New Res complex for Witsies

A new residential complex for the University of the Witwatersrand will be opened in 2014. The new residence comes in light of the increase in the number of students at the university.

The number of residence students has increased by 100%,over the passed ten years, bringing the total to 5900 resident students.

Noswal Hall is situated in Stiemens street, opposite The Braamfontein Centre and Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

Noswal Hall is a self-catering student residence, providing accommodation for about 400 students and the main objective is to accommodate more senior students.

Mahube Mogashoa, third year law student applied for residency at Noswall Hall and said she is looking forward to the opening of the residence.

“I am really excited about the new residency, it’s like junction except it’s a bit cheaper and it’s in Braamfontein and it has great facilities especially fit for a senior student,” she said.

According to Nazime Randerra, acting head of residences the idea of a new student residence was supported by the Department of Higher Education and Senate to accommodate as many students as possible. The apartments consist of two-, three- and four single room units and are equipped with a bed and fridge.

The residency also has internet connectivity, a television room, computer lab, study room and kitchen area. The building was assessed by the Johannesburg City Council to ensure that it meets the health and safety standards and identify escape routes. Wits does not own the land, but has the option to buy the land in the future.

Wits excels at budget speeches

Wits has the highest number of candidates in the semi final round of the annual Nedbank and Old Mutual budget speech competition.

Witsies are in the lead with eleven candidates and the University of Cape Town and North West University respectively with six candidates each.

The competition is divided into two separate categories (undergraduate and postgraduate). The undergraduate category consists of five students and the postgraduate category which consists of six Witsies.

Undergraduates had to write a 2000 word essay on the causes of youth unemployment and offer solutions to the national crisis. Postgraduate students had to write a 3500 word essay about how the government can deal with the electricity cuts and shortages and the increase of electricity prices.

The essays are judged on academic merit and the final category winners are announced in February by the Minister of Finance.

The competition was first launched 42 years ago and gives economics students from different universities an opportunity to compete against each other for a cash prize of R30 000 in the undergraduate category and R150 000 in the postgraduate category.

“We are extremely proud of our students. I think having the most number of semi-finalists in the competition shows that our students worked hard and submitted a number of good essays,” said Janine Dingley organiser of the competition.

We guide students through the structure of their argument, formatting and referencing. We see this as a valuable writing experience. However, students have to research the topic on their own and formulate their own arguments. I think for most of our students, doing the initial research in class makes it easier for them to write the essay and enter the competition.

Once the finalists are announced, the school of economics and managements puts them in touch with former finalists to help them prepare for the final round of the competition.

Terry van Staden secured third position in 2012 and has secured third position in this years postgraduate category.

Witsies have done well in the budget speech competition over the last year three Witsies collectively won R95 000 for their essays.

Wits has produced 5 winners in the post graduate category since the beginning of the competition in 1972

Shaheen Seedat took first place in the postgraduate category in 2010 and Tshepo Machele claimed the undergraduate prize in 2008.


OPINION: We the disabled, the invisible

THE ISSUE of disabilities has always been a sore point for the university and, barring a few extraordinary individuals, it has been treated with reluctance and a measure of reservation.
Everybody in management knows how to talk the talk to impress university stakeholders and guests. But the reality is much different.
When having a conversation with the head of the disability unit, Dr Anlia Pretorious, one learns quickly that she undoubtedly has the credentials and the profile of a person who understands and has worked alongside people living with disabilities. That is commendable, but one cannot help but ask whether she uses these qualities to serve the community of differently abled persons?
To date, apart from a few technological upgrades and renovations at the main disability unit offices, there is yet to be tangible changes for the differently abled.
Students are still left to the mercy of a system that is ignorant to their needs. Apart from a few intermittent awareness campaigns, that are known to be hamstrung by bureaucracy, not much has gone towards achieving solutions except for the odd individual case.
It is safe to state that Dr Pretorious is not being given the space to operate to the best of her ability.
The disability unit needs a strong, reliable person as a head who will understand the nature and the social position of the student that comes to its doors needing assistance.
These are mostly previously disadvantaged youths aspiring to obtain a worthy qualification so that they can lead better lives.
Does anybody hear us, or see us, or is willing to ‘walk’ with us?

