A confiscation of livelihood

Luyanda Majija’s first feature for Wits Vuvuzela tells the story of Johannesburg hawkers’ struggle to make a living against the JMPD’s duty to enforce the law.

Police patrol the streets of Johannesburg. Pic: Marcello Casal Jr/ABr

Nkhangweleni Nemakonde’s day started off the way it usually did. He woke up at 3am, and instead of heading to his stall to start working at 4.50am, he went straight to the market to stock up on mangoes because he had run out unexpectedly.

He arrived from the market with 30 boxes of mangoes, each worth R48, and put them next to his stall.

An hour later he left the stall under the watchful eye of his assistant to run a few errands. On his return, in place of his fresh mangoes was a ticket from the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD).

This ticket said that he was in violation of a Johannesburg municipality by-law and was to pay R1000 to claim his stock from the JMPD compound.

The mangoes were worth more than the fine, he organised money and went to pick up them up. But they seemed to have disappeared.


“JMPD officers can confiscate hawkers’ stock for which they issue tickets used to collect their goods from the impound”


The Johannesburg municipality has devised several by-laws concerning informal traders (hawkers) which regulate such factors as designated trading areas as well as environmental health and safety.

In terms of designated trading areas, hawkers are either allocated standardised stalls provided by the city or designated blocks marked by painted lines. Hawkers are also provided with trading permits as proof of their legality.

The JMPD has a unit whose mandate is to enforce the city’s informal trading by-laws against hawkers trading illegally. The offences range from designated area violations to the trading of counterfeit goods (punishable by imprisonment). In the event that any of these laws are violated, JMPD officers can confiscate hawkers’ stock for which they issue tickets used to collect their goods from the impound.


“JMPD carries out raids at 6am, 11am and 2pm every day”


JMPD Superintendent Zed Mangaliso explained that the situation was more complex than just confiscations of hawkers’ goods however. “The main problem is that there are parts of town designated for hawkers but there are just too many people wanting to sell in the same parts of town and there are not enough designated spots,” said Mangaliso said.

He stressed that the laws were meant to deal with the congestion of hawkers on the pavements in the inner city not to harass them.

An aerial view of Johannesburg. Pic: Lars Haefner

According to Mangaliso the JMPD carries out raids at 6am, 11am and 2pm every day and the fines issued are determined by the municipality: R1060 for perishables and R2115 for non-perishables.

“We are merely doing our jobs”, said Mangaliso.


“They believe metro police operate under their own rule of law”


JMPD claim to be doing their “job” however hawkers see things differently. That may be the law but they believe metro police operate under their own rule of law.

Nemakonde has a stall and a permit that he received in 2005 yet his mangoes worth close to R2000 were confiscated and never recovered. He believes they were stolen by JMPD officers.

“They took my mangoes home to feed their children while I am struggling to feed mine.”

After Nemakonde made several complaints, he was advised by JMPD administration to lay a complaint with the police. “But all they [police] told me was that I couldn’t open a case against other police.”

“So I lost about R2000 that day, money I don’t have.”

At 2pm on one Friday a JMPD raid was set to happen. A convoy of four JMPD cars carrying a team of about 15 officers left for the Park station area with a mandate to confiscate the perishable stock of hawkers trading illegally.

As the first car, a small Ford, entered the area traders looked around them, alert with anticipation. In what seemed like a few seconds, this turned into panic as the two Quantum mini buses, followed by the truck, entered the target area. As soon as the officers jumped out of the cars, hawkers knew seemed to know exactly what to do.

They grabbed whatever they could and ran to try hiding it. One hawker who sold his tomatoes and onions from a trolley just pushed his trolley as he ran. In all the chaos, he was unable to outrun the two officers who grabbed his trolley and lifted it onto the truck effortlessly.

He like several others, was not issued a receipt. The few that were did not bother taking them saying there was no point of paying R1060 to get back stock worth less than that amount and by the time they gather the amount their fruit would have perished in the JMPD storage rooms.

Watch a video showing a JMPD raid:


The JMPD have been accused of confiscating hawkers’ goods without issuing receipts or their goods “disappearing” from storage. In May this year The New Age reported that the South African National Trader’s Retail Alliance (Santra) was applying to the High Court for an interdict preventing JMPD officers from confiscating hawkers’ goods.  This followed allegations of theft by the JMPD. There were incidents where no receipts were issued to hawkers resulting in them not recovering their goods.


