Chess master from the Cape

It’s not every day that chess grandmasters are made but a 32-year-old man from Mitchell’s Plain in the Cape recently joined the ranks of chess greats like Garry Kasparov becoming South Africa’s first grandmaster.

Kenny Solomon, decided to take up the game of chess at age 13 after his older brother was flown to the Philippines to compete in the Chess Olympiad. Two years after making his first move, he won the South African National Championships in 1999. He managed to win the competition twice after that in 2005 and 2007. In 2004 he was awarded the Chess International Master Award.

Solomon said living in Mitchell’s Plain exposed him to gang culture from a young age. He realised that if he didn’t do something about his future, he would be sucked into that life. He decided to teach himself how to play chess and, according to his blog, he read any chess book he could get his hands on. Solomon was one of five South Africans who took part in the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, in August where he was awarded the title of chess grandmaster. A player receives this rating if they constantly receive a rating of 2500 or above. Solomon’s rating was 2600.

South Africa’s first chess grandmaster, Kenny Solomon. Pic taken from:

Solomon now joins the ranks of some of the great chess grandmasters such as Kasparov, who holds the record for the highest rating of 2851, Anatoly Karpov, Levon Aronian, Bobby Fischer and Alexander Morozevich.

The title of chess grandmaster is awarded by the World Chess Federation (FIDE). According to Solomon, the FIDE’s requirements to becoming a grandmaster are somewhat complex, with the rating of 2500 only being one of three requirements.

olomon, who has now achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a grandmaster, said the reason South Africans have not excelled in chess is because of a lack of interest, as well as a shortage of funding. He said the only reason he was able to fulfil his dream was because of sponsorships he received.

Monique Sischy, a Wits alumnus and former student of Solomon, said Solomon became South Africa’s first grandmaster by moving his chess game to a “completely different plateau”.

“It’s a phenomenal achievement and he is a true inspiration to all South African players. Kenny is a humble chess player, a dynamic coach and above all an incredible friend and family man. It is an honour to know him and I look forward to watching him play from strength to strength.”

Ruth First colloquim addresses issue of media freedom

From left to right: Dr Last Moyo, Ferial Haffejee, Essop Pahad and Anton Harber.      Pic: Dinesh Balliah

ONE OF the main messages that emerged from the third session of the Ruth First memorial colloquim today was not to generalise when it comes to discussions about the media in South Africa.

Prof Anton Harber of the Wits School of Journalism said people should be hesitant about making generalisations about South African journalists being obsessed with the ANC-led government.

Harber said it was clear that the print media was directing investigative efforts at corrupt politicians, instead of just the government as some people have implied. “There will always be massive attention on the state.”

Harber went on to talk about the importance of independence. He said he believes that every journalist should declare all their interests and beliefs in the name of transparency.

Harber said: “I’ve argued at a number of forums that journalists should embrace that form of transparency.”

Dr Essop Pahad, along with Ferial Haffejee, editor of the City Press, joined Harber on a panel chaired by Dr Last Moyo.

Ferial Haffejee listens to audience remarks during the Ruth First memorial colloquim. Pic: Dinesh Balliah.

Pahad emphasised that never before has the ANC-led government been so factionalised. He warned the media to be careful about these factions and to ensure that they themselves did not become a faction supporting one or other group within the ANC.

Pahad felt that problems with the media’s reporting on the government stemmed from the juniorisation of the newsroom.  “I think this issue of the juniorisation of our newsrooms needs to be addressed, and addressed very seriously. I do believe that the media needs to go back to some of its basics.

“We do require that our journalists spend more time in the newsroom. They get hired by the government or go where the money is,” said Pahad.

Pahad also said the media needs to be much more critical in dealing with issues such as the way international bodies such as the EU and the USA have interfered in countries such as Libya and Syria.

He pointed to his observation that there was not a single journalist that questioned Hillary Clinton about the USA’s the right and authority to demand regime change in Syria on her recent visit to South Africa. “Why is it that our commentators uncritically report on the so-called Free Syria Movement.”

Dr Last Moyo, of the Wits Media Studies Department, also raised the issue of the training of journalists. “A journalist staying in Sandton, working for the Mail and Guardian in Rosebank, driving past Alexandra or Diepsloot sees no story. The question is how to train them to see a story.”

Wits’ unbeaten home record broken

FNB Wits’ unbeaten run came to an end on Saturday as they were beaten 37-31 by a very physical Roodepoort team at the FNB Wits Stadium.

The home side had a slow start to the game as the visitors managed to score two unconverted tries in the same corner inside the first fifteen minutes.

