How to dig up political dirt

By Ray Mahlaka and Dineo Bendile

INTIMIDATION, bribery and smear campaigns are the challenges faced by investigative journalists in South Africa, said Sunday Times journalists Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Rob Rose.

Wa Afrika and Rose are experts in this as they are the team who exposed the wasteful expenditure of state funds by former communications minister Dina Pule.

Earlier this year Pule was suspended from her position following an investigation into her improper conduct after she allegedly awarded her boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa, a tender for the organisation of the ICT Indaba in 2012.

The journalists’ interest was sparked by tip-offs and inside sources from the department of communications. They would later use records from a travel agency after Pule had all her own records of her holidays with her boyfriend destroyed.

Investigative journalism tips

The speakers were able to give delegates some tips based on their investigative experience.
According to the speakers, one of the fundamental aspects of investigative journalism was the importance of ensuring the accuracy of any information published. Their initial articles were met with denials, forcing them to get more information on Pule.

[pullquote align=”right”]“The more you deny, the more a journalist will dig. And the more they dig the more stuff will come out.”[/pullquote]

“We became unpopular… we were forced to get more damning evidence for people to believe us,” said wa Afrika. Rose and wa Afrika said they did not stop at getting documents but also sought out the authors of the documents.

“If you get any document, the best way to verify information is to find who is or are authors of this document,” wa Afrika said. “Any document is written by the source, try and trace which is the author and interrogate them on why they wrote the document.”

According to wa Afrika, after breaking the revelations of Pule he had several meetings with the former minister and some of her colleagues where they attempted to intimidate him and offer cash for his silence.

He urged journalists to meet sources in public places that they know well to avoid any possible attacks or being accused of accepting a bribe.

“Make sure that when you meet someone you meet them at a strategic place. Make sure you know the place you are meeting at and you know that there are cameras,” wa Afrika said.

Persistence is needed when uncovering the truth as an investigative journalist. While investigating Pule’s improprieties the team received a lot of backlash from politicians and Pule herself. However, this only encouraged them.

“The more you deny, the more a journalist will dig. And the more they dig the more stuff will come out,” wa Afrika said.

He told delegates that journalists are often intimidated by people with power to force them to back down from investigations.

“When you become an investigative journalist, one thing you open yourself up to is smear campaigns, slander, people trying to intimidate you. People will try to kill you, not because you are a bad person, but because you stepped on some toes,” wa Afrika said.

The Guardian newspaper journalist David Smith, who attended wa Afrika and Rose’s presentation, said he wanted to find out more about investigative journalism in South Africa.

“I wanted to know what stories are being covered and who’s covering them… there is a lot of good journalists doing good work, Mail & Guardian and Sunday Times are a few [such] publications. I think South Africa probably has the strongest investigative journalism in Africa,” he said.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Eyewitness News: Dina Pule fined and suspended. August 7, 2013

Wits senior staff tap out

Thuletho Zwane and Dineo Bendile


The sudden resignation by yet another dean has left Wits staff and students reeling. Questions are now being asked about what is going on: are they real resignations or have they been pushed?

Dean of Commerce, Law and Management Prof Nqosa Mahao’s abrupt resignation on Tuesday left some staff members “puzzled”.Academic Staff Association of Wits University president, Prof David Dickinson, said there were rumours regarding the departure of Mahao and said “the notice issued yesterday [on Tuesday] comes without warning and will therefore inevitably disrupt the smooth running of the faculty.”

Members of the student community expressed concern at the high turnover of senior staff members at the university recently – within the last month. Mahao’s resignation follows the recent resignation of the director of the Wits Business School, Prof Wendy Ngoma, who resigned in August.

