Policing lost in translation

Effective policing is difficult enough to deliver anywhere in the world but how do Yeoville police help the community if they don’t speak the same language? Bureaucracy, internal politics and conflicts of interest are additional hurdles the precinct must overcome.

Blood pouring from a gash on the side of his head, a man clothed in torn khaki pants holds a scrunched up t-shirt to his head in an attempt to staunch the bleeding. He is followed closely by a woman yelling agitatedly in a foreign language.

They are headed for the Yeoville police station. As bystanders enquire after his welfare, the pair seem unable to reply in English or any other South African language. Because of this, it will be difficult for the man to make himself “heard” sufficiently for a case to be opened.

Yeoville police say that many people reporting crimes in the area are foreign nationals, who cannot speak English or any local language. This makes it difficult for police to assist them with their complaints. Where both the victim and the perpetrator speak minimal English, it is particularly difficult for the police to discover exactly what has happened, and the issue between them.

The problem is we cannot understand them. How can we help them if they can’t talk to us and we can’t speak to them?

Yeoville is still in the process of change. Originally a white area, it became a predominantly black South African area after 1994.  Since then, it has morphed again. The 2011 census put the number of foreign nationals at 20% of the black population, while independent research by a coordinator of Yeoville.org in 2013 gives the percentage of foreigners as 35% of the total population, which has grown to 38 964. Yeoville.org is a website that carries information about the area, its history, present and possible futures. It is coordinated by Maurice Smithers,

Yeoville/Bellevue has become a Pan-African mix of cultures, languages and religions. This diversity has altered the image of Yeoville and also made it difficult for the South African Police Service (SAPS) to police the area effectively.

Bigger and better

The current Yeoville police station, which is operating out of a house leased by the SAPS, is too small to function as an independent station for such a populated area. According to SAPS station manager Colonel Lubisi Motaung, it used to be a satellite station, reporting to the Hillbrow precinct. As the population grew, it became a station in its own right.

SQUEEZE IN: The Yeoville station is operating from a small house although a new station has been built. There is not enough room for the policemen or their vehicles. Photo: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

The reception area of the station is tiny and separated into three makeshift cubicles to give complainants a semblance of privacy. The small yard only has room to park four small police vehicles – the rest must be parked in the street. More makeshift office space has been created along the perimeter wall.

A bigger and better police station is just weeks away from completion around the corner from the present station. This new station, which SAPS communication officer Constable Thabo Malatji says cost over R15-million, has created hope for better policing services for the community. It will be big enough to accommodate all the staff and allow the station to function independently.

Complaints laid at the current police station mostly involve assaults, thefts, conflicts between residents and issues of miscommunication between residents.

“It is a problem dealing with criminal cases here in Yeoville,” says Motaung. “Half of the times the people involved are foreigners, who can’t communicate well. The problem is we cannot understand them. How can we help them if they can’t talk to us and we can’t speak to them?

COMMUNICATION BARRIER: Yeoville SAPS station manager, Colonel Lubisi Motaung, talks about the language barrier the police are facing policing in Yeoville. PHOTOKudzai Mazvarirwofa

“Yeoville has become a kind of first stop where people settle when they first come to Jo’burg.”

Malatji agrees. “It is difficult communicating with the people, especially if they are trying to report a crime and you cannot understand each other. But in most cases the person involved, if they cannot speak English, they bring a friend, but still we cannot determine how true their statements are.”

Since 2012, Yeoville police station has been trying to break down the language barrier by requesting translation assistance from an NGO called the African Diaspora Forum (ADF), based in Bellevue.

“There was a time when a woman came here to report a sensitive assault,” says Motaung. “Adding to that was the fact that she could not speak English and we had to call for help from the ADF. They assisted us by sending someone who could help us hear her problem.”

Jean-Pierre Lukamba, a refugee from the DRC and chairperson of the ADF, says most foreigners from the DRC and Gabon speak French as their first and, sometimes, only language.

“You find that people who come from maybe Congo and Gabon do not know and understand the laws and regulations in South Africa. On top of that, they can barely speak any local language so if something happens to them, they cannot speak for themselves.”

When there is a failure of communication, immigrants might also feel they are not being taken seriously.

What can be done?

The ADF has been pushing for an ADF “help desk” in the new police station. It will be staffed by the ADF, which is currently in talks with the Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa to “meet halfway” on funding.

Lukamba says the NGO plans not only to help with communication, but to help migrants understand which channels to take in order to get help and to educate them about their rights and South African law.

“In most cases when migrants go to the police to report cases, they complain there is negligence from the police side. When we engage with the police they say it is not a case of negligence. Some cases that migrants bring to the police might be labour issues, which the police will direct them to the CCMA.”

BIGGER AND BETTER: The new station which has cost up to R15-million in funding is weeks away from completion. Photo: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

The ADF intends to use the Yeoville station as a “pilot project”, since they have received similar complaints from migrants in Berea, Tembisa and other communities.

This office will work independently of the police and will operate on transparency. “The government, the media, the community and the embassy from which the migrant is from will be involved [when dealing with difficult issues concerning a migrant],” says Lukamba.

