Venda University’s VC implements improved security measures in aftermath of serial killings

Following the murders of four young women, three of them students, in and around the University of Venda campus, security is now under the personal watch of the vice chancellor (VC), and university management.

A delegation led by VC Prof Peter Mbati has recognised the urgent need for improved security to “mitigate against the assaults and murders experienced by” the university community.

Mbati said he was “completely devastated” when he received the news that a university staff member, cleaner Brenda Ndove, had been murdered on campus on June 22. This came just three months after the death of a female student, Livhuwani Mbodi.

In an effort to better understand the security risks faced by students, especially those living off campus, the VC visited all three of the off-campus residences. “We emphasised the need for improved security features at these residences,” he said, in a report issued to the university’s campus community last Wednesday.

Consisting of university management and student leadership, the delegation met last month to discuss and implement security for staff and students in a number of different ways.

These include the purchase of a security patrol vehicle, an increase in the number of security guards across campus, creating a community policing forum, the installation of more CCTV cameras all over campus and limited access to buildings, offices and residences on campus.

The delegation was assured by the South African Police Service (SAPS) that their concerns would be taken into serious consideration and according to Mbati, the municipality also gave its commitment in improving street lighting around the university’s main gate.

“I am hopeful that with the tightening of our internal security infrastructure, and with the support of the SAPS, we will significantly mitigate against the risk of violent crimes against our staff and students,” Mbati said.

Mbati encouraged students and staff to exercise caution and avoid walking alone in the dark or in the very early hours of the morning.

Last week, A 24-year-man, also a student at the university was arrested in connection with the spate of murders on the campus.

 

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Limited job opportunities for international students at careers fair

NATIONAL EDGE?:  A recruiter explains to Witsies their available options for their career applications.  Photo: Lameez Omarjee

NATIONAL EDGE?: A recruiter explains to Witsies their available options for their career applications. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

International students can forget about applying for jobs in South Africa, unless they have an identity document (ID) or work permit. This was the general message at a careers fair, held earlier today at the Old Mutual Sports Hall at Wits.

The Counselling and Careers Developmental Unit’s (CCDU) graduate recruitment programme organised the fair for students from across all faculties but there was little on offer for students from outside South Africa.

Limited choices

International student Tinashe Chuchu, Masters in Marketing, attended the fair to look for potential recruiters and employment opportunities. He said the fair was a good initiative by Wits, however his choices are limited given his degree and nationality.

“There were a wide variety of opportunities for engineering students, social sciences students and commerce students,” he said.  However he was turned away by companies who were not looking foreign students. “I left out all the banks, for obvious reasons.  They do not take anyone who is not South African,” Chuchu said.

“I think the labour department puts (sic) regulations for companies to fulfil quotas,” he said.  In his own experience of looking for jobs, Chuchu found that there were positions advertised for international students, but only for specific and scarce skills sets.

Laws and regulations

Kwame Owusu-Ansah, masters in Chemical Engineering, shared Chuchu’s views.  Although there were many opportunities, Owusu-Ansah said some of them were very “shaky”.  You can apply for some positions, but then you have to make sure you can get a work permit.

“I have a wide variety of choices because I’m an engineer.  But until they find out I’m an international student, it slashes by three quarters.”

“Initially if you got an offer there would be an opportunity for you to get a permit.  But now you may get an offer, and not a get permit”

He explained that South African labour regulations are more stringent than in previous years.  “They often refuse permits for international students, even if they give you an offer,” he said.

Lloyd Uta, an international student completing his Masters in Marketing, found companies that were looking for applicants from South Africa and abroad.  Those were big multi-national companies and a few smaller companies looking to increase their human capital, he said.

However, Uta admits, “Choices are limited.  I have to keep switching between what I want to do (marketing) and what I can do (IT),” to find job openings.

Employers voice

Amos Kova,  a graduate recruitment manager at a bank explained why applicants had to be South African citizens, “We believe that we have an obligation to South Africa”.

Bohlale Paile, also a graduate recruitment manager at a bank said: “We don’t take international students at this point.  We did before, but we ran into problems when it came to getting work permits”.

She explained that the Department of Labour required recruiters to motivate why non-South African citizens were chosen over South African citizens.

The motivation process and applications for work permits take time, which holds international graduates back from starting the graduate programme timeously.

Raj Naran, the Career Development Educator and Team Leader Career Services at CCDU said this year, the careers fair was open to everybody.  “It does not have a specific focus.”

