Heritage Day for Witsie’s.


Heritage day means different things to Witsies, while some feel it’s a day to celebrate many different colours in our rainbow nation, other students feel culture is an old fashion notion that’s extinct.

Bachelor of Science masters student, Tlou Boshomane said there is no African but western heritage.

“Africans celebrate heritage in houses built by the missionary, whereas they should be celebrating it in monuments, which are heritage houses, he said

While a student who didn’t want to be named said heritage day means nothing to him as culture is “so outdated”.

I am Venda but can only speak English, don’t think there is a need to know African languages as I communicate with people in English, he added.”

African Languages Head of Department, Dr Mhlambi said heritage is not tied to the language issues. “I believe the issue of heritage is broader to encompass issues of collective racial identity and vision, the African experience or the Black experience and how all of that has robbed us of our racial pride.”

1st year Civil Engineering student, Seane Kanyane said heritage day is an important day in our calendar because we celebrate our historical inheritance, languages, the land we live in as well as the food we eat.

For project management masters student, Thamsanqa Hlongwane, heritage days means celebrating South African unity and diversity.

A Namibian student, Sibusiso Harvey, 2nd year Actuarial Science student, said heritage day means “celebrating our roots and what makes us different from other ethnicities”.

Cuthbert Ramatlo, The Disability Unit editor said, “Heritage day is about the celebration of South Africa’s cultural and traditional diversity and how history has in a way helped all South African citizens to achieve tolerance, understanding and appreciation of difference among us”


Pink sheep in the family

This year’s Wits pride march was anything but just plain pink. A growth in support was reflected in the variety of students and staff members who tread the Wits campus in solidarity for freedom of sexuality.

This year’s Wits Pride march was anything but just plain pink. A growth in support was reflected in the variety of students and staff members who trod the Wits campus in solidarity for freedom of sexuality. The march was a colourful start to the week’s events to make people aware of the acceptance and not just mere tolerance of each other’s sexual preferences. People chanted to the remixed version of world-renowned songstress Beyoncé Knowles’s hit single, Who runs the world? Girls, which was enthusiastically sung as ‘Who runs the world? Gays’. The official Johannesburg Pride March takes place this Saturday at Zoo Lake.

The march was a colourful start to the week’s events which aimed to conscientise people to the acceptance and not just mere tolerance of each other’s sexual preferences.

People chanted to the remixed version of world renowned songstress, Beyoncé Knowles’ hit single “Who runs the world? Girls,” which was vehemently sung as “Who runs the world? Gays”.

Angela Sibanyoni , a 2nd year public management and governance student at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) came to march in full support and commented, “ It’s awesome. People who aren’t gay are also marching in pride. This shows that such initiatives help create awareness. I came to march at Wits because I believe homosexual people are the same everywhere and we should support across campuses.”

An implied contradiction was raised when a song, stating: “I don’t know what you’ve been told, but being straight is soooo old,” was sung while marching on west campus.

This song had a few bystanders questioning whether the marchers were not contradicting their main theme of “acceptance” across all sexual preferences.

When asked whether such a song eroded the essence of the pride march theme, Cameron Jacobs- a member of the Wits pride week organising team said, “To a certain extent, if that’s how some gay people want to express themselves then there’s nothing we can do about it.

Maybe the song was sung in frustration from all the discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans, intersexual and asexual (LGBTIA) or perhaps solidarity for the cause behind the march. I don’t think it was sung with an aim to exclude heterosexual people.”

An exhibition memorial for people killed due to homosexual hate crimes was held in front of the Great Hall on east campus. The memorial plastered coffins and a noose stand to commemorate the lives lost due the increased violence last year against people in the LGBTIA community.

Zamani Mtshali, a 2nd year Computer Science was taken in by the morbid exhibition and said, “I think it highlights the struggle that gay people go through, such as the discrimination and stigma continually associated with being gay.”

Racist e-mails rattle actuarial sciences school

A  RACIST rant sent by an unknown person has left students and staff at the school of statistics and actuarial sciences shaken.
“Actuarial science and mathematical statistics are tough darkies, they aren’t for you…So if you k*ffirs thought you might pass them, all I can say is hahaha think again…”
This was the e-mail sent to stats 1 and stats 2 students, from a fake Yahoo account on Wednesday evening last week.
The following day, the same e-mail was sent from the same Yahoo account to the Stats 3 class but this time the unknown sender added “once a stupid monkey, always a stupid monkey” and named two black third year actuarial science students, saying they were “repeating 3rd year for the third time and ended, “monkey go back to the jungle…”
Thokozani Mogano  is one of the two third year students mentioned in the  offensive e-mail. He says all the information about him and his classmate, who did not wish to be named in  Vuvuzela, is false and degrading.
Mogano says he had heard about the e-mail sent to the 1st and 2nd year students but only read the second one after a classmate told him about it.