Moratorium on confiscations – Law Review Project


Tebogo Sewapa, a legal researcher from the NGO involved in the court application, Law Review Project, said JMPD raids were a violation of human rights. Sewapa and his team who are representing Nemakonde and others have requested a moratorium on these confiscations.

One of the reasons for this moratorium was what they said was an inhumane nature of punishment leading to “the poor losing their only possessions”.

They also mention that cases where hawkers’ goods are never recovered serve as evidence of corruption in the JMPD. In addition, the cost of getting back their confiscated goods is often higher than the value of the goods taken making the process theft from the hawkers by the city.

Legally, they said the raiding process was unconstitutional for hawkers mainly because when their goods are essentially being punished before they can defend themselves in a court of law.

“We want the High Court to declare that the by-law that gives metro police rights to confiscate traders’ goods without following the due process of the law, that by-law has to be declared to be not in line with the constitution,” Sewapa said.


Hawkers in Pretoria


It is not just hawkers working in Johannesburg experiencing such challenges.

News24 reported that hundreds of hawkers in Pretoria went up in arms in during several protests in August this year alleging that they were harassed by the metropolitan police there.

An article in The New Age about the same protest cited the protesting hawkers’ spokesperson saying officers were harassing them by confiscating their wares and trading permits without valid reasons.

To explain the confiscation process, Mangaliso stated that perishable goods stored at the JMPD compound were kept for a maximum of three days and if they were unclaimed at the R1060 fee they were donated to NGOs. He said this might be why some hawkers’ goods might be removed from the compound before they claim them hence the allegations of “disappeared” goods.


“It hurts because I am not breaking the law”


While Sewapa and his colleagues continue in talks with the municipality, the raids continue three times a day – every day affecting the lives of hawkers like Nemakonde and their families.

“The JMPD really harasses us. It hurts because I am not breaking the law I have a permit to trade but they still take my stock,” said Nemakonde while organising his fruit.

“I don’t make a lot of money to begin with, I live from hand to mouth … when they take our stock and leave us with high fines it doesn’t make sense.”

Despite the challenges he has faced with the JMPD, he still has the dedication of the 21year old he was when he started selling fruit at this very spot on Bree Street in 1988. His motivation is his three children, wife, sister and mother who all depend on the fruit that he sells.

He says he has not once made demands on the government for handouts – all he wants is justice served for him and others like him – people making an honest living.

See the map below for the location of Bree Street in Johannesburg

View Larger Map

Nemakonde will continue to start his days when he wakes up at 3am, arriving at his stall at 4:50am to start selling to his earliest customers.

He only packs up to go home at 7:30pm all the while hoping he will not be a victim of any of the three raids to take place each day  – and that he would have sold almost all if not his entire stock.


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Pills for pressure

The academic pressure at medical school has driven many students to use the stimulant Ritalin in an effort to keep up with their studies, especially as the year comes to an end.

Mainly used as treatment for people suffering from attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Ritalin (also known as vitamin-R) is often used illegally by students to increase their level of concentration and enable them to study for longer periods of time.

Like other stimulants, Ritalin works by increasing levels of dopamine exciting the brain and body, which enhances one’s level of activity, while reducing fatigue.

Because of this, 4th year medical student Thulane Ndaba is taking the pills to cope with exams at the end of each six-week block.

When he first got to medical school, Ndaba read an article in Wits Vuvuzela about students using Ritalin. It was only this year he considered using Ritalin after hearing rumours that some of his classmates were taking it.

Ndaba said he knew six people who were on Ritalin. “I found out that one of my friends had been using it since 2nd year,” he said.

Sandra Khubeka has been using the pills since 2nd year. Her father is a doctor and gives her repeat prescriptions which she shares with Ndaba and other friends. Khubeka said the reason her father still prescribed her these pills was he was not willing to risk her failing a year and him wasting money for fees.

Although Ritalin helped Ndaba concentrate for long hours while studying, he could not sleep one night taking an overdose of 30mg, instead of the usual 10mg dose. He felt very anxious and “fidgety” during his exam the following day and had a “mind block”.

