History will continue to be made by the Wits Journalism department, as it honours various influential journalists and media outlets.
The main challenge to economic growth—as set out in South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP)—is “incoherence”, according to some experts at Wits on Thursday.
Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib called the NDP “incoherent” and said “trade-offs” were needed. The private and public sector as well as trade unions needed to come together and make concessions in order for the NDP to work.
“We need a pact agreement on the NDP, we need a coherent plan that involves the business, labour, government and society,” said Habib.
Providing a business perspective, Nonkululeo Nyembezi, CEO of Ichor Coal NV, said there needs to be “frankness between constituents and people in government need to be open”.
The panellists said the reason for the disagreements about the NDP was a lack of consensus on its policies.
Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) strategist Neil Coleman said there was no broad consensus with the implementation of the NDP “and the NDP cannot be implemented without consent from and coherence with the workers.”
Coleman said the NDP was “ideologically driven rather than practical.”
The panelists also argued over whether the NDP would create jobs and whether these jobs would be sustainable.
National Planning Committee Secretariat head Khulekani Mathe said the plan’s goal was to bring unemployment levels below six percent by creating 11 million new jobs by 2030.
However, Coleman countered that these would be unsustainable, low-paying jobs that would threaten economic stability. He said the youth wage subsidy would result in wage repression.
“Repressing wages of first time workers will deepen inequality and economy with not grow,” said Coleman.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who was present in the audience, told the panel that wage repression would lead to more income inequality and instability in the country.
“When you depress wages of the youth, and whilst you say nothing and in fact celebrate the fact that the CEO’s continues to smile to the banks and take their monies all over the world, then you know that you’re going to work on political instability,” said Vavi.
Mathe disagreed the NDP would result in wage repression “there’s no way government would impoverish the people by doing that.”
He said the NDP instead supported “wage incentives”.
“What we do propose is a wage incentive, popularly known as the employment tax incentive, which is to try and encourage employers to employ more young people,” Mathe said.
The panellists agreed that income inequality was a problem but disagreed on whether the NDP would reduce the gap between rich and poor.
Coleman said that the NDP aims to decrease the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality in a country, to 0.6 percent. This would still leave South Africa the most unequal country in the world “and this is our ambition,” he said.
The discussion on Thursday was the first of the ten-part OR Tambo Debate Series hosted by the Wits School of Governance.
Wits Vuvuzela and the Wits Journalism department have been criticised after exposing a student politician who had been falsely claiming to be a member of the prestigious family of struggle hero Walter Sisulu.
Head of Wits Junction house committee Mcebo Freedom Dlamini had claimed to be “Mcebo Sisulu”, the grandchild of Walter Sisulu. Last week, he admitted to Wits Vuvuzela that this was not true and said he used “Sisulu” as a “stage name” or “when I’m excited”.
Reactions from the Wits community ranged from demanding Wits Vuvuzela to retract the article and issue a public apology to thanking the publication for revealing the truth about Dlamini.
Wits Vuvuzela “sensationalist and insensitive”
The South African Students Congress (Sasco) Wits branch responded by calling Wits Vuvuzela “extremely sensationalist, insensitive and highly ignorant”. Wits Sasco criticised Wits Vuvuzela for publishing the article on Dlamini during exam period.
“We are unequivocally perturbed by Vuvuzela‘s degenerated and haphazard journalism which … has ‘transformed’ overnight into a publication-wing of the department of home affairs,” Wits Sasco said in a statement issued early yesterday morning.
Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) co-ordinator Mbe Mbhele said in a statement that the publication of the article during exam period amounted to “malice” towards Dlamini.
Wits Journalism Department accused of racism
Wits EFF also leveled racism accusations against the Wits Journalism department in the statement released by Mbhele. The statement singled out head of department Prof. Anton Harber, course co-ordinator Jo-Anne Richards and adjunct professor Franz Krüger for criticism.
“Of course we are aware that Wits Vuvuzela is ran [sic] by non-apologetic white racists,” said Mbhele. “Who used two aspiring black journalists to defame and smear the character of a fellow student.”
Wits Vuvuzela journalist Rofhiwa Madzena, one of the writers of the expose on Dlamini, rejected the accusations by Wits EFF.
“I personally don’t feel or have ever felt controlled by them. They really don’t impose themselves in the day to day running of the paper or the publishing of stories online,” Madzena said.
“Their role is essentially to equip us with the resources and the understanding of how we are supposed to put stories together,” Madzena said.
“The rest is up to us in terms of finding stories and putting them together.”
The Wits Journalism department has defended Wits Vuvuzela for its publication of the article on Dlamini.
“The story is a valid, well-researched news story, showing that a student representative has been misrepresenting himself to the student body and the campus community,” said Krüger in a statement on behalf of the department.
Krüger also rejected the accusations of racism made against the department by Wits EFF calling them “unfounded”.
“Accusations of racism leveled at members of our department are simply an attempt to divert attention from the real issue, which is: our students produced a piece of good journalism of great public interest to members of the student body,” Krüger said.
Call for student boycott of Wits Vuvuzela
Some students and student organisations have taken to Twitter to call for a boycott of Wits Vuvuzela.
“@WitsVuvuzela must be boycotted. They are failing to intellectually stimulate students of the 2nd best university on the continent,” said former SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa (@Sibulele_).
However, along with the criticism, there has also been support from the Wits community on social media.
“I thought the article was well written and researched. I wouldn’t know why someone would criticize the publication of something that important,” said Witsie Houston Austin Muzamhindo on the Wits Vuvuzela Facebook page.
Some students said they believed the article was important because Dlamini is a student leader and he must face the music for his false claims.
“If you are going to lie, stand for it and eventually fall for it. Not all students disagree with @witsvuvuzela,” @2_Miza tweeted, yesterday afternoon.
For the full statement by the Wits Journalism department, click here.