Companies came from industries where there was a shortage in a skills set, such as “accounting, engineering and commerce” he said.

Naran added that students should earn their jobs, develop themselves and prepare well, “and certainly, academic records play a role”.

Another careers fair is scheduled for September this year.

 

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SCIENCE INSIDE: The science and psychology of protest action and the platinum strikes

During the first 90 days of 2014, South Africa experienced nearly 3000 protest actions, more than 30 a day, involving nearly one million people.

Protests and strike action are characteristic of a democratic South Africa, for better or for worse. In this show we look at the facts around protests in SA, and we look at the role of crowd psychology. And in light of recent unrest in the platinum belt, we look at platinum as a commodity.

The Science Inside, the show that goes inside the science of major news events, is produced by Paul McNally, Anina Mumm, DJ Keyez and Lutfiyah Suliman for The Wits Radio Academy.

Tune in live to VowFM every Monday at 6pm.

If the full podcast does not load automatically, please click here.

 

Wits young leaders on the rise

BRIGHT STAR:  Arthur Motolla, from AIESEC Wits explains that Wits University won the Rising Star Award at the AIESEC June Leadership Summit.  Photo: Lameez Omarjee

BRIGHT STAR: Arthur Motolla from AIESEC Wits with the Rising Star trophy. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

A global student leadership organisation has recognised its Wits chapter through an award that also acknowledges the work of its members.

AIESEC Wits (an acronym in French for the International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences) received the Rising Star Award during the June leadership summit (JLS) held at Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMU).

The award recognised the efforts of Witsies from the society were involved in travel and leadership conferences, during the winter break, which allowed the chapter to fulfill the required number of exchanges and projects within a twelve month period.

AIESEC brings together student leaders from across the world towards the betterment of society as a whole.

Leadership summit

Ten students from Wits attended the five-day JLS which brought together chapters from a number of  different universities.

The summit focused on the relevance of African talent and explored leadership in South Africa within AIESEC, according to Onthatile Nataboge, 4th year BEd and president of AIESEC Wits.

Arthur Motolla, 1st year BA student, attended the JLS for the first time.  He said speakers stressed the importance of embracing Africa’s mosaic of cultures instead of striving for a unique African identity.

“Opportunity lies with the disadvantaged.  That is where opportunities lie for entrepreneurs.  That is where you can expect the most amount of growth,” he said as he reflected on the things he learned at the summit.

“I am still overwhelmed by JLS,” exclaimed Duduetsang Mmeti, 2nd year LLB.  She explained that students were encouraged to contribute African solutions to African problems.

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Wits upfront registration fee set to move beyond ten thousand rands in 2015

SHOW ME THE MONEY: Wits students can start saving for next year as there is a proposed increase to  the upfront payment fee. Photo: Luca Kotton

SHOW ME THE MONEY: Wits students can start saving for next year as there is a proposed increase to the upfront payment fee. Photo: Luca Kotton

Witsies are going to have dig deeper into their pockets in 2015 with the proposed upfront payment fee increasing to  R10 270.00.

The fee, currently at  R9340.00, entails a R930.00 increase which is needed by Wits according to university registrar, Carol Crosley. “The universities costs at the beginning of the year are very high,” she said. Crosley added that the registration fee was needed largely due to the department of higher education only providing a portion of their funding at the beginning of April every year and the rest during the start of September.

The SRC (Student Representative Council), though believes the fee is too high and remains opposed to the proposed increase. Shafee Verachia,  SRC president said, “We are in the process of doing extensive modelling to see what the process of that upfront payment purpose is and our opposition is that it is to exorbitant and should remain the same. Relative to our peers the upfront fee payment is ridiculous.”

Two years ago Wits started an Upfront Payment Plan (UPP) for students who couldn’t afford the initial registration fee. The students utilising the UPP would only pay half of the registration fee and would still be able to register, the rest of the registration fees would go on their fee statement and could be paid off during the year.

Students on bursaries would have their registration fees waived if a letter by the donor was received by Wits and would then be expected to pay the full tuition fee by 31 March.

School-leavers entering Wits for the first time could avoid paying the registration fee all together if their Grade 12 results were sufficient to secure a university entrance scholarship, which would cover the registration fee in some cases.

Professor Tawana Kupe, deputy vice-chancellor (finance) of the university, told Wits Vuvuzela that the “university finances are stable but the university does not have the funds to do everything it wants to do.”

