Lawyers against Abuse

SEXUAL harassment has recently plagued Wits University, but very few students know that a legal organisation on campus, partnered with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, is dedicated to helping victims of abuse.

Lawyers against Abuse, or LvA, is the brain-child of Professor Bonita Meyersfeld, associate lecturer and director of the Centre for Legal Studies. She sees the legal advice centre as a place that caters specifically to the needs of victims and survivors of gender-based violence.

The centre has two objectives. The first is to ensure that lawyers minimise the amount of trauma inflicted on clients. “Often lawyers are not mindful of the trauma these victims experience and asking clients too many questions can be re-traumatising,” said legal officer for LvA, Shayda Vance.

[pullquote align=”right”]“Often lawyers are not mindful of the trauma these victims experience and asking clients too many questions can be re-traumatising,” [/pullquote]

Training and Facilitation

All the lawyers at LvA have been trained in trauma by Nataly Woollett and Sheetal Vallabh, the psychologists on the team. “When Boni started the organisation she reached out to everyone she thought would be interested and two psychologists were and they suggested the training,” said Vance.

The second objective has been to facilitate the victim’s interaction with hospitals, police and counsellors by forming partnerships with these bodies. They hope to prevent any further trauma caused by the fact that victims are often met with resistance from police and hospitals, said Vance.

“We’ll call and speak to the police or hospitals and at times accompany them if that’s what they want. We don’t just give them a number and send them on their way.”

Vance said the exposé of the sexual harassment around campus highlighted the need for the organisation because there were not enough places victims could go.

Fundraising and Volunteers

At the moment LvA is working out of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies. LvA receives most of their clients through referrals because they are well-known in their networks. Their goal is to have an actual clinic by 2015 that will allow walk-ins.

The services provided by LvA are pro bono (free of charge). They are primarily funded through fundraising and they also receive individual donations. They hosted an annual art auction on Monday night at which they were able to raise R200 000.

LvA operates on a volunteer basis, and Vance said they needed more of them. “Anyone can volunteer in almost any field. We will find work for them to do.”

So you think you can sign?

I CAN SIGN: Wits Language School are hosting  “So you think you can sign” a song-sign translation competition as part of  Deaf Awareness Month ending September 30th. Lecturer Lucas Magongwa demonstrates good sign technique at the deaf awareness display on Tuesday afternoon at Education campus.  Photo: Palesa Radebe

I CAN SIGN: Wits Language School are hosting “So you think you can sign” a song-sign translation competition as part of Deaf Awareness Month ending September 30th. Lecturer Lucas Magongwa demonstrates good sign technique at the deaf awareness display on Tuesday afternoon at Education campus. Photo: Palesa Radebe

Less than two weeks remain to enter the second season of So You Think You Can Sign, the South Africa Sign Language (SASL) song translation competition.

This year’s theme for Deaf Awareness Month is “equality for deaf people”. The competition is part of a campaign to raise awareness of deafness and to encourage deaf and hearing people to work together.

The closing date for the competition is Monday, September 23 at 12pm.

The competition involves translating any song performed in English to SASL and recording yourself. You then submit your video for judging by a panel of hearing and deaf judges who can sign.

Entrants can choose any song they want as long as it is in English and doesn’t have any vulgar or discriminatory lyrics.

Lucas Magongwa, lecturer and coordinator of deaf education programmes at the Wits Centre for Deaf Studies, said: “Entrants will be judged on the use of facial expressions and emotions as well as their choreography and movement.”

Other judging criteria include the quality of the signing, the use of SASL as opposed to signed English, and including subtitles in your video.

Anyone in the country, whether they’re hearing or deaf, can enter So You Think You Can Sign and entries are open to individual and group performances.

Winners of the competition will receive R5 000 and a feature on SABC3’s Deaf TV, as well as a trophy and a Wits Language School certificate of recognition. The first and second runners up as well as the winner of the public vote will receive R1 000 and certificates.

“This is a great way to make our students aware,” Magongwa said, adding that many people don’t know how difficult it is for deaf students to get into university. Wits has only four deaf students at the moment.

