Student protest not deterred by pepper spray


A student tries to throw a Wits Vuvuzela newspaper stand at the Fidelity security guards but is stopped by other students and campus control. The guards had to move behind glass doors in order to get away from some of the students. Photo: Dana Da Silva

The third day of a generally incident-free protest saw pepper spray being used on protesters in the Senate House concourse.

The protest at Wits University is against a 10.5% tuition fee increase.

Protesting students and Wits vice chancellor Adam Habib were in the concourse waiting for an emergency council meeting to begin but later in the evening about 30 private security guards were spotted entering the concourse by a few students.

Students attempted to keep the guards out by holding the doors shut but the security managed to force their way into the concourse. The guards were met with resistance from some of the students who threw trash at them.

The security continued in their attempt to enter the main concourse area but students reacted by throwing chairs, bottles and cool drink cans at them.

A number of students intervened and tried to calm the situation. They also linked up arm in arm to try and push back the students. But the security responded by throwing a pepper spray bomb into the crowd. Once the pepper spray subsided the crowd calmed down again and started to sing and chant as preparations were being made for the council meeting to start at 19:00.

Wits students promise long protest

SIT DOWN: Students have said that if they're demands have not been met to scrap the tuition fee increase they will protest till exams if they have to. Today's protest began at the Empire Road entrance and moved to Senate House where Habib joined students in a sit down until and emergency council can be convened.

SIT DOWN: Students have said that if their demands to have  the tuition fee increase scrapped, they will protest till exams. Today’s protest began at the Yale Road entrance and moved to Senate House Concourse where Adam Habib joined students in a sit down until an emergency council meeting can be convened.

Student protests against fee increases at Wits University in Johannesburg, entered a third day today and look set to continue into next week. 

Student protests may continue into next week if Wits University does not agree to scrap a 10.5 percent fee increase.

Addressing several hundred students in Senate House, former SRC president Mcebo Dlamini said the protest would continue into next week.

“We will do it … until we are heard!”

In response the crowd of protesting students began chanting “Monday! Tuesday! Wednesday! Thursday! Friday!”

The protest, which began on Wednesday, has shut down academic activities on campus.

Students congregated at all of the university’s entrances and wouldn’t let other staff or students come in or out until late at night.

Today, students met at the Yale Road entrance on Wits Campus so that Vice Chancellor Adam Habib could address them.

“This is a revolution and our target is free education,” said Dlamini before the crowd of students marched to Senate House.

Habib agreed to sit with the students in the Senate House concourse until an emergency university council can be held to discuss the fee increase.

The Chairperson of the Wits Council Dr Randall Carolissen said over the phone, to which Dlamini held a megaphone to, that a meeting can only be held by tomorrow morning.

Students along with the vice chancellor will be sitting in Senate House until then.

Students await Habib’s address

Former Wits SRC President, Mcebo Dlamini, addresses students at the Yale Road entrance while the Wits Vice Chancellor waits to address the students. Photo: Riante Naidoo.

Former Wits SRC President, Mcebo Dlamini, addresses students at the Yale Road entrance while the Wits Vice Chancellor waits to address the students. Photo: Riante Naidoo.

by Dana Da Silva and Riante Naidoo

Students at Wits University have arrived by the thousands as they await Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib to address them on a proposed 10.5% fee increase.
Students chanted and sang on Friday morning as more groups of students arrived from the Education and Medical school campuses. Incoming Wits SRC President Nompendulo Mkatshwa addressed the students just after the groups arrived, saying: “We will occupy this campus, we will shut down this campus because you are not greater than us”.
“We will not negotiate with the vice-chancellor,” said Odwa Abraham, a 3rd year Law student. “Until the increase is done away with, the university will be shut down,” he said.
The protest began Wednesday and has resulted in the blockading of entrances and the weeks’ shutting down of Wits.

Q&A with Megan Moya Reeves


Photo: Provided

Megan Reeves is studying towards her PhD in the Department of Psychology at Wits. Her research aims to develop and pilot a measure to screen for symptoms of anorexia nervosa in men. She also assists Psychology Honours students with their research essays, tutors part-time at the International Pre-University College and lectures part-time at the Midrand Graduate Institute (MGI).