It appeared as if Wits had gathered momentum as Greg Blom converted a penalty but Wits soon found themselves huddled behind the goal posts again as Roodepoort scored their third try. The opposition kicker had a poor day as he missed his third conversion, taking the score to 15-3.

The home side managed to fight back and score a try through blindside flanker, Thato Mavundla, after a good lineout on the opposition 5 meter line. Blom converted the try to give the home side a glimmer of hope of a comeback.

The Roodepoort side had other ideas and scored a bonus point try just before half time, with the kicker once again failing to convert the try, giving the visitors a 20-10 lead as they went into the break.

The second half started well for the home side as they attacked from the start. Great play between the backline saw Kenneth du Plessis finish a try set up by teammate, Wesley Roberts. Blom converted to close the gap to just three points.

Just like in the first half, the home side conceded points immediately after scoring points of their own. Roodepoort scored their fifth try which was also unconverted. This took the score to 25-17.

The home side didn’t give up, but some poor defence from Wits saw Roodepoort score a soft try. The sixth try for the visitors was eventually converted, extending their lead to 32-17. Shortly after the restart, the visitors scored a seventh try to take their score to 37-17.

Wits didn’t not give up as some people in the crowd said the game was over for the home side.

A second try from Thato Mavundla, and a try from replacement Jason Fraser gave the home side some hope of fighting back, but the spirited effort at the end was not enough as Wits eventually lost the game 37-31.

This was their first loss of the season. Wits has done enough to secure a semi-final spot, but they need to do well in the final two fixtures of the season to try and secure a home semi-final spot.

The next two games are against UJ (11 August) and Boksburg (18 August).

Bronson Lange tackles the Roodeport fullback in their loss on Saturday. Photo: Jan Bornman



Thanks Mr Bullard, I’m sticking with my bogus degree

As a journalism student it was hard to ignore a recent attack on the study of journalism in South Africa. I read an opinion piece by David Bullard (@LunchOut2) (a man loved by few, and hated by many – and I generally enjoy his writing) where he argued that studying journalism is a complete waste of time and “daddy’s money”.

And in a sense I agree, because the three years I spent at another Johannesburg university just reading about news values and magazine readership and circulation did not make or teach me how to be a writer.

After reading his article, I tweeted him directly and insisted that I will continue with my “bogus degree,” despite his words of wisdom. He responded by giving me some more “great” advice – “find a girlfriend with a doting rich father”. Hardly great advice because I want to carve out my own future, and not live off some rich snob’s money.

Looking back at my undergraduate degree, I can pinpoint the exact moment when alarm bells went off – it was when a third-year lecturer told us to “imagine you are a reporter sent to cover the Oscars. Imagine you interview this or that celebrity. Now write that article using other articles as your ‘sources’.”  So in essence she was teaching me to plagiarise? Is that okay? No!

It is courses such as these that produce the type of journalists that give our media such a bad name. We are constantly bombarded with examples of how lacklustre the media is. But, is it is the South African media collectively, or just a small minority that were poorly taught?

I agree with Mr Bullard, there is a need for on-the-job training, and cadet schools like in the “olden days”, where journalists were taught by the organisation.

The one thing I need to point out is, I think I made a great decision turning down an internship and deciding to further my studies at Wits. Hopefully when I enter the job market next year, my potential employer will favour me over another journalism graduate, as I would have had the experience of pitching stories for a weekly newspaper, pursuing and writing those stories, designing and producing a newspaper for both print and online, blogging, covering a violent protest, taking photographs, and learning video editing, interviewing and sub-editing skills. Skills and experiences that no three year journalism degree graduate would have learned anywhere else, even in their first year on the job.

I think that universities should drop three year journalism degrees, and only offer an intense one-year post-graduate course such as that offered here at Wits. That, or an intense training and mentoring program at a media organisation, is the only place where you will truly learn how to be a journalist.

Experience is the only way you will learn – whether experiencing the perks of the job, or the drawbacks such as the “fifty-year-old embittered journalist” Mr Bullard refers to.

Wits remain unbeaten

FNB Wits continued their unbeaten run in the Predator league after earning a hard-fought 27-25 victory over a determined Springs side on Saturday at the FNB Wits Stadium.

The victory meant the home side stayed in second position, six points behind league leaders, UJ.

Wits were without influential captain Devin Montgomery, who aggravated an old injury while playing against Union the previous week. The home side played with stand-in captain Paulo Ferreira and in-form lock Rinus Bothma, who are both enjoying a consistent and successful season.

Bothma’s great form continued to show as he scored three of the four tries for his side. It was a significant performance because Bothma was playing in the unfamiliar position of eighth man.

