Racism plagues UFS

Despite the appointment of its first black vice chancellor, the University of the Free State (UFS) still gets slammed with allegations of racism.

In 2009 when Professor Jonathan Jansen was appointed as the first black vice chancellor of UFS, hopes were high that this could be the change the university needed to fight back against racist claims. All facts point to Jansen having made in-roads, despite the slamming he is now receiving from the student movement.

Luzuko Buku, representative of the South African Students Congress (SASCO) said: “What Jansen has done since his arrival in the University of Free State is not to transform the university from its notorious racist conditions on black students but he has been working very hard to protect and cover up racism by sweeping such cases under the carpet.”

Covering up 

Last week it was alleged that two white UFS students, Kobus Muller and Charl Blom, tried to drive over a group of black pedestrians, side-swiping Dumane “Muzi” Gwedu, a fifth year BCom student. Gwedu then followed the car until it came to a stop where he approached the two drivers. This resulted in a violent attack on Gwedu.[pullquote] “The accused called the victims “kaffirs” and then drove off”[/pullquote]

A News24 article reported that Jansen had doubts about whether the incident was indeed racist, even though the accused called the victims “kaffirs” and then drove off.

During his inaugural speech in 2009, Jansen chose to forgive four white UFS students who, in 2008, filmed a video humiliating and degrading black campus workers. In his speech, Jansen dropped the case against these students and said, “They are my students. I cannot deny them any more than I can deny my own children.”

The move was controversial with some terming it a brave gesture of reconciliation and others warning it sent the wrong message to racists. Since the incident, Jansen has been blamed for adopting too reconciliatory an approach.

Racist reports 

Other incidents of alleged racism at UFS were reported in 2010 when a female student, Pinky Mokemane, was dragged next to a car driven by two white UFS students.[pullquote align=”right”]”Student accommodation for a ‘non-affirmative action’ female.”[/pullquote]

In January 2014, an advertisement appeared in a Bloemfontein newspaper, advertising student accommodation for a “non-affirmative action” female. The VC reacted by distancing himself and the university from the advert, which shows embedded racial profiling within the UFS community. He said:  “The varsity does not oversee private accommodation and it makes it difficult to regulate the ridiculous requirements they have of some students.”

Another ongoing example of racial profiling at UFS is their residence segregation. It appears that there are still many residences which give white students preference. With only 20% of UFS students being accommodated at the institution’s residences it is hard enough finding a spot if you’re white, let alone black.

UFS has its form of a transformation office too, the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, an institute made for research and discussion among specialists, international students and politicians.

The general student body apparently can go to the Human Rights desk. This desk was not available for three days. The co-ordinator, Breggie Hofman Wits Vuvuzela was informed, was out of town and the second in charge “had a crisis”. Students will just have to save those reports of racism for later.

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A night out for R100

LOCAL HANGOUT: Kitchener's Carvery Bar at the corner of De Beer and Juta street is an old English style pub with a modern edge, within walking distance from Wits. Photo: Caro Malherbe

LOCAL HANGOUT: Kitchener’s Carvery Bar at the corner of De Beer and Juta street is an old English style pub with a modern edge, within walking distance from Wits. Photo: Caro Malherbe

Location, cost and reputation, what more could you ask for? The second oldest bar in Johannesburg, Kitchener’s Carvery Bar, is a golden oldie, right in the heart of Braamfontein, especially convenient for Witsies.

Looking like an old English pub, Kitchener’s will surprise you with its contemporary edge. The bar swings with live music performances ranging from indie rock and Afro beat DJs on Thursday and Friday nights.[pullquote]”Their menu has a little bit of everything”[/pullquote]

Their menu has a little bit of everything, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. According to the manager, the American Burger with a slice of cheese is the most ordered item on the menu, going for R48. The party-goers favourite would have to be the chip ’n dip which is a plate of slap chips covered in any sauce of your choice for R35 – great for lining the stomach before (or after ) a few too many beers.

The sauces you can chose from are mushroom, pepper, cheese, garlic, jalapeño, green pepper, Mexican, chakalaka or roquefort.

Depending on who you ask, the perceptions on prices vary, but the consensus seems to be that the meals are value for money, but that drinks prices on the other hand are on the steeper side of things.

Located on the corner of Juta and De Beer streets in Braamfontein, Kitchener’s endorses a local craft beer called Ace’s, a Mitchell’s Brewery lager. A pint of beer goes for R30 whilst a Black Label dumpie is R21. Spirits prices start from R14 a shot and a small can of coke is R14 as well.

On Saturdays, Kitchener’s fills up with Jozi locals and foreigners alike selling second-hand clothing and accessories in the court area. There are two bars and a carpeted dance floor that has been worn out from years of stomping and swaying.

What can R100 get you at Kitchener’s? An American burger with cheese for R48, an Ace’s draft and depending on which night you go, R20 cover charge for nights of performances. All of this adds up to R98.
 

OPINION: Joburg, my lover

I come from Cape Town, a city in South Africa, but really, its own little country.

