Wits Alumni Momo Matsunyane is a theatre practioner, actress, director and the co founder of the comedy sketch group, Thenx.
THENX BATHONG: Wits Alumni Momo Matsunyane is a theatre practioner, actress, director and the co founder of the comedy sketch group, Thenx. Photo: Michelle Gumede
What is Thenx??
Thenx is a sketch comedy group which was created in 2008. We wanted to create a voice for ourselves through which we could address pertinent socio-economic and political issues affecting us as the youth.
What’s the one thing you hate about Thenx/directing/acting?
It can be very demanding when we hit a creativity block while in process, but somehow the work is always ready on time. There’s also the desire to tell your story in the best way possible in order for it to affect your audience in the most successful way – that’s why sometimes when an idea isn’t coming together it can be very frustrating.
Your last piece Kulneck was controversial, was that the intention?
Yes. Otherwise why are doing this? We need to remember though that it’s not just about controversy, the play was addressing some touchy issues about race, women, relationships, poverty and religion. These are things that everyone talks about and the play brought them to the surface, we weren’t trying to sugar-coat anything. We wanted to make people uncomfortable get them to deal with these issues. That’s the main function of art, to make us question life and the systems that govern us, as well as to get people talking and probing.
Can you tell us about this new genre you are pioneering?
It’s not really a new genre but more a hybrid of stand-up and sketch – it was meant for the show Kulneck which ran at POPArt Theatre. I was trying to package the show in a way that would slightly differ from the conventional methods we have seen with stand-up comedy performances. It’s interesting, however, that a lot of the audience felt like they hadn’t seen something like that before so maybe it’s a bit futuristic.
The arts scene in SA is struggling and artists aren’t taken seriously. How do we, as a country correct this?
It’s so disheartening to see artists battling similar challenges to those they fought against 20 years ago. I’m realising that artists need to start taking themselves more seriously. By that I mean, we need to stop doing work for free in the name of exposure. The industry needs to regulate who can act and who can’t by establishing whether people are qualified to be in this field. In the same way that I can’t wake up one day and decide to perform heart surgery on a patient as I’m not a qualified surgeon.
How do you choose to take up a role?
It needs to appeal to my aims as an artist and affirm what I stand for artistically, whilst adding value to my craft. At times, one ends up taking work for the sake of putting food on the table due to the increase in non-performers who get more work than qualified ones because they’re ‘cheaper’ or more popular on social media.
The Wits Hip Hop Society is bringing a new beat onto campus.
A new society that focuses on dance, music, and literature has landed on campus with the Wits Hip Hop Society (WHHS) a social club for hip hop heads to share and connect.
“The society is about giving people a platform to express themselves through their hip hop culture but we also want to bring in people who wanna learn,” says third-year architecture student and co-founder Thando ‘Clyde’ Soundy. Soundy himself used to dance professionally for the South African Dance Team and has performed and competed in country’s like Germany and Austria.
Interim president of South African Arts & Culture Youth Forum, Romeo Ramuada says that university is a place where many young people discover themselves, arts and culture societies are important in institutions of higher learning because they are able to promote culture and heritage.
“It is through these societies that young people are able to use music and other artistic means to share knowledge and promote the countries social cohesion,” says Ramuada.
The society doesn’t have official quarters yet but they can break into psyphers and dance circles anywhere, anytime. They keep in contact with each other on their Whatsapp group and chat about where they will be entertaining Witsies next.
Their motto is “Make your beat shout” and say that they want members to put their hearts into their art and be proud about what their art represents.
From breakdancing to emceeing, Soundy says the club welcomes anyone with a passion for the hip hop lifestyle. The club coaches its 23 members in hip hop dance choreography and helps aspiring rappers to sharpen their lyrical skills.
One member Kabelo Ntini told Wits Vuvuzela that although he’s been rapping since high school, he signed up so he can sharpen his skills.
“I’ve been rapping since grade ten,” says Ntini.
He says people get tired of the Cassper Nyovests and AKAs, and those who are really hip hop heads are interested in up-and-coming talent.