Typically the upfront fee payment increases by the agreed percentage fee increase for the following academic year, which needs to go through various structures and be approved by the university council, the higest decision-making body in the university.

Postgraduate students still struggling with SA visa regulations

by Doreen Zimbizi, Kudzai Mazvarirwofa and Roxanne Joseph.

Newly issued visa regulations from the South African Department of Home Affairs have led to frustration and anger among foreigners, including Witsies, living in the country.

The regulations, issued in June this year, states that any foreign person living in South Africa is not allowed to change the state of their permit here but must do so at the “mission abroad,” i.e. the South African embassy in that person’s home country.

In order to travel back for this permit status changes, the existing permit must have at least 30 days on it. Anyone who overstays on a permit will be declared an ‘undesirable’ and will be blacklisted.

Additionally, while students could previously travel back to their home countries using the proof of application for a study permit, the new regulations sates that anyone who attempts to leave the South African border with this proof, will be in contravention of the act and charged with a spot fine and or blacklisted.

At the end of June, Wits University facilitated a discussion on the new immigration regulations and how they affect the student community. Initiated by the Department of Home Affairs, the forum was attended by representatives from 16 of South Africa’s 23 universities.

Gita Patel, manager of the Wits International Student Office, said the under the new regulations existing students would now renew their permits online while new students will be required to apply in their home countries. A department of Home Affairs official, who refused to be named, said the department is currently facing a backlog in the issuing of permits and as a result students are forced to return to their home countries, sometimes regularly, in order to comply with the regulations.

Babongile Pswarai, a returning master’s student at Wits says she got her study permit for her honour’s degree at UCT (University of Cape Town). After the permit had already expired she had return to Zimbabwe to re-apply before she became an illegal resident. She experienced with the difficulties with the embassy while there.

“The embassy in Zim[babwe] was awful. It’s like the people there don’t even know themselves what they are doing. Either that, or they just don’t want to work.”

Wits University enrols about 2 500 foreign students every year and Patel said the number of outstanding permits fluctuated. She hoped the new system would streamline the process. Patel advised students to plan ahead by applying at least 60 days in advance and to check the progress of their online applications regularly. The process normally takes six to eight weeks.

Selfies stretch back 300 years

13_Gallery From sitting to selfie (800x533)

The exhibition, From Sitting to Selfie, creates a history of the phenomenon of taking  ‘selfie’. Photo: Tendai Dube.

The ‘selfie’ has had such an impact on society that the word itself is now part of the dictionary. To capture the history of the phenomenon, the Standard Bank Art Gallery is currently hosting the exhition the From Sitting to Selfie. The  exhibition showcases the origins and history of the phenomenon, often seen to be the result of social media and camera phones.

“There is a lot of variety, it covers a long period of time”, said Sue Isaac, gallery administrator.  The exhibition showcases 300 years of South African portraits, dating back to the 1617 with two portraits by Cornelis van der Voort, Portrait of a Gentleman and Portrait of a Lady.

The collection is proof that the obsession with one’s image has been around for much longer than Instagram selfies.

Capturing a moment in time is not necessarily external; art was created from a retina image from a visit to the optometrist. Another of metal carved into a skull by laser.

One of the more lighthearted time-stamps is a self-portrait of Mikhael Subotzky by Marc Nicolson after being stung by a bee in 2004.

“It’s like looking at Facebook, I just don’t get it [selfies]”, said Linda Engelbrecht, an art aficionado who visited the gallery. “I can’t imagine why people would want to publish bad photographs of themselves”, she added.

Curator Barbara Freemantle explained that sitting portraits in the past were done to “best capture the essence of another human” while selfies are “a memento or to document the photographer’s own presence at a particular occasion.

“I think it’s just a popular fad at the moment which I think will run its course, maybe not because we are all pretty egotistical, so perhaps it won’t”, said Isaac.

The exhibition ends on September 6 and is held on the corner Simmonds and Frederick street.

 

Wits VC taken to task over photo tweet

Habib was attacked for sharing a photo that he said was from Gaza, when it was actually from Syria, earlier this year. Photo: Twitter

Habib was attacked for sharing a photo that he said was from Gaza, when it was actually from Syria, earlier this year. Photo: Twitter

Unverified photos and information often don’t get very far on social media platforms as networks of people around the world are quick to react to and correct any improper use.

