In Westbury young people’s choices are limited to gangsterism or staying indoors

Well-resourced recreational facilities are meant to serve as a haven for the youth but that’s not the case for the community of Westbury.

The Joburg west suburb, Westbury has been crying about gang violence and drugs for years on end and their cries have seemingly gone unheard. The weekend of February 25, 2023 was the start of another cycle of violence in this community, two people were killed and 11 injured as a result of gang-related violence.

Like in the previous instances of violence in Westbury, the government, this time led by Minister of Police Bheki Cele reacted through a community meeting. A platform for the community to engage and air their grievances, one community member said: “We want to work – I can tell you that. We want to do [recreational] activities – but nothing is coming to us,” reported Eyewitness News.

Recreational facilities and activities that are well-resourced and maintained can help reduce the number of youth that join gangs in marginalised communities, according to the Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development Research, which explores the link between gang participation and the exclusion from recreational facilities.

The study further added that these spaces can help reduce and prevent crime by preventing juvenile delinquency through upskilling and keeping the youth busy. When young people don’t have access to these and have grown up in a violent environment, the chances of them falling prey to gangsterism is high. The effects of poverty and not being able to get out of the cycle of poverty can have a longlasting impact from generation to generation.

A section to the south of Sophiatown became a municipal shelter location known as Western Native Township to restrict African settlement in Johannesburg after 1924 when the Native Act of 1923 was enacted. The area was named Western Coloured Township after the Group Areas Act of 1950, and then renamed Westbury in the 1960s. The spatial planning cannot be ignored in how it contributed to how the area has turned out.

Spatial planning was designed to keep people of colour away from opportunities that could better their lives, research shows that people in these areas were kept far away from the economic opportunities that could help change their fortunes.

According to Wits University professor, Clive Glaser, who studies youth culture and the history of South Africa, young men need to have a sense of belonging , a space that’s bigger than a neighbourhood where they do not feel that their manhood is blocked socially, politically and economically. When manhood can not be exercised in these ways, exerting it through violence is often the route taken.

“Apartheid planning generally has contributed to that [gang violence] when you get areas that are poor and cut off and a few opportunities for young people and gangs look like more viable life choices than going the route of education,” said Glaser.

Lerato Ndlovu being shown around on where the youth programs take place in the Westbury Transformation Development Centre. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

Ending Cycles of Violence follows the origins of the formation of gangs in western Johannesburg during Apartheid and focuses on three periods of what it calls “gang violence cycles”.

The first “cycle” from 1994 to 1999 was defined by extreme violence when Westbury had the highest mandrax consumption in the country and a lot of turf wars were happening and then a gang truce, which was the result of the Westbury peace process in early 1999 when gang leaders from the various gang groups met to make peace.

The second cycle, from 2000 to 2013, saw the emergence of new criminal drug lords, an increase of drugs, and a lot of protests by residents that resulted in a visit from then-president, Jacob Zuma. The third cycle, 2014 to 2018, saw an increase in murder in the area and police involvement in criminal activities.

“The gangs in the Ward have been around for decades and will continue to be unless the cycle is broken and people are able to get back on their feet and not be dependent on the drug peddlers and gangs that they become affiliated with in order to survive,” said Susan Stewart, former ward 82 councillor. Stewart was in the position for 10 years and said little has changed since her term in office.

The crime statistics from crime hub show that the Sophiatown precinct where Westbury crimes are reported, showed an increase of almost 50 % over the last 10 years for attempted murder. Twenty seven attempted murder cases were reported in 2012 and 49 in 2022.

Drug related crimes have also been on the increase, reaching a peak in 2014/15 with 1515 cases reported. There’s been a slight increase between 2012 and 2022 where the number of cases were 906 and 1010 respectively. Murder had the highest increase over the past 10 years where the murder cases went from 12 in 2012 to 29 in 2022.

“The Crime Prevention Units and SAPS etc are not effective in dealing with the issues within the Ward and many are alleged to be involved with the syndicates, bribery and corruption and so there is very little to no hope that the situation will ever improve.  To eradicate society of gang violence the justice system has to work and unfortunately, it does not.  Even when arrested many of them are set free after bribing someone,” said Stewart.

Supporting this statement is a study, Ending Cycles of Violence which revealed police corruption and complicity in crime in the Western suburbs of Johannesburg.

“All the major gang bosses have police on their payroll. Some, he said, ‘are considered expendable because they can easily be replaced. Detectives are considered more important because they have access to dockets and decide who gets charged and who doesn’t,” the study revealed.

