Witsie hunting hedgehogs, yes, hedgehogs!


HAPPY HEDGEHOG: Jess Artingstall poses for the camera hedgehog in hand.

HAPPY HEDGEHOG: Jessica Artingstall poses for the camera with a hedgehog in hand. Photo: Supplied

It may seem an odd creature to want to count but Jessica Artingstall is on a mission to put a figure to the number of hedgehogs in South Africa.

The Wits Zoology masters student, has started an initiative to count and study the South African species of hedgehog.

Artingstall told Wits Vuvuzela that she decided to pursue research on southern African hedgehogs “because they are known to occur in many urban areas of Johannesburg.”

“They are quite frequently found in Midrand and Kyalami and the public can definitely help us greatly by reporting when and where they have seen a southern African hedgehog.”

The project started as Artingstall’s honours thesis which looked at hedgehogs across Johannesburg but it expanded to the whole of South Africa as she moved with the project into her master’s degree.

“With sightings apparently becoming less common, we are deeply concerned about this species’ future and where they are still occur in southern Africa,” she said.

Artingstall said it was her supervisor Prof Neville Pillay who had encouraged her take this topic on as her research project.

“I was very curious to learn more myself and took on his challenge.”

Together, Pillay and Artingstall run this project responding to sightings all across South Africa.

She explained the aim of the project is to determine where in South Africa hedgehogs are found in and how their distribution has changed over the last century.

The pair are also are assessing the local occurrence of hedgehogs in urban areas of Johannesburg and their encounter patterns with humans.

Artingstall explained that every interaction with a hedgehog is different, “some hedgehogs may quickly curl into a ball and appear to be quite shy, while others try to hightail their way and only curl into a ball last minute.”

“I was very curious to learn more myself and took on his challenge.”

According to Artingstall hedgehogs move “rather quickly, for their body size” and they “have quite long legs and a tiny tail which very few people see”.

She joked that besides her supervisor Prof Pillay being nipped on one occasion, “hedgehogs are generally quite peaceful”.

Aringstall has encouraged the public across South Africa to send sightings to her at: ifoundahedgehog@gmail.com.

She asked that the date, location and details of the habitats of the hedgehog sightings be included when getting in touch.

WITH INFOGRAPHIC: Health science students in HIV exposure frustrated by ARV treatment protocols


FOLLOWING PROTOCOL IS IMPORTANT: A Wits student gets her blood tested for HIV at a testing campaign on Wits Education Campus earlier this year. Photo: Tracey Ruff

From lost blood test results to a lack of guidance about antiretroviral treatment (ARVs), the protocol after exposure to a potential HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) threat is both frustrating and time-consuming for some students.

Students at the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences are required to follow a strict protocol when accessing ARVs after an exposure to the virus in the course of their practical work.

“[Students] have to come to Campus Health for reporting purposes,”  explained Sister Yvonne Matimba of Campus Health. While students can access an ARV starter pack immediately after an exposure from the hospital in which they are working, further treatment can only be accessed through Campus Health located in the Matrix building on main campus.

The alternative is to pay for the treatment through a private health care provider.

“She didn’t really know what the protocol was and just gave me the pills and told me I had to make the decision”

However, as Krystle Moodley, a Wits dentistry graduate currently completing her community service year in Mpumulanga, said, “It sucks [going to Campus Health] if you’re at med school because you have to go all the way to [main] campus. How does that make sense?”

Moodley has been on ARVs twice. Her first time was in fourth year after she pricked herself with a needle.

Once she had reported the incident to Campus Health, her bloods were taken immediately and she was put on a 28-day ARV treatment regime. She then had to go back for a six-week, and three-month, blood test.

Missing results

After not receiving her results from her three-month blood test, Moodley phoned Campus Health and was informed her results had been lost. She then decided to go to a private doctor and had to pay about R150 to get her bloods done.

“No one [at Campus Health] bothered to tell me or bring me in to retake [my bloods].”

Counselling is also provided by Campus Health to the affected students.  However, according to Moodley, she feels that what she was told was information she had studied and already knew about.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: The Wits ARV treatment protocol. Graphic Tracy Ruff.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: What does ARV treatment involve? Graphic: Tracy Ruff.

