Building Bridges

Wits students Portia Monaheng and Dineo Mahlare work on a project in the architecture studio. Photo: Hazel Meda

ON the sports fields, Wits University and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) are arch rivals. But when it comes to construction, they’re on the same side.

First year students in the Wits School of Architecture and Planning and their UJ counterparts were challenged to design a cardboard box without using staples or glue. An egg would be placed inside the box, which would then be dropped from the top of a building. A well-designed box would protect the egg from breaking.

The twist in the challenge was that the respective teams would swap designs and then build one another’s boxes.

The joint project was organized by Wits Construction lecturer Gerald Chungu and Denver Hendricks of UJ.


Wits and UJ architecture students test their eggboxes by throwing them from the top of the John Moffat Building. Photo: Gerald Chungu

Communicating clearly

“We try to simulate what you do in construction: somebody designs and somebody else builds. Then we meet to see how successful the built object is,” Chungu said.

Student Aeron Stipanov said: “It was a learning curve for us. It showed us how the real world is; if your designs aren’t accurate, then your building will potentially kill people.”

Dineo Mahlare, a Wits student, commented on the different teaching style of each institution:

“The UJ drawings and designs were set up in a very professional way. They were neat and proper. We sort of did it in our own way. We did our own thing.”

She found the experience valuable and eye-opening.

“It shows you what you can work on to be a well-rounded architect. I learned how to present my work better just by looking at their drawings and their layout. It helped.”

Responding to questions about whether the eggboxes were successful, Chungu said: “Some were. Some broke on impact.”

Related articles

Wits architecture aces help Westbury community


Wits School of Architecture and Planning

1st year architecture students prepare for the eggbox challenge. Photo: Gerald Chungu

Bronzed honour

Refreshments served in enamel cups, crate seats, and a group of men who sang work songs as if they were on duty underground.

This was part of the ambience set for guests who had come to Wits to bear witness to the official unveiling of the “unknown miner” statue situated at the entrance of the recently renovated Chamber of Mines building.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Yunus Ballim explained the significance of the statue donated by Louis Wald, the son of the creator Herman Wald, and its relation to the celebrations of the institution’s growth.

“The statue shows the significance that the mining industry has had on the country’s  economy and the history of the institution” said Ballim.

Part of the sculpture’s symbolic meaning is that it pays homage to the unsung heroes who  contributed to the mining industry.

The statue is the first of the two sculptures that were donated to the institution as part of the Wits90 celebrations.

Related articles:

Photos by: Jay Caboz @jaycaboz

Double act for Wits Drama

A double-bill of Chekhov shorts – two one-act farces with a “sit-com type of vibe” – is currently being presented by the School of Arts, School of Drama and the Wits Theatre.

After more than 100 years, The Bear and A Marriage Proposal are still applicable to modern South Africa, says Makhaola Ndebele, director of the short plays. As it was then, middle class society is still concerned with “non-issues” in their lives.

“I’m very interested in representational work, situational comedy…the sit-com type of vibe. It resonates with me so much because he [Anton Chekhov] was a Russian from the 1800s, and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is so relevant’.”

Another thing that attracted Ndebele to the work of Chekhov was his way of observing and representing the middle class and land owners.

A Marriage Proposal, Ndebele explains, is about a man who wants to propose to a young woman, but keeps getting distracted. They end up arguing about mundane issues like, who owns a piece of land and who has the better dog.

“I think in our society today there are a lot of people who get concerned with these so-called ‘non-issues’, and miss the bigger picture.”

Starred in Machine Gun Preacher

Ndebele is no stranger to the dramatic arts in South Africa. He is known for his work as creative director on the South African show, Rhythm City, and has starred in movies such as Hijack Stories (2000), Machine Gun Preacher (2011) and Man on Ground (2011). In Machine Gun Preacher he starred alongside Gerard Butler, among others.

“It was a humbling experience…very professional and very exciting to be part of such as huge project.”

He recently decided to study for a masters in dramatic arts, while lecturing at Wits. “Learning is an on-going thing… after so many years in the industry, I decided I wanted to teach and doing a masters kind of enables me to investigate and research new areas of performance that I have not previously done.”

Luke, played by Michael Mazibuko, begs Ms Popova (Gaosi Raditholo) to stop mourning the death of her husband and step outside. (The Bear)

Lomov, portrayed by Gamelihle Bovana, proposes to Natasha, played by Emma Tollman, in A Marriage Proposal.

