OBITUARY: Nelson Mandela

Mandela banner2Nelson Mandela has died.

South Africa’s first democratic president and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate passed away last night at 20:50 at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg at the age of 95.

Madiba, or Tata as he is affectionately known by many South Africans, had been treated for a recurring lung infection since June.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 at Mvezo, a small village in the former Transkei.


He attended the Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape and then ran away to Johannesburg in 1941 to escape an arranged marriage. While in Johannesburg Mandela obtained his BA degree through correspondence university and then enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand for a Law degree. Mandela was the only African student in the Law faculty at the time. In 1944 he, along with notable figures and activists such as Oliver Tambo, William Nkomo and Peter Mda formed the ANC Youth League.

He, along with his life-long friend Oliver Tambo opened the first black law firm in South Africa, called Mandela and Tambo in 1952.

During his time as a political activist fighting against the injustices and cruelties of the apartheid system, Mandela was banned, arrested several times and sentenced to imprisonment for acts such as treason, leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike. [pullquote align=”right”] “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity”[/pullquote]

Rivonia Trial

Mandela was tried for sabotage in 1963 in the trial that became known as the Rivonia Trial. In his mitigation speech in 1962 Mandela said on the liberation, “If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man”.

In 1964 he was sentenced to life, along with Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and others were  sent to Robben Island Prison. Mandela served 27 years in prison, serving most of the time on Robben Island, before he was released on 11 February 1990.

Road to Democracy 

In 1991 he was elected as the new ANC president and voted for the first time in his life on 27 April 1994. Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black and democratically elected president on 10 May 1994. He only served one term as president but continued with his humanitarian activities and his vision of South Africa’s rainbow nation.

“Madiba”, as he is/was known by his clan name, had received almost 700 awards, including honorary awards. Many institutions, street names and foundations have been named after the peace icon.

Honouring an icon

Mandela’s funeral is expected to be attended by state leaders and other global icons. Before the burial his coffin will lie at the Union Buildings in Pretoria for the next ten days where the public can pay their respects and say their final goodbyes to their “Tata”, the father of many nations. Thereafter he will be laid to rest in Qunu, his home town in the Eastern Cape.

Mandela is survived by his wife Graca Machel,  his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, six children, 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Mandela himself regarded death as an inevitability and said in 1994 that “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity”.

But his thoughts on life at the 90th celebration of Walter Sisulu in 2002 were: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”.

Witsies celebrate 2013 Nobel Prize

Prof Bruce Mellado from the High Energy Physics group at Wits displays the processing unit the group is building for a new super computer. Photo: Mia Swart

Prof Bruce Mellado who is one of the lead physicists with HEP, a project at Wits University that contributes to the Atlas project. Photo: Mia Swart

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded today to physicists François Englert, 80 (Belgium) and Peter Higgs, 84 (Britain), “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles.”

Known as the Higgs Boson particle, the work of these two physicists was confirmed by discoveries made during the Atlas experiment at CERN’sLarge Hadron Collider.

Wits University is today celebrating the achievement of the Nobel Prize as a team of Witsies are regular and significant contributors to the Atlas project.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, Professor Bruce Mellado said: “It’s an accolade for everyone involved and it’s great that a few strong people in South Africa had contributed.

Together with Dr Trevor Vickey and Dr Oana Boeriu, Mellado leads a team of Wits staff, students and post-doctoral scholars at the High Energy Physics Group (HEP), in the School of Physics who directly contribute to the work associated with the Nobel Prize winners.

Mellado said that it’s good that the theorists who proposed the mechanism received the Nobel Prize and that the scientific community acknowledged the greatness of the discovery.

“In the end we want to have South Africa make a strong contribution to future accelerators and experiments to explore the Higgs Boson.”

Higgs and Englert share the prize money of 8m Swedish kronor (about R12,5 million) for their theoretical discovery made almost 50 years ago.

