Mixed reviews for new residence off campus

Students who moved into a new Wits residence had a nasty surprise when they learned they would have to pay for their own electricity.

Noswal Hall, located on Stiemens street in Braamfontein, opened as a student residence this year on February 1.

Students who expected to be offered the same services as other residences were left disappointed when they found out, upon moving in, that they would have to pay for their own electricity.

Tshepisang Mkhize, 3rd year BSc, told Wits Vuvuzela that if she had known she  would have to pay for her electricity, she would not have moved into Noswal.

“They’re giving us 150 units every month, and when that runs out we have to pay for it ourselves,” she said.

Mkhize said it would be difficult for bursary students to get money for electricity from their sponsors.

“Now we have to ask our parents for money and we’re already self-catering,” she said.

Wits Vuvuzela contacted the office of Wits Residence Life head Rob Sharman for comment but he did not reply.

That was not the only surprise Mkhize had when she moved in. On Saturday evening, Mkhize’s bachelor suite was flooded for four hours, after water came up through her shower drain.

“I heard a funny noise from the drain after my shower but I didn’t think anything of it because it always happened,” she said.

The dirty water, which had a “pungent smell that reeked through the bathroom”, soon spilled into her living space and around her bed.

According to Mkhize, plumbers had frequented the residence throughout the week as a lot of students in her wing had had problems with their toilets or showers.

In addition to the plumbing and electricity problems, Mkhize said she was unhappy with the size of her room and its layout.

“You have more space for your dishes than for your clothes, and there is a fridge in the cupboard,” she said.

Another resident, 3rd year LLB Gugu Khoza, shared Mkhize’s sentiments and had believed that Noswal would be a cushier residence like Wits Junction.

“It was quite underwhelming,” Khoza said.

[pullquote]”I heard a funny noise from the drain after my shower but I didn’t think anything of it because it always happened”[/pullquote]

Despite Noswal not meeting her expectations, Khoza still said that it was an improvement from her previous residence which was run by a private company.

She particularly liked the view of northern Johannesburg from her room on the 15th floor.

“It’s really beautiful especially at night,” she said.

Khoza’s roommate, third-year BSc Busi Mncube, said that she was content with the residence.

“Considering the fact that they worked as fast as they could so that we could move in now, they did a good job even though there’s a lot of stuff that still needs to be fixed,” Mncube said.

The gym facilities are still under construction, and students do not have access to the basement parking as yet, as ICAM is still processing student access to the res and the parking.

In the meantime, Mncube is parking her car at Men’s Res. Though she has to walk to Noswal at night, she feels safe because it is close to main campus and there is security.

“It’s the closest to campus and the security guards are quite strict,” she said.

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City crime spills onto campus

A recent spike in criminal activities in Braamfontein is spreading onto Wits’ main campus, according to Rob Kemp, head of Campus Control.

There have been at least 8 muggings at gunpoint in Braamfontein in the past few weeks, and 6 where dangerous weapons were used, according to statistics from the South African Police Service (SAPS).

On Tuesday, a female student was approached by two well-dressed male suspects near the Planetarium, who threatened her, apparently with a firearm, and took her cellphone.

Last month, Wits Vuvuzela reported a robbery apparently at gunpoint, at the science stadium while in March, two students were robbed at gunpoint outside the Cullen Library.

Kemp, said his biggest concern is that students are not aware that they could be targets of crime.

He said he wanted the Wits community to be streetwise without panicking. Lost or stolen student cards are a common way through which criminals gain access onto campuses and residences. ICAM is able to put a 24-hour block on lost cards if they are reported, and students do not have to pay to unblock them when they are found.

Some suspects also stand around turnstiles, asking students to give them access. Kemp said some of them tell “nice stories” to convince students that they are entering campus for good.

“I left my card in res, I’m rushing for a lecture can you please help,” he said as an example.

Spot checks for student cards are being conducted at bus stops. Campus Control investigations manager Michael Mahada said this is not done to “oppress or harass students”.

There is a proposal to fence the area around the bus stops to restrict access to circuit buses. However, he said it could be “very restrictive, very controlling, and we’re [sic] not sure how it would go down with our population.”

Campus Control plans to fill vacancies within the next two weeks to increase the number of officers on patrol. It has also budgeted for more staff next year, and plans to commission an extra reaction vehicle.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 20th edition, 17th August 2012.

 

Campus Control’s tips on staying safe

Avoid isolated areas on campus, including toilet facilities.  A student was recently robbed on his way out of a bathroom in the John Moffatt building. Kemp also advised students not to use empty tutorial or lecture rooms to study, they should rather find one that is already occupied.

Do not leave your valuables unattended in public places for any reason, for any length of time. The stranger next to you in the library that you ask to look after your laptop does not have to.

Do not leave your residence room unlocked, even to go to the bathroom down the corridor.

Keep cellphones and other mobile devices out of sight when on the road.

Ask to be escorted to your room or car if you are leaving campus late, and feeling unsafe. Camus control is available to escort Wits staff and students to Wits residences and car parks, and can be contacted on (011) 717-4444. Students living in Braam are urged to ask Urban Genesys security guards (dressed in green and beige uniforms) for escorting.

 

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