Parktown Head girl leads at SRC luncheon

Parktown Head Girl Neha Prag recieved two rounds of applause after her speech.

Parktown Girls High School head girl Neha Prag stole the show with her speech which received two rounds of applause at Wits’ Student Representative Council’s (SRC’s) women’s luncheon on Saturday, August 26.

Prag encouraged sisterhood and explained that young people’s quest for transformation should not always be viewed in a negative way.

Her speech set the tone for a panel discussion that included singer and former Witsie, Simphiwe Dana, actress and former Wits lecturer Kgomotso Christopher, leadership and organisational development consultant Dr Zukiswa Mthimunye and director of the Wits Transformation Office, Lindiwe Manyika.

Prag also said that the interest of the youth lies in transformation and questioning the system. “Just because the youth are interrogating the system, does not mean that youth and the system cannot coexist. And just because the methods of interrogation differ, does not mean that neither party does not want a better society,” she said.

She further added that the gradient of “wokeness”- which refers to being aware of oppression in society and challenging the status quo – should be less commodified and less exclusive. “We should be calling people into these conversations instead of calling them out.”

Panelists from left to right Simphiwe Dana, Kgomotso Christopher, Dr Zukiswa Mthimunye and director of the Wits Transformation Office, Lindiwe Manyika.

Panellist Mthimunye emphasized this point during the discussion. She said that it is important to invite men and boys into the conversation because, though it alerts them to their wrongdoing, calling them out is not a solution.

Christopher said it is good to have such dialogues but, “There needs to be a point where we move beyond talking. It’s time that conversations become actions in domestic spaces, at work and even in the jokes that we laugh at.”

Prag used two Indian feminist movements to show that women can lead in different ways: one gentle and lady-like as depicted in the movie Lipstick or aggressive and confrontational like the Gulabi Gang. (See video)

Prag said that women can lead as they please, whether aggressive or gentle. Dana agreed, saying that while women are fighting patriarchy, they need to invest in self-care as well. “Be strict about the ideas that you allow to populate your space, practise self-care, know that you are enough, your dreams are valid and don’t become confrontational. It’s okay to pursue your dreams quietly,” she said.

Prag encouraged women to build and maintain a sisterhood that is courageous and stands up for one another regardless of what leadership style they choose to condemn patriarchy with.


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Graduate tax is a possible solution to education fee crisis

A GRADUATE tax was suggested as a way to help fund free higher education because wealth tax alone won’t solve the education fees crisis, said Judge Dennis Davis, chair of the Davis Tax Committee, at a panel discussion on whether wealth tax would make a difference to the government’s budget.

“There really isn’t money for free higher education [right now]. And there is even less money in the budget than last year because of the economic recession,” said Davis, who chaired the discussion, hosted by the Wits University School of Governance (WSG) on August 21st.

But what is wealth tax? Professor Imraan Valoodia, Wits’ dean of commerce, law and management, who was one of the panellists, explained, “Wealth is defined as all the things that you earn that are outside of your income. It’s the asset base that you have and the things that you own. So with wealth tax, you’re taxed on the holdings of those assets. So the more assets you hold, the more taxes you would pay.”

Wealth tax is not the sole solution to the higher education crises, Valoodia said. “There are good economic grounds for why there should be a graduate tax.”

“In my view, the essence of the fee problem is that you have people who need to pay fees now. If they pay fees and they graduate, then we are almost sure that they are going to earn much higher incomes. You can give someone money to pay fees now and collect the money back when they start earning incomes,” he said.

Professor Pundy Pillay, WSG research director, shared Valoodia’s sentiments that wealth tax should be one of the avenues. “We are not achieving what we need to in education and health to address issues of inequality,” said Pillay.

Personal income tax is the biggest source of tax revenue for the government, according to National Treasury’s 2017 Budget Highlights. “Growing the economy by 5% or hiking tax at 5% from about 1.5-million tax payers, we would have about an extra R50 billion in the kitty to spend and start dealing with the issues of higher education,” said Davis.

Justin Logie, a master’s student in accounting who attended the event, said he didn’t think a wealth tax was the best way to fund higher education. “The best thing is to have some kind of contribution that is then tax deductible,” he said. “So companies make a contribution and then for that contribution they get a tax refund.”

“You don’t want the effective tax rates on companies to go higher because then they just go overseas. And you need to keep companies within the country in order to make sure that they continue to employ people,” said Logie.

Davis concluded that, “all people in South Africa should be responsible for this country and its development. We need a government that delivers on equality to reconstruct our society.”



Wits SDASM choir want people to know their name

Wits Mighty SDASM choir celebrated their seventh birthday with a fundraising concert.

MEMBERS OF the Wits Seventh Day Adventist Student Movement (SDASM) choir, also known as “Mighty SDASM”, are this year celebrating their seventh birthday and in so doing wish for people to know their name.

It’s been seven years since the Wits gospel choir was established. Choir master Gilbert Matlhoko says he is proud of how far the choir has come but would like to expand its reach and have people become familiar with the choir.

“People know we’re from Wits, but they don’t know who we are,” he said.

According to alto singer Hazel Moyo people sometimes confuse them with the official Wits choir because of the uncertainty. There are many things, however, that set the Mighty SDASM apart.

Choir member Londiwe Ngema explained that the purpose, as well as the song style, of the choir makes them different because their goal is to spread the word of God and inspire hope through song.

Mighty SDASM includes 60 committed members. Moyo added that the choir’s membership is open to anybody and is not based on talent because the choir does not compete.

“Even if at first you can’t sing, with time you learn,” she said.

The choir is known for their video, singing the original version of Nkosi sikelel’iAfrika. The recording currently sits on 58 791 views on YouTube. Matlhoko said that the choir sang the song in May 2016 at Wits where the video recorded.

“The intention was not to decolonise the anthem, the song rendition was a tribute to the seven ZCC students who lost their lives in a fatal crash last year,” he said. The song then resonated with the #FeesMustFall movement later in the same year.

According to bass singer McMinn Segalo, singing the original version of the national anthem was a stepping stone for the choir and opened doors for them.

The choir sang at former SRC President Sibulele Mgudlwa’s memorial service. “This extended our reach because previously we only sang in the vicinity of the church,” said bass singer Richard Links.

Though the choir has a good number of members, the choir still faces financial challenges. Ngema explained the choir travels to other provinces at least once a year to do mission work and perform free concerts. Links said members of the choir pay from their own pockets which is not always easy.

In order to raise funds and celebrate their seventh anniversary the choir will be performing at The Great Hall on Saturday evening. “The money will assist us with a CD we plan to record and will cover other expenses such as travel in the future,” said Links.

In the future, Matlhoko would also like the choir to alternate with the official Wits Choir and sing at ceremonies for the university.


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