REVIEW: My Name is Reeva

The life of Reeva Steenkamp unpacked through intimate testimonials from those closest to her.

My Name Is Reeva is a documentary series about model, Reeva Steenkamp, who was murdered by her then boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius on February 14, 2013, Valentine’s Day of that year. 

The documentary looks into the model’s life before and after the murder, through the eyes of her parents, Barry and June Steenkamp. The three-part series first aired on August 25, 2022, on Mnet, and was then later made available on DSTV CatchUP and streaming site, Showmax. The documentary was written by Justin Strydom, produced by David Taylor and directed by Warren Batchelor.

The first episode introduces us to a sad, nostalgic when viewers first meet Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June Steenkamp. Suspense builds as the pair are introduced to the concept of the victim-offender dialogue, a process where the victim of a crime or surviving family members and the offender of the crime in this case, Pistorius, have an in-person meeting. The hope is that through hearing the perpetrator’s side of the story, the victim or their loved ones may possibly get closure.

The pain is evident in Steenkamp’s eyes even ten years on, to them their daughter’s death is still a fresh and raw wound. Conversations with their lawyer Tania Koen bring back the memory of the night they lost their beloved daughter.

The re-enactment of the scenes of the fateful night when Steenkamp lost her life ground much of the documentary. The excellently cast actors in the re-enacted scenes help provide a glimpse into the possible chain of events that unfolded on that fateful night, according to Calvin Mollett’s (co-author of the book Oscar vs the Truth) running theory.

In the second episode, the documentary turns to factual evidence through crime scene photographs and videos taken by the investigating officer. Other evidence from the scene which is analysed included blood stains, bullet holes on the bathroom door and the damaged furniture.

Verbal testimony from the trial is also dramatised.  Pistorius’ neighbours testified that they heard raised voices and a woman’s scream. A chilling reenactment is used to illustrate that testimony in the documentary.

One shocking revelation made in the documentary comes from a painting of a man standing with a gun in hand, and a woman on the stairs going to heaven with wings. Reeva made the painting when she was just 14.  Mrs Steenkamp said she thinks her daughter unconsciously knew about her death before it happened, that the painting was a prophecy.

In episode three we get to hear about Oscar’s character through interviews with Reeva’s best friend, Gina Myers, who said Pistorius “…is aggressive and irresponsible with his gun and how he was obsessive towards Reeva.”

The documentary also highlights hidden and tampered evidence, that was not presented in court. Apparently, Pistorius’s brother Carl Pistorius deleted the contents on Pistorius’s cellphone, which included phone calls and messages sent on the night of the murder.

My Name Is Reeva helped to get a sense of who Reeva was, her life journey and how her murder has had a lasting negative impact on her parents. The documentary is a deep dive into gender-based violence and its many manifestations.

Vuvu rating: 8/10

FEATURED IMAGE: My Name Is Reeva Cover. Photo: Keshet International/Supplied


Solar cell research propels science boffin to Stanford

Eswatini-born scientist dreams of producing energy materials that would last in solar panels for 20 years or longer.

A recent PhD in science Witsie has been admitted as a post-doctoral scholar and employee at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Light Source (SSRL) at Stanford University in the US.

Sikhumbuzo Masina has been accepted at the SSRL, a facility that produces intense x-rays as a source for researchers to study the world at the atomic and molecular level. Masina will be broadening his knowledge to learn and examine the fundamentals of molecular structures and surfaces in a more detailed and complex manner.

Masina submitted his thesis titled “The Electrolytes for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells” at the beginning of 2023. His passion for science led him to take up the opportunity at the SSLR to broaden his knowledge on solar cells and to understand the fundamentals of synchrotron radiation which is the circular acceleration that occurs during electromagnetic radiation.

This love for science started when he enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in physics and chemistry from 2009 to 2013 at the University of Eswatini. The year 2014 leading to 2016 saw Masina tutoring high school learners in mathematics, physics and chemistry.  This is how he manged to save money to come to South Africa and further his studies.

