Wits vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib said that it was “outrageous” that some protestors chanted and sang “dubula i-Juda” (shoot the Jew), at a protest against an Israeli musician on campus this week.
“It is irresponsible when anyone propagates the murder of another on the basis of religion, race or ethnicity,” said Habib.
The protest in response to the concert of Daniel Zamir was held in the Wits University Great Hall but another group of protesters went to a corridor inside the Central Block building and protested from there. This is the same group that sang the song.
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The coordinator of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), Muhammed Desai, said many African people in South Africa when using the word “Jews” meant it in the same way they would have during the eighties. “Just like you would say kill the Boer at funeral during the eighties it wasn’t about killing white people, it was used as a way of identifying with the apartheid regime”.
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Members of the Academic Staff Association of Wits University and the group Academic Freedom were present as independent observers at the protest. Kezia Lewins who was part of the observers said the protest had been relatively peaceful but a full report would be made available at a later stage. Members of the Legal Resources Centre were also there to provide legal advice to the protesters and to observe as well.
by Prelene Singh and Ray Mahlaka. Audio by Nokuthula Manyathi. Gallery by Nolwazi Mjwara.
OUTRAGED activists and mine workers walked out of the Ruth First Memorial lecture this evening, in protest at the lack of engagement following Trevor Manuel’s Ruth First lecture.
Members of the public and of the university community gathered in the Great Hall to hear the annual memorial lecture of slain activist, journalist and scholar, Ruth First. Professor Anton Harber of Wits Journalism, vice chancellor Professor Adam Habib and Minister of the National Planning Commission, Trevor Manuel all addressed the audience.
“We should not be afraid to be unorthodox”
In the lecture itself Manuel spoke about the challenges of mine workers, the migrant labour system and the national development plan but was careful to point out that anything he said should not be seen as preemptive of the decisions of the official commission of inquiry which is ongoing. He also addressed the problem of equality in the mining and migrant labour sectors in South Africa.
The commission of inquiry was launched to find answers to the killing of 34 miners by police last year but has been plagued by financial issues. Manuel said South Africans should give the commission full confidence that it needs for it to find answers. [pullquote]”We are all sorry that people died but clearly Trevor Manuel is not.”[/pullquote]
Manuel said after Marikana last year on August 16: “We have learnt much about the human condition and solidarity and we should not be afraid to be unorthodox.”
Shortly after Manuel completed his speech, Claire Ceruti, activist with the Democratic Left Front said his speech was “rubbish.” From her seat at the back of the hall she shouted “Give us the right to talk about inequality, we are all sorry that people died but clearly Trevor Manuel is not.”
“This is an abuse of the memory of Marikana”
Ceruti said Manuel repeated everything they already knew. She said everyone sat and listened to him [Manuel] speak, now “we want to ask questions”. Ceruti said: “This is an abuse of the memory of Marikana and she said “its ridiculous” regarding the current inequalities in the mining industry and the profit made by the mining companies, which is being sent overseas and not being spent locally.
“People are just getting poor, he can’t argue that there is an improvement in living conditions at the mines … Trevor Manuel is not sorry about people who are dying. We just want to see justice after his role in Marikana,” said Ceruti.
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Ceruti and the group of miners she had arrived with were escorted out of the hall by Campus Control with the vice-chancellor in close proximity.
In response to the disruption, Manuel commented after the lecture: “I don’t know what their concerns are. They started shouting and screaming. I don’t know the issues they raised. That was not appropriate raising the issues at the memorial lecture.”
Prof Habib said that the “right to protest is protected and we respected and allowed it to happen”.
Habib said that if questions were taken the conversation might have never ended but “I am glad it happened and I’m glad we managed to move on”. “I think its wonderful and is a representation of the complexity of her [Ruth First] life, and that’s what we hoped for.
Anita Khana of the Marikana Support Campaign said she was not satisfied by what Manuel said. Khana also said that mining companies are more worried about profits.
[pullquote]I feel like vomiting[/pullquote]
Khana said that “Manuel showed a deep understanding of inequality but there is a real gap between what he thinks inequality is and what is actually happening.”
