South Africa is in crisis. In a very short space of time, a dense fog of violence has engulfed the country, unleashing countless acts of gender-based violence and xenophobia that have unravelled the rainbow in our nation. At Wits Vuvuzela we have been moved to dedicate this issue to confronting these two ills.
We look forward to celebrating 20 years of democracy with mixed feelings.
There seems to be some erosion of democracy: attacks on the office of the public protector, criticisms of the judiciary and the independent media are among some concerns.
Twenty years ago, we were hungry for change and inspired by the freedom icon Nelson Mandela. There was an idealism in the air, a time of hope. Hope for the future. A bright future.
Many of the past freedom fighters, heroes who carried the dream of Freedom are no longer with us.
The death of Madiba together with endemic corruption is slowly killing our hope.
A number of parties campaigning for this year’s election are claiming that their manifestos will be the anecdote that will restore that hope and dream of the future.
We hope it’s not too late.
The youth’s attitude to these manifestos is cynical. Can you blame us? We, the not quite born-frees, born just before 1994, the early twenty ‘somethings’ are continuously disappointed.
We are not experiencing the patriotism and pride, we feel we should. We have been disappointed countless times by our leaders who act without any accountability, for example the recent Nkandlagate scandal.
There is nothing compelling in the country, nothing impressive, that induces patriotism, for us youth. Look at the huge unemployment figures for youth in the country.
We would like to believe however that hope is still buried in our hearts, somewhere, waiting to be released.
We want to believe that no matter how bleak it may all seem, change is possible.
We want to believe that our freedom was not fought for in vain and because of that we will celebrate these past two decades as though they are our last.
We want to reminisce on all the wonderful tales that narrate South Africa’s long walk to freedom.
We want to cross our fingers and hope that we choose wisely at the polls, but above all we need to remember that this country is ours. What it becomes in the next two decades is our responsibility.
Mark Twain once said “Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it”.
We hope that in the next 20 years we will confidently say that we strived and worked together for a democracy that South Africa deserves.
BEING part of a newsroom has always reminds one of “the pit” at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Picture hundreds of suited-up brokers screaming into telephones, betting frantically on stocks. It’s all very similar to a room full of journalists hustling to get the latest scoop, the most updated version of a story, fighting to make deadline – except they’re dressed in baggy T-shirts, jeans and trainers. [pullquote]”Radio stations, newspapers, TV and glossy magazines are all biting off pieces of flesh from this meaty beat, as if nothing else in the world matters.”[/pullquote]
But this week, this much-anticipated week, the week of Oscar’s trial, is the week that will send journos reeling in a frenzy as they try to outdo rival publications and show up their colleagues.
Coverage of the trial is unavoidable. Even if you don’t care, which we doubt is possible, information on the trial is all around us. Twitter is looking as mundane and repetitive as ever as the press tweet about proceedings, being re-tweeted over and over again.
Radio stations, newspapers, TV and glossy magazines are all biting off pieces of flesh from this meaty beat, as if nothing else in the world matters. [pullquote align=”right”]”Could Oscar’s fate be sold on the market as “stock”? At this rate, we wouldn’t be surprised.”[/pullquote]
The Oscar trail is the biggest thing to hit South African media since Mandela’s death and we all want to know what is happening, as it happens. There were even rumours of people taking time off work to watch the case live on the specialist television channel created for the trial.
The tabloids have worn out every pun that could ever apply, advertisers are thinking up witty campaigns, comedians are sitting tight as material just flows seamlessly into their gags and we are raising bets on the outcome.
Could Oscar’s fate be sold on the market as “stock”? At this rate, we wouldn’t be surprised.
The times of waiting for the day to come to an end then receiving a comprehensive news article about what happened, are gone. WE WANT LIVE UPDATES!
We want to know everything because, boy, do we love drama! We are all in this together, all swimming in this giant pool filled with hashtags, sensational headlines, pictures and “he said-she saids”.
And how ironic! With the 86th Oscar awards ceremony taking place in the early hours of Monday morning, we couldn’t have asked for a better fix of drama in one day.
But just how dramatic can this trial really get? Media are going to have to hope for an elephant stampede or an acrobatic show if they want to keep us on the edge of our seats. Tweets like: “#Pistorius drinks water from a bottle, his left hand trembling” are just not going to cut it.
