Shivambu calls for a “proper vice chancellor” at Wits

Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters visited Wits University yesterday to show their support for the suspended Wits EFF and students. The organisation is planning to take the university to court over the suspensions.

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SUPPORT FOR THE SUSPENDED: Protestors made themselves heard yesterday in Senate House as they took a stand aginst the suspension of 7 Wits students last week. Photo: Tanisha Heiberg.

Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have stepped in to assist members of the suspended Wits branch and in the process, have called for a “proper vice chancellor”, at Wits University. EFF deputy president, Floyd Shivambu, together with national chairperson, Advocate Dali Mpofu, visited the campus yesterday and declared that the suspension of seven Wits students, and their elimination from this year’s SRC (Student Representative Council) elections, will be challenged in court. 

Speaking to EFF supporters in Senate House, Shivambu declared that Wits vice chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, will not last much longer. “ I can assure you he is not staying here for a very long time”, he said.

“This university must get a proper vice chancellor, which is going to protect the students and make sure that the interests of students are at the forefront and not about themselves only”, he said. “You can’t disqualify students on the basis of your own imagination.” 

“He removes SRC presidents (referring to Mcebo Dlamini), he charges students as he wishes without a proper process, and we must never allow such to happen. That is why we say that Habib, and all who support him, must fall,” said the former Witsie.

Shivambu went on to say that EFF will be lodging an urgent court interdict this morning. Through this they hope to compel Habib to allow all students to stand for elections if they are candidates.

The protest was arranged and attended by members of Wits Men’s Res. Vuyani Pambo, president of the now suspended Wits EFF, and one of the students suspended was also in attendance.

Shivambu ended his address by saying, “We must continue to fight together and unite even from all political parties, unite and defend students”.

Ruth First remembered through race talk

The 14th annual Ruth First Memorial Lecture stirred up some heated discussion on racism in post-1994 South Africa.

OPEN PANEL: Eusebius McKaiser,  Panashe Chigumadzi and Sisonke Msimang discussing issues in their research with the audience.  Photo: Samantha Camara

RACE TALK: From left, Eusebius McKaiser moderates a debate about race with Panashe Chigumadzi, middle, and Sisonke Msimang at the 2015 Ruth First Memorial Lecture at Wits University tonight. Photo: Samantha Camara

Frank, and often hard-hitting, observations and commentary characterised the 2015 Ruth First Memorial Lecture as Panashe Chigumadzi and Sisonke Msimang tackled the issue of race in South Africa.

Speaking to an audience of close to a thousand in the Wits Great Hall earlier this evening, Chigumadzi and Msimang, the two Ruth First fellows, reflected on their research around the theme: “Race: Lived Experiences and Contemporary Conversations”.

Chigumadzi, 23, the founder and editor of Vanguard Magazine, presented her work which explored the concept of a “coconut”.

“Coconut experiences are not new,” added Chigumadzi, “Tiyo Soga (a South African journalist and minister from the 1800s), might have been the first black coconut.” In unpacking the term, Chigumadzi said a “coconut” is an “experience of socialisation which leads to a knowledge of white grammar.”

[READ Chigumadzi’s full address]

Despite the many negative connotations attached to the term, Chigumadzi believes “coconuts” can achieve black consciousness.

For Chigumadzi, also a Wits postgraduate student, the language of black consciousness and critical race theory helps to empower “coconuts” to speak back to racism.

“Coconuts” have not been coopted as a white buffer but are joining the Black working class in struggle against racism, she explained.

Presenting her research on “interracial friendships”, Msimang choose the mechanism of performance to deliver her findings. In collaboration with celebrated artist Lebo Mashile, Msimang reflected on the nuances of race relations in South Africa.

Incorporating racialised headline news stories such as Rian Malan’s admission to sex with a domestic worker to the incident of “black face”  at the University of Pretoria, the entertaining performance probed the serious topic of “interracial friendships.”

[READ Msimang’s full address]

Their piece ended on a less than promising note with the conclusion, “with friends like these, who needs enemies?”.

A discussion, moderated by political commentator and author, Eusebius McKaiser, saw a number of mixed responses and questions from the audience. One person questioned why the event was named after Ruth First and not Robert Sobukwe. Another criticised the speakers, asking how long were they planning to be “victims”. Several audience members recounted their own experiences of Blackness and their difficulties in negotiating the issue of race in South Africa.

The event, commemorating the life of journalist and activist Ruth First, who was killed by a letter bomb on this day in 1982, opened with an address by a scholar from Jeppe High School which First attended as a child. Susan Mahingaidze paid tribute to First and acknowledged her contribution to South Africa. “Words cannot describe what a remarkable woman she was,” said Mahingaidze.

[VIEW a Facebook album of photographs from the event]

Wits distances itself from review of Dlamini’s guilty verdict

Wits University has responded to requests from the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), and the former Student Representative Council (SRC) president, Mcebo Dlamini, to speed up the process of review of Dlamini’s case.   

