Price says UCT ‘arson’ attack premeditated

The recent petrol bombing of the Vice Chancellors office at the University of Cape Town is under investigation however Dr Max Price believe the incident was premeditated.

 

Surrounded by yellow police ticker tape, the office of University of Cape Town (UCT) Vice Chancellor Max Price has become the scene of a crime after an arson attack on Tuesday night.

The second day of protesting at the university escalated with student’s petrol bombing the VC’s office after the removal of a shack erected for a demonstration.

“I wasn’t on campus when the petrol bombing happened,” said Price. “Fire alarms went off and a team was called in to put it out,” he added.

This comes after the Rhodes Must Fall #Shackville demonstrations which began on Monday in protest of the lack of accommodation for black students at the university. Rhodes Must Fall activists erected a shack on Upper Campus which was subsequently forcibly removed.

A student, who did not want to be named, said “a small group of us decided to burn Bremner, Max Price’s office.”

“The building itself works against the students … We made the decision that we have to target UCT, the space, the actual building because the building, the administration particularly, it works to push black people out,” the student activist added.

It was the frustration of violence and the symbolism of the act that lead to the burning of Price’s office “[Max Price] himself is the reason why police come on campus, why they fire rubber bullets, why they imprison our comrades, basically why black people are kicked out, he is the gatekeeper of the system,” said the UCT student.

But despite these sentiments the VC seems unfazed by the demonstration, “The office represents the head of the university. Therefore, I do not take it personally,” said Price.

Price also said the attacks were “acts of vandalism which were planned and prepared.” He said evidence in the form of bottles and petrol were found in the same shack used in the protest.

At this stage there is no evidence of who is responsible for the arson attack but an investigation is underway. “It is a crime scene and will be treated as such,” said Price.

New Rhodes vice-chancellor contributes salary to “needy” students

Rhodes University vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela had his inauguration last Friday., and dedicated his speech to the Biko and Mxenge families. Photo: Provided

Rhodes University’s newly inaugurated vice-chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, has vowed that no academically talented – but financially needy – young person will be turned away from Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

“It is a bit aspirational,” he told Wits Vuvuzela. “But we have to make a point that we will raise funds. I will make it my personal mission.”

When Mabizela became deputy vice-chancellor in 2008, he made a “salary sacrifice” and contributed part of his salary towards a bursary fund that assists financially needy students who are academically talented, mostly from poor and rural families.

As vice-chancellor, he said that he will increase this contribution, to about R300 000 in total. He will also continue to encourage community members and university staff to contribute.

“In fact, I encourage every young person in this country to make a contribution,” he said.

Mabizela is the first black African vice-chancellor at Rhodes University in over 100 years, but does not want people to “get hung up on this”.

“That I happen to be black and African is simply an accident of history from which we have just emerged. I don’t want this to be elevated above any and everything else, because I would be deeply troubled if I was appointed simply because of that.”

He said that when he accepted, he made it very clear that he was not motivated by personal glory or material and financial gain, but rather by a commitment to serve the university and wider South Africa.

Rhodes had to turn away approximately 130 students at the start of the year, because they were denied National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds and were unable to register. Mabizela described the experience of having to deny qualifying students an education as “painful”.

Under Sizwe’s leadership as a part of senior management for over six years, Rhodes has matched NSFAS’ contribution of R32-million by spending approximately R34-million on assisting “desperately poor” but academically strong students.

One of Sizwe’s aims is to make the university more socially aware and one that “tackles local problems and challenges facing Grahamstown and the Eastern Cape”.

The university plans to make it a centre of academic excellence, improving primary school education, all the way to tertiary education.

“We have to brighten this corner where we find ourselves.”

Wits VC taken to task over photo tweet

Habib was attacked for sharing a photo that he said was from Gaza, when it was actually from Syria, earlier this year. Photo: Twitter

Habib was attacked for sharing a photo that he said was from Gaza, when it was actually from Syria, earlier this year. Photo: Twitter

Unverified photos and information often don’t get very far on social media platforms as networks of people around the world are quick to react to and correct any improper use.

This is exactly what Wits vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib realised this past Sunday as one of his tweets, containing an incorrectly attributed photograph, attracted close to 60 responses in less than an  hour.

Habib used a picture from the Syrian conflict that was taken in February this year and incorrectly atrributed it to the current conflict in Gaza.

The photo that shows the legs of a corpse sticking out from underneath rubble had been mistakenly used on social media several times in the last few weeks.

“The consequences of Obama’s defense of Israel’s war in Gaza. How could we have allowed him to talk at Madiba’s funeral,” Habib tweeted.

Following the reponses to Habib’s tweet, he apologised and later tweeted, “the photo was copied from an earlier tweet.”