Wits Vuvuzela is not covering the Oscar trial as we thought our readers were, as it is, already spoiled for choice. At the end of the day what will be, will be. The outcome will remain whether we follow the trial or not.
In the meantime the media will try its best to put on a good show as the JSE continues to promise to make you money.
It starts with some subtle courting, then a proposal for a dinner date. You plan the outfit carefully a week before, pick the right shoes and accessories? The day before you get a call to confirm your date, along with it an sms that night saying: “I’m really looking forward to our date tomorrow, sleep tight.”[pullquote]”We continue to show up, allow ourselves to trust, to hope and make our mark.”[/pullquote]
You arrive on time –15 minutes before, in fact, just to be safe. You ask for a table right in the middle of the restaurant so your date can spot you immediately and so that the two of you can be seen. After an hour you start to worry, your call is met by voicemail, you text incessantly but in vain. You start to notice patrons whispering about you.
The waiter is optimistic, says he’ll arrive any minute now. The manager has seen this happen before. She is sure you’ve been stood up and should probably just head home. She comes over and says: “These things never work out, don’t do it again.” After waiting 2 and 1/2 hours you admit defeat and head home, maybe it will work out next time, you think.
Voting in our beloved country has become much like the above scenario for many discouraged South Africans. We continue to show up, allow ourselves to trust, to hope and make our mark. Only the other side doesn’t show up. They leave us all dressed up with nowhere to go.
The upcoming elections present an opportunity to make our voices heard, or so they say. There are millions of voices trying to have their say, our government can only do so much, right? They may listen but it’s hard to believe they actually hear us. My generation has only just entered the arena as citizens with a voice, but already so many of us are weighed down by an overwhelming apathy because of the disconnect we can see in the promises made and the promises kept. [pullquote align=”right”]”We don’t have the answers, we may never have them. They don’t have them either…”[/pullquote]
We fill our heads with countless readings, hours of roundtable discussions and engage with one another on the interwebs trying to find a way. Just trying to find someone and something to believe in, someone and something bigger than the various constraints of our supposed privilege and contrasting poverty. There’s not much consensus between our leaders and us, the youth and the future. We don’t believe their lies, but we know it’s all part of a bigger game – if they don’t do it someone else will. We don’t believe there’s any point in choosing the lesser evil either, picking a side just to pick a side. The whole thing smells like a convoluted fishy mess to me.
But what choice do we have? If we keep quiet, we’ll have to watch it all burn. If we make a spoiled mark we may be accused of dishonouring those who shed blood to give us this right. If we agree to just pick a side as an act of “democracy”, we would willingly be hopping aboard “The Assimilation”, a ship destined for failure.
We don’t have the answers, we may never have them. They don’t have them either but they think they do. We have a choice to make, an important one.
It’s up to us to make the one that says the plan isn’t working, one that says let’s revise the plan, let’s turn the plan on its head if need be.
Our inked thumbnails do mean something and will mean something either good or bad for those to come. As the architect in the Matrix said: “Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”
Emotions are at an all time high, tempers are flaring and stress levels are increasing by the day. It’s crunch time for every student in South Africa, finishing off a year of studies and although some might be happy that it’s coming to an end and December is just around the corner, others are sad to be leaving and to be handing over the conch to the next bunch.
Team Vuvu is made up of 17 students who have become so close to each other that sharing food, fights and bodily gases has become an everyday norm. We have become a family.
Like every family, ours comes with problems, metaphorical divorces, abortions, marriages and births. We’ve been through it all.
This last paper was not compulsory for us but Team Vuvu decided we just couldn’t leave our faithful fans hanging high and dry without one more edition to wet the holiday appetite.
It has been a busy year to say the least. If we were not knee deep in issues of sexual harassment, we were quarrelling with the SRC, the PYA, the legal office and even the Vice Chancellor. But after the tears had dried, the fists had dropped and the ink had settled nicely onto the pages, they all became part of the family too.
Our message, dear reader, is that whatever your experience has been this year, whoever you loved, hated, beat up or built up, we hope those experiences and people are ones that have changed you for the better, expanded your mind and helped you grow.
In closing this chapter in life you are inclined to reflect and wonder if those New Years’ resolutions were actually accomplished. Looking back we would like to think that this years’ Team Vuvu made some kind of mark at Wits and helped improve things on campus.
