Wits res students called to open their mouths

THE national debating champions at Wits are gearing up for greater residence participation.

Last year, the Wits Debating Union (WDU) took first place at the national championships held at the University of Pretoria.

“We don’t want more residence students necessarily but we just want more residence participation,” says the head of the union, Leon Mithi.

The 2nd year law student says, “Debating is an important activity and social experience, it’s important for a democratic society.”

The union held a tournament between first year students as a way of making them feel included, says Mithi.

“We had a pilot tournament with a few prizes, like allocating R1000 to [the winner’s] fees.”

Thando Yende, a 2nd year LLB student, and the organiser of the residence tournaments, believes these tournaments have an important function. “We involve [students] in debating and public speaking so that they can have confidence in themselves.”

Sechaba Motseki, a 1st year medicine student found out about the society through residence house committee.

“It’s a challenge,” he says. “But it’s interesting. I’ve done public speaking before, and I think debate can help with my course.”

Mithi says this is the union’s intention. “We are going to start having [sessions] during lunchtime, so that we can include medical students, and students from other campuses. It’s important to expose everyone to it.”

Currently the WDU meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“On Tuesdays we do training- to improve skills and logic and on Thursdays we have practice debates,” says Mithi.

The union meets in Senate House basement room 2, from 6pm. Mithi says they are looking for all kinds of students to join, whether they are familiar with debating or not.

“People don’t realise how debating adds to your CV,” he says. “It makes you different and says you’re a different kind of person.”

WDU have been the national champions for two years in a row.

Final exhibition of Yeoville Studio

The strange looking structures you may have passed while walking in the John Moffat building are straight from the minds of Wits’ own architecture students.

The Yeoville Studio exhibition is a showcase of the work done by the school of architecture and planning. Dr Claire Benit- Gbaffou, director of the Yeoville studio programme says one of the main themes of the exhibition involves informal trading.

A scale of Rockey and Raleigh Streets

“[It’s about] how it contributes to an integrated society and how it could be better managed and integrated,” she says. Other themes include aspects of living in Yeoville such as buildings and stories about people’s lives.

“[It’s] a place where people meet, fall in love, grow, mobilise and find part of their identity,” says Benit- Gbaffou.

The models on display in the John Moffat building are designed by architecture students. They are designed with Rockey and Raleigh Streets, the main streets in Yeoville in mind. “Some are proposing street vending stalls, adapted to the needs of street traders,” says Benit-Gbaffou.

The school of architecture and planning worked with organisations within the Yeoville community for two years. “About 300 students, from second year to PhD, have been involved in Yeoville research projects.”

A model depicting a "rack shop"


Data collection, interviews, posters and workshops were part of these research projects.

“We thought it was nice also to expose the Wits community to the work we have been doing,” says Benit- Gbaffou. The director says she hopes to do exhibitions in other parts of Johannesburg, “as a great teaching and learning opportunity for students and also as Wits’ contribution to the broader society”.

The exhibition runs until this Friday, February 24.



The architects suggest that this model is a "2-in-1 shop"


New golden student at Wits

Two-year-old Romy just graduated and is now a student at Wits University.

For the next three weeks she will be training in and around Wits, learning where the different buildings are, how the lifts, turnstiles and bus circuits work and how to settle in her new environment

“During class she sleeps until the lecture ends and only gets distracted when people pat and talk with her. I trust her a lot, she never lets me bump into things,” says Sisanda Msekele, a 3rd year BA psychology student, of Romy.

Romy is a golden retriever and Msekele had to wait a year before being notified her application for a guide dog was successful.

She says the last two years, when she used a cane to navigate her way around Wits, were much more difficult.

“The students are sometimes inconsiderate and stand in your way and it was easy to get lost. With the dog it’s way better and more convenient. They just remember things and have an idea of where they are going.”

Msekele says once she received Romy, she only had to pay R5 for her and R100 for her environment training. “After that the dog becomes your responsibility. You have to make sure it’s fed, goes to the vet. You have to put it on the same routine and treat it like a baby.”

While they are both still adjusting to each other, they are also adjusting to others on campus. Workers at convocation dining hall did at first question Msekele about bringing Romy into the building.

“At first they didn’t let Romy in but the head of the Disability Unit addressed them and now I don’t have any problems.”

According to the regulations governing general hygiene requirements for food premises, a guide dog may be permitted in the sales or serving area of the food premises.

Guide dogs are selected, after they graduate from guide dog school, based on their character and the applicants’ living environment and whether they are suited to each other.

Drunken debauchery steals the show

All nine members of the Men’s Hall of Residence house committee have been evicted from residence and suspended for misconduct during orientation week.

