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.

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.

Home ground disadvantage for basketball women

The Wits women’s basketball first team lost to the University of Johannesburg in Hall 29 on the weekend leaving them with one more chance to qualify for a place in a national tournament.

If they are to participate in the University Sport South Africa (USSA) tournament, the Wits Lady Bucks will have to win their last qualifying game. The women’s first team is one of four Wits basketball teams hoping to take part in the national tournament, which starts in Port Elizabeth in July.

The game against UJ was competitive from the first sound of the buzzer and both teams showed determination to shoot baskets and defend their territory.

Compared to Wits, UJ showed strength in their offensive play. They had more successful shots, resulting in a 23-13 lead by the eight minute of the game.

Wits’ coach Willie Matlakala said: “We started the game very well defensively and managed to restrict UJ scoring a lot in the first quarter.”

In the second quarter, the Lady Bucks made several mistakes and didn’t get back to defence quickly enough to prevent UJ from entering the lay-up lane. That also made it harder for Wits to catch up. UJ led 50-18 at the end of second quarter.

Matlakala said Wits lacked confidence on offense as they were “throwing the ball and not looking” when they made attempts to score.

The third quarter saw UJ increase their control of the game where they were shooting baskets and catching rebounds if they missed shots. Wits tried to stay in the game despite them having fewer substitutes as several players were injured from previous games.

The score at this point in the game was 67-30 in favour of UJ.

UJ acting captain Rachel Makoni said both teams played aggressively and that her team ran well during the game but could improve on their offense and defence.

By the end of the fourth quarter, the score was 82-44.

Matlakala said: “UJ played well and organised the whole game and deserve the win … We have to work on finishing close to the basket, as we created a lot of scoring opportunities but did not convert them.”

I am not my hair

I recently shaved my head … and no, I wasn’t going through something. Well, technically I was, but not what you think.

It wasn’t a break-up sob story or a spur-of-the-moment crazy hairdo act. I wasn’t looking forward to it because like, most women, I believed that “your hair is your crown”. Confidence comes not only from looking good, but from having a great mane.

However, knowing the real reason I cut my hair off made me carry the look with confidence and pride. I lost my brother in March. In my culture, a cleansing ceremony follows a certain period of mourning, set by the elders.

This cleansing is basically the process where you are, well … cleansed. There is no other way to explain it. But one of the rituals involves cutting your hair off. If you are lucky, only strands of hair are cut from the sides of your head, but if you’re not so lucky, you’ll lose it all.

On the eve of the ceremony, my siblings and I had a huge debate about this. My sisters and I decided, no way were we going to lose all our hair. In the end, though, I was the only one to come out “wounded”.

After my uncle did a choppy job on my natural afro, I decided my brother should take out the clippers and remove the rest as quickly and painlessly as possible. I didn’t break down though, when I saw it fall. I was honouring my late brother.

My new look has other advantages too, the most important being the ability to take head to toe showers. All my ladies will agree with me on this: it is such a good feeling having a proper shower without having to worry about messing your relaxed, weaved or freshly blown hairdo.

You will probably envy me for this too, but windy days do not faze me at all. I can take a ride in a convertible and have stress-free “wind in my hairless” moments.

Even though the father of the reformation, Martin Luther said, “The hair is the richest ornament of women”, I’ve let my hair down on this one and enjoy the fact that I now know that my tresses do not define me.

 Published in Vuvuzela 14th Edition, 18 May 2012


Unions reject salary increase

Staff unions at Wits have declared a dispute with management after negotiations faltered last week.

Unions and management have been in negotiations since management announced inflation-linked salary increases last month.

Management announced a 7.25% increase across the board for academic staff (Grades 5-9), a 6.5% increase for support staff (Grades 5-17) and a 6.5% “adjustment to Campus Control allowances”.

Prof Patrick FitzGerald, deputy vice chancellor of finance and operations, said the negotiations were intended to reach a settlement but some unions took positions which made it “very difficult”.

Adele Underhay, president of the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA), said unions rejected the offer based on their members’ mandate.

“I think we all realise that it doesn’t help that we push management and they can’t afford to give us an increase,” said Underhay.

