‘Girls compete with each other – women empower each other’

Anya van Zyl and Melinda Bam, the organisers of the Womentality Workshop.

POWERFUL WOMEN: Anja van Zyl and Melinda Bam, the organisers of the Womentality Workshop. Photo: Lutho Mtongana

One of Johannesburg’s poshest hotels played host to a bevy of beautiful women who were attending the second annual Womentality Workshop  yesterday.

The workshop, aimed at empowering young women, and is the brainchild of former Miss South Africa Melinda Bam and 2008 runner-up, Anja van Zyl, took place all through the day at the Maslow in Sandton. The aim of the former beauty queens is to help women embrace their inner femininity and be fearless and proud.

“Womentality workshops touch on several aspects of the female form and mind, to help you refine your femininity.”

“Being feminine means embracing different facets, acquiring new skills to be able to adapt to life’s changes and to realise that being a woman is the biggest blessing of all,” said Bam.

A self-confessed tomboy, she said that there is a lot for women, even the tomboys, to take away from the workshops which focus on a mind-set shift.

“There is a bit of femininity in every single woman that she should embrace, it is not just about what you look like, it is how all of that translates into how you feel about yourself every day,” she said.

Rolene Strauss, current Miss South Africa, gave a talk at yesterday's Womentality Workshop. Photo: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

Rolene Strauss, current Miss South Africa, also gave a talk at yesterday’s Womentality Workshop in Sandton. Photo: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

“We want to create a movement, we are going to go to each province, and yes we want to have them regularly,” said Van Zyl about the future of the workshops.

International students stranded in SA

INTERNATIONAL students may find themselves stuck in South Africa due to home affairs bureaucracy and are facing the prospect of homelessness in the coming winter.
Last month the university advised international students the department of home affair (DHA) had changed the rules affecting travelling in and out of the country while they are waiting for their study permits to come through.

Previously international students could show a receipt from their study permit application to travel outside the country.

The recent home affairs’ statement read: “Foreigners will no longer be able to travel with the receipt and will be considered in contravention of the Immigration Act should they decide to depart from South Africa whilst their applications are still pending and their current visas expired. They will also be subjected to an administrative fine for overstaying their visa conditions.”
Wits Vuvuzela asked International Students Office (ISO) manager Gita Patel about the university’s role in helping international students who could be left stranded and possibly homeless during the mid-semester break.
Patel said the university is trying to get the regional DHA to quickly process all the study permits that are submitted to them. She encouraged international students with pending permits to follow up on their applications. The ISO had sent DHA a list of pending permits but as a third party cannot follow individual applications.

“If there is a student that is having difficulty getting any response they are welcome to come and see me, however I do need copies of the application and the supporting documents before I can do anything,” she said.

However, many international students told Wits Vuvuzela they did not make copies of their applications before submission and only had their receipts.

“The processes are just too time consuming. The forms are given there (DHA) and you will be under so much pressure to get them and fill them in, get the medicals and radiology reports done that you hardly have time to breathe, let alone make copies of everything. Because you only need the receipt to register, that’s all you will be looking toward,” said a Wits international student.

[pullquote]These students are facing homelessness in the coming winter months.[/pullquote]

Patel told Wits Vuvuzela that making copies of applications was the students’ responsibility and she would only help those students who needed to return home for “emergencies” not for winter break.

“As students you are supposed to make copies of everything. If the office needs to assist a student that desperately needs to travel—I’m talking emergencies, not going home for holidays—then I need those copies.”

But while going home for winter break may not be an emergency, many international students have found themselves in dire straits. Some students are on bursaries that only cover their academic terms and Wits residences are closed during holidays. These students are facing homelessness in the coming winter months.

Wits Vuvuzela contacted the department of home affairs for comment but had not received a response in time for publication.

Bureaucratic delays at DHA have impacted heavily on students because they have to wait for a long time to receive a study permit.
Sometimes even when they receive the permit it contains mistakes. A returning University of Johannesburg student told Wits Vuvuzela that he waited over eight months for his study permit and when it finally came out, it had the wrong name in it.

He said when he took it back, “they made it seem like it was my fault. After a lot of complaining they took it back and fixed it.”

Babongile Pswarai, a former University of Cape Town student, said she encountered a similar problem with the staff at DHA when she was issued a permit after it had expired.

“I submitted my application in January 2013 and registered with the receipt. They [DHA] finally gave me my study permit only in January 2014 and it had already expired,” she said.

Pswarai said when she asked them what she was supposed to do with an expired permit, they told her she had to show them the receipts in order to assist her.

However, Pswarai had just given those receipts to another home affairs clerk who had given her the expired permit. She had to stand in the previous queue to ask for her receipts back.

“So I went back, stood in that awful line and the lady behind the desk gave me attitude. She said I should speak to her nicely otherwise she won’t help me. And then she handed me her bin and told me to look for my receipt in there,” she said.

Pswarai was forced to rummage through the bin to find her receipts. Even after finding the receipt, home affairs still refused to help her and instructed her to go to the Beitbridge border post to get a new stamp in her passport.

When kids give to kids


WORKING IT: One of the creations featured at the ‘What You Rocking’ fashion show put on by three charity organisations. Photo: Provided

They give away their profits to take care of infant babies, create self-sustainable decent homes for aids orphans, children from dysfunctional homes and children living in the streets and cater to post matriculants too.
These are hero students from Wits, University of Johannesburg and surrounding educational institutions who are doing great work with the profits they make from their entrepreneurial efforts. People pay them to watch art and fashion shows, listen to their poetry and music, and at the end of the day they use their money for the needy children of Berea.

