Former Wits manager arrested in US

A former senior manager from the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI) was arrested last week in the United States on allegations of money laundering.

The university would not reveal the identity of the manager but according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) statement he has been identified as Dr. Eugene Sickle.

The Dr. was arrested in Washington DC in connection with misappropriation of funds of HIV/AIDS programmes in South Africa being supported and funded by USAID. Approximately USD 230 000, about three million in South African rands was misused.

Wits University released a statement saying the bulk of the funds would be covered by insurance and that the “project will not suffer any reduction in funding and there will be no direct loss to USAID.”

Dr. Sickle resigned last year from his position as Deputy Executive Director for the WRHI program following discovery of his potential involvement in the submission of fraudulent documents to WRHI by a third party. When he was questioned about this, he immediately resigned from his position.

According to Wits University spokesperson, Shirona Patel, as a precautionary measure, the WRHI have undertaken to review all grants and activities and no other irregularities have been found.

A criminal case has also been opened against him with the South African Police Services.

Q&A with Busisiwe Mtshali

Wits alumni Busisiwe Mtshali is quickly becoming a seasoned actress in South Africa with breakout roles in the film and television industry. The BA Honours in Dramatic Arts graduate is the star of the SABC1 comedy series Thandeka’s Diary and has worked on TV productions such as The Road and Mshika Shika among many others. She drew the attention of international audiences when she featured in award winning film Thina Sobabili.

PREPARING FOR HOLLYWOOD: Busisiwe Mtshali is a storyteller who

EN ROUTE TO HOLLYWOOD:Wits alumni Busisiwe Mtshali is a leading actress in South African television and film.



LISTICLE: 5 tips for hard-hitting investigative journalism

Addressing a full classroom of over 50 journalists and students, Cheryl Thompson, a journalist from the Washington Post, shared her insights into investigative journalism at the Power Reporting conference in Johannesburg today. Anelisa Tuswa, a student journalist, shares her five takeaways from the talk.

Thompson, also an associate professor of journalism at George Washington University, used anecdotes from her own work to outline the key lessons she’s learned over the course of her career.


HARD-HITTING: Cheryl W. Thompson of the Washington Post, shared her insights into developing an investigative story at the 2015 Power Reporting Conference at Wits University today. Photo: Samantha Camara.

Outlining steps into the investigation process, Thompson described investigative journalism as “jigsaw puzzle”,  where all the pieces in the puzzle matter.

Briefly, Thompson says the key steps are deciding on a topic, researching the topic, developing your sources,  analysing your data,  fact-check and writing, rewriting and writing some more.

5 Key lessons to learn:
  1. “Always ask questions that you already know the answer to”

The emphasis on well researched investigation remains key in all parts of Thompsons presentation. As a result, Thompson believes that when you are preparing for an interview, you’re must “be mentally prepared” and that includes well researched questions.

  1. “Never sacrifice speed to file for accuracy

It might take you a couple of years to complete an investigative piece, but rather you spend years in it than to rush for a timeline that is less researched and lacks accuracy.

  1. Confrontational Questions? Keep those for later

According to Thompson, questions like “why did you steal the money” should be at the bottom of your list. She says to start with questions that allow your interviewees “ease into the interview'”, added Thompson. “Try to find a commonality or connection with your interviewee”.

  1. “Don’t pick up the phone for interviews, go there in person”

Thompson notes that on one of her investigative pieces that she was working on there were “ghost children in a ghost school” and she only figured this out by actually visiting the schools.

  1. Trust your intuition

“I trust my instincts, especially as a woman”, said Thompson, addressing safety and security issues related to investigative journalism.

Top Ten Freedom Day Movies

With the passing of Freedom Day on Monday, and so much talk about Xenophobia and racism, it is sometimes best to remember those who fought for freedom in our land and elsewhere, portrayed through film.

We have compiled a list of the top 10 most popular movies about the struggle for freedom in South Africa, according to their popularity on the IMDB (Internet Movie Database). So if you are hyped up or stressed about the events in our country in the past few weeks, take some time to relax with some popcorn this weekend with a few of these movies:

cry_freedom1. Cry Freedom
South African journalist Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) is forced to flee the country after attempting to investigate the death in custody of his friend of Steve Biko (Denzel Washington).

Where there is hope …

A book review of Dare we hope? by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela.


