Wits SRC President’s disciplinary hearing concluded, judgement to follow

Wits SRC President’s disciplinary hearing concluded, judgement to follow

Wits Vuvuzela can confirm that a disciplinary hearing against Wits SRC (Student Representatives Council) president Mcebo Dlamini has not found him guilty of any offence yet. This was revealed earlier today by deputy vice-chancellor (DVC): Advancement, Human Resources and Transformation Professor Tawana Kupe, who spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about the hearing and Dlamini’s apparent ‘resignation’ via a Facebook post on Saturday.

The post made from the account of “Mcebo Dlamini”, claimed the SRC president was resigning his post since he had been found guilty of “insulting one senior managment clown”, but according to Kupe, the charges against Dlamini had nothing to do with him offending anyone.

Kupe confirmed that a hearing consisting of a panel of three people, including a chairperson, member of the university Senate and a student representative, took place last Friday where charges against Dlamini were discussed. Kupe declined to disclose the nature of the charges. 

Charges brought last year

“One thing I can say is, it’s not true that he was charged because he offended a certain person in senior management, that I can categorically deny,” Kupe said.

“In this case, a person would have to be violating university procedures, and violating university procedures is not violating the VC or the head … it’s violating procedures of the university. You can never be charged of a personal offence to a person in senior management in the way in which people are quoting it,” Kupe said.

He added that the case was concluded on Friday but the panel still needed to make a judgement and until then, the vice-chancellor (VC), Prof Adam Habib cannot suspend Dlamini. The final judgement is not made by the VC but by the panel appointed to Dlamini’s case, according to Kupe.

The charges against Dlamini were all brought against him last year and the case has been on-going since. Kupe said all cases depended on the gathering of evidence, the availability of witnesses and the availability of the hearing panel. Other factors such as the NSFAS crisis and other pressing matters were some of the reasons why the hearing was delayed.

Right to appeal

Kupe said he was not aware of any official statement from Dlamini about a resignation from his post and said that once the judgement was made there will be an official statement from the university.

Should he be found guilty of any of the charges, Dlamini, like any other student has the right to appeal the judgement and the sentencing.

Dlamini declined to give comment to Wits Vuvuzela. 

Tuition fees burn pockets

By Luca Kotton  and Roxanne Joseph

A proposed 10% hike in tuition fees next year will have an adverse effect on Wits University students, particularly those from poor and working class families, according to an economist.

Michael Keenan, an ABSA Bank economist, said the proposed increase from January 2015 will be well above next year’s average wage increase, expected to be about 8%.

He said the increase means that self-funded students whose parents will not receive a large enough salary increase will most likely be unable to afford their tuition fees.

“Inflation hurts the poor man more than the wealthy man,” he said.

Keenan said the increase may not be felt by higher income groups as individual net savings and wage increases will ensure that students from wealthier families are not affected by the hike.

Many Witsies said they would struggle to pay higher fees.

“Fees at the moment are quite hard to meet, I still haven’t paid mine,” said Quaanitah Manique, a first year chemical engineering student.

She also added there are other expenses like transport that are extra costs in addition to the increased fees.

“There are other things, like if you have to come with the bus, there’s fees to be paid, now you have to pay extra fees for varsity,” Manique said.

When asked how it will affect their day-to-day lives, first year   dental hygiene student Irene Sekiti said she will not be able “make a life outside of this degree”.

“I won’t have money to go out with my friends. It’s not actually a good thing to increase our fees, they are already high, what’s the point of increasing them?”

Deputy Vice-chancellor of Finance Prof Tawana Kupe attributed the fee increase to a combination of three things: inflation, the cost of importing university resources and the lack of government subsidies.

“Government subsidies are not increasing by inflation,” he said. “The average [increase] we expect this year is 3.4%, which is way below inflation. So you’ve got to take care of that funding gap in government subsidies.”

Kupe expected that students will react with concern over fee increases but described them as “understanding” when consulted by university management earlier this year. He added that he was not personally happy over the fee increase.

“I’m not jumping for joy, I would love the day where we can increase fees by only 5%, but that is not the reality,” he said.

Last week the SRC announced that the upfront fee will remain the same as this year, but did not address the overall increase in tuition fees.

The increase, like the upfront fees freeze still needs to be approved by the university Council, during a meeting on October 4, according to university Registrar Carol Crosley.