This is exactly what Wits vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib realised this past Sunday as one of his tweets, containing an incorrectly attributed photograph, attracted close to 60 responses in less than an  hour.

Habib used a picture from the Syrian conflict that was taken in February this year and incorrectly atrributed it to the current conflict in Gaza.

The photo that shows the legs of a corpse sticking out from underneath rubble had been mistakenly used on social media several times in the last few weeks.

“The consequences of Obama’s defense of Israel’s war in Gaza. How could we have allowed him to talk at Madiba’s funeral,” Habib tweeted.

Following the reponses to Habib’s tweet, he apologised and later tweeted, “the photo was copied from an earlier tweet.”

But he remained resolute in his point, tweeting that he “could find another photo to demonstrate this but what would be the point.”

“Let’s deal with the substance -children are dying,” Habib tweeted.

The incident happened at a time when the circulation of false information, and in particular, photos, is occurring more frequently via social media platforms.

But coupled with the ease of sharing information, is the ability to share unverified information which can be damaging.

In the case of Malaysia Airlines flights 17 and 370, a story about a Dutch cyclist who was booked to go on both flights (but at the last minute changed his mind) was widely circulated a week ago.

However, it was soon discovered that there was no proof that 29-year-old Maarten de Jonge ever bought a ticket.

In these instances, fiction becomes fact very quickly as information is taken out of context or passed off as the truth. The impact and consequences of sharing fale information can be dangerous, especially because information can reach more people, in a shorter amount of time.

Wits Justice Project Symposium on Torture

The Wits Justice Project will host a symposium in light of the signing into law of the Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Bill, last year.

Training, sensitization and human rights education on the definitions and penalties associated with torture is crucial at this stage of South Africa’s history.

 The objective is to facilitate high-level discussions and reflections on:

a)      The first year of the “torture bill”: different perspectives from the authorities, civil society and experts. To include topics on:

  • achievements of the first year
  • the dissemination and training that is needed, for all actors and officials in the criminal justice system
  • awareness raising for the public
  • needed policy environment

b)      The necessary next steps needed for the ratification of the optional protocol of the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and implementation of a national preventative mechanism.

When: 28 and 29 August 2014

Venue: Chalsty Centre, Braamfontein Campus West

RSVP by July 1, 2014 to Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi of the Wits Justice Project on nooshin.erfani-ghadimi@wits.ac.za.

Wits to host Digital Africa Festival 2014

In recognition of the role digital technology is destined to play in “Africa’s Century”, Wits University has announced that it will host its inaugural Fak’ugesi: Digital Africa Festival 2014, running from 11 August to mid-September 2014.

The festival will be centered on the JCSE’s new Tshimologong Precinct and will make use of other venues on Wits East and West Braamfontein campuses, the Maboneng Precinct and 44 Stanley.

For more information and specific dates, visit our online calendar.

HEADLINE EVENTS CONFIRMED:

Agile Africa 2014: A major conference on software development methods, following up on the very successful inaugural event held in Braamfontein in August 2013.

A MAZE/Johannesburg 2014: An Indie-Games and Digital Arts Festival, attracting games developers and digital artists from Europe and Africa. This festival has been run annually since 2012 in Braamfontein in partnership with the organisers of Berlin’s A MAZE Festival.

CASCADE: CASCADE is a collaborative multi-disciplinary project that champions digital content development through a series of workshops and activities. The event is led by “Onedotzero” – an experiential arts organisation with over 16 years’ experience in curating and producing cultural events and content for brands and agencies. CASCADE will be supported by the British Council.

Process Improvement Africa: This is a one-day conference focusing on the role that process and process improvement plays in helping ICT organisations deliver high quality products and services in a predictable and repeatable manner. The conference will showcase models and methods such as CMMI, ITIL, TSP and AGILE.

Maker Event: 3-D Printing, laser cutters and other rapid prototyping tools are revolutionizing hardware innovation. “Maker Spaces” give innovators the freedom to explore solutions in the hardware world as easily as software developers do in the world of bits and bytes. The Maker Event will provide an opportunity for “Makers” to collaborate, learn and teach.

Unyazi Festival of Electronic Music: The only African festival dedicated to the latest developments in electronic and electro-acoustic music. Launched at Wits in 2005, the 2014 Festival, in partnership with NewMusicSA, will feature innovative and exploratory music from African and the rest of the world.