THE WITS management council is reviewing its relationship with audit company KPMG.
An online campaign started last week calling on the chairpersons of the internal audit committee and the council to honour its commitment to social justice and sever ties with KPMG as the university’s auditor.
According to Koketso Moeti, the founder of Amandla.mobi, where the petition is hosted, the initiators of the campaign preferred to remain anonymous.
A researcher at the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (a partner of Wits), who signed the petition, said that it is important that people sign. “At this time all organisations should decide what they stand for and who they stand with in society, and Wits needs to do the same,” he said.
In the petition, Wits is asked to join organisations such as investment management company Sygnia, energy investment company Hulisani, and financial services firm Sasfin, among others, in letting go of the services of KPMG and to introduce a policy of ethical procurement.
According to Deputy Vice-Chancellor Tawana Kupe, the university’s official external auditors are PriceWaterhouse-Coopers, but Wits secures its internal audit functions from KPMG.
University officials have been engaging with KPMG, and an announcement will be made next week [this week],”said Kupe, in a note sent out late last Friday.
Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba said in a statement last week that the events surrounding KPMG have weakened the reputation of good governance and audit independence in a major division in our economy.
He also said, “As a measure to restore confidence in audits, all of government and its entities must consider reviewing their work programmes with KPMG.
KPMG has recently come under fire following a report, based on emails posted by investigative journalism non-profit amaBhungane, for failing to oppose the irregular treatment of the Gupta wedding expenses in 2014.
The emails showed that KPMG was aware that Gupta owned companies were classifying wedding costs as business expenses, which could be deducted for tax purposes, but did not raise concerns.
Eight senior executives, including CEO Trevor Hoole, resigned and KPMG
has announced that a full, independent investigation into its South African branch’s dealings with the Gupta family, and its involvement with a controversial South African Revenue Service report will be conducted by a “senior South African legal figure, who is completely independent of both KPMG South Africa and KPMG International”.
The petition demanding that Wits withdraws from any dealings with KPMG had reached 84 out of 100signatures at the time of going to press on Thursday.
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Gauteng open debating winners, Ntsikelelo Barnabas (left) and Siyanda Baduza want to be the next African debating champions.
A Wits First-year duo competing in their first tournament as partners won the Gauteng open debating tournament which took place in Pretoria on Sunday, September 3.
Siyanda Baduza, who is studying electrical engineering, and Ntsikelelo Barnabas, a BA student, were the only first year team who participated in the interprovincial Gauteng Open debating tournament.
Barnabas said that he is excited because this was the first tournament that the pair havewon as university speakers.
The duo are originally from the Eastern Cape and Barnabas explained that debating in the province is not prestigious. “We wanted to break the glass ceiling so that people change the perception where debaters from other provinces are looked down upon,” he said.
Barnabas said that debating against people with a good reputation and experience in debating is not easy when you’re unknown as it can affect yourself-esteem and “jeopardise your performance”.
Baduza said that winning the Gauteng Open helped the duo establish a name for themselves and has encouraged them to work harder. Barnabas said “when you win once, you want to maintain that winning spree”.
Though it is good to win, Baduza explained, “you need to learn how to take a loss and recover from it quickly because you lose and have to speak against someone 10 minutes later.”
Barnabas added that it means that you can’t let previous debating achievements go to your head.
Wits Debating Union chairperson Donavan Masawi said that he is pleased with the performance of the duo. He also added that “the hunger of first years is inspiring to the union as a whole” and brings certainty that the future of the union is in good hands.
The two are working towards taking part in continental and even international tournaments. Baduza said that winning the Gauteng Open was the first step to making that possible.
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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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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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Allies and members of the LGBTIAQ+ community show their pride outside Great Hall in preparation for Wits Pride 2017.
WITS PRIDE is a week-long annual initiative which aims to raise awareness on LGBTIAQ+ identities while celebrating the diversity within the community and beyond. Wits Pride will take place across all four campuses from August 21 to 26.
The theme for this year’s pride is #OppressionDenied. According to Tish Lumos, programme coordinator for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advocacy, #OppressionDenied is a deliberate call to those who are in support of the LGBTIAQ+ community. It calls people to take a stand and reclaim spaces which will play a role in ending generations of homophobia and transphobia.
Lumos said that ending homophobia and transphobia starts with individuals “coming out and saying I will not be part of a space that pretends that LGBTIAQ+ people don’t exist”. It is only people who are supportive that can change spaces, according to Lumos.
Sofia Kouridi, a third year student who is part of the LGBTIAQ+ community, said that Wits Pride is important because it is a safe space where one is able to connect with like-minded people.
According to Kouridi, Pride allows members of the LGBTIAQ+ community to reflect on a challenging past where they were once marginalised and reflect on the work that still needs to be done to allow equality.
“There are still laws around which make it hard for us to adopt children and prejudice in the work space which prevent us from equal job opportunities,” she said. Apart from this, being a woman in the LGBTIAQ+ also has its own challenges, according to Kouridi.
Queer women fall victim to harassment and are questioned about personal details in relationships, which heterosexual couples aren’t subjected to, according to Kouridi.
“It would be nice to be greeted with a smile instead of how do two women have sex,” she said.
Despite the challenges, Kouridi says she is proud to be a woman because everything that women represent is strength.
“We are not weak, we’re still managing oppression every day.” All women have come a long way according to Kouridi, “but it’s not over yet until we’re equal”.