Earlier today Wits University released a statement indicating that the lead physicists were available for comment:

Dr Trevor Vickey at or on 27 11 717 6884 or 072 966 0617

Professor Bruce Mellado on on 27 11 717 6889 or 061 303 2579

Dr Oana Boeriu on on 27 11 717 6885 or 072 971 6333



‘Wapad’ wheels on the roll again

The editor of Wapad, the student paper of the North West University’s Potchefstroom campus is happy that the newspaper will soon be back in business.

But Kevin du Plessis, Wapad editor said: “We have many things to sort out in the coming weeks to protect Wapad’s independence for coming generations of student journalists.”

The paper’s journalists already had many discussions underway about the paper’s independence thanks to the support they received from their Communications lecturers.

Du Plessis said the social media response and its role with regard to the newspaper’s reinstatement was their “saviour”. “The word got out so quickly and it served as a great platform for discussion.”

[pullquote align=”right”]“the right of a student newspaper to appear without editorial interference was emphasised by campus management”[/pullquote]

Beeld newspaper reported on Wednesday that the campus’s marketing and communications department announced the newspaper would appear again on October 10.

Pukke spokesman Johan van Zyl said about R 40 000 of the advertising fees were collected. The outstanding debt would be settled by campus management to ensure that the next editorial team do not start their year in debt.

Van Zyl said management decided that Wapad could be published again because some of the money had been collected.

Last week media reported that the Pukke’s marketing and communication department told Du Plessis that neither a printed edition nor an online edition of Wapad would be allowed for the rest of the year, until almost R80 000 in outstanding advertising fees were collected.

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to Du Plessis who said the decision to ban the newspaper was a plan to control the newspaper’s content to ensure it upholds the university’s reputation and that it was a plan to control media distributed on campus.

Beeld reported that Van Zyl said the newspaper’s expenses must be sustained by advertising income and “the right of a student newspaper to appear without editorial interference was emphasised by campus management as well as the fact that any newspaper can appear with a sustainable income.”


UCT blogger “exposed”

CORRECTION: The statements of Qamran Tabo were taken from a report compiled by Kieran Duggan, David Horscroft, and Ben Steenhuisen. In an email to Wits Vuvuzela Tabo claims that quotes attributed to her in the report were based on hearsay. Wits Vuvuzela would like to emphasise that it did not speak with Tabo directly and apologises if this was in any way implied in the article.


A current University of Cape Town student has been exposed as the alleged administrator of the controversial UCT Exposed blog which published academic grades, private information and correspondence of UCT students.

Pabie Tabo, also known as Qamran Tabo, is thought to be the originator of the blog and facebook page. Earlier this year, Tabo was embroiled in controversy for an articke in the UCT student newspaper called ‘the most attractive race poll’.

A report detailing her alleged involvement in the blog was compiled by UCT students Kieran Duggan and David Horscroft, as well as former UCT Computer Science employee Ben Steenhuisen. They wrote that the blog “publically name[d] and shame[d] people based on their marks or dress sense, accused UCT members of racism, and sexually objectified other UCT students”. It caused emotional distress to several of the blog’s targets, one of whom talked of suicide.

The “honeypot”

Duggan, Horscroft and Steenhuisen investigated the site by contacting the site’s administrator, named as “John Smith”. They shared a link hosted on their own server, which promised “juicy information” if clicked on.

From this link, known as a trap or “honeypot”, they were able to determine the geographical position of the computer used by the administrator when “he” accessed the link. They traced it back to a computer in UCT’s Computer Sciences building. During the time the link was accessed, the computer was logged into the UCT profile of Qamran Tabo.

Tabo responded to the report by denying any association with the blog. She alleged that a third party accessed her UCT login profile to publish information. “I let someone use my PC in the lab on Friday. It was after a Maths test and I even have an alibi.”

The researchers who compiled the report said it would be “relatively easy for UCT investigators to confirm or deny whether or not it was Tabo who accessed her UCT profile from the computer lab in question by reviewing security camera footage”.

Earlier in the year Tabo conducted a poll with the stated purpose of discovering which race was most attractive to UCT students looking for love. In an article, called Is love colour-blind?, she claimed the poll found Caucasians to be most attractive to other races.