According to Dean of Students, Prem Coopoo: “They disrupted a university event in spite of several requests not to do so and they engaged in initiation practices which are forbidden at Wits.”

The house committee and a group of Men’s Res first years allegedly arrived intoxicated at an inter-residence talent show on Thursday night. They continuously disrupted the performances by singing and provoking other male residences. Rob Sharman, head of campus housing and residence life, was called in to escort them out of Sturrock Park, where the event was being held.

At a meeting held on Friday, the members of the house committee were told to remove belongings from Men’s Res.

They are currently living in David Webster residence.

The nine members are not allowed to communicate with first years and are not permitted to be within 10 metres of other residences. Access to Wits events and use of the internet for non-academic use is prohibited. Rights to any leadership positions have been revoked.

“What they call disruption at the talent show was mere healthy competition amongst the residences,” said a member of the house committee who asked not to be named, for fear of being singled out by the administration. He said that competition between residences has always been a culture at Wits.

The house committee member says that they encourage first years not to start drinking alcohol. “We told the freshmen if you do drink you need to manage it with your studies.”

The house committee says during orientation week, activities done with first years were done consensually.

However Coopoo said that the house committee had been warned about engaging in initiation practices.

“Our first-year students should be mentored, embraced and helped to adjust to a new environment,” says Coopoo. “Humiliation of first year students will not be tolerated.”

Members of the house committee say that they have not broken any university rules and have complied with their suspension. “Our priority is not fighting management but rather providing leadership to first years.”

Investigations into the allegations are underway, and once formal charges are laid against the house committee members, a hearing will be held by the Student Disciplinary Committee.

Residences continue O-week tradition

Girton first- years pose with their house committee member while being taken around campus


For first year students in residence, orientation means an entirely different thing.

From the first Sunday of orientation week, house committee members in each respective residence organise and control all their fresher’s movements.

“There are certain activities that are part of res traditions,” says Pearl Pillay, the vice chairperson of the Sunnyside House committee.

“But there are generic things like the talent show, a competition between residences, the welcome dinner for all residences and a sports day.”

Sunnyside and EOH freshers have supper together at the EOH dining hall

Pillay believes the orientation process is necessary for first year students, even though it can be “rough”.

EOH freshers do push-ups as members of their house comm look on

“I like the process. I always say that res is a culture, not just a place to live in. You need that week to get accustomed to it.”

Residence traditions were also an important part of orientation such as socialising with other residences. On Tuesday the 7th  students from Sunnyside Girls’ Residence had dinner at Earnest Oppenheimer Hall where they had to get to know their brother residence a little better.

First years are also taken for tours around Constitution Hill and South African Breweries (SAB).

Sunnyside freshers do a dance at a pajama party



School of Journalism and Media Studies welcomes new students

The new journalism honours students of 2012 were greeted warmly at a welcome party held at the journalism department last night.

New additions to the class of 2012 were added to the mid- career and career entry levels of the honours course. Franz Kruger, the acting head of the school of Journalism and Media studies assured the new students that they would be working hard throughout the year.

“If you want the full benefits of this course the only way to do it is full–time,” Kruger said.

Dean of Humanities Prof. Tawana Kupe made sure the students were comfortable by assuring them that the programme was the best in the country.

“You could have gone anywhere, to Stellenbosch [University], or to the Eastern Cape. But you chose [to come] here, and for that I’m glad.

Bursaries were also handed out to the career- entry students, who will begin class on Monday the 13th. These students will form part of the new Vuvuzela team.

Franz Kruger welcomed new students to the Journalism honours course

From left to right: Akin Oyedele (Reuters), Lebogang Mdlankomo (Media 24), Luyanda Majija (CNBC Africa) and Marsha Moodley (Independent)

Making e-learning a reality

Wits is aiming to increase and improve access to computing devices for students, through the Student, Computers and Networks (SCAN) initiative.

The SCAN project was initiated by Wits, says Nhlanhla Mabaso, Director of Information and Technology. “The idea is that students should be required to have access to computing devices and to the network.”

The nationwide Student Laptop Initiative allows students and staff from participating universities to purchase laptop notebooks at reduced prices.

“It’s become more necessary for people to access knowledge through a wider range of computing devices,” Mabaso says. “For it to be effective we need to overcome a major obstacle: people who don’t have access to these tools (sic).”  

Acer Education and Pinnacle, which sell Lenovo notebooks, are part of the initiative, together with 13 other universities.

