PsySSA: Tribute to Professor Lionel John Nicholas

PsySSA: Tribute to Professor Lionel John Nicholas

PsySSA invites you to honour the legacy of its Fourth President and one of its founding members, Prof Lionel John Nicholas, who passed away on the on 24 December 2020 in Cape Town

Prof Nicholas will be honoured by:

  • Mr Umesh Bawa (University of the Western Cape)
  • Prof Hussein Bulhan (Frantz Fanon University, Somaliland)
  • Prof Saths Cooper (IUPsyS & PAPU)
  • Dr Kedibone Letlaka-Rennert (IMF, Washington)
  • Dr Jim Statman (Boston)
  • Prof Kopano Ratele (University of South Africa)
  • Prof Garth Stevens (Dean: Humanities, University of the Witwatersand)
  • Prof Shahnaaz Suffla (University of South Africa)

Join us on Thursday, 14 January 2021 at 18:00 (SAST)

PsySSA: Tribute to Professor Lionel John Nicholas

PSYSSA TRIBUTE: Lionel John Nicholas, PhD

PsySSA Founding Member, Lionel Nicholas, PhD, passed away on 24 December 2020 in Cape Town.

The fourth PsySSA President (1999-2001), Lionel Nicholas was key to bringing together the white-led Psychological Association of South Africa (PASA), the Psychologists Against Apartheid group, and other psychologists who sought to unify psychology and rid it of its shameful past. He was instrumental in organising the  Inaugural PsySSA Congress that was held at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in the third week of January 1994, some three months before the historic general elections of 24-27 April, which put South Africa (SA) on a democratic and human rights trajectory. PsySSA was thus the first anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-sectarian professional association that was formed in SA. This, without in any way attempting to deny the past, which he constantly warned had a way of rearing itself in the present to disturb the unleashing of its beneficent possibilities amongst humanity in SA and globally.

Lionel Nicholas and his colleagues succeeded against tremendous historic tradition, socialised inferiority, and the prevailing ethos in bringing together all psychologists under one banner. He was determined to sever psychology’s umbilical cord with its erstwhile repression and abiding limitations that precluded the training of more demographically appropriate psychologists, opening up psychology to SA, and making SA receptive to the enormous benefits of psychological knowledge, policy imperatives and endless intervention possibilities.

The history of psychology in South Africa for well over the past three decades is indelibly etched by Lionel Nicholas’ dogged chiselling of the rock face of psychology that was profoundly limited, limiting and exclusionary. Psychology’s current denouement – still reflective of its origins – owes a debt of gratitude to the fearless championing of Dr Nicholas, despite the great cost to his personal advancement.  Whilst a prolific scholar who wrote widely in the behavioural field, social work – where he began his professional journey – and sexology, where he obtained another doctorate, many in or aspiring to leadership of the academy (which was deeply segregated) and the regulatory Professional Board for Psychology were threatened by his outspokenness, enabling of nascent and fresh voices, and pushing the confines of historic and self-imposed boundaries.

One could not be indifferent to Lionel Nicholas, whose large and gregarious personality one either understood, tolerated – what you saw of him and what you heard from him were the sum of the man – or were offended by. Nevertheless, most who knew and interacted with him – notably in psychology in SA and abroad – have memorable encounters that will continue to be regaled at psychology events. He will be the first to heartily laugh and see the irony in his dying on Christmas eve. Psychology has lost a champion, but his inimitable contributions to clearing the way for more of us to get a liberating education and training experience and enter a restricted profession will remain etched in our collective history.

PsySSA extends its heartfelt sympathies to the Nicholas family.

President’s Corner

President’s Corner

We once again find ourselves at the point where we reflect on how quickly another fulfilling but challenging year has passed in our personal, organisational and institutional lives. 2019 – the last year at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, and PsySSA’s 25th anniversary year – has been an opportunity for deep contemplation on our past, as well as a moment for pondering the prospects and possibilities of our future as an organisation.

Global events over the last year have shown that the world is both in a state of precarity, but also reveling in the promise of a better world for all.  On the one hand, we see political instability, terror, the rise of right-wing conservatism, the heightened regulation of human mobility, a global climate crisis, and social protests at the growing polarisation and inequality in the world today.  On the other hand, new organic social movements that are pursuing equity and social justice are replacing old political formations of the 20th century, and the opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution are yielding a set of potentialities for all of humankind.

Closer to home as a country, we have struggled with a flailing economy, the legacy of mal-administered state-owned enterprises, growing inequality and its attendant sequelae, and deep questions about the role of the citizenry, the importance of renewing leadership, and the defense of democratic values and principles.