A resident of Westbury and a pastor in the community Doreen Babi, was a victim of police corruption where her identity was revealed to criminals for being a witness to a crime. “ I was an eyewitness for a murder case because they shot my friend… I was unknown and this policeman gave my identity to the people that shot my friend,” Babi recalled.

The most common area where profits from the drug economy have empowered gangs is their access to firearms. All the evidence suggests that today, influential gangs have more access to firepower than they did in the past. This is supported by the crime statistics of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition which had 22 cases 10 years ago but in 2022 the cases have increased to 61.

When asked where the youth obtained these illegal firearms, Babi adamantly said that it was from the police.

“The COJ has always and still done superficial intervention to real problems.  Window dressing as I would call it.  They create programs that encourage the youth to participate with a small stipend attached for a week, sometimes a few weeks or months and if they are lucky maybe even a certificate at the end that gives them access to nothing as it goes nowhere from there because there are no jobs that will absorb them after the fact,” said Stewart.

The youth often end up where they began after the programs that the city introduces in the community which is the reason why the youth of the community are crying out for recreational activities when they are there, they just aren’t programs that are run long enough she further added.

The City of Johannesburg has been allocated 57.7 million for community development for the current year and of that money sports and recreational centre’s are allocated R215 713 as shown in the Draft Medium Term Budget 2023/24-2025/26.

In this R215 713, money is allocated to Westbury to run some youth development programs. In Westbury, there’s a facility that lives by the motto: “We replace the guns and drugs with our skills development programmmes.”  Westbury Youth Centre runs a three-month job readiness program with the City of Johannesburg where each month they take 50 young people and provide computer training and conduct interview preparation, in an effort to make them employable.

“I would ask the city to extend those 3 months and fund us for a year because these programmes work but three months is not enough to run these programmes,” said Bridget Munnik, manager of the Westbury Youth Centre.

Among these facilities is the Westbury Transformation Development Centre which was recently upgraded by the Johannesburg Development Agency on behalf of the City of Johannesburg and cost the city R67 million. The centre opened in February 2019, and it offers sports and other recreational activities which they hope will empower and motivate the youth to improve their lifestyle and subsequently keep the youth off the streets.

Other services on offer include internet and computer access at the skills development facility, so people can look and apply for work.

Access to resources that focus on skills building, empowerment and the development of self-esteem is an important component in ensuring the protection of young people from the appeal of gangs.

The City of Joburg also runs programmes with I Love Robotics that cater to the vulnerable youth (12 year olds upwards). They run a Robotics programme during the April holidays which keeps these young people engaged in something interesting because it is around this age where it is reported that young people are most susceptible to influence.

This is another example of a programme which is too short, Stewart said more time would increase participants chances of employability.

“Keeping young people in school and enrolled in positive activities and providing proper resources, which could minimise the chances of them joining in gang violence, help them to become agents of change rather than threats in the society” reported SCielo in a study of the youth gang violence on the educational attainment and what benefits the youth get from joining gangs than being in schools.

Unfortunately for the schools in Westbury they cannot make schools a place where the learners can become these agents of change because the school premises have become a battlefield between gang members.

Carte blanche reported in May 2023 that 99% of learners in schools in Westbury aspire to become drug lords. Gang violence in this community has overflowed into the school premises and the work the school would do of having extramural activities is overshadowed by the violence that has entered the schools.

“The environment here at school currently is very volatile… The fights are normally between gang-related gangs, one gang attacking the other one because of what happened over the weekend” reported SABC News, speaking to the principal of Westbury Secondary School on how the school has become a battlefield.

Supporting this statement Munnik said: “It’s chaos at our schools, chaos because there are gangsters at the schools, especially in matric and so the two gangsters cannot see eye to eye in one school.”

The public safety Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) was reached out to, to provide insight on the safety approach to the rampant criminality in the community but no response was received from him.

Living legend given his flowers  

The entertainment industry greats paid tribute to one of South Africans great actors, John Kani at his birthday celebration. 

Award winning actor, director, playwright, and Wits honorary doctorate receiver John Kani celebrated his 80th birthday in a packed theatre. The celebration took place in his namesake, the John Kani theatre, in the Market Theatre laboratory on August 30.  

The event was opened with a performance by the South African jazz musician Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, followed by an address by Atandwa Kani, his son and an actor in his own right. “We all here to celebrate this big man’s birthday on behalf of the family, I just want to say tata, happy birthday Mlotshane,” he said.  

Atandwa Kani performing The Island. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

The Van Toeka Af living legends recognition series is an initiative by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture’s which recognises living legends and the work they have done. Dr Kani’s 60 year career in the dramatic arts played out on stage.  