What drove you to study in this particular field?

Anorexia nervosa is commonly thought of as a disorder which only affects women, and it is more often diagnosed in women than in men. However research suggests that men are becoming as concerned with their appearances as women are.

In short, I was interested in finding out why women are more likely to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa than men if both genders are reported to experience similar levels of body dissatisfaction.

One of the possible reasons for this disparity is the fact that the screening tools used by researchers and healthcare professionals to diagnose anorexia nervosa are largely unreliable for use amongst men. My research aims to help address this problem.

You recently went The Australia & New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders (ANZAED) 2015 conference, what is it that you went to do there?

I went to the ANZAED conference to give an oral presentation on my PhD research, specifically on the need for a new screening instrument specifically designed to assess levels of anorexic symptoms in men, as well as the process I am following in developing the instrument.

What were some of highlights of the conference and was there any new research that you came across that could be implemented in the South African context?

The highlights of the conference included meeting some of the world’s leading experts in the field of eating disorders such as Dr Stephen Touyz. All of the research that was presented at the conference could be applicable to the South African context because the difficulties experienced in treating and researching Anorexia Nervosa are similar across all contexts.

What are the primary drivers that lead to people to develop eating disorders and that lead to men developing anorexia nervosa?

There are many different factors that can lead to the development of an eating disorder. Some of these factors include personality traits, genetic vulnerabilities and family dynamics, as well as social and cultural factors.

One of the main contributors to this growing body dissatisfaction amongst men is the media, which places pressure on men to conform to the ideal (meso-morphic) body image currently pervasive in our society.

What are some of the differences or disparities between genders regarding eating disorders, considering that there is especially a lot of focus on women from the media to look a certain way?

Some of these dissimilarities [between genders] include a focus on different areas of the body, e.g. the torso, chest and abdomen are of more concern to men whereas women tend to focus more on their buttocks, hips and thighs as areas of dissatisfaction.

Men are more prone to engage in excessive exercise than women, men are more likely to use anabolic steroids, men are more likely to suffer with other psychological disorders over and above eating disorders, and men tend to have different weight histories (i.e. a history of being overweight).

The picture of male eating disorders is made more complex by the male body ideal which is currently portrayed in the media, i.e. a lean but muscular body. Men with eating disorders do not simply want to be more muscular (this would constitute a different disorder) but they wish to be slim as well. I believe that the media has as much of an influence on men as it does on women.

A Magically Medieval Fayre



PILLOW FIGHT: Part of the activities that you can find at the Medieval Fayre is the one handed pillow fights which participants have to do while balancing on a log and trying not to fall off. Photo: Dana Da Silva


Riding on horseback a woman in a flowing red dress takes aim with a bow and arrow, fires and hits a target.

Mounted archery is just part of the many attractions that you could find at this year’s Neigh-Bours Magical Medieval Fayre.

“It is a celebration of all things fantasy and medieval, think Game of Thrones meets Vikings,” said one of the organisers, Meryl Rosenberg.

The event was created after Rosenburg and co-organiser Dayle Mallinson decided they wanted to invite friends to an event where they could wear dresses while riding horses.

Since then the event has grown considerably and today it’s “just to basically let people come out and embrace their olden day time feel and dress up and do something fun,” said Mallinson.

Organising such an event can be challenging said Mallinson. “We are dealing today with 130 separate stall holders, we then got a performance and cast and crew of another 50 this year. So it’s incredibly difficult to coordinate,” she said.

Besides the dreary weather the fayre went on without any obvious hitches on Saturday at the Ball & All on the corner of Malibongwe Drive and the R114.

To attend you could buy four kinds of tickets, royalty, nobility, lordly and commoner. Royalty meant that you would be treated as such, getting in the event before all the others and getting access to the private royal banquet area.

Even without tickets you could still take part in different activities such as archery, Viking cheese, cable toss, tomato throwing, treasure hunting and many more.