He says the e-mail has made things uncomfortable for his class and, whoever the sender is, the person is just “trying to cause a war between blacks and whites”.

“I can’t trust even the people I hang around with anymore and I can’t say it’s a white person who sent that e-mail, it could be anyone,” Mogano says.

He has  laid a complaint with the investigations unit at Campus Control.

Head of the school of statistics and actuarial sciences, Professor Peter Fridjhon, sent an e-mail last Friday to students in stats 1, 2 and 3 and to the university’s management, condemning the e-mails, labelling them as “highly offensive”.

Fridjhon vowed that “once this person is caught, there will be a serious disciplinary hearing with dire consequences”.
Wits University’s code of conduct states that each individual is required to act ethically, which includes preventing racial and other forms of harassment, disrespect for persons and discrimination on the basis of race, amongst others.

The code of conduct also lists responsible conduct as “preventing misuse of personal and university information and property and the name of the university”.

Shashilan Singh, administrator at the school of computer science, which administrates the e-mail address used by the stats 3 class, says: “In terms of security, we never considered possibilities of people using e-mails like this, but in future we will consider all security loopholes to prevent such from happening again.”

Fridjhon says in his e-mail that the university authorities are investigating the source of these e-mails.

Biotweet – Witsies trending all the way to the top

SOCIAL networking takes on a whole new meaning as five Witsies take their scientific research to an international stage this week.

The students left for Amsterdam on Thursday where they will compete in the semifinals for the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Their research, which they call the “biotweet”, involves taking bacteria and configuring it to carry messages within a network, allowing it to pass messages back and forth and perform tasks depending on the information communicated.

Team adviser and masters student in molecular medicine, Michelle Robinson, said: “The bacteria could seek out toxic substances in water, for example, and come back to tell other bacteria to go and absorb the mercury and detoxify the water or signal to a user that mercury has been found… the idea is that they are ‘Tweeting’ each other as they find out information.”

The team consists of five students from the faculties of health sciences, science and engineering. They also work closely with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s synthetic biology division and are the only team from South Africa to compete in the iGEM.

Professor Marco Weinberg, faculty adviser for the project, said: “Synthetic biology is really all about bringing together the fields of biology and engineering and it is fantastic that we have managed to get students from so many disciplines together to produce an amazing project like ‘biotweet’.”

He also said it was very significant having a South African team at the competition.

“The iGEM competition is very competitive and the standard is at a high level. The team has worked very hard to produce exceptionally good science and I am optimistic about our chances of getting a gold medal and going through to the finals at MIT.

“It’s a really fascinating field. It is multi-disciplinary so students from humanities, mathematics, computer science, engineering and biosciences all have something to offer in terms of developing these machines.”

The global finals will be held at MIT in Boston, US, in December. To find out more go to http://2011.igem.org/Team:WITS-CSIR_SA.

Lifts defying gravity

The lifts in the University Corner building go up but don’t always come back down, leaving users to make a hike of up to 18 floors up the stairs.

The three lifts in the 40-year-old building suffer from a range of problems. They often get stuck on one of the top floors, they do not stop at selected floors, the doors refuse to close, and their speeds vary  between high and super slow in one flight.

One of the building’s security guards, who did not want to be named, says he often has to run up to the 10th floor to “fetch” a lift for people waiting on basement level.

“People complain every day. From the basement, people are climbing 10 floors or walking down because they waited too long for a lift.”

He says the lifts are serviced every morning but as soon as the maintenance company leaves the problems start up.
“The company says it’s the [dust from the]  construction that is causing the problems.”

Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the Joburg centre for software engineering on the 12th floor, says:  “My feeling is that the lifts are very old, in fact too old and beyond their useful life. It makes working in the building difficult. All the construction has caused tremendous wear and tear on the lifts.
“There’s talk about changing them. The guys who maintain the lifts do a sterling job in keeping them going, they’re old,” says Dwolatzky.
Construction work on the Wits Arts Museum (WAM) on the ground floor of  University Corner is nearing completion and will be the biggest university gallery in South Africa. WAM takes up three levels and will have “its own goods lift for the delivery and movement of the art collection to and between the various levels of the museum,” says Emmanuel Prinsloo, Wits director of campus development and planning (CDP).

“The lifts located in the foyer of University Corner will be replaced as an independent contract in the next financial year. CDP has been instructed to facilitate the issuing of a tender to the market in October 2011. Regrettably the importation of lifts is a long-lead item, with delivery periods between 14 and 18 weeks from date of order,”  Prinsloo says.

Former Witsie and architect Tseko Mashifane says: “Lifts are expensive and owners are usually reluctant to fix them hence the exhaustive repairs. If it is a public building, the state can issue summons against the owners only if it can be proven that it is danger to the public. There are a lot of grey areas in this matter.”