But he remained resolute in his point, tweeting that he “could find another photo to demonstrate this but what would be the point.”

“Let’s deal with the substance -children are dying,” Habib tweeted.

The incident happened at a time when the circulation of false information, and in particular, photos, is occurring more frequently via social media platforms.

But coupled with the ease of sharing information, is the ability to share unverified information which can be damaging.

In the case of Malaysia Airlines flights 17 and 370, a story about a Dutch cyclist who was booked to go on both flights (but at the last minute changed his mind) was widely circulated a week ago.

However, it was soon discovered that there was no proof that 29-year-old Maarten de Jonge ever bought a ticket.

In these instances, fiction becomes fact very quickly as information is taken out of context or passed off as the truth. The impact and consequences of sharing fale information can be dangerous, especially because information can reach more people, in a shorter amount of time.

EFF occupies VC’s office

 

EFF members plan to occupy the VC's office until they are recognised as an official student society at Wits. Photo: Tracey Ruff

OFFICE INVASION: Wits Economic Freedom Fighters members plan to occupy the VC’s office until they are recognised as an official student society at Wits. Photo: Tracey Ruff

The Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have been occupying Vice Chancellor Adam Habib’s office in protest since lunchtime Wednesday.

The Wits EFF are protesting their exclusion as an official club and society after their application for 2014 was rejected, allegedly because it was submitted late. A special application to be recognised as a club and society was rejected last month by the dean of students, Dr Pamela Dube.

At 4.30 pm this afternoon, Wits Vuvuzela saw six students in their red EFF t-shirts and berets  seated in the entrance to Habib’s office. The vice chancellor was not in the office as he is out of town.

“The VC is the office bearer, we are here to occupy the office, the space… the university cannot go on as usual as if nothing has happened,” said Wits EFF chair Vuyani Pambo.

The EFF protestors intend to eat, sleep and study in the office until they are recognised as an official society at Wits.

“We will be an official structure at Wits … We already exist in the hearts and minds of students, we just want to make things easier organisationally,” Pambo said.

The protestors have already spoken to Prof Tawana Kupe, the deputy vice chancellor of finance, who Pambo claimed “basically conceded that an unjust process has taken place … The correct procedure was not followed.”

Wits EFF’s application to be a club and society was rejected by the Student Representative Council, which is led by the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), because it was submitted late. Wits EFF claim the application was rejected for political reasons.

“I suppose they are scared, the PYA run SRC that is,” said Pambo.  “The corrupt SRC will not stop us.”

“It comes down to Wits’ political intolerance. This time last year, Pasma (Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania) were also denied recognition … We will not let that happen to the EFF,” said Monwabisi Dlangana, a member of Wits EFF.

As of Wednesday afternoon, only a handful of Wits EFF members had occupied the office. Pambo said they did not plan on filling the vice-chancellor’s office completely but would still escalate the protest.

“The numbers are there, but we don’t want to fill this place … This protest can escalate in other creative ways,” Pambo said.

VC probes SRC clubs

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APPLICATION DENIED: Vuyani Pambo, chairperson of Wits EFF, was upset by the SRC overplaying their hand. Photo: Nomatter Ndebele

[pullquote]”Some of these people have political ambitions to lead ANC provincial structures, so they want to be seen to be shutting down the ANC’s opponents,” Nhlapo said.[/pullquote]

ACCUSATIONS that the SRC is abusing its powers against political opponents have resulted in a review by the vice chancellor’s office.

The SRC, which is led by the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), is responsible for officially recognizing Wits clubs and societies, including political organizations.

Two political organizations, Project W and Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), have been refused recognition.

Both organizations have appealed their rejections and accuse the PYA of playing dirty politics.

Dean of Students Pamela Dube confirmed the SRC would hear the appeal and the vice-chancellor’s office “is looking into reviewing the process by which [clubs and societies] are approved.”

SRC secretary Michlene Mongae declined to comment to Wits Vuvuzela on the accusations.

Jamie Mighti, a Project W SRC member, said the PYA did not follow correct procedure during the application process.

“The SRC must give applicants a model constitution to fill it, but they didn’t do that,” said Mighti. He said Project W’s constitution was later rejected by the SRC because it was not in line with the model.

According to Mighti, new clubs and societies must appear at an SRC general meeting as a final step before being officially recognized or rejected.

But he said this was not done for new clubs.[pullquote]”Some of these people have political ambitions to lead ANC provincial structures, so they want to be seen to be shutting down the ANC’s opponents,” Nhlapo said.[/pullquote]

Mighti accused SRC president Shafee Verachia and Club and Society portfolio holder Sarah Mokwebo of making the decision to reject new clubs without consultations.