[pullquote]”I don’t want to say racism is an issue, the VC [Habib] could be trying to remedy those issues, but it seems suspect that all the deans that have been dealt with are black.”[/pullquote]

 

More resignations
Director of Transformation, Nazeema Mohamed, resigned last month and the dean of students, Prem Coopoo, has been placed on special leave with no indication of when she will return. No official reasons have been given.
The Dean of Health Sciences Professor Ahmed Wadee left his post after being “recalled” by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS). It is believed that Wadee has been suspended.
SRC President Sibulele Mgudlwa said it was still too early for the new vice chancellor, Prof Adam Habib, to be restructuring senior posts.  Habib has been in office for less than 200 days – two months officially and five months unofficially.“You can’t be talking about performance if you haven’t sat down the dean and said ‘these are the performance targets I expect from you, I am giving you until December to implement those changes,’” Mgudlwa said.

 

Concerns around the Vice Chancellor’s “vision”
He added that the reshuffling could be Habib’s way of asserting his new-found power.  He felt that even though poor performance, instability and the high turnover of staff could have contributed to Mahao’s resignation, Mgudlwa claimed there was a racial pattern regarding the resignations. “I don’t want to say racism is an issue, the VC [Habib] could be trying to remedy those issues, but it seems suspect that all the deans that have been dealt with are black,” Mgudlwa said.
In an email to Wits Vuvuzela, Habib dismissed these claims and said “none of my decisions are made on the basis of race”. He added that “some of the appointments currently being made are of black and/or African staff.” Habib said he was paid to implement the vision and plans of the university.“If I cannot make firm decisions after five months of engagements, then I am not up to doing the job.”

 

 

RELATED ARTICLES:

Wits Vuvuzela. Exclusive: Wits loses another Dean. September 17, 2013

Wits Vuvuzela. No answers on Coopoo September 13, 2013

Wits Vuvuzela. Wits Business School journey back to #1. August 28, 2013

Wits improves in world rankings

Wits has improved its position in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) that was published
last month.
Wits has been ranked 313 out of 500 of the world’s top universities. This is 50 places up from a ranking of 363 in 2012.
This also makes Wits the second best university in Africa, behind the University of Cape Town that was ranked among the top 300 universities in the world.
The rankings are conducted by researchers at the Centre for World-Class Universities based at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. More than 1 000 universities are ranked with only the top 500 being published online.
The improvement in its ranking comes despite Wits having faced some problems such as the loss of academic staff as well as poor academic performance in some faculties.
The ranking system assesses universities on various factors, not just academic performance which only contributes towards 10% of the points. What counted heavily towards the rankings was the research output of
each university.

 

Ranking Criteria 
Some other categories that were heavily weighted included the quality of education provided at the university that was judged by the number of alumni who had won Nobel prizes or field awards.
Another highly rated category was the quality of university faculties that looked at the number of current university staff members who had won prizes and those who were highly cited researchers across various fields.

 

Science matters
The amount of work done in the fields of science, medicine, mathematics and economics, to name a few, also improved a university’s chances. Papers published in nature and science, for example, contributed towards 20% of the overall score.
Regardless of all its challenges, Wits has made significant achievements in the fields of archaeology, biology and physics among others.
Wits’s improved ranking is just a step towards the university’s 2022 vision of being ranked in the top 100 universities in the world. It also contributes to the university’s mission to “grow its global stature as a leading research-intensive university” as stated on the university’s website.
Three of the four African universities listed were South African. Other African universities listed include the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Cairo University in Egypt.

EXCLUSIVE: Wits loses another Dean

By Thuletho Zwane and Dineo Bendile

Wits University has lost yet another senior member of staff after the Dean of Commerce, Law and Management, Professor Nqosa Mahao, gave Wits Vuvuzela exclusive notice of his resignation.

Mahao was appointed as Dean in February 2012, and will leave the university after just under two years in his position.

In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela Mahao said he was not being driven out of his position as Dean, but made the decision to resign in order to broaden his horizons.

“Yes I have resigned from the university. I am going to explore other interests. Period,” Mahao said.

GOING, GOING, GONE!: Professor Nqosa Mahao has announced his resignation as the dean of Commerce Law and Management.