Members will share and learn skills with each other but there will be weekly guests that will come and share different expertise sets with the club.
According to Ramuada, the biggest problem with institutions of higher learning in South Africa is that many young artists are either neglected or not recognised. During university events, they will either be used to perform for free or not even considered in university or SRC-based events.
But this society refuses to go down like that. Members also get a chance to test their skills out in front of real audiences. Their first event for their members, where they showcased their skills, was held at the Bannister Hotel in Braamfontein this past week and they promise more will follow.
“If you wanna hear good underground music, you should definitely come through,” says Ntini.
They say their long term goal is to own a recording studio and dance studio for their members and the general public to use.
“We aim to inform our members about the entertainment and how to make the most of their entertainment talent,” Soundy says.
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The deadline for students who signed the waiver form is fast approaching, students have until March 31 to sort out their financial arrangements with the university .
TIME IS MONEY: Students have less than a month to get their finances sorted. Photo: Michelle Gumede
The nearly 9 000 students who signed a contract to waive their registration fee at the beginning of the year have less than a month to pay their debt of R 9340.
Students who had provisional offers for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for 2016, those with external bursaries and those with a Wits University scholarship did not have to make upfront payments for registration at the beginning of this year.
Instead, students who didn’t have adequate funding at the beginning of the year signed an Acknowledgement of Debt (AOD) form which stated that they are entering into an arrangement for the payment of the upfront fee as well any interest from the date of the signature.
Some of the original signatories of the acknowledgement of debt have since been helped and funded by the SRC’s #Access Campaign and some have since appealed and received approval for NSFAS.
But many students have not been so lucky.
“I’m thinking of deregistering because there is nothing I can do,” says Onkarabile Mokoto, a returning third-year student who signed the contract to waive his registration at the beginning of this year.
Mokoto was previously studying at Wits towards a Bachelor of Education degree from 2008. The young man from Kagiso, in Mogale City on the west of Johannesburg, was previously able to afford his tuition through the NSFAS and the Gauteng Department of Education bursary. He dropped out of university in 2010 due to “personal reasons.”
But Mokoto did not inform his faculty that he would not be continuing with the rest of the academic calendar for 2010 and his marks for that year resulted in academic exclusion.
“Because of lack of knowledge I didn’t know I was supposed to do that [deregister].”
Due to his previous record of exclusion NSFAS rejected his application for funding for 2016 even though he does qualify for NSFAS. With the help of the SRC, Mokoto went through the appeals process but his appeal was also rejected in mid-February. He has since been left with no option but to deregister. Mokoto says although the SRC were initially helping him to secure funding, in the end there was not much that SRC did for his cause.
“They told me to focus on my studies and try to look for other funds.” Mokoto says.
According to a statement put out by the university in January, students who cannot pay registration in full by March 31 should notify the university by completing and concluding an AOD before the end of March.
Provided a student has done that, and fulfils their obligations as set out in the AOD, they will not be charged additional interest on any amounts outstanding in respect of tuition fees.
According to the fees office, all students who have not settled their accounts by March 31 are legible to pay a 1.3% interest on their balance, whether they have signed the AOD or not.
But for students like Mokoto who haven’t been able to secure funds the situation looks dire. He says he plans to deregister because he cannot pay the registration, and cannot afford his textbooks. Mokoto told Wits Vuvuzela that even as he signed the waiver he had no idea of where to get the money to pay his fees.
Vice chancellor Adam Habib told Wits Vuvuzela that he was concerned that if fees are not paid, the university will not be able to keep the lights on. “I wish I didn’t have to charge fees,” says Habib.
Habib said the university was underfunded by the state, with only R1.4-billion in funding coming from the government while it costs R3.4-billion to operate the university.
Habib said that those students who signed an acknowledgement of debt saying that they were going to have the money by the March 31 have to pay, and if they can’t, it means they signed the form under misleading conditions.
According to the SRC’s general secretary, Fasiha Hassan, the university cannot deregister students due to financial exclusion. Only students can deregister themselves.
“No student can be deregistered unless you are academically excluded,” says Hassan.