Ceruti said: “I feel like vomiting”. She expressed concern around the fact that Manuel came and gave a wonderful speech and made everyone listen to some music and goes home feeling wonderful about himself.
Marikana Support Campaign
Trevor Ngwane, spokesperson for the Marikana Support Campaign said: “The miners were silenced today” when he expressed his concern over the fact that there was no conversation about this in the lecture. Ngwane said: “The miners came here today hoping to get five minutes to have their say”.
He said the miners wanted to to say that they were still suffering and their wages was “starvation wages”.
The most important thing Ngwane said the miners wanted, was to appeal to Manuel for funds to pay for their legal representation at the Marikana Commission. Workers have withdrawn from the commission because they do not have funds to participate. This is unfair because they are the victims, said Ngwane. Dali Mpofu, the advocate representing the miners said: “It would have been important for him to reconcile the recent decision of the Cabinet to turn their backs on the miners.”
“They weren’t capable do that without opening up the debate between what obviously are clashing classes. There were workers here and those who belong to the elite should be confronting the issues of inequality” Mpofu said when addressing the question of whether the event was what he expected.
[pullquote align=”right”] “I think Ruth First would have loved it”[/pullquote]
A miner who was shot last year by police in the labour disputes commented in an interview with Wits Vuvuzela: “Its painful what they are doing to us. He was suppose to speak the truth, the real challenges of mine workers. No body is listening to us and it worries me. We are not stupid, we want progress as to why we have been killed.
“At the moment we do not have rights.”
Scatterlings of Africa
Johnny Clegg who was summoned to the stage minutes after the members of Marikana Support Campaign and the miners were escorted out of the hall by security said: “It was a magical moment” and “I think Ruth First would have loved it”. He said that it was a confirmation of South African democracy and a conversation which needs to happen
The night ended off with Clegg performing some of his greatest hits including the international hit “Scatterlings of Africa”.
The celebrity duo was invited by the PYA to encourage Wits students to participate in this year’s elections. “We encourage Wits students to vote. Once they vote, they will make the wise choice,” Sisulu said.
Threats of disqualification
Chief electoral officer Jabu Mashinini stopped the duo and threatened that if they continued to campaign, the PYA would be disqualified from the elections.
“The rule says only students can campaign. This is Wits University, don’t campaign for them. They cannot approach students. I don’t want this debate,” Mashinini shouted at the two visitors. Mashinini also said Thusi and Sisulu’s presence is seen as campaigning for the PYA, which would give the organisation an advantage in the elections.
Mashinini added: “You can’t bring people to campaign, as they will get an advantage. Only Wits students can campaign, it’s part of an election rule. I will disqualify them and this is a last warning.”
[pullquote]“The rule says only students can campaign. This is Wits University, don’t campaign for them. They cannot approach students. I don’t want this debate”[/pullquote]
Roping in Thusi and Sisulu did not bode well for the opposition organisations, who accused the PYA of using under-handed tactics by bringing influential people to campus.
Opposition organisations react
A group of PYA candidates argued that anyone in a democratic country can bring anyone to campaign, as “all of the organisations have been doing dirty things”.
They also accused Project W of buying votes by allegedly awarding students couches worth “R25 000” in a bid to win the elections. They also raised concerns over Project W’s intentions to participate in the elections. Candidate for Project W, Gautam Rao, slammed the PYA’s allegations of buying votes and said “the couches were donated by corporates”.
Rao added: “We were not doing this [buying couches] for votes. We don’t need anarchy at Wits. Anarchy will not help this university. We were told to abide by [election] rules when we joined the campaign. We need to bring integrity back to Wits.”
Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (Daso) candidate, Rebone Segopolo, also weighed in by criticising the PYA’s election move. “How do you bring Pearl Thusi? They should have brought a Wits alumnus, someone more relevant,” Segopolo said.
Last day of the elections
Today marks the last day of this year’s SRC elections. According to presiding election officer, Nosi Sosibo, the votes will be counted overnight. She also said an indication cannot be given as to which organisation is leading in the election race. “Last year was busier than this year. Last year was worse,” Sosibo gave an indication on voter turnout. The election results will be announced tomorrow.
Both concert organisers and protesters felt like winners after the Daniel Zamir concert that was held at Wits University last night.