The celebration included different snippets of theatre work that Kani had worked on and won accolades for, among these performances was the infamous Sizwe Banzi is Dead, performed by Atandwa and Nathienal Ramabulana on the night. The play co-written by Athol Fugard, Winston Ntshona and Kani, explored the themes of identity, self-worth, racism, and suppression.  

This is the play that won the Tony Award for the best play in 1975. It premiered in October of 1972 and ran 52 times in New York, winning the award three years later.  

Kodwa spoke fondly about Kani and the work he has done for art and how he has used art to inspire change through his work during the apartheid and post-apartheid era. “He is the living testament to the power of art, to inspire change, to transcend boundaries and to foster unity,” he said. 

Another outstanding theatre performance of Shakespeare’s Othello was performed by Atandwa, Kate Liquorish and Michael Richard. In 1987, Kani’s role as Othello, in particular the infamous kiss shared with Desdemona (a white woman) in the play, faced backlash. The kiss came just two years after laws prohibiting interracial marriages and sex were repealed by the Apartheid government. But segregation was still so ingrained, that many audience members walked out during performances reported the Chicago Tribune at the time.

Atandwa Kani and Kate Liquorish performing Othello. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

Kani wrapped up the evening with a performance of a play he wrote called “Nothing but the Truth” which looked at the relationship complexities between the black people that stayed in South Africa and the ones that went into exile.  

After his performance he made a speech on the importance of sustainability in the arts. “We have to industrialise the arts, it cannot be a side job because we don’t want to do a BSc [Bachelor of Sciences], it has to be a business, an industry that I can tell my children yes because you’re going to survive, make money and be rich.”  

FEATURED IMAGE: John Kani sits down to have an interview with Wits Vuvuzela. Photo: Nonhlanhla Mathebula


Project Revolutionize works to end period poverty on campuses

The Wits student forum hosted the second part of the Project Revolutionize campaign which aims at tackling the lack of sanitary products and menstrual hygiene education within the university. 

In a two-day activation campaign, which took place at Wits’ Ampitheatre and education campus — Project Revolutionize empowered students with knowledge and tools to help them manage their menstrual flow.   

Project Revolutionize was formed by the Wits Business School student council to work towards eliminating period poverty at the institution; it has since been joined by different faculties within the institution. 

Day one of the activation was themed “Painting the campus red.”  The day consisted of engagements between the hosts of the event and the students, where they taught about feminine hygiene. Later, a pad drive was conducted where students were asked to donate if they had the means to. 

The campaign collaborated with the Mina Foundation – an organisation also working towards alleviating period poverty. The foundation assisted by handing out menstrual cups to students, while informing them how they worked. They managed to give close to 200 menstrual cups to students. 

Angel Shongwe the junior facilitator of the Mina Foundation demonstrating how to use menstrual cups. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

“Ending period poverty is one thing we are keen to do; and currently we are doing that very well, we have [since] given out about one thousand cups here at Wits and today we are giving out more”, said Angela Shongwe, a junior facilitator of the Mina Foundation. 

The second day of the activation was called “A REDvolutionary night” – and it only consisted of a panel discussion. The keynote speaker was former Witsie and one of the leaders of the 2015 Fees Must Fall movement, Nompendulo Mkhatshwa. She is currently the chairperson of the portfolio committee on higher education, science and innovation for the ANC in parliament. She said that pad drives should be paired with something like a developmental programme that equips the needy with skills. 

“I find it very cringey when people go to an area to donate a box of pads that’s going to last the people a month at most, not to say it’s not appreciated but those people need so much more than pads,” explained Mkhatshwa.  

Meanwhile, Tshifhiwa Manyage, the co-founder of Project Revolutionize, invited the attendees to share their experiences of what it was like when they first had their periods.  

“[When I got my period] I asked one of my teachers to get a pad and luckily she had one, but when I got home and explained what happened I was[not met with] conversations about what happens, that you going to experience period pains…Instead my mom said ‘I take you to school to get an education and this is partly what I’m expecting them to teach you’”, said Siyamthanda Mashicila, a Wits Honours in Arts theatre and performance student, sharing her experience.  

In her closing remarks Mkhatshwa advised the students who are in councils to go to the Gender Equity Office and advocate for menstrual leave; saying that its unfair for women to have to show up when they are going through a tough time because of their periods. “Other countries have it and if they can do it, we can also do it”, she added.  

A Witsie donating pads to Project Revolutionize.Photo:Aphelele Mbokotho

Yolisa Sphambo, co-founder of Project Revolutionize and the Transformation Officer of the Wits Business School student council reflected on the activation and said: “People know what Project Revolutionize is and that is what makes me happy because if they know about it then they are going to start talking about it”. She said this will help break away from the shame about periods and work towards combating institutional period poverty. 

