Rape victims turned away from police stations

When Steven* took his girlfriend Sue to a Johannesburg police station after being raped at a party this month, he expected the police to help them. Instead, the police turned them away. He was told to “take her home” until she had “calmed down”.

The experience of these Johannesburg students is not unusual, according to People Opposing Women Abuse’s (POWA). The organisation’s legal adviser, Priscilla Matsapola, says it is a “common occurrence” for rape victims to struggle to get police to open a case against their rapists.

“When victims try to open a case they aren’t given a J-88, they aren’t advised on taking PEPs [anti-retrovirals].” A J-88 form details the victim’s injuries and is needed for collecting forensic evidence. The form must be filled out by a doctor.

Matsapola said the only way to combat this was for victims to insist on their rights and demand to open a docket, even if that meant lodging a complaint against the officer who refused to do so.

Going to a doctor to fill out a J-88 form is a vital part of the process, according to government guidelines. The form guides the doctor through a detailed examination of all injuries, and a collection of any forensic evidence such as sperm or skin cells from under the victim’s finger nails.

This forensic evidence needs to be collected a quickly as possible after the rape, as this evidence is lost through normal human movement. It is important for trying to prosecute a rapist. If police officers do not advise victims to take the J-88 form, any legal action that follows could suffer greatly.

Doctors are legally obliged to provide free anti-retrovirals, known as PEPs (post-exposure prophylaxis), which greatly reduces the chances if HIV transmission. Police officers often fail to mention PEPs, according to the Treatment Action Campaign website. PEPs lose their effectiveness after 72 hours, leaving the victim vulnerable to contracting HIV AIDS if their rapist was HIV positive.

This is the correct procedure when a rape has occurred: the victim opens a docket and is allowed to ask that a female officer take a statement. The statement does not need to give the details of the rape, but must give as many details of the rapist as possible so that they police can begin their search for him.

After this, the victim must go to a hospital for a medical examination, during which the doctor will fill in the J-88 form, collect evidence like skin cells, hair or sperm of the attacker, and administer PEPs.

It is important to note that police are not allowed to write on the J-88 form, even though they are obliged to provide it to the victim to take with her to hospital.

Fighting with the police is a traumatic experience after a woman has come to them for help. “I encourage the girls to enforce their rights. They must lodge a complaint against the officer and demand to open a docket. If it is taking too long, go to a doctor first. You can always open the docket at a later stage”, says Matsapola.

*False names have been used to protect the victim.

Published in Vuvuzela 17th edition, 27 July 2012

Language Policy stalled at Wits

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 17th Edition 27 July

Wits’ language policy to introduce Sesotho as the university’s second language has been a failure, says Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Yunus Ballim.

The policy, implemented in 2003, aimed to have Sesotho spoken by all lecturers and provided for academically. “I think it’s fair to say the document failed. In its intention it was noble, but in its practical implementation sense it was ill-conceived. It is in serious, serious need of a rewrite,” Ballim says.

The person responsible for that rewrite is Dean of Humanities Prof Tawana Kupe, who wants to move back to the basics by “beefing up” the African Languages department. This additional “academic scaffolding” would provide the structure for the department to lead the university forward with an updated policy.

The policy is almost ten years old. The aim was for Wits to join the University of the Free State and the University of Lesotho in advancing the Sesotho language in the academic arena.

Ballim explains that a fundamental error in the policy is its attempt to carve up the language geography of the country. “We were mistaken in the way we conceived of the language policy … in part what we had responded to was an apartheid conception of the geography of African languages.”

While the policy itself has not led to any direct developments, it is not all doom and gloom for the advancement of African languages at the historically English-dominated university.

Ballim implemented a compulsory Zulu course in the Health Sciences, which is now an examinable subject in 2nd year. This was a departure from the Sesotho-based policy, and isiZulu was chosen as a more accessible language for interaction, most importantly for communication with patients.

Ballim used the influence of creative writing as a more effective tool for challenging academic discourse, rather than trying to learn from a textbook. “Universities have not responded to the dynamism in language. We need to modernise our conception of the teaching of African languages.”

Kupe agrees, pointing to the diversity of languages used in local soapies and the changing way we perceive language. “We need to teach language in a way that people understand.”

On the policy’s lack of success, Ballim concedes: “I’m embarrassed to say it is an area we should have picked up and we didn’t, and it is something we should have done better at.”Students chatting on the Great Hall steps

New AU Head of Commission just the woman for the job


South Africa’s minister of home affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma recently elected head of the African Union’s (AU)secretariat will have to use her experience in creating efficient administrations to move the organisation forward according to local analysts.