“Wits has really good interpreters but no one to teach,”Magongwa  said.  [pullquote align=”right”]”Wits has really good interpreters but no one to teach”[/pullquote]

The Wits Language School and the Centre for Deaf Studies have set up an information stand outside the library on education campus to get the message about equality for deaf people out this year.

Students can go there to get information on the history of deaf movements around the world, the sign language course and activities around Deaf Awareness Month. There is also the opportunity for students to learn a few words in SASL at the stands.

The Wits Language School is hosting the competition and it started in August. This is the second year running for So You Think You Can Sign.


Wits Vuvuzela: Hearing the deaf September 12, 2013.


SLICE: Skinny versus Fit

Liesl Slice

Liesl Frankson

IT’S THE time of the year when the reality of all the bad, unhealthy decisions we’ve made through winter start to weigh heavily on our shoulders…not to mention our waistlines and buttocks.

As the weather changes and we shed layers of clothing, we are struck by a sudden urge to shed a few extra kilos in the process.  With one month to go before spring, the Wits Vuvuzela newsroom, like the rest of South Africa, has been hit by a workout wave.

Fitness challenge

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve also taken up the fitness challenge. Thanks to one of our journalists, there’s now a scale at the front of the newsroom and I think everyone is looking for a quiet moment to weigh themselves so they can assess the damage when no one’s looking.

Even though we’re calling it the fitness challenge, most of us seem to be obsessed with losing weight. Most people automatically assume skinny people are fit, but that is definitely a factoid. I’ve met people who weigh far more than me, but are able to do physical activities I’ve only dreamed about in my wildest fitness fantasies.

I look at these people and admire them because they’ve got it right. They are healthy and fit. That should be the ultimate goal. It shouldn’t be eating once a day so you can look like a reed in your shorts after you’ve been pigging out all winter. Because no one can tell what you look like under all that clothing.

 Hollywood has okayed the big booty

Even though things have changed and Hollywood has okayed the big booty, we’re still trapped in a place where we think the hollow-cheeked look is sexy and – stranger still – we continue to resort to extreme means to achieve it. Extreme diets dominate our lives even though we know how bad they are for us. The solution is simple: exercise!

Instead of taking the lift to get your doughnut, how about using the stairs? If you aren’t willing to exercise, then face facts and start eating more healthily. So stop complaining and take action. If you don’t like what you see, change it. You can eat anything you want in moderation, so watch those portions. Get active every little bit counts.

If good old-fashioned exercise and healthy living isn’t your thing there are plenty of other fun ways to get the job done. Dancing is one way. Turn on your favourite song and shake it up for a good hour, you could burn anything between 300 and 700 calories without even noticing.

If you forget about being skinny for a second and chase after a healthier, fitter you

If you forget about being skinny for a second and chase after a healthier, fitter you, I’m almost certain your new dream body won’t be too far behind. And remember your dream body doesn’t have to be the slim and slender physique of Keira Knightley or Nicole Kidman if its not in your genes and, if it is, lucky you. We’re all different and we need to embrace and work with what we have been given.

Whatever you choose to do, start now and do it all year round. Then you can be the one laughing at those of us in a tailspin over how we’re going to look in our shorts when summer arrives, asking us  to show her what we’re working with.

Cheers, I’ll drink to that

The science of thirst: Antony Higginson, associate lecturer at the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, heads up Wits’s micro brewery. The team recently brought a 9 000-year old beer recipe to life.  Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

The science of thirst: Antony Higginson, associate lecturer at the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, heads up Wits’s micro brewery. The team recently brought a 9 000-year old beer recipe to life.
Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

WITS  is not only known for brewing unrest. Students have been practising a different kind of brewing in the run-up to the SAB intervarsity brewing contest, producing lager, ale and cider – as well as a beer from a 9 000-year-old Chinese recipe.

Brewed from an ancient Chinese recipe, the beer was available for a small taste test during last week’s National Science Week. Ingredients include rice, honey, berries and a small amount of malt. The beer is light, slightly fruity and not quite as bitter as normal beer. This is because there are no hops in it.

The recipe was provided by Brenda Cohen from the Evolutionary Studies Institute.