Well, we did bag a Vice Chancellor’s team award for transformation.
Apart from the award we look back at 2013 as the year Wits students had their say, the year a number of burning issues were exposed and the year we became addicted to coffee. We bid you farewell, dear reader, and hope that next years’ Team Vuvu will not drop the spirit stick and keep the journalistic passion alive.
Last week we took a decision to change the colour of our masthead to a bright pink. This was done to celebrate Women’s Day. Just a small token on our part.
The public holiday was spent with some people attending high teas, getting breakfast in bed or perhaps a bunch of flowers. For Team Vuvu, however, it was spent in the Limpopo heat, deciding which band to listen to.
The only signs of Women’s Day at this year’s Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast festival were in the random shout-outs by artists and bands on stage.
Maybe the signs were all around us: women were drinking their livers dead, laden with dirt and screaming their lungs out, with no visible judgment against them. We saw a beautiful lesbian couple wrapped in each other’s arms, listening to Bongeziwe Mabandla’s set on the top of a hill.
They epitomised some of the freedom women enjoy today.
The Wits Vuvuzela team exercised their own kind of freedom. We pitched our tent where we wanted, showered when we could and got to pick and choose from some of the best performers the festival has ever seen. [pullquote align=”right”]We left on a high note, having experienced something new and survived the wilderness.[/pullquote]
The experience was soured by a minor racist incident, something we had been waiting for. What we hadn’t anticipated was that it would come from a tiny hipster-looking girl. Looks can be deceiving like that.
Oppikoppi has a reputation for being an Afrikaans rock festival, but that in no way describes the entire festival. The programme was defined by diversity.
We watched a set done entirely in isiXhosa, swayed to the “indie-bele” sounds of ShortStraw and danced like we were on Jika Majika when Mi Casa and Zakes Bantwini performed. We didn’t even get to attend half the things on offer.
We left on a high note, having experienced something new and survived the wilderness.
Back to reality
On the way back, reality sent shivers down our spines when we drove past a sign marking the entrance to Marikana. Today marks the one-year anniversary of what is now called the Marikana massacre, in which 34 families lost fathers, brothers, sons and husbands.
Under apartheid, we had a police force that we believe was put in place to drive fear into the hearts of people. Post-1994, we expected a police service that would serve and protect its people. On August 16 2012, we started to question whether we don’t perhaps have a police force instead of a police service.
Driving past the place where so much blood was split and where people are still being killed brought us back to the “real” South Africa. The one beyond the 20 000 people choosing to slum it for the experience, and pretending to get along despite the drunken slurs.
- Wits Vuvuzela. OPPIKOPPI: Made it out alive. August 11, 2013.
- Wits Vuvuzela. STORIFY: Oppikoppi reaches its zenith. August 11, 2013.
- Wits Vuvuzela. Same music, different people. August 10, 2013.
It has been an eventful year at our university and Wits Vuvuzela has been part of it every step of the way. The story of the 17 dismissed chefs and the Wits academic strike were two of the major news events for us in a year that saw our team tackle the demands of digital journalism while continuing to expand our skills in the print environment.
The May 11 #newvuvu launched in celebration of Wits 90 ran a lead story on thousands of Wits res students who cancelled their dining hall meals in support of 17 unfairly dismissed chefs.
Wits Vuvuzela took the lead in covering the story, going beyond the labour dispute to the heart of the story revealing the personal circumstances of the people affected. We continue to cover this story in order to bring home the realities of unemployment in our country.
In August our online paper received 13 729 hits due to our coverage of the Wits academic strike.
Lecturers were striking after Wits failed to meet their demand of a 9% salary increase among other demands. Lectures were cancelled and Wits Vuvuzela production was postponed as its core readership, the students of Wits University, stood in solidarity with the lecturers. Given its proximity to the site of the strike Wits Vuvuzela was the first to break the news of the academic strike online.
Using social media to expand our reach has been a major achievement of the #newvuvu team of 2012. Wits Vuvuzela continues to exploit Twitter and Facebook in addition to other digital tools like curation and blogging in an effort to reach readership beyond the university and the community of Braamfontein.
Picture by Bafana Mahlangu for Sunday World
In the wake of the Lonmin massacre, South African political “leaders” came crawling out the woodwork, just as predictably as the tow trucks arrive as soon as there is a car accident.