Muhammed Desai, coordinator of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa, said the protest had been effective because they were able to make those attending the concert “uncomfortable”.
“I am an alumnus of this university, they are the ones that are outsiders here, and we want them to feel like outsiders,” said Desai
[pullquote]“You have blood on your hands.You think you can use our university to cleanse your image.”[/pullquote]He said because the organisers had to send out an urgent message to those attending the concert to tell them how to get in, which entrances to use and which to avoid is also a sign of victory – “already it shows that they are tense and they are stressed because SA is becoming so difficult for pro-Israeli organisations to operate [in].”
But the organisers also felt that the night was a success. The concert was held as the university’s way of making up for the one that was disrupted in March. The president of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), Zev Krengel said Wits had lived up to its promise. : “The team was great. I could not fault Wits in anyway.”
Krengel said the protesters were peaceful apart from the group that moved into the corridor and which he described as aggressive. At first the protesters were singing softly but as the night went on they sang and chanted loudly. The protesters confronted and provoked those who came for the concert.
“You have the blood of Palestine children on your jersey,” shouted a protester to a woman who was walking in to the concert area.
“ You have blood on your hands. You think you can use our university to cleanse your image,” said another protester.
Most of the people there to attend the concert passed by the protesters quickly pretending not to notice anything but not all of them. Some passed by the protesters holding up Israel scarves and flags.
“Fuck you!” said a concert attendee to a protester. “Wits University is my University, I have two degrees Wits,” said another person attending the concert replying to a protester who had shouted that they were not welcomed at Wits. Another one gave the protesters the middle finger. Some had to be subdued by those walking with them.
At some point the protesters threw papers at concert attendees as they arrived. They also sang, “dubula i-juda” (“shoot the Jew”), and chanted “there is no such thing as Israel” and “Israel apartheid” as the concert attendees were coming in.
Desai said many African people in South Africa when using the word “Jews” meant it in the same way they would have during the eighties. “Just like you would say kill the Boer at funeral during the eighties it wasn’t about killing white people, it was used as a way of identifying with the apartheid regime”.
He said there was no evidence of Jews being harmed because of anti-Semitic impulses, – “the whole idea anti-Semitism is blown out of proportion”. He said if there were anti-Semitic sentiments they would flatly challenge it even if it came from within their protest.
[pullquote align=”right”]Bring together a Palestine musician and an Israeli one.[/pullquote]
He said there a peaceful process going on and South Africans had to encourage that.
Ari Kruger, who attended the concert said the the term “apartheid” freely used just to evoke enthusiasm and sensitivity among South Africans: “Look at their supporters, the Cosatu guys, I’ve spoken to them on many occasions, they actually don’t have the facts, they are being told, ‘come to the function, apartheid, free Palestine, South Africa’s history is Palestinian reality’ which is actually not true.”
Krengel challenged the BDS and Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) to have a joint concert with them, to “bring together a Palestine musician and an Israeli one.”
Dr Shireen Ally, a Wits lecturer who was part of a group that represented Wits staff and students, said the university refused them the right to have a silent protest and move into the Great Hall foyer.
Ally said they would be seeking legal advice because the university had “infringed” on their rights to protest.
Deputy vice-chancellor, Prof Tawana Kupe said the university had given permission for a silent protest, just not permission to be in the foyer which the protesters had not asked for anyway.
This year marks 100 years since the 1913 Land Act was passed. The act helped to successfully disenfranchise indigenous South African’s in terms of land ownership and its repercussions are still felt today.
[pullquote align=”right”]”No single photographic exhibition could illustrate the full diversity of our complex realities”[/pullquote]
Curator of the Umhlaba Exhibiton, Bongi Dhlomo-Matloa said that the exhibition’s purpose was to help people remember their history. “Commemoration is a relative term here, we are remembering this act that left blacks with only 7% of the land,” she said. Dhlomo-Matloa coincidently wore a black and white ensemble matching the monochromatic nature of most of the photographs on display. She said it was merely a coincidence but nonetheless she carried the colours of our history around her neck and on her shoulders.