On the last day of the campaign, Manyage told Wits Vuvuzela that although the outcome did not meet their expectations as they were hoping for a full house, Project Revolutionize had achieved its intended outcome for the day, “I’m grateful that at least we got a lot of engagement and a lot of discourse going”. 

The evening was wrapped up and the audience was given an opportunity to have one on ones with speakers if they wished to and were offered refreshments.  

FEATURE IMAGE: Yolisa Sphambo the co-founder of the project at day one of the activation.Photo:Aphelele Mbokotho


Wits hosts the first PSI Conference in Africa 

Performance enthusiasts from all walks of life came from across the globe for the first performance studies international conference held in Africa, hosted at Wits University. 

Wits University theatre and performance and Drama for Life departments took delegates and attendees on a journey around Johannesburg when they hosted the first Performance Studies International Conference, with theatre performances, panel discussions and presentations in line with the theme, Uhambo luyazilawula. 

Kamogelo Molobye welcomes the audience to another session at Market Theatre.
Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

The conference was hosted between August 2 –5, 2023, with performances across several cultural sites in Johannesburg including but not limited to the Wits Theatre Complex, Soweto Theatre and Constitution Hill.  

Performance Studies International was founded in 1997 to create communication and exchange among thinkers, artists, researchers, and activists working in the field of performance.  

“We themed the whole conference around ‘Uhambo Luyazilawula: Embodied wandering practices’ and we located uhambo both as a practice and as a way of thinking about performance studies, looking at the ways in which journeying and collaboration and community function as fundamental ways in which artists and scholars within the African continent position and locate performance studies” said Kamogelo Molobye , the co-organiser of the PSI conference.  

Wits Vuvuzela attended a presentation session called Ekhaya which translates as home from Isizulu and IsiXhosa in which music lecturer, Mbuti Moloi presented a paper on the significance of cultural diversity in higher education and what uhambo luyazilawula meant for traditional/African music. 

One of the primary challenges he spoke to was bias. Moloi’s views of the bias towards African music comes from the challenges of the past in which African music was modernised.  

 When speaking to the solutions to some of the primary challenges presented, Moloi said: “There is one solution, we need to get back to ourselves as African people. We need to use higher [education] learning to get back to ourselves.” 

In a different session Kwanele Thusi, a casting director presented his paper ‘I dance in my Mother’s language’ in which his argument was exploring the boundary between the body and its surroundings are blurred, all while the decolonisation of African Studies.  

“The drivers of language still create and maintain cultural power so there is cultural order, this is seen through systematic foundations set in media, politics and sport…,” he said.  

The audience watching a performance at Market Theatre. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

Thusi posits that an everyday example of this is job interviews, most black people struggle to express themselves well in English, which is the barometer of intelligence in those settings. As a byproduct, opportunities for employment and wealth creation remain limited.  

“Growing up in KZN and moving to Johannesburg to find a job, I realised how much I struggled and when I spoke to my friends who were black, they also struggled the same way and I wanted to understand why it was so hard for a black person to be sufficient and happy” 

“An attendee in both sessions Sihle Makaluza,  a student from University of Johannesburg said, “The papers were thought provoking and have left me asking myself questions on what I am doing to get to my true African self.” 

The conference was wrapped up at Constitution Hill where they focused on installations and panel discussions and the attendees and delegates were invited to a closing party.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Bruce Barnes performs ‘These bones they walk” piece. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho


WAM exhibition: An erectile dysfunction, makes sad boys worldwide   

Newly Wits PhD graduate uses art to explore the toxicity of fragile masculinity

Nicola Genovese has thrust the issues of fragile masculinity back in the public arena with his exhibition, Sad Boy —   which looks at the weight men carry as they are expected to perform being masculine.  

Genovese is an Italian/Swiss born artist that recently graduated with his PhD in Fine Arts at Wits. His work is mostly focused on videos, sculptural works, and performances in which he explores issues of masculinity, identity politics and power dynamics in relationships. 

The exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, which took place on August 1 was opened with a two-part performance. The first part of it was a reading of an excerpt from his research thesis on the working-class masculinity in the Northern parts of Italy, followed by a poem about the male body and erectile dysfunction. While the performance was taking place, audiences were surrounded by sculptures that attempted to showcase this fragility.  

Genovese reading his text on fragility and erectile dysfunction. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

One of the sculptures was placed on Genovese arm, which represented a male’s genital. He had his t-shirt tucked in and his belly sticking out, while flapping the object up and down as he spoke about the function of male genitals. 

