Wits reaches an agreement with MJL electrical workers

Wits University has reached an agreement with protesters, including Wits Workers Solidarity and MJL Electrical workers, before a court interdict was issued to have them forcibly removed from the offices of the Wits Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib. 

SILENT STEP: MJL Electrical workers Sello Rampypedi, Kagiso Mokotedi, Samuel Mosia, Ben Lebese, Shadrach Baloyi, Forgive Mahlaugu and Tshifhiwa Matamela sat silently on the great hall steps before the meeting began.

File Photo


Protesters occupying the offices next to vice chancellor, Prof Adam Habib have reached an agreement with Wits University after previously being denied their demands that outsourced MJL workers be absorbed by another contractor.
The MJL electrical workers were left jobless after the private company was closed, following allegations that the workers were not paid by the company. According to a university statement the MJL workers were subsequently paid by Wits out of the monies owed to MJL Electrical.

The university previously made a statement where it acknowledged that the MJL workers were treated unfairly by the contractor.

“MJL workers have been treated badly by their boss. Wits does sympathize. But we cannot employ the workers,” the university said in an earlier statement.

According to the university spokesperson, Shirona Patel, Habib said during the protest that Wits could not absorb the MJL workers into the university.

The statement also added that Wits management would not meet with the student protestors, “Wits Management is open to meeting directly with the workers themselves or their recognised unions but the university will not negotiate with the Wits EFF, student groups or other informal bodies on this matter.”

However the protesters have reached an agreement with deputy vice-chancellor Prof Tawana Kupe, today and voluntarily left the premises just before lunch. This comes after the university began proceedings to obtain a court interdict to have the students from Wits Workers Solidarity Committee and MJL workers removed from the premises, which they have been occupying since Wednesday.

Koketso Toho, a protestor and member of Wits Workers Solidarity, said “We got the university to take responsibility to attend and negotiate with current vendors which enjoy the same status as MJL to employ the current number of workers.”

“They will try to communicate with us and we will take it from there what action we will take.”

In the university’s statement responding to the demand to employ the workers, it explained the negative affect insourcing, hiring the workers directly by Wits, would have on the university by setting a precedent, ” Those who advocate insourcing do not realize that it would require an extra 15% increase in student fees otherwise Wits quality will decline … This would destroy Wits. Where would future students go?”

Toho however believes the university will try to improve the number of outsourced vendors it uses, “We will try and negotiate for the general outsourcing to stop which the university has committed itself to try and stop … even though it might be a lengthy process.”

He added, “They [Wits University] will try to communicate with us and we will take it from there what action we will take.”

Wits seeks court order to remove protesters

Students and dismissed electrical workers have occupied the offices of the Wits vice chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, since yesterday, The university has indicated that it will be seeking a court interdict to have the protesters removed. 

LOCKED OUT: Two students were locked out of Professor Adam Habib's offices which protesters were occupying and demanding that the MJL electrical workers be absorbed into a newly outsourced company. Photo: Tanisha Heiberg

LOCKED OUT: Two students were locked out of Professor Adam Habib’s offices yesterday while protesters occupied the space demanding that the dismissed MJL electrical workers be absorbed into a new company now contracted by Wits. Photo: Tanisha Heiberg

Wits University says it will seek a court order to remove the protesters currently occupying the office of the vice chancellor, Professor Adam Habib. Around 20 protesters occupied the office on the 11th floor of Senate House on East Campus, around lunch time yesterday, and were given the option to move to another site by 6pm last night. After failing to move, the university declared it’s intention, via a tweet, to seek legal recourse.

The protesters, including members of Wits Workers’ Solidarity, and MJL electrical workers are apparently still in the office this morning which has been closed by Campus Control.

The protest comes after a protracted dispute with Wits management over the  fate of the electrical workers who were left jobless after the university ended its contract with their company, MJL Electrical. Last month, the group sent a letter to the vice chancellor blaming the university for not doing enough to help them. The workers have been in a salary dispute with the owner of the company, George Cresswold since early this year.

Yesterday, two students attempting to join the protest were locked out of the offices and staged their own sit-in in the lobby. A student and member of Wits Workers’ Solidarity, Mpho Massuku said, “They are not allowing us to come inside … Habib only allowed five people to go in and we are not part of them”.

