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

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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

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.”

‘Important victories’ for Wits tuition fees in 2015

Posters claiming the fees negotiations are 'Important Victories!' are stuck up all over campus. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Posters claiming the fees negotiations are ‘Important Victories!’ are stuck up all over campus. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Wits University has backed and approved a suggestion made by the Student Representative Council (SRC), not to increase the upfront fee payment next year.

The SRC today confirmed the upfront fee will remain R9 350, as it was at the beginning of 2014 despite an initial proposal by the university to increase the amount to R10 270.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor of finance, Prof Tawana Kupe told Wits Vuvuzela the agreement has been approved by the University Financial Committee (FINCO) and is recommended for approval by the Wits Council, in December this year.

According to a statement released by the SRC this morning, the student body commissioned a team of senior accounting and actuarial science students to do “extensive cash flow and financial modelling to ascertain whether or not the upfront fee payment is exorbitant for the purpose that it serves”.

 “The reduced upfront fee payment as conceptualised by the SRC of 2012 will also be continued and will also remain at the same 2014 price,” read the statement, signed by President Shafee Verachia and Secretary General Michlene Mongae.

Another development in fees negotiations has yielded positive results for international students, whose fees have been reduced for 2015 by R38 996 for Commerce, Law and Management to R15 140 for Humanities.

Additionally PhD students will not see an increase in their fees in 2015.

NSFAS leaves students high and dry

Delays in monthly allowances reaching National Student Financial Aid Schemes (NSFAS) students are making it difficult for them to make it through the month, according to the SRC.

Students have taken to Twitter with their complaints. “The universities expect students to pass on hungry stomachs. Impossible,” one student, who wished to remain unnamed, told Wits Vuvuzela.

[pullquote]“No doubt financing at universities is one of the biggest challenges we are facing in higher education. The demand exceeds supply.”[/pullquote]

The university has assisted him by providing funds to make up for NSFAS being behind with their monthly payments.

In a Wits Town Hall meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said: “No doubt financing at universities is one of the biggest challenges we are facing in higher education. The demand exceeds supply.”

Students whose families earn above R150 000 a year are excluded from government funding. This can still exclude a “middle-working class” family if university fees are R50 000 and living in res costs about the same, Habib said.

“We are still not capturing the vast majority and the country is never going to achieve its skills target without a more open approach to funding.”

Habib said: “Three percent (R73-million) of the Council budget has been allocated to bursaries, and the university added an extra R20-million for postgraduate studies for 2014. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Wits only receives 25% (R600-million) of government subsidies allocated to university bursaries, one of the lowest in the country. With government subsidies declining, the only way the university can “retain our income is by increasing our fees. I am very mindful of this,” he said.

He said Wits is rethinking how bursaries are allocated, namely the way it appoints merit awards. At the moment, students are given funds according to the number of As they get, but Deputy Vice Chancellor Tawana Kupe is investigating changing it to work on a points system instead.

When asked about students who cannot rely on merit awards to help fund their studies and face academic exclusion (as their marks are suffering due to a lack of funding), Habib said: “These cases of financial aid are catered for through NSFAS, but what is our mechanism to support both sets of students, as this is a legitimate concern.”

Wits nightshift isn’t mahala

By Pheladi Sethusa and Ray Mahlaka

WITS Campus Control security guards allege they are owed about R40 000 each in their night shift allowance payment.Three Campus Control security complained to Wits Vuvuzela that they had not received increases for night shift allowances since 2002, despite working seven days a week for 12 hours a day. This amounts to about R40 000 per guard.

[pullquote align=”right”]“There is no indication that the night shift allowance increase will materialise”[/pullquote]

The security guards want a night shift increase of R400-500 per month, to their current monthly salary which they say ranges between R4000- R5 000. The security guards said they only received R190 per month for night shift allowance.

“There is no indication that the night shift allowance increase will materialise. Every time we ask the head of security, they say they cannot comment. The money for the night shift allowance is too low,” a security guard said.

Payment received

At a meeting last week Prof Tawana Kupe, deputy vice chancellor of Finance and Operations, showed Wits Vuvuzela evidence of the payment of nightshift allowances via workers’ payslips. He said all Campus Control workers were accounted for.

However, unionist Billy Cebekhulu, the treasurer of Nehawu said a report was commissioned by Wits management to look into night shift increases. While the report is done the issue is that the findings are not yet public .

Cebekhulu said: “We were told the person has been hired [to look into night shift remuneration] and there will be a report. We have not seen it and we are still awaiting a report. The night shift issue is a concern to us.”