He then enrolled at Wits in 2017 for an honours and followed that with a master’s, which got converted to a PhD because of the quality of his research. He told Wits Vuvuzela that “No one went past high school at home so I’m grateful to Wits for the skill that I can now use internationally.” He also extended his gratitude to his two supervisors, Dave Billing and Caren Billing, “as they didn’t just produce students, they produced people with skills who will go out there and commit themselves professionally”.

Masina’s goal is to now learn the necessary skills he needs at Stanford with the hopes to one day build an African source of electromagnetic radiation as Africa is the only planet without one. Caren Billing described him as “such a pleasure to supervise, as he is so driven to work, learn and also train the other students after him.

“When the PhD in science students went to the Synchrotron Beamline at Brookhaven National Laboratories in New York, his abilities, enthusiasm and work ethic impressed his employer and the beam line scientist there,” Caren Billing said.

Darren Fynn, a science student that Masina supervised, said he was sad to see him go as he had provided him with invaluable mentorship. “He was extremely patient even when explaining the most complex of topics in science and chemistry and would give his undivided attention when helping others.” Masina said that his journey at Stanford would include doing more research on energy materials for potential use in solar cells as the aim is to improve the highly efficient light absorbers in order for them to last in solar panels for 20 years and longer.

FEATURED IMAGE: Sikhumbuzo Masina in his office at Wits University Gate House. Photo: Lesedi Maako



A mediation process between suspended students and Wits collapses    

Wits SRC has appointed an acting president to deal with the leadership vacuum; pending an arbitration process of their former student leader   

A mediation process between seven suspended students, including former Student Representative Counsil (SRC) president Aphiwe Mnyamana and the university has collapsed last week on May, 22,2023. This is after the two could not reach an agreement on a suitable way forward.  

The seven, which includes other members of the SRC were suspended in earlier March following violent protests over accommodation on campus.  

On April 20, the SRC and University released a joint statement stating that their suspension orders have been reformulated in terms of the University’s rules to allow them to continue with their academic programmes with immediate effect.  This recent collapse still means the seven are still allowed to continue with their studies. 

Following the collapse of the process, Wits university spokesperson Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela that: “Please note that Mr Mnyamana is no longer the SRC President. His suspension terms were amended to allow him to attend class and to stay in residence, but not to hold any leadership position.” 

In order to deal with the leadership vacuum, the SRC has elected a new acting President Kabelo Phungwayo, who previously was Treasurer general of the SRC. Wits SRC compliance officer, Karabo Matloga said: “The  SRC  sits in important committees that take decisions which affects students, we therefore needed to ensure we have an individual who will be able to represent the students view in the delegated committees such as university council, Senate and forum where the SRC has an opportunity to express grievances and contribute to change that is in the student’s best interest,”  

After the mediation process collapsed, Mnyamana released a statement on his Twitter page saying: “We hung our heads in horror and terror as we walked out of their boardrooms because once again, we had fallen into the illusion that we were negotiating with people”.  

He furthermore went to say “To silence us[SRC] is not enough, to suspend us will never be enough. We the elected representatives of the students at Wits University are not shaken. We remain evermore resolute in ensuring the realization of the right to free education”. 

Despite this collapse, Mnyamana explained that he is currently waiting for a hearing that will be taking place on June 17, 2023; and a meeting will be held with students to update them on the intense months the SRC underwent and what this means as a way forward for the student community.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits SRC members with Dali Mpofu after the mediation meeting. Photo: Supplied.  


Students at Wits Junction are calling for their maintenance issues to be fixed  

Scholars at a Wits resident are complaining about the upkeep of their building  

The All-Residence Sub Council (ARSC) — a representative body for all Wits residences — has called for the Property Infrastructure and Management Division (PIMD) — which manages campus residences and the whole university — to act swiftly in fixing maintenance issues at Wits Junction – one of the most expensive residences on campus.