Deputy Vice Chancellor (Advancement and Transformation), Professor Tawana Kupe and members of the Academic Freedom Committee were seen inside the offices.

Professor Beatrys Lacquet, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Information, Knowledge and Infrastructure Management), said, “The university has to continue with business as usual and we are dealing with the matter in due process”.

Top student tours on 6 continents

These are some of the top student tours available for 6 continents. The tours are chosen based on value for money as well as excitement for the ultimate memory making holiday.

Everyone always says that the time to travel and see the world is now! As ‘young adults’ we have very little tiring us down, BUT because we just starting out in life we usually don’t have much moola.

Grab your passport. Here are 6 traveling ideas that take offer you great adventure for your buck.

Graphic: Valerie Robinson

Graphic: Valerie Robinson

Graphic: Valerie Robinson

Graphic: Valerie Robinson

Graphic: Valerie Robinson

Graphic: Valerie Robinson

Outsourced workers plan protest with sacked president


WORKERS AID: MJL Electrical workers outside the Great Hall before they got in to the Vice Chancellor’s Town Hall meeting last month. Photo: Sibongile Machika

WORKERS AID: MJL Electrical workers outside the Great Hall before they got in to
the Vice Chancellor’s Town Hall meeting earlier this year. Photo: Sibongile Machika

Axed SRC president Mcebo Dlamini and Wits workers are planning a protest at the Great Hall today in solidarity with fellow outsourced workers.

The protest action will happen throughout lunch hour, but protestors say they will continue the strike for as long as it takes to get a positive response from management.

“I hope they will disturb the exams so that the university can take them seriously,” Dlamini said.

Wits university management has been in disputes over outsourced workers formerly employed by Wits contractor MJL Electrical. MJL workers have made several allegations against the company, including non-payment of salaries as well as tax fraud.

Dlamini said that the companies that the university enters into business exploit black workers. “The university is failing to protect those workers,” said Dlamini.

Richard Ndebele, of MJL Electrical, said the workers have met with Wits management several times  yet no resolution has been found.

“We want Wits to consider a company that can absorb us, we’ve even suggested the names of companies that can do that but they don’t want to instead they (Wits) say it’s not their responsibility to do something for us,” said Ndebele.

Prof Beatrys Lacquet, the deputy vice chancellor of infrastructure and operations at Wits, has said that the university has paid what it owes MJL Electrical and the responsibility for the workers is on the company, not the university.


MJL workers are not the only outsourced workers to be unhappy with their lot at Wits. These workers, including those from Servest andUkweza, said they took a resolution on Friday that they will would protest in solidarity of MJL workers.

Ukweza worker, Tanya Khumalo* said she is supporting the strike because when workers from Ukweza were fired, workers employed by other outsourcing companies rallied in support of their reinstatement.

“Le rona tlamayile re ba thuse, batlo thola mosebetsi eming je ka rona bari thusitse, [We have an obligation to help them get other jobs, just like we were helped],” said Khumalo.


*Not real name.

Vladislavić launches latest book at Wits

Acclaimed South African author and Wits English professor, Ivan Vladislavić, launched his new book at Wits University last week.

Vlad edit-5806

DETECTIVE: Acclaimed South African author, Ivan Vladislavić launched his new book 101 Detectives at Wits on Thursday,  as part of Africa Week. Photo: Samantha Camara

101 Detectives  is a collection of fictional short stories that follow the adventures of different detectives across Johannesburg, Mauritius, the American West and Germany. The book is the latest offering from Wits English professor and celebrated author Ivan Vladislavić, and was launched at Wits University last Thursday.

Speaking at the launch hosted by the Wits School of Language, Literature and Media (SLLM), Vladislavić said the collection is an extension of his previous work The Loss Library.

Kirby Mania, who completed her doctorate on Vladislavićs’ works,  described the collection as an “act of detection” as the reader is invited to not only journey with the characters but also decipher clues and patterns which are hidden in the stories themselves.

Mania suggested that the collection is an “anti-detective” story which follows “no grand system that can be relied on to restore order”.

The book was published by Umuzi, a local branch of Penguin Random House and is on sale at leading bookstores.

Listen to Vladislavić read from the title story of the collection (click below):

Time for book fairs to “break the class divide”

The evening came alive with song and music when renowned South African storyteller Gcina Mhlophe took to the stage at the annual Jozi Book Fair, while Wits vice chancellor Professor Adam Habib called for more accessible book fairs.  