There were also wolves, that you could pet, as well as Irish wolf hounds being walked around the venue.

In the afternoon rain the Live Action Role Playing (LARPING) crowd played a gamer of Jugger, which is basically like rugby, except that participants  use foam swords.

The Medieval Fayre is one of the only markets that run into the evening. Those who stayed through the cold and rain were able to watch fire dancers, archers shooting fire arrows and the heavy metal bag pipe band, Haggis and Bong.

Being queer in South Africa

Symposium_Online edit

AFRICAN QUEERNESS: Wits academics Danai Mupotsa and Julian Brown spoke at an academic symposium that formed part of the Varsity Pride Week to share their LGBTIAQ+ research, which is focused on changing spaces. Photo: Dana Da Silva


WITS academics Danai Mupotsa and Julian Brown spoke at an academic symposium as part of the Varsity Pride Week to share their research into lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) people. Their research focused on changing spaces in an African context.

The symposium was structured loosely as a free flowing discussion where the speakers would introduce a set of ideas to be discussed.

Tish White, project administrator of the transformation office and also a partner in Varsity Pride week, said the symposium was put together to honour people who have done work in these spaces.

“I’ve worked historically on women in particular, on questions of sex, sexuality, pleasure, pain, etc,” said Mupotsa who is a lecturer in the department of African literature.

The lecturers attempted to pre-circulate certain readings so those attending could have an idea of the topics up for discussion.

She shared readings by Bibi Bakare-Yusuf and another from Eve Sedgwick’s book, the Epistemology of the Closet, which have influenced her research as they are provocations around queering on or in Africa.

“They are preoccupied with the foundations of knowledge of self and how they set the grounds for our inability to speak to or rupture the very relations we’re interested in,” said Mupotsa about the readings.

She tried to base the concept of being queer within the South African context as well as deconstructing the category of women.

Julian Brown, a Political Studies lecturer at the university, focused on the role of gay rights in human rights of South Africa.

“There is a range of questions about the extent to which queer politics, queer theory and queer identity is compatible with institutions and structures of power in society in general,” said Brown.

He started to answer this by basing the discussion on a particular court case between the Methodist Church of South Africa and Ecclesia De Lange, a lesbian minister within the church.

Brown said that De Lange was a minister of the church and had been living with her partner on church grounds for over two years when she announced that she was going to get married.

After hearing this, the church then took away her ministerial title after which De Langa took the church to court. In this context Brown looked at the struggle in the relations between queerness and institutions of power.


Wildlife film making is an art


WONDERS OF NATURE: As the creative director of the BBC Neil Nightingale has to always look for new stories to tell audiences. Photo: Dana Da Silva


BBC creative director Neil Nightingale says that Wildlife film making involves as much story telling and cinematography as any other film making.

Nightingale was speaking at a public lecture on August 26. The lecture was part of the bi-annual Alumni Event hosted by The School of Animal, Plants and Environmental Sciences.

At the lecture he shared his experiences of having worked at the BBC for three decades and how he has had to continuously adapt by looking for new content, behaviours, locations and perspectives.

“Well what we do is really put the pressure on ourselves, by continually pushing ourselves, always striving. And if there was one word that summed it up I think it was surprised. Find surprises.”

His creative team is always scouring the world looking to surprise audiences with new stories and with new ways of experiencing those stories.

“In a world where audiences, including children, have an endless supply of entertainment we have to be as engaging with our natural history storytelling as the options they have.”

This isn’t just limited to television, children now have access to entertainment on their cell phones, tablets, etc. This coupled with urbanisation means that children have less of a chance to engage with nature, said Nightingale.

He added that those factors mean that it is more important now to inspire the next generation with the relevance and wonders of nature.

Nightingale tries to make wildlife documentaries more engaging by showing that animal life can be just as dramatic, with the stakes often being higher than that of fictional drama.

The Hunt, a new series which will be aired this year about predators, shows this. “It’s all about the strategy of hunting. Just like any great human drama, there are great characters, the heart stopping moments. There are unexpected twists in the plot.”