Its been three months since Junction residents have been complaining about the lack of hot water, which is caused by the water heating system that is not working correctly, forcing students to take cold showers. Students have also complained about Wi-Fi connectivity issues, which have been compounded by the rolling blackouts.  

Students have been complaining about these issues since the first term of 2023, but their laments have fallen on deaf ears. Thembinkosi Dhlamini a third-year electrical engineering student at Wits Junction said, “there’s usually no water from 06:00 to 07:30 am every day. I have reported it to the maintenance, but nothing has changed till today”. 

The ARSC has expressed their dissatisfaction with PIMD’s lack of urgency in addressing these issues that students find themselves in, even after they repeatedly promised to bring results, but have not done so till today.  

On May 3, at 18:00, a meeting was held with residents and Wits information and communication technologies desk, which is in charge of the Wi-Fi and PIMD were expected to attend to give students clarity and an action plan of solving these maintenance issues. However, they did not attend the meeting even after confirming attendance.  

At the meeting, the director of campus housing and residence life Basil Mugwenya said that he will also investigate the issues raised by students himself and engage with the dean of residences regarding maintenance in residences.  He said he will then hold a meeting with the service providers and they will work to resolve the issues. 

However, Kabo Mosiane, ARSC chairperson told Wits Vuvuzela that they are awaiting communication regarding the date that the meeting will be held and will push for it to happen.  

Wits Vuvuzela reached out to PIMD for comment, however, they did not respond. On the day of publishing, the issues were still not fixed.  

FEATURED IMAGE: The PIMD building on the East Campus of Wits University. Photo: Lesedi Maako


Goalless draw for Wits and Jomo Cosmos 

by Lesedi Maako | April 5, 2023 

No win in the last game of the season in the ABC Motsepe League. 

It ended in a stalemate for Wits University and Jomo Cosmos Football Club as they wrapped up the ABC Motsepe League after battling it all out on Workers Day, Monday, May 1 at Sturrock Park Wits University in Braamfontein 

The tight game started with Wits showing dominance with ball possession, almost scoring in the 12th minute of the first half, while Jomo Cosmos seemed to be biding their time in the first 20 minutes.   

Twenty-four minutes into the game Jomo Cosmos started to make their moves, with three shots on goal in quick succession. Feeling the pressure, Wits midfielder, Tebogo Mandyu tried but failed to make contact with the back of the net. Instead, many balls off Wits players boots made contact with the goal

Wits and Comsos players checking the injury of the Wits player on the ground on May 1, 2023 at Sturrock Park, Braamfontein. Photo: Lesedi Maako

The Wits defence was also incredibly strong in the first 45 minutes of the game with Cosmos having seen most of their goal scoring opportunities turn into fouls. Wits showed a fair amount of dominance and possession in the first half. 

The second half came with yellow cards, one for Wits’ Lehlohonolo Mollo and three for Jomo Cosmos, a signifier of the tension and frustration on the field.   The last minute of the second half saw Wits miss an opportunity to score a goal just as the final whistle went.  

Mandyu midfielder from Wits expressed his disappointment to Wits Vuvuzela, “The game was very physical, and we wanted to win and could’ve done better,” he said. While an opponent from Jomo Cosmos, Ange Lebahe said that he wanted to win but a draw is okay as it is only the first season. 

Wits University Coach Andile Zulu said, “In the first half they were able to secure the ball better and had a few passes and chances whilst the second half also had many chances especially in the last minute.  

 Wits supporter also weighed in.  Sthandile Mthetwa said “It was a tough game as there were shots on target, it’s a war as Wits shows communication but getting the goal is a struggle”. Whereas Luyanda Mfusi said “wits shoots on target and on point, their ball position is fine. Jomo Cosmos is also playing but they are making too many mistakes”. 

The outcome of the game leaves both teams remaining in the top ten where Cosmos is in third place with Wits at the tenth spot of the league. The teams will await the Nedbank Cup Preliminary round whilst the ABC Motsepe League will resume in the third quarter of the year. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits and Cosmos players fighting for the ball possession. Photo: Lesedi Maako


Data rollover for Witsies 

Wits University extends its data services for the third year running, to support students with blended learning model.    