A sixth-year medical student who did not want to be named, who has been on ARVs twice, has also expressed difficulties with the Campus Health process. “In terms of waiting times, [Campus Health] was good, but the sister (who was a new employee at the time) couldn’t give me advice on whether or not to take the ARVs, she said.

She didn’t really know what the protocol was and just gave me the pills and told me I had to make the decision.”

However, according to Matimba, all staff at Campus Health are adequately trained to deal with the protocol.

A Wits postgraduate student, who also did not want to be identified, said dealing with Campus Health after she received a needle-stick injury was “a  pleasure.”

“The nurses are friendly and extremely professional. They help you every step of the way.”

In need of more guidance

Students who fail to follow the protocol strictly are exempt from making any insurance claims according to the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Student Protection and Insurance booklet.

The booklet directs students to contact any of a number of doctors and staff members if an exposure occurs. There are also two additional emergency numbers provided. Wits Vuvuzela tried to reach an adviser via one of the numbers provided but was told that the staff member in question had left a few years ago.

The sixth-year medical student feels that students need to be given a card with the relevant protocol information that they can carry with them at all times. She also believes students should be informed about the ARV protocol properly at the beginning of their studies.

“They (lectures and doctors) should sit you down and tell you what to do.”

Protocol in the working world also frustrating

A Wits occupational therapy graduate, who asked not to be named, has recently completed her ARV treatment for HIV exposure outside of Wits.

“I had problems with the workman compensation procedures … so I went about paying for everything and thought I could claim back but turned out I couldn’t,” explained the graduate.

Moodley, who is now working for a public hospital, has just completed her 28-day ARV treatment. Describing her experience with the ARV protocol in the hospital she said, “it was kind of haphazard and no one knew what to do.”




UPDATED: Rhodes student under investigation for fire in student union building

UPDATE: MAY 29, 2014,  10:21am
Rhodes University has released another statement confirming that a Rhodes student currently in hospital for ingesting petrol, is under investigation by  South African Police Services (SAPS) as a possible link to a fire that damaged the Steve Biko student union building on Tuesday.
The university is offering counselling to all students in the same residence as the hospitalised student following the incidents.
UPDATE: MAY 28, 16:48 pm.

Rhodes University has released a statement confirming that the man who was involved in an incident at a fuel station early yesterday morning, is a student at the University.

The third year student, currently at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth has been joined by his family. The university has said that “an initial internal investigation has revealed that the hospitalisation of the student may be linked to the fire which started at the Rhodes Pool Club (the Purple Horse) in the Steve Biko Building on Tuesday (27 May 2014) morning.” The university has not confirmed the link though, and neither has the South African Police Services.



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SCIENCE INSIDE: The controversies of fracking

Hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking” is the process of drilling out natural gas from rocks. In this week’s show, the team went to the Karoo in the Eastern Cape to involve farmers, journalists and scientists on the issue of fracking. Mohair farmers are worried about their drinking water being destroyed. Shell (and the government) are seeing massive cash potential. And the scientists are staying typically non-committal. We dig it all up, chuck it at the wall and see what sticks.  

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WITH INFOGRAPHIC: Chewing the same flavour of bubble-gum and other tips for getting through exams



Packed libraries, late nights, panic attacks and last-minute cram sessions. Yes, that dreaded time of the year has arrived once again and exams have crept up upon us quicker than a leopard pouncing on its prey.

There are no two ways about it: the stress of the exams are upon us again.

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to some Witsies about their exam-preparation techniques and what they do to remain calm and get through the work.

Tips and tricks

Njabulo Mkhize, honours in Applied Drama, shared a very handy and unique trick. He reads his notes out aloud while recording himself on his cellphone. This way, he can “listen to himself [and his study notes] anywhere and anytime”.

Don’t cram and give yourself enough time to study,” says Kea Malebye, 3rd year law. Malebye says she tries not to study the night before her exam. She also makes sure she chews the same flavour bubble-gum when studying and in the exam. This helps her to remember her work as she associates the flavours with her notes.

“Keep a positive mentality and do your best.”

Leané Meiring, honours in Drama Therapy, also suggests linking studying and writing the exam with something that will trigger your memory. “Work at a desk so that you’re mimicking the exam sessions ... And get eight hours of sleep!”

Other students in Drama Therapy say that self-care, taking time to reflect and knowing if you are a morning, afternoon or night person are pivotal in helping you cope with the exams.