OPINION: The great Alex Ferguson rule

Jamie Might

by Jamie Mighti

SOUTH Africa is a strange country, where the level of sports excellence is hilariously inconsistent. On the one hand, Bafana Bafana keep losing games and can only dream of the World Cup, while in contrast the cricket and rugby teams rank amongst the best in the world.

The answer can be found in Sir Alex Ferguson, the greatest coach of all time. The answer to how to create a Wits that ranks in the top 100 universities lies in the Alex Ferguson rule.
When Alex Ferguson got to Manchester United in 1987, he made it very clear that his primary concern would be youth development, that is how he could keep producing the likes of David Beckham and Ryan Giggs. He focused not only on their technical abilities but also on their character. He took boys and made them leaders. Ferguson understood that he had to be in control of the player production if he wanted to win multiple titles, and we all know how that story ends.

The latest QS global university rankings place Wits at 313th overall worldwide, that’s a jump of over 50 places for us in the space of one year. This in and of itself is a considerable. However, we are not yet on track to become a university entrenched in the top 100 unless we start prioritising the one group of students who matter the most. That group of students who are treated like the scum of the university: our first years.

This university bleeds first years. Too many get lost even before they hit the halfway mark and our dropout rate is over 50% for most faculties at the first year level. The dropout rate for courses like actuarial science is over 60%. Last year alone, the percentage of students who could not proceed to the next year of study was 51%.

The number of students who had to go home was over 2 700 according to the Wits annual report. Not proceeding to the next year of study is a loss of two major resources, namely time and money.
Academic exclusion is worse, considering that for those of us from harsh backgrounds being in university is the only chance some of us have to change our lives. It is a major tragedy to find out that most of the students who have to repeat a year or go home are predominantly of the first year variety. Wits, as a university, is breaking the Alex Ferguson rule.

If this university truly wants to be in the top 100 then we have to follow the legendary coach’s lead. We speak of having more postgraduates, more research and more papers published. However, if we are serious about seeing more of these, then we have to look where the greatest coach of all time looked. We have to look at our most important source of brilliance, we have to look at our first years.

OPINION: Politics does matter

Pearl_1by Pearl Pillay

OVER THE past few weeks, the hills of Wits have come alive with the sound of democracy.

“Elections” seems to be the buzzword on campus of late. Whether it be clubs and societies, house committees or (my personal favourite) SRC elections, students have come out in their numbers to honour the democratic process and make their voices heard.

We’ve heard, quite frequently, that Wits is “too political”. This rhetoric has seemed to become routine, particularly during the period of SRC elections, and is used by “non-political” groups who seek to gain favour from the apathetic or uninvolved.

At the outset, it must be said that we live in a political world. The very fabric of our lives is governed by political processes. To deny this would be not just naïve but foolish. We must also remember that Wits does not exist in isolation from society. On the contrary, Wits is a microcosm of the society in which we live. It is logical that our ideologies, our actions and the way in which we produce knowledge must reflect this society.

We boast a strong political history as an institution. Coupled with this, comes the notion that we are the most politically active student body in the country. This is something we should be proud of! In fact, it’s something we must allow to thrive, lest we get swallowed up into the abyss that is political ignorance.

You see, we are not just Witsies, we are also citizens of this country and the world. If we leave this university with nothing but a degree, we have failed dismally. We must start thinking, very carefully, about the kind of citizen we nurture at this institution. The culture of complaining is rife in South Africa and is grown by shunning the politics of this country. Discourse and active citizenry are political in nature, and must be given a space to thrive.

When we disconnect ourselves from the political process, we allow important decisions to be taken in our names, but without our input. I, for one, don’t want to live in that kind of world.

I’m not asking that everyone goes and signs up for a political party and parades around campus in berets. But I am asking, pleading, that we all play an active role in shaping the politics of our country. It is in spaces such as the university where political transformation happens and history will judge us, harshly, for our failure to contribute to the writing of it.
In short, whether or not you are interested in politics, politics is interested in you!