Ahmed Kathrada turns 85 and celebrates at Wits University

Ahmed Kathrada turns 85 and celebrates at Wits University

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BIRTHDAY BOY: Struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada alongside his wife Barbara Hogan enjoy the performances in the Great Hall last night. Photo: Luke Matthews

Struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada, known to many as ‘Uncle Kathy’ was joined by his peers, South African politicians, school kids, Wits staff and students, as he celebrated his 85th birthday at the Wits Great Hall last night.

Wits SRC (Student Representative Council) and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation hosted the veteran’s milestone birthday celebrations which included special guests Judge Dikgang Moseneke, Deputy Vice-chancellor Prof Tawana Kupe and struggle veteran Advocate George Bizos.

“There is great merit in turning 85 and I strongly recommend it,” Kathrada told the audience in his address. He went on to thank Wits for the recognition it gave him in 2012. “I was a student of this university for three whole months and the university didn’t forget me, they actually gave me a doctorate, a free doctorate,” he joked.

Judge Moseneke, the Chancellor of Wits, said Kathrada’s fight for freedom flowed from selflessness: “We enter the public terrain to server others and not ourselves. We must do more than say ‘Batho pele’.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Ahmed Kathrada stood to receive his birthday cake and for the singing of "Happy birthday". Photo: Luke Matthews

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Professor Tawana Kupe, left, takes a photo of Ahmed Kathrada, middle, as he receives his birthday cake. 
Photo: Luke Matthews

SRC president Shafee Verachia thanked Kathrada “… for showing us what responsible citizenship is about and that good will always triumph over bad.”

Kathrada was presented with a number of gifts including an SRC blazer and a number 85 Bidvest Wits jersey.  He joked that he will be playing in this Saturday’s game against Orlando Pirates.

Kathrada, who spent 18 years in prison on Robben Island, was particular appreciative of the school children in attendance. Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela after the event, he said: “The nicest part of this day was the school children. What you miss most in jail is children so it was just the right way to start my birthday.”

A Wits group called The Scent and SAMA (South African Music Awards) winner Ifani also performed at last night celebrations.

 

Freeze on fees

Freeze on fees

FEES FREEZE: Wits has backed recommendations made by the SRC to freeze the upfront fees for 2015. Photo: Luca Kotton

FEES FREEZE: Wits has backed recommendations made by the SRC to freeze the upfront fees for 2015. Photo: Luca Kotton

by Luca Kotton and Roxanne Joseph

The upfront fee for next year will remain frozen at R9 350 but it and other fees may still increase in 2016, according to deputy vice-chancellor of finance, Prof Tawana Kupe.

The university had proposed an increase of the upfront registration fee to R10 300 from R9 350. General tuition fees will still increase.

When asked if the freeze will have an effect on the following year’s upfront fee, Kupe said, “In 2015, we will go through the normal processes for setting the various fees, including the upfront fee payment for 2016.”

The upfront fee free was the result of a long process of negotiations by the SRC which reached an agreement with the University Financial Committee (FINCO) surrounding fee increases in 2015, said SRC president Shafee Verachia.

The agreement was reached just over a week ago at a meeting with FINCO, and will be forward for approval to the University Council, which Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib, Verachia and Deputy Vice-chancellor, Prof Andrew Crouch, among others.

Verachia said the SRC successfully negotiated the freeze by commissioning a team of postgrad accounting and actuarial science students to investigate whether or not the upfront fee was unnecessarily high.

Kupe said the freeze is based on a further assessment made by FINCO, which has enabled them to recommend that the university is able to accommodate a freeze in the upfront fee and will not lose any income because “the freeze in the upfront fee amount is not a discount on the fees for 2015”.

He said there was recognition that some fees, such as the Health Sciences degrees, Wits has become too expensive and have been reduced. This is especially significant for international students, who were only allowed to pay their tuition fees in a set of instalments for the first time this year.

Currently, international students studying health sciences will have their fees cut by 60 percent, dropping to R74 680 from about R191 990.

The university had previously justified the increase of the upfront fee by saying it had high costs at the beginning of the year. Kupe said fee increases were necessary due to rising costs.

“Fees have to increase every year because of rising costs, the fact that our government subsidy is not rising as much as inflation and that some of our costs are related to items that are imported,” Kupe told Wits Vuvuzela.

“As you know, the rand has fallen against major currencies and this fall increases our costs. We also have to ensure we have enough financial resources to offer a quality education.”