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