LETTER TO VUVU: Wits has Pride

I AM writing with regard to the Wits Vuvuzela article entitled “No Pride at Wits.” Being a critical discourse analyst, I am concerned with the way in which the university student newspaper has reported on Wits Pride – or better failed to do so. To begin with, the first two sentences that open the article are based on factual errors:

1) “Empty lecture rooms.”
The two panel sessions had an attendance of 10-12 people each. Small numbers one might say. Not so much so if compared with the attendance to the lectures delivered by some distinguished scholars who have recently visited Wits University. The more crucial question is whether such small numbers are not so much the result of “lack of visible advertising around campus”, as Wits Vuvuzela journalists put it, but are the effect of homophobia on campus and the unwillingness/shame on the part of many students to publicly engage with sexuality issues.

2) With regard to “lack of visible advertising around campus”, it was difficult to avoid seeing all the posters that Wits Transformation Office hung on all possible notice boards on campus. But of course one’s sight is very selective. Hence the journalists’ failure to see these posters.

3) “No information tent.” There has been an information desk that has “moved” every day offering information about Pride and sexual health on different campuses.
I am also worried by the reference to  queer individuals as “rainbow-wearing”. Whilst this could be read metaphorically, it could also be taken as an example of “othering”, a form of stereotyping that positions sexual minorities as necessarily visibly “different” from their majority counterpart. Finally, titling the article “No pride at Wits” subtly disguises the idea that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, intersex and asexual community does not care
about Pride.

Whilst I want to praise Wits Vuvuzela journalists for unveiling sexual harassment at Wits, I am less impressed by the way in which sexual minority issues have been reported on. Blaming the Transformation Office for poor marketing strategies is simply a lie that fails to recognise the success of this year’s Pride. In my view, this article is an example of superficial journalistic practice that is more keen to point fingers at culprits than to offer a balanced reading of social issues.

I am not saying that Wits Pride should not be criticised. I am saying that, if a critique is raised, it should be based on solid grounds as well as address the complexity of the issue of non-normative sexuality at Wits.

I hope that the university management will not be influenced by such reporting.

Wits Pride and the Safe Zone campaign should be given continued support, not least because we are still far from having a “safe campus” where every individual, irrespective of gender and sexuality, can walk without fear of being harassed.

Your sincerely,
Prof. Tommaso M. Milani
Associate Professor and Head of Department – Linguistics School of Literature, Language and Media



Wits Vuvuzela reponds: 

Thank you for the kind words regarding our coverage of sexual harassment on campus.
Wits Vuvuzela reporters saw only about six people in the lecture rooms for Wits Pride events. But whether it was six or 12, you are correct in that the lecture halls were not “empty” as we described. Wits Vuvuzela apologises for the error.
While our reporters did see some of the flyers, we do not agree that – as an advertising campaign – they were very prominent. Our reporters who worked on this article also tried – and failed – to find the information tent. One of our team members, who was not working on the article, did happen to find the tent during the week but did not initially know it was connected to Wits Pride due to a lack of branding.

Arts united

The Wits School of Arts (WSOA) and the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in Ethiopia are currently in talks about finalising a partnership between the two schools.

Professor George Pfruender, the WSOA head of department said the partnership will exchange members of staff, students as well as research projects. Pfruender said the partnership was almost natural because both institutions have similar programmes.

“The Alle School of Fine Arts and Design has a similar structure to Wits, they have both music and drama qualifications and therefore an exchange programme of both staff member and students would be viable.”The exchange programme aims to have students and staff from both universities to share ideas and research projects.

[pullquote]The exchange programme aims to have students and staff from both universities to share ideas and research projects.[/pullquote]

The partnership was made possible by the Goethe Institut of sub-Sahara Africa, which is the seed funder of various arts and culture departments in South Africa and Ethiopia.  Pfruender said financial support from these institutions make it easy to exchange art across the African continent.

Berhanu Deribew, head of department of the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design said partnering with other African institutions allowed for changes in the programmes and both students and staff members are exposed to the international community.

Pfruender told Wits Vuvuzela the partnership will allow both institutions to increase their footprint in Africa as joint art institutions.

Albert goes to paris

Albert “Ibokwe” Khoza is living proof that hard work pays, in euros .

Khoza, 4th year BADA, jets off  to Paris to perform his piece, Influences of a Closet Chant, at the 67th La Ferme du Buisson Festival in September.