“Our intention is not to replace the police. Our intention is to assist or complement them so that they can better serve the community.”

LOCKED UP: One of the cells in construction at the new station. Photo: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

However noble the principle, this will not be an easy feat. Colonel Noxolo Kweza, spokesperson for the Gauteng SAPS communications department, says she believes it will be difficult to implement.

“It will be difficult because then, as SAPS, what we do for one office we must also do for every other precinct in South Africa.”

Yeoville is not a “unique situation”, she says, and other precincts like Hillbrow/Berea and Sunnyside in Pretoria are tackling the same issue. She says the Yeoville police might sometimes need the ADF’s help, but “there are measures” within the SAPS that are put in place for situations such as the one in Yeoville.

“We work closely with the department of international relations and with the embassies just in case there is a need for a translator or help dealing with a migrant,” Kweza says.

Communication between the police and residents is not the only impediment to a secure society. The community itself experiences difficulties in understanding between its members. This can create credibility problems when police question the witnesses to crimes.

“It’s those bloody Zimbabweans that come here,” she says. “There are too many of them, the police can’t handle it.”

Shabbir Mohon, who comes from Bangladesh, owns a shop on Rockey Street where he was the victim of armed robbery. Mohon speaks very little English but managed to explain that he was robbed at gunpoint, and the perpetrators took his cellular phone, some of his merchandise and R900 in cash.

A South African street vendor, Virginia Capelo, claims she was sitting outside at the time of the robbery. She is positive the criminals were Zimbabweans. However she admits she cannot differentiate between Shona, spoken by Zimbabweans, and Igbo, a Nigerian dialect.

“It’s those bloody Zimbabweans that come here,” she says. “There are too many of them, the police can’t handle it.”

The judicial domino effect

The communication hurdle faced by police in Yeoville not only affects their ability to do their job but sets off a judicial “domino effect”, which could affect the eventual verdict.

“If an arrest is lawful then legally the police are allowed to arrest a person,” says criminal lawyer Marius du Toit. “However, the person has a right to have their rights read to them in a language they understand and the police are supposed to enquire that the person understands their rights because if they do not do this then their statement or any actions they do thereafter are inadmissible in court.

“If the criminal does not speak any of the official languages, then it is up to the police to make sure they find a translator who can help the criminal understand his rights. Otherwise, even if he gives evidence or a statement after, it does not hold up in court.”

Some members of the community believe the SAPS in Yeoville tries its best, but is hampered by lack of resources. The new station will cater to issues of space and management. It will put under one roof the public-service sector (those who cook and clean), the non-uniformed members (the detective and criminal operations department, which is currently operating from another building) and the uniformed police.

“The current building we are in is too small and it does not belong to the police – we are leasing it,” says Malatji.

Yeoville policemen talk about their challenges in the suburb. By: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

“Besides bringing all operations together, the new station will help with reporting,” says Motaung. “If someone comes to report a sensitive crime in this station, it is difficult because there is no privacy. The person might end up not telling us the whole truth.”

Another problem is that the current police station has no cells on the premises. “If we make any arrests now, we have to take the criminals to the Hillbrow station because there are no cells here.”

Malatji adds:  “Because there is not enough space here, it is difficult to function properly as a unit because the detective and criminal operations department is about 2km away so that is not user-friendly.”

The Yeoville police hope service delivery will improve when the new police station is complete, and have equally high hopes of their engagement with the ADF, says Malatji – despite the pessimism of Kweza, who is based at the provincial office in Parktown.

“Their [ADF] assistance has already done a great deal to help us because now we have got a fair understanding of the different nationalities residing within our country.”

The need for aid is vital in an area like Yeoville, and in South Africa in general, since the number of migrants make up a significant number of the population. Every person has to be protected by the policing system – regardless of their legal status or nationality.

If an effective way is not found to deal with a Pan-African society like Yeoville, a percentage of the community will always be left neglected.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Yeoville station is operating from a small house although a new station has been built. There is not enough room for the policemen or their vehicles. Photo: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa


‘No story is worth a life’

Ron Nixon,

Ron Nixon, of the New York Times, spoke about how to stay safe as an investigative journalist. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

Many journalists have suffered whilst reporting or working in countries with laws that gag the media. Investigative journalism has cost many journalists their lives in the pursuit of informing the public.

It is the responsibility of the media to pull focus to issues plaguing the society – issues the public should be interested in – however this does not mean the journalist is not a person, someone with friends and a family

Anton Harber, Caxton professor of Journalism at Wits University, said one should take all the necessary precautions and learn as much as possible about apotentially dangerous story before immersing themselves in it.

“The biggest danger is ignorance. Be careful and understand a situation in as much detail as possible,” Harber said.

“No story is worth a life.”

According to Harber, in cases where a journalist might be arrested there are international networks that might responde with help. However, the ultimate responsibility lies with the news organisation toprotect the journalist. A news organisation will almost always support the journalist “if a story is important enough”.

Harber was himself arrested in South Africa while the editor of the Weekly Mail, now known as the Mail & Guardian. In the course of pursuing an investigation into the apartheid government, the paper was caught bugging a hotel room. The bug was discovered before any incriminating evidence had been recorded.