The students teamed up with Anthony Higginson from the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering to produce the competing beers. Wits will enter all three categories of the competition, but the Chinese beer will not be entered, since it does not qualify as a lager, ale or cider.

The students involved in the beer brewing are postgraduates and undergraduates from process engineering and biochemistry, with an interest in beer and research.

Higginson said the campus microbrewery was mainly used for research and for giving students exposure to brewing.  The project provided a great incentive. [pullquote align=”right”]”Students can experience the product afterwards, unlike if they were just creating some other liquid or material.”[/pullquote]

There has been an explosion of craft breweries and home brewing as a hobby, according to Higginson.  Craft beer can now be enjoyed at Arts on Main and at inner city markets.

This year the SAB intervarsity beer brewing challenge will take place from August 30 to the 31 at the SAB Training Institute in Kyalami.

Part of the competition involves producing label ideas and names.  In previous years, students have used the name Kudu Beer, and the label has included the famous Wits kudu.

Witsies already have their beers prepared for the competition and are hoping for a first place
this year.


Additional Resources

Wits Vuvuzela July 27 2012: Distilling a winner

Wits Vuvuzela August 26 2011: Bottoms up for Kudu beer

National Geographic News July 18 2005: 9 000-year old beer re-created from Chinese recipe

Wits Yacht Club sail Cape to Rio 2014

THE WITS Yacht Club have set their sights on the prestigious 2014 Cape to Rio transatlantic yacht race.

The club has been raising funds for the team to get to Brazil and back.Last month they launched the “Buy a Mile” campaign that encouraged people to buy a nautical mile of the race for R50. In return, they promised to take donors with by printing their names on the side of the yacht.

The team were spurred on to race next year by the participation of three club members in the 2011 Cape to Rio race. They have not yet secured a headline sponsor but through their fundraising efforts have managed to raise R100 000 towards the trip.

They have also successfully secured the Cape Storm as their yacht for the race with the help of its owner Sean Cumming of the 2 Oceans Maritime Academy.

The team will be training hard says skipper Bradley Robinson, 3rd year BSc Geography and Earth Sciences. “The team will be partaking in the USSA Yachting Tournament in early December, which will be followed immediately by a 500nautical mile training trip up the South African coastline.”

Robinson says any student or staff member who happen to find themselves in Cape Town after December 25 should feel free to head down to the Royal Cape Yacht club to meet the team and check out the boat.

The team of seven consists of Robinson, first mate Ricardo de Carvalho, alumni BSc Aeronautical Engineering Honours, watch captain Alistair Moodie, alumni BSc Mechanical Engineering Honours, tactician Patrick Chappel, 4th year MBBCh (medicine), meteorologist Alexa Brown, 3rd year BA Geography and History, trimmer Sebastian Bode, alumni BSc Mechanical Engineering Honours, and navigator Rudi van Velzen, who is an external Wits Yacht Club member.

The club will be setting sail from Cape Town for Rio de Janeiro with the rest of the armada on January 4next year.

Disregard for the disabled


PARKED IN: Students in wheelchairs would not be able to access this ramp outside the School of the Arts as a driver decided to turn into a parking bay. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

By Liesl Frankson and Pheladi Sethusa

It’s easy for able-bodied students to forget that navigating the world without sight or the ability to walk can be very tough.

Students in wheelchairs and students who cannot see have to carefully map out their routes to classes, residences and the like.

If they are met by even one obstacle on that route on a certain day, they have to think on their feet.

Cuthbert Ramatlo of the Disability Unit on campus said blind students with guide dogs would be stranded in such an instance, as their dogs only know one specific route.

The Disability Interest Group meets two to three times a year to discuss issues which constantly comes up is  access to campus for disabled students.

One of the major issues around this is often a lack of clear signage indicating suitable entrances, parking areas and toilets.


Wits Vuvuzela walked around to investigate access and wheelchair friendly routes on campus.

Some signs were vandalised while others were not clearly marked or visible.

Along with this a wheelchair lift at the School of Arts had been vandalised,  forcing students who use this entrance to go through the after hour’s back door.

