Wits Alumni Momo Matsunyane is a theatre practioner, actress, director and the co founder of the comedy sketch group, Thenx.
THENX BATHONG: Wits Alumni Momo Matsunyane is a theatre practioner, actress, director and the co founder of the comedy sketch group, Thenx. Photo: Michelle Gumede
What is Thenx??
Thenx is a sketch comedy group which was created in 2008. We wanted to create a voice for ourselves through which we could address pertinent socio-economic and political issues affecting us as the youth.
What’s the one thing you hate about Thenx/directing/acting?
It can be very demanding when we hit a creativity block while in process, but somehow the work is always ready on time. There’s also the desire to tell your story in the best way possible in order for it to affect your audience in the most successful way – that’s why sometimes when an idea isn’t coming together it can be very frustrating.
Your last piece Kulneck was controversial, was that the intention?
Yes. Otherwise why are doing this? We need to remember though that it’s not just about controversy, the play was addressing some touchy issues about race, women, relationships, poverty and religion. These are things that everyone talks about and the play brought them to the surface, we weren’t trying to sugar-coat anything. We wanted to make people uncomfortable get them to deal with these issues. That’s the main function of art, to make us question life and the systems that govern us, as well as to get people talking and probing.
Can you tell us about this new genre you are pioneering?
It’s not really a new genre but more a hybrid of stand-up and sketch – it was meant for the show Kulneck which ran at POPArt Theatre. I was trying to package the show in a way that would slightly differ from the conventional methods we have seen with stand-up comedy performances. It’s interesting, however, that a lot of the audience felt like they hadn’t seen something like that before so maybe it’s a bit futuristic.
The arts scene in SA is struggling and artists aren’t taken seriously. How do we, as a country correct this?
It’s so disheartening to see artists battling similar challenges to those they fought against 20 years ago. I’m realising that artists need to start taking themselves more seriously. By that I mean, we need to stop doing work for free in the name of exposure. The industry needs to regulate who can act and who can’t by establishing whether people are qualified to be in this field. In the same way that I can’t wake up one day and decide to perform heart surgery on a patient as I’m not a qualified surgeon.
How do you choose to take up a role?
It needs to appeal to my aims as an artist and affirm what I stand for artistically, whilst adding value to my craft. At times, one ends up taking work for the sake of putting food on the table due to the increase in non-performers who get more work than qualified ones because they’re ‘cheaper’ or more popular on social media.
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The deadline for students who signed the waiver form is fast approaching, students have until March 31 to sort out their financial arrangements with the university .
TIME IS MONEY: Students have less than a month to get their finances sorted. Photo: Michelle Gumede
The nearly 9 000 students who signed a contract to waive their registration fee at the beginning of the year have less than a month to pay their debt of R 9340.
Students who had provisional offers for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for 2016, those with external bursaries and those with a Wits University scholarship did not have to make upfront payments for registration at the beginning of this year.
Instead, students who didn’t have adequate funding at the beginning of the year signed an Acknowledgement of Debt (AOD) form which stated that they are entering into an arrangement for the payment of the upfront fee as well any interest from the date of the signature.
Some of the original signatories of the acknowledgement of debt have since been helped and funded by the SRC’s #Access Campaign and some have since appealed and received approval for NSFAS.
But many students have not been so lucky.
“I’m thinking of deregistering because there is nothing I can do,” says Onkarabile Mokoto, a returning third-year student who signed the contract to waive his registration at the beginning of this year.
Mokoto was previously studying at Wits towards a Bachelor of Education degree from 2008. The young man from Kagiso, in Mogale City on the west of Johannesburg, was previously able to afford his tuition through the NSFAS and the Gauteng Department of Education bursary. He dropped out of university in 2010 due to “personal reasons.”
But Mokoto did not inform his faculty that he would not be continuing with the rest of the academic calendar for 2010 and his marks for that year resulted in academic exclusion.
“Because of lack of knowledge I didn’t know I was supposed to do that [deregister].”
Due to his previous record of exclusion NSFAS rejected his application for funding for 2016 even though he does qualify for NSFAS. With the help of the SRC, Mokoto went through the appeals process but his appeal was also rejected in mid-February. He has since been left with no option but to deregister. Mokoto says although the SRC were initially helping him to secure funding, in the end there was not much that SRC did for his cause.