The cross continental dance piece Toyi!Toyi! focuses on life in South Africa and is showcasing at this years Dance Umbrella.
TOWNSHIP STORIES: Toyi!Toyi! is now showing at this years Dance Umbrella Festival. Photo: Michelle Gumede
Toyi! Toyi! is a protest dance piece about the struggles and triumphs of growing up in township South Africa. Based on the testimonies of four young South African men, the performance incorporates local and global dance styles to bring to the stage the story of life in the townships of South Africa.
“It is almost every black child’s story who grew up in SA townships,” says Vusi Mdoyi of the Via Katlehong dance group.
With protests erupting in every corner of the country, this piece is serendipitously titled. Toyi! Toyi! is the South African word for protest action, and people in the township know all too well of the struggles that often lead to toyi toying.
For Mdoyi, the meaning of Toyi! Toyi! can be found in their struggles, their individual, artistic and communal lives and mostly in how they survive
Arranged by French choreographer Hamid Ben Mahi in collaboration with Mdoyi, Steven Faleni and Buru Mohlabane from Via Katlehong and Martinique-born Frederick Faula from French company Horserie, Toyi! Toyi! focuses on the lives of these dancers and their individual stories that took place during their teenage years in our townships.
“I wanted to show them as they really are, with their stories, their sincerity, their humanity, their simplicity and their dances,” says Mahi.
Using IsiPantsula, gumboots and Hip Hop in a more contemporary artistic theatre approach, coupled with free movement that is inspired by real life experience, the piece has a strong sense of the streets. Mixed with chanting and struggle song, the performers use various elements to guide audiences to understand the story behind the movements in the piece.
The performers use these proudly South African conventions so people can easily identify with the dialect. Mdoyi says he wants audiences to discover more about themselves, “mostly to respect what belongs to their backyards,” he says.
Being from different parts of the world, the choreographer and dancers have had to learn to work together in a way that compliments both their unique styles.
Mdoyi says learning from each other challenged them, “We have different styles, bodies, energy and approach. We had to as well find an artistic theatre approach to cover the international audience.”
It’s not every day that local performers work with an international artist, particularly in the medium of dance. The idea of this collaboration with dancers from Via Katlehong Dance was born during the choreographic parade in the Grahamstown National Arts Festival in 2013. Hamid says after this experience in South Africa, they did a European tour that took them through Ireland, Portugal and France.
“We wanted to continue to work together, and I had the idea,” Mahi says.
Toyi! Toyi! has since been staged in Europe in 2014 and 2015. But for Mdoyi, cross cultural artistic exchange projects always help performers to think out of their comfort zone.
“Arts help us to discover ourselves through the eyes of the universe and it is very important to reconnect with the world,” Mdoyi says.
Mahi admits that the individual experiences of the Via Katlehong group were really very different from anything he had ever experienced back home in France.
“It was also very important for me to show to the world, to French public, what the Toyi! Toyi! is. This is a special movement, which was born in South Africa, which is directly related to its history.”
Rape- A South African nightmare is a book that is written by Professor Pumla Gqola, the launch was on campus this week.
AFRICAN Literature Professor Pumla Gqola finally had her book launch at the event hosted by the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) after delays caused by student protests of 2015.
Chaired by African Literature lecturer, Dr Danai Mupotsa, the panel discussion included poet and historian, Sarah Godsell and Malebo Gololo, of the Developmental Studies and International Relations department sharing their viewpoints on how rape is perceived.
“This book is the kind of writing that is dense with thinking feeling,” says Mupotsa.
The book explores various issues associated with rape. Rape—A South African nightmare considers rape and unpacks the complex historical relationships that South African men and women have with rape.
Gqola says she tried to contribute to a shift to end gender-based violence in society, like who we hold accountable. “All of us have a beloved who is a rapist,” says Gqola.
She highlights that rapists are usually people who are well known to the victim and this often intensifies the complex relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. Gqola’s research explores the notion that rapists sometimes have backgrounds involving abuse and sexual violence. “I wanted to contribute differently, to think about how rape victimises. We make it unacceptable to claim victim status” she explained.