The SRC is made up of eight PYA members and six Project W members.

Project W accused the PYA members of the SRC of “banning” them to stop it from interacting with students during O-week.

Chairperson of Wits EFF, Vuyani Pambo, said their organisation applied two days before the application closing date but they did not even appear on the list of clubs and societies who had applied.

“It was as if we never applied,” Pambo said.

He said that when Wits EFF inquired about why they were not on the list, they were given contradictory explanations.

SRC internal vice president internal Paul Ndiweni said they applied late while Mokwebo said they had not applied at all.

Former SRC vice president Tokelo Nhlapo, who defected from the PYA to Wits EFF last year, also agreed that proper procedure had not been followed.

“The SRC is simply a ceremonial structure. It does not follow constitutional obligations,” he said.

“Some of these people have political ambitions to lead ANC provincial structures, so they want to be seen to be shutting down the ANC’s opponents,” Nhlapo said.

The PYA is an alliance between the ANC Youth League, Muslim Students Association and South African Students Congress.

RELATED ARTICLES:

PYA-EFF spat leaves disabled students out in the cold, February 7, 2014

SRC to divvy up the spoils, September 13, 2013

Habib talks love, family and Savernake

FIRST LADY: Fatima Habib at her mantle with family photographs at her home in Saxonwold. Photo: Prelene Singh

FIRST LADY OF WITS: Fatima Habib stands at her mantle with family photographs at her home in Saxonwold.        Photo: Prelene Singh

Fatima Habib, the wife of newly installed Wits vice chancellor Adam Habib, proves that behind every powerful man is an equally strong woman.

Fast talking and immaculately presented in a dark blue dress with black stockings and black heels, Habib spoke assertively on the porch of her nine bedroom home in Saxonwold about life since joining the Wits family. “I have a list on my computer that is called ‘Reasons why I will divorce Adam’.  Buying this house is one of them,”she said jokingly.

[pullquote align=”right”]I have a list on my computer that is called ‘Reasons why I will divorce Adam[/pullquote]

“We had bought it at an auction and it was a real mess, but after I renovated it … it turns out Adam was right.” They moved to their home in Saxonwold in 2003 and Mrs Habib spent a lot of time renovating and improving the house. “Our boys grew up here, they love our home.”

“Refugees of love”

Habib met her husband while they were doing their undergraduate degrees at the University of Natal. They were both anti-apartheid activists who were part of the United Democratic Front (UDF).

FAMILY FIRST: Habib explains that everyone in the family have a mutual understanding to agree to disagree, respectfully. Photo: Prelene Singh

FAMILY FIRST: Habib explains that everyone in the family have a mutual understanding to agree to disagree, respectfully.              Photo: Prelene Singh

“Adam was always off doing work in the township so what happened was he used to borrow my notes.”
“We were ‘refugees of love’, as Adam likes to tell people. I think it’s so corny”, she says while her face lights up like someone newly in love.

“My mother didn’t like Adam and his aunts didn’t think I was right for him. So we thought screw all of this and we buggered off to Wits to do our honours.”

From Wits, Habib received her honours in applied psychology and then went on to do her masters in economics and industrial labour studies.

“We said that after we finish our masters we will get married.” she said.  “Since Adam got the VC job at Wits I think hectic is an understatement, the most difficult part is actually, as a family, having dinner together.”

They have two sons in Parktown Boys School. One is in Grade 8 and another in Matric who will be studying astrophysics next year at either UCT or Wits.

The Habib family value the importance of fitness and keeping fit. “Adam and I run in the mornings and on weekends we go for walks. We try to connect with the children by going out to dinner or Saturday brunches and movies because I feel that that is very important to do.”

Working progress

After 10 years the Habib family will now have to move to their next “working progress” of a home. Part of the conditions of being VC of Wits is that the Habib family has to live at the official residence of the vice-chancellor, a heritage house known as Savernake. If not, Wits will lose an asset worth R40 million. “There was a lot of controversy around Savernake.

When we were first told we would have to move out of our home I was appalled. The toilets don’t flush, the electrical and plumbing needs to be fixed and the entire kitchen is shot to hell and gone.”

Wits has started phase one of the three phases of refurbishment at Savernake.

After phase is complete they will relocate from their current home.

Habib plans to take her chef, driver and gardener with them instead of taking Wits up on its offer to supply staff. “My staff have worked for me for ten years and will continue to do so.”

Habib is very involved in the fixing process of Savernake.“The construction team and the architects and myself work together because I am quite rigid about management. Making sure it’s on budget and on time.”

 

RELATED ARTICLES:

Wits VuvuzelaSavernake will stay in the hands of Wits.  April 15, 2013.

Wits VuvuzelaWits facing R12m cost for VC house. March 15, 2013.