We want our money

A third security guard said they are owed at least R40 000 in night shift allowance increases per person from 2002. He said they want the money before December.

[pullquote]“I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, I want to know what their problem is”[/pullquote] Nehawu said that in 2009 it took the university to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to resolve night shift disputes at the institution.

However, Kupe said during his eight month tenure as DVC, he was not aware of a CCMA case as there might have been a settlement.

Kupe said perhaps the nightshift allowances are not increased like salaries, “not everything is subject to an increase,” he added.

FILE PHOTO: A Wits security guard is pictured on duty earlier this year. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana
FILE PHOTO: A Wits security guard is pictured on duty earlier this year. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

“I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, I want to know what their problem is,” said Kupe.

Cebekhulu said the problem with the nightshift allowances was that before 2009, the allowances were being taken off their basic salaries at cost to company. Cost to company is the amount a company pays employees before any deductions, meaning that any benefits would be charged off of one’s salary.

“We have been paid with our own money,” said a distraught Cebekhulu.

In 2009 it was agreed that a R150 increase on the nightshift allowances would be granted, which meant that the R150 would be a separate entity, that wasn’t at cost to company.

The union and workers want to be remunerated for the years in which the nightshift allowance was taken off their salaries.

Hide and seek

Chairperson of Nehawu Wits Richard Sadiki said there was “a hide and seek on management’s side” in not addressing night shift concerns.

One disgruntled guard said: “We work hard and we can’t afford to take care our family (sic). We are being ripped off.  We should be paid more and we guard the university 24 hours, but there is no thanks from the university. We are doing our level best to make students safe, but the employer is not grateful.”

Security guards also complain of a lack of security guards on West campus.

According to a security guard, there are only three guards at West campus, from the nine hired in 1993.

Kupe said that having more staff on campus would not help to prevent crime on campus, “we don’t need more guards”. He felt we needed students to behave morally and justly towards each other, he felt.

[pullquote align=”right”]”We should be paid more and we guard the university 24 hours, but there is no thanks from the university”[/pullquote]

Rob Kemp, Director of Campus Control denied allegations that nightshift staff were not paid their allowance. “The allowance has not fallen away and still active. The allowance is a requirement in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act,” he said.

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WITH GALLERY: Proud to be you

Rainbow coloured flags, bright orange t-shirts, and people dancing to Beyonce’s single ladies were part of the festivities that made this year’s Wits pride the biggest.

The event was a host of colourful flags, bright orange whistles and Witsies dressed in extravagant outfits for the event . The event started with a few words from the Deputy vice chancellor of finance and operations Tawana Kupe, who said he was impressed with this year’s turn out and chanted to the crowd “No fear, No hate, All love, Proud to be you” and the crowd replied with a loud “Proud to be me”

The parade was themed Being Me, which was a week of events dedicated to merge the diverse personalities, sexual orientations and gender identities at Wits. Events include a new t-shirt design competition, a drawing marathon; and a queer history tour.

Wits Pride programme manager Ella Kotze said this year’s theme aimed to make Wits a safe space for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, age, nationality, ability or class.

Kotze said Wits Pride will join hands with students and those supportive of LGBTIA issues to show their pride and also remember the struggle the LGBTIA community has faced in obtaining their rights.

[pullquote]We need to reclaim the space for everyone, we know there is homophobia on campus, and it’s one of the silences on this campus[/pullquote]

Kupe said “We need to reclaim the space for everyone, we know there is homophobia on campus, and it’s one of the silences on this campus.”

SRC secretary Tasneem Essop highlighted the lack of support the SRC has given to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and asexual (LGBTIA) on campus.

“We are behind pride, as an SRC we have not done much for pride”, she acknowledged that pride has come a long way and as the SRC they want to take the fight against inequality all over campus.

The march started 1 pm at the Library Lawns and proceeded past the Great Hall, down Yale Road across West Campus and back to the Library Lawns again.

No money, more problems

Students are warned! If your fees are not paid by September 15, you will not be allowed to continue your Wits education.

Witsies with outstanding fees will be barred from the university until they settle their accounts. The fees department has sent emails, smses and letters informing students about the repercussions of unpaid fees.

Students who don’t meet the mid-month deadline will be denied access to the university, examination results will be withheld and legal action will be taken against students. The students will also be refused permission to re-register at Wits and will be refused “a certificate of good conduct without which you will be denied admission to any South African university.”

[pullquote]Witsies with outstanding fees will be barred from the university until they settle their accounts[/pullquote] Nthabiseng Molefe, 2nd year LLB student, said she received the warning letter on Monday. Her fees are paid in part by the National Students Financial Aid Scheme of South Africa (NSFAS) and her parents. She said she had signed her loan agreement with NSFAS more than a month ago, but the money did not reflected on her account.