Underhay said although the increases are in line with the inflation rate, predictions for inflation are much higher and staff, especially in the lower grades, complained about the increasing cost of living.

“What could happen in regard to the inflation rate in the future is obviously out of our hands,” said Fitzgerald.

Industrial action as last resort

The unions will approach the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and appear before a commissioner who will hear both sides and could grant them a certificate for industrial action.

“It’s bad for everyone but if that’s what it’s going to take, our members have said that that’s what they’ll do,” said Underhay.

The unions proposed that non-union members should not receive any further increase that is negotiated as they would benefit unfairly.

Together, the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) and ALTSA represent 48% of around 2300 support staff. The Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU) represents at least 50% of staff.

Last year, management rejected ASAWU’s proposed salary increase, which would have cost the university around R60m to implement.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 14th edition, 18th May 2012

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Sex exchange

Men feel entitled to sex and obedience from women if they provide for them financially, according to a Wits researcher.

A recent study revealed how heterosexual men in the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal perceived sex with prostitutes, their partners and other women. The study was published by a team led by Wits Public Health professor Rachel Jewkes.

Their research suggests that men, especially lower income, lower-educated coloured and black men, conform to the traditional gender role of the “provider”. Women are expected to offer sex in return for what men provide. This could be cash, items for children, school fees or money for bills, but it could also include food, clothes, cell phones, transportation, accommodation, cosmetics, or handyman work.

“It is very easy to see how these social expectations put pressure on men, especially in the context of unemployment, and may be strongly resented by men who have little or no money,” say the authors of the article.

Although exchanging sex for money and material items seems like a form of prostitution, these men view the “provider role” as very different from paying for sex from a sex-worker. Two-thirds of men engaging in such “transactions” denied having sex with a prostitute.

The authors suggest that women may use the conservative gender role of men to their advantage: “…it is possible for a woman to feel empowered by ‘exploiting men’ whilst the ‘exploited men’ view themselves in a conservative gender role.”

The study also found that men were unlikely to pay sex workers later in life if they had not done so at a young age. Their research confirms findings in the UK that “if a man had not paid for sex by the age of 25, he was less likely to do so in the future”.

Jewkes and her team say their study is important for South Africa because transactional sex and prostitution play a role in HIV infections. It is also significant because the country is in the process of reviewing its laws around sex workers.

Men have not been well research in this context, so understanding how men see themselves can help to reduce transactional sex by changing their perceptions.

Do you think men should provide for women in return for sex? Comment below.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela, May 18, 2012

Driving knowledge

WITSIES have come up with an initiative that is going to help fellow students who cannot afford to buy textbooks.

The Volunteer Initiative for Students’ Textbooks (VIST) is the brainchild of Witsie Crossley Mjojo. It is aimed at assisting Wits students who struggle to obtain study material despite being able to pay for their tuition.

The team consists of Mjojo as the initiative’s coordinator, Rabia Kamdar, Palesa Molebatsi, Lesego Ndala and a number of Wits graduates who play an advisory role. They hope to not only make an academic difference but a financial one as well.

The initiative, which was only authorised by the university in September last year, will begin in the second semester because the team has focused on getting the project off the ground and finding ways to make the concept as good practically as it is theoretically.

The drive is intended as a means for “students to help other students,” because not everyone is privileged enough to afford new books or any at all, said Mjojo.

Mjojo highlighted the team’s hope to raise awareness to Witsies about the circumstances of their fellow students.

Under the Wits Volunteer Programme’s WVP) structure which is responsible for a number of social responsibility projects, VIST anticipates collaborating with well-known bookstores in making textbooks accessible to all students but more especially first years.

Major demands that have been noted are for science and commerce-related subjects because the material is generally costly and reading material can be used throughout one’s undergraduate degree.

Mjojo said, “This is an initiative that should continue here at Wits even after I have graduated and should hopefully become an independent charity that will function within multiple universities.”

Students who are interested in donating books and be part of VIST can find them at room 241 at the Matrix.

Published in Vuvuzela print edition, 18 May 2012


Homeless societies question removals

Some student societies are still homeless following the SRC’s reallocation of space at the Matrix last month.

