STORIFY: #RhodesMustFall reveals entrenched racism

White students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) have taken to Facebook and Twitter with “racist” commentary, leading to further debate and clashes across social media, during the #RhodesMustFall campaign. Their comments have been shared under the hashtag #RacismMustFall.

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Safety system for black lesbian community

Members of the black lesbian community in Johannesburg have created a “system” that provides safety for one another while travelling around the city.

There are no specific rules or protocol for anyone to follow, but rather a “system informed by common sense”, according to one of its creators, Busisiwe Deyi.

“We organise safe transportation and when someone is dropped off, they have to inform the others that they got home safe,” she told Wits Vuvuzela.

Last week, a friend did not check in, so they turned to social media to try and find her. They were worried that something had happened to her, so “had to make sure” that they found her.

A group of them had been part of “activist organising” so were all tired, why is why the missing friend had forgotten to check in. Hours later, after they had still not heard from her, they began to worry.

“I have friends who have been attacked.”

Transport is provided by friends within the circle who have cars, and are willing to drive to areas that are far away. If they arrange their own way home then they check-in with each other when reaching home safely. Sometimes, people offer to walk each other home if the destination is not too far away.

A system “evolved organically”

According to Deyi, the system is something that has “evolved organically”, with the hope of ensuring that individuals felt and were less vulnerable when commuting.

Groups like this exist all over Johannesburg, according to a second year BA student at Wits, who asked to remain anonymous. Both she and Deyi said that there were no pre-existing structures like this, which deals with the issue in a “systematic and organised manner”.

Here at Wits, individuals have to notify a designated member of the group of what form of transport they are using, who they got into a car, bus or taxi with, and provide the registration number of the vehicle, “just in case something happens”.

Although no one has ever gone missing, according to another student, in her first year of a BA, there is a risk that something might happen.

“I have friends who have been attacked more than once, because they look gay,” she said.

Deyi agreed. “A lot of our friends are butch/masculine looking and [this] increases their visibility as targets of violence.”

Exploring their routes, barefoot

BARING THEIR ROOTS: Saul Nossel and Noah Bamberger are two of the band’s original members. The band’s new EP, Routes, was just released and is available for free online.  Photo: Roxanne Joseph

BARING THEIR ROOTS: Saul Nossel and Noah Bamberger are two of the band’s original members. The band’s new EP, Routes, was just released and is available for free online. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Johannesburg band Go Barefoot creates music that makes you want to dance. Described as a mixture of urban-African, jazz, rock and folk, they “really love” their city, a lot.

John Smith, a graphic design student at Vega, is one of the band’s guitarists, vocalists and a “Kenny G” lookalike. The other is Michael Dawson, an architecture student at the University of Cape Town. When he is not coaching soccer, Clive Vicker is Go Barefoot’s bassist. Saul Nossel, a third year music student at Wits, plays the drums and finally, Noah Bamberger, a second year applied computing student, plays the keys.

 

New kids on the block

The band are relatively new to the South African music scene and take example from other local groups, such as Desmond and the Tutus and Shortstraw, who organise and book their own gigs, manage their own tours and work together in everything they do.

“We take conventional and obvious sound, and don’t do that.”

Each of them brings a different set of influences and styles to the group, according to Nossel. Jazz, rock, blues folk, indie and electro are all thrown into the mix when writing a song and practicing for a show. They even have elements of maskandi genre, which Michael learnt from a busker on the street.

“But we’re very experimental,” Bamberger said. “We take conventional and obvious sound, and don’t do that.”

Their audience, they said, has changed from just their friends, to a variety of people. They cater to the up and coming generation, but want to reach out to places like Hillbrow, Soweto and Yeoville.

“Joburg is a progressive, but segregated place,” said Bamberger. “And we want to get out of that by partying together.”

Doing something different

Their music speaks to people of different races, classes and backgrounds. One of their favourite places to play is Braamfontein’s Kitchener’s because it is one of the “coolest and most integrated clubs” in the city.

“We love an audience that loves to lose itself, and who loves dancing. It hurts us if they don’t dance, we struggle to play if people just stand there,” Bamberger explained.

Both Nossel and Bamberger agree that they do not fit into the South African music scene, because they are “trying to do something different”.

“There’s no such thing as original music, only original combinations of it.”

They want to encourage fans to explore the inner city a bit more, and believe their music can help that happen.

Go Barefoot recently played a string of gigs across the city, from Melville to Greenside to Braamfontein, and are about to start a small national tour, starting with an “epic” show at Kitchener’s next weekend. They also just released an EP, called Routes, which, according to Nossel, is about “the routes we take and the roots we come from”.

