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.