The festival showcases work by both French and international artists in various genres such as music, theatre and dance.

“My piece was for an exam I had last August, but to me it was not just an exam, it was my story and I knew I had to create a masterpiece,” he said.

Khoza told Wits Vuvuzela he was approached by well-known dancer and choreographer Robyn Orlin after his performance in 2012.

“About two weeks after Robyn saw my performance she went to France and told the people back there about how great my performance was,” he said.

Khoza was contacted by Damian Valliete, the organiser of the La Ferme du Buisson Festival, in November.

“Initially I thought it was a joke when Damian called to ask if I wanted to be part of the festival. It felt so surreal, I was so overjoyed and the first thing I did was pray to God and my ancestors and later got a big bottle of wine to celebrate,” Khoza said.

Influences of a Closet Chant is an invitation into the closet of a gay man and what happens behind it.

The theatrical piece was directed and produced by Khoza, motivated by various television programmes and theatre plays.  “I felt misrepresented as a young gay man. Gays and lesbians were not and are still not depicted in a manner I found to be true and acceptable,” he said.

“People need to understand that we are human beings before anything else, and people don’t need to be categorised,” he said. “People also need to realise that there is no cure for homosexuals.”


WITS RESIDENCE students are bribing security guards to let their partners and friends sleep in their rooms.

Former Barnato resident Regal Mashau, 4th year engineering, told Wits Vuvuzela he used to buy security guards “chocolate” to let his girlfriend sleep over.

“When I was still a resident at Barnato I used to buy the guards ‘chocolate’ all the time, that means I would give them R20 to allow my girlfriend to let sleep over,” he said.

Students in university residences are allowed to have visitors in their rooms but visitors are supposed to leave the rooms at 11pm.

However, head of security at Fidelity Services, Enoch Mdunge, denied bribery took place and said the accusations were the result of students who had a vendetta against security guards.

[pullquote align=”right”]“It’s a green lie, the students are trying to get security officers expelled,” Mdunge said.[/pullquote]

Mdunge said students always tried to have visitors without having them sign in. He said the students have become bitter about this.

“It is a form of revenge, because the security guards won’t allow such behaviour, because it could get them [security guards] in trouble,” he said.

The Wits accommodation office could not be reached for comment.

A first-year accounting sciences student, who asked not to be named because she is still living in res, said students at Wits Junction bribe security guards to let their partners and friends sleep over. She added that some security guards are lax in verifying that students entering Wits Junction are actual residents.

“People allow their friends to sleep over all the time. Security guards are meant to check if our student cards have Junction stickers at the back, if they don’t they have ways of ensuring that we are Junction residents, but they don’t check as regularly as they should,” she said.

Modise confirmed that it had become easier for students to have their friends stay over because security guards do not call students to alert them that their visitors had stayed past the allowed visiting time.



Lights out at Trinity House

RESIDENTS at Trinity House in Braamfontein spent three days without power due to an outage that began on Saturday evening.

The lights went out not only in Trinity House but also a few buildings around the Braamfontein area including Performing Arts Administration, University Corner and South Point Geldenhuys. However, the other buildings had their power come back just before midnight on Saturday.

“It first was fun at first, a few of us got together and played 30 Seconds in the dark to keep ourselves entertained and some went to sleep. We didn’t think it was going to take long, we thought the lights would go back on the same evening,” said Trinity House resident Kholeka Qinga, 3rd year BComm Law

“When the lights didn’t go back on Sunday, we realised how real the electricity situation was and felt terrible and people were making arrangements to shower and charge their phones and laptops elsewhere,” she said.

The lights came back on for a short while on Monday morning before going out yet again. The lights eventually came on again—for good this time—shortly before midnight on the same day.

“It was a big inconvenience not only on our school work, but on our hygiene as well,” Qinga said.

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to City Power spokesperson Sol Masolo who said there was an electricity fault in one of the chambers on campus. The fault can be caused by a number of factors, such as the main switch tripping or birds entering the electricity chambers.

Masolo said City Power workers arrived on campus after being notified about the power outage on Saturday night but were barred from entering by Campus Control. They were allowed on campus only on Monday.