SPEAKING OUT: Sarah Godsell spoke about sexual harassment claims made by students and staff on campus. Photo: Michelle Gumede
The book also looks at high-profile rape trials and accusations of President Jacob Zuma, Bob Hewitt, Makhaya Ntini and Baby Tshepang. The book also takes on the notion that rapists are only poor and violent men. She highlights various rape cases that involve well off men as the perpetrator, including the case of South African president Jacob Zuma.
Gqola says when she wrote the book she was sick and tired of being sore about rape and how much time it took up in her life.
“I felt increasingly that everyone was talking about rape and those conversations were very different from the ones I was having,” says Gqola.
Godsell in her presentation read the moving poetry of Thandokuhle Mngqibisa and she spoke at length about how it is also important to talk about the violence on our campuses. “There have been accusations of sexual harrassment at the hands of private security. These accusations have been discredited, ignored and silenced.” says Godsell. She said that instead campus should be a safe space for all, a space for everyone to be able to speak openly about their experiences with harassment.
Mupotsa shared with the audience that a student had told her that an unknown man came up to her on Monday and said, “When I look at your eyes I’m already fucking you”.
“We live in a society where rape is normalised and there are no consequences for raping,” Gqola says.
The book seems to have been well received by members of the audience in attendance at the talk. There were serious engagements going on with what the book discusses whilst others proposed solutions to dealing with rapists in South African communities, like socially shaming rapists or bringing back the death penalty with “lynching”.
Some of the audience members spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about the event.
“I came to the launch to enhance my knowledge about patriarchy,” says Ugandan student Ibrahim Tamale, who is currently studying African philosophies at the African Youth Academy.
Students on campus are signing a petition against alleged sexual harassment by private security.
DON’T TOUCH: Private security personnel on campus are accused of sexually harassing students. Photo: Michelle Gumede
Over 500 Wits students are signing a petition against the alleged sexual harassment by private security on campus hired to provide “operational control” in the face of fees protests.
“Wits University ought to be free space where females need not to worry about their safety,” says third-year BA student Mpho Ndaba, who started the petition.
The petition aims to raise awareness about sexual harassment on campus. Ndaba says the more female students he has spoken to, the more he realised that the harassment was being normalised.
According to Ndaba, students are not reporting these incidents because they think it’s normal or okay.
One of the students complaining, fourth-year BADA student Swankie Mafoko, says she was verbally harassed by the private security while she was reporting for VOW FM. Mafoko says she was inside Solomon House, when some security guards dressed in black and red came and stood behind her. The men started making sexual remarks about her body in a demeaning way.
She says she wasn’t bothered at first because she is used to catcalling at taxi ranks and other public spaces but she was shocked at the intensity of these guys’ remarks.
“What shocked me was when they were describing my breasts,” says Mafoko.
She says she was so shaken that she put on her denim jacket to cover her breasts and she immediately left without finishing her reporting.
“I panicked and walked away,” Mafoko says.
Mafoko says she did not report her incident because she didn’t see them and she doesn’t believe she can prove her victimisation.
“You can’t prove that kind of harassment on video, it’s my word against theirs,” Mafoko says.
Maria Wanyane, of the Wits Gender Equity office, says they have not received any official complaints about sexual harassment by private security so far.
Private security, who are mainly male, have been stationed on campus since October 2015 at a cost of nearly R2-million per month.
According to the Wits Gender Equity Office, sexual harassment doesn’t have to be physical. It can be any unwanted attention which can include heckling, whistling and catcalling.
“It’s important for everyone who has experienced any form of harassment to come forward and report it,” says Wanyane.
Wanyane says even if someone is harassed on campus by someone they don’t know, the unit has the power to view security footage and assist in identifying alleged perpetrators.
Predatory publishers are stealing the intellectual property of postgraduates and the university.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THIEVES: Predatory publishers stalk postgraduate students for their academic papaers and then rip them off. Photo: Michelle Gumede
Postgraduate students have been warned about “predatory publishers” who lure academics eager to publish and charge them fees while making money from the published work.