Mpumi Skhosana, 4th year BA, says she exercises and prefers to watch academic videos than write out notes.

Lots of sleep and jelly-beans, both while studying and in the exam” is what keeps Palesa Mopeli, honours in Fine Arts, calm. Mopeli advises Witsies to “keep a positive mentality and do your best”.

Give it your best shot

Finally, Simone Vasques, BA graduate, says “university life is really what you make of it”.

“This is one of those times in life where you’re in a situation with lecturers who are extremely knowledgeable [and] classmates are super interesting … so ask as many questions as you can”.

And as Mopeli told Wits Vuvuzela, what’s the worst that could happen with exams? Even if you fail, there will always be another chance.

For students wanting to speak to someone professional about coping with exams, the Counselling, Careers and Development Unit (CCDU) can be contacted on 011 717 9136.

Wits VC Habib calls claims by Zionist organisation ‘delusions’

Anti-Isreali protesters showing their disapproval of Wits' decisions. Photo: Nokuthula Manyathi

David Abel of Likud-SA claims the Zionist lobby influenced Wits University’s disciplinary process against the Wits 11 who were charged with disruption of the Yossi Reshef concert last year. Photo: Nokuthula Manyathi

Claims by Zionist organisation, Likud-SA, to have influenced the outcome of the disciplinary hearings of the Wits 11 have been rubbished by vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib.

In an article published in the Cape Jewish Chronicle, David Abel was quoted as saying that the South African Zionist movement had “strongly influenced the suspension of the Wits 11 students involved in the disruption of the Yossi Reshef concert.”

In response, Habib called the claims by Abel “nonsense.”

Habib maintains that “Wits has too many diverse voices to be influenced by a single stakeholder. I cannot account for what other organisations claim. The delusions of others must be their responsibility, not ours,” he said.

Abel, national vice-chairman of Likud SA, is quoted as saying that against “the background of rising anti-Semitism worldwide and Israel being threatened by a potential nuclear Iran,” South African Zionism is claiming a number of victories “by inflicting damaging blows against the enemies of Israel.”

One of those victories, claims Abel, was influencing the disciplinary hearings of the Wits 11 which resulted in 80 hours of community service for 10 of the students and 130 for Tokelo Nhlapo.

Members of the Wits SRC, Muslim Students Association, Wits Palestinian Solidarity and the Progressive Youth Alliance stormed the stage of the concert during a closed event on March 12 and chanted their support for Palestine.

“Wits has too many diverse voices to be influenced by a single stakeholder. I cannot account for what other organisations claim. The delusions of others must be their responsibility, not ours,”

 Abel referred to pro-Zionist forces, including Jewish and Christian Zionist individuals and organisations, opposition parties, the South African Jewish press, students, sponsors and donors as having had an impact on the university’s decision.“Maybe not all of them were involved in the incident but they were at the same university,” Abel told Wits Vuvuzela. “They were also involved in the Yossi Reshef incident.”

He called it (the guilty verdict) a “wise decision” and added, “I have confidence that the university went through all the correct procedures. I’m quite happy about that.”

When asked about the students’ refusal to complete their community service hours (with the exception of one), he said, “[Their defiance] is strange to me. The university has certain rules, in my day one would never defy authority. It’s a defiance I don’t understand.”


Blood donor ban on gay men lifted in South Africa

Blood drive

The South African National Blood Services (SANBS) has lifted a ban on blood donation by gay men. Certain high risk categories of potential donors though, remained banned. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela.

Gay men across South Africa are now permitted to donate blood, according to shift in policy at the South African National Blood Service (SANBS).

A new “non-discriminatory” SANBS policy now considers those in monogamous homosexual relationships as eligible but there is still a restriction on certain high risk categories of potential donors.

Those with a new sexual partner, or multiple partners are not allowed to donate, regardless of their sexuality, as the risk of HIV/AIDS infection is too large.

Those with a new sexual partner, or multiple partners are not allowed to donate, regardless of their sexuality, as the risk of HIV/AIDS infection is too large, according to the SANBS.

Previously, only those who had been in heterosexual monogamous relationships for over six months were allowed to donate blood.

“As an organisation that is consistently improving the way we screen donors, and test the blood collected, SANBS together with the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) … have been working … to relook at the donor acceptance criteria with regards to the South African community,” read a SANBS press release.