In order to capture such heart stopping moments they often look to new technological advancements.

“Often technology comes to our rescues and enables us to do things that we otherwise hadn’t done,” he said.

It also helps to capture the character of animals, which you can see when you look into their eyes, see their expression and their posture. All of this can now be captured in exquisite detail with newer cameras and technology.

Wits students help kids love of maths


LOVE MATHS: Tsakani Patience Ngobeni one of the members of the campaign speak to a class of grade eights at Umqhele Secondary School about changing their mindset about maths. Photo: Dana Da Silva


A combined class of grade eight students enthusiastically participate in a  game to get them focused during a visit from the I Love My Maths: Make it Count campaign at Umqhele Secondary School.

“The I love math campaign is a campaign where we go out to school children and encourage them to love maths, to have a passion for maths so that they will be able to conquer it,” said one of the creators of the campaign Sarah Phiri, a Wits applied maths student.

Last week Friday the campaign visited Umqhele Secondary School in Ivory Park, Midrand, during the school’s career day. Members of the campaign along with a guest speaker shared their stories about journey with maths and gave maths sets as prizes in a maths arithmetic game.

They played various other singing games with the students to get them focused as well as to distribute maths sets and calculators.

The guest speaker Mafule Moswane, an Honours in geography and environmental studies student, was invited to help encourage kids to have a passion for maths.

“So the idea is to change the mind set and introduce a paradigm shift so that the young people can love maths and also give them reasons why they should love maths,” said Moswane.

He also said that kids should love maths because it can take them places. “Talking broadly about it, in fact when you are doing maths you can do anything anywhere in all the universities. But if you’re not doing maths you are limited only to specific career paths,” he said.

For one of the students at Umqhele, Manube Mangatane, this is the first time she is seeing a campaign like this visiting her school. “So it’s a great experience and I’ll always put it in my mind and I’ll remember that they came to donate calculators and maths stuff to our school,” said Mangatane.

She also said that this campaign is a good idea for people who can’t do maths as it is very important to know these days.

Dipole Motilabine, another student, is doing maths because he doesn’t want to “be a fool forever” which is why he wants to be a civil engineer.

“Many careers and jobs they need maths. So I think maths is the key. I really want to study it and know it like other learners.”

Free expression does not include violence

A protest at an SRC debate at the Great Hall that ended in a fight is not necessarily protected freedom of expression, according to two free speech experts contacted by Wits Vuvuzela.

Last week Tuesday a physical fight broke out at the Great Hall between Project W, Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and Wits Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) after the Wits EFF disrupted the SRC Great Debate with a protest.

This led to the debate being cancelled by the organisers, days later the seven students who were present for the protest and ensuing brawl were suspended.

This raises questions as to whether the Wits EFF had their freedom of expression compromised as they were at first expressing themselves through singing and dancing.

“I don’t think freedom of expression includes the right to physically disrupt the election process, including what appeared to be threats or real physical violence,” said Anton Harber, chair of the Freedom of Expression Institute.

He said that when students enter in a process such as the SRC elections they have to accept a set of conduct and rules.

“You have to operate within those rules or challenge those rules but, no, freedom of expression does not include the right to disrupt elections for example or physically threaten other people, other candidates,” said Harber.

William Bird, the director of Media Monitoring Africa, said that instead of having their own freedom of expression compromised, the Wits EFF compromised the freedom of other students.

“That said some rights can legitimately be limited if the students who were suspended were themselves violent they sought to limit other people’s right to freedom of expression by effectively shutting down a peaceful debate.”

The university later used the Twitter accounts of the Wits EFF members for the investigation, a move that the organisation said was unfair.

Bird said that if the comments had been intercepted online or had been private then it would have been a violation of their freedom of expression and right to privacy.

“But if it is the case that the comments were tweets in the public domain then I don’t see how them being used in a hearing for or against them could be a limitation on them,” said Bird.

Harber said that if a person is making public social media posts, it’s the same as shouting it on a street corner.

