18 March 2020.

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the University is implementing a range of additional sanitary and hygiene measures to help prevent the spread of the disease across all its campuses in Port Elizabeth and George.

You would have noticed these posters up around campus, in off-campus residences and in student shuttles.

The number of confirmed novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in South Africa have increased from 24 to 62, pointing to the rapid spread of the virus in parts of the country where there have been confirmed cases.

The leadership of the University is currently meeting to consult on the appropriate response for our institution in view of the national developments around COVID-19.

South African Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced earlier today that the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country has risen to 24, with rising concerns at the spread of the virus through local interaction.

What we are doing

This is how we are going to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our workplace and study areas. These low-cost measures will help prevent the spread of infections in our workplace and study areas, such as colds, flu and stomach bugs and of course, COVID-19.

Nelson Mandela University’s coronavirus (COVID-19) response task team is working to put measures in place to prepare the University as far as possible for any eventuality related to the virus.

On 9 January 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that a new coronavirus strain (COVID-19) was identified in China, linked to an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, in Hubei Province.

Dear Colleagues
Please attached information regarding Coronavirus and the Workplace.

Dear Colleagues
Please find attached The Department of Health’s information with regard to Coronavirus.
Please pay specific attention to Slides 6-10. 

Dear Students
The current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019.

Know the symptoms and report to Campus Health Services for screening if needed.