TO A NEW FUTURE: Dare we hope? by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is a collection of her work published in local and international newspapers. Photo: Sibongile Machika

World renowned clinical psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is an international expert on reconciliation. Having worked on South Africa’s TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission), she is often the go-to person  on topics that interrogate the challenges faced by South Africa’s young democracy.

Dare We Hope is a collection of her articles published in The Washington Post, New York Times and various South African publications between 1995 and 2014.

This selection of work confronts issues like Afrikaner rage, the politics of revenge, racism and the ruling party’s ever decaying sense of morality.

The subtitle of the book “Facing our past to find our future”, sums up Gobodo-Madikizela’s intentions. Through her work Gobodo-Madikizela shows how South Africans have found glimmers of hope in potentially catastrophic events like the murder of Chris Hani and the 2002 Boeremag bombing of the Soweto railway. She believes that it is this ability to find hope where there seems  to be none that can help dig South Africa out of its current pit of corruption, reoccurring race issues and economic divide.

“Ten years of a change of law will not result in an automatic change attitudes”

Some of the key themes and concepts addressed in the book are: individual sense humanity, understanding the other and the psychological effects of that apartheid had and still has on both the oppressors and oppressed.

Gobodo-Madikizela does well bringing a fresh perspective to these perennial topics. In one of her articles she writes, “Many white South Africans … find it difficult to acknowledge the social, educational and economical privileges under apartheid gave them a better life, and also created the possibility of a better future for them in the post-apartheid era”.

She adds that “acknowledging that they have benefited from a system that oppressed fellow human beings and even committed atrocities, threatens white people’s sense of humanity”.

Engage in dialogue and debates

Gobodo-Madikizela also deals with the current government’s corruption, abuse of power and failing leadership. She explored how the nation’s growing disappointment with the liberation party affects our present and future, from Thabo Mbeki’s HIV/AIDS denialism saga, Jacob Zuma’s rape trial and the African National Congress’s (ANC) women’s dangerously fierce alliance to Zuma.  The book allows the reader to deal with the current state of affairs and begin to imagine the kind of future they might lead us to.

Dare we hope? poses more questions than answers, Gobodo-Madikizela calls on South Africans to  engage in dialogue and debates that seeking first the truth and acknowledgement of our past and its effects  in the hope that it is this truth that will bring us to real forgiveness and lasting reconciliation.  The selection below highlights this notion.

A starting point would be to acknowledge, instead of deny, that ten years of a change of law will not result in an automatic change attitudes, and that racism [amongst other things] will continue to seep − in subtle and not-so-subtle ways− into our new democracy. As we think about how to move this debate forward, we should focus on the psychological legacy of apartheid racism –the experience of white privilege while other racial groups were excluded from economic, educational, and occupational opportunities, which instilled a sense of superiority in the minds of many of our white compatriots. We should also not lose sight of the long-term effects of a system that strategically instilled inferiority by closing the door of opportunity to blacks.”

Dare we hope? Facing our past to find a new future is available from all leading book retailers.

Bidvest Wits through to the quarterfinals of the Nedbank Cup

Nqobile Dludla and Boipelo Boikhutso

FROM ZEROS TO HEROS:  The opening goal came from Dutchman Cornelis Kwakman (on the floor) in the 39th minute from a set-piece. The Clever Boys ended the game with 3 goals, sending them into the quarterfinal of  the Nedbank Cup. Photo: Nqobile Dludla

FROM ZEROS TO HEROS: Henrico Botes (on the floor) scored the ultimate final goal, sending The Clever Boys to the quarterfinal of the Nedbank Cup with 3 goals.                                                        Photo: Nqobile Dludla

Bidvest Wits are through to the quarterfinals of the Nedbank Cup after defeating University of Pretoria (AmaTuks), 3-0 at the Bidvest Stadium on Tuesday night.

The opening goal came from Dutchman Cornelis Kwakman in the 39th minute who landed a lead goal at the back of the net from a set-piece. Sibusiso Vilakazi came in the 56th minute and doubled their lead when he dribbled past Grant Kekana and shot past Washington Arubi.

Striker Henrico Botes added a goal in the 63rd minute after receiving a pass from Ben Motshwari.

Commenting on the first goal scored by Kwakman, Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt said “It broke the ice” for the game as both sides tried to break the deadlock in the opening minutes of the game.