SKA: “A wonderful boom for Africa, through science”

South Africa is ready to host the world’s most powerful radio telescope. That was the message Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology, wanted the world to hear.

SKA: “What a wonderful boom for Africa, through science, ” said minister of Science & Technology, Naledi Pandor. PHOTO: ANINA MINNAAR

She was speaking at a media briefing held on Thursday, 29 March 2012, by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the South African Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project team and the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF).

The SKA Founding Board had been expected to announce a final decision on the SKA host country next week. Instead, the meetings on April 3rd  and 4th would address concerns and finalise the site selection process, said DST Director General, Dr Phil Mjwara, and SA SKA Director, Dr Bernie Fanaroff.

But Pandor insisted that South Africa would push for a final answer. “Our site is better…We think we’ll be a brilliant decision.”

She said the benefits of the SKA project to South Africa would mainly be in the form of human capital. “Expanding the number of Africa’s scientists and technicians will allow South Africa and Africa to play an increasingly important role in the global knowledge economy.”

Almost 400 postdoctoral, PhD, Masters and undergraduate SKA bursaries have already been awarded to South African and African students since 2005. Two Wits students were among this year’s bursary recipients.

The SKA facility will also generate employment in infrastructure construction and, along with other large-scale astronomy facilities like the MEERKAT, will attract tourists and drive socio-economic development.

When asked what would happen if South Africa  was not chosen as the host, the minister replied: “Plan A: we are ready to host the SKA. Plan B: we are ready to host the SKA. Plan C: we are ready to host the SKA”.

Wits is home to one of the seven SKA research chairs, Prof Sergio Colafrancesco, chair in radio astronomy. Colafrancesco is currently abroad supporting South Africa’s SKA bid and was unavailable for comment.

The panel from left to right: Dr Bernie Fanaroff, Minister Naledi Pandor and Dr Phil Mjwara. PHOTO: ANINA MINNAAR

The young and the hairless

Balding or the loss of hair, which has always been a condition associated with men in their 30s or older, is starting to affect men barely in their 20s.

According to one of the leading hair loss specialists in South Africa, Dr Kevin Alexander (, one reason for this increased incidence of hair loss among younger men, is the fact that there are increased stresses placed on these men in today’s society.

Brendan Roane, a 25-year-old former Wits student started losing his hair about 4 years ago and it has gotten worse. He hasn’t bothered with treatment: “there’s not much you can do about it, unless you get surgery which I’m not keen on”. When he consulted his doctor, he said “you’re screwed”.

Male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss in men. It is characterised by a patterned hair loss which starts above one’s temples. This condition can start developing any time after puberty which is when blood levels of the hormone testosterone increase.

Image showing an example of male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia. Source

Alexander said he saw negative implications in hair loss among his young patients. He said it was “psychologically devastating” for them.  “They lose confidence since baldness can make you look 10-20 years older…they become the butt of jokes.” There are negative impacts for them socially and in the workplace.

A 22-year-old Wits student who wanted to remain anonymous said he started noticing his receding hairline when he was 15. He wanted to have dreadlocks but couldn’t because of his hair loss. After trying different products such a creams and sprays, he has resorted to shaving all of his hair off to hide his condition.

“Losing my hair made me seem old so I just started shaving my hair every second day,” he said.

Although his hair loss had affected him negatively in the past, his confidence has improved because his “chiskop” has given him a unique identity.


Related articles:


Varsity round-up

University of Pretoria

A Tuks medical student has been granted a court interdict against a fellow student, for sexual harassment.
The respondent reportedly said to the applicant, “I am going to sit behind you and follow you on campus and in your car… I love you, I am going to stalk you for the next three years… Man bitch! Fag! Weirdo! I’m going to bliksem you!”
The order prevents the respondent from making any contact with the applicant, physically, telephonically or electronically.

The 22-year-old student claims the respondent is hounding him with text messages and on Facebook despite having explicitly assured the respondent that he is not homosexual. The student attempted to block the respondent on the site but the respondent created false profiles to contact him, declaring his love for the medical student.
In the messages, the respondent reportedly begged to see the applicant naked, and “to kiss him and if he [the applicant] felt nothing, promised to leave him alone”.
In his statement, the applicant said, “The respondent is making it impossible for me to normally attend class. He is invading my personal space. He makes me feel unsafe and I desperately need the protection of the court.”
The respondent’s mother wrote a letter supporting the application for the court  order against her son. She expressed her “absolute regret” for the “fiasco” that her her son was responsible for.