“Ethically it was wrong but I[only] regret getting caught,” Harber said.

Harber said if he faced the same situation again he would be “extremely hesitant”.

Ron Nixon, an investigative journalist for the New York Times, said the best way for investigative journalists to remain safe is to always let someone know where you are and always work in teams or pairs.

“Be aware of your surroundings and always let people know where you are. Including embassies as well. In case anything goes wrong,” he said.

Many journalists prefer to work alone because they’re after scoops. Nixon advises against this the information isn’t worth the risk of working without a safety net.

“Sometimes the information you are getting is not that exclusive.”

It is then up to the journalist to make an individual decision to either report the story, and possibly be first, or to be safe.

Illegal abortions risk lives

EASY AS 1, 2, 3: Street pole charlatans use any surface to advertise "pain free and safe" abortions. PHOTO: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

EASY AS 1, 2, 3: Street pole charlatans use any surface to advertise “pain free and safe” abortions. PHOTO: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

“HOW FAR are you?” he asked.
“Six months.”
“Then it’s fine. I’ll take care of you.”
“Is it painful?”
After a six-week investigation, Wits Vuvuzela had this telephone exchange with a man who offers illegal abortions, even when pregnancies have advanced beyond the legal cut-off. He refused to give his name and place of work but offered to meet at Park Station.
“Backstreet” abortions have been a cause of medical concern. Yet even now, street pole charlatans provide dangerous abortions, which could cause women to lose their lives or their ability to have children. These services are widely advertised in the Johannesburg CBD, at stations, on stop signs and buildings.
The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act protects a woman’s right to choose and allows women to access safe abortion services at legitimate clinics and hospitals. Abortion is offered free at any government hospital or clinic. Legally, any woman, whatever her age, can have an abortion if she is still in the first trimester (12 weeks).
It is only legal to have an abortion after this if her physical or mental health is at stake, the baby will have severe mental or physical abnormalities or if she is pregnant because of incest or rape. However, this can only be done before the pregnancy has reached 20 weeks (five months). After this cut-off, it is illegal to perform or have an abortion.
An ex-UJ student, who asked not to be named for fear of legal and social repercussions, suffered damage to her cervix and uterine wall after undergoing a backstreet abortion way past the legal 20-week gestation period.
Enrolled as a Media Studies major, the woman was forced to take a “time-out” from school due to the physical and mental after-effects she suffered.
“I was scared and on a bursary and I could not afford to disappoint my family.” She had delayed the termination, thinking she would keep the baby, while her boyfriend was around. Once he disappeared, her pregnancy had advanced beyond the legal limit.
“I saw a flyer at Park Station and I secretly took the number. They promised a safe and cheap abortion so my mind was made.”

The stairs reeked of urine and rotting garbage. Lighting was scarce on the winding staircase and loud music blared from apartments on different floors.

She wouldn’t go into much detail about the procedure itself. “It was just at a building in town. I went to the room of it and there was a bed and some weird looking silver tools.”

She was given an array of pills “for pain”. The “midwife” used a tool which she described as “very cold and hard” and then she felt a sharp pain. Feeling a “warm fluid”, she assumed the worst was over – until it became apparent this fluid was blood, which wouldn’t stop.
She bled heavily for seven days, suffering intense abdominal pain, until an aunt forced her to go to a clinic.
Another young woman is said to have committed suicide as a result of the mental trauma she suffered after an illegal abortion. A friend, who asked not to be named since out of sensitivity for her friend’s family, said the woman was never the same after her abortion.

She bled heavily for seven days, suffering intense abdominal pain, until an aunt forced her to go to a clinic.

“She would not talk about it. She just started behaving differently. She became very reckless. She told me that it was a bad experience and that she would always regret it.”
Having received a tip-off, Wits Vuvuzela visited a building where unlicensed abortions are said to take place, three blocks from Park Station, adjacent to a taxi rank.
The stairs reeked of urine and rotting garbage.

Lighting was scarce on the winding staircase and loud music blared from apartments on different floors.

When our reporter knocked, a woman appeared behind a steel security door and asked if she had an appointment. The reporter pretended to be lost and left.
From the room, a metallic smell mingled with something that smelt like hard liquor.
According to Marie Stopes South Africa (MSSA), an organisation which specialises in sexual and reproductive healthcare, the drug sometimes used for medical abortions, Cytotech, is easily acquired. If administered incorrectly, it could cause hemorrhaging and rupturing of the uterus, said Andrea Thompson, head of clientele at Marie Stopes Organisation.
“Women should be wary of anyone offering medical abortion pills without providing a consultation and an exam to determine their gestation (stage of the pregnancy).”
If administered wrongly, the pill could have severe consequences, including death, she said.
Even though it is legal to have an abortion, no questions asked, Wits and UJ students told Wits Vuvuzela they avoided the health sector because of the judgement they faced there.
Wits Vuvuzela went to Hillbrow Clinic to posing as a woman in need of an abortion. The security guard at the entrance asked every patient their destination.