Next to the exhibition’s entrance was a plaque detailing the aims, limitations and history behind the curation. “No single photographic exhibition could illustrate the full diversity of our complex realities,” but this by no means, kept the artist/photographer from making an attempt to illustrate those complex realities.
This history could not only be seen, but was also heard as jazz, afro-soul and choral music ushered people up the ramp and along the walls of the gallery. It was quite jarring to hear the juxtaposition between Miriam Makeba’s voice sing Gauteng and then immediately after, a choir sing Die Stem, while standing at the wall with all the apartheid-era photography on it.
[pullquote]“Commemoration is a relative term here, we are remembering this act that left blacks with only 7% of the land”[/pullquote] Dlomo-Matloa went on to say that these photos were used as they “are very exact” and can therefore accurately depict the reality they captured. The first colour picture seen in the gallery was on the apartheid wall, a photograph by David Goldblatt. It was taken in 1987 at a resettlement camp in the Wittlesea district of the then Ciskei.
Fourth year photography student Melissa Bennett, said she loved how the photos told a story of overcoming boundaries. She was also particularly intrigued by the way the photos had been arranged according to a historical timeline.
Dhlomo-Matloa said that the exhibition was displayed in chronological sequence laid out in a timeline to reflect how things and people changed as time went on. Although a huge amount of images were available, budget and space constraints restricted how many photographs could be exhibited.
The photography on display showcases some of the most talented photographers in the country, like Peter Magubane, Paul Weinburg and Ingrid Hudson.
After a walk about the whole gallery, the reality of our history was more than apparent. The exhibition will be on display until January 2014.
Watch the video below in which curator Dhlomo-Matloa talks about the exhibition:
The Wits School of Arts (WSOA) and the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in Ethiopia are currently in talks about finalising a partnership between the two schools.
Professor George Pfruender, the WSOA head of department said the partnership will exchange members of staff, students as well as research projects. Pfruender said the partnership was almost natural because both institutions have similar programmes.
“The Alle School of Fine Arts and Design has a similar structure to Wits, they have both music and drama qualifications and therefore an exchange programme of both staff member and students would be viable.”The exchange programme aims to have students and staff from both universities to share ideas and research projects.
[pullquote]The exchange programme aims to have students and staff from both universities to share ideas and research projects.[/pullquote]
The partnership was made possible by the Goethe Institut of sub-Sahara Africa, which is the seed funder of various arts and culture departments in South Africa and Ethiopia. Pfruender said financial support from these institutions make it easy to exchange art across the African continent.
Berhanu Deribew, head of department of the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design said partnering with other African institutions allowed for changes in the programmes and both students and staff members are exposed to the international community.
Pfruender told Wits Vuvuzela the partnership will allow both institutions to increase their footprint in Africa as joint art institutions.
This Side: Chief Electoral Officer Jabu Mashinini oversees the putting up of demarcation tape Photo: Mfuneko Toyana
Demarcation tapes were put outside the voting tents to prevent SRC candidates from talking to voters 40 meters within the entrance of the voting station.
“I think they’re imposing themselves on voters,”said Jabu Mashinini of candidates regularly breaking the 40 meter threshold they are allowed to be from the entrance of voting tents.
Mashinini is the Chief Electoral Officer during this year’s elections.
[pullquote]I think they’re imposing themselves on voters[/pullquote]
“It’s okay they can campaign but they must do it on this side” she said. Mashinini was pointing to the perimeter of blue and white IEC tape she and her team decided to put up to keep candidates on the right side of electoral regulations. SRC candidates who spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about “chance” voters, voters convinced on the spot to vote, mostly defended the use of i-gcebhezana and face-to-face canvassing.
Progressive Youth Alliance candidate, Sandile Ngwenya said that campaigning outside voting stations contributed greatly to the overall number of voters and was necessary to combat Wits’s “historically high student apathy”.
“Some Witsies are just here to study, that’s the niche we focus on. We tell them what we’ve done for them as the PYA and what we’ll continue to for them,” Ngwenya said.
Vote “Me”: PYA candidate Banks Sandile Ngwenya crosses over to woo a voter. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana
Fellow PYA candidate Michelene Mongae agreed on the importance of talking to students before they went in to vote.
“Some students, we’ll talk to them and they’re like “oh, I can relate to that as a problem,” she said.