The project, which started last year, launched its first big event last month. Student entrepreneur, Kgothatso Habedi and his friend Lesego Moeletsi, started their company, Oh2sickPRO_Deuce. They are based in Johannesburg and the Vaal.

“Basically we are all artists. Our company is a photography and graphic design company but sometimes we host events. We’ve done some stuff for DJ Speedsta and Goodfolx. We love and support everything art and media based,” Habedi said.

[pullquote]“We encourage young people to come in and help especially in areas they like most.”[/pullquote]

The company has worked with other companies in organising and hosting some of their major events which include the ‘What You Rocking’ runway event that took place in March. These companies include SSM Ploughback and Starting Now South Africa.

“[After] our first event, we donated 90% of the funds to two children’s homes in Berea.

“As a brand we work with other companies. One of our DJs are on radio, one of our graphic designers has a clothing label and I am starting a new project. So as we grow we look to working with more people,” Habedi said.
Phephisile Nkanyezi Mathizerd, SSM Ploughback’s music and art director, said that as a company they do a lot of events and outreach programmes but she is mostly in charge of the arts division.
It organises events that range from poetry sessions to drama and fashion events.

“We encourage young people to come in and help especially in areas they like most,” she said.

SSM Ploughback is officially affiliated with two charity organisations, two children’s homes called The Christ Church Christian Care Centre (5Cees) and Mofumahadi wa Tsepo Care. These are orphanages and care centres which provide services to children, adoption services, child development centres, foster care and includes infant care centres and nurseries.

“We run mentorship programs and entertain these children by playing with them and celebrating their birthdays with them. We also collect clothes for them for the winter season,” she said.
SSM Ploughback targets young people and encourages involvement through showcasing their talents in art or helping out with the underprivileged children.

Cops attack sleeping homeless

WITS students were left stunned as they watched members of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) use electro-shock weapons and batons against sleeping homeless people in Braamfontein.

A Wits Vuvuzela reporter along with several students were in a nearby residence when they witnessed the attack outside the Braamfontein Methodist Church on Rissik street on March 6.

At approximately 11pm three JMPD vehicles, a large truck, a van and a car, pulled up to the sidewalk to chase away the homeless people sleeping in the pouring rain.
The scene was chaotic as the police officers began shouting and yelling at the homeless to leave.

The sounds of police batons swinging through the air as they struck bodies were heard above the screams and cries of the homeless during the late-night onslaught.

HEAR ME OUT: A homeless man, who wanted to be called 'Sam because of fear of reprisals, speaks openly about his violent encounters with the police. Photo: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

HEAR ME OUT: A homeless man, who wanted to be called ‘Sam because of fear of reprisals, speaks openly about his violent encounters with the police. Photo: Kudzai Mazvarirwofa

A few of the police where huddled around one of the homeless who appeared to be lying on the ground. One of the police officers bent over the homeless person and the light from an electric charge split the darkness as the crackling of a taser could be heard.
The homeless people ran away, leaving their meagre belongings behind.

JMPD spokesperson responds: “We don’t want them there making the place dirty” 

Wits Vuvuzela contacted JMPD spokesperson Superintendent Edna Mamonyane who denied the accusations that police had harassed the homeless.
“We are not harassing anybody!

We clean up the streets and we don’t want them there making the place dirty and urinating everywhere. There are homes around, they must go there,” Mamonyane said.
When told that several Witsies had witnessed the attack on the homeless she denied their accounts, calling the students “children”.
“Really? Children? Who do you believe? Who can trust what children say? We are too busy focusing on other important things like flooding in the streets and traffic. Nobody has time to harass them [the homeless],” Mamonyane said.

[pullquote align=”right”]“If you fall or they catch you, they beat you sometimes with sjamboks.”[/pullquote]

Several students who live at a nearby residence and witnessed the March 6 attack told Wits Vuvuzela that it was not an isolated incident.

“The police come often and they chase around these poor homeless people. They don’t bother anybody, they just sit there and mind their own business,” said a second-year Wits student.
One of the homeless people, who only gave his name as “Sam”, said JMPD often came to the Braamfontein church to chase them away.

“Ja, the Metro come here, sometimes at three or four in the morning, and they chase us away. We’ll be sleeping and you just hear ‘Hey, hambani, hambani!’ [leave, leave!],” Sam said.
“If you fall or they catch you, they beat you sometimes with sjamboks.”
A female second-year University of Johannesburg student said the homeless who stayed at the church were also sometimes helpful.

“I saw a girl screaming in the back [of the residence] and heard the homeless people shouting ‘mbambe!’ [catch him!]. When I looked out of the window, I saw the homeless guys running after the thief who had just attempted to rob one of the students that lives around here.”

Even identity documents are confiscated

Sam claimed that when JMPD came to expel the homeless, they sometimes confiscate their documents and belongings.

“They just take everything, even my trolley, which I use to collect things to recycle,” he said.
Sam said the JMPD had also taken identity documents from the homeless, making it difficult for them to find work or prove they are authorised to stay in South Africa.
“They just take everything and go. Even when I try to tell them that my ID document is in there, they don’t care,” Sam said.
Another homeless man, “Mike”, told Wits Vuvuzela that he had no other place to go and would welcome information on housing if it was available.
“No one likes to live like this,” Mike said.
The homeless stay close to the church in Braamfontein because they are given food and clothing by the parishioners as well as students from the Wits Medical School. Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesperson Moses Dhlamini said he was not aware of the accusations against JMPD.
“These people must come to our offices to lodge a complaint and we will look into it,” he said.


MAP: The attacks took place outside the Braamfontein Methodist Church in Rissik Street.