Nehawu on strike at Wits University

Workers at Wits University hold a picket in the Solomon Mahlangu House concourse on Tuesday, January 23. Photo: Odwa Mjo

Wits University staff affiliated to the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) have embarked on a strike following a deadlock in salary negotiations with the institution on Tuesday, January 23. This follows two weeks of lunchtime pickets during which the union engaged university management over annual salary increases.

Wits Nehawu acting secretary and spokesperson for the Unions’ Caucus – the joint representative body for Nehawu, the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu), the Admin and Library Staff Association (Altsa) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) at Wits – Tumisho Madihlaba, told about 500 Nehawu members during Tuesday’s picket that Wits management had only revised the offer for grades 16 to 17 to 8% while the offer of 6,8% for all other grades remained the same. “They are saying they do not have a mandate to renegotiate or review the offer,” Madihlaba added. Members of Nehawu at Wits include staff of the security and cleaning services, sport administration, libraries and bus drivers.

“Cost of living has not remained the same since December 2014 when we signed that multi-year agreement of 6%. But this university believes that the 6% of 2014, we will still survive on,” he said.

Wits library staffer, Pisto Marema, told Wits Vuvuzela that union members were demanding a wage of at least R12 000 a month. “We need 9%. At least that can take us somewhere. As we sit now, most of us can’t even afford to apply for a bond,” said Marema.

According to Madihlaba, Numsa and Asawu will be joining the strike as of today, January 24. A statement released earlier today by the office of the vice-chancellor, Prof Adam Habib, confirms that Numsa intends to strike and has given the university 48-hour notice of its intention to do so. Asawu is set to hold a Special General Meeting with its members on Friday, January 26.

With less than two weeks before the academic year kicks off, Madihlaba added that strike action will continue until the union’s demands are met “We are going to shut down this university and management will not believe it,” he said.


Apology to lecturer and student

Wits Vuvuzela published a report on 8 September about a university investigation into a romantic relationship between a lecturer and a student in the School of Geology, Archaeology and Environmental Sciences. The couple, who were not named in the report, laid a complaint with Press Ombud Johan Retief, who ruled that while we had obtained comment from the lecturer concerned, we were at fault in not having obtained comment from the affected student, and ordered us to apologise to her. We do so unreservedly. We have offered her the opportunity to respond to the story, but she has elected not to take up the offer.

After the initial report, Wits Vuvuzela received a letter of demand from the complainants’ lawyers, demanding that no more reports on the matter should be published. In the letter, they stated that complainants against the couple had withdrawn allegations against them. The Ombud also ruled we should have reported this particular statement in the lawyers’ letter in our follow-up report, and ordered us to apologise for not having done so. We apologise for this also.

 The Ombud ruled in favour of Wits Vuvuzela on seven other complaints by the couple.

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Winners of the Global Shining Light Awards 2017 announced

Journalists from Nigeria and Iraq were the recipients of the $2000 prize at this year’s Global Shining Light awards.

The work of Emmanuel Maya from Nigeria and Iraq’s Assad Al Zalzali were chosen from 211 projects submitted by journalists across the world for work produced between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016. The Global Shining Light awards was hosted on Saturday, November 18 at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC17) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Maya’s special report in Nigeria’s Premium Times was the result of a two-month long investigation into allegations of police and military targeting of ethnic minorities in Onitsha that led to mass deaths in the region of Onitsha. The report was the basis for new investigations by the military and a call for independent investigations into the massacre by human rights groups.

Project 1, Zalzali’s piece for Iraq’s Beladi TV channel, investigated the disappearance of $ 200 million worth of public funds that had been allocated to public schools in the country. It exposed corruption between the Ministry of Education and led to the recovery of a portion of the funds.

The Gujurat Files: Anatomy of A Coverup by India’s Rana Ayyub and Making A Killing, the 2016 collaboration between Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project received special mentions for their efforts.

The Global Shining Light awards are held annually to honour investigative work by journalists from developing countries or countries with uniquely difficult reporting conditions for journalists.