“They’re essentially making money off free material,” says Wits Wartenweiler scholarly communications librarian, Denise Nicholson.
Nicholson is part of the Wits Open Access movement which seeks to create an alternative to for-profit academic publishing by removing copyright and licensing barriers to academic work.
Nicholson says that “predatory publishers” exploit students and academics who want their work published.
These predators go on the hunt at African institution repositories where they harvest already freely available dissertations and theses from open access websites. Wits has such a repository where all academic theses and dissertations go up and can be openly accessed.
The predatory publishers then write to the author congratulating them, saying they would like to publish their work. When the unsuspecting victim agrees the process of “publishing” commences.
They sometimes promise royalties, which Nicholson says postgrad students never get.
“All they do is put a cover on it. They don’t edit it or take it for peer reviewing,” Nicholson said.
“You never hear from them again as a student,” she adds.
Librarian and Open Access activist, Jefferey Beall explains in his online videos how predatory publishers are exploiting the open access model to trick authors.
Beall highlights six ways to identify predatory open access journal publishers. These include last minute author fees and no formal editorial review boards.
Normal publishers have a set of criteria with which candidates have to adhere to. Firstly, they accept papers, they don’t generally go looking for papers. They also use editorial boards and peer review.
Predatory publishers disregard all international standards and codes.
There are accredited journals which the Department of Higher Education and Training endorses. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), an online directory that indexes high quality journals, lists over 11 000 journals and over 2 million articles. These are high impact journals that are recognised internationally and where authors receive grants or subsidies for their work. The university also receives a sum of money every time a student publishes in one of the listed accredited journals.
“That funds more research,” adds Nicholson.
Nicholson recommends that students who receive invitations to publish with disreputable publishers to write back to them saying “thank you” for the invitation but the intellectual property belongs to Wits and they should contact the university.
Nicholson adds that asking for payment for publishing work is not limited to predatory publishers. She says there are reputable publishers who will charge anything from US$2 000 to US$15 000.
“Recently, one lady who is an academic here paid R34 000 for an article,” Nicholson said.
Students and academics who contribute to academic books can also get royalties when they use a reputable publisher.
According to a publishing assistant at Van Schaik, Thokozile Machika, with academic publishing there is often more than one author and very often the book is the brain child of the editors and publisher. Contributors are chosen according to the specialty, course they teach, and institution the work for.
“So naturally editors get a little more than every ones else because they came up with the idea and the have to work through all the chapters,” says Machika.
According to Machika, most companies allocate a percentage per chapter for royalties. For example if an author is offered 2% per chapter and they write two chapters they get 4% of the royalty cut.
A Wits bus carrying 15 students was alledgedly set alight in the middle of the night and Wits management say they suspect arson.
Workers protested on campus this week and the main dining Hall came to a standstill. Royal Mnandi Junction employees demanded that the insourcing agreement be applied to them as they do the same work as workers based at other dining halls across the university.
DEAL OR NO DEAL: Campus Control ‘s Michael Mahada arrived at the dining hall to receive the worker’s memorandum but workers refused for their representative, Vusi Masondo to hand it over to him, insisting that Royal Mnandi manager Analene Coetzer come and address them directly. Photo: Michelle Gumede
The dining hall of one of Wits’ most elite residences, Junction, was closed on Tuesday as workers protested against what they say are unfair wages.
About seven Royal Mnandi employees downed their tools in protest.
The workers claim that the insourcing agreement, approved by Wits University Council on January 14, and which proposes R4 500 as a minimum gross salary is not being applied fairly across the board.
“Other workers got their top-up but we have been left in the dark and have not received a top-up,” says Junction Royal Mnandi worker Tabea Chauke.
According Professor Beatrys Lacquet, deputy of knowledge, information and management, Royal Mnandi workers do not qualify under the insourcing agreement.
“A client allowance was approved only for the workers who provide the university with cleaning, dining hall catering, security, inter-campus bus transport, grounds, and waste management services. The allowance does not apply to workers that work for retail and service enterprises that operate on the university campus who are in an arms-length commercial relationship with the university.”