Daso candidate Luyolo Mphithi said “this is the most important point in the elections”. Mphithi said interacting directly with potential voters was important because it made those who weren’t aware of the issues.
Project W candidate Gautum Rao also defended active campaigning outside the stations. “We just want people to know exactly what’s up,” Rao said.
“I don’t say vote … I give them a run-down of our policies. I want them to make an informed choice.”
Day 2 of the 2013 SRC elections saw a marginally lower turnout of Witsies coming to cast their votes, as the term winds down and students look forward to the September break and the final semester of the year.
The mundane pace allowed Wits Vuvuzela to observe more closely the different candidates, as they went about convincing students strolling past the voting tent pitched outside the Great Hall stairs.
[pullquote]”i-’gcebhezana”[/pullquote] For some Witsies, that stroll would turn into brisk scamper and eventually a light jog, as they attempted to dodge eager candidates hovering around the voting tent with “i-’gcebhezana” (slips with photographs and candidate numbers of particular party’s candidates)and asking for a “word”.
One anonymous Wistie, who said he would not be voting, even after “enduring” more than 15 minutes listening to a Daso campaigner on why he should, said all the parties were “selling a product I’m not interested in buying”. Chief electoral officer Jabu Mashinini also had a problem with the campaigning tactics.
HUDDLED MASSES: 2013 SRC elections candidates debate with each other and voters. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana
WORKING TOGETHER: Habib discusses how ‘we’ can build a stronger university Photo: Ray Mahlaka
Wits plans to offer ten new scholarships to talented first year students.
The ‘Vice chancellor Equality Scholarships’ is the brainchild of Professor Adam Habib and will be presented to 10 students from the most marginalised schools.
The scholarship will be similar to the current merit scholarships that the university offers.
Habib said each the qualifying student would receive about R 100 000 in funding.
The students’ study fees and residence fees will be paid in full throughout their degree, as long as they attain a certain level of performance.
If the students pass their first year at the university, their second year will be paid as well. Habib said the rationale of the scholarship is that any university must be a home for talented students, whatever their degree.
“That’s a bloody good student”
“Our thing is, if you’re going to be a nationally responsible university, a university of this country, you must be able to make sure you have a home for poor people as much as you are a home for rich people. And that means you are taking talented students.”
Habib said it can’t be expected of a marginalised student or someone who comes from a marginalised school to compete on an equal footing with somebody from a private school, so Wits wants to equalise the playing field.
[pullquote align=”right”]You must be able to make sure you have a home for poor people as much as you are a home for rich people[/pullquote]
“If you have got five A’s or four A’s from a student who is in a school that does not even have laboratories, that’s a bloody good student. And so they must be given a shot.” The scholarships will be an attempt on Wits’s part as a public institution to address inequality in society. Funds for the scholarships will come from Wits and donors.
Although 10 new scholarships are planned for future first years, Wits is also driving a new scholarship fund for postgraduate students. Habib said the idea for the postgraduate funds was similar to the idea for the equality scholarship funds, “to address the needs as a society”.
Wits currently has 9 800 postgraduate students, which is about 30% of the total student population.
After the resignation of Professor Wendy Ngoma, Director of the Wits Business School (WBS), Professor Adam Habib plans to fix the leadership “crisis” in order to restore the school to its former glory.
Habib said it was imperative to fix leadership first before trying to fix structural challenges, enrollment and reputation.[pullquote]“It is no longer the number one school and that is not acceptable. We cannot have a situation where the number one school is not in the heart of the economy.”[/pullquote]
“To fix a problem, you first need to fix the leadership. Because you can have the best structure in the world but if you have the wrong leaders, it’s not going to work.”
No longer number one
Habib said the school was number one in the country a few years ago but has lost its place and that needed to change.
“It is no longer the number one school and that is not acceptable. We cannot have a situation where the number one school is not in the heart of the economy.”
Ngoma resigned earlier this month leaving the school without leadership. Habib said he was shocked as they had discussed her plans to resign however prior to her announcement there had been no formal agreement. “It took me by surprise when she announced it to the school and didn’t talk to me first because we wanted to manage the news flow around the issue.”