“You’re responsible for what you say, what you publish and what you broadcast. [If] it’s in the public arena, it can be used against you,” said Harber.


Wits Vuvuzela, Wits SRC and EFF say student suspensions are unfair, August 22

Warriors, be brave!


OBSTACLE RACING: Warrior race is a obstacle course race where you get to climb, jump and swim your way to the finish line. Here I’m climbing down from the Net Monster after going in for a dip in an ice cold water obstacle. Photo: Samantha Camara.

“Warriors, Be Brave!” we shout as my teammate and I jog in place at the starting line of this year’s 6th Warrior Race.

The Jeep Warrior Race is the largest obstacle course race in South Africa annually spanning eight events across four provinces with up to 9000 people attending an event.

This is the third Jeep Warrior Race that I have entered with my team, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Kittens. Though there was only two of us, and we are the least fit members of our teams. I actually thought this was better as I didn’t need to try and keep up with my other faster friends.

Even though it was my third race I still got nervous before the course, worrying about how difficult the obstacles would be and if I could actually complete them.

This was made worse by the fact that if you don’t want to complete an obstacle you have to do 20 burpees, a squat-push-up-jump combination that is as tough as it sounds.

I always enjoy arriving at the start line as they have pop music playing and announcers to psych you up.

Minutes before the start we are asked by the announcers to run on the spot, jump up and down and side to side. All the while riling us up by shouting “Warriors!” as with respond with “Be Brave!”

The announcer, with a voice that sounds like an American hype-man from a sports game, said that he would like to congratulate us for coming as “It’s a long way from Facebook to being here.”

The obstacles can at times be fun but at others, not so much.

Tangled, the eight obstacle, was surprisingly the most challenging one for me. This was made up of a number of chest high logs that you climbed over while being draped by a loose net. As I tried to climb over the logs I kept being bumped over by other people and almost slipping off onto the floor, shouting out, “Fuck, I’m falling!”

I tried to run between the obstacles as much as I could, but as the obstacles became more difficult so did my attempts at running.

My favourite obstacle came next, called the Raging Rapid, the highest obstacle and a water slide. Here all I needed to do was sit on the edge, arms folded and let myself slide into a pool of muddy water.

The last three obstacles were also all water based, which is good as I got to wash off the mud. There was the Danger Swamp (where I felt as if I was in the army crawling under barbed wire), Slippery Dip and Tower of Rage.

I always look forward to the Slippery Dip (better known as the ‘mud monster’) a challenging but fun obstacle, a 100 metre stretch of mud with three metre humps and dips.

I struggle to get over the humps at this obstacle, since I don’t have the arm strength to pull myself over them.  But it can be relaxing, floating on my back in the dips and backpaddling in the mud pools.

The Warrior Race always ends with the Tower of Rage, 6.3 metre and 4 metre (either one is optional) platforms that you jump off of into a pool of muddy water. Four meters doesn’t seem very high, but I always get nervous when I stand at the foot of the platform.

After internally shouting at myself to jump I took one final splash into the water. In a last effort to pull myself out of the water I get on my feet and bolt to the finish line.

We were then surprised to discover that we had beat out teams previous time by 40 minutes, which we celebrated with a victory hug.

Laser art show opens for Fak’ugesi

The Fak’ugesi festival opened with a laser art show performed by international act Robert Henke. 

LASER SHOW: Robert Henke was the opening act to this year's Fak'ugesi Digital Innovation festival. Henek, software programmer and visual artist combined the two fields to create a unique laser art show.

LASER SHOW: Robert Henke was at the opening act to this year’s Fak’ugesi Digital Innovation festival. Henke, software programmer and visual artist combined the two fields to create a unique laser art show. Photo: Dana Da Silva


Lasers and techno music, performed by a German software designer, was the opening act to this year’s Fak’ugesi festival at the Alex Theatre in Braamfontein.

“The festival is fundamentally about stimulating innovation and creativity through the crossover of technology and creative arts,” said head of the digital arts division and one of the creators of the festival Prof. Christo Doherty.