LETS READ: Gcina Mhlope  poses with VC Adam Habib and Khanya College organizers at the Jozi Book Fair. Photo: Katleho Sekhotho

LET’S READ: From left, Dr Maria van Driel, one of the organisers, Gcina Mhlope, Prof Adam Habib and a guest at the Jozi Book Fair in Braamfontein on Thursday evening.                                                                                 Photo: Katleho Sekhotho


Wits University’s vice chancellor has said that book fairs need to “break the class divide.” Speaking at the 7th annual Jozi Book Fair in Braamfontein on Thursday night, an event hosted in partnership with Wits University and Khanya College, Habib spoke of the need to make book fairs more accessible.

Reflecting on the launch of one of his books two years ago at the Franschhoek Literature Festival, Habib said he realised that there were only about six black people in the audience out of the thousands present.

Habib said book fairs are an opportunity for the upper middle class to hang around and share interesting ideas, but made the call for a change, and said that the university’s partnership with Khanya College is part of this.

“We are starting this particular relationship with Khanya [College]… because it’s about deepening access to education, and that is something we are particularly increasingly getting committed to.”

Celebrated writer and poet Gcina Mhlophe was also present and captivated the audience with her signature mix of music and poetry, (click to listen).


Focusing on young people and reading, Mhlope spoke of what led her to write children’s books, “I started writing for children because I got jealous, when I got to those countries where they sell children’s books only – they dress them up so well – I wanted to make a contribution!” (click to listen).




Play makes no ‘secret’ to political foibles


A new play by Witsies, Secret ballot, is an urban representation of contemporary South African politics. This politically driven play pokes fun at the shortcomings of our modern parliamentarians and issues we can all readily identify with.

“The play speaks urgently to the time,” said writer and director Jefferson Tshabalala.

From our beloved president Jacob Zuma to our blessed charismatic pastors, the story references contemporary figures of authority and ridicules the abundance of power and money and how that turns to greed when there is no accountability. It satirises recent social spectacles like the Braamfontein KFC street chicken saga and the #AskMmusi social media campaign.

“That is probably why we don’t have sponsorship from any institution,” cast member Tony Miyambo said. The cast and crew decided to not charge anything for the show and opted to let people donate however much they wanted.

This contemporary piece of protest theatre explores the greedy culture of tenderpreneurs. Politically connected individuals who got rich through the government tendering system. The play comically exploits how political clout is used to gain personal ‘sugar’ or riches as the play suggests.

“The production was largely informed by the political climate under which it was first written,” said Tshabalala, who wrote the play during the post -election period in 2014.

Tshabalala wrote speeches for the play and not normal dialogue to exaggerate how parliamentarians talk at rallies or even in parliament. “By observing social media and what’s on the news, the actors add the colour and texture over time in rehearsals to stay current,” said Miyambo.

“We wanted to move the personal dialogue among politicians to the public domain,” said Tshabalala.

Starring Zabalaza Mchunu, Tsietsi Morobi, Michael Mazibuko, Lereko Mfono and Tony Miyambo as the members of the brotherhood.  This group of young, black whiskey sipping white collar crooks wear dark sunglasses, expensive suites and even pricier shoes. The young and uneducated people run the show with grassroots political training which they have received from the older generation of cadres.

True to the political theatre genre, the play uses physical humour to speak to topical issues in an uncanny way. “As young theatre practitioners who take their craft seriously, we wanted to use pastiche to address young people who tend to switch off when debate about serious issues arise,” said Miyambo.

First staged in 2014, Secret Ballot highlights the bubbling under state of emergency that South Africa is in. The play tells the story of how large social agendas have grown into personalised crimes of entitlement.

“No run has been the same because the South African landscape constantly changes,” said Miyambo.

Hilarious and witty, the production opens discussion on the public issues, allowing for audiences to laugh at themselves. This political farce reflects society to back to itself, a must see for anyone alarmed by the quietly bubbling under frustration of the youth about our corrupt state of affairs.

The cast and crew are planning on taking their production on the road but have not yet firm plans due to a lack of funding. They will be advertising shows on their Facebook page KiriPinkNob.

Prof leaves the Big Apple for Braamfontein

After an eight year stay in the United States, Professor Hlonipha Mokoena has finally decided to come back to South Africa and has chosen Wits University as her new academic home. 