The first half was dominated by the visiting team’s kicker, who managed to bag five penalties successfully, while Wits managed to score two unconverted tries through Bothma and a penalty courtesy of Kyle Peyper.

The opposition was not without their chances. Springs’ poor handling saw them miss two good try-scoring opportunities at the end of the half. The home side went into halftime trailing their opponents by 15-13.

Wits came out in the second half and scored a try within the first 15 minutes through Piers Cooper, who broke a flat defensive line. Peyper converted the try to give the home side a five-point advantage.

Fifteen minutes later, Bothma crashed over the line and scored his third try of the day, confirming a well-deserved man-of-the-match award. Peyper converted another try to extend Wits’ lead to 27-15.

With less than 10 minutes remaining, Wits relaxed their defence and the opposition managed to score a penalty and a converted try to take the score to 27-25, guaranteeing an anxious final five minutes.

As soon as time was up, the home side kicked the ball out to confirm another victory for the season.

Montgomery said the team was on a high at the moment. Earlier this year, they had won the Varsity Shield and gained promotion to next year’s Varsity Cup and now they had performed solidly in the league.

“We are all loving every second of being on winning ways and are working really hard to try and keep it that way and prepare as best we can for Varsity Cup next year.”

Slice of Life: 67 Minutes of Nothing

People may think I’m unpatriotic, but I don’t believe in campaigns like the 67 minutes for Mandela, Save the rhino, Shout! against crime and, the one I personally loathed the most, Kony2012.

They make people think that, by liking a facebook page, watching a YouTube video or doing something good once a year, they will make an impact in society.

Saving the rhino would be relevant if the animal were actually going extinct. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the rhino population in South Africa is not threatened. The annual growth of the rhino population is 7%, and only 2% are killed through illegal hunting. So what’s the fuss?

I agree with a recent statement by Cosatu spokesperson Dumisani Dakile after more people died in our mines: “We know if it was the rhinos killed there was going to be lot of noise… ” This just shows how wrongly slanted our attention and activism is.

Then there was the Stop Kony/Kony2012 social media campaign earlier this year.  Jason Russell filmed an emotional documentary about his Ugandan friend in order to unite the world behind a movement to arrest Joseph Kony for crimes against humanity.

What many people didn’t know was that Invisible Children, the organisation behind the Kony2012 video – which solicited donations by selling bracelets and other goodie-bags – was in my opinion a scam. Yes, a scam.

The organisation pays Russell roughly R700 000 a year. And only 30-35% of the money collected is used to build schools or for other “charitable acts”. Where does the other 65-70% of money go? Their financial statements seem to suggest that up to 25% of their money is used for travelling and film-making. Nobody seems bothered to ask about that.

I can continue ranting, but what is the point? These campaigns are backed by big-name celebrities and companies, so the public will stupidly fall in line.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping society, building unity and improving our country, but why are people so slow to start mass social movements against the non-delivery of textbooks in Limpopo, the huge unemployment rate and the shockingly high number of people who can’t read or write.

That is where improvement should start.

Nerve wrecked novice wins Vasco da Gama

AN inexperienced Wits sailor was one of the crew onboard a yacht that won one of the toughest ocean races in southern Africa last month.

The gruelling Vasco da Gama is an established sailing event and was “a baptism of fire” for Patrick Chappel, who took part in his first ocean race with a crew of seven other members.

Chappel was one of five young, inexperienced sailors on the Skitzo, a South African built and manned yacht that won the race.

Chappel joked about Skitzo being appropriately named, because of the way it “seemed to respond” to the changing weather conditions during the race.

The crew experienced early trouble when the spinnaker halides (the rope used to attach the sail to the mast) came unstuck, causing the yacht to lose ground to its rival competitor, the BMA.

Appointed to climb the mast in winds of roughly 55km/h to untie the spinnaker halides, Chappel said: “It was a harrowing but awesome experience in 30 knots of wind and the mast shaking like a tree in a storm.”

The crew experienced more issues throughout the night as the winds reached up to 50 knots with swells of up to 20 feet and currents reaching 5 knots. According to Chappel, what made the winds even more intense was the winds were just short of being classified hurricanes at 60 knots.

Chappel said having the Skitzo broach (fall on its side) several times throughout the night was a “nerve wrecking” experience.

The crew experienced other difficulties that meant they missed out on a record winning time by just an hour but still managed to claim handicap and line honours.

Chappel said he learned a lot from this experience. “If you are going to do this extremely dangerous stuff, you cannot take enough precautions in terms of safety and expecting the unexpected.”

Another lesson he learned was that one needs to be able to deal with one’s own fears and emotions while not doing something to jeopardise another crew member’s life.