This is the second year that the festival is being held in Braamfontein. A wide range of different activities will feature in them festival for the next 3 weeks such as game design work shops, video games exhibition, robot arm building workshops, Market Hacks and many others.

The first event kicked off with major international performer Robert Henke, who is “the god of a genre called intelligent techno”  said Prof. Doherty.

Robert Henke creates a new form of art by using computer science and sound engineering to combine lasers and techno music in a way that they flow together creating a unique audio visual experience.

“And Robert, in many ways, exemplifies what the Fak’ugesi festival is about because he’s both [sic] a musician, he’s a software developer, programmer and he’s an artist, a visual artist,” said Prof. Doherty.

Before dabbling with lasers Henke made his own techno music. “At some point I thought, hey actually lasers is an interesting medium, mainly because it has such a bad reputation,” said Henke.

This is the first time Henke has been on the continent and he said that performing in Africa has more meaning to him than performing in other continents. “Apart from this kind of touristic aspect, a lot of musical roots have to do with the African idea of rhythm, have to do with the African idea of structure,” he said.

The show began in complete darkness, then a small purple vertical line appeared and moved across on the screen. It was followed by others as the beats increased.

As the night progressed letters and words were introduced in with the shapes merging into each other as they danced to the beat.

The show worked seamlessly with the music, piano was played when the shapes were not as actively moving about followed by a techno beat to show increased activity.

Wits students make maths count

SDLU camp

THE START: (Back row, left to right) Senzesihle Philani, James Shiri, Luyolo Shabalala, Sarah Nansubuga, (Front row left to right) Rami Makgeru, Tsakani Ngobeni, Lucky Mqoboli, Sarah Phiri and Nduduzo Magubeni started the I Love Math Campaign at the Wits emerging leader’s camp. The point of the campaign is to provide students from black communities with the right tools and attitude to learn maths. Photo: Provided.

A group of Wits students started a campaign to get students in black communities to change their perceptions around maths.

The campaign, which is called I Love maths- Make it Count, was started by Wits students after they returned from the June Student Leadership camp.

“We are trying to challenge the stigma in our black communities that actually math is fun,” said one of the members Lucky Mqoboli a Game Design (BA PVA) student.

It’s about getting students to not “fear maths” because math is good for your cognitive skills and can help in finding solutions for South Africa’s domestic issues said Mqoboli.

But they are not trying to encourage school kids to pursue math related careers, instead they want to motivate children to think in a mathematical way.

“Math is not that difficult, that’s just the general stigma. You must be friends with numbers,” said Mqoboli.

But they can’t teach students who don’t have the tools to learn, which is why they are collecting calculators and math sets.

“We can’t just teach them math and then they don’t have the tools to do the mathematics,” says group member Ramadimetja Rami Makgeru, Bachelor of Accounting Science student.

“So we are trying to sort of bridge that gap where they don’t have the tools in order to be able to do the maths well,” said Sarah Phiri, Bachelor of Science in Applied Maths.

Next week Friday, August 18, the campaign will be holding a handing over ceremony at Umqhele secondary school in Ivory Park Midrand. So far the campaign has collected under 100 donations for a group of 390 students.

At the event guest speakers will be talking about their experiences with maths and the collected donations will be passed out to the students.

At the student leadership camp, where the idea for the campaign took seed, the group was given a project where they had to find a pressing need in society and address it.

“While at the camp we did a little bit of research and we actually found that South Africa’s education was rated amongst the worst in the world. So clearly there’s something wrong with our math and science education,” said Tsakani Patience Ngobeni, Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

Which is why the group decided to reach out to black kids and motivate them to think differently about maths.

“So this is us saying, maths is not that bad, just change your mind set and hence we’re saying I love my math,” said Nqobeni.

The I love math campaign is also calling for Wits students to donate new or second hand calculators and maths sets.

Phiri is asking that students think of donating in this way. “A candle losses nothing from lighting another candle. So if you think of it in that way, then we can be able to make our project a success with each and everybody’s help,” she said.