This forced her to disclose this in front of 25 people. She was treated unsympathetically by a nurse, whose face registered disapproval until the journalist said she had reconsidered and would not go through with the abortion.



The ‘luxury’ of being depressed

DOWN IN THE DUMPS: Depression is characterized as living in a black hole or having a feeling of doom. PHOTO: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

DOWN IN THE DUMPS: Depression is characterized as living in a black hole or having a feeling of doom. PHOTO: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa


WHEN I was eight, I was sent home from school because they did not understand why I was “acting out”.


I suffered from depression. But my family kept sending me back to school as they were convinced I was “seeking attention”.
I am not alone in my experience. Many other students have dealt with depression on their own because it is not regarded as an “African” illness. So, it is not easily recognised.
In Xhosa, Ndebele, Shona, Pedi, Tsonga and Venda cultures, there is no term for depression, only terms that describe their actions on the exterior. These terms include ukhatazekile (isiZulu for hurt/ worried/ broken-hearted); hatello yamunagano (Sesotho for oppression of the mind/mind is weighed down) and kufungisisa (Shona for overthinking).

“Usually those who have depression suffer from ancestral problems … I give them a mixture made of plants that we boil for 30 minutes.” Serake said.

Depression and mental disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Autism and Anxiety are viewed as a “luxury” for those who can afford to get them treated. These diseases are seen as a form of “indulgence” for attention-seekers.
Depression is characterised by the Health Guide.org as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom or bleakness. However, some depressed people don’t feel sad a

t all, they may feel lifeless, empty, and disengaged. Men, in particular, may even feel angry, aggressive, and restless. Depression makes it tough to function because day to day “normal” activities become a chore and difficult to undertake.
Common symptoms of depression include headaches, emotional outbursts, acute sadness, isolation, self-loathing, weakness and stomach pains, to name but a few.
Trish Chikura, a University of North-West student, said that before she was diagnosed with Dysthymia, which is a neurotic depression, she had been living with it for over six years. She became aware of it initially when she was 15. “Deep inside, I was empty and had recurring anxiety attacks. I grew up in an unstable household. I saw things as a child that no child should see,” Chikura said.
She said her family, despite being the “catalyst of her depression”, didn’t take too well to her being depressed.
“They are still in denial. Some part of me thinks they don’t see depression as a big thing.”
Depression is not always caused by one isolated incident. While the root cause of depression varies, most cases are usually triggered by a major incident that the patient may have witnessed or suffered.Twenty-two year-old Braamfontein resident Dimitri Leroy Tshabalala suffered from depression when his mother, who was his support system, died.

He realised he was depressed when he suffered from constant headaches, weakness and feelings of loneliness and self-loathing. He became suicidal.
“Now that she was gone, I was at the point I tried to end my life on many occasions but failed,” he said.
Tshabalala said his family was unresponsive to the fact that he was depressed, and his friends acted as his support system.
Because mental illness is an unexplainable phenomenon in African cultures, it has proved difficult for many to get the help they need.
The fact that these diseases are identified with their physical or exterior symptoms makes it more difficult to deal with the root cause.
Wits Vuvuzela spoke to Seth Serake, a Johannesburg based traditional healer, who treats patients suffering from depression. For him, depression was caused by “ancestral problems”. He prepared an oral concoction which would get rid of the depression in two weeks, he claimed.
“Usually those who have depression suffer from ancestral problems … I give them a mixture made of plants that we boil for 30 minutes. They must take one tablespoon three times a day for two weeks. Guarantee in one month the depression is out of the body,” Serake said.

The fact that the concept of depression is clearly not fully comprehended adds to the difficulty in recognising it in its early stages.
Dr Vinitha Jithoo, of the Wits Psychology department, said that the issue of understanding depression in African contexts is not so much about people’s ignorance of the disease but more about the lack of a direct linguistic connection to the disease itself.
They identify depression differently, she said. “This is done by connecting the physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, to the disease but not the mental symptoms,” Jithoo said.
The treatment for depression can be found in acknowledgement of the depression, therapy and sometimes antidepressants, according to MayoClinic.org. These procedures take some time as it also requires lifestyle changes such as exercise, better nutrition, reduction of stress and more sleep.
Wits Vuvuzela approached different people of different ethnic backgrounds and asked them what they thought depression was.
Most of them connected depression to over-thinking, stress, worry and just basic “not feeling well”. Some even went as far as saying that “it does not exist” and when Wits Vuvuzela explained the symptoms they called it “attention-seeking” or “laziness”.

It is important to identify depression in its early stages for it can lead to self-harm and suicide.
In my own experience the most important thing is to get acknowledgement that the disease exists. The hardest part is managing it. It has got easier with time, however.

He got the job, she didn’t

Sometimes, it appears, guys and girls have very different reactions to sexual harassment.
Two graduates have been victims of inappropriate advances during job interviews this year. Michelle Kuwodza, a food sciences graduate, found herself on the receiving end of improper sexual advances from an operations manager, who she would not name for fear of reprisal. Kuwodza said she was called to an “interview” at one of the offices of a food manufacturing company.

She was sent directly to the operations manager’s office, who proceeded to interview her for a post which was not advertised.