Wits University has distanced itself from the review of the guilty verdict on charges of misconduct against former Student Representative Council (SRC) president, Mcebo Dlamini. This is according to a letter sent to the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) from the office of the Wits vice chancellor Professor Adam Habib, which Wits Vuvuzela has seen.

Habib was responding to calls made by the PYA during a march on main campus on Monday, May 11. One of the demands made by the group was that the review of Dlamini’s case be moved to this Friday, May 15.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, Wits University spokesperson Shirona Patel said the review is being handled by an “independent panel” and the university will distance itself from the actual process.

Patel told Wits Vuvuzela that “it is not up to the Legal Office to make such a decision,” but the review committee. Patel could not say who constituted the review committee.

In the letter sent from Habib’s office, the university says it supports the request to speed up the process of the review and adds that “a request to this effect has already been made to the Chair of the Review Committee”. It further states that “if the Review Committee finds in favour of Mr Dlamini, he will be reinstated as SRC President”.

Dlamini was recalled as President on May 4, following an announcement from the vice chancellor’s office. Earlier this year, the former SRC president was found guilty of misconduct but allowed to remain in his position by the vice chancellor pending a review of the case.

Last week, though, the vice chancellor announced that he was reversing this decision as it appeared to Habib, that Dlamini was intentionally delaying the review process.

Dlamini has said that his legal team has contacted the Wits Legal Office to demand that the review of his case be held by this Friday.

He told Wits Vuvuzela that it was now the university who was delaying the date of his review and with exams in less than a month, he would like to “exonerate” himself and prepare for his exams.

Witsies divided over Dlamini

WHAT'S IN A NAME?: Mcebo Dlamini says the #Sisulu controversy did not affect his political standing.  Photo: Luca Kotton

DEEP DIVISION: Witsies remain divided over the reasons for the axing of SRC President Mcebo Dlamini. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela.

There have been mixed reactions at Wits University the removal of the SRC (Student Representative Council) president Mcebo Dlamini by the vice chancellor, Adam Habib last week.

Wits University found itself at the centre of the nation’s attention last week as a result of the comments made by Wits SRC president, Mcebo Dlamini. But on campus, student reactions were divided over the reasons for the subsequent axing of Dlamini.

The announcement, signed by the vice chancellor (VC) regarding Dlamini’s removal was sent through the Wits email system to all members of the Wits community, earlier this week. According to the statement though, Dlamini’s “I Love Hitler” post on Facebook, was not the reason for Dlamini’s removal. Instead, the email said, the decision was based on the fact that “Mr Dlamini was found guilty of misconduct”.

Despite the vice chancellor’s clarification about the reasons for the dismissal, many students remain sceptical.

Mzwanele Ntswanti, 3rd year Actuarial Science, does not believe that the sacking of Dlamini is a “coincidence” as it followed after the Hitler statement.

A 3rd year BSc student, who did not want to be named, told Wits Vuvuzela that he is aware of the reasons behind Dlamini’s sacking.

But added, “I highly disapprove of the vice chancellors decision to depose our democratically elected student representative.”

“Wits University is not an autocracy nor is it a high school where student representatives are appointed and sacked by one person,” he said.

Tom Dodson, 3rd year Bachelor of Arts, agrees with the VC’s decision to remove Dlamini. “A lot of the statements that he (Dlamini) made, made a lot of sense.”

However, Dodson said, “if you going represent the entire student community … You’ve really gotta think a lot harder about what you say and how you say it”.

Thembelihle Mbalu, told Wits Vuvuzela that she “supports the Habib’s decision without reservation” because Dlamini is “very defiant”.

“Mcebo was long overdue as our President.” She added, “he has been irrelevant in his addresses to students, talking about bias issues and narrow-minded opinions.”

Nivek Ranjith, a 2nd year Computer Science student, thinks the way that the VC announced Dlamini’s removal was “rude”.

“The way he did it, they gave so much detail … you can’t expose him like that,” Ranjith said.

 

SRC president defends his comments in the media

In interviews with eNCA and 702, the Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini defended his facebook comments about Adolf Hitler that he made over the weekend.

SRC President Mcebo Dlamini at Wits University outside the Great Hall. Photo: Tendai Dube

SRC President Mcebo Dlamini at Wits University outside the Great Hall. Photo: Tendai Dube

The Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini defended his comments about admiring Adolf Hitler, on eNCA and 702 talk radio this morning.
This comes after Dlamini caused controversy this weekend after he posted a Facebook picture that compares Adolf Hitler with Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu along with the caption, “In every white person there is an element of Adolf Hitler’. Later on in the comments of the same facebook post he says, “I love Adolf Hitler”.

“I admire Adolf Hilter’s style of leadership, he made a nation rally behind him.”