“It was a hell of a goal wasn’t it? Jeez I mean he scored three goals and couple of weeks ago he scored one just like that. Fantastic goal!”, said Hunt.

Although The Clever Boys managed to break the deadlock, Hunt said the first half was “edgy” in terms of performance.

“We couldn’t get our passes and our movement and synchronization going. But we got much better in the second half as the game went on. We just lack a little bit of confidence, I guess after last week. All in all it was a great performance in the second half,” said Hunt.

Hunt hopes that his team maintains better “consistency” in the next games after suffering back-to-back Absa Premiership League defeats in recent games.

“I know the potential in the team. I mean from Tuesday to Tuesday we went from heros to zeros because we beat Sundowns and then we lost two games and then we won again,” added Hunt.

The opening proved to be difficult as both sides were determined to break the deadlock. The first chance for Bidvest Wits came after just 20 minutes when Sibusiso Vilakazi passed a promising shot to Papy Faty whose attempt went over the post.

AmaTuks tried to score straight after but Moeneeb Josephs was too quick for Geofrey Massa’s header.

The Clever Boys, who fielded the 16-year-old Liam Jordan last night, managed to hold on to their lead and secured themselves a place in the quarterfinals.

Post-match interview with AmaTuks coach Sammy Troughton

Pulitzer prize-winner speaks at Wits Journalism

Doug Frantz, a former journalist of 35 years speaks to the Wits journalism department .Photo: Luke Matthews

Doug Frantz, a former journalist of 35 years speaks to the Wits journalism department .Photo: Luke Matthews

“A few people can make a difference in journalism,” according to Doug Frantz, assistant secretary of state for public affairs in the USA.

Frantz, who previously worked for former Senator John Kerry, spoke to the Wits Journalism department in Johannesburg today, as part of his visit to South Africa.

Addressing staff and students, the former journalist reflected on his 35 year long career where he worked at the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times.

[pullquote]“If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” This is at the core value of what democracy asks of you as a journalist.[/pullquote]

Describing his current position in government in relation to his previous work as journalist, Frantz said. “I’m the guy who comes in when there are nasty, controversial or important stories to be heard, when I use my credibility [as a former journalist].”

He said that he simultaneously serves the state department and administration and the journalists themselves, because “there is nothing worse than getting your facts wrong”.  Frantz said one of the first things he learnt as a journalist is: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out. This is at the core value of what democracy asks of you as a journalist.”

One thing he encouraged young journalists in training to do is “retain the ability for the sources you deal with to trust you”. At the same time, he expects politicians to “never lie to the press.” It is a relationship that can survive only on trust.

He admitted to sometimes wishing he was still a journalist and values the years he spent as a reporter in particular. “If you pick a job you love,” he said, “you’ll never work a day in your life.” Frantz

When asked to compare South African and American media he said: “South Africa has a vigorous and largely free press. In the US we’ve been at it a little longer and it is embedded in our DNA to push a little harder.”

Our job as journalists is to put forward facts, not without judgement but without bias, Frantz said. “It’s the coolest job in the world.”

In 2002, Frantz was part of the The New York Times team who won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.

Obama wants YOU

During US President Barack Obama’s much-publicised visit earlier this month, he announced a new fellowship that would allow 500 African students to study in America.

Obama spoke at a town hall meeting held at the University of Johannesburg campus in Soweto. He addressed an auditorium filled with young African leaders, a number of these were part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The Obama administration created YALI to encourage entrepreneurship and leadership among African youth.

Barack Obama addressing the crowd at the Town Hall meeting in Soweto Photo: Dinesh Balliah

Barack Obama addressing the crowd at the Town Hall meeting in Soweto
Photo: Dinesh Balliah

“Students like you are going to determine the future of your countries,” said Obama. He said he believed in the African continent, even though the continent faced great challenges. he said YALI would be expanded to introduce a new programme called the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. The Washington Fellowship for Young African [pullquote align=”right”]Students like you are going to determine the future of your countries[/pullquote]Leaders will focus on developing civic leadership, public administration, business and entrepreneurship. He said it was important to nurture these skills, as they would help serve communities and help businesses to grow.

