A speech by Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson Mmusi Maimane during O-week was cancelled, allegedly because the party’s Wits youth wing failed to follow university procedure.
The alleged violation of protocol by the DA Student Organisation (DASO) resulted in Maimane being denied a speaking slot shortly before he was scheduled to address students.
Tokelo Nhlapo, SRC vice-president, told Wits Vuvuzela Maimane did not get permission to address students.
Prem Coopoo, dean of students, said she approves all society events of a political nature and does not allow any political speakers on campus during O-week. She added that the new executive committee may not have been aware of the procedure.
Maimane claimed censorship
Maimane said he was not allowed to speak at the clubs and societies’ marquee on the Great Hall piazza, although DASO had confirmed a 15-minute time slot the day before. The SRC drew up a timetable to give different societies the opportunity to promote themselves throughout the week.
In a press statement, Maimane described the incident as “anti-democratic bullying” by the “ANCYL-run Wits SRC”. Fourteen of the 15 elected SRC members belong to the Progressive Youth Alliance, a coalition between several student organisations including the Wits ANC Youth League.
“This is yet another example of how the ANC is attempting to close down the democratic space at our universities. There is a growing intolerance in the ANC of differing views,” he said.[pullquote]”He cannot expect to be given red carpet treatment here because he’s opposition”.[/pullquote]
Tshediso Mangope, Wits ANCYL chairperson, accused Maimane of “cheap politicking”.
“This ‘Robin Hood style’ of manoeuvring is not going to assist us … he cannot expect to be given red carpet treatment here because he’s opposition,” Mangope said.
In e-mail correspondence, DASO Wits requested a speaking slot with Apelele Pindani, SRC Clubs and Societies officer, over a week before the start of o-week.
But after Maimane’s arrival, Luyolo Mphithi, DASO Wits leader, said he was informed by the SRC that the society had not received the necessary clearance to have a political figure address students.
“They were telling us that we didn’t get permission to get him inside Wits and that he was not allowed to be inside.”
Published in Wits Vuvuzela (2nd edition), 15th February 2013
A team of Witsies is one of only three African teams shortlisted for a global aviation competition with a R330 000 prize.
The team, who call themselves Stormhawks, hope their idea ‘to improve the eco-efficiency and sustainability of the aviation industry’ will be the best, and win them a cool €30,000 (R330 000). The prize money will be awarded by Airbus in its biennial Fly Your Ideas competition.
The team members are Pitso Mangoro, Azhar Cassim (both 4th year Aeronautical Engineering), Tshireletso Mango (4th year Electrical Engineering), Sambharthan Cooppan (Masters in gas dynamics) and Muhammed Dangor (Masters in control).
They are proposing a hybrid visible light communication system for aircraft control, which involves transmitting data in planes in the form of light instead of the current system that is through electrical wires.
The Stormhawks expect that this will reduce the weight of aircrafts and lower fuel consumption, to reduce carbon emissions. It could also make aircraft assembly quicker and maintenance easier.
Mangoro, who is the team leader, and his four colleagues were the only ones willing to participate in the competition. They chose each other for their individual strengths and fields of expertise, and said Wits has encouraged teamwork throughout their degrees.
Mangoro came up with this idea and said there was nothing stopping bigger firms from ‘stealing’ it.
“We have not yet considered such a possibility and would rely on such a firm’s integrity and morals in not committing such an action.”
The Wits team are among 100 teams from around the world put through to the next round of the competition. The other two African teams hail from Nigeria and Kenya.
The competition is backed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and European aviation giant Airbus.
The 100 teams still face another elimination round before the final five present their idea to a panel of Airbus and industry experts in Hamburg, Germany on June 12. The awards ceremony will take place the following day at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
Mangoro said they would share the prize money equally if they win, and use some of it to tour Europe before returning to South Africa.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 2nd edition, 15th February 2013.
Wits staff unions will resume their dispute over salaries with Wits management on Monday February 11, even though staff received two raises within the last 7 months.
The Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu) suspended the dispute shortly before the start of last year’s final exams “in the interest of students”, and to negotiate with the newly-appointed members of management “in good faith”. Union members went on strike twice last August after negotiations for improved salaries, improved working conditions and more research funding deadlocked. They had demanded a 9% increase for support staff and payment for academics on the 75th percentile, which is the three-quarter mark in the range of salaries in the higher education sector.[pullquote align=”right”]“Staff are earning significantly less in January 2013 than they were earning in December 2012.”[/pullquote]
The Wits Council granted a 7.55% increase for academics and 6.8% for support staff in June 2012, and an additional 4% increase for all in January 2013. The yearly bargaining cycle was changed from June to January, meaning Wits will give staff their next raise in January 2014.
