First year students are strongly advised to report any initiation acts involving house committee members.
CORRECTION: Wits Vuvuzela initially reported that Joshua Ndlangamandla was from Men’s Res, but he is actually from EOH. We regret the error. The error has been corrected in the copy.
DURING O-week the residences plan a highly interactive experience for the wide-eyed young adults in first year to help familiarise them with the university and each other.
Two years ago, Wits Vuvuzela reported on how two female students formally complained to the dean of students at the time, about unsanctioned initiations and how they were “victimised” and experienced sexism from students at a male residence.
“There’s a fine line between what the freshers can take and what they can’t and what they are going to complain to their parents about and what they are going to find fun,” said Priya Thakur, Sunnyside house committee chairperson.
“Right now we are still trying to get them used to the entire res and varsity, get them to mingle with other students because, in as much as they are going to be students who are alone, they are still going to meet with students from other res’s as well in their classes,” said Joshua Ndlangamandla, a BSc third year and the sports administrator at Ernest Oppenheimer Hall of residence (EOH).
Wits Vuvuzela spoke to house committee members at the residences about how first years were being initiated and if the acts were harmless or not.
The “freshmen”, as EOH call their first years, appear to be treated as cadets. Wits Vuvuzela witnessed Men’s res in their blue t-shirts doing a series of drills and push-ups, followed by dancing and singing.
The freshmen only earn their keep after the formal initiation, when the “freshmen” jump into the pool, and “depending on how we feel on the day, it might be fully clothed,” added Ndlangamandla. “They will no longer be called “freshmen” but “Ernest men”.
Sankie Kgatse, a first year staying in Sunnyside residence said it has been “fun”, that they were taught a lot of traditional songs and did some physical exercise. “We gym yoh! We do a lot of physical activities and they are very hard … We wake up around 5.30 every morning,” the first year added. The freshers do morning runs to get them used to waking up early for classes.
According to Sunnyside’s Thakur, one of the traditions they uphold is their pledge night with Ernest Oppenheimer Hall of residence (EOH), where the freshers pledge their allegiance to EOH. The pledge took place earlier this week.
“It’s fun because historically Knockando and Men’s Res hate each other and then Sunnyside and Jubilee are fighting over Men’s Res when EOH is not around, it’s a lot of res rivalry, which is pretty fun during the week.”
The pledge also included a wedding, where house committee chose the person they would marry, Kgatse explained to Wits Vuvuzela. Ndlangamandla regrets that he wasn’t initiated in his first year at EOH and found that he generally struggled in his first two years because he didn’t really know the people around him.
He sees the benefit in initiation because “you’re partnered with someone through initiation and you’ve been through the same struggles you’ve been telling each other, ‘oh that house comm manager is an asshole’, so you have something in common”.
“It builds that brotherhood, that camaraderie between people that if you’re struggling, don’t do it alone … Once you’re alone we can’t help you out because we don’t know where you are in life,” says Ndlangamandla.
“It’s all about building a proper rapport between the students and us so that they can come to because most of us have been there before,” he adds. When asked about any worrisome activities, Thakur said she could not reveal that to the Wits Vuvuzela, and doubts that any other res would.
“A lot of the things we do here are internal and house issues, it’s designed and meant specifically for Sunnysiders. If the university had to read about it, I don’t think they would understand – it’s a different thing living at res and the Vuvuzela has a much wider audience,” said Thakur.
Apart from morning drills, the first year are taken around Johannesburg to the Hector Peterson Museum, Vilakazi street and the South African Breweries to watch how beer is made.