Dlamini-Zuma was elected head of the AU commissionafter a drawn out battle between herself and Jean Ping of Gabon. Tension between Francophone and Anglophone countries was allegedly the cause of the six-month long voting process which pitted the leaders against each other for votes.

Receiving 60% of the votes on 15 July, Dlamini-Zuma became the first South African and the first woman to chair the AU since its inception 49 years ago as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

Dlamini-Zuma is a qualified medical doctor who finished her degree at Bristol University whilst in exile during Apartheid. She took on the post of Minister of Health after Apartheid ended.

In 1999, after Nelson Mandela retired as president of the republic, Dlamini-Zuma became Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Since Dlamini-Zuma took over control of the Department of Home Affairs as minister in 2009, she has been largely credited for making dramatic positive changes to the department, which has historically been riddled with corruption and inefficiency.

It has not yet been decided whether or not Dlamini-Zuma will remain in this post now that she is the AU Head of the Commission.

Prince Mashele, an analyst at the Centre for Politics and Research, who worked with Dlamini-Zuma’s ministry when she was foreign minister told the Mail and Guardian: “She takes her work very seriously … She has the rare quality of putting up very good administrators.”

Gwede Mantashe, secretary general of the ANC, noted that while the AU has made some very important decisions to move the continent forward, they have had trouble implementing them in the past.

Dlamini-Zuma’s experience in creating efficient administrations and her notorious stern, no-nonsense attitude makes her a suitable candidate for the job.

Congratulations came from all corners of the world, including South African President and Dlamini-Zuma’s ex-husband, Jacob Zuma.

“It means a lot for Africa … for the continent, unity and the empowerment of women,” Zuma said to Aljazeera.

The African Union Commission is the secretariat of the AU. Other bodies within the organisation include a Pan-African Parliament, currently based in Johannesburg, and a newly developed Peace and Security Council.

Ex-Witsie sentenced to 15 years for drug smuggling

A former Wits student was sentenced today to 15 years in a Thai prison for attempting to smuggle drugs.

Nolubabalo Nobanda was caught smuggling cocaine into Thailand after authorities noticed a powdery white substance coming out of her dreadlocks.

Around 1.5kgs of cocaine were found in the 23-year-olds’ dreadlocks, with an estimated street value of $150 000 dollars. Nobanda was carrying the drugs to Bangkok for a cartel based in Brazil.

Nolubabalo Nobanda

South Africa’s International Relations spokesperson Clayson Mayonela told TimesLive  that Nobanda was also fined R250 000, and that her term was reduced from 30 years to 15 because she complied with the police.

There was confusion when the story broke in December last year when Wits denied that Nobanda was a student, while her family and friends insisted she had attended the university.

University spokesperson Shirona Patel said in a statement; “Wits University would like to place on record that Ms Nolubabalo Nobanda, an alleged drug mule, was never registered as a student at Wits University.”

However it was later confirmed by Wits that Nobanda had in fact been enrolled in 2007.

Drug mules like Nobanda are often used as decoys for larger quantities of drugs, which go through customs unnoticed while authorities deal with the first mule. Nobanda told her parents in a letter that her friend, also carrying drugs, made it through customs unnoticed.

Legal steps have already been taken in the UK to give drug mules more lenient sentences, as the women who end up carrying the drugs are usually have no other option to pay off drug debts, or sometimes do not even know they are carrying drugs. Sentences have been reduced to five years, with mitigating factors to be taken into account by judges.

Due to international law, the mules are tried in the country they are arrested, which means Nobanda will have to serve her sentence in a Bangkok jail.

More than 600 South African drug mules are in foreign jails, according to Locked Up, a website dedicated to drawing attention to the plight of South Africans held in foreign prisons.

Click here to see a video from News24 about Nobanda’s sentencing

Nandos advert banned because of insensitivity to Xenophobia

Fast-food chain Nandos is contesting the ban on its advert that the SABC deemed to have a “xenophobic undertone”.

The advert starts with the line “You know what is wrong with South Africa? It’s all you foreigners”. The advert then depicts the broad span of ethnic groups that live in South Africa disappearing in puffs of smoke, leaving only a Koi San man, who then says to the camera, “I’m not going anywhere. You *@!$ found us here.”