Representatives of the affected clubs and societies said they were unaware of the process that led to their removal to the DJ du Plessis building on West Campus.

According to the SRC, the allocation committee that decided on which societies would be moved included cluster representatives.

The SRC said the societies elected the cluster representatives. However, none of the societies interviewed knew who their representatives were and how they were elected.

“Who even voted for them?” said Rabia Kamdar, chairperson of the Disabled Awareness Movement.

Leotile Baiphaphele, cluster representative and chairperson of Rag, said he was elected by his cluster of societies in March.

Chairperson of the Mail & Guardian (M&G) Society, Sharlotte Psotetsi, also did not know who her representative was. “We were basically kicked out [of the Matrix], they asked for the key and told us to move our stuff.”

Psotetsi said her society had no means to move their pile of newspapers to West campus and they were still in the Matrix office that now belongs to Generation Earth Wits.

She said she was surprised to see Generation Earth branding on the doors of the Mail & Guardian Matrix office. Her society currently has no office.

“We had to hold our meetings in the white chairs in the Matrix,” said Psotetsi. “I just want to know how the offices were allocated. We don’t have a room right now.”

Tokelo Nhlapo, SRC head of clubs and societies said the M&G application to stay in the Matrix was late and the reasons provided “were not good enough”.

Everywoman society chairperson Tsholofelo Diphoko said the state of their office is “not good”. She said she was aware that it was “up to the societies” to furnish the rooms but they had no money to do so as they were denied funding by the SRC.

Diphoko said the SRC suffered from a lack of planning. “If they want a meeting they tell you about it the day before, then you have to re-arrange your day. It’s always last minute and … it’s an issue.”

Not all societies were unhappy about the move. Students Hellenic Association president, George Patrinos, said he is “happy about the process” and they are moving to DJ Du Plessis on Thursday.

Previously, Patrinos complained about lack of communication regarding the relocations to Wits Vuvuzela.

Tokelo Nhlapo is student in the journalism honours programme which produces Wits Vuvuzela.


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DA lays charges against Cosatu

Published in the 14th Edition of the Vuvuzela, page 3

By Lisa Golden and Jay Caboz


AFTER the violent clash between the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Cosatu in Braamfontein on Tuesday, the DA has laid an official charge of intimidation, inciting violence, and holding an illegal gathering against Cosatu at the Hillbrow police station.

Both sides have ­­accused each other of starting the violence by throwing rocks and stones after meeting on Jorissen Street. Several protesters and journalists were injured, including a Wits student, Dikeledi Selowa.

The march to  Cosatu House was to hand over a memorandum in support of youth wage subsidies, a proposal, that according to the DA would create 420 000 jobs for youths.

Cosatu had warned the DA against marching for the subsidy, as they directly oppose it and likened it to labour brokering which will encourage exploitation of workers.

Since the clash, a hailstorm of ‘he-said she-said’ comments flared across various media platforms.

DA leader Helen Zille took to Twitter to vehemently deny that DA supporters were involved in the violence, saying, “I was standing on a truck with a good 360 deg. view. I saw two rolled newspaper pages thrown by DA but no rocks or stones.”

DA leadership urged their supporters not retaliate to the Cosatu aggression, and started a chant of “We are peaceful”.

However, Star journalist Ihsaan Haffejee was quick to point out that he had taken photographs of marchers in DA shirts throwing rocks and other projectiles. Vuvuzela has similar photographs.

Patrick Craven, spokesperson for Cosatu said in a statement “COSATU, as it always does, condemns these acts of violence unreservedly, but stresses that the vast majority of its members conducted themselves with exemplary discipline and restraint, despite the provocative nature of the demands being made by the DA.”

DA Gauteng leader John Moodey accused the metro police at the march of bias. Supporters continually called out to the police to arrest Cosatu supporters who were “openly throwing rocks” in their direction.

One Cosatu supporter in an ANC Youth League t-shirt brandished a stun-gun and managed to stun some DA supporters. No attempt was made by the police to restrain or arrest him.

The police have come under further criticism, because of their initially weak presence and their inability to control the violence on both sides.



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