Their EP, Routes, is available for download online.

UCT SRC not involved in organising ‘poo protest’

President of the The University of Cape Town (UCT) SRC (Student Representative Council), Ramabina Mahapa, has said that he and other SRC members were not involved in the organising of yesterday’s “poo protest”.

Instead, the organiser was a fourth-year politics student, Chumani Maxwele, who told Independent Online that he protested on behalf of “the collective pain and suffering” of all black people. He also said that he was calling for the removal of the statue.

UCT, he said, has no collective history, alleging that students are “offended” by the architecture and names of buildings on the campus. He then emptied a container of faeces over the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, on the university’s upper campus.

“This poo that we are throwing on the statue represents the shame of black people,” he told Independent Online. “By throwing it on the statue we are throwing our shame to whites’ affluence.”

However, according to Mahapa, the substance used in the protest was manure and not human faeces.

He told Wits Vuvuzela that he “does not condone the act” in terms of procedure and university regulation, but can “sympathise and understand” with Maxwele and his reasons.

“This is mainly because the university hasn’t ever listened to students,” he said.

The university yesterday released a statement that condoned “vandalism of UCT property” and the violation of “health laws”. The vice-chancellor’s office is instigating the incident and has demanded a comprehensive and immediate report.

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Wits Vuvuzela, STORIFY: Poo protests at the University of Cape Town, March 10, 2015

STORIFY: Poo protests at the University of Cape Town

A group of UCT (University of Cape Town) students, including members of the SRC (Student Representatives Council), threw human excrement at a statue of Cecil John Rhodes earlier today, in protest against “white arrogance”.

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Bloem Celtics continue on winning streak, beating the Clever Boys

Bidvest Wits team before the kick off at the Bidvest stadium on Friday night. Photo: Sinikiwe Mqadi

Bidvest Wits team before the kick off at the Bidvest stadium on Friday night. Photo: Sinikiwe Mqadi

Bloemfontein Celtic has continued their winning streak by beating Bidvest Wits 1-0 on Friday night.

The winning goal was struck by Lerato Lamola in the 78th minute. His team mate, Musa Nyatama, was tackled unfairly by Siyabonga Nhlapo of Bidvest Wits. Nhlapo was given his second yellow card of the match, and was sent off. Nhlapo conceded a penalty which allowed the visitors to lead 1-0.

The Free State based team has been on a winning streak since the start of the Premier Soccer League in February this year

The game was hotly contested, with Bloemfontein Celtic’s coach, Clinton Larsen admitting that they had expected to work hard for their win. He said they watched how Wits dominated the game against Sundowns and he warned his players that, “Wits settle very quickly.”

Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt talks to journalists after his team was defeated by the Bloemfontein Celtics. Photo: Sinikiwe  Mqadi

Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt talks to journalists after his team was defeated by the Bloemfontein Celtics. Photo: Sinikiwe Mqadi

Larsen added that his side was very disciplined and that Wits didn’t manage to break them down in the middle. He was delighted with the three points and said, “The boys worked hard for it.”

The game had a slow start with the players being unable to keep their balance on the wet pitch, due to rain earlier in the day.

As the players began to adjust to the pitch and the chilly Johannesburg air, Wits took their chances with a cross being played through from Shameegh Doutie to Jabulani Shongwe in the first 30 minutes of the game. The shot, like many others that Wits had on target, did not reach the back of the net.

Wits Goalkeeper, Moeneeb Josephs also had his work cut out for him as Bloemfontein Celtic attacked at every chance they got.

In the 43rd minute, Lerato Lamola after being served with a great ball from Man of the Match, Keegan Ritchie, failed to find the back of the net due to a vigilant save by Josephs.

Even though the first was goalless, the atmosphere was electric with the fans of The Clever Boys and those of Siwelele singing to keep their spirits up and themselves warm.

After the drastic turn of events in the 78th minute, the 10-man-side of Wits played solid football and managed to hold Celtics at one goal.

A disappointed Gavin Hunt said he believed that his side should have scored more goals. He said they were second in the league and not at the top, because they have not been scoring goals.

Wits remain at 40 points on the log table, 10 points below log leaders Kaizer Chiefs, whilst Bloemfontein Celtic walked away with three points.

VIDEO: Racism at Wits University

We asked Witsies if they have ever experienced racism here at Wits, after an incident on campus this past week, where one student was allegedly racially abused by others and told “I will fuckin’ kill you, you black bitch”.

According to the student, the incident started after she “confronted” two female students during the lecture as they mocked the accent of senior lecturer, Dr Malebakeng Forere.

We also asked students if it surprised them that, twenty years into a democratic South Africa, “born frees” are racist.