“We arranged an agreement with Pinnacle,” says Chanel Strydom, Internal Sales-Government at Pinnacle Micro. “We decided to give students a deal where they could purchase notebooks for a lot cheaper.”

Strydom believes the programme has been very effective. “The response has been quite overwhelming, students are getting a big deal and we’ve had no complaints.”

The SCAN initiative began at Wits during Orientation week in February last year, and Lungelwa Kganyago, programme manager at Wits’ Computer and Network Services (CNS) believes access to computers is just one aspect of the initiative.

“It’s not just about getting people to own laptops for the sake of it,” she says. “It’s about trying to make sure that that ownership is widespread.”

Kganyago says by increasing Wifi hotspots on campus, Wits could also enable easier access to the network.

“We want to add value to [students’] learning experience, so that students who already own laptops are not left out.”

Students who are interested in purchasing notebooks at reduced prices can visit Lenovo at www.studentlaptop.co.za or Acer at www.aceredu.co.za.   

Photo: Courtesy of Wits

School of Economics scoop awards


Double Honour Student Shaheen Seedat adds another award to his trophy cabinet this week as he is awarded best Economic Honours Thesis in the country from the Economic Society of South Africa (ESSA).

The School of Economics and Business won another award in the Masters Category; Professor Kenneth Creamer was awarded the Founders Medal for his dissertation.

The Founders Medal is awarded each year to the candidate with the best essay submitted by a university.

The essay for the honours category has to be 6000 words long and both analytical and logical. Each university is allowed to submit one students work per category.

Seedat won a bronze medal for his thesis titled Asset Price Bubble: Extension to Continuous- Time Spaces and General Classes of Dividend Payments. He explains that his “thesis proves that all types of financial assets (whether they are corporate bonds, stocks, houses, short-term assets etc) can suffer a ‘price bubble’ and an eventual steep decline in price. It provides a theoretic explanation for the events we have recently observed in the global financial crisis”

Prof. Creamer was awarded a silver medal for his short dissertation titled, Price setting conduct in South Africa 2002 to 2007: Implications for Monetary Policy.  Creamer said he used over 5 million price records form Stats SA to established price setting conduct. His findings suggest that “based on such conduct, the interest rates policy of the SA Reserve Bank should be less aggressive and more persistent than existing macroeconomic models imply”.

According to Associate Professor at the School, Neil Rankin, the school of economics has won twice in different categories in the past. The 2009 Founders medal for master’s dissertation went to Witsie Maria Fatima Fiandeiro for her dissertation titled, Trade liberalisation and wages in South Africa.

ESSA is a society that “promotes the discussion of and research into economic matters, in particular those affecting South Africa.”According to their website, the society has been established in 1925 and they boast members that have played leading roles in government, business world as well as academia. The winners each receive a medal as well as cash prizes.







Witsies fly into first place


From left to right: Stephan Broich, Michael Klements and Jason Muloongo. The trio came in first place at the Inter-varsity Aerospace Challenge

Witsies came in first place at the inter-varsity aerospace challenge on Sunday at the Swartkops Airforce Base.

Jason Muloongo, Stephan Broich and Michael Klements had to design a radio-controlled aircraft for the challenge. The team had four planes that went up against 12 planes from the University of Pretoria (UP).

“We did quite well- there were two categories: presentation and flight,” said Muloongo, a 3rd year aeronautical engineering student.

“Jason did an awesome presentation,” said Broich. The third year mechanical engineering student said the team scored high on presentation so they were confident of their chances of winning.

The team also did well in the flight category despite windy conditions hampering the planes. “Our winning plane was a delta,” said Muloongo, referring to the type of plane the team built.


The winning plane

“Usually in windy conditions any small plane is hard to fly. But our plane came first place because it was a windy day.”

“We were able to sustain a low level and slow flight, which is what the flight part is about,” said Broich.

Muloongo said the Wits team entered three planes in total and that one didn’t do as well. “We got a hard luck certificate for that,” he joked.


The second plane the team entered fell apart in mid- air, after windy conditions made it unstable


The team got prize money, a trophy and certificate for their win. They say people will be encouraged to participate in the competition next year. The Wits team participated in the first year of the competition, but lost out to UP.





Students suspended for strike support


THREE students have been suspended after using radical methods to create awareness around the cleaners’ strike.

“The agenda of this whole movement is to hinder the jobs of scab workers,” said Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, chairperson of the Postgraduate Council.

Ndlozi is one of the students who was suspended, after he was identified for trashing the Senate House Concourse a few weeks ago.

“The university is saying we’re dangerous and a threat to the university at large,” he said.

The students are opposing the employment of scabs, or temporary, workers. They trashed the New Commerce Building on Friday morning.

