Witsies versus abuse

Witsies versus abuse

Gender-based violence and its effects were the main themes of a poetry slam held at Senate House, 18 May.

The event organised by Lawyers against Abuse (LvA) in protest against domestic abuse included Wits poets and dancers.  LvA is a non-profit organisation that provides free legal services to victims of domestic abuse; A number of Witsies actively help with its’  programmes.

A Dance @Wits performance involving just two dancers drew the most applause. The dancers depicted a couple initially in a loving relationship which soon turned violent after the consumption of alcohol. In the end, however they comforted each other and mended their relationship.

But the night was dominated by poets who spoke of “hacking into God’s mainframe”, narratives about women who were victims of abuse and songs urging women to love themselves.

“Gender-based violence is extremely pervasive in our country yet it’s so difficult to talk about,” said Jenny Macleod from LvA. “We wanted to create a space where these issues can be raised in a relaxed setting.”

According to a recent study, 75% of men are perpetrators of gender-based violence and we want to know why, said Macleod.

In addition to this the poetry slam was also held to raise awareness about the organisation and to raise funds through the sale of t-shirts, caps and wrist bands.

“We are hoping to get more students involved in the organisation” said Macleod.


NERVOUS laughter rippled through the lecture hall when Maria Wanyane began her presentation.  The 1st year construction studies students did not expect the Wits sexual harassment officer to mention some of the explicit, derogatory words whose usage can constitute harassing behaviour.

But they appreciated her frankness. “I liked the fact that she was blunt … because we don’t need to sugarcoat it. It’s real”, said Witsie Shanice Pillay.  Some of the students also gasped in disbelief when Wanyane told them that excessive persistence in asking for dates was a form of harassment.  Nkateko Ncube said this was one of the most interesting things she learned from the lecture. “I got to know that there is a difference between flirting and sexual harassment.”

Wanyane also told the students they had a responsibility to ensure that they and their peers create a positive learning environment for everyone by avoiding harassing language and behaviour.  All of the students listened attentively and some took copious notes during the talk, which took place during senior lecturer Angelo Fick’s communication skills class.

A national problem

Fick said that sexual harassment is a problem in South African society and that it also happens at the country’s universities.  “This is the space in which we can guide people’s understanding about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, before they have to learn it the hard way.”  Fick was pleased with his student’s engagement with the topic during the tutorial which followed Wanyane’s lecture.

The students had lively discussions about some of the issues surrounding sexual harassment. These included power relations between lecturers and students, and between students and their classmates who expect reciprocity for favours such as help with assignments.  Almost all of the students Wits Vuvuzela spoke to found the sexual harassment lecture and tutorial interesting and informative.

A waste of time?

One student, however, said the lecture was a waste of time, especially at this point in the term.  “We could have used the time for revising for upcoming exams,” said Mthokozisi Mncwango.  Fick disagreed. “If university education becomes simply about exams, then it’s a failure and a tragedy. It’s a holistic education, about becoming a well-rounded human being.”  He said every student should be exposed to sexual harassment training, whether they were training to be an actuary, a lawyer, a dentist or a drama teacher.

“It’s important to understand that behaviour that you may take to be normal … is, in fact, a violation of somebody else’s human rights.”  Wanyane says she hoped to go into more 1st year classes, so that eventually every Witsie will be aware of sexual harassment.  Her talk comes two weeks after the SRC launched a new poster campaign urging students to speak out about the issue.

The President’s Privates

The President’s Privates

The artwork depicting president Jacob Zuma with his penis exposed has caused quite a stir this past weekend. Here’s a round-up of the controversy.


Predictive test

It is expensive to check whether anti-retroviral drugs are working in an HIV-positive patient, but a new approach could halve the costs.

Doctors monitor the success of anti-HIV drugs using a “CD4 count”. The fewer CD4 cells a patient has, the more HIV has damaged the immune system.

When an HIV positive person starts antiretroviral treatment (ART) against HIV, the number of CD4 cells should increase if the ARTs are working. If the CD4 count is below 200, the person has AIDS, according to the Centre for Disease Control.

But these tests are costly and, in developing countries like South Africa, lab equipment and trained staff are limited. To address this, Wits researcher Prof Ian Sanne and a team of international researchers have suggested a new way to predict which patients are likely to have a low CD4 count.

 Those patients who are predicted to have a low CD4 count can then have the test done to confirm it. Their “Prediction-Based Classification” tool correctly predicted 90% of low CD4 counts.

Their study was published the PLoS Medicine Journal in April 2012. The authors emphasise that their tool should not replace CD4 tests, but could improve the monitoring of treatment by making better use of money, staff and equipment.

“Introducing PBC will diminish the burden on poorly resourced laboratories, releasing funding to reach more patients,” Sanne told Scidev.net, a prominent science news website for developing countries.

The tool, a mathematical algorithm, could also reduce the need to repeat tests that give unexpected results. Their research also provides a basis for future studies to look at the economic and health benefits of the tool.

Sanne is the founder and director of the Clinical HIV Research Unit at Wits.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela, 18 May 2012

Bakkie rolls on Bertha


Wrong way up: The bakkie involved in the crash near the Jan Smuts entrance, behind the school of arts.

Two cars were involved in an accident on the corner of Bertha and Ameshoff on Thursday morning.

The accident occurred near the Jan Smuts entrance, behind the School of Arts, which most Witsies use on their way to and from Braamfontein.

The collision which involved a white Hilux bakkie and station wagon, resulted in the bakkie flipping onto the opposite side of the road and landing on its roof. The bakkie was said to be travelling from Randburg to the CBD.

Both cars were each transporting two passengers and all managed to escape without injuries.

The wrecked cars were towed away from the scene after Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officials assessed the damages and took statements from the people involved.

Emergency services reached the scene in ten minutes. However, the female passenger who was in the Hilux was shivering and complained of coldness and chest pains refused to be taken to hospital.

Johannesburg Emergency Management Services personnel, Lizelle Delport, said the woman in the Hilux was shivering and recovered quickly after being given some water.

Delport explained that the woman who had refused medical attention signed a patient-refusal form and only showed signs of shock.

An eye-witness said, “The bakkie caused the accident after it skipped a red traffic light and hit the Toyota venture in the intersection.”

The driver of the station wagon Zivanai Msoni gave an account of what happened and said, the Hilux was right behind a taxi which also skipped the traffic light which had already turned red, when it hit his car on the right fender.

However the driver of the Hilux claimed at the time he was in the intersection while the traffic light was amber.

Fire fighters, paramedics and security guards helped lift the Hilux that had landed on its roof before it was towed away.