Some of the side effects of Ritalin are anxiety, anaemia and sleep complications.

*Pseudonyms have been used for students.

Visit http://www.africanews.com/site/list_message/11297 to read the story published by Vuvuzela on the same subject in 2008.

After this story was published we received an email from a grade 12 learner wanting to know how to get the pills.

High first year commerce maths failure rate

About 40 percent first-year commerce students have to de-register from their second semester maths component because they failed the first semester component.

The computational maths failure rate has been relatively high over the past few years. Last year, 370 students failed the same course according to course co-ordinator, Karin Hunt.

Out of the 361 students who failed computational maths in first semester this year, 105 did not qualify even to write the June exam because they did not meet the “satisfactory requirements” for the course.

In February, 839 were registered for the course. By May, eight had deregistered. At the end of the first semester, 708 students wrote the exam and 478 passed.

A student who fails computational maths cannot do business statistics in the same year. That student has to do statistics the following year although which should not lengthen the duration of their degree unless they fail other courses.

Hunt said a first year commerce student usually has three other majors to concentrate on that require a lot of attention.

Accounting student Nothando Kunene failed economics and maths and has de-registered from second semester components of both courses.

Kunene said when she realised she failed, she felt disheartened and disappointed especially because she matriculated from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy with six distinctions.

“When I came to Wits with six As I was sure I’d do fairly okay here at Wits. I did not expect to fail the way that I’m failing right now,” Kunene said. She said she knew it would be a challenge but did not expect to be “set back”.

Although she worries about the consequences of her academic progress on her bursary, she hopes to improve her performance.

Hunt said it is difficult to blame the high failure rate on isolated factors because each case is specific. Nonetheless, in general, many students are overwhelmed by the transition from high school to university. “It’s just so different from school,” said Hunt.

An academic paper Hunt co-authored with Wits colleagues showed that maths is an important indicator of students’ university academic success especially in commerce-related courses like accounting.

But even though more students are passing matric maths and qualifying for university, the current maths the university failure rate is generally higher than that of former higher grade students.

Hunt said a matriculant can get an A for maths exam but not have answered all its sections making maths an unreliable indicator of their university competence. Because they qualify for university, lecturers get the impression that they are prepared for university maths and know how to cope in first year.

Faculty registrar, Marike Bosman, said the faculty was dealing with many cases of mid-year de-registrations which she could attribute to factors such as financial problems.

The faculty provides enough academic support for students mainly in the form of additional tutorials according to Bosman.

Kunene however said that these “drop-in” tutorials at lunch were not helpful because there were only two or three tutors assisting many students.

“Often the rooms are full and not all of us can fit into the two rooms.”

Published in 17th edition of Vuvuzela


Home ground disadvantage for basketball women

The Wits women’s basketball first team lost to the University of Johannesburg in Hall 29 on the weekend leaving them with one more chance to qualify for a place in a national tournament.

If they are to participate in the University Sport South Africa (USSA) tournament, the Wits Lady Bucks will have to win their last qualifying game. The women’s first team is one of four Wits basketball teams hoping to take part in the national tournament, which starts in Port Elizabeth in July.

The game against UJ was competitive from the first sound of the buzzer and both teams showed determination to shoot baskets and defend their territory.

Compared to Wits, UJ showed strength in their offensive play. They had more successful shots, resulting in a 23-13 lead by the eight minute of the game.

Wits’ coach Willie Matlakala said: “We started the game very well defensively and managed to restrict UJ scoring a lot in the first quarter.”

In the second quarter, the Lady Bucks made several mistakes and didn’t get back to defence quickly enough to prevent UJ from entering the lay-up lane. That also made it harder for Wits to catch up. UJ led 50-18 at the end of second quarter.

Matlakala said Wits lacked confidence on offense as they were “throwing the ball and not looking” when they made attempts to score.

The third quarter saw UJ increase their control of the game where they were shooting baskets and catching rebounds if they missed shots. Wits tried to stay in the game despite them having fewer substitutes as several players were injured from previous games.

The score at this point in the game was 67-30 in favour of UJ.

UJ acting captain Rachel Makoni said both teams played aggressively and that her team ran well during the game but could improve on their offense and defence.