BACK TO THE MOTHERLAND: After many years abroad educating and learning, Professor Hlonipha Mokoena will touch home in June. Photo: John Harris

BACK HOME: After many years abroad educating and learning, Professor Hlonipha Mokoena will make a permanent move to South Africa in June.                        Photo: John R. Harris

In June, the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) will welcome South African Professor Hlonipha Mokoena back home.

Mokoena, 38, originally from Soweto but left for KwaZulu-Natal at the age of 12 to go to boarding school, took on her first job as an associate professor in anthropology at the Columbia University in New York a few years after graduating with her PhD from UCT (University of Cape Town), in 2005.

Her move to Wiser comes after three years of planning and describing this new challenge, Mokoena said, “I mustn’t disappoint.”

Mokoena hopes to have the intellectual space and time in which to complete a new book. No stranger to publishing, she wrote her first book titled Magema Fuze: The Making of a Kholwa Intellectual in 2011.

“Mokoena now feels that she can quite soundly critique American notions of “knowledge”

After 8 years of teaching at Columbia University, Mokoena now feels that she can quite soundly critique American notions of “knowledge”, and she describes some of the innovative ways in which students are taught in the US as viable options in South Africa.

“I think in South Africa we tend to argue about eurocentrism as if [it’s] sort of widespread, whereas really the world currently is dominated by the American approach to creating knowledge, including African studies. It’s really American-centric,” Mokoena said.

Mokoena spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about the differences between universities in the States and those here at home, “American private universities [such as] Columbia University are very different from South African universities at the basic level of competition.”

According to Mokoena, there is a high degree of competition for staff and students to get into institutions like Columbia.

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp, Chrissie Fit

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Wits Vuvuzela Rating: 8/10

Whether the pitch will be perfect again, is what everyone was wondering going into the opening weekend of the highly anticipated Pitch Prefect 2.

Admittedly, I went into the cinema expecting to be disappointed because sequels often do not live up to expectations. But this one was different.

“Fat Amy makes her entrance in the film with an impressive rendition of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking ball, whilst doing acrobatics in a skin tight suit”

The film starts off about 2 years from where the first version ended. The Bellas a Capella group that the film revolves around have now won 3 consecutive national championships and are at the top of their game.

Everyone’s favourite, Fat Amy makes her entrance in the film with an impressive rendition of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking ball, whilst doing acrobatics in a skin tight suit.

This begins the sequence of events that go horribly wrong for the Bellas.

As a result, the Bellas have to win the world championships against a very impressive German group called ‘Das Sound Machine’.

The film sees, group lead, Beca’s dreams of becoming a music producer reach within her grasp, and many new, interesting and hilarious love plots emerge. The comedy is just as good as the first one, but is not to everyone’s taste – so be warned – if you did not enjoy the first one then this movie is not for you.

One of the aspects of the film that stand out is the hysterical a Capella commentators, John and Gail, played by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins.

The sequel sees the return of all the characters we loved in the first movie with a few new additions to spice things up. The movie did well at the the box office too, beating out Mad Max: Fury Road that premiered on the same weekend.

In the United States, Pitch Perfect 2 grossed $70.3 million on opening weekend. While Mad Max made an impressive, but considerably less $44.4 million.

Pitch Perfect 2 has made more in the opening weekend than what the first movie made in its entire run in theatres, it can definitely be seen as a success.

Guest appearances by Snoop Dogg, Barack and Michelle Obama are also some of the familiar faces that you can expect to see in the film.

Drugs no longer a problem at Wits

Everything from condoms to toothbrushes can be found at two new vending machines at Senate House and the FNB building on West Campus, though some students have criticised their high prices.

A pack of Disprin, which costs no more than R20 at your local supermarket, will cost you almost double,at R35, at the vending machine.

According to its operator,PharmaShop24, this is not a typical vending machine. It is specially designed to dispense health care products, and your daily medical essentials from A-Z at a simple push of a button.

When students were asked about their opinions about the vending machines, reactions varied.

“I think that these are awesome,” saidMpumelelo Tshabalala, 2nd year BA Law. “There are so many times where I have needed medication, like Panado for a headache, and I’ve had to hike around campus looking for some, this is going to be a huge help.”