“He suggested we go out for drinks, and [that] he would teach me how to drink alcohol and other stuff,”

“When I went in, the manager kept talking about general stuff.” The conversation had nothing to do with the interview, she said. “He would give a situation involving a married couple and insinuate that me and him [sic] could be married,” she said.
The manager even asked her out for “drinks”.
“He suggested we go out for drinks, and [that] he would teach me how to drink alcohol and other stuff,” she said.
Kuwodza did not know what this “other stuff” was. She did not ask further questions because she did not want to encourage him. She acknowledged that in the end it probably wasn’t an interview, as he did not have any paper work, nor did he ask any questions that pertained to her field of study and the post advertised.
She also told Wits Vuvuzela that the same operations manager contacted her a week or so after the interview to ask her out for drinks yet again.

She refused his invitation and did not get the advertised job. Reacting quite differently from the young woman, and with a different end result, a male graduate, Joe Sithole (not his real name) said he had been the recipient of inappropriate “compliments” from a female human resource manager who happened to be a big fan of his “big hands”.
“She told me I smelled and looked good. And during the interview she kept dropping compliments, and I don’t know, being sort of ‘interested’,” he said. When asked what he meant he said, “I’m a man, I know if a woman wants my attention.”
After the interview he shook her hand to leave and the manager proceeded to compliment him on his “strong grip” before he left. He was pretty impressed with the “compliments”. He got the job.
As the end of the year draws near, final year students are faced with the prospect of job hunting. Students find it difficult to identify what constitutes sexual harassment in situations such as job interviews.
The United Nations website describes sexual harassment as “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

Jackie Dugard, the director of Wits’ Sexual Harassment Office, spoke about the steps one can take when they are faced with a similar situation.

“If harassment results in someone not being offered a job, they can take matters forward in litigation and/or with the CCMA, (the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, a body that deals with labour disputes), Dugard said.

‘A Shaka Zulu type n*gga’

“WHEN it comes down to it, I prefer a manly-man – a beast.”

MANLY-MAN: The women interviewed said they wanted a man who could "handle" them.  PHOTO: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

MANLY-MAN: The women interviewed said they wanted a man who could “handle” them. PHOTO: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

This was one of the views Wits Vuvuzela received when we asked young women from different backgrounds about their ideal man.
It appears the metrosexual man is experiencing a mid-life crisis. The popularity of the “metros”, as they are fondly known, seems to be dwindling as young women who rooted for them after their debut in the early 2000’s have started losing interest.

“I stopped dating them [metros] because it’s all about them and how they look. It’s never about me. They got more in love with their looks, like I never existed.

According to the Urban Dictionary, the metrosexual man is defined as a “heterosexual urban man who enjoys shopping, fashion, and similar interests traditionally associated with women or homosexual men”.
Nomonde Tyenjele, a student from Stellenbosch University, prefers her man to be the epitome of masculinity because she does not have a taste for the “tendencies” that metros exhibit.
“I prefer a man’s man because he doesn’t have gay tendencies that will make your friends and family question [his sexuality].”



REED ‘EM AND WEEP: The women said they wanted a “beast”. PHOTO: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

Rosine Nzengu, a young woman studying in the DRC, said her previous experience of relationships with metros was not ideal, citing their “self-love” and lack of “respect” as the reason.
“I stopped dating them [metros] because it’s all about them and how they look. It’s never about me. They got more in love with their looks, like I never existed.”
Nzengu also said she preferred the simplicity that “manly-men” exhibited.


The main reason for these women’s dislike of the metro is the fact that they break with traditional relationship roles. The women approached said they liked to feel feminine, which meant being with a masculine man, who was supposed to “frame” them.
“Feminism, to me, is territorial. I don’t like sharing [the spotlight]. The minute he asks for my hairdresser’s number, we have a problem,” Nzengu said.
One Wits student asked not to be named because she is dating a metro, can’t see herself settling down with him, or any other metro. “They are fun, but I don’t see myself taking him home … I guess when it comes down to it, I just don’t take him seriously.”
In the replies Wits Vuvuzela received, women linked their “ideal man” to traditional societal roles. They wanted a man who would take care of the family and be the breadwinner. They referred to idolised men in their own backgrounds – like fathers, uncles or pastors – as models for their ideal love interest.
Wits Vuvuzela received more boisterous remarks from a focus group conducted with women from University of Johannesburg (UJ), Wits and surrounding tertiary institutions. UJ student Tafadzwa Samu said she preferred “a beast”, a man who “can take charge” and said she did not get that from metros.
She wanted a partner who would “take charge, like your Shaka Zulu-type nigga. The Kunta Kinte. A man who can handle my strong personality”.
She added that metros were “men, but not man enough for me”.
Not all women are against metros, though. North West University student Trish Chikura said: “I’m actually into metros … I guess it’s in how they take care of themselves.”
It appears that the reason some women go for metros is the same reason that damns them in the eyes of others

Baring it all for employment

Ntombifuthi Kubeka had been in the job market for a long time when she applied to be a waitress at a “gentleman’s club”.