By the end of the fourth quarter, the score was 82-44.

Matlakala said: “UJ played well and organised the whole game and deserve the win … We have to work on finishing close to the basket, as we created a lot of scoring opportunities but did not convert them.”

Mother’s day for a Witsie

In celebration of Mother’s day, Wits Vuvuzela  spoke to Thandeka Khoza, a biochemistry PhD student and mother of two boys. Her sons, Sakhanya (6) and Lethokuhle (4) are her inspiration. She said she wanted to be a mom to her sons withough compromising her studies and although the demands of her studies took their toll when coupled with her role as a mom, she said the two roles in her life complimented one another. For instance, her studies helped her to enforce rules such as bedtime which she says is always at 19h30 because that is when she has to start studying and her boys had to comply.

“Sometimes I think about how things could have been different for them if I was working fulltime, I feel like they wouldn’t be deprived of some of life’s pleasures (financially)…but my husband is very supportive in this,” said Khoza.

Khoza also mentioned that some of the disadvantages of being a PhD student in her field and a mom included the fact that she had to make her way home at 17h30 each day which means that she sometimes has to leave the lab before she could observe certain results from her experiments, which often delayed the process.

Khoza has completed her experimental work and is working on her write-up after which she will graduate with her PhD.


PhD student mom: Thandeka Khoza, a biochemistry PhD student who is a mom of two boys, Sakhanya (6) and Lethokuhle (4).



The Wits basketball blues

The Wits basketball ladies’ first team lost to the University of Pretoria (Tuks) in Hall 29, on Sunday April 15, in a Gauteng qualifier for a place in a national tournament.

If they are to participate in the University Sport South Africa (USSA) tournament, they will have to win both their upcoming qualifiers. The ladies’ first team is one of four Wits basketball teams attempting to take part in the national tournament, which starts on July 2 in Port Elizabeth.

The women started off well in the first quarter with some good offensive play. They took their opportunities to charge into the free throw lane which often resulted in successful lay-ups.

Although both teams were closely matched, Wits led at the end of the first quarter with 13 points to 10. Similar patterns of play were seen in the second and third quarters, in which Wits’ attacks on the Tuks defence gave them an advantage.

Witsie shooting guards, Fortunate Bosega and Modiegi Mokoka, played key roles in the game. Both made several attempts, most successful, at shooting three pointers and lay-ups. As a result, Tuks tightened their defence during the second and third quarter.

Tuks increased their pace, making it difficult for Wits to score easily toward the end of the third quarter. They also executed some fast breaks, which put Wits under pressure to improve their defence.

The fourth quarter saw Tuks take the lead by 53 points to 50. From then, the gap broadened rapidly and the final score was a 70-56 victory for Tuks.

Wits captain Xoli Mahlangu said her team was doing well until they relaxed. “We need to add defence to stop fast breaks from Tuks and help each other in offense.”

Wits “lost it” when Tuks played man-to-man defence and weren’t screening for team mates, she added.

Tuks key player Natalie Pike said the game was very competitive and that Wits was always a tough team to play against.

“We had a good game, but we had to work hard for it,” Pike said. However, she admitted that Tuks needed to “get fit”, which would improve their performance.

Wits coach Terry Nxumalo, said the Wits ladies played well in the first 30 minutes as they led for most of the game, but “lost their composure” towards the end where they made several turnovers.




Do Witsies love life?

Lovelife, a national HIV prevention initiative, has launched a series of television adverts called Nakanjani reflecting different aspects of HIV and Aids in South African communities.

Botha Swarts, national head of broadcasting for Lovelife, said: “It [the campaign] encapsulates a sense of resilience and creativity in the face of life challenges.”

Swarts also said the adverts were unusual in that they had no “clutter”. They are simple with no voice-overs and images are black and white. These features, he said, gave the viewer the chance to “experience the emotion and situations the characters in the adverts find themselves in”.

“We believe that it [Nakanjani] will provoke a thought process among our target audience,” said Swarts.

Nakanjani features three Public Service Announcements (PSA) that have different but related themes.

These PSAs feature young people as main characters and demonstrate different situations that youth from various communities and ethnic backgrounds find themselves in and the decisions they take as a way forward in each situation.

The first PSA addressed fears of testing summed up by its tagline: “I challenge my fears-NAKANJANI”.