GOING, GOING, GONE!: Professor Nqosa Mahao has announced his resignation as the Dean of Commerce Law and Management. Photo: Provided

 

However, Oliver Seale, the director of special projects at Wits, said there had been a general review of the Commerce, Law and Management faculty earlier in the year on the basis of particular challenges that were raised about the faculty’s leadership, management and administration.

“Out of that [review] process there were certain recommendations that were made with regard to leadership, the management of the faculty and administration. What that has resulted in is that negotiations have started with the Dean of the faculty in terms of his future at the university,” Seale said in an interview with Wits Vuvuzela last week. In an email from the vice-chancellor’s office minutes ago, Prof Adam Habib confirmed the resignation.

“I take this opportunity to thank Prof Mahao for his undeterred service to the university.”

Mahao’s resignation, follows the recent resignation of the director of the Wits Business School, Professor Wendy Ngoma, who announced her resignation in August. The business school forms part of the Commerce Law and Management portfolio that had been placed under Mahao’s responsibility.

In less than 200 days since Habib has been in office, there have been other senior members of staff who have left or been removed from their positions. The Director of Transformation, Nazeema Mohamed, has also recently resigned and the Dean of Student Affairs, Prem Coopoo, has been placed on special leave with no indication of when she will return. The Dean of Health Sciences Professor Ahmed Wadee left his post after being recalled by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS).

Mahao said he will leave the university at the end November, after serving a two-month notice period.

 

 

To dream the impossible dream

Professor Mamokgethi Setati Phakeng was all smiles after being named Africa's most influential woman in education. Photo: Provided

THE AWARD GOES TO: Professor Mamokgethi Setati Phakeng was all smiles after being named Africa’s most influential woman in education.
Photo: Provided

A dream is all it takes to kick start a future. For Professor Mamokgethi Setati Phakeng, vice principal of research and innovation at the University of South Africa, that dream did not even begin to sketch what her future might become.

Last month Phakeng, who is also president of convocation at Wits University, was named South Africa’s most influential woman in education. She was awarded the title at the 12th annual South Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government (MIW) awards hosted by CEO Communications.

The MIW awards recognise the impact and contribution of women in top executive positions across a number of sectors. This year’s awards were allocated to the cream of the crop across 20 different sectors.

Phakeng made it through a rigorous three-phase judging process, beating hundreds of other women who were nominated in the education and training category. For her, this achievement validates the work she has done in her field of mathematics education.

Phakeng, who had a simple upbringing in the township of Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria, said she never thought she would be where she is today.“Being a professor was an unthinkable, something that I never even thought was meant for people like me,” she said.

The former Witsie said getting a university degree was always part of her plan as her father had made obtaining a degree a non-negotiable standard for his children. So she went to study an undergraduate degree at the University of the North West, majoring in pure mathematics. But even while studying for her bachelor’s degree, she was not aware of the multitude of doors that a university degree would open for her.

Finding the light at the end of the tunnel

“Even while I was doing my bachelor’s degree, I never thought I could be a professor because I wasn’t exposed to any professors who looked like me,” Phakeng said.It was only towards the end of her Masters degree in Mathematics Education at Wits that she started seeing the possibility of becoming a professor.

On her journey to professorship, Phakeng stumbled upon another great achievement – becoming the first black woman in South Africa to obtain a PhD in mathematics education. “I had no idea I was going to be the first and the only way I got to know was when I got an award for the most outstanding young female researcher in 2003, a year after obtaining my PhD.”

LEADING THE FUTURE: Professor Phakeng at Unisa with high school learners who will hopefully qualify to study at the institution next year.

LEADING THE FUTURE: Professor Phakeng at Unisa with high school learners who will hopefully qualify to study at the institution next year. Photo: Provided

 

Even with her many achievements, Phakeng acknowledged that her work in education was not yet over. “It’s one thing to be the first, but it’s quite another to do something with that position,” she said.