One of the backdoor entrances that students in wheelchairs have to use. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

One of the backdoor entrances that students in wheelchairs have to use. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

“Often we think of back door access for people with disabilities and that’s really wrong because it’s basically going back to discrimination when there were different doors for different races,” said Duncan Yates secretary of the Disability Interest Group.

Yusuf Talia, BSc final year, a student who uses a wheelchair said: “There are some limitations at older buildings, like elevators that make certain places inaccessible”.

Along with this he said weathered paving made for tricky navigation and this problem was intensified when going uphill.

Easy access

To tackle access issues the unit has started developing interactive maps which will show easy access areas around campus for disabled students.

Yates said the map would be a living map that grows as the university changes.

The access map system aims to make online and printed maps available for disabled students, staff and visitors to make their experience at Wits more pleasant.

Students and staff will be able to flag areas on the maps online that are not easily accessible or where they may be experiencing problems.

In addition to the new mapping system the disability unit also provides training for staff and bus drivers. One of the achievements they are proud of is the dedicated Wits bus with access for disabled students.

The unit aims to respond to all student suggestions and complaints.

Talia confirmed this and said most buildings and areas are accommodating, if one lives at res the disability unit generally makes a plan for students to be comfortable.


Witsies uncontainable

TWO Wits students have beat thousands from around the country to make it to the semi-finals of the Sprite Uncontainable hip hop competition.

Gigi Lamayne, 1st year BA, and Trevor “Pulse” Nkosi, 2nd year BA Political Science and International Relations, are two of the eight semi-finalists competing in the category for emcees.

The eight semi-finalists from the various categories will compete against each other on Saturday, July 27 at Zen on Fox Street in Braamfontein.

Nkosi and Lamayne were encouraged to audition by friends when they saw the competition booths set up on the library lawns on East Campus earlier this year. Both Witsies were surprised when they received the call because they didn’t think they would make it this far.

Lamayne said she was initially hesitant to audition because of her gender: “I’m a girl and I’m little,” she said.

However, she is now excited to be the only girl who has made it this far in the competition to represent Wits.

Keeping Wits University hip

Both Nkosi and Lamayne were unaware that they went to the same university until Wits Vuvuzela brought them together in an interview, but they were happy for the double opportunity to represent Wits.

Nkosi said they were yet to experience the actual competition, because they hadn’t gone up against other entrants.
Up until now the competition consisted mainly of going into a booth and reciting their lyrics.

“The experience will come with the semi finals, now we’re getting into it we’re gonna realise who’s got grimy teeth and who doesn’t” said Nkosi.

When asked about their plans if they win the competition, both Lamayne and Nkosi stressed the importance of completing their studies.
Lamayne said: “Stopping my studies is totally out of the question…an educated rapper is what the industry needs right now.”

Nkosi said what he is doing now is about “street cred”, so people will remember him one day, but as far as his education goes he agrees with Lamayne.
“I need to get my degree, I need to open up my dimensions, I need to think more broadly,” he said.

The finals will take place on August 3 at the South African Hip-Hop Festival in Johannesburg. The winners from the three categories will be flown to the USA for the annual  global version of the  Hip-Hop experience.

OPINION: What I learned from Radio Days

Teamvuvu’s Liesl Frankson spent part of her winter break at the annual Joburg Radio Days Conference hosted by the Wits Radio Academy. This is her account of the experience.  


Joburg Radio Days ended on a high note today with the conference continuing to trend on twitter.

Professor Franz Kruger, Director of Wits Radio Academy, encouraged everyone in attendance to “tweet early, tweet often” – a strategy that proved useful in getting the conference to trend on twitter at various times over the last three days.

The three day long conference aimed at radio practitioners, managers and researchers among others was held at the Wits Club in Johannesburg. The event hosted a variety of speakers from the radio industry around the world and attracted participants from 12 countries.

However it wasn’t Prof Kruger’s strategy alone that made the conference a twitter sensation, it was the volume of good information that just had to be shared!

Off the back of my mid-year radio course, Joburg Radio Days was possibly the best place to really get the inside scoop on developments and hopes for the future of radio.