According to the workers, Junction is classified as a retail space and not as a dining hall, and as such the university’s insourcing agreement does not apply to it.
Vusi Masondo, one of the workers who represents the group, believes the classification of Junction employees as retailers does not make sense as they do jobs identical to those done by workers employed at other dining halls at Wits.
Royal Mnandi manager Analene Coetzer declined to speak to Wits Vuvuzela, saying she “is not allowed to comment.”
Nkukuleko Tselane, chairperson of Junction House Committee says that some of the workers are transferred from other dining halls and should therefore be paid the same. “A lot of these workers have been transferred from other dining halls, and now when they get here they are told no, they don’t qualify as dining hall workers so they won’t be insourced,” says Tselane.
Chauke, who stays in Pretoria and has worked in the university’s dining halls for the last four years, says their biggest problem is the unwillingness of Royal Mnandi to engage on the issue.
Masondo and Chauke said the group had attempted to contact Coetzer to address the issue since last week. “When we got here today, she still didn’t want to speak to us. She told us to go speak to the university’s management,” says Chauke.
According to Masondo, Coetzer told the group she had been instructed by the university to not say anything and not to receive their memorandum. The workers were joined in solidarity by workers from the Main Dining Hall and their memorandum was eventually received by Bontle Mogapi, Main Dining Hall Liason Officer flanked by a heavy security presence.
Workers say they will expand their protest to other dining halls if Royal Mnandi refuses them the same salaries as other workers.
“If they don’t give us our top-up, they must return us to our old dining halls where we used to work and they must stay here with their empty kitchen,” Chauke says.
Final-year Mining Engineering student and Junction resident, Thelma Mogorosi says she feels that the workers shouldn’t even need to strike. “Everyone should get paid for the work that they do, I feel like this is unfair,” says Mogorosi.
February is commonly known as the month of love. But for me, love is not only about red roses, fancy dinners and cuddly teddy bears. Love is what spurs us on to act on some of our deepest passions. Love, for one’s people and the world, is the basis of all revolutions.
South Africans are a people fueled by passion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we are the model state with no foibles, psychopaths or greedy leaders. We are far from it. But we love. For the most part we love our food, our cultures, our soccer teams and our music. But most of all we love our constitution so much that we witnessed over 2 000 people marching to the Constitutional Court in defence of our Public Protector and our constitution this week.
Love is a peculiar thing. It ignites a flame in the hearts of those it imposes itself upon, breathing hope into the minds of the numb and giving a renewed sense of courage and self-sacrifice in the souls of the weary. Love fuels humanity’s drive to better itself in a system that is designed to belittle it.
Apartheid was a system that the National Party preferred to describe as a way of self-preservation. Preserving Afrikaaner culture, language and the material wealth that they violently acquired. As sick as it sounds, it’s a gluttonous love of self that fuelled the colonial project of separate development.
On the other hand it is also love that gave Bantu Steven Biko the will to write what he liked. Love spurred Hector Peterson on to march towards the bullets that fatally martyred him. Much like how love urged the miners of Marikana, and the students of the #RhodesMustFall movement to stand up for what they believe in. Love can bring people together for a diverse range of reasons, no matter how strange and taboo they might be.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual community has had to endure prejudice, persecution, rape and abuse to be able to openly love. While Black girls still need to explain why they want to have safe spaces solely for themselves. Across the continent states are still illegitimatising homosexuality and ostracising those who love to love other people.
It is a love for education that kept students in South Africa marching on even in the blistering sun, protesting for free education during the #FeesMustFall protests. It is a love for our living environment that keeps activist groups ready to defend (and sometimes remedy) some of the wrongs done to the earth. And it is love for our fellow man that has sparked mass outcry against the killings in Palestine, Black America and Burundi.
Eusebius McKaiser once told a class I was in, “don’t be afraid of your own biases.” And we shouldn’t be afraid to love. If we had to take notes on love, comradery and passion, they are the excellent lessons to be taken from our global history. If there’s one thing I wish everyone on Valentine’s Day, its that we may all find something that moves us and we are passionate about. Something to love.