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Q&A with Bassem Eid

Bassem Eid, founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Photo: Provided

Bassem Eid, founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Photo: Provided

Palestinian journalist Bassem Eid is the founder and former director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies brought him out to speak about his work at various universities around the country during Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). This is his fourth time in South Africa.

What is your background?
I grew up in a camp in the Old City in Jerusalem. We were evacuated for no reason, one year before the 1967 war. I worked for B’Tselem [The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories] from the start of the first intifada [uprising], but I resigned because I was more interested in monitoring the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) violations of their own peoples’ rights.

What kind of work did you do there?
We released reports, six times a year that looked at the violations and atrocities committed by the PA, under the Yasser Arafat regime.

Did you feel this was more important to focus on than what the Israeli Defence Force was doing?
Yes, because it is more painful to commit these atrocities against their own people. For me, it became about defending Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. For them, the PA became another kind of occupation, and because of their corruption, these people have been left hopeless.

What is the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
There is no solution right now. The major problem right now is the lack of leadership on both sides. They will both have to wait for the coming generation. The right-wing Israeli government and the old faction of leaders on the Palestinian side.

Is Israel an apartheid state?
No, it isn’t. South African apartheid has never existed in Israel. Palestinians can study and receive medical care, which are the two most important rights.

What do you think about IAW?
It adds more hate to existing hate. South Africa has a propagandist notion towards the conflict. The money that is thrown at IAW should be used for South Africans who need it in the fight against poverty. BDS (Boycott, Divestement and Sanctions) is a prelude to genocide and the destruction of the Palestinian people. They have no idea what’s going on, they’re just adding more fuel to the flame.

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SA author becomes wiser

WISER AUTHOR: South African author Jonny Steinberg will join the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research in May this year. Photo: Provided

WISER AUTHOR: South African author Jonny Steinberg will join the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research in May this year. Photo: Provided

An award-winning South African journalist and author is due to join a leading Wits think tank in May.

Author and journalist Jonny Steinberg has been at Oxford University for the past four years and will be joining the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser).

The multi-award winning journalist, author and scholar is part of the university’s Distinguished Scholars’ Programme which aims to attract the best academic talent to Wits over the next three years. Steinberg said he is “grateful” to be a beneficiary of the plan.

“Any good university has to be involved in the production of knowledge, which is universal. This type of initiative will strengthen that.”

After shuttling back and forth between England and South Africa for the past few years, Steinberg told Wits Vuvuzela he is looking forward to being grounded in a local institution.

“Up until now, I haven’t been able to deeply engage with everything that’s going on there [South Africa], I’ve only been able to hover above it, but now I’ll be able to, in a much more immediate way.”

Wits Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib said Steinberg “embodies the quality of talented individuals that we wish to attract, both from our shores and abroad”.

“If there is a good story to be told, I look at how that story can amplify these processes.”

He will join Wiser from the beginning of May as a full-time professor of the university and will teach a graduate course while he writes a book about the “transition to democracy”. This new book is about a man who was accused of murder in the early 90’s and spent the beginning of South Africa’s democracy in prison.

Telling South Africa’s stories

Steinberg’s previous books have looked at racial violence on South African farms, HIV and Aids, gang life in prison and South African policing.

He described the work he does as being “deeply engaged with new things and processes happening in South Africa.

“If there is a good story to be told, I look at how that story can amplify these processes.”

Writing, Steinberg said, is something he always wanted to do. He described being at Oxford in the mid-90’s and having to decide if he should stay there or come home.

“The story of a whole country was being rewritten, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Workers locked in Wits office following pay protest

Outsourced electrical workers have occupied the MJL Electrical offices on campus, after not being paid. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Outsourced electrical workers have occupied the MJL Electrical offices on campus, after not being paid. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Twenty-three Wits outsourced workers, who have not been paid four weeks, were locked in an office at Wits University yesterday afternoon during a sit-in, allegedly by their manager.

The electricians, employees of MJL Electrical, are still in the office located in Central Block.

George Cresswold, the owner of the company contracted by the university, locked the doors at 4pm, after the workers decided to occupy  the office over the payment dispute.

He allegedly told them he believed they would steal computers and other office property if he did not.

“One of the workers was outside and he went to campus control and got them to unlock the door,” one of the electricians told Wits Vuvuzela this morning. He asked not to be named.

According to the electrician, deputy vice chancellor Prof Tawana Kupe attempted to resolve the impasse by telling Cresswold that if anything was stolen or damaged, he could sue him.

“I’ll pay for it,” Kupe said according to one of the electrician.