Education, both inside and outside of the lecture hall, is central to Phakeng’s mission. She founded an Adopt-a-Learner project in 2004, a support programme for pupils from disadvantaged areas that helps them see through their university ambitions. To her, the most fulfilling aspect of her career is knowing that she is an inspiration to many youth in South Africa.

“Human capital development is at the centre of what I do – all of my initiatives are about developing people and inspiring them to be the best in whatever they choose to be.”

It’s all systems go for online registration

Long queues, accommodation struggles and other registration day blues will affect fewer students when Wits implements its new online registration system next year.

The university is making strides in boosting its online presence as more administrative processes are moving to the digital realm.

Carol Crosley, deputy registrar for enrolment, said planning is well under way to see the implementation of the system in January.

“The university is in the advanced stages of planning for online registration for students with fixed curricula in January 2014 and those with flexible curricula for 2015,” Crosley said.

[pullquote align=”right”]”They really have to change the system because it’s expensive for me. I have to drive more than 200km [from Limpopo] just to come and register at Wits.”[/pullquote]

Students will be able to register online from  January 2014, with the Faculty of Health Sciences being the first to use the new system from January 2.

Other faculties will access the system from January 6 until about a week before the start of the first term.

However, returning students who have not passed all their courses and those who require academic counselling will not be able to register online.

Costs include more than just the registration fee

Hulisani Mudau, Microbiology and Biochemistry Honours, said she hoped to see a change in the current registration system.

“They really have to change the system because it’s expensive for me. I have to drive more than 200km [from Limpopo] just to come and register at Wits,” Mudau said.

Pearl Siganunu, Biochemistry and Cell Biology Honours, said accommodation was her biggest problem.  Siganunu, also from Limpopo, is a resident at Wits Junction. She said her residence was still closed on the day of registration. This meant that she had to travel back to Limpopo, only to return to Johannesburg a few weeks later.

“We have to come here and we have to find a place to stay in order to register in time. If you are going to come here and you don’t have a place to stay and you register late, they are going to charge you for that again,” Siganunu said.

Crosley said online registration had taken this long to implement because of the complex demands of the registration process such as different combinations and substitutions made to courses.

It was therefore important to only implement online registration once the system was solid, to avoid compromising the registration of all students.

According to Crosley, the implementation of the Student Information Management System (SIMS) was part of the process of assessing the university’s readiness for an online registration system.

“The university only went live with the new system [SIMS] this year and wanted to ensure processes were bedded down before online registration was implemented,” Crosley said.

A growing online presence

Other online advancements the university has made include online applications and the recent move of residence applications to an online platform.

Both Mudau and Siganunu also complained about not being able to access June academic results on the internet. But this issue is something that is already being addressed by the Sims system.

Maggie Maseka, head of the Academic Information and Systems Unit, said students were now also able to view their June results on the SIMS portal, provided the results had been confirmed by the board of examiners.

 

RoyalMnandi pumps up food safety awareness

Vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, and fever. These are some of the symptoms of food poisoning that students were taught to identify at the main dining hall’s food safety awareness session on Tuesday.

The event, hosted by RoyalMnandi and the Wits Services Department, was aimed at informing students about food safety procedures.

This took place after recent incidents of hygiene issues in the main dining hall in the Matrix.

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN: Students scan their hands for germs before having a meal at the dining hall.  Photo: Dineo Bendile

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN: Students scan their hands for germs before having a meal at the dining hall.
Photo: Dineo Bendile

Main dining hall a repeat offender

In April the Wits Vuvuzela published an article about a student who had found a worm in her burger. In May, another student reported she was ill after eating a meal from the main dining hall. Both students claimed that RoyalMnandi had not been very helpful in addressing their problems. These reports informed the dining hall’s decision to host the food safety session.

Operations administrator  at the main dining hall, Bontle Mogapi said that informing individual students about food safety did not benefit the broader student community, who could face similar situations or have queries in future. Mogapi said students were not aware of the responsibility they had towards food safety.