The follow up is “real South African’s love diversity”, with a promotion of a new meal package.

The SABC refused to run the ad due it its “xenophobic undertones”. Spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told Business Day, “By the time they get to the diversity message, people could have interpreted it in any which way.”

“With foreigners being attacked in South Africa, our concern is that it might re-enforce that … We are in no way interested in commercial gain over the public’s interest,” Kganyago said.

e-TV and DSTV, who had initially aired the ads, then followed suit and also stopped airing the ad.

Nando’s marketing manager Thabang Ramogase believes the response on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook has confirmed that the majority of South Africans had enjoyed the satire and understood the message of the ad.

“I’m puzzled by how the media owners have actually banned the commercial, they’ve completely misunderstood it, and I’m incredibly disappointed because I think it says a lot about freedom of speech and freedom of expression in South Africa,” said Quinton Cronje, Nandos’ marketing director.

The Advertising Standards Authority will deal with the dispute, however all broadcasters do have the right to not air advertisements if they chose, on the grounds of taste. An ASA stamp of approval may not be enough to get the commercial back on air.

Nandos marketing team is supposedly already formulating a come-back advert to make light of the banning.

Nandos has a used comical advertising which pushes on South African issues, and has received bans before. Most recently, Nandos ran an advert in which a Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe look-alike sat alone at a large dinner table, remembering the “good old days”, with scenes depicting him having fun with other famous dictators who are now deceased.

View “Nandos Diversity” and “The Last Dictator Standing”




DA Youth Wage Subsidy march turns violent

A DA supporter is carried away by paramedics on Bertha Street Photo: Jan Bornman

Photographs and story by: Jan Willem Bornman, Lisa Golden and Jay Caboz

Protesters and journalists were tear-gassed by police after Democratic Alliance (DA) and Cosatu supporters clashed in Braamfontein today over proposed youth wage subsidies.

The march turned violent after blue-shirted members of the DA and red-shirted Cosatu supporters met on Jorissen Street. The Johannesburg Metro Police made a human chain to keep the two groups separated as they shouted insults at each other. This did not stop supporters from both sides throwing rocks, bottles, bricks and placards at each other across the police chain.

DA leaders were seen at the front of the march Photo: Lisa Golden

Fighting also broke out on Stiemens Street after police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. A 30-minute stand-off ensued while the DA leadership urged their supporters to maintain a non-violent stance, shouting “we want peace”, amid renditions of the national anthem.

DA members chanted "We are peaceful" when confrontations began Photo: Lisa Golden

One of the first protesters hit by a rock Photo: Jan Bornman

Rocks and bricks were hurled from both sides injuring protestors and journalists alike, among them Nickolaus Bauer from the Mail and Guardian, who was photographed with a bloodied face. A number of injuries have been reported in the media.

Journalist Nickolaus Bauer was injured in the clash Photo: Jan Bornman

DA national leader Helen Zille, parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, youth leader Makashule Gana and national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane led the march which was in support of the implementation of youth wage subsidies; a proposal rejected by Cosatu.

Competing lines of Cosatu and DA members, in red and blue respectively, are surrounded by media and police Photo: Lisa Golden

Mazibuko and Zille addressed the crowds calling for Cosatu to “join the DA” and saying “that they were stealing jobs from the youth.”

The two groups clashed repeatedly on several Braamfontein streets with the police, who appeared largely disorganised, responding with tear gas and water cannons.

Police used water cannons to disperse the crowds Photo: Jay Caboz


Windows of a BMW in Braamfontein were broken by protesters Photo: Jan Bornman


DA and Cosatu members arguing Photo: Jay Caboz

The police struggled to contain the situation as tensions increased Photo: Jay Caboz

A tear gas cansiter lies on the ground close to Cosatu members Photo: Jay Caboz

For more photographs go to Jay’s blog, Lisa’s blog and Jan’s blog


Facebook can save lives

FOURTY- EIGHT hours after Facebook launched an organ donor application, 100 000 users on the social media site made their desire to become official donors.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced last week that an organ donor status is now available for users who wish to indicate their decision to family and friends and, more importantly, the official registries in their state or county.

Zuckerberg said in a speech to launch the donor status that he was inspired by conversations he had with his girlfriend about children waiting for organ donations.

He also mentioned his friendship with late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Jobs’ public battle with cancer ended last year, however a liver transplant in 2009 helped Jobs fight his cancer for a few more years.

The application is currently only available in the US, UK, Netherlands and Australia.