One of the aims of the campaign is to teach the youth about safe sex and also to motivate them on a way forward should they find themselves in situations where they are infected or affected by HIV/Aids.

Nakanjani, which is also the tagline for each PSA, is slang for Nomakanjani, an isiZulu term that encourages one to persevere through difficult circumstances.

The viewers are also exposed to diversity in ethnicity of the characters which brings to the fore the issue that HIV and Aids isn’t exclusive in who it affects.

Although Nakanjani is aimed at educating the youth as a whole, it does not fully portray the lives of ordinary South Africans where HIV and Aids is concerned according to Wits health sociologist Prof David Dickson.

“Those running campaigns are by definition educated and are socially distant from the majority of the South African population,” said Dickson.

He said that in his experience in marketing research, these campaigns often fail to “fully grasp the cultural dynamics, belief systems, and social context of the majority of South Africans” existing in different communities, the Wits community included.

The second and third PSAs will be aired from April to June and July to September, respectively.



The fear of testing: This PSA showcases a young man who is fearful of the testing process. It focuses on the fear of fear as opposed to the fear due to knowing that you had unprotected sex. Through this PSA Lovelife challenges young people to face their fears no matter what (Nakanjani). Pay-off line: I challenge my fears - NAKANJANI . See video at http://youtu.be/CdUyFAhS_j8



Child headed Household: The second PSA focuses on a young woman who finds herself having to take care of her siblings (child headed household). Not that she’s asked for the responsibility or is even ready for it. The PSA shows her struggling in poverty, doing her best to make sure her brother and sister are taken care of. A situation which many a young person finds overwhelming to such an extent that they give up on their own life. The PSA shows the character have her Nakanjani moment…puts on her school uniform and goes to school. She takes charge of her own destiny no matter what her circumstances Pay-off line: I am in charge of my destiny – NAKANJANI . See video at http://youtu.be/_rxX07v1uB8


Lack of access to opportunities:This PSA showcases the reality of the lack of opportunity in South Africa. It shows a young man looking for employment after he has finished matric. Looking for odd jobs, he gets turned away with each attempt. One can see him having his Nakanjani moment, where despite the fact that he has been unsuccessful, he gets up and tries again. Pay-off line: I won’t give up - NAKANJANI. Video to be flighted in July 2012.


Swazi crisis hits students

The growing financial crisis in Africa’s only absolute monarchy, Swaziland, is costing Swazi Wits students their education.

About 90 percent of Swazi students at Wits are being sponsored by the government according to the chairman of the Swaziland Students’ Society, Mcondisi Dlamini.

Dlamini said he was handling complaints from several Swazi students who were concerned about their funding which has not been a problem in past years.

None of the Swazi students on scholarship has had any of their study material or allowance money paid to them since they started classes this year.

The Swazi government is committed to paying for tuition, accommodation, study material and a food allowance for students on scholarship.

“Whatever decisions are made that side in Swaziland affects students in such a bad way … they’ve been here since February, some January [medical students], and they haven’t gotten anything up to this point,” Dlamini said. He said he started classes in January and because he hasn’t received his allowance, he hasn’t been able to buy “a single book”.

Dlamini felt government funding went beyond paying their fees. By not giving them money to buy books, they were sending the message that it is “ok for them to fail”. In effect this would not benefit the already struggling economy as the money previously paid towards their fees would be “wasted”.

According to a Wits economist the financial crisis can be attributed to reduced revenue from imports and exports. Christopher Malikane said Swaziland “survives on import duties”. He said the country has no diversified economy and its tax base is small.

 Published in Vuvuzela Print Edition, 13 April 2012

The young and the hairless

Balding or the loss of hair, which has always been a condition associated with men in their 30s or older, is starting to affect men barely in their 20s.

According to one of the leading hair loss specialists in South Africa, Dr Kevin Alexander (http://www.hairloss.co.za/dra.html), one reason for this increased incidence of hair loss among younger men, is the fact that there are increased stresses placed on these men in today’s society.

Brendan Roane, a 25-year-old former Wits student started losing his hair about 4 years ago and it has gotten worse. He hasn’t bothered with treatment: “there’s not much you can do about it, unless you get surgery which I’m not keen on”. When he consulted his doctor, he said “you’re screwed”.