Genovese told Wits Vuvuzela that the first part of his showcase focused on the representation of the “emo punk attitude from the 90s kids” where being sad and depressed looked cool; and the second one looked at the shame men carry when faced with genitals that are not working as they should.  

“We are talking about a part of the body that has to work…This was a way to show the ambivalence that it’s massive but also fragile and soft through the use of the metal sheet material that is metallic but also extremely soft that I used in the arm” Genovese said, when he was talking about what the arm represented in his performance. 

Christo Doherty, the supervisor of Genovese for his PhD thesis said that “It’s been quite a trip [working with him] because he is a very challenging artist that is working in the gender, sexuality area… he’s been exploring and critiquing masculinity but as a straight white male”.  

BA General student Hope Nesengane who was attending, said, “I appreciate how well rounded it was, the multimedia, the video element and sculptural pieces made the diversity of it interesting, and I thought the performance was also great.” 

FEATURED IMAGE: Genovese performing his text piece for the audience.Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho


The faculty for health science embraces the use of AI in teaching  

Wits looks at the father of medicine, Hippocrates, to help it navigate the use of artificial intelligence in the health sector.  

The Centre for Health Science Education hosted a focus day on July 19, at the Parktown Education campus which looked at the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in health care and health science training.  

The day created a space for discussion and participation around the theme of the day “From Hippocrates to AI.” Hippocrates was the father of medicine, who described many diseases and their treatment in a scientific manner. 

AI has significantly advanced in medicine; and it has improved medical image recognition better than humans when it comes to things such as X-rays. 

Shirra Moch, the organizer of the event said the purpose of the day was to make the academic community feel at ease with AI being incorporated in education.” Our aim with this session was to demystify for lecturers the use of AI in health science education and give them a hands-on experience to fight the fear of not knowing what it involves.” 

They looked at three topics:  ‘Induction to AI in health science’ which looked at the use of AI in the health science education; ‘Curating resources to encourage student learning’ this focused on how students can incorporate AI in their learning to enhance critical thinking and ‘Academic integrity and the role of AI in authentic assessment’, which examined how AI chatbot such as ChatGPT can be used in a way that students do not plagiarize, this was facilitated by Jannus Van AS the academic and blended learning coordinator. 

Richard Cooke gives shares his thoughts on the focus day and gives action points. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

Van As said, after reading on Instagram that lecturers put students’ assignments on ChatGPT and ask if the student wrote the paper or not. He decided to put his work that he had written onto the chatbot and asked it if he had written the paper and ChatGPT said yes. He explained that he realized that ChatGPT recognized his paper from the questions he asked. Van AS emphasized that it’s important to know the right way to prompt it so that students work is not discredited unfairly.  

Nabeela Sujee, coordinator of the simulation activities looked at the use of replicas in health science education. Simulation is a way in which they replicate a real-life environment; for example, a simulation lab is created to look like a hospital theatre.  

Sujee said, “These simulations are achieved through tech-enhanced mannequins that can breathe spontaneously, have heart, lung and abdominal sounds which makes the student not need feedback from the facilitator but get it directly from the mannequin.” 

She further explained that they cannot use these mannequins all the time, so sometimes they us CHATGPT, where they ask it to pretend to be a patient and the student asks it questions to arrive at a diagnosis. 

One of the attendees and the head of family medicine and primary care at Wits, Richard Cooke said incorporating AI in their teaching and learning is beneficial for students especially in the clinical space, where the use of ChatGPT helps with facilitating the class; and helps students work by themselves without needing a facilitator.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Shirra Moch, the organizer, takes action points from the attendees. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho


SLICE: Politicians to the left; influencers, right! 

The hiring of influencers by political parties deprives voters of the opportunity to interrogate what politicians have to offer.  

With the 2024 elections around the corner, politicians can be expected to use celebrities and influencers to persuade South Africans to vote for their parties.  

Celebrities have become central figures in modern politics globally by using their influence to lead party campaigns and social awareness campaigns. South Africa is not a stranger to this kind of culture. In the 2019 elections, celebrities such as Bonang Matheba took to Instagram with the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC presidential candidate, telling followers to follow their lead and vote for the ANC

Four years after the success of Ramaphosa’s campaign, Matheba is singing a different tune about how the ANC has failed the country. This proves that she did not have the expertise to make any politically influential statements in the first place because now she is calling for Ramaphosa to resign. 

The fusion of politics and pop culture has not served our democracy well as thousands of people would have taken endorsement of politicians by Matheba, DJ Zinhle and the late Kiernan Forbes at face value rather than interrogating their utterances.  