The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) said that Dlamini’s statements were “racist” and “anti-Semitic, constituting hate speech according to the South African constitution.” The union added that the SRC president’s behaviour was a violation of his leadership role and a “total embarrassment and disgrace to Wits University.”
Despite this outcry from the Jewish community on campus, Dlamini said that he is shocked by the by the response from the white community, “If indeed the Israelites hate Hitler so much…why are they emulating Hitler in that they are subjecting the Palestinian children to discrimination, segregation and human indignity?” is what he told News24 in an interview today

Earlier this morning Dlamini speaking to The Redi Tlhabi Show on 702 and explained that there are good leaders who turn bad,“I admire Adolf Hilter’s style of leadership, he made a nation rally behind him.”
Tlhabi questioned whether Dlamini’s same theory and leadership outlook, extended to Apartheid.
Dlamini said, “Apartheid was well orchestrated it had good leaders to implement it… that is why it lasted so long.”

When asked about his statement by 702’s Tlhabi, that every white person has “an element of Adolf Hitler”, Dlamini defended his comment saying that Hilter put black people in a “zoo” the same way white people did.
“That’s why I’m saying there is an element of Hitler in all white people, what is the difference between George Bush… Tony Blair …Malan…Benjamin Netanyahu and Adolf Hitler?”
“They are all white and hate black people.”

“A black man can’t be racist…racism is power…I don’t have power”

Whilst talking to the eNCA, Dlamini said “A black man can’t be racist…racism is power…I don’t have power”
The SRC president explained to eNCA anchor, Joanne Joseph, that white people have blood on their hands because white people colonised, dispersed and enslaved black people.
“They are racist and are full of hate.”

The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) said that Dlamini’s statements were “racist” and “anti-Semitic, constituting hate speech according to the South African constitution.” The union added that the SRC president’s behaviour was a violation of his leadership role and a “total embarrassment and disgrace to Wits University.”
Despite this outcry from the Jewish community on campus, Dlamini said that he is shocked by the by the response from the white community: “If indeed the Israelites hate Hitler so much…why are they emulating Hitler in that they are subjecting the Palestinian children to discrimination, segregation and human indignity?” according to News24.

Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Adam Habib, has since released a statement saying that the Facebook posts and subsequent comments are racist and offensive.
‘It violates the fundamental values of Wits University… we expect our officials to be circumspect in their utterances and to act within the values of the institution.”

Xenophobia: not in our name!

WE ARE ALL AFRICANS: All Wits students, united outside the Wits Great Hall stairs to send a message.

WE ARE ALL AFRICANS: All Wits students, united outside the Wits Great Hall stairs to send a message against xenophobia. Photo: Sinikiwe Mqadi

Today, Wits students led by vice chancellor, Prof Adam Habib, and the Student Representative Council marched around campus, singing songs of liberation in solidarity with those affected by the recent xenophobic attacks.

Over a 1 000 Wits students walked from Wits International House to the Great Hall, some in green t-shirts that read “I AM Africa” and placards that  with anti-xenophobic messages.

In welcoming the crowd general secretary of the SRC, Senzekahle Mbokazi,  described the presence of the Wits students as “overwhelming”.

“Today, I lift up my head when I look at the Wits community”

Habib described the past two weeks for South Africa as “shameful” but today he stood proud to be part of the Wits community.

“Today, I lift up my head when I look at this community,” he said. “Because Wits has stood together and said not in our name”.

“It is fundamental that this university serves Africa,” said Habib.

Elvis Munatswa, a Wits student who was physically attacked recently inside the taxi on his way home from Wits by four men including the driver, also addressed the crowd while standing on crutches.

“I stand here well, attending a few session for physiotherapy just to get my leg on track,” he said. “But I am skeptical of using a taxi.”

Munatswa told the crowd his attack not occurred only because he is a Zimbabwean.

“If they didn’t like me for any other reasons other than my nationality, they would’ve kicked me out of the taxi,” said Munatswa. His attackers took his belongings, including a laptop and wallet, before throwing him out of his taxi. .

“The march has reflected a positive side of South Africa that he hasn’t seen in recent weeks”

Ayofunde Awosusi, the president of West African Student Society at Wits, said the march has reflected a positive side of South Africa that he hasn’t seen in recent week.

“From the foreign student perspective [the march] gives us hope,” he said. “Even though it doesn’t make us feel safe or better but it has the general vibe of what South Africa is about.”

But Awosusi believes a lot needs to be done, and one of them is “constructive measures to make sure that foreign students are safe on and off campus.”

For Midred Airo, the chairperson of the East African student society, the message that Witsies needed to take home after the march was that “violence is not the answer”.

“Tell your brother and sister to stop violence” said Airo.

Wits students are expected to join the Peoples’ March against xenophobia tomorrow, at 1pm. Over 30 000 people are expected to march from Pieter Roos Park in Hillbrow and end at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg.

Habib said in an email to the Wits community that staff and students could be excused from university work to attend the march. Buses would also be provided from Wits campus to Pieter Roos Park for marchers. Four buses would depart at noon and another four at 12.30 PM from the Amic Deck.

Buses would also be provided for students returning from Newtown at 4pm and again at 4.30pm.