They slithered out of their luxury sedans, surrounded by bodyguards, prepping their insincere, disingenuous speeches on their iPads, breathing in the desperation and tragedy that surrounded them thinking only one thing: good time to earn brownie points and point fingers at my enemies.
Of course there will be an investigation. Probably with a dedicated paid team, which will then have a sub-committee, which will then hold endless meetings without coming to any conclusion that will bring back the dead or even prevent something similar from happening in the future.
Where are our leaders? Where are our voices of reason who can guide us through the difficult political, social and economic times? They do not have to be any particular race, religion or speak any specific language, but they need to have the needs of the entire country as their main focus. I would argue that there is not one single leader in SA at the moment that has our best interests at heart and is willing to act to make them so.
We are now sitting with “leaders” who prioritise making profits off tenders over delivering textbooks. “Leaders” who have kept at one point three corrupt police chiefs employed while they exhaust the legal system with endless retrials and legal challenges.
Perhaps the reason the whole country idolises Madiba to the point of deification is because we have no one to look up to after he’s gone. While no one ever had to reach the standard he set, the fact that no one has even come close is a sad prospect for the youth of our country.
Last week Friday, thought leaders came together for the Ruth First memorial lecture. Not one, ANC-inclined included, praised the wonderful, strong leadership in our country. In fact, a lot of discussion revolved around where it even was.
As university students we have an incredibly important role in our country’s future, and if no one from the generation above us is going to take the mantle of balanced, controlled, and inspired leadership, we will have to mould into them ourselves without any guidance.
This week we will have a new SRC. Let us hold them up to the standard we expect from our country’s leadership. Hopefully they will turn into the kinds of leaders we can be proud of who will lead us into a future where political mileage isn’t gained out of tragedy.
The 2012 London Olympics have ended, the fancy fireworks all burnt and all the medals won.
The reality of what the various Olympic athletes achieved is still fresh in our minds. Michael Phelps became the greatest Olympian ever, bringing his medal tally to 22; Usain Bolt retained his 200m and his 100m sprint titles and Barbora Spotakova retained her 2008 javelin gold medal.
For the first time in Olympic history all 205 participating countries had female athletes in their squads.
South Africa brought home more medals than we did since readmission in 1992. But this victory masks a failure in South African sport: the medals we missed.
South African Sports Confederation and Committee (SASCOC) president Gideon Sam was quoted as saying at an Olympic level when a medal is up for grabs an athlete should take it.
Javelin athlete Sunette Viljoen missed her medal by centimetres and silver medallist Khotso Mokoena missed his medal by four jumps. The same thing happened to mountain biker Burry Stander. These athletes were the best in their division.
South Africa was ranked 23rd in the medal tally with countries like the Czech Republic and Jamaica ranked higher despite their squads being smaller. The majority of our medals from past and recent Olympic Games came from our swimmers.
Development and funding are given as reasons our athletes failed to achieve their full potential at the Olympics. The hockey teams, for example, had to secure their own funding to participate.
Sports minister Fikile Mbalula told SABC news the South African athletes had received enough money.
But looking at the medal results one can say that more money is pumped into individual sports than team sports such as hockey. Our only medal in a team sport came from rowing.
Yes, the medal tally is the highest in 20 years. Yes, we have more medals than any other African country. But is it enough? Can we improve on this achievement in Rio 2016?
We have the teams and we have the athletes to deliver more medals in four years’ time. Let’s hope the funding and planning plays ball.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 20th Edition, 17 August 2012
For the first time in the university’s history Wits academic and support staff unions have collectively embarked on industrial action against Wits management over salaries and a range of other grievances.
Union members marched through Braamfontein in colourful academic robes and with yellow cards giving a “final warning” to Wits management to bring a “meaningful” resolution to their demands.
“Seriously? That never happened in MY day! Times certainly are a-changin’!” was an alumna’s response to a tweet that it is not students who are protesting.
Wits management has seldom capitulated to the demands of protesters in the last few years, cementing the impression that it is unyielding.
As testament, the SRC and other student organisations celebrated a simple address by the Vice Chancellor during their hunger strike as “a victory” while the 17 Royal Mnandi dismissed chefs remained at home.