“Too many Africans still endure tremendous hardship and great injustice,” he said. Obama said the youth were key in creating a “more prosperous and a more confident continent”. Starting in 2014, the Washington Fellowship will select 500 young leaders to spend time in universities and colleges in the US for academic and leadership training. The [pullquote]Too many Africans still endure tremendous hardship and great injustice[/pullquote]Washington fellowship will aim to further relations between the USA and Africa.For the next five years, citizens of sub-Saharan countries will be eligible for the programme.

Applicants must be between 25-35 years of age at the time of application, although exceptional candidates younger than 25 will be considered. Individuals should have a good command of the English language.

UPDATED WITH NEW IMAGES: Obama faces mixed reactions in South Africa

A roaring crowd of supporters sang “Shosholoza, Shosholoza, Ku lezontaba, Stimela si qhamuka e South Africa” as they waited impatiently for President Barack Obama to enter the University of Johannesburg’s auditorium in Soweto.

President Barack Obama addresses the gathering in Soweto on Saturday. Photo: Thuletho Zwane

President Barack Obama addresses the gathering in Soweto on Saturday. Photo: Thuletho Zwane

No you can’t, Obama

Outside the venue more students were singing, but a different tune: “No you can’t, Obama, no you can’t” shouted members of the ‘No You Can’t Coalition’. On their official twitter page the anti-Obama protesters said the US President would face “the mother of all protests” when he arrived in Soweto.

These vastly contrasting reactions to Obama’s visit have dominated the news headlines since the visit was officially announced more than a month ago.

Obama, on his first tour of Africa as President of the United States addressed an invited audience of young Africans, a number of whom were part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). There was not an anti-Obama person to be found in the auditorium.

Rubber bullets were fired

Outside the campus though, anti-Obama protesters clashed with the police. City Press reported that permission had been granted for a maximum of 120 protesters permission to assemble at the gates to the campus until 2pm. The protests soon turned violent with police firing rubber bullets at the protesters.[pullquote align=”right”]The USA under his leadership has escalated its assault on human rights.[/pullquote]

Brigadier Sally de Beer, spokesperson for the police’s Joint Operations Centre, told City Press the protesters “refused to disperse when asked to do so” and thus rubber bullets were fired.


Protesters outside the University of Johannesburg Campus clashed with police while the US President addressed an invited audience on the campus. Photo: Connie Nagiah

The ‘No You Can’t Coalition’ was organized by South Africa’s largest trade union confederation COSATU, the South African Communist Party (SACP), the South African Muslim Students Association (MSA) and Boycott Divestment Sanctions against Israel in South Africa (BDS South Africa).

In an official statement, BDS South Africa, a Palestinian non-governmental organization said they rejected Obama’s visit based on the USA’s arrogant, selfish and oppressive foreign policies.

“The USA under his leadership has escalated its assault on human rights, militarization of international relations and continuing guzzling of world resources at the expense of the environment and oppressed peoples of the world,” said BDS South Africa.

Hello, everybody! Yebo Mzansi!

Inside the auditorium invited guests were happily chatting, taking pictures and looking at their watches in anticipation.  “Hello, everybody! Yebo Mzansi!” said Obama as he took to the podium to address some burning African questions.

Obama said he was passionate about African growth and that although Africa faced great challenges these should not be ignored.

Guests enthusiastically photographing  themselves inside the auditorium where Obama spoke. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

Guests enthusiastically photographing themselves inside the auditorium where Obama was speaking. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

“I’m making this trip to Africa because I believe this is a region on the move.  Even as this continent faces great challenges — and they are great, and we can’t paper over them or pretend that those challenges don’t exist.”

Obama placed great emphasis on the youth being the key to a  stronger African continent and pledged his commitment to youth development. He said this was the reason behind him launching the Young African Leaders Initiative.

Yes, we can

“That’s why three years ago, I launched a new effort to make sure we’re tapping those qualities of youth — the imagination, the courage, the “yes, we can” attitude of young Africans like you.”


Protesters were eventually dispersed with rubber bullets. Photo: Connie Nagiah.

He stressed his commitment to skills development in Africa and announced a new initiative to further cultivate youth skills.  He said YALI would be expanded to introduce a new program called the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

The Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders will focus on civic leadership and public administration and business and entrepreneurship. He said these skills were important to nurture as they would help serve communities, start and grow businesses.

This programme will give young Africans the opportunity to go to the United States and develop their skills at American colleges and universities.

