Timeline: the SRC campaign so far

On Friday the University of the Witswatersrand released a statement around the suspension of students and the exclusion of the Wits EFF society. This comes after a disruption that was initiated by the Wits EFF at the SRC debate which ended in a physical altercation between parties. It was the start of an unusual campaign season.

This year four parties registered to run for the 2016 SRC elections these included the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters, Project W, the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (DASO).

 

Cancelled SRC debate

Campaigning started off with a bang this year when the annual Student Representative Council (SRC) debate was cancelled after a fight broke out between parties.

Members of the Wits EFF filled the Great Hall stage dancing and chanting “No SRC!” The party continued to disrupt the proceedings of the debate.

The organisers, campus control head of investigations Michael Mahada, and campaign managers then went backstage for an emergency meeting. The group then came out and announced that the debate was cancelled. Chief electoral officer, Thembi Dlamini explained that the cancellation was based on a “collective decision”.

 

Circus Flop

Then more confusion hit at what was supposed to be the first campaigning circus for the year. Only the PYA and a few Wits EFF candidates arrived at the FNB building on Wednesday. According to PYA’s Twitter account, supporters were requested to meet at 1:20pm at the FNB building, for an official election circus. But on arrival it seemed that there was no organisation for the event and only a few PYA candidates handing out pamphlets.

A handful of PYA members were handing out pamphlets encouraging students to vote for their party. When asked, the candidates told those that gathered that they were waiting on the party’s officials and the Independent Electoral Committee (IEC), none of whom showed up. PYA representatives told Wits Vuvuzela that, “It seems as though only Project W were made aware of the postponement, because it was only the EFF and the PYA that prepared for today’s circus.”

What seemed at first, to be a defiance of the cancellation to those who knew about it turned into a simple misunderstanding and miscommunication on the part of the candidates and their parties.

 

 

The show goes on with circus at the Matrix

On Thursday the first organised and official campus circus was held at the Matrix on Wits East campus. Students were encouraged to question candidates on issues surrounding party mandates and burning topics related to the university. While at one point the EFF caused a bit of a disruption, all in all the circus went off with no major incidents.

Suspension of Wits EFF and students involved in debate disruption

On Friday the EFF were not at the second circus that was held at the Wits Medical campus. That evening at 6:30pm a statement was emailed to the Wits student body from the Council of the University of the Witwatersrand. The document gave comment on the decisions to suspend the Wits EFF as a society and said some of the students involved in the fighting at the Tuesday debate would be suspended.

 

 

 

 

Kudu gone buck

 

Student trying to load Kudu bucks:  Photo:Dineo Bendile.

Student trying to load Kudu bucks:
Photo:Dineo Bendile.

Already cash-strapped students are frustrated by Kudu Buck machines they say often don’t work on campus. This week one student on Twitter even suggested a strike.

The machines are used to load money in exchange for Kudu Bucks, the official Wits currency which allows students to use printing facilities, access dining halls and use medical facilities.

Four weeks ago Ray Mahlaka, a journalism student, was left disappointed by the system.

After being ill for a couple of days he decided to go to Campus Health to see a nurse.

“I had a cold and felt dizzy on the day. I was dying. I was knocking on heaven’s door,” said Mahlaka.

The fee for clinic services at Campus Health is R20 for res students and R50 for all other students. Mahlaka went to the Kudu bucks terminal between the matrix and Umthombo buildings where he attempted to load R50. He tried to load the note twice, with no success.

On his third attempt, the machine accepted the money but did not reflect it on his balance.

“So I basically loaded money nowhere,” he said.

It was his last R50 and he could not go to the clinic.

The student went to the Integrated Campus Management (ICAM) offices where he was told the money would only reflect after two weeks.

Inefficiency of the machines

In response to the inefficiency of the machines, ICAM manager Giles Watermeyer, told Wits Vuvuzela: “Our bill acceptors have not been accepting the new bills properly. The units have been rejecting perfectly valid new RSA notes.”

One of the biggest complaints against the system is its inability to cater for the average student’s financial situation. Many students don’t have a lot of money in the middle of the month.

Almost two years ago the old kudu bucks machines, which were able to load both coins and notes, were replaced with machines that only allow users to load notes.

According to Watermeyer, the changes were made in 2010 in consultation with the SRC. The transition from coins to notes was phased in over a year to ensure users were given enough time to adjust.

Some students say they have had to borrow money to meet the minimum amount of R10.

The Wits Vuvuzela team spotted a small group of students trying to load money into a machine near the Matrix. One of them, Xolani Mangqu 2nd year BSc, struggled to load his R10 note into the slot, as the machine kept rejecting the money.

Implications of notes on students
Mangqu said sometimes he goes to an internet café off campus to print notes and assignments, either because the machines are not working on campus or because he doesn’t have R10.

“[They should] probably also try to cater for coins so that we can also load from coins going up to notes, because you cannot always have notes,” said the student.

When Wits Vuvuzela asked Watermeyer about the change from coins to notes and if he realised the implications for students he said,

“Coins were removed from the Kudu Bucks terminals in 2010 because coins do not hold enough value. They are expensive to process due to their weight and volume.”

By Leigh-Ann Carey and Dineo Bendile

Editorial: #NewVuvu

Tanyaradzwa Nyamajiyah Photo: Jay Caboz

It has been an eventful year at our university and Wits Vuvuzela has been part of it every step of the way.  The story of the 17 dismissed chefs and the Wits academic strike were two of the major news events for us in a year that saw our team tackle the demands of digital journalism while continuing to expand our skills in the print environment.

The May 11 #newvuvu launched in celebration of Wits 90 ran a lead story on thousands of Wits res students who cancelled their dining hall meals in support of 17 unfairly dismissed chefs.

Wits Vuvuzela took the lead in covering the story, going beyond the labour dispute to the heart of the story revealing the personal circumstances of the people affected. We continue to cover this story in order to bring home the realities of unemployment in our country.

In August our online paper received 13 729 hits due to our coverage of the Wits academic strike.

Lecturers were striking after Wits failed to meet their demand of a 9% salary increase among other demands. Lectures were cancelled and Wits Vuvuzela production was postponed as its core readership, the students of Wits University, stood in solidarity with the lecturers. Given its proximity to the site of the strike Wits Vuvuzela was the first to break the news of the academic strike online.

Using social media to expand our reach has been a major achievement of the #newvuvu team of 2012.  Wits Vuvuzela continues to exploit Twitter and Facebook in addition to other digital tools like curation and blogging in an effort to reach readership beyond the university and the community of Braamfontein.