“It’s the little things that you see them doing in the dining hall that made us realise that they really do not know about personal hygiene and just the general hygiene of food handling,” she said.

Students were given a booklet detailing the difference between food poisoning and food illness and highlighting the importance of hand hygiene.

GERM DETECTION: Students were shocked at the amount of germs carried on their hands.  Photo:Dineo Bendile

GERM DETECTION: Students were shocked at the amount of germs carried on their hands.
Photo:Dineo Bendile

Testing their knowledge

Students were given a quiz to showcase their knowledge of food safety procedures.  A lucky draw gave students the opportunity to win prize hampers.

Ashlan Raju, 3rd year BAccSci, was grateful that the dining hall finally had the session.

“They don’t use gloves at the main dining hall. So I found that as a problem, but now they kind of make us aware of why they don’t use gloves, which I think is quite a good thing to do,” Raju said.

The results from a study, reviewed during the session, showed that staff members who did not wear gloves were inclined to sanitise their hands on a regular basis.

Wearing gloves gave a false sense of security as glove fragments could end up in food and undetected holes in gloves could release bacteria from moist hands into food.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Wits Vuvuzela, Food scare opens a can of worms, April 12, 2013

Wits Vuvuzela, Royal” food poisoning leaves bad taste, May 17, 2013

An accident waiting to happen

The accident hot spot at the intersection of De Korte and Bertha streets has been the site of a second car crash in  one week.

At around 7pm last Sunday, a Wits student and three of his friends were driving through Braamfontein when their car was hit by a vehicle that had allegedly run a red robot.

Titus Masike, 3rd year Nuclear Sciences and Engineering, stood blank-faced on an island in the middle of Bertha Street as he looked at the dented silver Mercedes Benz that had been spun across to the side of the road.

The car he was driving belonged to his mother.

Masike and a friend had fetched  two female friends  from a hair salon in Braamfontein and were making their way back to their apartment in Milpark when the crash happened.

Masike’s friend in the front passenger seat, a Public Relations and Communications student at Rosebank College, said he did not even see the other car approaching.

ACCIDENT ZONE: Firefighters inspect the damage to a Ford Fiesta involved in the crash.           Photo: Dineo Bendile

ACCIDENT ZONE: Firefighters inspect the damage to a Ford Fiesta involved in the crash.
Photo: Dineo Bendile

He vaguely attempted to piece together the events of the crash: “We were just driving normally and we just heard a bang and the car was spinning. It’s weird, it’s hard to … , it’s just weird,” he said, shaking his head.

The students were travelling down De Korte Street when a grey Ford Focus travelling down Bertha Street allegedly ran a red robot and crashed into the driver’s side of their car.

The young nurse who was driving the other car appeared unharmed as she paced around her wrecked car.

On the opposite side of the road, one of Masike’s female passengers sat on the curb, running her hands through her hair and covering her face while being comforted by
her friend.

Nobody in either car was injured.

A metro police officer, who did not want to be identified, said accidents at the intersection were common, particularly on weekends.

“On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights this intersection is dangerous. Female drivers in particular do not stop at the traffic light because they say they don’t feel safe at night,” he said.

In the previous crash, on July 16, a Luthuli House blue-light vehicle crashed into a government vehicle.  Onlookers stated that the accident was also caused by one driver’s failure to stop at a red robot.

The Mercedes Benz Masike and his friends were in.      Photo: Dineo Bendile

The Mercedes Benz Masike and his friends were in.
Photo: Dineo Bendile

Miscellaneous money mysteries

Emails and text messages flood student inboxes with messages from the Wits Fees Office, marked   “Student bill statement” – yet students still feel their communications are not adequate.

The problem is not that there is insufficient communication, claim students, but rather that important information is either too vague or not communicated to students at all.