The amendment to the questionnaire someone has to complete when donating blood on the definition of a sexual act has been altered, removing the question on male to male sex. The new policy will “address sexual risk, in that any sexual act or contact with a NEW partner/s during the preceding six months will be deemed a risk to the safety of blood supply, irrespective of the personal sexual orientation or preference”.

The previous policy existed as a result of international trends which sought to address the high rate of HIV-infection in South Africa.

Dawie Nel, a member of OUT, an organisation serving the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, is very happy with the SANBS’s announcement. He said, “Our argument was that it’s not about gay identity, but about risky behaviour and I hope it will encourage more gay men to donate blood.”

THE SCIENCE INSIDE [PODCAST]: Do you hate e-tolls enough to be a terrorist?

How much do you hate e-tolls?

In January this year two incidents of envelopes that contained a white powder – that was thought to be anthrax, a deadly biological weapon – were sent to SANRAL, the people involved with e-tolls.

Do you hate e-tolls enough to be a terrorist?

In this episode we get into that infamous powder: we look at the hysteria, how a lab tests for anthrax (mostly the powder is just talcum powder) and the previous South African government’s crazy history with anthrax as a way to kill.We’ll also touch on anthrax as a wild bacteria in nature and how there – on the fur of a donkey – it’s more likely to kill you than finding a powder in the mail …

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Vascular surgeon is the new Dean of Health Sciences at Wits

Wits University has announced the appointment of a new Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, following the departure of Professor Ahmed Wadee who was “recalled” by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) in September last year. Professor Martin Veller will assume the role of Dean in July this year. 

The full press release is reproduced below:

“Professor Martin Veller, MBBCh, FCS(SA), MMed(Surg), has been appointed as the new Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits University.

Veller, a vascular surgeon, was Head of the Department of Surgery in the School of Clinical Medicine at Wits from November 2001 to February 2013.

He will assume the deanship on 1 July 2014.

Veller received his pre- and postgraduate training at Wits where he qualified in general surgery in 1987.

He subsequently undertook a one year research fellowship at St Mary’s Hospital, Imperial College, London.

Veller was appointed ad hominem Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits in April 2002.

He is currently the President of the College of Surgeons of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa as well as the President of the World Federation of Vascular Societies.

“It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to lead a very large and productive Faculty of Health Sciences into an era when this country faces extensive health care reforms,” says Veller.

“Our society has experienced many challenges in the provision of high quality health care. Amongst the most important is the dire shortage of health care professionals who are responsive to the needs of the society in which this Faculty exists. This is one of the most significant contributors to the social and economic disparities in our society.

“Wherever we, as the Faculty, focus our efforts into the future, we must always be cognisant of our primary aim.

This is that we want to help improve the health care provision for every individual, based on the fact that a country whose citizens are healthy will flourish.”

The rise and rise of the selfie

Mxit came first, Facebook followed, Twitter was not far behind  but while each of these social media platforms was growing, the “selfie” was quietly establishing as one of the hottest trends in recent times.

If you’ve been buried under a rock somewhere, a selfie  is a picture or photograph taken by one’s self and shared on social media platforms. There are different kinds of selfies taken daily, by celebrities and ordinary people alike.

There is even a song about selfies by the band the Chainsmokers. But while their popularity is undisputed, the motivation for this trend is not quite clear.

Academics, psychologists and sociologists alike are still probing the obsession with the self-image and the need to share almost every moment via  a turned-around camera. Studies so far have have shown that selfies are an indication of a person’s obsession with appearance and the need for attention which is largely attributed to a low self- esteem or narcissism even.

People compete for the perfect selfie in all sorts of settings, including the gym, at a party out with friends,  just lazing around or studying in their rooms. For others it is about a new hairstyle, a hot outfit or their make-up.

“I usually take selfies when I have a new hairstyle, I take a lot of selfies then,” says 4th year Social Work student, Sinethemba Nkosi.

For Nomvelo Chalumbira, 2nd year BA student, she takes selfies when she is out with friends in a new place or on holiday, and sometimes when she is really bored when studying.

She added, “I don’t take them often at all, because I feel like it’s very vain and most of the time when I take them, I’m in a comfortable space with people I’m comfortable with or where I’m comfortable myself.”

SAY CHEESE: A group selfie.