In a walk back from an announcement made at the beginning of the 2023 academic year, Wits University has asked service providers to continue supplying monthly data allowances to registered students.  

The beginning of April 2023 saw students on the Cell C, MTN, Telkom Mobile and Vodacom networks access 20GB’s of AnyTime and NightTime data, a combined 40GB’s a month.  

This comes after protests in March 2023 led by the student representative council (SRC), the #WitsShutdown was centered on financial exclusion and the ongoing accommodation crisis. An additional demand made by protesting students included the continuation of a data allowance. 

Wits student applying for the 2023 data packages. Photo: Lesedi Maako

Rachel Selogiloe from Wits Information Communication Technology (ICT) said, “It will not be easy like last year 2022 where every registered Wits student received data packages.  There will be systems put in place to check eligibility such as where a student stays and their area of affordability.” 

For instance, students residing at all Wits residences will not be eligible to receive the data packages as they have access to the internet connection provided by the university. Along with those students have to apply.  

Wits Master’s degree student in International Relations, Sbabalo Ntloko, has already put in his application and said, “I don’t feel safe as I always leave campus late at night doing my school work so this data will be helpful should I get approved”. 

Second-year student doing a Bachelor of Arts in Music, Andrew Brunsden, told Wits Vuvuzela “I stay in Noordheuwel, Krugersdorp which is 26km away from Wits and I can only come to campus when I have classes. I am not able to access the Wits Wi-Fi constantly and so getting this data will benefit me and my schoolwork.”  

To apply students must go to the self-service portal, upload their mobile number and install the Wits Data Bundle VPN.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits website showing students how to apply for the 2023 data packages


Former hotel is newest residence for Witsies

Amani House offers students a quality lifestyle at affordable rates. 

It has been three months since Wits University welcomed students into a new residence called Amani House at 49 Jorissen Street in Braamfontein.   

Amani is the third residence in the Wits Braamfontein cluster after Braamfontein Centre and Noswal Hall. The university leased the fully furnished student accommodation building in 2022 from Campus Africa, a property rental business that offers student accommodation. In return, Campus Africa in turn took over Rennie House located in 19 Ameshoff Street, Braamfontein, according to a company representative who did not want to be named. 

Nomfundo Msuthwana, the Braamfontein cluster manager for Wits Campus Housing and Residence Life told Wits Vuvuzela that Amani is housing under one roof students who would have been at replacing Rennie House and Yale Village. “Both Rennie and Yale leases were expiring, so the decision as a way forward was to find residential space that will accommodate the numbers from the two buildings. Amani House could achieve that,” she said.   

Rennie House former resident and first-year electrical engineering student, Phenyo Kojang (who is doing a second degree), said that the university had told residents of the two accommodations in 2022 that they would no longer be under Wits in 2023, and advised them to apply for Amani House or for other Wits residences.   

Amani House in Braamfontein has replaced Rennie House and Yale Village whose leases came to an end. Photo: Lesedi Maako

Amani houses 596 students in a two-section, fully furnished, self-catering residence. Five floors make up hotel-style accommodation in double rooms with ensuite bathrooms and a communal kitchen on each floor, which are mostly for first-year students. The 18-floor tower section is built in an apartment style and offers two- to three-person units that share kitchens and bathrooms.

Facilities at the residence, which used to be the Devonshire Hotel, include a cinema room, a braai area, two tuckshops, a library and a games room. This makes it different from all other Wits residences.   

Annual fees at Amani range from R64,116 to R69,332 this year, making it one of the least expensive Wits residences.   A first-year BCom accounting student, Amkhitha Wana who stays at Amani, said, “The place where we are situated at is very accessible to a lot of places and we have great infrastructure. It’s actually a perfect place to stay at because of the pretty views and the friendly culture that allows everyone to be themselves.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Students enter Amani House, which used to be the Devonshire Hotel. Photo: Lesedi Maako