One of the most important things I’ve taken away with me is that radio is not dead. There was a lot of talk about the threat of online music streaming programs like iRadio & Pandora, but guest speakers like Gillian Ezra from Simfy, definitely put those fears to rest.

“There’s something magic about radio, it’s about interactivity and streaming won’t replace the relationships with presenters, the competitions and the magic of being on air.”

Radio has a special place in the world, it’s immediate, and as Wits vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib said: “Radio is fundamental to a democratic society.”

These words stuck with me throughout the conference particularly during discussions around the radio landscape in countries like Zimbabwe, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Radio in these countries with ongoing political upheaval is sometimes all that people have for receiving crucial information. Trying to run an independent operation in some of these environments is incredibly difficult.

[pullquote align=”right”]We all want the same things from radio[/pullquote]

Radio enables communication and ongoing conversations which circulate more ideas. This results in increased empowerment across all parts of society, which is obviously a problem if you’re the government in some of these places

My head is still reeling with the wealth of information I’ve acquired over the last three days not only in the radio sphere but in general, there was much to learn about countries, politics, business but mostly people.

The bottom line is no matter where we are and how different we are, we all want the same things from radio, to be informed, entertained, educated and also heard. We want to hear our voices and our stories, the things we can relate to from our radio stations.

NSFAS Central Application System launches next year

Director General of Higher Education and Training Gwebs Qonde told a workshop in Pretoria this year that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) planned to follow through with their plans for a Central Application system in 2014.

What this means is that institutions of higher learning, like Wits, will lose their power to decide on student loans. The new system will allow students to apply for financial aid either directly to NSFAS or a central body created for this purpose.

The system aims to create and maintain effective admin to improve student’s access to NSFAS through direct forms of communication like cellphones, the internet and social media. Money will be paid directly into the accounts of students for transport, accommodation, tuition and food, and by so doing NSFAS will be keeping a close watch on expenditure.

Qonde said that NSFAS was inefficient because its systems were outdated and they needed to be adapted as a result of corrupt and inefficient officials in some institutions. The programme will ultimately reposition the whole of NSFAS to provide more effective financial aid that is able to cover more students and improve the recovery rate for the loans thus allowing NSFAS to fulfill its mandate.

However some officials doubt the proposed new system because thousands of beneficiaries do not complete their courses. NSFAS plans to counter this situation with supporting programmes in collaboration with universities and other stakeholders to give students the best chance of graduating.

Wits Vuvuzela asked the Manager of Financial aid and Scholarships at Wits, Busisiwe Sithole, for comment on the new system. She declined to comment stating, “I do not have answers or comments on the New Centralized system as we have not started to use it.”

Additional Resources

Wits Vuvuzela March 28 2011: Financial Aid Funding late again

Wits Vuvuzela March 26 2012: No money, no food


Caution: Flu season up ahead

The cold winter months are fast approaching and as temperatures drop, the numbers for people caught in the icy grip of colds and flu’s go up.

Flu season in the Southern Hemisphere begins from May and lasts until October every year according to the World Health Organisation’s Global Influenza Surveillance network.

A possible explanation for the relationship between the influenza virus and winter is humidity. Researchers have found that the virus survives best at extremely high and low humidity, the type you would find indoors during the winter.

One way to combat the survival of the flu virus in the air and on the surfaces in your home this winter is with the help of a humidifier. When it comes to preventing and treating cold and flu symptoms there is a lot that can be done.

Flu vaccinations are one of the most popular preventative measures and most pharmacies and doctors’ surgeries offer this service in the run up to the flu season. The Campus Health and Wellness Clinic offers flu vaccinations to students at a cost of R55. According to Campus Health the vaccinations are already out of stock because many students flock to get their seasonal jab before winter kicks in.

If you have not been able to get your flu vaccination, you can still try and ward off colds and flu’s by following home remedies like increasing your intake of vitamin C. This can be done with a vitamin C supplement or eating foods that are high in vitamin C like red bell peppers, oranges or strawberries.

One of the most important things to remember during this season is practicing good cold & flu etiquette if you really want to keep the flu at bay. Washing your hands regularly, coughing into a tissue or your sleeve and not into your bare hands can help prevent the spread of colds and flu’s.

