By Thuletho Zwane and Nomatter Ndebele
The SRC elections could soon become a legal battle as the PYA (Progressive Youth Alliance) and Project W take legal action against each other. Tokelo Nhlapo, SRC vice president internal, has laid an official complaint with the Wits Legal Office following a confrontation with Jamie Mighti, Project W candidate and former debating union chairperson.
The incident that led to the complaint.
[pullquote align=”right”]“He said I must be careful and I am skating on thin ice.”[/pullquote]
Nhlapo alleges that Mighti told him to be careful and watch his ways.“He said I must be careful and I am skating on thin ice.This happened when Nhlapo and Mighti had a political debate about an article Mighti had written about “blacks being lazy”. “My contestation with him is that he can’t say blacks are lazy because of our history,” Nhlapo said.
Nhlapo said he was also uncomfortable with the sexist remarks Mighti made a few months ago on the Wits Debating Union facebook page. Nhlapo told Wits Vuvuzela that he had lodged the complaint in fear of his life. “What I want from him is that he must stay away from me… he’s violent.”
Project W responds.
Accused: Project W member Jamie Mighti pictured here with Henry Masuku may have legal action taken against him.
[pullquote align=”left”]“He [Mighti]] is being crucified. They bring out his history and they try to score cheap political points,” [/pullquote]
During an interview with the Project W campaign manager, Cebo Gila, a female student approached him and said, “Guys, please control Jamie… he can’t go around picking fights”. Gila said Project W needed to “protect” rather than control Mighti. “He [Mighti] is being crucified. They bring out his history and they try to score cheap political points,”
Gila said the opposition was preoccupied with personal attacks against Mighti for allegedly being violent and sexist , using his “history” to undermine Project W instead of engaging with the manifesto of the student action group.
“When he is being provoked on a daily basis to the point that he is being crucified, he is going to react,” Gila said. Gila said that members of Project W were being intimidated to the point where “I feel uncomfortable wearing this T-shirt”.“Do you understand that we have been bullied, we have been forced to change strategy, we have been victimized, our volunteers are told we are puppets,” he said.Gila also raised concern that Project W posters were being torn down.
Project W allegedly receives financial assistance from management.
[pullquote] “completely false
accusations” [/pullquote]made against it.
SRC treasurer, Justice Nkomo, claimed that Project W had received R500 000 from Wits management. He said Project W misled the students because it presented itself as humanitarian.“They ran it [Project W] as a charity campaign but it has a political agenda,” Nkomo said. “They are collecting cans [of food] now; were people not starving in March and April?”
Project W is considering seeking legal avenues to deal with the“completely false accusations” made against it. Gila said that Project W never misrepresented itself. “The misconception is an incompletion of how they [the PYA] understand Project W,” Gila said.
Mighti declined to comment on the incident with Nhlapo and referred Wits Vuvuzela to Gila. Gila said the incident was “regrettable, from both parties”. Wits Vuvuzela was not able to reach the Wits Legal Office for comment.
Related articles : Top debater gets banned
Race relations have taken over the South African media platform for two straight weeks: The UCT poll on “the most attractive race”; the senior advocate who quit the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) amid disagreement about transformation; the Stellenbosch University’s residence-placement policy and (closer to home) a Wits Vuvuzela reporter who was called a “house negro” by a senior member of a political party on campus.
Although race is a sensitive issue in this country, the public trial on social and mainstream media regarding the UCT race poll was harsh. The paper is run by students and the article didn’t incite hate speech. One can argue that those students haven’t learnt the value of “political correctness” or lack the desperation to uphold the delusion of “the rainbow nation”. You can argue that the poll should not have been promoted as a “study” and that statistical inference should not have been made – that was the main flaw in the article. Students should not be taken to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) based on their preferences or writing about their preferences.
Transformation is also a highly contested subject. Advocate Izak Smuts resigned from the JSC reportedly accusing it of being “against the appointment of qualified white male candidates”. Affirmative Action (AA) rears its ugly head again and the proverbial question regarding transformation policies versus the hiring of qualified candidates was debated in many newspapers nationally.
Amongst others, City Press editor Ferial Haffajee, wrote about the distinction between transformation and qualified candidacy, saying the two are not necessarily exclusive.
If affirmative action and qualified candidacy are seen as exclusive, an “either or” choice, does this mean Wits graduates, across the race spectrum will be subjected to this limited scope in pursuing our careers?
Stellenbosch University’s residence-placement policy also came under media scrutiny. The university has finally been given the green light to accommodate more black students in its residences. The policy under review explicitly states that residence allocations should be: 66% white, 23% coloured, 10% black and 1% Indian. Stellenbosch alumni have spoken out against the policy and called for it to change.