 

GALLERY: Wits Town Hall meeting

by Ray Mahlaka, Emelia Motsai and Nolwazi Mjwara

Students, staff and workers gathered at the Wits Great Hall to question vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib on university related issues. The gathering was part of the university’s first ever town hall meeting.

The session was moderated by president of the Wits Debating Union, Mighti Jamie.

 

 

 

 

 

Savernake will stay in the hands of Wits

TWO VC’s SPEAK: Incoming Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib and outgoing Vice Chancellor Prof Loyiso Nongxa addressed the media on Monday regarding the spending on the VC’s official residence. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

TWO VC’s SPEAK: Incoming Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib and outgoing Vice Chancellor Prof Loyiso Nongxa addressed the media on Monday regarding the spending on the VC’s official residence. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

UNCERTAINTY surrounding the refurbishments of Savernake, the house provided for Wits vice chancellor, was the subject of a news briefing held on Monday by incoming Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib.

“The house belongs to the trust of the Price family and was made available for the use of Wit’s vice chancellor some 40 years ago. The terms of the agreement are that it has to be returned to the Price family should the vice chancellor not live in it,” said a statement from the office of the Vice Chancellor.

Habib, who is not yet residing at Savernake, stressed at the media briefing that the house is not only a home for the VC but a venue that is used to host a number of university functions.

However, Savernake, which is still registered under the Price family trust has “not been adequately maintained and has fallen into serious disrepair over the years.”

The cost of refurbishments to the house

was settled at R12 million, but was later cut down to R9 million after a meeting convened by Habib with the representatives of the unions, the SRC and the senate representatives to Wits Council.

The Star recently published an article that criticised the decision to renovate Savernake by stating “[The] University is prepared to spend at least R9 million on renovating the vice-chancellor’s official residence, [when] desperate students sleep on chairs.”

Habib said that the university is aware that there are students without homes and who have financial problems: “We will do our best within our means to help them but we must abide by public laws of heritage too.”

The reason the cost of refurbishment is so high is because the house is a heritage site and there are certain laws surrounding the renovation procedures of it.

“There are explicit rules of how to renovate it and it can only be repaired by a select group of artisans and service providers,” Habib said.

Tawana Kupe, deputy vice chancellor for finance and operations said that it has been agreed with the Price family trust that the property, worth R30 million, will be transferred to Wits University should the renovations proceed.

“We are not paying the Price family a single rand for the house. We will not buy the house,” Kupe said.

Great Hall columns to memorialise counsel members

The Great Hall at Wits University, soon to have new support columns.

The Great Hall at Wits University, soon to have new support columns. Photo: File, 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A controversial campaign to rebuild the support columns of the iconic Wits Great Hall to depict members of Wits University Counsel was approved by the Wits Senior Executive Team (SET), today.
The executive team at Wits who manage spatial planning and project development on campus have announced that the project will be undertaken by the construction and development committee to transform the columns of the Great Hall into sculptures depicting members of the University Counsel.

Vice-Chancellor, Prof Adam Habib said; “As new Vice Chancellor to the university I have hopped on board with the plans to rebuild the columns. I think the fact that members of counsel will be used as part of the structure represents a philosophic idea, as they hold up the heavy weight of the ceiling, they too, hold the heavy weight of governing the university and making sure its name is held high.”

The new project was inspired by the ancient Greek architecture of The Erechtheion, an temple in the north of Athens that was build roughly around 421 BC.

Project manager, Nigel Branken said:  “The part of the temple we will be focusing on is ‘The Porch of the Caryatids’, meaning “Porch of Maidens.” The porch has six draped female figures as support columns for the roof of the temple. These six females are iconic impressions of the Greek deity, Athena, Goddess of war and tactics.”

 

220px-Caryatids_on_the_south_porch_of_the_ErechtheionThe 8 columns of the Great Hall will depict Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Hibib; Vice Principle Prof Yunus Ballim;  Professor P Fitzgerald; Dr Randall Carolissen; Dr John Kani; Dean of Faculties Professor Andrew Crouch; Dr S Moon and Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande, said executive team director, Emmannuel Prinsloo.

 

The university’s new construction project will be funded by a number of private funding sources as well as by the department of Higher Education and Training, where Minister Blade Nzimande agreed to the project under the condition that his figure would be one of those serving as supports for the Great Hall.

 

Cost manager, Sieberhagen Heynes says the project will cost approximately R68 million to complete and should be finished sometime around June 2014.  Heynes emphasised that local artisans would be used.

The Wits SRC have openly opposed the project citing the ‘inappropriate expenditure of valuable resources.’ They encourage staff and students opposed to this project and April Fools’ jokes in general, to make their voices heard.