“I went to the fees office and told them it is NSFAS’s fault but they said they can’t help me, I must make a plan,” she said.

Deputy vice chancellor, Prof Tawana Kupe, said blocking student cards was a “traditional technique” used by the university. He said blocked students were not expelled but were warned that they needed to attend to their fees. Wits SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa said dozens of students had contacted him about these letters.  He called the letters “intimidation” by the university against self-funding students behind on their fees.

Mgudlwa said the SRC would fight back and were prepared to “take to the streets like in 2009”, referring to large student protests against fees that year.

Food scare sample tested

The discovery of a worm in a burger at the Wits main dining hall reported in Wits Vuvuzela last week was not a unique find, although the university claims incidents like this are rare.

There have been previous food scare alerts – about one every six to nine months. Last year, a worm was found on a piece of broccoli at Jubilee Hall, said Joanne Rowan, deputy director of Wits Catering and Retail.

However, Rowan said very few of these incidents happen.

Rowan was at the dining hall when the most recent worm was found and said the type of worm found was not associated with vegetables.

“It’s the first time that I see that type of worm.” [pullquote align=”right”]”It happened. We can’t deny it.”[/pullquote]

Rowan was speaking at the opening of the Convocation dining hall on West Campus on Tuesday.

Last week, Wits Vuvuzela reported that a student had discovered a worm in her chicken burger at the main dining hall.

An investigation to discover where the chicken burger came from has been launched. A food sample has been sent for testing.

Rowan said it was part of the catering business that a few incidents like this did occur.  “It happened. We can’t deny it. It’s part of reality.  We have to deal with it.”

She said that, of the reported incidents of food contamination at Wits so far, tests had shown the food samples were not dangerous.

[pullquote]“It is not possible that you can 100 percent not have an incident like that.”[/pullquote]Rowan defended food safety at Wits and said the university’s four dining halls were Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certified, making Wits the only university in Africa to have the certification.

The certification means contamination in food served at Wits can be traced through the supply chain, all the way to a farmer.

Rowan said she expected to have a report on the recent food scare soon.

Prof Tawana Kupe, deputy vice chancellor (finance and operations), said the worm was “unfortunate”.

“It is not possible that you can 100% not have an incident like that,” Kupe said.

He said the university should take steps to ensure the problem was not commonplace and food quality standards were maintained.

Kupe said samples of food dished out in the dining halls were kept over a number of days so they could be tested for contamination.

The university does not make all the food, with some of it bought pre-prepared.  Kupe said food providers should be asked whether they were supplying the university with fresh food and there should be an independent means of checking the quality.

 

SABC criticised, yet again

The South African media serves a diverse audience in terms of class, gender, race, religious beliefs, and sexuality but offers no diversity, according to Prof Tawana Kupe, a prominent media scholar.

Kupe, Dean of the Wits Faculty of Humanities, was speaking at the launch of a report on the SABC’s (South African Broadcasting Corporation)  lack of diversity at Wits recently.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), researched and compiled the report. Thandi Smith and Lethabo Dibetso from MMA said it was critical that content by the public broadcaster represented South Africa in all its diversity.  They said they had monitored SABC’s programming from April 1, 2012 to May 15, 2012 and discovered that 76% of all programmes broadcast were in English across SABC 1, 2 and 3.

They also noted variety of children’s programmes and very few programmes that “spoke” to people in rural areas in the own languages. There was also concern over the dominance of North American programmes.

Smith said 62% of news sources were organisations’ representatives and spokespersons, and one “always knew what they were going to say”. Eighty percent of the sources were seen to be male, and they recommended that diverse and equitable sourcing be inculcated in all SABC newsrooms.

Dibetso said the SABC was failing in its mandate to “be varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information, education and entertainment meeting the broadcasting needs of the entire South African population in terms of age, race, gender, interests and backgrounds” as stipulated in the Broadcasting Act.

Carol Mohlala, from Save our SABC Coalition said she was unhappy about the non-representation of Ndebele and Sepedi and wanted to know what ICASA and parliament were thinking about SABC’s performance.

Responding to the issue of repeats, Ingrid Bruynse from Bright Media said repeats were no always a bad thing if they related to children’s education. “But poor repeats serve absolutely nothing.”

Akieda Mohamed, representing South African Screen Federation, said her organisation had face “a bleak, bleak time for the past five years” and had a vested interest in the functioning of the public broadcaster.

Click here to read the complete report.