To bring the matter closer to home, the chairman of a campus political party called one of our reporters a “house negro” last week.
While we discussed the best way to deal with the incident, one of our staff members said it was funny how “house negros” always get a bad rep when they started some of the slave rebellions in the US. He was referring to Nat Turner.
How and why some terms become derogatory is part of the debate. But the main point is South Africa is marred with racial tensions. These issues should not be denied, rejected or suppressed but should be debated.
Four cases of sexual harassment in Faculty of Humanities are among those that are the subject of an university-wide inquiry by the law firm of Bowman Gilfillan.
“There are a number of cases being investigated by Bowman, four cases in the Faculty of Humanities,” Prof Libby Meintjes, head of the School of Literature Language and Media.
The inquiry follows allegations of sexual harassment against Wits staff members including suspended senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu, former head of the political studies department Prof Rupert Taylor and former head of the media studies department Dr Last Moyo.
Meintjes emphasised that Moyo was on “special leave” and not “suspension”. “Dr Moyo has been placed on special leave with no access to the campus pending the investigation,” she said. [pullquote align=”right”]“Students, feel free to speak out openly, without fear.”[/pullquote]
She said Moyo has not been suspended, as there have not been enough formal complaints made.
Director of employee relations Elaine Milton told Wits Vuvuzela it is better for a staff member who is the subject of an investigation to be off campus while such an investigation is taking place.
Milton said proceedings were at a “very delicate stage” and she could not disclose the names of staff members involved as this will prejudice the investigation.
She said that “special leave” is a leave of absence without the loss of benefits or remuneration in order for the university to be able to conduct an investigation in an “unfettered” and an unhindered” manner.
Milton added that Taylor, who stepped down as head of the political studies department last year following sexual harassment allegations, has not been formally placed on special leave.
Meintjes stressed that students should not fear to come forward with complaints about sexual harassment. “If they take [their complaints] to the correct sources, to the correct persons, there will be no backlash,” she said.“Students, feel free to speak out openly, without fear.”
Dr Mehita Iqani, acting head of the department of media studies, said: “There is a lack of trust in the institution. I don’t think anyone should HAVE TO work in an environment where there is a sense of fear…Students need to know that if they have a complaint against staff confidentiality will be absolutely protected.”
University Registrar Kirti Menon said the university is hoping to receive feedback from the Bowman Gilfillan attorneys by the end of next week.
Meintjes said: “We are hoping it will be concluded very soon.”
“I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this.”
While the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations is being conducted, a separate inquiry into the university’s procedures for the reporting of sexual harassment is also taking place.
The vice chancellor’s office has asked Norton Rose Attorneys and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the university to conduct the inquiry into the university’s policies and mechanisms dealing with sexual harassment. This inquiry is expected to be concluded by August.
PHYSICAL MOTIVATION: Choreographer Sthembiso Khalishwayo challenges mainstream physical theatre as it has been taught and applied within the School of Art. Photo: Emelia Motsai
Physical theatre – usually considered the preserve of fit, able-bodied actors – will give disabled actors the chance to show Witsies “how they view themselves and interpret other people’s view of them”, during March.
Mammatli Thakhuli-Nzuza, MA Applied Theatre and Drama, said this was the intention behind Am I Really, which she directed to commemorate Disability and Human Rights week.
Am I Really explores the internal voices of a group of Wits students living with different disabilities through the use of movement. The Physical Theatre piece challenges the concept of being “disabled” while highlighting the silent disabilities that exist in all of us.
Thakhuli-Nzuza explained that most disabled students were only reminded of their disability when other people treated them as disabled.
“People tip-toe around disabled people. That’s what makes them uncomfortable.”
Thakhuli-Nzuza will be working with choreographer Sthembiso Khalishwayo, a former Witsie who studied physical theatre and performance. The play will be performed by Sisipho Ntengo, Sally-Ann Bafshoe, Zinhle Nxumalo and Jermain George, all Wits students living with disability.
“Art is everywhere and anyone can do it; the different modes of self expression extend way beyond the physical boundaries we have created” said Thakhuli-Nzuza.
She wants to introduce the Wits University community to physically disabled dancers. She also wants to encourage theatre makers to go beyond the ‘ordinary’ when creating work.
Am I Really will be performed at the Wits Amphitheatre on March 15 and 16, 19 and 20 at 7.30pm. Prices are R20 for students and R30 for non-students.
For more information contact Mammatli Thakhuli-Nzuza on firstname.lastname@example.org
Physical theatre – usually considered the preserve of fit, able-bodied actors – will give disabled actors the chance to show Witsies “how they view themselves and interpret other people’s view of them”, during March. Pictures by: Thule Zwane and Emelia Motsai