Vice chancellor Professor Loyiso Nongxa said: “Wits is committed to doing its level best to ensure that people’s rights are protected.
“We should never allow or tolerate a situation where one group tramples on the rights of others in pursuit of its own rights and privileges.”

The students are opposing the employment of scabs, or temporary, workers.
They trashed the New Commerce Building last Friday morning.

On Monday, students demonstrated in front of the Great Hall, holding mops and dressed in workers’ uniforms. They took bags of rubbish and put them in the Senate House Concourse, encouraging students to leave their litter lying around.

“If you have litter, dump it in corridors,” said Naadira Munshi. The sociology honours student said students aren’t aware of the strike, which is in its fourth week.

“An entire community of workers’ aren’t present on campus,” she said. “We’re trying to remind people that Supercare and Caravone aren’t here.”

Munshi said the university is attempting to divert attention away from the strike by suspending students. “By charging three leaders, people become wary of actively showing support.”

Simphiwe Buthelezi, a 1st year engineering student, said he agrees with their methods. “People are not paying attention [to the strike] because of scab workers.”

“People are [being] cleaner than ever, because they know cleaners are not around,” he said.

“I think it would be bad if they trashed Senate House- this is a welcoming centre,” said Lucky Mthimunye, a 1st year student. “It would make the point stronger, but management would be upset.”  

Other related incidences occurred at Esselen Residence, where kitchens were covered in rubbish and last week the first and second floors of the Matrix were flooded after taps in the bathroom were left running . 

Workers are expected to return to work on Monday, with negotiations still in place.

Wits disables ugly labels

For just two minutes Witsies felt what it was like to be blind.


The Disability Awareness Movement (DAM) held a series of events during the week, which included a blind run, games at the library lawns and discussions around employment for persons with disabilities.


“I think through participation one can gain a lot,” said DAM chairperson Jimmy Ramokgopa. “[The events] place people in a disabled person’s shoes.”


The 2nd year civil engineering student said they tried to convey the message through different channels.
“For people who are active we had games, for people who like discussion we had talks and then we have a film screening on Friday [about silent disabilities].”


One of the activities was a blind run. Students were blindfolded and had to navigate through a course surrounded by ropes.


Ot Goiwakae, a 3rd year drama student, had a particularly hard time finishing the course. “I felt insecure.
“I had someone to assist me and tell me where to go, but imagine if I didn’t.”


The DAM also organised a career day for grade 11 students from Filadelfia Secondary School and Hope School for children with disabilities. Christelle Bester, a teacher at Hope School, felt parts of Wits were “not really wheelchair accessible”.


The movement coordinated the events with other organisations such as the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities (NCPPDSA), Johannesburg Society for the Blind and Association for the Physically Disabled.


Lubabalo Mbeki from the NCPPDSA hopes to encourage people with disabilities to get educated for better employment opportunities.


“One of my targets is looking at placing persons with disabilities in prominent positions and create leaders,” he said.
Ramokgopa said “Our objective was to provide the necessary tools and information to people.


“What they do with that is personal… So in that sense our aim was met.”

Amnesty International Wits makes a change

Amnesty International Wits has a new head after chairperson Amir Bagheri’s sudden resignation last month.

Bagheri said his decision to leave was based on a few issues. “One reason is I believe I’ve done my job as president. My ideal was to pull the organisation back together, to make it stable.”

He said although members are “great” at what they do, the “majority of the work was done by me”.

“The amount of work became frustrating because I didn’t have any help.”

New chairperson, Pearl Pillay, said the committee and members received an email from Bagheri  notifying them of his departure.

“We’re a body, so if one person leaves it’s okay, we’re not completely useless. But we were kind of blindsided by how sudden it was.”

She believes that Bagheri’s feeling that the committee was too dependent on him was not completely correct.

“He would do most of the work, but not because we didn’t want to, it was because some of us didn’t know how to. I think he wanted to show us that we could do [things] on our own.”

Bagheri said he did not call a meeting to notify the organisation of his decision because he felt he didn’t have the “authority” to do so.

“Since I didn’t see myself as an amnesty member at that point in time, I didn’t feel that I had the authority to call a meeting.”

Andrew September, the vice chairperson, said the organisation has adapted well to the change. “It has all been resolved.”

September said the issue was blown out of proportion. “Members asked us questions [on Bagheri’s resignation] but it was more of an internal issue.”

Bagheri is running for the SRC, a decision he said he is now “ready” for based on his portfolio. Pillay said she wished him all the best.

“He changed the way people at Wits see [Amnesty]. We don’t have any issues.”