Witsies contribute to Atlas project

Prof Bruce Mellado from the High Energy Physics group at Wits displays the processing unit the group is building for a new super computer. Photo: Mia Swart

Prof Bruce Mellado from the High Energy Physics group at Wits displays the processing unit the group is building for a new super computer. Photo: Mia Swart

A Witsie’s design of a high voltage board for the European Organisation of Nuclear Research (CERN) is just one part of a number of international projects that Wits scientists are currently part of.PhD candidate Robert Reed designed and built the prototype of the board for the mobile MobiDICK system that checks the integrity of the Atlas detector. The board was the first piece of hardware for CERN designed in South Africa.

The High Energy Physics Group (HEP)at Wits are working on a wide range of projects with different sciences to revamp the scientific ground, said Prof Bruce Mellado, a member of the HEP.  And Wits is not only planning to contribute to science but to help South Africa manufacture technologies to boost the economy over the long term.

HEP was started in 2010 because Wits wanted to participate in CERN.

“Our contribution was thought of as something we had to do,” said Mellado.

Thirteen Wits students are currently working alongside staff members and associated staff on the HEP projects. The focus of the group though, is the Atlas project at CERN. The Atlas detector is a device  at CERN that detects and processes data from proton collisions inside the large hadron collider.  The collider is a facility built to test theories of particle physics and high-energy physics including the well-known Big Bang Theory.

“Students need to have passion for what we do”, said Prof Mellado. “We are able to attract people based on their hobbies”.

“A whole generation of students will be trained in electronics. We will bring the knowledge here and the knowledge will stay here”.

Another two HEP students are currently working on a new prototype of an LED board for the Atlas Project. Titus Masike, 3rd year Nuclear Sciences and Engineering is designing the new LED board and Reto Suter, BSc Physics will be responsible for the physical components.

“Think of it (the LED board) as a light bulb that emits a light and mimics an event in the Atlas detector.”

Masike joined HEP because he was interested in electronics and said the group allowed him to learn more about it. “It’s a very big step for Wits and for Africa especially. It brings new technology and skills to South Africa too.”

HEP is also in the process of developing a high-throughput supercomputer that can analyse a big flow of data.

The supercomputer will be the first of its kind in South Africa and the group aims to build the processing unit from chips found in smartphones.

Equality scholarships for ten new Witsies

WORKING TOGETHER: Habib discussing how 'we' can building a stronger university Photo: Ray Mahlaka

WORKING TOGETHER: Habib discusses how ‘we’ can build a stronger university
Photo: Ray Mahlaka

Wits plans to offer ten new scholarships to talented first year students.

The ‘Vice chancellor Equality Scholarships’ is the brainchild of Professor Adam Habib and will be presented to 10 students from the most marginalised schools.

The scholarship will be similar to the current merit scholarships that the university offers.

Habib said each the qualifying student would receive about R 100 000 in funding.

The students’ study fees and residence fees will be paid in full throughout their degree, as long as they attain a certain level of performance.

If the students pass their first year at the university, their second year will be paid as well. Habib said the rationale of the scholarship is that any university must be a home for talented students, whatever their degree.

“That’s a bloody good student”

“Our thing is, if you’re going to be a nationally responsible university, a university of this country, you must be able to make sure you have a home for poor people as much as you are a home for rich people. And that means you are taking talented students.”

Habib said it can’t be expected of a marginalised student or someone who comes from a marginalised school to compete on an equal footing with somebody from a private school, so Wits wants to equalise the playing field.

[pullquote align=”right”]You must be able to make sure you have a home for poor people as much as you are a home for rich people[/pullquote]

“If you have got five A’s or four A’s from a student who is in a school that does not even have laboratories, that’s a bloody good student.  And so they must be given a shot.” The scholarships will be an attempt on Wits’s part as a public institution to address inequality in society. Funds for the scholarships will come from Wits and donors.