Tumelo Munzhelele, 4th year Chemical Engineering, said she regularly found charges she didn’t understand. “They’ll say things like miscellaneous charges. Like, what does that mean?”

Student fees manager, Daya Veerasamy, said communication happened through various channels so students could check the charges and payments on their statements. “If students have issues, they can come to us and we will assist them.”

However, communication ceases as soon as the student’s fees are paid – even if the university owes them money.

Wits might owe you

Nokuthula Manyathi, a Wits Vuvuzela journalist, said she stopped checking her fee statements in June after she no longer received email notifications from the fees office. She felt this was an indication that her bursary had paid her fees in full.

But the bursary had in fact paid the university a sizeable surplus, which Manyathi was not notified of.  It was only through a reconciliation statement from her bursar that she realised there was an inconsistency.

“Students should know when they’ve paid and even when they’ve overpaid,” Veerasamy said.

Former Witsie, Palesa Thanjekwayo, was in her third year when she made amendments to her course.  She made the amendments before the stipulated deadline, which meant she would not incur any charges.

About two months later, the student checked her fee statement and found charges listed as cancellation fees. “I went to the fees office and asked them what the charges were for since I had amended in time. I thought it was a mistake.”

Veerasamy explained that faculties often sent through notice of course changes long after the deadline. This meant the fees office had no idea whether the student had amended before the deadline or not, meaning students were almost inevitably charged.

The mystery cancellation charges

Thanjekwayo did not understand why the fees office had kept quiet about the inevitability of charges being placed on the statement.  “They kept it secret. Now that I think about it, there were probably more wrong charges that they kept quiet about and I paid for.”

Veerasamy said the onus was on students to check their statements and speak to their faculties after registration or amending courses.

Braam Blue Light crash

Police pull out the driver from a “blue light brigade” vehicle after it collided with another car on the corner of De Korte and Bertha streets. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Police pull out the driver of a “blue light brigade” vehicle after it collided with another car on the corner of De Korte and Bertha streets.                                                                             Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

 

A blue light BMW travelling in convoy through Braamfontein was involved in an accident today resulting in 2 casualties.

According to an eyewitness, the blue light vehicle skipped a red robot and crashed into a white Corolla.  SAPS officers responded to the scene immediately and cordoned off the area with police tape.

An emergency vehicle arrived some minutes later and struggled to remove the driver of the BMW who was not visibly injured but stretched off nonetheless.

According to an EMS paramedic on the scene, the black BMW is “government owned.” The white Corolla belonged to the Department of Labour. The passenger of this vehicle, a middle-aged woman, was also loaded into the same ambulance.

According to eyewitnesses, the BMW spun out of control, destroyed a set of robots and hit the paper trolley of an informal recycler. The recycler ran off after the incident leaving his belongings behind.

In a related incident, a tow truck driver on his way to the accident scene, crashed into a white Honda Jazz.

Onlookers speaking to Wits Vuvuzela expressed their anger at the blue light vehicles which disregard the traffic rules.

 

IMG_1508

A driver of a Blue Light vehicle is stretchered off after an accident in the CBD. Photo: Dinesh Balliah

 

 


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Outsourced but not outsmarted

Wits cleaners expressed their anger at a hundreds-strong gathering on campus this week, at what they see as devious outsourcing negotiations by the university.

Workers gathered outside the South West Engineering Building, chanting and singing against what they claim is the university’s sneaky process of outsourcing campus cleaning operations.

The university’s existing contracts with Supercare and Carovone cleaning services will come to an end in June. According to a conflict management report by Tokiso, a company contracted by the university after the cleaners claimed unfair treatment, the university had promised Supercare and Carovone cleaners they would all retain their jobs.

But the Wits Workers’ Solidarity Committee (WSC) says workers have been told they will be interviewed for the jobs – jobs they already have.

OUTWIT, OUTSMART, OUTSOURCE: Wits cleaning staff gathered outside the South West Engineering Building on Tuesday to protest against the university's sneaky outsourcing tactics.

