No joy for Wits prayer room

Sacred & Secured: The Wits Musallah located on East Campus has been trashed and vandalised by other students in previous years but has since had security systems installed. However, some Muslim students fail to gain entry if their ICAM cards are not registered for use in the facility. Photo: Lebo Mdlankomo

Sacred & Secured: The Wits Musallah located on East Campus has been trashed and vandalised by other students in previous years but has since had security systems installed. However, some Muslim students fail to gain entry if their ICAM cards are not registered for use in the facility. Photo: Lebo Mdlankomo

SOME Wits students have complained about not being able to gain access to prayer facilities administered by the Muslim Students Association (MSA).

A student who had paid their membership fee to the religious club during O-week period ranted on Twitter about being unable to use the musallah, the prayer room.
Gaining entry into the facilities situated near the cricket oval on East Campus is done by swiping a card on a sensor.
This is the same way students get into the different campuses. However, this was not the case a few years ago, as the prayer room was open to students at any time of the day.

Sabeeha Jhetam of MSA said the prayer rooms were now “restricted” to those who had registered their details with the ICAM offices because they had been previously vandalised by other students who were not part of the religious group.

“We had to get a turnstile in there because you would find that other students urinated in the rooms and trashed the place,” said Jhetam. She observed that male Muslim students were less affected by the lack of access to the university prayer room as they preferred to go to mosques off-campus, particularly on Fridays. Jhetam said the lack of access for Muslim students was not for the MSA to deal with alone.

She said it was also an administrative matter on the university’s part. However, Jhetam stresses that the prayer rooms can be used by Muslims who are not members of the MSA. However, if they are not on the system it becomes hard for them to gain access.

“Those whose cards that haven’t been activated can still use the premises. “It’s easier for them if they find someone inside already so they can open for them,” added Jhetam.
The high influx of new students also does not help with the institution’s administration office.

For students to gain admission into places that have turnstiles or security on campus, students need to have their ICAM number sent to the specific person or office delegated to deal with processing the information.

“The problem usually arises at the beginning of the year where new students do not know what to do or where to go when their cards do not work,” she said.


Muggers in transit

For Phindile Msomi* using the taxi system from Melville to main campus is efficient and routine. Her mind is occupied with what lies ahead or what’s on her phone.

But last week the Wits Student was mugged inside the mode of transport she trusted and used on a daily basis.

MUGGERS ON BOARD: One of the points where student commuters get taxis to Auckland Park and Melville, on De Korte Street in Braamfontein.


Msomi, a second year BA Law student, was leaving campus last Wednesday evening and boarded a taxi on De Korte Street, a route used by taxis departing from the Bree rank and moving people to Auckland Park, Melville and Cresta.

“I got inside the taxi with another girl I didn’t know from Wits,” said Msomi.

Msomi said the ride seemed normal until they reached the University of Johannesburg, Bunting Road campus.

“The four men sitting at the back seat told us to take out our purses, cell phones and give them our bank card pins,” she said.

She said that this was done at gunpoint.

The girls were warned not to give incorrect pins because their trip included a stop at an ATM nearby.

They complied but Msomi said the other girl was beaten up because “they did not believe how she could not have a phone but have headphones in her possession”.

The muggers took the girls to the ATM and withdrew cash up to Msomi’s limit.

Msomi said the driver seemed to be with the robbers as he did not need any directions to where the machine was located.

The students were then returned to Braamfontein where they were dropped off near Damelin College on De Korte Street again.

“They told us to just walk off and not run or look back otherwise they would shoot us,” Msomi said.

Thembani Shelenge, a taxi queue marshal working on De Korte Street, said this was not the first incident to happen.

He told Wits Vuvuzela that such cases occurred when unknown taxis from outside the zone and an association other than Faraday Taxi Association worked in that area.

“Taxis allowed to rank here are ones with a green and white sticker written Faraday Taxi Association,” Shelenge said.

He explained that people do not pay attention to this because they just assume that if it is on that street it is ranking legally.

Shelenge said the association’s patrol car found a trend in the kind of taxi model used in cases reported.

“Most of the time the taxi is not a Quantum but a Hi Ace,” he said.