After sending in her CV, the Wits alumnus was told about an “extra” requirement: bikini shots “for fitting purposes”. Desperate for work, having recently had a baby, she complied.

But bikini shots became nude shots. Waitresses needed “to be fitted, like models”, she was told. Her desperation overcame her suspicion, so she sent them – along with the passwords for her e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, for a “background check”.

After a month she was still jobless, and she was being blackmailed for the return of her pictures. Kubeka did not pay the fraudster, but is concerned that he still has her pictures. “I suspected fishy behaviour but, I mean, I was desperate, so I had my fiancé take the photos and I sent them.”

After a month she was still jobless, and she was being blackmailed for the return of her pictures

Fortunately, she changed her passwords before they could be used. Much of her interaction with the conman was conducted via e-mail and WhatsApp. She dealt first with a man, who called himself Nkululeko, who later disappeared. She was told he had been in a car accident.

After that, she was contacted by a woman who gave her name as Samantha and told her she had the job. Samantha asked her to work that weekend, but she couldn’t, since she was in Mpumalanga. She had posted her movements on Facebook.

Samantha later told her their clients had sued them, since she’d been unable to find waitresses for the Saturday night, and the business was in jeopardy.

“She said that she knew the evils of business and it came with the territory. Later she asked me about my daughter and told me she had a daughter too. She said that her daughter was sick and she needed money quickly.”

Samantha first asked Kubeka for financial help, but when Kubeka declined, Samantha started blackmailing her. “She called me the next day and said: ‘Well I’m going to sell your pictures whether you like it or not’.”

She told Kubeka that, unless she paid, she would sell the pictures to elderly men, who wouldn’t mind spending money for nude pictures.

The declining economy and the difficulty in securing jobs has left many qualified people desperate for employment. This desperation has made them vulnerable to victimisation and abuse.

According to the South African Bill of Rights: “Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.” Requiring personal information such as passwords and naked pictures is an infringement of one’s right to dignity. Chris Webster, a candidate attorney at Andrew Miller & Associates, said there were certain things potential employers were legally allowed to ask for.

“Legally one cannot be required to give naked pictures and passwords of their personal accounts to get a job. Things such as someone’s HIV status, whether or not one is pregnant or plans to start a family: those questions infringe on one’s personal rights and are therefore illegal,” Webster said.

Kubeka had been the victim of a number of criminal offences, he said. “Off the top of my head, there is fraud, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and blackmail, all of which are criminal offenses.”
He said was prudent to look up potential employers before supplying them with personal information, he added.

The silent scream of the tokoloshe

THE BOGEY-MAN:The Tokolosh, a group of anonymous graffiti artists, use the cover of darkness to create graffiti and stencils with political messages. Photo: Tokolos Stencils Collective

THE BOGEY-MAN:The Tokolosh, a group of anonymous graffiti artists, use the cover of darkness to create graffiti and stencils with political messages. Photo: Tokolos Stencils Collective

A group of “tokoloshes” has banded together to ensure South Africa does not forget about Marikana and ongoing social injustices.

Tokolos Stencils, a group of anonymous graffiti artists, has resuscitated the “spirit of the tokoloshe” in order to fight for the underdog. They believe what they do is not vandalism but rather “sharing space”.

“We believe in sharing. Sharing ideas, sharing art, sharing news – and most of all, sharing space. It is only those who want to define certain spaces as for the rich and other spaces as for the poor, who are upset by our work,” they said in an e-mail response.

The group chose its name because it believes that in recent folklore the tokoloshe has been given a bad name. They liken this to any oppressed groups in society, “like poor black men and lesbians”. “As such, the tokolos can be seen as a representative of the unjustly damned.

The damned of the earth, forever misrepresented by the elite and the elite-controlled media. But was not Robin Hood a similarly misunderstood figure? The tokolos steals private space and makes it public – in other words, it returns space to its rightful owners,” they said.

Tokolos Stencils has been very loud in its silent protest. Supporters have desecrated the Cecil John Rhodes statue on UCT main campus and peppered Cape Town with graffiti and stencilled slogans and images. Their work can be seen anywhere from the Ferrari dealership windows to billboards to the side of the wall. Their trademark stencil is the “man in the green blanket”, Marikana workers’ leader Mgcineni Noki, who was killed by police along with 33 other protesting miners in August 2012.

Their other stencils include “This City Works for a Few”, a response against the Western Cape’s tagline “The City that Works for You” and “Remember Marikana”. When asked why they chose to band behind the mysterious African “bogey-man”, the tokoloshe, they said their name is supposed to challenge stereotypical thinking in our society by “people who have imprisoned their minds and shut away their creativity of thought”. This group of artists stays true to the image of the tokoloshe as elusive in their mysterious silence.

They work in the dark, using scare tactics and creating thought-provoking images. They also encourage South Africans to be part of the “revolution” by allowing people to download and submit their own political stencils, with hints about where to put them and how to do it.

The artists also warn the “messengers” to be wary of “the 5-0” [the police]. Pierrinne Leukes, spokesperson for the city of Cape Town, said the issue with the vandalism is a safety and security issue. She said the city spends up to 67% of its budget on the poor and residents of Cape Town have the highest access to services in the country.