“They told me to focus on my studies and try to look for other funds.” Mokoto says.
According to a statement put out by the university in January, students who cannot pay registration in full by March 31 should notify the university by completing and concluding an AOD before the end of March.
Provided a student has done that, and fulfils their obligations as set out in the AOD, they will not be charged additional interest on any amounts outstanding in respect of tuition fees.
According to the fees office, all students who have not settled their accounts by March 31 are legible to pay a 1.3% interest on their balance, whether they have signed the AOD or not.
But for students like Mokoto who haven’t been able to secure funds the situation looks dire. He says he plans to deregister because he cannot pay the registration, and cannot afford his textbooks. Mokoto told Wits Vuvuzela that even as he signed the waiver he had no idea of where to get the money to pay his fees.
Vice chancellor Adam Habib told Wits Vuvuzela that he was concerned that if fees are not paid, the university will not be able to keep the lights on. “I wish I didn’t have to charge fees,” says Habib.
Habib said the university was underfunded by the state, with only R1.4-billion in funding coming from the government while it costs R3.4-billion to operate the university.
Habib said that those students who signed an acknowledgement of debt saying that they were going to have the money by the March 31 have to pay, and if they can’t, it means they signed the form under misleading conditions.
According to the SRC’s general secretary, Fasiha Hassan, the university cannot deregister students due to financial exclusion. Only students can deregister themselves.
“No student can be deregistered unless you are academically excluded,” says Hassan.
Rape- A South African nightmare is a book that is written by Professor Pumla Gqola, the launch was on campus this week.
AFRICAN Literature Professor Pumla Gqola finally had her book launch at the event hosted by the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) after delays caused by student protests of 2015.
Chaired by African Literature lecturer, Dr Danai Mupotsa, the panel discussion included poet and historian, Sarah Godsell and Malebo Gololo, of the Developmental Studies and International Relations department sharing their viewpoints on how rape is perceived.
“This book is the kind of writing that is dense with thinking feeling,” says Mupotsa.
The book explores various issues associated with rape. Rape—A South African nightmare considers rape and unpacks the complex historical relationships that South African men and women have with rape.
Gqola says she tried to contribute to a shift to end gender-based violence in society, like who we hold accountable. “All of us have a beloved who is a rapist,” says Gqola.
She highlights that rapists are usually people who are well known to the victim and this often intensifies the complex relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. Gqola’s research explores the notion that rapists sometimes have backgrounds involving abuse and sexual violence. “I wanted to contribute differently, to think about how rape victimises. We make it unacceptable to claim victim status” she explained.
SPEAKING OUT: Sarah Godsell spoke about sexual harassment claims made by students and staff on campus. Photo: Michelle Gumede
The book also looks at high-profile rape trials and accusations of President Jacob Zuma, Bob Hewitt, Makhaya Ntini and Baby Tshepang. The book also takes on the notion that rapists are only poor and violent men. She highlights various rape cases that involve well off men as the perpetrator, including the case of South African president Jacob Zuma.
Gqola says when she wrote the book she was sick and tired of being sore about rape and how much time it took up in her life.
“I felt increasingly that everyone was talking about rape and those conversations were very different from the ones I was having,” says Gqola.
Godsell in her presentation read the moving poetry of Thandokuhle Mngqibisa and she spoke at length about how it is also important to talk about the violence on our campuses. “There have been accusations of sexual harrassment at the hands of private security. These accusations have been discredited, ignored and silenced.” says Godsell. She said that instead campus should be a safe space for all, a space for everyone to be able to speak openly about their experiences with harassment.
Mupotsa shared with the audience that a student had told her that an unknown man came up to her on Monday and said, “When I look at your eyes I’m already fucking you”.
“We live in a society where rape is normalised and there are no consequences for raping,” Gqola says.
The book seems to have been well received by members of the audience in attendance at the talk. There were serious engagements going on with what the book discusses whilst others proposed solutions to dealing with rapists in South African communities, like socially shaming rapists or bringing back the death penalty with “lynching”.
Some of the audience members spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about the event.
“I came to the launch to enhance my knowledge about patriarchy,” says Ugandan student Ibrahim Tamale, who is currently studying African philosophies at the African Youth Academy.