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Liz Picarra, Asawu vice-president, said management’s latest offer has not matched the costs of working at Wits. Parking and medical aid fees increased this year as they do annually.
“With these increases in medical aid and parking, academic and support staff are earning significantly less in January 2013 than they were earning in December 2012,” Picarra said.
But Yule Banda, Wits’ Human Resource manager, said the medical aid fee increase came with more benefits and was below the national benchmark. He added that while medical aid fees went up for 2013 alone, the salary increases covered an 18-month period.
In a statement, Asawu described the January salary increase as an imposition on its members that was made without consulting itself or support staff union, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu).[pullquote align=”right”]“You have to deal with the problem of renumeration and financial incentives.”[/pullquote]
Unions’ faith in new management team
Habib said he played a big role in salary negotiations at the University of Johannesburg, where he was a deputy vice-chancellor, in his public address during the appointments process in November. He proposed a “university pact”: an alliance between staff, students and alumni that will investigate how best to manage their demands.
Habib said it is a vice-chancellor’s responsibility to attract and retain top academic talent from competing universities.
“You have to deal with the problem of remuneration and financial incentives. If you bury your head in the sand and say the academy is an equal socialist space, you will never attract the kinds of people you need.”
Wits has commissioned a fact-finding inquiry into last year’s salary negotiation process which will be externally headed by Mark Antrobus, SC. It is expected to recommend ways to improve future negotiations.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 1st edition, 6th February, 2013.
The two aggrieved Wits staff unions do not need to embark on an indefinite strike, says Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (Altsa) president Adele Underhay.
Underhay met with Altsa members on Wednesday to update them on negotiations with Wits management. Altsa signed the 2012 wage agreement the day before the second union strike in August. This left the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu), and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) deadlocked with management.
“We felt that management came back and they had moved considerably on a lot of issues,” Underhay said.
The three unions jointly declared a dispute with management in May over a range of grievances, most notably salary increases.
On the morning of the second strike, some Altsa members expressed disappointment with union leadership for “breaking ranks”.
Underhay said she tried to be reasonable, although her point of view may be shifting.
“We need to get new blood into the negotiating team … maybe I’m not seeing things clearly anymore, maybe I’ve been in it too long.”
Asawu gave its members the option to vote for an indefinite strike as a way forward but they chose to boycott administrative meetings. It also considered suspending the strike until next year, when there will be new members of senior management.
“It is clear that the current management plans to talk itself out of office and make the problem that of the next administration. The unions have now run through the entire Wits senior leadership and it is clear that there is nobody with whom negotiations can reasonably take place,” the Wits Joint Union spokesperson said.
Prof Rob Moore, deputy vice-chancellor: advancement and partnerships, said management was committed to resolving the dispute “as quickly as possible”, and was grateful that strikes had not caused further disruption of academic activities.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 25th edition, 21st September 2012
Suspected foul play has been ruled out as the cause of a fire in the Yale Road staff residential quarters on East Campus on Friday. The fire led to the death of David Sekhoela after he sustained critical injuries.
Sekhoela, a Servest worker, died in hospital on Saturday September 15.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
Most of the Yale Road residents are contract workers at Wits.
Richard Quinton, the responsible engineer at the Property and Infrastructure Management Division, said: “Many unsubstantiated rumours are being spread concerning the circumstances surrounding the case and [we are] considering conflicting statements received from various witnessing parties.”
Sekhoela’s former roommate, Paul Skotho, was in Germiston on the night of the fire. He was informed of the incident by phone on Saturday.
He remembered Sekhoela as “a joyful person who enjoyed laughing”.
“He wasn’t very vocal, like if someone made him angry, he would get angry but he would be laughing the next day.”
Chairperson of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) at Wits and Yale Road resident, Richard Sadiki, said Sekhoela had complained that as a contract worker he was not allowed to use just any pedestrian entrance to Wits.
Sadiki said Sekhoela had jokingly said it was better for him to go home because he was a “prisoner” at Wits.
“Maybe this wouldn’t have happened if he had just gone home,” Sadiki said.
Each room in the Yale Road residence traditionally contributes R50 to housemates who have suffered personal tragedies or to the families of those who die. Recently, R1100 was raised for the family of late resident Samson Makhunga. Sadiki said Sekhoela had not contributed to the fund for Makhunga.
Asking for donations for Sekhoela at a house meeting on Tuesday, Sadiki appealed for housemates to give voluntarily “in an African way”.
“Even if he made a mistake when he was alive, we cannot just punish him because he didn’t agree with us.”
