2022 NRF Awards Honour and Celebrate South Africa’s Top Researchers and Scientists


The National Research Foundation (NRF) honoured a number of South Africa’s prolific scientists in Cape Town on Thursday, 1 September, in a ceremony celebrating the ‘International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development’. 


Viewed as the benchmark for research excellence, the annual NRF Awards recognise individual academics and teams for their recent outstanding scientific achievements. Their internationally competitive work is assessed for, among other things, the contribution to the field of study focusing on quality and impact on society. 


Delivering the keynote address, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Buti Manamela, said it was encouraging that a significant number of black researchers and women were among the award recipients. He paid homage to all the awardees for their ground-breaking research findings. 


“A special congratulation to all of you for your well-deserved awards and for breaking through the veil that concealed new knowledge from all of us,” said Manamela. “It is also quite pleasing to see that the recipients are an eye of the demographics of our society. Of course, as noted in the report of the National Research Foundation, a lot more needs to be done. Not only by you (as the NRF) but by all of us, institutions of higher learning particularly universities and universities of technology, in order for us to see more and more black and women researchers being recipients of awards.”

Mr Manamela added that scientists were important to society. “While it may seem self-explanatory, I believe that we must always ask the question: why do countries train scientists and researchers? Countries essentially train scientists and researchers with the expectation that, through their specialised knowledge, they would lead humanity in the search for solutions to the day-to-day problems of human existence.”

Chairperson of the NRF Board, Dr Nompumelelo Obokoh, said the awards were important because they recognised a cohort of scientists who contributed to the accomplishment of the NRF’s objectives.


“The NRF is making headway in its mission to advance knowledge, to transform lives and to inspire a nation. We’re proud, therefore, as the NRF, to exist within such an illustrious community of scientists with ambitious post-graduate students and leading researchers who, through their excellence and impact of their work, help us to achieve what we set out to do. One has to acknowledge that there is much that needs to be accomplished in the science and innovation landscape. It is reflective moments like tonight that remind us of how far we have come, not only as NRF as an organisation, but as a country and also as a continent.”


In his closing remarks, NRF Chief Executive Officer Dr Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, said the outstanding output of the awardees indicated that South Africa saw a return on its investment in science. He said, “As the NRF we invest in knowledge generation that will lead to innovation. I’m using the word invest on the basis that there must be a return on investment.


“As we invest, we’re guided by our mandate. Our mandate includes the advancement of excellence in research in South Africa; it includes the support and development of the necessary human and infrastructural capacity; it includes leading and managing key national facilities; addressing the relationship between science and society and the promotion of a national science system.


It is thus very important for us to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions that were made by the shining stars of our country’s scientific cohort, researchers, and institutions alike who have committed themselves to scientific excellence that explores uncharted territories to create a more socially conscious and sustainable future for all members of our society.”


The awards are presented across two categories - NRF ratings-based Awards and Special Awards.


The Special Awards recipients

  • Lifetime Achievement Award

Emeritus Professor Brian van Wilgen

  • Research Excellence Award for Next Generation Researchers 

a.       Ms Jessica Fell Department of Civil Engineering, University of Cape Town

b.      Mr Nhlanganiso Madondo Department of Chemical Engineering, Durban University of Technology

c.       Mr Nkosiyomzi Haile Matutu The Hub for Decolonial Feminist Psychologies in Africa, Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town.

d.      Ms Nonsikelelo Precious Mthethwa Faculty of Health Sciences, Durban University of Technology Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology

e.       Mr Athi Welsh Department of Chemistry, University of Cape Town

  • Research Excellence Award for Early Career/Emerging Researchers

a.       Dr Andile Khathi School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal

b.      Professor Monnye Mabelebele Department of Agriculture and Animal Health, University of South Africa

c.       Professor Syden Mishi Department of Economics, Nelson Mandela University

d.      Associate Professor Amir Patel Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Cape Town

e.       Dr Wade Petersen Department of Chemistry, University of Cape Town

f.        Professor Mpho Ivy Raborife Institute for Intelligent Systems, University of Johannesburg


  • Hamilton Naki Award 

a.       Professor Rajend Mesthrie School of African & Gender Studies, Anthro and Linguistics, University of Cape Town