“I believe in you, and I intend to make this a lasting part of our engagement with Africa beyond my presidency, for years to come.”

During his address Obama gave special recognition Lebo Bogapan, Jacob Jabari, Khadija Patel(@khadijapatel) and Fred Swaniker for their contributions to building better futures for their respective communities.

It will not be easy

“So building the future that you seek, realizing the vision that you have, not just for your own countries but for the world — it will not be easy.  It will not be easy.”

Before the question and answer session Obama closed his speech off by encouraging the young audience to never lose faith, imagination, optimism and idealism.

[pullquote]young people are gonna be determining the future of the continent[/pullquote]

“Because the future of this continent is in your hands, and if you keep your head pointed towards the sun and you keep your feet moving forward, I promise you will have no better friend and partner than the United States of America.”

Robben Island

Before addressing young people at the University of Capetown (UCT),on Sunday,  Obama  along with his family visited the historical jail Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years.

SABC news reported that after touring the former prison, Obama and his wife Michelle signed a guest book in which Obama wrote:

“On behalf of our family we’re deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.”

More protests

At UCT  more protest actions from the ‘No You Can’t Coalition’ were underway. A noisy group of anti-US protesters chanted while , brandishing placards reading “Obama Zionist Puppet” and “Obama Mass Killer,”reported Eyewitness News.

 $7 billion

Obama said America needed to “step up their game”  when it came to Africa and he planned to bring together more American and African business leaders  to deepen engagements. “We’re going to start by investing $7 billion in U.S. government resources.”

He said a strong partnership between America and Africa  was an America vision which could empower people on the African continent.

“So this is America’s vision: a partnership with Africa that unleashes growth, and the potential of every citizen, not just a few at the very top.”

Mandela, Kennedy and Gandhi

During his address,Obama also encouraged young leaders to draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela,  Robert Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi’s life.  Obama said these icons stood as a challenge for him and for the younger generation.

“You get to decide where the future lies.Over 60 % of Africans are under 35 year old. Demographics mean young people are gonna be determining the future of the continent and this country. You’ve got the time and numbers on your side.”

STORIFY: Student protester’s injured in Obama rally

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Fossil find brings widespread coverage

Dr Jonah Choiniere shows Wits Vuvuzela a piece from the Wits palaeoscience department collection  at Wits.

Dr Jonah Choiniere shows Wits Vuvuzela a piece from the Wits palaeoscience department collection at Wits. Photo: Nolwazi Mjwara

When Dr Jonah Choiniere moved to South Africa last year his colleagues thought he was crazy. It was shortly after the Marikana massacre and media coverage of the incident painted a grim picture of the country.

Now the Wits senior researcher has made world headlines with a dinosaur fossil discovery bringing global recognition and extensive media coverage valued at R2.7 million in PR value according to Wits Marketing.

Choiniere was part of a team of international researchers who found a new species of meat-eating dinosaur in north-western China.

Choiniere said the dinosaur lived over 161-million years ago, during the late Jurassic Period, and it was younger than one year old when it died.

The researcher almost didn’t find the dinosaur.

“I had been walking all over the fossil; my footprints were all over it. It was only after we had returned [from the site] to examine the fossil that we realised we had something new,” he said.

Choiniere and the team named the dinosaur Aorun zhaoi after a character in the Chinese story Journey to the west .

Choiniere moved to South Africa from New York City in November 2012. He said: “So many people were surprised that I wanted to move here. Even South Africans themselves are always surprised.”

He said he moved just after the Marikana incident. The US media had reported the event in a sensationalised way and this made people caution Choiniere about his decision.

“The US media had reported that there were fires all over Johannesburg during and after Marikana. When we got here we realised this was false,” he said.

He said he had fallen in love with South African things like Ultra Mel custard, braais, Emmarentia dam and the friendliness of South Africans.

The George Washington University graduate is a senior researcher at the Bernard Price Institute at Wits.

“Wits’ Palaeoscience department is one of the best in the world … and I am not just saying that. The collection here is impressive,” Choiniere said.

Choiniere recently returned from Elliot in the Eastern Cape where he was called in to dig out another dinosaur fossil.

The researcher said he wished South Africans knew how rich their country was in terms of dinosaur fossils.

“South Africans should really feel proud of what they have here. Your country is rich and special in many ways,” he said.