[pullquote align=”right”]“It hasn’t been able to keep its directors, its directors hasn’t found it to be a happy place, staff are unhappy as such.”[/pullquote]Wits Vuvuzela previously reported that leadership problems had contributed to the loss of MBA enrollment which the communications manager Jackie Mapiloko denied.
Habib however, said leadership was a crisis before Ngoma’s tenure and still continues to be. “I can say that we have had a problem with leadership, and it’s not only Wendy’s fault. I think that the problem with the business school is that it has had a leadership crisis for a number of years.
“It hasn’t been able to keep its directors, its directors hasn’t found it to be a happy place, staff are unhappy as such.”
MBA enrollment- A “technical glitch”
Habib blamed the low number of MBA student enrollment on a “technical glitch” but said lack of leadership led to the issue being insufficiently handled. He said WBS will not lose its international accreditation as enrollment numbers cannot affect accreditation based on a single year.
WBS has complained about there being a lack of autonomy from the main university when it comes to making decisions and financial management. Habib said the right leader is first needed before discussions of autonomy can be held. “Find the right leader. Then we’ll benchmark the autonomy required for this school compared to all the other business schools in the country and in the world and we’ll implement.”
The business school will be searching for candidates both locally and globally to fill the directorship over the next two weeks.
THE AWARD GOES TO: Professor Mamokgethi Setati Phakeng was all smiles after being named Africa’s most influential woman in education. Photo: Provided
A dream is all it takes to kick start a future. For Professor Mamokgethi Setati Phakeng, vice principal of research and innovation at the University of South Africa, that dream did not even begin to sketch what her future might become.
Last month Phakeng, who is also president of convocation at Wits University, was named South Africa’s most influential woman in education. She was awarded the title at the 12th annual South Africa’s Most Influential Women in BusinessandGovernment (MIW) awards hosted by CEO Communications.
The MIW awards recognise the impact and contribution of women in top executive positions across a number of sectors. This year’s awards were allocated to the cream of the crop across 20 different sectors.
Phakeng made it through a rigorous three-phase judging process, beating hundreds of other women who were nominated in the education and training category. For her, this achievement validates the work she has done in her field of mathematics education.
Phakeng, who had a simple upbringing in the township of Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria, said she never thought she would be where she is today.“Being a professor was an unthinkable, something that I never even thought was meant for people like me,” she said.
The former Witsie said getting a university degree was always part of her plan as her father had made obtaining a degree a non-negotiable standard for his children. So she went to study an undergraduate degree at the University of the North West, majoring in pure mathematics. But even while studying for her bachelor’s degree, she was not aware of the multitude of doors that a university degree would open for her.
Finding the light at the end of the tunnel
“Even while I was doing my bachelor’s degree, I never thought I could be a professor because I wasn’t exposed to any professors who looked like me,” Phakeng said.It was only towards the end of her Masters degree in Mathematics Education at Wits that she started seeing the possibility of becoming a professor.
On her journey to professorship, Phakeng stumbled upon another great achievement – becoming the first black woman in South Africa to obtain a PhD in mathematics education. “I had no idea I was going to be the first and the only way I got to know was when I got an award for the most outstanding young female researcher in 2003, a year after obtaining my PhD.”
LEADING THE FUTURE: Professor Phakeng at Unisa with high school learners who will hopefully qualify to study at the institution next year. Photo: Provided
Even with her many achievements, Phakeng acknowledged that her work in education was not yet over. “It’s one thing to be the first, but it’s quite another to do something with that position,” she said.
Education, both inside and outside of the lecture hall, is central to Phakeng’s mission. She founded an Adopt-a-Learner project in 2004, a support programme for pupils from disadvantaged areas that helps them see through their university ambitions. To her, the most fulfilling aspect of her career is knowing that she is an inspiration to many youth in South Africa.
“Human capital development is at the centre of what I do – all of my initiatives are about developing people and inspiring them to be the best in whatever they choose to be.”
SRC elections officially began yesterday. A steady stream of students entered the tents set up on Main campus throughout the day. It was a different story at Education campus. Wits Vuvuzela went out in search of potential voters to find out what they were looking for from the new leadership they would help to elect.