(Appeared in print, May 11, 2012)

DA Youth Wage Subsidy march turns violent

A DA supporter is carried away by paramedics on Bertha Street Photo: Jan Bornman

Photographs and story by: Jan Willem Bornman, Lisa Golden and Jay Caboz

Protesters and journalists were tear-gassed by police after Democratic Alliance (DA) and Cosatu supporters clashed in Braamfontein today over proposed youth wage subsidies.

The march turned violent after blue-shirted members of the DA and red-shirted Cosatu supporters met on Jorissen Street. The Johannesburg Metro Police made a human chain to keep the two groups separated as they shouted insults at each other. This did not stop supporters from both sides throwing rocks, bottles, bricks and placards at each other across the police chain.

DA leaders were seen at the front of the march Photo: Lisa Golden

Fighting also broke out on Stiemens Street after police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. A 30-minute stand-off ensued while the DA leadership urged their supporters to maintain a non-violent stance, shouting “we want peace”, amid renditions of the national anthem.

DA members chanted "We are peaceful" when confrontations began Photo: Lisa Golden

One of the first protesters hit by a rock Photo: Jan Bornman

Rocks and bricks were hurled from both sides injuring protestors and journalists alike, among them Nickolaus Bauer from the Mail and Guardian, who was photographed with a bloodied face. A number of injuries have been reported in the media.

Journalist Nickolaus Bauer was injured in the clash Photo: Jan Bornman

DA national leader Helen Zille, parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, youth leader Makashule Gana and national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane led the march which was in support of the implementation of youth wage subsidies; a proposal rejected by Cosatu.

Competing lines of Cosatu and DA members, in red and blue respectively, are surrounded by media and police Photo: Lisa Golden

Mazibuko and Zille addressed the crowds calling for Cosatu to “join the DA” and saying “that they were stealing jobs from the youth.”

The two groups clashed repeatedly on several Braamfontein streets with the police, who appeared largely disorganised, responding with tear gas and water cannons.

Police used water cannons to disperse the crowds Photo: Jay Caboz


Windows of a BMW in Braamfontein were broken by protesters Photo: Jan Bornman


DA and Cosatu members arguing Photo: Jay Caboz

The police struggled to contain the situation as tensions increased Photo: Jay Caboz

A tear gas cansiter lies on the ground close to Cosatu members Photo: Jay Caboz

For more photographs go to Jay’s blog, Lisa’s blog and Jan’s blog


Medics cry foul for council elections

The Student Development and Leadership Unit (SDLU) has received a complaint about the recent student elections at medical school campus.

Vuvuzela received an e-mail listing complaints of irregularities. These included incorrect publication of voting days.

The election dates published on March 22 stated that the election would run from “Monday 26th March to Friday 28th March” (sic) whereas the notices should’ve read Monday to Wednesday.

However, 2011 MSC President Abigail Keene said students on campus were verbally notified during classes. Keene said the wrong dates were initially printed but this was corrected on the official medical school Facebook group and official class website.

“I feel [that] the student should have come to the MSC before the election started if he [the student] had a query in this regard and not wait until afterwards,” said Keene.

Responding to whether or not enough students knew about the elections, Keith Cousins, treasurer for the 2011 MSC, said: “Because the student believes that Facebook was the only mode of communication, he [the student] thinks not enough students were aware of the elections and thus the election result did not reach quorum.”

A sub-section of the MSC Constitution states that “the election shall be declared invalid if less than 30% of the electorate votes”.

Cousins said: “If this is the case, and the election was approved by SDLU, then we feel the issue must be investigated and rectified by SDLU.”

SDLU head Lamese Abrahams said they have referred the complaint to the Wits Legal Office.

Zahraa Khotu, newly elected MSC president, said she was not aware of any complaints about irregularities in the voting process. “The SRC, SDLU and faculty handle all voting protocol and counting, thus enforcing an unbiased process.

“If there is a viable problem re-elections occur. Since there have been no re-elections, I have no reason to believe that students are unhappy.”

Khotu also pointed out that the election process occurs over three days and is open for all students to vote.

Wits crowned Varsity Shield champs


Wits overcame a resistant Central University of Technology (CUT) on Monday 2 April, to be crowned Varsity Shield champions and secure automatic promotion to the Varsity Cup for the next two seasons.

In what can only be described as a sloppy game, Wits managed to convert more chances to win the game 19-17 and the Shield.

Coach, Andrew Royle said before the game the biggest challenges of the game would be to get their own ball and retain possession, but handling errors and ill-discipline characterised the game.