The Republic of Cape Town moves to its own rhythm. It nonchalantly sways with the Atlantic tide and pumps to the beat of the south-eastern wind. It’s a giant film set, picturesque, landscaped and any other slushy adjective you can think of equivalent to a scene out of a Jane Austin novel.

I have always been one for change. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and am somewhat of a “yes man” when it comes to trying new things. When I was given the opportunity to study journalism at Wits University, I jumped on that bandwagon in a heartbeat. I knew nothing about Johannesburg at the time—this goes for almost all Capetonians.  But I like to think that after a year in the City of Gold I can make some comparisons.[pullquote]”I love being able to say that my home is in Cape Town despite many of the people there being so insular and set in their own ways.”[/pullquote]

What I love about Cape Town is that I can go from work to the beach. I love that the sun sets so late at night and that I can do more for less. I don’t have to spend much on travelling and the public transport is great. I love being able to say that my home is in Cape Town despite many of the people there being so insular and set in their own ways.[pullquote align=”right”]”For an aspiring journalist, I had to get off this one lane avenue and onto the highway.”[/pullquote]

Capetonians LOVE getting involved in any public petition such as, let’s say, bringing back doggy water bowls at the Corner Café because their Maltese poodle is so parched after a long walk on the promenade. Discussions on e-tolls or the upcoming elections don’t draw the same passion as a thirsty shitzu.

For an aspiring journalist, I had to get off this one lane avenue and onto the highway.

Moving to a city where I knew no one helped me focus on what I was trying to achieve. At first, I made my Joburg experience all about my studies. But it didn’t take long for me to realise that Jozi has so much to offer, and making my studies my first priority was going to be difficult.[pullquote]”There is a certain swag about this place, like a large thug smoking his cigar.”[/pullquote]

There is a certain swag about this place, like a large thug smoking his cigar. People don’t mess around here, they know what they want and where they are going and make no apologies for their ambitious spirit.

Compared to Cape Town, Joburg is a difficult city to live in. People talk fast and loud. They cash cheques, break necks and drive angry. Jozi hardened me up. It’s given me perspective and relinquished my need for everyday comforts and vanities – something Capetonians know far too much about.

I think there is something so magical in people believing that a place can bring them opportunity and that their dreams can come true. You can feel and see this in the people in Jozi.[pullquote]”Drenched in memories and history,Joburg makes me feel like anything is possible”[/pullquote]

I love the rawness and dirtiness of the Joburg city. It seems drenched in memories and history. Joburg makes me feel like anything is possible and that being here instantly connects me to the rest of the world and everyone in it.

Cape Town to me will always be the Mother Land, my mothers’ land. But Joburg is the man in my life who gives me butterflies and fireworks – my lover, who encourages me to be crazy, to push myself and to explore.

 

Dancing to the ballot box

JUJU JIVE: EFF supporters, as always, were in high spirits when they marched into Mehlareng Stadium on Saturday.  Buoyed by the manifesto launch and the party’s release of a music CD, they danced and danced.           Photo: Luke Matthews

JUJU JIVE: EFF supporters, as always, were in high spirits when they marched into Mehlareng Stadium on Saturday. Buoyed by the manifesto launch and the party’s release of a music CD, they danced and danced. Photo: Luke Matthews

 

 

THIS past weekend’s festival of political rallies, manifesto launches and street bashes in the name of democracy was proof of a well-known fact, that South African politics at its best is a study in ear-busting raucousness. The lengths political parties went to, to create a carnival atmosphere through song while talking serious politics at the same time, revealed once again just how central music is to our political DNA. [pullquote]Even those groups who contested SRC elections last year pin-pointed music as a route into the hearts of voters.[/pullquote]

On Saturday, Julius Malema’s red berets rode into Tembisa on a colossal wave of volume. Motorcycles with screaming engines, cars packing sound systems powerful enough to raise the dead, and an army of foot soldiers chanting non-stop the irreverent refrains that have become the Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) trademark, raised the roof off Mehlareng stadium.

A few kilometres away, a version of the ruling party’s youth league refused to be outdone by the new kids and plotted a guerrilla offensive of groove by hosting what they called an “election festival”.

But without the gymnastic gyrations of Chomee and her team of dancers, the ANC’s get-together was a downer, drowned out by the EFF’s jamboree.

A day later, many kilometres north of Johannesburg in Polokwane the DA, blessed with less vocal supporters if Loyiso Gola’s Late Night News is to be believed, called on rapper AKA and pop-indie band Freshly Ground to add vibe to its campaign soiree. [pullquote align=”right”]“If you’re going to sing about political things what will you sing about? That you’re disappointed in what government is doing or that there is an alternative party you like better?”[/pullquote]

Even those groups who contested SRC elections last year pin-pointed music as a route into the hearts of voters. Project W promised Witsies an international act for O-week. They went on to win seven seats in their first attempt. DASO sang little and sank. While the PYA-led SRC has for years prided itself on being able to belt out rousing war cries, whether in celebration or defiance, at the drop of a hat.