The workers have been in dispute with Cresswold, since the end of last year over outstanding pay. They returned to work one week ago, after nearly a month of not working, but once again were not paid for the last 23 days of work.

When contacted by Wits Vuvuzela, Cresswold was unavailable for comment.

Yesterday evening, the workers went into a meeting with Cresswold, Kupe, deputy vice chancellor Prof Beatrys Lacquet and Dawn Taylor, director of the university’s legal office.

Kupe and Lacquet organised for the workers to each be paid R400, so that they could get home but it was “too late and we didn’t want to risk our lives at one in the morning,” according to the workers. They also arranged for the workers to have KFC delivered to them after the meeting, as they had not eaten since being locked in the office.

In solidarity 

According to the workers, Cresswold wanted to “chase them out” even after they had been paid the R400, at around 1am. “He is a liar and dishonest man,” they said.

Wits Economic Freedom Fighters chairperson Vuyani Pambo, who was present at the meeting, said  the workers were “being treated as slaves”. During the meeting, Pambo said, Cresswold did not respond to questions on how to resolve the dispute.

“They have families, responsibilities and kids, but he [Cresswold] is only offering them R400,” he told Wits Vuvuzela late last night.

New Rhodes vice-chancellor contributes salary to “needy” students

Rhodes University vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela had his inauguration last Friday., and dedicated his speech to the Biko and Mxenge families. Photo: Provided

Rhodes University’s newly inaugurated vice-chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, has vowed that no academically talented – but financially needy – young person will be turned away from Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

“It is a bit aspirational,” he told Wits Vuvuzela. “But we have to make a point that we will raise funds. I will make it my personal mission.”

When Mabizela became deputy vice-chancellor in 2008, he made a “salary sacrifice” and contributed part of his salary towards a bursary fund that assists financially needy students who are academically talented, mostly from poor and rural families.

As vice-chancellor, he said that he will increase this contribution, to about R300 000 in total. He will also continue to encourage community members and university staff to contribute.

“In fact, I encourage every young person in this country to make a contribution,” he said.

Mabizela is the first black African vice-chancellor at Rhodes University in over 100 years, but does not want people to “get hung up on this”.

“That I happen to be black and African is simply an accident of history from which we have just emerged. I don’t want this to be elevated above any and everything else, because I would be deeply troubled if I was appointed simply because of that.”

He said that when he accepted, he made it very clear that he was not motivated by personal glory or material and financial gain, but rather by a commitment to serve the university and wider South Africa.

Rhodes had to turn away approximately 130 students at the start of the year, because they were denied National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds and were unable to register. Mabizela described the experience of having to deny qualifying students an education as “painful”.

Under Sizwe’s leadership as a part of senior management for over six years, Rhodes has matched NSFAS’ contribution of R32-million by spending approximately R34-million on assisting “desperately poor” but academically strong students.

One of Sizwe’s aims is to make the university more socially aware and one that “tackles local problems and challenges facing Grahamstown and the Eastern Cape”.

The university plans to make it a centre of academic excellence, improving primary school education, all the way to tertiary education.

“We have to brighten this corner where we find ourselves.”

COOL KID ON CAMPUS: Saul Hurwitz

Chosen1

FIRST-YEAR BSc Astronomy and Astrophysics student Saul Hurwitz was born and bred in Johannesburg and wants to go to space one day. His plans for the year include passing and getting into his degree’s “restricted courses”.
Hurwitz also plays the piano and says his favourite constellation is Taurus, because that is his star sign.

Why did you choose this degree?
I definitely didn’t want to go into business and even though I considered a BA, I needed to think about the future and a career, so I chose this. By the end of this degree, I’ll either be able to go up into space or send stuff into space. So that’s pretty cool.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learnt so far?
In physics, we learnt how to prove one of Einstein’s equations using dimensional analysis. It proves that the faster you go, the slower you age. But at our speed it kinda means nothing.

Is everything that happens in Interstellar accurate?
No [laughs]. It was very cool though! But, I wouldn’t try it at home, don’t fly into a black hole. Those guys were trained professionals, so they knew what they were doing.

What’s the best part of being at Wits?
The chips at Sizzlers. They’re incredible.

What’s your favourite science or science-fiction movie?
Interstellar, then Cloud Atlas, but I also like Predator. My all-time favourite would have to be Star Wars: Episode III though, because that’s when it all goes down.

What would you wear under your space-suit?
Can you even wear anything under a space-suit? I’d wear socks, because it probably would be really uncomfortable to not wear them. So, yeah, socks and underwear.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Advice is a form of nostalgia, unpacked from the dumpster of the brain, wiped off and sold for more than it’s worth. Basically, advice is crap.