As the most representative, organised, professional and learned society of South African Psychology, PsySSA has had a challenging year as it has attempted to grapple with these global, continental and national issues and connect psychological science to these debates. Simultaneously, it has focused on driving a vision of what a relevant and socially just psychology for the 21st century should embody in South Africa, on the continent, and across the world.

I am deeply indebted to all of the members of PsySSA for demonstrating a confidence in me as I stepped into the position of President of PsySSA in September 2019.  I am also thankful for the support of all members of Council, the Presidency, the newly elected executive, divisions, standing committees, and the PsySSA office staff, for their continued commitment to our collective vision.

During 2019, we formally adopted the strategic plan at our September AGM and have begun a process of operationalising this plan for the next several years. PsySSA made a significant contribution to the debates and detail on National Health Insurance in South Africa, as we continue to support the principle of universal health coverage. Similarly, we have kept abreast of developments around Scope of Practice and the related category of neuropsychologists in South Africa, and will continue to watch this space. Of course, we remain at the leading edge of psychological knowledge production by endorsing various books and robustly supporting our journals in the form of the SAJP and AJOPA.  Our 25th annual congress, titled Africa’s Imaginaries, Psychology’s Futures, was an immense success.  It was an opportune moment to reflect on PsySSA’s historical origins and trajectories over the past 25 years through the perspectives of Past Presidents, and to recommit ourselves to a future of relevance, social justice and the betterment of all humanity. PsySSA was also superbly represented at the XVI European Congress of Psychology in Moscow, the American Psychological Association Convention in Chicago, and continues to have a bold presence inside bodies such as PAPU and IUPsyS.  During 2019 we built networks with other representative organisations in the mental health sector in South Africa, in alignment with our approach to embrace plural organisational representivity.

As we contemplate 2020, there are a number of key undertakings that we as an organisation will pursue.  Internally, we will continue to operationalise our strategic plan early in the New Year, and identify key priority areas of focus. We will continue to monitor and engage matters relating to the National Health Insurance and Scope of Practice.  More importantly, we will endeavour to vigorously pursue networks and collaborations with others in the mental health sector, for the advancement of quality mental health access for all South Africans. In terms of our vision, we will be guided by nothing less than a view of South African psychology, that is aligned with global knowledge production trends, but is epistemologically located in Africa; that is relevant; that is driven by social justice imperatives; and seeks to advance overall population well-being. More specifically, a focus on youth mental health will be critical in 2020 and beyond, but there will no doubt be other big issues to contemplate. Psychology’s relationship to technology and big data will be critical in both areas of research and therapeutics. We will have to consider how we more deliberately insert our discipline/profession into the global climate crisis debate, into questions of equity, the reduction of polarization, and how we continue to think about global citizenship, leadership and the bolstering of democracy’s dividends.  PsySSA will embrace its mandate of lobbying and advocating for mental health for all in South Africa over this period. Where our divisions are active we will continue to energetically support them, and where they have had less traction, we will reinvigorate them. The remits of our standing committees are being redefined so that they are fit for purpose in an organisational structure that will of necessity have to become increasingly decentralised in the fulfilling of its mandate and in the growth of the organisation. In terms of our relationships with global partners, we anticipate a significant representation at both the ICCP in Melbourne in 2020, and the ICP in Prague in 2020, where we hope to strengthen our ties with partners in both the global north and the global south.

Whilst some may view the current historical period as a troubling and vexing moment in which our darkest fears may be realized, I invite you all not to be overwhelmed, but instead to rise to these challenges and to recommit to a world that can benefit all of humanity.

There is a great deal of work to do in the year ahead, both on existing and new initiatives. I look forward to drawing on the exceptional skills of our members and working alongside all of you as we realize our vision as PsySSA.

Finally, on behalf of the PsySSA Council, Executive and Office, I thank all PsySSA members for their support, and wish you and your loved ones a peaceful, enjoyable and safe holiday season in which you destock your 2019 priorities and also restock your energies for 2020.

Garth Stevens

December 2019

President’s Corner

President’s Corner

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?

(Martin Luther King)

When I wrote the first president’s corner in 2018, I asked what we can do to address the social justice agenda. During this past few months, PsySSA has been busy with numerous social justice issues. The Sexuality and Gender Division (SGD) of the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA) released a statement to express their dismay with regard to the outcome of Caster Semenya’s court challenge against The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF)’s testosterone rule. The Division for Research and Methodology initiated a report against an article from Stellenbosch University that denounced a study that alleges that coloured women in the country have an increased risk of low cognitive functioning due to low education and an unhealthy lifestyle. Consequently the article has been retracted from an international journal. This endeavour has made researchers aware of the particular sensitive South African context and the influence of the past on the present.