Wits acting registrar Nita Lawton-Misra conveyed condolences on behalf of the university.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr Sekhoela, and those who knew him well.”
This tragic incident is being investigated by the SAPS in collaboration with the health and safety manager of the company the victim worked for.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 25th edition, 21st September 2012
The dispute between Wits management and unions is not a short-term fix, and should be addressed “very consciously and deliberately” by incoming members of the Senior Executive Team, according to Prof Rob Moore.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC): Advancement and Partnerships was speaking at a Leadership Forum, organised by the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU) on Monday, to debate the type of leadership needed at Wits.
Vice Chancellor Prof Loyiso Nongxa will end his extended five-year term in May 2013, and his post has been advertised as a vacancy.
Speaking in his personal capacity, Moore said the dispute had created a stressful time, but it was commendable that academics could have heated debates with management in Senate meetings, and still enjoy tea and sandwiches “in a perfectly amiable manner at tea time”.
Witsies at the forum said the new members of the SET needed to focus as much on the practical needs of the university as they would on strategic planning.
Pontsho Pilane, 1st year BA, said the ideal vice chancellor was someone who had been a student and a lecturer long enough to know what the “gist” of Wits was.
“We need a leader who values the fact that the academic staff and students run the university, and if it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be a Wits University.”
The race is on
Short-listed candidates for the DVC: Academic post delivered public presentations on Tuesday.
Prof Kuzvinetsa Dzvimbo, currently Executive Dean of the College of Education at the University of South Africa, said he was “very, very” interested in having a childcare facility for staff use on campus: a joint demand by Wits’ three unions in the current dispute.
Dzvimbo, who holds degrees from Sierra Leonean and Nigerian universities, said Wits needed to strengthen its relationships with other universities on the continent.
Prof Tahir Pillay, former Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Wits must also look eastwards, and not forget that all of the top 100 universities are not in Europe and North America.
Prof Andrew Crouch, Dean of Science, said Wits was nearing the end of a phase of heavy infrastructural investment (R1.5bn in the past few years), and needed to build “academic proficiency on top of that infrastructure”.
A female Wits student was lucky to have escaped unscathed after being attacked by a fellow student and his accomplice on Monday September 3. To add insult to injury the student, Boitumelo Moeketsi alleges that a Hillbrow police officer told the suspect that he should have proposed to her ‘the right way,’ while she was in the same room with them.
Update (September 7 2012): Michael Mahada, Campus Control investigations manager, said: “the involvement of this young man is disappointing as its shows that some of our students might have been involved in the previous muggings on campus.” The student will face disciplinary charges from the university after his release from prison.
Several Wits staff members arrived at work on Tuesday morning, September 4, to find their offices flooded and property destroyed.
The alleged vandals had blocked the basins in some bathrooms with toilet paper in the Chamber of Mines, Commerce, Law and Management (CLM), and FNB buildings, as well as the new science stadium and left the taps running. The tap water flooded offices and passageways overnight.
Water leaked through the roof and broke the ceilings of the CLM faculty offices. Marike Bosman, CLM faculty registrar, said original documents containing students’ marks were destroyed, as well as computers, printers and telephones.
Damp stacks of paper lay on her secretary’s table, and several boxes were moved outside, possibly to be disposed of.
Cleaning staff began work early on Tuesday in the different buildings and worked well into the day.
Bosman said the cost of repair was what upset her the most about the flood.
“Do you know how many students we could have sponsored with the money it will take to repair this?”
She said the faculty had made alternative arrangements to carry on as normal.
Acting vice-chancellor Prof Yunus Ballim said the Legal Office will coordinate insurance claims. He also indicated, via an email sent out to staff, that he was concerned about the security of buildings on campus.
UPDATE: 12 September 2012 – Campus Control Investigations Manager Michael Mahada said investigations into the flood were underway, and declined to share any information regarding culprits or suspects.
A Res student representative has accused the Wits counselling unit of failing “students in crisis” following another suicide attempt at David Webster Hall this week.
A David Webster Hall resident overdosed on antidepressant pills in what friends said was an attempted suicide on Sunday evening, August 26.
Hall coordinator Prof Tumai Murombo said he received an alarming message from one of the student’s friends.
The student was transported to Milpark Hospital by Campus Control within an hour, according to investigations manager, Michael Mahada.
“The information recorded in an Occurence Book shows that CB1 made an entry at 19h39 about it and they again made a cross reference at 20h31 to effect that the sick student had been transported to Milpark Hospital.”
Mahada said Campus Control does not have the qualifications or personnel to run an ambulance service, but will call an ambulance if asked to.