Other students were only critical of the machine’s high prices. “I think the prices are way too high for me,” said Ismael Motsoeneng, 1st year BA. “Some prices were not too bad, but I’d rather go somewhere else.”

The company, PharmaShop24, has placed these machines at high traffic points at the university, aiming for high convenience.

PharmaShop24, says that concept and design can be found all over Europe, Japan, USA and now in South Africa.

Initially implemented at Shell service stations around the counter, the South African team has been actively modifying and adapting this concept since early 2012 to introduce it into universities.

Alumni wants Wits to sing a new song

In response to the controversial Men’s Res anthem, “I smell pussy”, the wits alumni office aims to replace that war-cry with something more positive.

The Wits Alumni Society is aiming to unite Witsies by choosing a new anthem that Wits can be proud of and that creates a reinvigorated sense of team spirit.

Students, staff and alumni around the world are encouraged to send their punchy and funky new war-cry options that people can learn easily, and that Witsies will sing for years to come.

The new war-cry will be launched in September, replacing less favourable war-cries,in the hopethat all Witsies will be singing it for the new sports season.

The competition will starton July, 20 and end on August, 15. There are prizes to be won, worth R10 000.

Wits Vuvuzela previously covered the story of members of the Men’s Residence singing a war-cry with lyrics saying “I smell pussy” at a rugby match earlier in the year. This prompted the Alumni office to discuss why students would want to sing a song like this, it was determined that it was because there are no official war-cries at Wits.

The Wits Gender Equity Office previously said that itwill be implementing “systemic holistic intervention programmes” in residences next semester in response to Men’s Residence’s war-cry lyrics.

Historically, the Wits war-cry was an important part of inter-varsity competition however, most songs would not be favourable today as they were highly Eurocentric and concentrated more on varsity rivals.

Wits has not had an official war-cry since the 1960’s.

Students are encouraged to submit their lyrics to warcry.alumni@wits.ac.za from now until the end of July. More information can be found on posters that will be put up at the end of the mid-term break.

Play review: Classic Retakes by Benjamin Bell

A new production takes a fresh look at classic productions for a young audience

Classic Retakes is a vibrant production put together by Benjamin Bell in an effort to bring young people back into theatre. It is a collection of three classical plays written by Anton Chekhov and August Strindberg that have been adapted for a more contemporary audience.

In the last few years theatre audiences have declined, largely because people have many more options to keep themselves entertained. But for some people theatre is simply intimidating, a place reserved for the old and wealth.

“Theatre can be a fun night out.”

“People should move away from the belief that theatre is only about drama and heavy issues, says Bell. In these dark times, comedy is one of the best ways to escape that reality in that moment and enjoy your humanity.”

The hope is to move the production to other spaces around Johannesburg and show young people that theatre can be a fun night out.  While showing writers, produces and director that they can compete with TV and Cinema if their content is relevant and accessible to audiences.

About the play

Three works will form a Season at the Joburg Theatre this month, each piece crafted to leave audiences wanting more. Featuring Naledi award winning Zethu Dlomo along with Thulani Stukie Mtsweni, Lebogang ‘Ketlile’ Mphahlele, Fikile Mthwalo and Andrian Masiba.

In The Bear, adapted by Mphahlele and directed by Bell, the audience can look forward to being entertained by an affirmative action style take-over of Anton Chekhov’s classic farce of the same name. Nopilisi spends her days in mourning crying for her long dead husband. Zilishumi, a would-be debt collector; has come to call in her late husband’s debt. As this duel of Man vs Woman escalates we invite you to share in the ridiculousness of the human condition.


Zethu Dlomo, Thulani Mtsweni and Lebogang Mphahlele in The Proposal, showing at the Joburg Theatre. Photo: Sibongile Machika

In The Proposal, adapted and directed by Mphahlele. Jabulani Dlamini wishes to propose to his neighbours daughter in order to lead a regular life despite his heart palpitations and constant fainting. Trouble ensues when the would-be couple cannot agree on anything.

In Stronger also directed by Bell, the audience is invited into the mind of a paranoid middle-class house wife. Trapped by her husband’s hard earned privilege, this mother of two must come to terms with her husband’s wandering eye.

May 19 – 23 at 19:30 pm, May 23 – 24 at 15:00 pm
Joburg Theatre
For more information and ticket sales visit www.joburgtheatre.com