University of Limpopo

A University of Limpopo student has been arrested for allegedly dumping her newborn baby in a toilet.
The dead infant was discovered in a pit toilet in the garden by the owner of the off-campus residence where the girl lived. It is unclear whether the baby was alive when the incident occurred.
The third year BA Administration student has been barred from her residence, but the university has said that they will support their student.
“While we regret the incident, we will give our student emotional support,” said Kgalema Mohuba, the university’s spokesperson.
The body was taken to government mortuary, where a post-mortem will be conducted to determine cause of death.


University of Zululand

Lectures at the University of Zululand were disrupted this week, following violence fuelled by a dispute between student political groups.
The dispute began last weekend at a student representative council (SRC) meeting held to brief students on the activities of the National Students Movement (Nasmo)-led council during its term of office. The conflict was reportedly between Nasmo, the South African Student Congress (Sasco) and the Young Communist League.
On March 25, six students were injured and a staff member was assaulted.
The violence continued into the evening of March 26, when another six students were injured when the  rioters  began throwing stones.
KZN police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said no investigation was under way. “Police will investigate when people come forward to open cases,” he said.
The provincial levels of the various student groups involved have condemned the violence.


University of the Free State

Approximately 10% of UFS students go without regular meals according to the NoStudentHungry campaign (NSH)  .
The campaign aims to raise money for a food bursary, which will be used to help students have healthy daily meals.
“These students do not ask [for] red meat; just something to be able to study,” Rector Jonathan Jansen said at the event.
Jansen has donated the royalties from his book, We need to talk, to the campaign, amounting to R100 000.
University spokesperson Lacea Loader said students who were awarded the NSH bursary were selected on the basis of financial need, academic performance, involvement in student programmes, and community engagement.


Related articles:

Vuvuzela: Varsity round-up March 15



“I don’t steal from government!”- Sexwale

Minister of human settlement Tokyo Sexwale has pledged to give R5 billion of the R10 billion he is alleged to have accumulated through corruption.

“If that story can ever be true, I’ll give the first R5-billion to the charity of your choice and you keep the change,” said Sexwale following the Mail and Guardian’s article titled Tokyo Sexwale’s prints all over R10-billion tender last Friday.

The minister was speaking at Wits University at the public lecture hosted by the ANCYL (WITS) on corruption and tendering systems in relation to service delivery.

“I don’t steal from government, in fact I feel heavily underpaid in government but I have money of my own,” said Sexwale.

Morris Masutha, former president of the Wits SRC, asked the minster about the contradiction of him being in government and in business.

“Don’t you think it’s contradictory for a government official in human settlement to have a construction company and [to] chair the same committee that decides where the construction tender goes?” asked Masutha.

Sexwale said he declared all his business interests which meant that none of his companies can get a tender from his office.

He warned students not to believe everything they read in the newspapers and for youth to develop a culture of questioning and being involved.

Sexwale said the slogan of the youth in pursuit for economic freedom should continue to be “nothing for us, without us”.

He emphasized the need for racial tolerance because the youth and society are faced with new challenges.

“The youth must give us confidence that you are ready to take over, because we have confidence in you”

Sexwale made reference to the expelled leader of the ANCYL, Julius Malema, “ke sono neh?” (It’s a shame isn’t it?), he said to the laughing crowd.

Centenarian comes crashing down

A man was injured when a building collapsed in downtown Johannesburg last week Wednesday.

The street vendor who was outside of the building, which is situated at the corners of Jeppe and End streets, was injured when debris from the structure fell on him. He was taken to Hillbrow hospital for treatment.

City Spokesman Niel Rooi said a fire had ripped through the building in February. The structure was further compromised when people began stealing steel support beams from the structure. Emergency services said that could be the reason for the collapse.

A local resident, Banda Ngomezulu, told authorities that at night people could be heard chipping away at the building to get to the steel.

The building was reportedly uninhabited at the time of the collapse but police conducted a search with the canine unit to establish that no one was trapped in the rubble. Ward councillor Nokuthula Xaba said she visited the building to warn residents to leave three times because of the unstable nature of the building.