Msomi said she reported the case to the police at Park Station but was referred to Johannesburg Central. But she became dispirited and did not go there.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 25th edition, 21 September 2012

(*names have been changed)

Wits Junction building under investigation

Authorities at Wits are investigating the circumstances that allowed water to pour through the ceilings in some rooms at Wits Junction last weekend.

One of the tenants at the Shosholoza building said his ceiling collapsed on Sunday after turbulent weather conditions affected parts of Johannesburg on Saturday night.

Two other students from the Kum Saan building had a similar problem, where water was reported to be coming through their lights in the ceiling.

Tshidiso Mogale said he had been experiencing problems with a leaking ceiling earlier in the year. The second-year law student said he reported this to Wits Junction maintenance.

WHEN IT FALLS APART: The collapsed roof in the room of a Witsie at the student residence Wits Junction. The ceiling fell down last Sunday, while the student was in the room, due to the turbulent wetaher conditions and started to leak water. Photo: Lebogang Mdlankomo


“The problem started in May and Martha, the housekeeper, came and assessed the situation and they patched it,” Mogale said, indicating an area in the ceiling that had been plastered by maintenance.

Mogale said that last week Thursday however another leak happened in a different part of the ceiling. After it was inspected by maintenance he was promised it would be taken care of the following day but it wasn’t.

When it started raining on Saturday night Mogale said he waited to see if there was going to be a leak. At first there was nothing.

Then, “After 10 minutes, I started hearing a sound as if a tap was left open,” he said.

To prevent damage to his belongings he used a dustbin and towels to catch the leaking water.Mogale then moved to a room in another block for the night.

When he went back to his room the following morning Mogale said he heard a creaking sound from the ceiling while taking shoes from under his bed.

“I moved away from the bed and in a split second the ceiling just caved in.” 

Clifford Chauke, the warden on duty that night, said he had called the manager and told him the matter needed to be attended to.

“While I was busy assisting Tshidiso, two students came from Kum Saan [another Junction building] with the same problem,” Chauke said.

He said their situation was “far worse” than Mogale’s because water “was coming from all over, even through the lights”.

Junction’s manager, Nazime Randera said the matter had been dealt with and Wits’ capital development project office was carrying out an investigation.

“They are calling for reports from Tri-Star,” which was the main contractor of the project, said Randera.

He said the weekend’s incident could have been caused by the build up of hail which prevented the flow of water to the gutters which resulted in the water moving through the slabs.

He added that “the problems occurred in some of the isolated rooms on the top floors”, however the investigation will look at defects to see if there were any “corners cut”.

The Wits Junction project was part of a plan to address the shortfall in student accommodation and increase capacity by housing 30 000 students in all residences in 2012.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 25th edition, 21 September 2012

Wits students do not TOP numbers

Although legal abortion statistics in South Africa have gone up, a campus nurse says the numbers of students who opt to go for abortions have gone down over the last five years.

Last week Monday health minister, Aaron Mostoaledi, released statistics showing a 31 % increase from 2010’s 59,447 to 77,771.

The three provinces which ranked highest were the Free State, North-West province and Gauteng.

During 2011 there were 21, 944 abortions carried out in the Free State, followed by 12,138 in the North-West and 11,239 in Gauteng.

According to a paper by Lynette Vermaas, a researcher from the Student Development and Support (SDS) at Tswhane University of Technology (TUT), student pregnancies at tertiary institutions worldwide are increasing every year despite the assumption that students have sufficient knowledge of the risks of unprotected sex.

Campus Health and Careers Counselling and Development Unit (CCDU) work together in assisting female students make informed decisions about termination of pregnancy (TOP).

Sister Maggy Moloi, a nurse at Campus Health, said the clinic advocates for “family planning education, especially to first years [students] during Orientation Week.”

She mentioned the clinic does not, carry out abortions because it offers primary healthcare which includes services such as family planning and treatment of STIs and HIV testing.

CCDU psychologist Toinette Bradley said: “We do work with Campus Health but students wanting ToPs are usually referred to clinics and hospitals.”

Moloi said Campus Health refers students to the Marie Stopes near Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto because it’s much more affordable than the one in Ghandi Square.