“They said they needed permission from their supervisors and they would only allow us entry if they got permission,” said Masolo.

Campus Control head Robert Kemp could not be reached for comment.


It’s a negative for marking system

THE WITS School of Economics and Business has done away with negative marking following complaints from students about the practice.

“We have had constant complaints from students about negative marking in the past and many students were blaming the negative marking for their failure, especially in the economics courses,” said head of school Prof. Judy Backhouse.

The School decided to stop using negative marking in all their multiple-choice question assessments at the end of the 2012 academic year.

Backhouse said the decision to halt negative marking was taken at a school planning attended by academic staff in the school.

The decision was based on research which concluded that female students were prejudiced by negative marking more than their male counterparts, as they were less likely to take risks and guess at answers.

Backhouse added that it would be better to not have an assessment system that disadvantaged women.

Mlibatisi Kunene, 3rd year Economics, said negative marking was a bad thing.“If I don’t know the answer give me a zero, don’t penalize me for it,” he said.

Backhouse said the effects of negative marking were not completely understood.“When we do not use negative marking it is worth students guessing an answer for every question and some of those answers will, by chance, be right,” Backhouse told Wits Vuvuzela.

She said some students might get better marks than they deserve. “We feel that we can design the assessments in such a way that these ‘free’ marks do not result in students passing who do not deserve to pass.”

Backhouse said they were monitoring the effects of this change in the marking strategy and they will be observing the impact on student results.


Kudu gone buck


Student trying to load Kudu bucks:  Photo:Dineo Bendile.

Student trying to load Kudu bucks:
Photo:Dineo Bendile.

Already cash-strapped students are frustrated by Kudu Buck machines they say often don’t work on campus. This week one student on Twitter even suggested a strike.

The machines are used to load money in exchange for Kudu Bucks, the official Wits currency which allows students to use printing facilities, access dining halls and use medical facilities.

Four weeks ago Ray Mahlaka, a journalism student, was left disappointed by the system.

After being ill for a couple of days he decided to go to Campus Health to see a nurse.

“I had a cold and felt dizzy on the day. I was dying. I was knocking on heaven’s door,” said Mahlaka.

The fee for clinic services at Campus Health is R20 for res students and R50 for all other students. Mahlaka went to the Kudu bucks terminal between the matrix and Umthombo buildings where he attempted to load R50. He tried to load the note twice, with no success.

On his third attempt, the machine accepted the money but did not reflect it on his balance.

“So I basically loaded money nowhere,” he said.

It was his last R50 and he could not go to the clinic.

The student went to the Integrated Campus Management (ICAM) offices where he was told the money would only reflect after two weeks.

Inefficiency of the machines

In response to the inefficiency of the machines, ICAM manager Giles Watermeyer, told Wits Vuvuzela: “Our bill acceptors have not been accepting the new bills properly. The units have been rejecting perfectly valid new RSA notes.”

One of the biggest complaints against the system is its inability to cater for the average student’s financial situation. Many students don’t have a lot of money in the middle of the month.

Almost two years ago the old kudu bucks machines, which were able to load both coins and notes, were replaced with machines that only allow users to load notes.

According to Watermeyer, the changes were made in 2010 in consultation with the SRC. The transition from coins to notes was phased in over a year to ensure users were given enough time to adjust.

Some students say they have had to borrow money to meet the minimum amount of R10.

The Wits Vuvuzela team spotted a small group of students trying to load money into a machine near the Matrix. One of them, Xolani Mangqu 2nd year BSc, struggled to load his R10 note into the slot, as the machine kept rejecting the money.

Implications of notes on students
Mangqu said sometimes he goes to an internet café off campus to print notes and assignments, either because the machines are not working on campus or because he doesn’t have R10.

“[They should] probably also try to cater for coins so that we can also load from coins going up to notes, because you cannot always have notes,” said the student.

When Wits Vuvuzela asked Watermeyer about the change from coins to notes and if he realised the implications for students he said,

“Coins were removed from the Kudu Bucks terminals in 2010 because coins do not hold enough value. They are expensive to process due to their weight and volume.”

By Leigh-Ann Carey and Dineo Bendile