Wits started poorly when a mistake from the kick-off gave the opposition an early opportunity to score, with winger Alec Mhlanaga scoring in the corner. Fly half, Jannie Myburgh, managed to convert the try which gave CUT an early 8-0 advantage.

The first 20 minutes of the game saw little opportunity for Wits, as they went into the first strategy break trailing 10-2.

Rinus Bothma, man-of-the-match in Wits’ previous outing, scored a try from a line-out after a big shove from the Wits forwards shortly after the first strategy break. Bothma was one of the leading try-scorers among the forwards this season. Kyle Peyper converted the try to draw the scores level at 10-10.

A great solo effort by Bronson Lange in the dying seconds of the first half saw Wits take a five-point advantage into half-time, as they led the opposition 15-10.

Ill-discipline from Wits saw two players sin-binned within minutes. However, CUT was not able to take advantage of their numerical advantage.

A long-range drop-kick from Peyper extended Wits’ lead to 19-12, which meant the opposition had to score at least twice to save the game.

CUT managed to score an unconverted try with only minutes remaining on the clock, but good defence from Wits ensured that the opposition could not get any more points before time ran out.

As the whistle blew, Wits kicked the ball and won the game 19-17, which means they will qualify to compete with other top universities such as the University of Johannesburg, and the University of Stellenbosch in the Varsity Cup next season.


Published in Vuvuzela Print Edition, 13 April 2012


Wits outplayed by Alberton

Croxley Wits lost by one run to Alberton Cricket Club to miss out on a place in this season’s 20/20 club final, at the Lindeque Oval in Alberton.

Alberton won the toss and elected to bat first, scoring a modest 140 for nine in their allotted 20 overs.

Hancke von Ravenstein and Duvaal Patel stood out as the in-form bowlers. Von Ravenstein ended the innings with figures of two for 19 in his allotted four overs. Patel stood out with figures of three for 23 in his three overs.

Croxley Wits were set a target of 141 by the in 20 overs.

Gareth Benton and von Ravenstein, both fresh from good innings’ in the previous three games and in top form, came out aggressive. Benton and von Ravenstein set the Wits innings up well as they put up 85 for the first wicket, before von Ravenstein was dismissed for 48 off 35 balls.

Von Ravenstein’s wicket started the collapse, as James Pagan (0), Jason Ferreira (4), Douglas Clack (1), Duvaan Patel (1) and Gareth Benton (47) were dismissed in quick succession.

Croxley Wits were left at trailing at 117 for 6, requiring 24 runs off less than three overs.

Jekkro Mawydzi tried in vain to rescue the innings with a brave 21 runs off 24 balls, but Wits fell just one run short of a draw forcing a super-over.

Alberton cricket club won the match with one run and booked a place in the final of this season’s Gauteng club 20/20 tournament.

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Croxley Wits hits opposition for six

Double act for Wits Drama

A double-bill of Chekhov shorts – two one-act farces with a “sit-com type of vibe” – is currently being presented by the School of Arts, School of Drama and the Wits Theatre.

After more than 100 years, The Bear and A Marriage Proposal are still applicable to modern South Africa, says Makhaola Ndebele, director of the short plays. As it was then, middle class society is still concerned with “non-issues” in their lives.

“I’m very interested in representational work, situational comedy…the sit-com type of vibe. It resonates with me so much because he [Anton Chekhov] was a Russian from the 1800s, and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is so relevant’.”

Another thing that attracted Ndebele to the work of Chekhov was his way of observing and representing the middle class and land owners.

A Marriage Proposal, Ndebele explains, is about a man who wants to propose to a young woman, but keeps getting distracted. They end up arguing about mundane issues like, who owns a piece of land and who has the better dog.

“I think in our society today there are a lot of people who get concerned with these so-called ‘non-issues’, and miss the bigger picture.”

Starred in Machine Gun Preacher

Ndebele is no stranger to the dramatic arts in South Africa. He is known for his work as creative director on the South African show, Rhythm City, and has starred in movies such as Hijack Stories (2000), Machine Gun Preacher (2011) and Man on Ground (2011). In Machine Gun Preacher he starred alongside Gerard Butler, among others.

“It was a humbling experience…very professional and very exciting to be part of such as huge project.”

He recently decided to study for a masters in dramatic arts, while lecturing at Wits. “Learning is an on-going thing… after so many years in the industry, I decided I wanted to teach and doing a masters kind of enables me to investigate and research new areas of performance that I have not previously done.”

Luke, played by Michael Mazibuko, begs Ms Popova (Gaosi Raditholo) to stop mourning the death of her husband and step outside. (The Bear)

Lomov, portrayed by Gamelihle Bovana, proposes to Natasha, played by Emma Tollman, in A Marriage Proposal.