The unions have strongly suggested that Wits’ budget surplus, in excess of R100 million last year, should be dispensed in their fridges and savings accounts instead of the university’s capital projects and savings.
Wits however needs to guarantee its future as an institution and has argued that budget holders, including some union members, do not spend all the money they are allocated annually.
While Wits Vuvuzela acknowledges that the budget-deficit situation is more complex, it equally acknowledges that management has defaulted on its 10-year-old promise to pay academics at the 75th percentile, while investing heavily in its ambition to achieve top 100 status within the next 10 years.
The first protest was held on a freezing Friday afternoon last month, when around 150 staff members lined the entrance of the Senate House basement parking, heckling Council members as they drove in for a scheduled meeting.
Council chair Sakumzi Macozoma arrived in a R1.4-million Audi R8. He has other lucrative business interests but the contrast of his wealth with the demands of union members was notable.
Wits Vuvuzela believes that management should take decisive steps to show Wits staff their investment in this institution can earn them a mild semblance of Macozoma’s wealth. More importantly, they should not have to protest in the cold or threaten to strike to get their demands, even though these give us great stories.
Published in Vuvuzela, 16th edition, 20th July 2012.
Update: 30th July 2012
The retraction below was published in Vuvuzela, 17th edition, 27th July 2012:
Owing to confusion arising from last week’s editorial, Wits Vuvuzela would like to clarify that Wits Council chair Mr Saki Macozoma does not receive a salary from Wits University.
Vice Chancellor’s statement on protest – Wits University
Protest at Wits University – Sowetan Live
South Africans are still waiting for tangible promises from their president. With each year’s State of the Nation Address, there is hope that things will change for the best.
As we go to print, the President Jacob Zuma will most likely be in the midst of his 2012 address, but let’s reflect on the previous years:
The State of the Nation Address provides the president with a platform to communicate with the Parliament – and, as importantly, with the people of South Africa.
Opposition parties have criticised Zuma for making empty promises every year. Even though he failed to keep his promise of making 2011 “the year of jobs”, our president does keep some of his promises.
In his address at the ANC’s 99th anniversary celebration in Polokwane last year, Zuma introduced a scheme which entailed students having their NSFAS (National Students Financial Aid Scheme) loans converted into a bursary that wouldn’t need to be repaid.
Yes, he kept his promise as most students that passed all their courses didn’t have to repay their loans in their final year.
Education is the key to success; government should therefore ensure that our children get quality education. Pupils worked hard to pass their matric but they couldn’t enrol at most universities as there was limited space.
The example of the the mother of a prospective University of Johannesburg student who died in a stampede that saw 20 other people injured is symbolic of the limited access to higher education.
The State of the Nation Address coincides with that part of the academic calendar when first years are still finding their feet at varsity.
These students will soon be looking for employment but their chances of finding it are still slim. Unemployment is still a problem in South Africa; our president must ensure that he puts job creation strategies in place.
Converting a loan into a bursary is pointless if a graduate is unable to find employment after leaving the university.
In light of May being ‘Worker’s month’, I think we are ending it off on a rather victorious note given that the Wits director whose alleged racist remarks led to a multitude of protests by outsourced workers will have a disciplinary hearing on the matter. Cleaners may be thought to be lower in the job market, but they matter and affect our lives through their service for meagre pay, occasional advice and, often, a friendly smile.
I must express, I quiver at the thought that our great institution – Wits University- may regress to the amoral occurrences such as those against the cleaning staff at the University of the Free State a few years back, which is why this victory is not only for those who stood in protest this month but also for every member of our community committed to maintaining and further elevating the world-class reputation our university has.
Violence against women is also touched on this week. We cover allegations of rape and a reported Peeping Tom in the female toilets; and of course the protest against Naked News, which saw women take a stand against what they viewed as undignified work.
Winter is upon us bringing with it mid-year exams, and loads of work to catch up on in preparation. Life is work itself and in every way possible you adjust and keep pushing yourself to ensure all the effort you put in works for you. The Vuvuzela team wish you all great success in your exams as we sign off on the month that celebrates our labours.
We’ve got a special treat for you… a light at the end of the dark tunnel that was the SAMAs. Grab your free coupon on our front page giving you R30 off the entrance fee to SAMA award winner Nomsa Mazwai’s performance at the Baseline this evening.
Till next semester,Adiós!