Male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss in men. It is characterised by a patterned hair loss which starts above one’s temples. This condition can start developing any time after puberty which is when blood levels of the hormone testosterone increase.

Image showing an example of male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia. Source http://www.regrowlostheadhair.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/head.jpg

Alexander said he saw negative implications in hair loss among his young patients. He said it was “psychologically devastating” for them.  “They lose confidence since baldness can make you look 10-20 years older…they become the butt of jokes.” There are negative impacts for them socially and in the workplace.

A 22-year-old Wits student who wanted to remain anonymous said he started noticing his receding hairline when he was 15. He wanted to have dreadlocks but couldn’t because of his hair loss. After trying different products such a creams and sprays, he has resorted to shaving all of his hair off to hide his condition.

“Losing my hair made me seem old so I just started shaving my hair every second day,” he said.

Although his hair loss had affected him negatively in the past, his confidence has improved because his “chiskop” has given him a unique identity.


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Know your toilet signs?

Walking around campus, I’ve noticed how different some of the toilet signs are.

What caught my eye the most was the difference in female toilet signs where some wore longer “dresses” than others and some had hair while others didn’t. For instance, a toilet in Central Block had a female figure that “wore” a short flared dress but was bald. At the Matrix, the figure I noticed wore a longer dress.

The male toilet signs were fascinating in that some had their legs spread apart and others not. One unique male sign was of a figure with what looks like “hair”.

Two of my favourite signs have to be those at the postgraduate pub (PIG) on east campus which are sculptures labelled sows (for ladies) and boars (for males).

In defense of the PIG, at least their signs were labelled. The only problem would be whether or not one knows what  sows and boars are.

Another interesting sight were the signs at the Wits museum in University corner. They fascinated me because the drawings on pieces of paper were of box-like figures. The female toilet sign has one breast protruding from its body. This sign was different to the male sign which has what looks like a penis coming out of its body.

I wondered if people ever got confused by the drawings since there was no label. In my experience, when a person needs to relieve themselves urgently, there is nothing more frustrating than figuring out which toilet they’re allowed to use.

Photo essay by: Luyanda Majija

A sign showing the direction to go for the ladies toilets at the Oppenheimer Life Sciences building; with the light reflecting off of the sign, it looks almost inviting.

This sign, found at the Matrix indicates the direction one should go for both male and female toilets.

A sign also showing where some of the toilets in Central Block are. This sign is different to the previous one because it just shows you where the male toilets are; there's a separate sign for female toilets.


A replica of the previous sign made to show the ladies and people with disabilities where they're toilets are in Central Block.










This sign also includes a figure showing that toilets for the disabled are in the same area as the male's. The male figure's legs are spread apart quite a bit.

This male figure at the Matrix has his arms and legs close to his body and has broad shoulder.The female sign at the same toilets also has "her" limbs close together and broad shoulders.


























The female sign at the same toilets also has "her" limbs close together and broad shoulders.


This female figure in Central Block is wearing a short flared skirt and has her arms behind her back.


















This female figure also found at the Wits Museum doesn't have arms on her body.


These signs were placed on a toilet door (outside University Corner) next to one another which makes one wonder if the toilet is unisex. The female's dress is longer than the other figures.















The male figure engraved "boars" at the PIG.











The female figure at the PIG (engraved 'sows').

The male toilet figure at the Wits Museum male toilets with what looks like a penis drawn on the body.

The drawing on the female toilet door at the Wits Museum which shows what looks like a breast protruding from her body.

Another male figure at the Matrix that looks like it has "hair".

Toilet sign of female figure that looks like she has hair and her head is not separated from her neck. She looks like she has one leg, she has a figure and her arms are not too close to her body.

Smart Moves

The Wits Counselling and Careers Development Unit hosted a campaign (Smart Moves) across Wits campuses encouraging students to make “smart moves” about sex, alcohol, gender equality and cultural diversity. The launch of the campaign involved students placing stickers on labels representing issues they are most concerned.

Do you think you’re cool? (video)


Do you think you’re cool? Vuvuzela spoke to some keen Witsies to ask about their definition of ‘coolness’, and what makes them cool. Click on the video below to view their responses.