When asked whether students use termination of pregnancy as a contraceptive measure she said: “Most of the students access contraceptives from the clinic. They do know about the service.”

However, she believes that generally young women do not access contraceptives from clinics because they are not educated about the different types of contraceptive measures available.

Moloi said the problem is fuelled by misconstrued information about the effects that birth control pills have on their bodies. Young women don’t communicate with their parents about sexual matters because they are considered as taboo in some families.

Although the statistics referred only to legal abortions, Sister Moloi said the biggest problem faced was that people still go for backstreet abortions and “some end up with infections or even worse, they end up dead”.

An example of this was the death of University of Johannesburg (UJ) student, Ayanda Masondo (20) earlier this year. Masondo was found dead in her residence room from what was reported to be a botched illegal abortion.

Campus Health’s relationship with CCDU helps with the possible emotional consequences of abortion.

“Those students who come back frustrated and depressed because of the abortion, then we refer them there for further counselling,” said Moloi.

She believes the clinic used to have “a huge number of students coming in for assistance for abortions but compared to five years ago to now, the numbers are very low”.


Published in Vuvuzela 22nd edition,31 August 2012

Rosebank full of thorns

A gang of pick-pockets is operating in the Rosebank Mall and students have been warned to be “aware and vigilant”.

On August 19, I was pick-pocketed in the Mr Price store. I only realised my purse was gone when another shopper confronted two women as they walked away. Her wallet and Blackberry handset had been taken from her bag while she was browsing.

After she confronted them, the women dropped her belongings and denied stealing them. They were searched by staff members, but no stolen items were found on them.

While waiting for the police to arrive, they explained to me how the syndicate worked.

“We normally walk in as a group and disperse inside the store,” said one of the women, who would not give her name.

They picked people’s pockets and handbags, then passed the stolen goods to another team member, who walked out of the store.

“This is our job. We sustain ourselves by doing it,” she added.

The mall’s security staff responded immediately and called the police.

However, the police officer said it would be pointless to open a case since there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. He said the stolen goods had not been found in the women’s possession – even though witnesses had seen them drop them.

A security officer added: “These people know the law all too well.”

The store manager, who asked to remain anonymous said, “We have been experiencing the problem for a while now. That’s why we warn customers to take care of their belongings.”

The women are known by the Mr Price staff and always return to the store. However, the manager claims: “We can’t go to them and chase them away because they might just turn around and sue us for discriminating against them because we are not sure whether they are there to shop or steal from people.”

The store has a panic button to alert security staff of any threats or suspected criminal activity. However, the manager said they were never sure whether security staff “escorted [them] outside our store or the mall”.

Marketing manager of Rosebank Mall, Gaby Peters commented: “Our security, however, issued a trespassing order banning the suspects from the mall for three months. Their photographs will be kept on file to identify them should they enter our premises again. If they do we will take further action.”

The centre’s CCTV systems only cover the common areas such as walkways outside the stores and the parking lots. Peters said the onus was on the tenants to provide their own cameras because “the mall is responsible legally whereas a leased area is the responsibility of the tenant”.

Mr Price store manager said the pick-pockets operated mostly on Sundays because the flea market was open, bringing an influx of students and tourists carrying cash.


Published in Vuvuzela 21st edition, 24 August 2012

Sisters in business

In commemoration of women’s month in South Africa, a host of woman business professionals, academics and leaders participated in the “Women in Business” conference on August 4. The conference, organised by the Wits Students Business Society (WSBS)  attracted a large audience of both male and female

Notable speakers were Wits’ Vice Principal of Research and Innovation Prof Mamokgethi Setati, African Fashion International’s (AFI) Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe and entrepreneurs Dr Kerrin Myres and Edith Venter.

BUSINESS MINDED: Owner of Resonance Consulting, Dr Kerrin Myres spoke about the world of entrepreurship.

First year Computational and Applied Mathematics student and WSBS vice- chairperson, Kelebogile Sephoti said the event’s “aim was to inspire, connect and bridge the gap between the working class and the students who wish to follow in the footsteps of those who have already made it”.

The conference attempted to showcase the achievements of exceptional women whilst celebrating Even though business and academics dominated the discussions speakers also touched on subjects like philanthropy, sisterhood and leadership.