Chairperson of David Webster Hall, Godfrey Dlamini, said the student refused to be admitted.
Dlamini, said this was one of about five attempted suicides at David Webster this year. In some cases, the same students have tried to kill themselves more than once.
Dlamini and the hall coordinators have had to chase suicidal students across the car park, trying to calm them down.
“Career Counselling and Development Unit (CCDU) promised to address a tailor-made workshop for the David Webster students last semester but up to now have not delivered. As psychological experts in the university, the CCDU has failed students in crisis,” said Dlamini.
Murombo said the reasons for attempting suicide went beyond academic difficulties and involved social difficulties as well.
Murombo also said the CCDU’s approach of treating students on a voluntary basis was failing because it is impersonal and technical.
“Students don’t want to be treated like patients, they feel alienated. The current counselling system is too formal and technical.
The CCDU needs to initiate therapy that takes the form of a social conversation. It’s a more effective way of picking up student issues before they get out of hand,” he said.
In response to David Webster, Toinette Bradley, therapy team leader of the CCDU, said that David Webster should follow up their request for a therapy workshop before exams arrived.
Bradley said they had received the case of a mistaken overdose and were in the process of addressing it.
“We cannot force anybody to come in and see us but we do try to get their family and friends to convince them to seek treatment with us,” she said.
Co-written with Akinoluwa Oyedele
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 22nd edition, 31st August 2012.
Two of the three Wits unions will strike tomorrow August 28, after they declined management’s offer in negotiations.
Last-minute talks were held between unions and management on Monday afternoon to try and prevent a second one-day strike. The Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU), the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (ALTSA) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU), jointly declared a dispute in May over a range of grievances including salary increases and insufficient parking.
In talks which ended around 5pm on Monday, management proposed (among others): a shift from the July-to-June pay cycle to a January-to-December pay cycle (to create a salary increase in January 2013), negotiations for next year’s salaries to begin next week, a written understanding of the 75th percentile salary benchmark, and a commitment to resolving non-salary issues by year end.
Joint union spokesperson Kezia Lewins said there was “insufficient movement” towards a resolution by 5pm, the time it had been agreed that negotiations would end.
“Given that no agreement could be concluded and management’s disinclination to continue with the negotiation process, the planned strike will go ahead,” Lewins said.
Lewins said management threatened to withdraw all the offers if Tuesday’s strike went ahead.
Dr Kgomotso Kasonkola, senior director of Human Resources, said only ALTSA accepted these proposals.
“It is regrettable that ASAWU and NEHAWU have rejected these offers without explanation or counter-offers, and have announced their intention to continue their strike action tomorrow,” Kasonkola said.
“Upon stating that they would be reporting back to their principals, Professor Ballim (Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic) told the unions “off you go!” Lewins said. According to a tweet from ASAWU (witsjointaction), the vice-Chancellor Loyiso Nongxawas not present during the negotiations.
How Wits stacks up against other academic institutions
The Human Resources department conducted a comparative salary analysis to show how Wits’ range of salaries compares with other research-intensive institutions.
According to the findings, a Wits lecturer earns between R393 900 and R590 850 per annum, while a University of Cape Town (UCT) lecturer earns a maximum of R427 311.
Kasonkola said these values do not show the full salary packages at institutions, but Wits is currently a “market leader” in academic salaries.
Also, the 7.55% and 6.8% increases granted to academic and support staff respectively were above the Consumer Price Index (CPI), pegged at 4.9% in July.
Management re-invited the three unions to the negotiating table over the weekend, nearly a month since their first strike on August 2.
The Wits Senate (the academic leadership forum) had called on the Wits Council to resolve the dispute “without further delay”.
Union members intend to picket at major entrances to Wits in the morning, and hold a rally on the steps of the Great Hall at noon.
Related articles and multimedia
Wits strike set to continue until demands are met – Mail and Guardian
The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) fell one candidate short of a third consecutive clean sweep in this year’s SRC elections.
Wits Registrar Kirti Menon announced the results to over 100 students outside the Great Hall steps on Friday August 24.
Members and supporters of the PYA formed a circle and had been singing for at least an hour before the announcement. Of the 30 403 students on the voter’s roll there was only a 20% voter turnout, a 4% increase from last year.
The 2012/2013 SRC election results
The top 15 candidates will form next year’s SRC.
PYA candidates and members marched to the Matrix after the announcement to celebrate their victory. Torn campaign posters belonging to the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) were seen along the route they took although it is not clear who was responsible for this.
In a related issue, Dominic Khumalo, a PYA candidate, was apparently excluded from the elections, although the chief electoral officer confirmed that he submitted a letter withdrawing his nomination.