PsySSA has been actively involved in raising awareness of social justice issues in mental health. The articles published on a monthly basis about themes such as suicide, autism spectrum disorder and  drug abuse and trafficking also provides information to practitioners of what they can do and how to obtain more knowledge . In addition, we raised awareness of the rights of children during the National Child Protection Week (CPW) and the importance of Africa Day. The executive director of the  PsySSA office entered the 21km Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town to raise awareness for mental health. On a practical level, PsySSA has been involved with Roseneath Primary School and donated library books to support reading in the school. However, PsySSA can raise awareness but practitioners should take the tough decision to act as agents of change – especially in the changing African content as a whole.

One of the main questions asked in the run-up to the 25th celebratory congress, is how mental health issues can evolve to be attentive to the key psychosocial problems facing Africa’s population, and what new modalities are developed in psychotherapy, community psychology and within mental health systems? Some of the answers to this question will be provided at the congress from 3 to 6 September at Emperor’s Palace where we can learn more from evidence based practice. Relevant research inform clinical practice and vice versa to support improved outcomes for our clients. The congress provides the background to clinical questions you may be asking and the most relevant and valid evidence to answer that question. 

Conference goers will have a choice of invited national and international presenters at the congress who will present in various streams such as assessment and evaluation, psychology in schools, sexuality and gender, Psychology in the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and African psychology. The practice based pre-conference workshops will support your development as a practitioner in, for example, supervision matters and assessment of mathematical abilities. Traditionally, practitioners do not write about their practice evidence and leave this aspect to the academic fraternity. I would like to challenge practitioners to provide evidence-based practice research through PsySSA for dissemination and publication. There are various workshops at the conference to help practitioners write for publication. 

I am looking forward to the high quality and exciting plenary programme.  

We remind you that PsySSA is currently in the process of operationalising its Strategic Plan (2019-2022): Vision 2020. As we are committed to transparency and inclusion throughout the process of creating a roadmap to guide PsySSA’s strategic actions, we invited you to join us in the process of co-creating our strategic plan by sharing your points of view, priorities and hopes for Africa’s imaginaries and Psychology’s futures. Kindly read the plan on the website and give us feedback. Let this feedback not only be constructive criticism but also how the plan can be put into action for psychology practitioners to become agents of change. 

The PsySSA Nominations Committee has made us aware that the following positions on the PsySSA Executive Committee will become vacant at the forthcoming 25th AGM: President-Elect; Treasurer;3 Additional Members. The guidelines for these positions are available on the website. 

In other news: PsySSA is proud to be associated with ‘Transforming Research Methods in the Social Sciences.’ Congratulations to Prof Sumaya Laher, Dr Angelo Fynn and Dr Sherianne Kramer for an excellent open access text. The 6th Southern African Students’ Psychology Conference was held from the 24th – 26th of June at the University of Johannesburg. PsySA was present and sponsored the gifts and prizes. We are proud that the PsySSA Student Division Vice-chairperson, Muhammed Yaeesh Cassim, co-presented a workshop on networking, character and leadership building and partook in the plenary. 

I have observed that members often do not utilise their member benefits. One of the specific benefits is the free online access to a number of Psychology journals published by SAGE or the South African Journal of Psychology. This free access supports evidence based information that will be important for practice. Further benefits include that you are kept up to date about important issues for the fraternity of psychology such as the following:

  • PsySSA has made representation to the HPCSA through the ministerial investigation into the HPCSA regarding the annual registration fees paid by psychologists, the frequent administrative hassles encountered by our members in dealing with the HPCSA and the consistent misinformation on the HPCSA website. 
  • PsySSA has also been in discussion with several medical aids regarding recent decisions by certain medical aids not to reimburse certain categories of psychologists for services rendered. 
  • PsySSA has contacted the Board for Psychology office about the feedback of the minister on the new Scope of Practice. At this stage no comment can be made until the minister has made a statement
  • Information on the sites of the various divisions that provide information related to specific interest groups. 

Suntosh Pillay wrote an article for us about Mandela day. He stated that: 

in these pessimistic times of ‘state capture’, corruption, poverty, inequalities, unemployment, and other social pathologies, such as racism, rape, and homophobia, it is easy to feel despondent about the state of South African society. The metaphor of the rainbow nation has lost its currency and a politics of hope has been replaced by a politics of radical dissent. Will a ‘New Dawn’ change this? We wait with bated breath! In the spirit of the slogan of Mandela Day, “Take Action. Inspire Change”, this optimistic reminder implies that the best way to predict the future is to create it.  

Masibe amanxusa ezinguquko/ A re beng bathusi ba liphetoho/ Kom ons word agente vir verandering