Founder of GirlPower, an initiative aimed at showing the opportunities available in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields to young girls, Professor Setati engaged with the audience on matters of changing the society’s view about what the girl-child can and cannot do.

Setati also stressed the need for women to celebrate themselves in order to change the stereotypes and gender–schemas, sex-linked characteristics that are maintained and transmitted to other members of a culture, placed on them by society and their families.

Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, a huge attraction to the participants in the conference was not able to attend in person and instead gave a speech via a recording. In the presentation, she spoke of her passion for the business of fashion and the woman as a humanitarian.

DRIVEN: Allana Finley of AFI encouraged those attending to sell themselves and their ideas.

Representing AFI, Global Brand & Marketing Manager, Allana Finley encouraged students not to “pass up any opportunities that present themselves to you” as she related how she got to work for and with Dr Moloi-Motsepe.

Well-known South African socialite and event organiser, Edith Venter stressed the importance of peer-support among women in business and emphasised that “passion is vital” for any projects undertaken.

Gym trainers wanted

Co-written with Marsha Moodley

Gym attendants in both Wits gyms have expressed interest in meeting a need by being trained as fitness coaches, while Wits Sports Administrations is set to bring in external trainers  – but only in a year’s time.

Four gym attendants told Vuvuzela they wished to attend fitness training courses so they could better assist gym members. “I have been working at the gym for four years and want to learn more about how to train and help members,” said one of the workers, who asked not to be named.

Currently the workers rely on operating sketches placed on the equipment to assist members with their workouts, but have no knowledge of weight training.

Junior Mnisi, 2nd year BA Law, said users needed someone to assist them because “the gym has been revamped but one of the 45s [45kg dumbbells] is broken just because someone dropped it”.  A former Carlton gym employee, Mnisi said intricate details like how to hold a weight, and at which angle, would help users get the best results.

According to a fitness coach at Virgin Active Keywest, unattended practice may result in gym users injuring themselves or damaging the equipment.

Commenting on the workers’ request and users’ desire for training support, director of Wits Sports Size Vardhan said: “Training gym members is not part of their job description.”  The workers were only there to supervise gym members by ensuring they did not damage the equipment and that they used sweat towels.

There were plans in place to bring in two external fitness coaches and a biokineticist, he said. However these services would only be “available in a year as the budget has not yet been approved”.

“Students will have to book and pay for services rendered by the biokineticist,” he said.

The workers said the only training they had received was a basic first aid course two years ago. However, Vardhan said Sports Administration planned to send them on a first aid refresher course in September.

Itumeleng Zondo, 2nd year LLB student who works out with a friend said it was difficult to train without someone to help you. “It would be cool if we get some assistance and the current workers get employed for that or have some of the school’s students to help out.”

A number of gym members told Vuvuzela that Wits Sports had spent a great deal of money on renovating the gym. Having ill-informed users damage the equipment would be a waste of money.

Published in Vuvuzela 17th edition, 27 July 2012

Distilling a winner

Chemical engineering students hope to rid themselves of their “hops hex” at this year’s Intervarsity Beer Brewing competition.

For the past two years the Wits team has come second to brewers from the University of Pretoria. Teams from universities across the country brew beers and compete in three categories: lager, ale and speciality.

Working on the three types for roughly two months now, team representative Langa Moyo said their work has put them in a good position to win.

“This year we are more than ready and we started early. We can taste [the beer] and see where it’s lacking and fix it in time,” he said.

Speaking about competition favourites and current winners of the Ben Lamaletie floating trophy, University of Pretoria, Moyo said: “University of Pretoria has been leading over the years and this year we are ready to give them some competition.”

Microbrewer and Wits Alumni Anthony Higginson who is assisting the students said: “They are doing well and hopefully we will win this year.”

Although the competition is about beer brewing, the teams will also be judged and awarded for the best labels.

Team organiser and PhD student Diakanua Nkazi said even though the team is on the right track with their beer production they will need help with designing the label and naming the beers.

Nkazi said it would be a “great help” if students who are keen to help design the label would assist the team

Students who want to find out more information about the designs and name suggestions can e-mail Nkazi on:

Publishes in Vuvuzela 17th edition, 27 July 2012