Donate Life America, a non-profit organisation that partnered with Facebook in the US, has noted a dramatic increase in donors since the donor status was offered.

They followed the patterns of donors in 22 states, noting the average sign-up of 400 new donors a day leapt to 6 000 the day after the organ donor status was launched.

While only a small percentage of donors’ organs are useable after they die, the increase in official donors has the potential to ease the strain on national donor lists.

The United Network for Organ Sharing said 6 600 people died while waiting on the organ transplant list last year in the US.

While the donor status is not yet an option in South Africa, the Organ Donor Foundation of South Africa urges donors to make sure their families are aware of their decision, as a relative will have to inform the hospital after death.

Project manager of the foundation Taryn Gingell said:

“There are still strong difficulties, culturally, with organ donation. There was a case in KZN where the younger members of the family had to get permission to donate a family member’s organs but the elderly person did not understand this and refused that the organs be donated.”

By calling the foundation you can register as an organ donor and receive a sticker to place on your driver’s licence and ID book. However, for the transplant to be authorised, consent from your family does still need to be given in South Africa.

The foundation estimates there are currently 1 400 patients waiting for heart, lung, kidney and other transplants.

There are currently around 300 000 registered organ donors in South Africa, less than 0.6% of the population.


Witsies to PutFoot Around Africa

Four women travelling around Africa in an old station wagon might not sound like everyone’s idea of a relaxing trip, but a group of Witsies are making the trek to raise money for charity.

The group, named Neighbour Hooligans, is one of 60 teams entered into the PutFoot Rally 2012.  PutFoot is an initiative that aims to raise R330 000  to buy shoes for children at two schools in Botswana and Namibia, as well as providing an anti-poaching unit for a year in KwaZulu Natal to protect the dwindling Rhino population.

The group also wants to show that “a group of four girls travelling through Africa in an old Volvo station wagon” can take on the task without assistance.

“We love the idea that it is just going to be four girls in a car with little help from anyone else. The rally operates on the principle that they are not there to look after you until you reach the checkpoint. We want to show that women can do these things by themselves if they want or have to. We will change our own tyres, fix our blown headlights and find our own way to the final checkpoint,” said the Neighbour Hooligans.

The team consists of two current Wits students, Robyn van Jaarsveld, MA Media Studies and Sarah Findlay, Environmental Studies and two Wits alumni, Debbie Haselau and Karselle Moodley.

The 17-day rally will include teams travelling from Jo’burg and Cape Town to the first checkpoint in Etosha Park in Namibia. From there the Neighbour Hooligans will travel through Windhoek, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Victoria Falls in Zambia, Lake Malawi, Inhambane in Mozambique and finally Manzini in Swaziland.

The team does have some worries as they embark on their great adventure.

“Our main concerns are about the amount of distance we will have to get through each day and how many of the things we want to see we will have to leave out. We are also a little concerned as to whether the car will make it all the way without breaking down.”

Neighbour Hooligans is in the process of raising money for their trip by looking for donors and hosting events.

To find out more, visit www.neighbour-hooligans.blogspot.com or http://www.facebook.com/NeighbourHooligans

Published in Wits Vuvuzela, 12th edition, 2nd May 2012

World Press Freedom Day

As the world celebrates the right to a free press, it is important to highlight where information is yet to be free, and where press freedom continues to be challenged


Historic conviction “a powerful message” to African dictators

Photo: AP Images

Charles Taylor has been successfully convicted for his war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today.

Taylor (64)has been fighting the 11 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes since he was indicted in 2003, and the conviction today has many human-rights groups excited for the warning it sends to other African dictators.

“Taylor’s conviction sends a powerful message that even those in the highest level positions can be held to account for grave crimes,” said Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch

Taylor is the first African leader to be tried under the ICC, and the first head of state to be successfully tried by an international court since the Nuremburg trials after World War Two. He pled not-guilty to the charges.

The former president of Liberia supported rebels groups in neighbouring Sierra Leone during their civil war, in exchange for access to their natural resources, including diamonds. The war started in 1991 and ended in 2002.

Taylor provided “sustained and significant” support, said Presiding Judge Richard Lussick. This included providing arms and ammunition to rebels as well as communication equipment. The rebels were responsible for extensive crimes against humanity including mass rape, the use of child soldiers and enslavement.

Taylor will serve his sentence in Britain. The length of his imprisonment will be determined two weeks after his sentencing on May 16.