Add to this landscape significant moments in our history that married politics and dancefloors in pursuit of liberation – the exile-based Amandla Cultural Ensemble of Oliver Tambo and trombonist Jonas Gwanga, Brenda Fassie’s iconic “My Black President”, and the National Party’s banning of Prophets of the City’s The Age of Truth album in 1993 – and music’s role in our political destiny becomes an undeniable fact.

Prof David Coplan, chair of Wits’ anthropology department and author of the remarkable book In the Township Tonight, chronicling the intersection of South African music and political cultures, said the political usefulness of music has changed and pop-struggle songs were not as popular as they once were.

“If you’re going to sing about political things what will you sing about? That you’re disappointed in what government is doing or that there is an alternative party you like better?” Coplan said.

The five songs currently topping VoW’s charts, as well as the charts of Rhodes, UCT, Tuks and UJ’s campus radio stations, are testimony to the decline in popularity of the pop-struggle genre, or at least its changing nature. Our politicians though, wittingly or not, seem aware of the powerful chemistry between music and politics.

Coplan’s take is that there exists a musical politics other than “saying down with this and up with that”.“There is a politics which gives people heart and doesn’t even have to have words. One of the big struggle songs was a jazz tune called Yakhal’ Inkomo by Winston Mankunku Ngozi.

“It had no words but people took it as an anthem of the township, about the desire to be free,” Coplan said. Our official anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica, was conspicuous by its absence at all three of this weekend’s vote-baiting bonanzas, as it is at most political events.

[pullquote]“It had no words but people took it as an anthem of the township, about the desire to be free,” [/pullquote]

The national anthem, on the evidence, does not seem to be the rousing hymn-come-pop-struggle jingle to get a democracy fresh out of adolescence on its feet and dancing to the ballot box.

 

 

With Gallery: Crap storm over Esselen res

 

 

 

A SMELL of raw sewage tackles you the moment you step off the bus into Esselen street. On windy days, the sewage becomes airborne and sprays you with a misty combination of human urine and faeces . [pullquote align=”right”]“Last year someone from Florence building threw a plastic bag full of shit out their window and it landed in our laundry area”[/pullquote]

Complaints from students about the bad smell, stagnant sewage and uncollected waste piling up at Florence building next door to Esselen residence, spilled over this week as some Witsies living there vented their frustration on twitter.

Dion Mkhonza ran a hand across his face as he relived his experience of the strange rains.

Strange rains

“You come off the bus and this water hits your face. You think it’s rain first but then you see that pipe and it’s spraying sewage from that building,” Mkhonza said pointing at the dilapidated Florence building separated from Esselen residence only by a filthy alleyway swimming with rubbish and ankle deep with sewage.

Not only does human excrement rain from the skies, it also flies in through windows.

“Last year someone from Florence building threw a plastic bag full of shit out their window and it landed in our laundry area. “Ne nkare ho shweli motho (It was like somebody had died),” said a resident, who asked not to be named.

Peeping Toms

The student also said that on Monday, a man was staring at her through the window as she came out of the shower.

Another student, Manda-Lee Debathe, 4th  year B.Ed, said the same thing had happened to her. [pullquote]“In that building anyone arrives and says they are boss,”[/pullquote]

“When we are dressing in the morning there are guys standing at their balconies with their coffee watching,” Debathe said.

Accommodation officer in charge of Esselen, Elsie Mooke, confirmed that residents of the adjoining Florence building, formerly a private hospital before being converted into residential apartments, often threw out rubbish, bath water and excrement from their windows and into Esselen.

“It’s really dirty and it’s really affecting the area. Wits has sent the environment people here but it didn’t help…Students can’t open their windows because of the terrible smell and the mosquitoes, and they can only get fresh air from the passage,” Mooke said.

Owner gone AWOL

Mooke said attempts to deal with the problem had hit a wall because no one knows who the owner of the building is.

Together with another Esselen resident and house committee member, Kelobogile Sebopelo, Mooke described the fears they had in dealing with anyone from the Florence building.

“Last year they came looking for me and I acted like I didn’t know anything.” he reported.

“In that building anyone arrives and says they are boss,” Mooke said, warning this Wits Vuvuzela journalist to be careful and not to attempt to enter the Florence building.

Sebopelo told a more troubling story.

“There was a guy. Wits was trying to buy the building but then the guy was stabbed over there,” Sebopelo said, pointing beyond her 2nd floor window to the intersection adjacent to Constitutional Hill.

Accommodation officer Mooke was reluctant to speak about the stabbing incident, preferring to point out the good things about Esselen rather than the bad.

“There is warmth inside here,” she said.

Mkhonza, in his third year as an Esselen resident and a member of the house committee, said they had been promised many times that Esselen would be closed down and moved to Parktown but the promise had not materialised.

Place to call home

The education student was adamant, however, that all was not flying faeces at Esselen.

“When I moved here in first year I thought it would be bad until you see other people.

“It is the people who live here that keep you here, not the building,” Mkhonza said.