Some celebrities even take the baton and run with it into politics, as proven by Donald Trump who moved from The Apprentice showto the White House as the US president. Media reports slammed his term in office because of a lack of expertise to make the right decisions that even saw him refusing intelligence briefings that were crucial for his position.

Brookings, a public policy organisation based in Washington, USA reported that his lack of understanding of the political space made Trump to shut down resources such as the global health security team that would have helped minimise the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “Most American presidents fail when they cannot comprehend the government they inherit,” the organisation said. 

Recently in South Africa we have witnessed Kenny Kunene who became famous in 2014 for eating sushi off naked women become an acting mayor of Johannesburg for a day at the beginning of May. Questions of his capability to carry out the duties were raised because of his position as an entertainer. I was one of those who questioned what made him drop the chopsticks and move into politics and why he was entrusted with such responsibility.   

An article in the journal Political Psychology highlighted that “Research has shown that a politician’s involvement in a scandalous behaviour can severely damage candidate evaluations and may also decrease voting intentions.” This could cause voters to have mistrust when celebrities move from the entertainment industry to politics.  

This raises the issue whether politicians should stick to being public servants and celebrities remain influencers and entertainers. But what qualifies one to be a politician? In 2018 the Mail & Guardian reported  that “Many MPs insisted that educational qualifications are not the key to a seat in Parliament — being a good politician is what counts.”

The South African Constitution gives everyone the right to freedom of expression, but that right comes with responsibility. During the 2024 elections, I would like to see less of influencers in the political space and if we do see them, they should be aware that words have meaning. They should educate themselves about the parties they are endorsing to their followers.

I would like to see more politically present politicians with a focus on service delivery rather than those with a social media presence. South Africa is dealing with crises of water and electricity among many challenges. As a voter I would rather know what the different parties plan to do to solve these rather than listen to celebrities who see politics as the next paid campaign. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Aphelele Mbokotho. Photo: File


COOL KID: Lebogang Rampedi 

Wits TikTok star shares his beliefs on the power of content creation; and the responsibility that comes with it

BCom Economics Honours student at Wits University, Lebogang Rampedi has garnered success on the social media platform TikTok, with his lifestyle content, since posting his first video in November 2022.  

The 24-year-old rising star has only been creating content on social media for a year and four months, but has 83 600 followers on TikTok, with four million likes; and 52 600 subscribers on YouTube. 

Rampedi told Wits Vuvuzela that he chose to focus on lifestyle content — that tackles real life issues — because he is a human being that faces some of those challenges himself.  

He started producing his content on YouTube, but as TikTok became more popular, Rampedi shifted some of his content there.  

News24 reported in October 2022 that an estimation of around six million South Africans use TikTok daily and that the diversity and content creation was grabbing global attention. 

Seeing this, he explained that on the business side of things, TikTok was the next move and he worked to transform his content to be applicable to the platform. 

Lebo Rampedi shooting a video for his YouTube channel featuring Kudzai Mhlanga and Pabalo Maota. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

Rampedi understands that his peers spend a lot of their time on social media, and he wants his content to be relatable and have an impact on people’s lives.  

“I wanted people to understand that not everyone is okay, we have this perspective that people online are living it big, but I wanted to be one of the first people with a large social presence expressing how sometimes I don’t know how tomorrow is going to go, but still within the effects of making people smile,” said Rampedi on some of his content, which shows some of the harsh realities people are faced with in South Africa. 

“TikTok is a relatability app…The impact I was trying to make on TikTok is to have someone watch my video and be like ‘oh why do we all do this?’ And also, everything is bad news these days, so it felt good to make people happy,” he added. 

Rampedi started creating content in high school, where he was heavily involved in the writing of plays, directing, and acting. However, putting the content on social media was difficult for him because of the scrutiny that comes with it.  

His brother and fellow content creator, Thato Rampedi told to Wits Vuvuzela: “He is someone that is very creative, he is in touch with what makes audiences and viewers react, outside of his comedy, he is aware of what makes someone click on something, respond and engage; and I think he’s talented and unique in that.”  

Content creator and friend  Gontse Mohlatloe, mostly known as Justdaddyg said that Rampedi is a consistent TikToker, and that he loved his videos because they were relatable – and that outside of him being a content creator, Rampedi is an amazing person overall. 

Although his numbers are growing, and people can claim that he is successful, Rampedi feels he still has a long way to go. 

 “ TikTok is a great platform because anyone can be huge based on their views, but in terms of following and the community that you can build is what I define success…if you can build a community so great that they also push the same narrative into their own lives of making other people laugh , that is what I see as success,” he explained.  

In the future, he plans to go into the creation of dramas and short stories.