Additional Resources

Wits Vuvuzela April 15 2011: Influenza can be prevented this Winter February 2013: Flu-Proof your home May 2013: Flu Season Etiquette- What you need to know about flu and the office


The Indian Memory Project comes to Wits


Anusha Yadav creator of the Inidan Memory Project interacting with attendees of the presentation on Wednesday. Photo: Liesl Frankson

Anusha Yadav creator of the Inidan Memory Project interacting with attendees of the presentation on Wednesday. Photo: Liesl Frankson


Wits hosted a presentation on the Indian Memory Project on Wednesday as part of the 2013 Indiafrica Festival that took place this week.

The project is an online, curated, visual and oral history archive that traces the personal history of the Indian subcontinent, its people, cultures, developments and much more. This is done with the help of contributors who send images and letters from family archives.

The event was an interactive session with the creator of the Indian Memory Project Anusha Yadav and members from the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa. Yadav presented a selection from the project, along with the narratives as an example of what the project has been able to bring to light.

The Indian Memory Project and Indian History

Yadav believes this initiative is able to offer a more precise history of the subcontinent, because these stories are the missing links in the history that has been taught. Many things have been left out of the history books or added in and looking at ordinary pictures offers a comprehensive insight into people’s lives.

“It traces the history of the country, by tracing the history of families,” said Yadav. According to Yadav this project can help people resolve their past and live with a little more pride.

“I believe India suffers from very low self esteem about itself and when I started Indian Memory Project I worked to show pride.”

The Indian Memory Project and Africa

The section of the project presented was made up of many stories of people who had ties not only to India but also to Africa. The organizers of the event and the entire Indiafrica initiative felt that India and Africa share similar histories and they are connected by similar hopes and aspirations.

With this in mind “The Indian Memory Project helps us to understand this past and the better we know the past the faster the future can develop” said Yadav.

The project is not only made up of pictures of people’s family lives, but contributors have also sent in pictures of their college lives, work lives, the start of businesses and pictures of other things they feel has a place in history or a story to tell.

Wits Vuvuzela May 16 2013: Celebrating 100 years of Bollywood

Esselen grinds Girton

Esselen Trumps: Esselen goes for gold against Girton House

Esselen Trumps: Esselen goes for gold against Girton House

THE ESSELEN netball team’s fast-placed play proved too much for rivals Girton House, leaving them victorious 20-12 after their Tuesday match at Dig Field. The fast paced match left Girton struggling to keep up as Esselen dominated the first three quarters with a solid goal shooting team.Esselen members Palesa Choma and Nomfundo Koloi worked well together and used every opportunity to score goals. Their defence was also solid and managed to keep the Girton shooters at bay.

Goalkeeper Mpho Mokoena was a force to be reckoned with in the Girton shooting circle, often retrieving the ball before Girton could score.

Girton felt the pressure and were sloppy with their passes, often losing balls they should have used to their advantage. After a stern talking to from the coach, Girton’s defence appeared stronger in the third quarter. This kept Esselen on their toes with Girton goalkeeper Kwezi Katamzi becoming a formidable foe for Esselen goalshooter Nomfundo Koloi. While their defence was on point, Girton still had difficulty driving the game forward towards their goals.

The last quarter of the game intensified as both teams made efforts to win the match. Girton gave it their all and matched the Esselen pace. They made solid advances to their goal posts, scoring a couple of goals and giving Esselen a run for their money.As the pressure mounted Esselen started to panic and become careless with their passes. However, this they found their feet again, kept their defence strong and eventually came out victorious.

The Esselen and Girton match wereone of several played this week in the Wits internal netball league. Other teams that came out on top include Wits Junction with a 20-12 victory over Reith and Jubilee with a 27-8 victory over Barnato.

Mavoda suffered a crushing 2-43 defeat against Medics, the 2012 champions.

Braamfontein Centre and David Webster played a smooth game that left David Webster victorious 19-12. The match between Sunnyside and Medhurst was postponed.

The next round of the league continues on April 14 at 6pm on West Campus at the Dig Field.