She said resources have been diverted from communities to clean up the “graffiti vandalism”, money which could have been used to improve service delivery.

Witsies avoid initiation cut

SOME women students at Wits are being pressured by families to attend initiation school, forcing them to choose between their education and their culture—and possible “genital alteration”.

Two female students from Wits, one in her first year, the other in second, said they faced judgement and scorn from their families for choosing to stay at university rather than attend a “compulsory” initiation school in Venda. Both students asked not to be named for fear of being treated differently by their peers.

All initiation schools involve compulsory tests of virginity, during which elderly “gogos” look or insert fingers into the young women’s vaginas to determine if the hymen has been broken. Many also involve forms of “genital alteration” to make intercourse more pleasurable
to men.

The first-year student, currently studying politics, said her aunt accused her of not being a virgin and of engaging in premarital sex. She said her current “situation” was the main reason behind her reluctance, since these schools included a compulsory virginity test.

“They [the family] have accused me of trying to embarrass them. I’ve been told I will be a bad wife, because I am too headstrong,”
she said.

Both women said their families disapproved of their using their studies to avoid attending the school. Both were subjected to ridicule from their peers at home, as they were seen as “inadequate”.
“Sometimes I dread going to the village,” said one. “Some of the girls call us trees, just growing without discipline.”

“Some include training on how to please your husband both sexually and mentally … They teach a woman how to learn her place.”

She said the reason behind her reluctance to go to an initiation school is that she did not want to be “violated” with possible genital alteration.
Mercy Manci, a traditional healer and community activist from the Eastern Cape, said she knew of several initiation schools in
different tribes.

“These schools vary from tribe to tribe. Some include training on how to please your husband both sexually and mentally,” she said. “They teach a woman how to learn her place.”

Different forms of genital alteration were practised in different schools. “There is a practice where females are supposed to tug on the inner labia repeatedly until it stretches to a certain length and there is another where they are to squeeze and slice the clitoris in the middle. This ensures that the male genitalia does not slip out during sex and that the intercourse
lasts longer.”

However, not all initiation schools practised genital alteration, Manci said. The initiation can last anywhere from seven days to two weeks, starting with a compulsory virginity test. If a girl was found to be “whole” [a virgin] the old women would ululate, but if a girl was found to be “damaged”, the old women would sound their disapproval loudly.
The virginity test was then followed by teachings on behaviour in male company, reproductive health, sexuality and how to run a household. The women had to avoid certain foods during initiation since these were believed to arouse them. They had to eat traditional foods like umnqusho (samp) and sweet potatoes to “strengthen her endurance and core”.

During initiation, girls dressed in a certain way and painted their faces with clay. This signalled their unity with the ground and their ancestors. Each returned to her family for a graduation ceremony, after which they were seen as “ripe” and traditionally ready for marriage.

Female initiation schools are still a common part of the compulsory rite of passage into womanhood – some operating secretly and others publicly. They are meant to equip young women with “all that is needed in the journey to becoming a ‘good wife’.”

“They told me that if I don’t go then I won’t know how to handle my man.”

Tendani Makwarera, a Venda woman who once attended an initiation school, told Wits Vuvuzela the classes were designed to help a girl through the transition to womanhood and taught them how to behave in a marriage.
“I had to go when I was sixteen and it was compulsory. They told me that if I don’t go then I won’t know how to handle my man.”
She explained that she actually enjoyed the process, which lasted two weeks.

“When I look at the woman of today, they don’t have a long heart [endurance], which is why there are more divorces. When you look at the women who went there you see that they don’t divorce at all.”
Since she was the only girl in the family, she appreciated the lessons as she had no one else to teach her. She did agree that, initially, she was afraid of the older women who taught them since these women were said to do “funny things to you”.

Prof Robert Thornton teaches a course on ‘Sex, Culture and Society’ at Wits, which covers the area of Female Genital Modification, also referred to as Female Genital Mutilation, (FGM).
“Why it [initiation] raises so many questions is because it somehow opposes the popular, scientific culture that says that sex is somehow natural rather than cultural,” he said. “In fact in reality, we do have to learn how to do sex.

We have to learn how to fulfil those roles, which is done one way or another; either formally by the gogos and the rituals or fumbling about in the dark.”
He said the aim of these rituals was to legitimate the initiation, to give knowledge and validate the process of becoming a woman. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of new-born deaths.
According to the WHO website: “FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

“It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.”

Initiations: Boys to men

THE BIG SNIP: Bitched circumcisions have resulted  in injury even death. PHOTO: Schreibkraft

THE BIG SNIP: Botched circumcisions have resulted in injury even death. PHOTO: Schreibkraft

by Kudzai Mazvarirwofa and Tendani Tsedu

Manhood doesn’t only come with age according to some traditions in Africa but rather by undergoing a rite of passage where males are taught how to become ‘real men’.

According to some traditions, a boy enters initiation school to be taught endurance and the basic societal roles a man is to play. Part of these traditions include circumcision, the cutting off of the penis foreskin.