FEATURED IMAGE: Lifestyle content creator Lebo Rampedi posing for a picture. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho


Tackling period poverty one dispenser at a time

The Wits School of Business Sciences Students Council are making plans to install free pad dispensers throughout the University. 

Feminine hygiene and access to sanitary products were the topic of conversation, as members of Project Revolutionize engaged strangers in an awareness drive on May 8, 2023.  

Period Poverty refers to the lack of access to menstrual products, and this is what the project is aiming to eradicate by installing free pad dispensers across campuses.  

Transformation officer of Project Revolutionize, Yolisa Sphambo said that they identified the need for the project while in a bathroom. She said “where are the pads” had been scribbled next to a free condom dispenser. 

 Sphambo said that Project revolutionize is different to similar past projects as they are focusing on sustainability and making the provision of pads a norm. 

She said their project was aiming to revolutionize a women’s whole period, “Revolutionary [to us] means to feel comfortable to be soft within your period cycle”. 

A business sciences student, Babongile Tshabalala said that “I think it is something we truly need within the Wits society, because pads are more of a need than a want compared to the condoms that are readily available in the bathrooms.” 

Sarah Eram, the chairperson of the project said to Wits Vuvuzela, “The quality of pads students use is important as using unsafe menstrual products can lead to health issues and these are some things students don’t know.”  

“We have started speaking with people that are going to install the dispensers, we have found some people who are going to fund pads for the dispensers and some of lectures have committed themselves to donating” said Sphambo. 

Melissa Zulu, senior lecturer of marketing told Wits Vuvuzela “I decided to support this project because… girls and women should be able to go through it with respect and dignity.” 

This is a three-part launch, and the awareness week is the first step, the next steps involve having a workshop around the education of feminine hygiene and the installation of the dispensers. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Babongile Tshabalala shares her opinion on the importance of free pads. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho


Imperfect end for Parkview coffee shop

There will be no more ‘perfect’ cups of coffee for residents of The Parks as café closes its doors.

Closed café will be replaced by a grab-and-go from a trailer. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

The Perfect Cup coffee shop did not open for business on Tuesday, May 2, as the rental increases had become more than the owners could afford to pay.

After three years of operating, customers were welcomed by a notice posted on the Parkview café ‘s door. Owner Michelle Dancer mentioned building renovations and rising costs as the biggest factors in closing.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, Dancer said because of the building renovations she had lost customers because of all the noise that was happening around the shop. This added negative impact came as the business was still recovering from the covid-19 lockdown.

“Our biggest issue was that we could no longer afford paying rent because it had increased from R35 000 when we first opened in 2019 to R50 000 a month, and the landlord did not want to negotiate”.

Dancer is planning to run a grab-and-go from a trailer. That will see the business only keeping four permanent staff, and letting go of three contractual ones.

Vimbai Mamgoya, one of the workers that will be kept, told Wits Vuvuzela, “[The shutdown of the business] affects us but there’s nothing that can be done because of rental [costs], but I hope Michelle will help the others find jobs.”

Lara Venter, a regular at the coffee shop said that she was sad that it was closing. “They had affordable good food and coffee. Michelle and the staff were kind and warm and it was very comfy inside the shop.”

Businesstech reported in January that more than 1 900 business had shut down because of the rising costs and loadshedding. This week, The Perfect Cup joined those businesses.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Perfect Cup coffee shop has shut its doors because of rising costs. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho


REVIEW: Braam has a spicy new spot

Johannesburg Mexican food-lovers go loco over new restaurant.  

The first of its kind in Braamfontein, Loco is a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar that opened for business on April 1.  

Churros for dessert served with chocolate and caramel dip. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

Located on 73 Juta street, the six-week-old spot is situated under The Playground Market and next door to Uncle Faouzi, both local crowd pullers. The pink walls and black and white ceilings are aesthetically pleasing. One can take great pictures inside because of the good lighting. To top off the beauty of the interior design is the student friendly prices and atmosphere. 

Between the groovy Latin-American music and the cacti dotted all over the restaurant, one is instantly transported from the streets of Braam to the streets of Cancun.  

Loco manager, Bulelwa Mbonambi explained their choice of colours, “Pink is a happy, soft, luxurious colour and green is a nature colour, we want our customers to feel like they are living a soft life when they enter our space.” 

The restaurant has 12 square standalone tables that can be combined for group settings. Two of the tables have couches as additional seating options. They have a small outside area that is facing the Bannister Hotel and Kitcheners.  

The menu has two sides to it, the first side with a service window between 9am to 5pm, offering breakfast and brunch options such as the breakfast burrito and corn fritters. The second side is reserved for lunch and dinner meals served from noon onwards.  