Although 10 new scholarships are planned for future first years, Wits is also driving a new scholarship fund for postgraduate students. Habib said the idea for the postgraduate funds was similar to the idea for the equality scholarship funds, “to address the needs as a society”.

Wits currently has 9 800 postgraduate students, which is about 30% of the total student population.

VIDEO VOX: What are Witsies voting for?

By Mia Swart and Pheladi Sethusa

SRC elections officially began yesterday. A steady stream of students entered the tents set up on Main campus throughout the day. It was a different story at Education campus. Wits Vuvuzela went out in search of potential voters to find out what they were looking for from the new leadership they would help to elect.


Caught between gender roles


CHILDHOOD TRAUMA: ‘Sthe’ regresses to his unhappy childhood state.          Photo: Mia Swart

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA: ‘Sthe’ regresses to his unhappy childhood state. Photo: Mia Swart

By Thuletho Zwane and Mia Swart

Torn pieces of paper filled the stage. Crumpled clothing and ties surrounded wine and beer bottles.

Sithembiso Khalishwayo, simply known as ‘Sthe’, appears and screams in anger: “As a child, I thought like a child, I spoke as a child. As a child I spoke of ignorance, ignorance is bliss”.

Sthe crawls under a chair, places his hands over his ears and face, shakes and cries uncontrollably – yelling nursery rhymes in an attempt to shut out the voices in his head: “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb…Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall…”

Water Glasses covered in Packets of Salt is a physical theatre production, with elements of dance, about gender roles and sexuality. It asks if sex remains a sacred bond between two people, or if it has transformed into something that happens when it’s desired or taken by force, leaving a path of emptiness, guilt and fear.

“The play deals with sex. The idea of being a man, of being a female. What defines the roles of the mother figure and the father figure and how it affects the child?” said Sthe.

He wanted people to experience the same emotions he felt when he performed, he said. The play has a mixed bag of emotions – “emotions we as human beings don’t want to feel but we have to feel them at a certain point in time.”

Sthe said [pullquote align=”right”]The play came from a very personal space. It encapsulated his stories and stories of other people. “I wanted to show a side of me that I haven’t shown in a while, who I am, how I view the world.[/pullquote]

“If you want to see theatre at its core, people should come watch it. It is an emotional rollercoaster.”

Sthe is an actor, teacher, writer, dancer and choreographer who studied at the Wits School of Arts, majoring in physical theatre and performance.

The play is one of a series of plays in the Drama for Life Sex Actually festival, which will run from August 20 to 31 at the Wits Theatre. Water Glasses covered in Packets of Salt will be performed August 23 at 6pm and on August 29 at 1.15pm at the Wits Downstairs Theatre.

The spook wrote my matric

ACCUSED NUMBER 35: Elizabeth Mpofu displays the charge sheet that her accounting exam had an irregularity. Photo: Mia Swart

ACCUSED NUMBER 35: Elizabeth Mpofu displays the charge sheet
that her accounting exam had an irregularity. Photo: Mia Swart

By Nolwazi Mjwara and Mia Swart

A WITSIE is a year behind in her studies because her former school was involved in the first matricm exam fraud in the history of the Gauteng department of education (GDE) to involve ghost writers.

Elizabeth Mpofu, 2nd year LLB, was one of the “35 to 40” students who had irregularities in their final matric examinations. While she and the other students wrote their exams in good faith, their former schools had allegedly brought in other people to write exams under their names.

The two implicated schools, Robin Hood College and Vine College in the Johannesburg CBD, are private independent schools with the same director. Both receive larger government subsidies if their final matric pass rates are high.

[pullquote align=”right”]“Up until today we do not know what really happened to our original scripts, and the matter has been swept under the carpet for far too long now.”[/pullquote]

 Wits Vuvuzela was not able to obtain comment from the director of the two schools at the time of going to press. His cellphone message told callers that he was currently out of the country.

Not guilty

Mpofu wrote her matric in 2010 at Vine College and passed all her subjects -except for one.

“Well, when the results came out in 2011, I got the shock of my life. My accounting results had been blocked as a result of an irregularity I had allegedly committed.”