OUTWIT, OUTSMART, OUTSOURCE: Wits cleaning staff gathered outside the South West Engineering Building on Tuesday to protest against the university’s sneaky outsourcing tactics.

The university contracted a new company, Impact Cleaning Services, to service main campus. And, according to cleaners approached by Wits Vuvuzela, the university’s recent tactics have not done much to improve worker confidence in Wits management.

Deputy Director of Operations at Wits Services, Nicki McGee, said: “WSC have handed a petition to university management yesterday. Management are in the process of responding and have until Thursday t0 do so.” The university’s response had not yet been released by the time Wits Vuvuzela went to press.

A Carovone cleaner at Sunnyside residence, who asked not to be named, said their bosses only called them on Tuesday telling them to take their IDs to work with them on Wednesday as they would be interviewed for the new contractor.

At the meeting, Supercare cleaner, Deliwe Mzobe, said: “Hundreds of workers on our campus, some of whom have worked here for two decades, do not know whether they will be employed at the university, in fact whether they will be employed at all, in exactly 33 days time.”

Mzobe presented their petition of demands to Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Operations) Professor Tawana Kupe, after the incoming Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Habib left without speaking.

DIE POPPE SAL DANS: Wits cleaners demand the university’s assurance that their jobs will remain safe.

DIE POPPE SAL DANS: Wits cleaners demand the university’s assurance that their jobs will remain safe.

The crowd raised their fists and yelled “Buwa”, as PhD student and member of the WSC, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, addressed them. He expressed disappointment at Habib’s failure to speak. “This is not the newsroom or the SABC where he talks a lot making political analyses. He must come here on the floor and explain why this university is so bad.”

“Royal” food poisoning leaves bad taste

JUST one month after the Wits Vuvuzela reported the discovery of a worm in a burger, food services provider RoyalMnandi has come under the spotlight again, this time for an allegation of food poisoning.

The alleged food poisoning happened on Sunday, May 5, when a first year law student of the University of Witwatersrand went to the main dining hall to have her lunch—a toasted chicken and mayonnaise sandwich.

After eating only half of the sandwich, she started experiencing body aches. Later that evening, she broke into a fever.

By Monday the student was unable to leave her bed.

She called Campus Control and was taken to hospital. The diagnosis: a stomach infection that had gone through to her blood stream and caused a blood infection.

According to the doctors, the most likely cause of the infection was an item of food she had eaten within the previous 24 hours.

“And the only thing I had eaten was from the dining hall,” she said.

A "ROYAL" LETDOWN: Students enjoy a meal in the main dining hall on East Campus. Photo: Dineo Bendile

A “ROYAL” LETDOWN: Students enjoy a meal in the main dining hall on East Campus.
Photo: Dineo Bendile

 

 

A representative from RoyalMnandi was unable to comment on the matter and referred the Wits Vuvuzela to the deputy head of services, Joanne Rowan, who was out of office.

The student spent Monday night in hospital on a drip line.  She was then released after her fever broke and went to stay with her family as she was still too weak to be on her own.

“I was supposed to be admitted, but I didn’t want to because I was scared. I have no immediate family here [Johannesburg], just distant cousins,” she said.

An ongoing problem

The student alleges that this was not the first time that food from the main dining hall had made her ill.

“When I moved here in the beginning of the year, I could barely stomach the food. It wasn’t because it was bad, it was because my system wasn’t used to the oil and things that they were using.”

But none of her prior experiences could compare to the seriousness of her recent ordeal.

The student claims that it took her approximately three days after the incident before she could stomach a full meal.

The student said she was having difficulties reaching the dining hall’s operations administrator to report her issue.

In April, the Wits Vuvuzela reported that a student had found a worm in a chicken burger patty from the main dining hall. Just a month before that, students wrote a letter to Vice Chancellor Adam Habib to address the issue of poor service by RoyalMnandi.