  • Champion of Research Capacity Development and Transformation at South African Higher Education Institutions

a.       Professor Azwihangwisi Helen Mavhandu-Mudzusi Department of Health Studies, University of South Africa


b.      Professor Thulani Makhalanyane Department of Genetics, University of Pretoria (2019 award)

  • Public Engagement with Research (includes attendance of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Conference)

a.       Professor Darelle van Greunen School of Information Technology, Nelson Mandela University

  •  Science Team
    a.       Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience (SBIMB), University of the Witwatersrand


  • NRF Excelleration Award for SA Research Institutions, in recognition of a South African institution for achieving the most improved research performance over recent years.

a)      University of Mpumalanga


Ratings-based Awards 


The P-Ratings, which are awarded to researchers who, based on exceptional potential demonstrated in research performance and output during doctoral and/or early post-doctoral careers, are considered likely to become future international leaders in their respective fields.


They were awarded to the following recipients:


Associate Professor Jessica Auerbach Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town

Professor Thulani Makhalanyane Department of Genetics, University of Pretoria (2019 Award)


The A-Ratings are awarded to researchers who are unequivocally acknowledged by their peers as leading international scholars in their respective fields for the high quality and impact of their recent research outputs. The assessment of the quality and impact of researchers is done through the NRF rating system which is based on peer review. Acquiring an NRF rating generates considerable acknowledgement and respect for the individual researchers as well as their institutions.


The A-rated awardees were as follows:


Professor Jean M-S Lubuma; Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics, University of Pretoria 

1st A-Rating (2019 Award)


Professor Christopher Ballantine: School of Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal 

1st A-Rating


Professor Linda-Gail Bekker Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town 

1st A-Rating


Professor Johan Cilliers Department of Practical Theology and Missiology, Stellenbosch University

1st A-Rating


Professor Timothy Egan Department of Chemistry, University of Cape Town

1st A-Rating (posthumous award)


Professor Jenny M. Hoobler Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of Pretoria Nova School of Business and Economics

1st A-Rating


Professor Victor Houliston School of Literature and Language Studies, University of the Witwatersrand

1st A-Rating


Professor David J. N. Limebeer Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering Science, University of Johannesburg

1st A-Rating


Professor Thomas Meyer Department of Computer Science, University of Cape Town

1st A-Rating


Professor Frederick Johan Raal Department of Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand

1st A-Rating


Professor Oleg Smirnov Department of Physics & Electronics, Rhodes University

1st A-Rating


Professor De Wet Swanepoel Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, University of Pretoria

1st A-Rating


Professor Leslie Swartz Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University

1st A-Rating


Professor Dirk Van Zyl Smit Department of Public Law University of Cape Town

1st A-Rating


Professor Robin Warren Centre for Tuberculosis Research, Stellenbosch University

1st A-Rating


Professor Andre Weideman Department of Mathematical Sciences (Applied Mathematics), Stellenbosch University

1st A-Rating


Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town

2nd A-Rating


Professor Mark Fredric Cotton Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Stellenbosch University

2nd A-Rating


Professor Jonathan David Jansen Faculty of Education, Stellenbosch University

2nd A-Rating


Professor Florian Luca School of Mathematics, University of the Witwatersrand

2nd A-Rating


Professor Lenore Manderson School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand

2nd A-Rating


Professor Lynn Morris Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation, University of the Witwatersrand

2nd A-Rating


Professor Gerald Nurick Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Cape Town

2nd A-Rating


Professor Willem Visser Department of Computer Science Stellenbosch, University

2nd A-Rating


Professor Nigel C Bennett Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria

3rd A-Rating


Professor Pedro Crous Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology, Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), University of Pretoria

3rd A-Rating


Professor Valerie Mizrahi Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town

3rd A-Rating


Professor Len Barbour Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, Stellenbosch University

4th A-Rating


Professor David Chidester Department of Religious Studies, University of Cape Town

4th A-Rating


Professor Norman Owen-Smith School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences University of the Witwatersrand

5th A-Rating


For further information about the award categories and the awardees please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./061 477 3064.


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About the NRF:

The National Research Foundation (NRF) is an independent statutory body established in accordance with the National Research Foundation Act. Its mandate is to support and promote research through funding, human resource development and the provision of the necessary research facilities in order to facilitate the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of science and technology, including indigenous knowledge; supporting and promoting public awareness of, and engagement with, science; and promoting the development and maintenance of the national science system and support of Government priorities, thereby contributing to the improvement of the quality of life of all South Africans.

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