This practice is still common in South Africa especially in areas such as Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Globally, according to a study by World Health Organisation, about 30% of males are estimated to be circumcised.

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to a few men who had recently been circumcised at an initiation school. Getting details was difficult because the men said the process was “difficult to explain” to people who had not undergone initiation.

“They basically teach us how to become real men. Its nothing I could tell you because you would not understand,” said one man.

A VowFM DJ who had been initiated tried to explain the process to Wits Vuvuzela.  He said the reason behind the idea of initiation school stating that if one has gone to the bush, you can easily identify men who haven’t been there by their actions.

“We can tell [when another man hasn’t been initiated]. I can’t explain it to you but they teach us how to behave. Say for instance if there are a bunch of men working outside and another guy gets to that place. If he goes in and maybe sits down, that’s a sign,” the VOW FM DJ explained.

“When you’re a real man, you help other men if there is work to be done. Something like that,” he said.

In addition to becoming a man under traditional custom, there are medical benefits to circumcision if it is done correctly. According to Brothers For Life, an anti-HIV organisation, circumcision can reduce the risk of contracting HIV or developing penile cancer.

However, it is important that the process be done safely as botched circumcisions have resulted in injury, amputations and even death. The deputy minister of traditional affairs, Obed Bapela, announced that since the start of the winter initiation season, 23 initiates have died while another 104 were in hospital because of botched circumcisions.

Recently, the minister of health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, warned parents they must report illegal initiation schools and not allow fraudulent healers to harm their children with botched circumcisions.



Postgraduate students still struggling with SA visa regulations

by Doreen Zimbizi, Kudzai Mazvarirwofa and Roxanne Joseph.

Newly issued visa regulations from the South African Department of Home Affairs have led to frustration and anger among foreigners, including Witsies, living in the country.

The regulations, issued in June this year, states that any foreign person living in South Africa is not allowed to change the state of their permit here but must do so at the “mission abroad,” i.e. the South African embassy in that person’s home country.

In order to travel back for this permit status changes, the existing permit must have at least 30 days on it. Anyone who overstays on a permit will be declared an ‘undesirable’ and will be blacklisted.

Additionally, while students could previously travel back to their home countries using the proof of application for a study permit, the new regulations sates that anyone who attempts to leave the South African border with this proof, will be in contravention of the act and charged with a spot fine and or blacklisted.

At the end of June, Wits University facilitated a discussion on the new immigration regulations and how they affect the student community. Initiated by the Department of Home Affairs, the forum was attended by representatives from 16 of South Africa’s 23 universities.

Gita Patel, manager of the Wits International Student Office, said the under the new regulations existing students would now renew their permits online while new students will be required to apply in their home countries. A department of Home Affairs official, who refused to be named, said the department is currently facing a backlog in the issuing of permits and as a result students are forced to return to their home countries, sometimes regularly, in order to comply with the regulations.

Babongile Pswarai, a returning master’s student at Wits says she got her study permit for her honour’s degree at UCT (University of Cape Town). After the permit had already expired she had return to Zimbabwe to re-apply before she became an illegal resident. She experienced with the difficulties with the embassy while there.

“The embassy in Zim[babwe] was awful. It’s like the people there don’t even know themselves what they are doing. Either that, or they just don’t want to work.”

Wits University enrols about 2 500 foreign students every year and Patel said the number of outstanding permits fluctuated. She hoped the new system would streamline the process. Patel advised students to plan ahead by applying at least 60 days in advance and to check the progress of their online applications regularly. The process normally takes six to eight weeks.

Forensic pathologist says conflict resolution needs psychological warfare – it’s a mouthful, we know!

TEA TIME: Ryan Blumenthal, author of Mentalist Martial Arts, spoke about his book. Photo: Lutho Mtongana

TEA TIME: Ryan Blumenthal, author of Mentalist Martial Arts, enjoys a sip of tea after talking about his book at the Golden Key breakfast. Photo: Lutho Mtongana

The academic elite of Wits University were treated to the mentalist musings of Dr Ryan Blumenthal at the Golden Key corporate breakfast held early this morning.

Blumenthal, a forensic pathologist based at the University of Pretoria, spoke at the breakfast about his book,  Mentalist Martial Arts which focuses on the art of conflict resolution through misdirection.

His methods of conflict resolution  mentions the use of tools such as triple negatives and the element of surprise to get out of high risk situations ranging from calming down a mental patient to rape attempts.

Blumenthal told Wits Vuvuzela that he feels like there is more of a need to explore the issue of anger and conflict management in South Africa today.

He said, “I see a lot of standard stuff go wrong, like if people fight, flight or freeze it often goes wrong. I’m just saying use your brain, misdirect, think and use psychological warfare.”

“The earth is becoming more populated, traffic, the recession, people are stressed nowadays. There’s going to be more conflict, you can bet on it. One has to think of innovative ways of dealing with conflict.”

Blumenthal was not short on suggestions for innovative conflict resolution strategies. “Always think about the best possible answers to a situation and try not to ask “why”  and  “how” type questions these come across as judgemental .”

Golden Key is an international organisation of students that excel academically and holds regular breakfasts with prominent speakers.