SAY CHEESE: A group selfie with some of #teamvuvu.      Photo By: Illanit Chernick

Selfies are not a big deal for Silindokuhle Mavuso who is studying a BSc Honours in Geology and Palaeontology, “I barely take selfies, maybe one or two a month and if I take one it’s because I’m drunk with friends.”

Selfies are intimate and relate one’s personal experiences. But because of the belief that “if it’s not on social media, it did not happen,” content like selfies is readily shared on social media.

Nkosi says, “Most of the time I use them as DP [profile picture] for BBM or Whatsapp and Facebook.”

Mavuso who thinks taking selfies is conceited and pointless, tries to avoid taking them. He believes, as Chalumbira does that, taking a selfie is a very vain thing to do.

Whatever your feelings about them though, the popularity of the selfie is such that the word has been added to the Merriam-Webster English dictionary.

It was announced this week that the word, defined as an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks,” will now join other terms like ‘tweep’ and ‘hashtag’ in the  dictionary. 



Appeal for students to help families of striking Marikana workers

Supporters of the Marikana miners arrive for the lecture. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

Students are encouraged to donate food items to the striking miners of Marikana and their families.  Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

Approximately 70 000 workers from platinum mines in the North West and Limpopo provinces remain on strike in the effort to secure a basic salary of R12 500.

And while the strike enters its 16th week, the families of the miners are looking to welfare organisations and donors from across the country for food they can no longer afford.

In an effort to help those affected, the Marikana Support Committee and the Wits Sociology department have brought the initiative to Wits University to allow staff and students to make a contribution.

Prof Noor Nieftagodien, who is involved in the Marikana Support Committee, says the  situation is becoming “increasingly desperate”, especially in terms of a “worsening humanitarian crisis.”

Student support

Nieftagoden says the response at Wits has been “very slow” but students who are aware of the campaign have been “very enthusiastic.”

At present, Wits has only collected R3000 and two food parcels. Nieftagodien hopes that the Student Representative Council (SRC) and student organisations will begin to mobilise support this week and that students will help raise awareness about the situation.

He says that the main aim of this initiative is “to make a humanitarian intervention” and provide food and other basic necessities. The project was initiated by two Masters students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Marikana Support Committee. Last week UJ delivered approximately 90 food parcels to the area and is set to make a second delivery this week.

The 70 000 striking workers provide support to approximately 150 000 to 200 000 people. “We cannot allow poor people to go hungry, especially not in the year that we celebrate 20 years of democracy,” said Nieftagodien.

Do donate

Students are encouraged to donate what they can (food, clothes or monetary) and donations can be sent to Ingrid Chunilal or Sedzani Malada in the Wits Sociology department.

Alternatively, the School of Literature, Language and Media Studies has arranged for students to drop off food and/or clothing parcels in Room SH3159 on Friday, May 23, between 8am and 1pm.

BDS protests outside Joburg High Court


A supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign stands in solidarity with the protest outside High Court earlier today. Photo: Luca Kotton


By Roxanne Joseph and Luca Kotton

Supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign protested outside the Johannesburg High Court today where a case about the removal of Palestine solidarity billboards was to be heard.

The BDS movement, who are suing Continental Outdoor Media for the removal of Palestine solidarity billboards in 2012, staged a protest outside the court despite a postponement of the matter to later in the week.

The organisation is represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and is arguing that the removal of the billboards goes against the principle of Freedom of Expression, according to BDS South Africa coordinator Muhammad Desai.

Desai says BDS are very confident they will win the case as this is a “contractual” and “constitutional” issue.

“The facts are very clear, in which Continental Media has succumb to the pressure. Unfortunately for Continental Media the Israeli lobby went very quickly to the media to take down the billboards. We don’t see any sign of the Israeli lobby now,” Desai said.


Supporters of the BDS movement, including the ANC Youth League and Cosatu, protested outside High Court earlier today. Photo: Luca Kotton

He added, “We are here to send a very clear message … playing around with freedom of speech and freedom of expression will not be taken lightly. We fought very hard for these freedoms.”

The billboards depicted the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land through a series of maps titled “Palestinian Loss of Land- 1946 to 2010.”

The matter was not heard in court today as the LRC believes the time allocated to the case is too little.

“We need more than four hours for the matter to be heard, it’s quite a complex matter. So we’re waiting for a time later in the week when more than four hours can be allocated for us,” according to Naseema Fakir, regional director of the LRC.