All the students affected by the fraud were initially called to face charges of irregularities before the GDE, but were found not guilty.

Mpofu was only permitted to rewrite her accounting exam at the end of 2011. She obtained a result of 79%.“Up until today we do not know what really happened to our original scripts, and the matter has been swept under the carpet for far too long now.”

Approached for comment, GDE spokesperson, Gershwin Chuenyane, said it had been recommended that the candidates’ marks be declared null and void and that the principal and all the educators from the two colleges be suspended from conducting any examination activities. The schools had to be de-registered as examination centres.

The GDE has taken over all examination activities and administration of the National Senior Certificate exams at the two colleges since 2011. But Chuenyane said the GDE could not institute charges against the principals and educators of Vine and Robin Hood Independent Schools because “they were not employed in terms of the Employment of Educators’ Act”.

Mpofu said: “I have since tried getting some legal advice from the Wits Law Clinic and I have been told that I can’t open a case without the final report of the investigation.”

Intimidated learners

Another former pupil affected by the fraud, Nonhlanhla Siwela, said she too had to wait an entire year to re-write her examination.

Siwela had two blocked subjects:physical science and life sciences.

The principal of the school in 2011, a “Mr Sibanda”, was present at her disciplinary hearing. “He told us to tell the board that the papers did belong to us. We all knew that they did not belong to us because the handwriting did not match our own.

“He also said that the department of education was racist and that they were jealous of the schools because they were private.”

Siwela said they were upset that the department had not told the former learners what action had been taken against the schools and their staff. They feared the evidence had been destroyed.

Another affected learner who studied at Vine College, Thabitha Ndlovu, discovered during the GDE’s investigation that three subjects, life sciences, physics and mathematics had been written for her. The ghost writers had passed the subjects with results of over 60%.

Transie Missions

Witsies use various modes of transport to travel to and from campus everyday. Some take 15 minute walks, while others have to travel for up to two hours. Wits Vuvuzela went out to bus stops, popular taxi pick up points, pedestrian crossings and trains stations to find out how the commute is for students and staff.

A day in the life 

Witsie Yusuf Bapeekee at the Braamfontein train station. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Witsie Yusuf Bapeekee at the Braamfontein train station. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Yusuf Bapeekee used to travel by motor bike when he lived in the West Rand near Kagiso. He recently moved to Mayfair and now walks daily to and from campus. [pullquote align=”right”]“I normally leave campus around 3.30, [but] because it’s Ramadan I leave around 1.15, after prayers.”[/pullquote]

“I never see anything out of the ordinary… just small school kids that walk free not scared. I see them and I feel free.”

Bapeekee said it took him “half hour tops” to make the commute. He said he left home at 7.15am. “I try to be early for my lectures”, he said as a smile grew across face.

“I normally leave campus around 3.30, [but] because it’s Ramadan I leave around 1.15, after prayers.”

Bapeekee said he enjoyed the walk. “It’s free to walk, plus it’s exercise.”

Asked about the crime associated with route around Enoch Sontonga Avenue, Bapeekee said:

“If I saw more students I’d feel even better.”

Walk on by 

Ntombi Mbatha carefully crosses the street. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Ntombi Mbatha carefully crosses the street. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

A short brisk walk is all it takes for Ntombi Mbatha, 1st year BHSc, to get to and from campus. She lives at a Southpoint building just two blocks away from campus.

Even though her journey is uncomplicated she nearly got hit by a taxi once. She said that experience has made her think more than twice before crossing the street now.

She is fascinated by the high school students she passes on her way because they remind her of her days as one of them.

Ntombi feels very safe walking in Braamfontein.

“I went downtown once and it was just such a mess, Braam is better,” she said.


Ngake Mukgowane rushing to catch his train home. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Ngake Mukgowane rushing to catch his train home. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

 Staff travels

Students aren’t the only ones who have to commute to and from Wits. Staff members also have their own transport missions.

Ngake Mukgowane is a Wits staff member who uses the train to commute.