The prices are a student’s dream, ranging from R65 to R145 for food and drinks from R20. One could eat a decent meal for just R200.  

Wits Vuvuzela put the waiter’s recommendations of a chicken and beef taco to the test.  The beef taco was new on the menu, and they were assessing to see how customers would find it. While the chicken taco, is their best seller. The waiting period was around 15 minutes to 20 minutes, and this was not bad for lunchtime as there was a bit of traffic. Laid out on a medium sized plate, the chicken taco had diced tomatoes, roasted sweet corn, avocado, pressed red cabbage and that was sealed together with chipotle vinegar which gave a bit of sweetness to it. 

When it came to the taste test, the beef taco proved more flavourful than the chicken taco. From the first bite one tastes the green pepper, feta cheese, onions and the spicy sweet relish that made everything come together so well. A bonus to this was that the beef was tender.  

To round off the experience, churros off the dessert menu were ordered. They were not overwhelmingly sweet, and they are served with either chocolate or caramel sauce.  

The chicken taco with diced tomatoes, sweet corn, avocado and pressed red cabbage. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

All in all, the bill was R275. The tacos were R50 each, churros R75, and the two coca cola cooldrinks which were R30 each. 

Mbonambi said: “This is a contemporary Mexican restaurant instead of traditional because the palette needs to be relatable and still be educational to the SA market.”  

The restaurant also offers a unique tequila tasting experience in the evenings. Loco is open from 9am to 10pm from Wednesday to Saturday. 

FEATURED IMAGE: The restaurant – LOCO – pictured during its less busy hours as the security guard on the side watches people pass by. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho


Pele Pele hold Wits to goalless draw 

The Braamfontein side is languishing in 10th position after it had topped the log at the beginning of the season.  

Wits University Football Club and Pele Pele Football Club were forced to settle for a goalless draw on Saturday, April 22, hindering both teams from moving up in the Gauteng ABC Motsepe League.  

In a thrilling game, Witsies started the first half strongly as they were dominating the game. On the other hand, Randburg stars Pele Pele were struggling with possession. Out of eight chances Wits created, three were on target, threatening the Pele Pele goalkeeper, Tsebo Tsotetsi. One hit the goal post, denying Wits a goal. At the other end, Pele Pele managed to create five chances with only two on target.  

Towards the end of the first half Pele Pele were awarded a penalty due to a handball. Fortunately for Witsies, the ball deflected off the crossbar. Halftime statistics showed two yellow cards for Pele Pele, against Siyabonga Buda for rough tackling and Tshepo Kakora for wasting time.  

In the second half, tables turned as Pele Pele proved to be the hungrier of the two teams, with increased possession and confident display. Pele Pele managed to create an additional five chances with a lot of scrappy passes in between. 

Witsies did not manage a single chance at goal up until the 80th minute when a ball coming in from out wide landed in the box for winger O’Neil Hendriks to break the tie. A heroic block on the line from Pele Pele defender Nhlakanipho Myeza was a decisive moment in the match.  

Three minutes of extra time were added but neither team managed to score, and when the final whistle blew, the score was still 0-0. Wits football coach Alzavian van Rheede told Wits Vuvuzela that he was not bothered about what the result meant for the team’s position in the league. “It was more the performance that we were looking for, the tactical agreements that we were working on in training because we tried something new today and we’re happy with what we got out of the game.”  

Pele Pele player Neo Mumble and Wits player Hakeem Marx eye the ball. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho

With 33 matches played so far, Wits are currently 10th on the log. This is a far cry from November 2022 when, after eight matches, Wits topped the log. They went on to lose 12 matches, and now, with 47 points, are left with two games to try and make it into the top eight. 

Seemingly the Braamfontein side has accepted that this season is a loss as winger Hendriks told Wits Vuvuzela that, “We are not fighting for anything now, we just want to enjoy the games that are left.” 

Mncedisi Sibiya, football coach of Pele Pele, said that the result was disappointing as the third-placed team, with 66 points, was chasing the second spot. “We hope that the [Soweto Super United FC] throws or loses the game, but we still have two games to play. We will keep on pushing. We will get the two points [necessary to move up].” 

Centre back of Pele Pele, Neo Mumble, said, “I think we should have won this game given that we played better than these guys. It was a tough, good game.“ 

Wits will next play away to Tembisa-based M Tigers Football Club on Thursday, April 27. The venue is yet to be confirmed.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits player, Lehlohonolo Mollo, wins the ball, leaving Pele Pele’s Neo Mumble in the dust. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho