Prof Tholene Sodi

President: Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA)

Dear PsySSA Member

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as President of the Psychological Society of South Africa. I feel privileged and excited to represent the Society and its membership during the upcoming year. Indeed, serving as your President is a singular honour, but also one that is more daunting for three main reasons. First, being elected President comes the responsibility to diligently serve the aspirations of a large and highly diverse membership that has different needs and expectations. Second, our past Presidents have really set a very high standard against which new incumbents are to be judged. So, before I move on to my third point, let me thank the new Exco members for agreeing to devote some of their valuable time, energy and emotions to serve our Society. I also wish to thank our immediate past Presidents Professors Anthony Pillay and Sumaya Laher for their sterling work and the great leadership they have provided. I promise to try my best to live up to their standard and to serve all our members with great dedication. Third, our country is going through tribulations in the political, social, economic and cultural fronts. There is a loud call everywhere for visionary and decisive leadership. As President of a leading learned society in the field of mental health, I am also expected to play my small part to ensure that our country reclaim its rightful place in the community of nations. With such an engaging membership and a Society as strong as PsySSA, I am very hopeful that we can contribute in our small way towards the betterment of our society.

As new Exco, we recently had our first face-to-face meeting at the new and prestigious PsySSA offices in Parktown, Johannesburg. We reflected on the existing strategic plan (PsySSA 2014-2018 Strategic Plan), and noted with pride, that much has been achieved in the last few years. We also noted that there are still a few activities that require our attention in order to achieve most of what the 2014-2018 Strategic Plan sought to achieve. We will be having a strategic planning session in January 2018 to reflect fully on what has been achieved, and to earnestly begin work on the new five-year Strategic Plan that will take us into the future. Let me now give you a preview of some of the key strategic activities that we hope to attend to in the next few months of our term.

Firstly, Exco felt that we need to up our game in addressing the broader public mental health issues that confront our communities. There was a strong feeling that during our term, we need to vigorously engage in social responsibility activities. For example, the Society needs to be seen to be playing an active role in addressing problematic issues such as poverty, inequality, violence (in all its forms), and the many other social ills that our communities are faced with. The Life Esidimeni tragedy is just one case that demonstrates the urgency with which the Society needs to embrace its social responsibility. Secondly, members of Exco were fully in agreement about working tirelessly to unite the profession. For example, there was a strong feeling that the Society needs to focus more on the practitioner, and to agitate for the conclusion of the Professional Board matters pertaining to the Scope of Practice. There is also a need to give more attention to postgraduate students who are often confronted with a number of problems and the anxieties of having to prepare for and write the Board examinations.

Thirdly, Exco was of the view that the whole debate about indigenous psychology and the related issues of decolonization and transformation of the profession and discipline need to be addressed. In this regard, Exco commits itself to creating a platform to deepen discussions on these kinds of issues. Fourth, there was consensus around the need to encourage a debate on the role of ICT in professional psychology, including the role and place of innovative interventions like online assessments and therapies. On a personal note, I strongly feel that PsySSA will also need to engage more with sister learned societies in the rest of the continent. I am aware that my predecessors have done a good job in getting the Society to sign MOUs with several psychological societies in Africa. I am strongly of the view that these existing and new MOUs need to be translated into meaningful and active collaborations.

The previous year was very hectic, but rewarding for our Society. We hosted two international congresses close to each other. The first of these congresses, the INS Mid-Year Congress took place in Cape Town from the 5th to the 8th of July 2017. The congress attracted 341 delegates from 26 countries. The invited component of the scientific programme had 7 international plenary keynote speakers,  5 invited symposia and 4 half day workshops. In addition, 77 papers, 9 symposia, and 73 posters were scheduled in 5 parallel sessions. The second congress, the 1st Pan African Psychology Congress (PAPU2017) took place from the  18th to the 21st of September 2017 at the Durban International Convention Centre. Organised under the theme “Psychology for Society”, the congress showcased the best from Africa and the rest of the world. PAPU2017 will go down in history as one of the memorable psychology events to be held on the African soil. More than 1112 delegates from 33 countries attended the congress. There was a total of  55 Invited Addresses,12 Invited Symposia, 35 Symposiums, 7 half day workshops,320 oral and poster presentations and 4 documentary screenings across 12 parallel sessions.  The great success in hosting these two international events, including the International Congress of Psychology in 2012, demonstrate that PsySSA is fully-fledged to host an event of whatever size. Of course, all these achievements could not be made without the amazing dedication of the local organising committees and a competent administration. Thank you all for the great work!

We have started with the arrangements for the 24th  Annual Psychology Congress which will be held from 10 to 14 September 2018 at Emperors Palace, Johannesburg. Having been privileged to participate in the preliminary planning discussions, I can assure our members that this is going to be a never-to-be-missed event. Based on the feedback from previous congresses, we plan to make the 2018 congress one of the most memorable occasions. Provision will be made during the congress to accommodate more relevant presentations for practitioners, academics and students. Let me not steal the thunder from the Organising Committee that  will soon be announcing the first call.

Looking back, my first few weeks as President have been very enjoyable and full of new experiences – some more expected than others!  I am looking forward to actively engaging with you in the coming months as President of this prestigious learned Society.  Let’s collectively work to ensure that PsySSA continues to be vibrant, stronger and more relevant. Happy festive season!

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