In a separate incident, another building collapsed in Melrose, Johnnesburg earlier this year. Local emergency services reported that the building, which was under construction, collapsed in January 2012 leaving three people injured. Three walls collapsed and emergency services rescued injured men under the debris. One of the men was critically injured.

Getting Clued Up

The Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) has introduced The Final Year and Postgraduate Experience which is aimed at preparing students for the working environment.

The program is aimed at equipping 3rd year and honours students with the skills required to survive in the corporate world. Curriculum Vitae (CV) writing, developing oneself as a potential employee and mock interviews are some of the topics that will addressed at the event.

Career Education Specialist Raj Naran said, “Students need to take ownership and prepare themselves for the working world and the final year experience is an ideal opportunity to do so.”

Naran said a number of specialists from various sectors of the corporate field will be giving talks during the workshops.

“Practitioners from the more specialised fields like accountancy will be in attendance, we are trying to get professionals from the humanities field to come as well,” said Naran.

Life coaches from Coach Approach and Human Resource practitioners from Standard Bank will also be giving speeches.

Naran stresses it is important that students know how to write up a proper CV.

“Students come to us with half complete and sometimes unprofessional CVs and some of the times we (CCDU) are booked out and cannot assist them.”

Charissa Erwee, 3rd year BMus, was told her CV was too long and she would need to adjust it.

“I relied on LinkedIn to help me market myself as an employee but an event such as the Final Year and Postgraduate Experience will be very helpful,” said Erwee.

Diversity and relationships in the workplace will also be addressed along with how students can go about “branding” themselves through establishing a name in the working world.

The program starts July 6, during the winter vacation and ends September 19.

“Booking for the program is essential,” said Naran.


Nuclear energy a threat to our human rights

NUCLEAR energy is “too little, too late, at too high a price” as an option for the country’s growing energy crises says Greenpeace South Africa.

Amnesty International and Greenpeace united at Wits on Wednesday are to give a presentation titled The Nuclear Debate: Lessons from Fukushima and Human Rights to highlight the connection between the human right to a safe and healthy environment, and the health and environmental implications of nuclear energy plants.

The South African government has tendered a R1-trillion contract to build six nuclear reactors, a deal which would account for 20% of world expenditure on nuclear energy in the next two decades.

Greenpeace representative Ferrial Adam challenged the three “myths of nuclear power” being; nuclear energy is the best way to respond to energy needs, that it is safe, and that it is the answer to reduce carbon emissions which would in turn help slow down climate change.

Amir Bagheri, an Amnesty International representative and former Wits student used his presentation to highlight the connection between a healthy environment and access to basic human rights, pointing out that all human rights are effected when people are forced to live in unhealthy environments.

Adam used the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which occurred over a year ago, to show how radiation can make a very large area around the site uninhabitable. She contested that while pro-nuclear groups are quick to point out that there were no fatalities from meltdown at the plant, the health consequences of radiation exposure are long term, such as increased chances of developing cancer and a rise of birth defects in children.

Along with the health risks, there are no effective methods of disposing of radioactive nuclear waste, which remains dangerous for centuries after it has been created.

To see photos from Greenpeace’s recent campaign against nuclear energy click here

Blind student makes Wits history

For the first time in the university’s 90-year history, a disabled Wits student has been awarded a sports bursary.

Sisanda Msekele was recognized for being a member of the SA adaptive rowing team.

The 3rd year psychology student who started rowing a year ago said: “Owing to my blindness it was very difficult to master the technique of rowing. It’s the hardest thing I have done in my life.”

However dedication, good time management and her supportive coach Marco Baleone had been the recipe to her success.

She received the award at the Wits Sport Council’s annual Sport Bursary and Scholarship Awards ceremony. The hour-long ceremony was held at Sturrock Park last Thursday, 22 March 2012.

“Sisanda is a very hardworking young lady and we wish her all the best for the year 2012,” said Onkabetse Matlhaga, communications officer for Wits Sport.

In April she will be flying to Belgrade with her team for the 2012 London Olympics qualifiers.

Size Vardhan, who recently succeeded John Baxter as head of Wits Sport, also gave blue ties to individuals who strive for the success of sport at the university. The honorees were Baxter, Prof Ronnie Schloss, Prof Bruce Murray, Hloni Phutsoane and Rob Sharman.

Vardhan thanked Murray, Sharman, Croxley, ABSA and the Sky Foundation for sponsoring the bursaries and scholarships.