He leaves his home in Dobsonville at 5.30am every morning and has to travel for about an hour and a half to reach Braamfontein station.

Mukgowane has been working at Wits for 18 years and has been a train commuter for most of those years.

He was in a rush to catch his 4pm train when Wits Vuvuzela reporters found him.

60 minute trip

John Malungani shows us how to call a taxi. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

John Malungani shows us how to call a taxi. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

John Malungani, 1st year BSc Com Sci,

has to commute for at least one hour a day to get to campus.

He says that he is more than willing to make the trip because of the good reputation that Wits has.

John lives in Tembisa. There is no taxi that comes straight from there to Wits, so he has to walk for another 15 minutes once he reaches Noord taxi rank.

He wishes he lived a little closer so that he could work and study till late on campus like other students.

“It’s hard travelling for two hours a day,” said Malungani.


Crooks get the shock treatment

Stun guns

SOLD: Victor Maluleke (left) convinces a customer that a pink stunt gun is for her. Photo: Mia Swart

Witsies, especially women students, are turning to tasers, or stunt guns, to protect themselves from criminals.

The stunt gun, being sold via social media, delivers “up to 2300KV (kilovolts)” of electricity in any one shot.

“You hold it against a person and it knocks them out for about 10 to 20 minutes,” said Victor Maluleke holding up the black, remote control size instrument, ready to give a demonstration.

Maluleke, a 4th year BAccSci student, started selling stunt guns and pepper-spray after a partner in his gadget supply business suggested adding the self-defence items to their offerings.

“It was a spark of genius from Simphiwe,” Maluleke said.

After about a half a year of trying out different suppliers and price models, building up a customer base and a marketing strategy on social media platform, Whats App, the sparks seem to have finally caught fire.

He is often asked about the legality of the stunt gun. Maluleka laughed: “It’s the first question most people ask.”

He said they went to the Crime Stop Shop in Benoni, east of Johannesburg and asked which products they could sell without a license, they found that the items were stunt guns and pepper spray.

Maluleke said once they were able to negotiate a deal to import the stunt guns in bulk and resell them at a lower price, sales really picked up.

“We sell them at R190. We give discounts to people who buy in groups and [to] referral purchases… We’ve sold about 150 since about April.”

The growing popularity of the stunt guns and pepper sprays come in the wake of recent crime surges at universities in Joburg.  In the past week, a University of Johannesburg (UJ) student was kidnapped on campus and tied up in the boot of her car. On Tuesday evening another UJ student was shot in chest in an attempted robbery.

[pullquote]Last week there was a mugging outside The Nunnery on Jan Smuts Avenue. It is only one of numerous cases of mugging and cellphone snatching[/pullquote] that have seen Wits join up with a private security company to patrol the areas around campus.

Students speak

When Wits Vuvuzela spoke to women students and asked them whether they owned self defence weapons, or were planning buying any, the answers varied.

1st year BSc (Biological Sciences) student Zoë Miller said she did not own any weapons, but that she would “scream and fight back” if attacked.

Fellow 1st year BSc Sandile Mkhize said owning a weapon was “dangerous because someone could use it against you”.

“If something [did] happen to me I would think about [owning a taser] but not now,” Mkhize said.

Nonjabulo Buthelezi, 2nd year Social Work has not been a victim of crime before, but bought the stunt guns because she wanted to protect herself.

“There were cases of robberies near Wits. I just want to take extra precaution.”

Heather Martens, 2nd year BA Fine Arts, said she had learnt to be aware of her surroundings, as well as basic self defence from a “woman’s perspective”, since taking up Tai Chi last year.

Martens said as a Fine Arts student she was required to walk around Braamfontein and the Johannesburg CBD.

Martens said the most she would consider buying was pepper spray.

“If you’re walking confidently, people will be wary of attacking you.”

Maluleke admitted the stunt guns and pepper spray he was selling were “not that popular yet”, as they were in the United States or Australia, or even in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.

“It’s not an ultimate solution but it gives you an option,” Maluleke said.