Most Wits eateries to remain affordable amid soaring food prices

The financial pressure on students at Wits will not come from what they eat this year, if buying exclusively from on-campus restaurants.

Food outlets at Wits University have maintained 2022’s prices despite a 12,4% increase in the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages over the last year, as noted by the Stats SA Consumer Price Index (CPI) report , released in January 2023. Kara Nichha’s, on Wits’ East campus sells various Indian foods, including samosas at R4.00 and a soya burger at R20.00. It remains one of the most affordable places to grab a meal on campus.

The latest Food Basket Price Monthly Report by the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) shows that the price of onions, an ingredient in some samosas, increased by 47% while sunflower oil prices increased by 28.1% year-on-year. Manager, Malvina Mogano, said that the restaurant’s strategy to keep prices low includes using soy instead of meat.

Generous servings keep students coming back to Kara Nicha’s. Photo: Mpho Hlakudi
A customer getting their daily fix. Photo: Mpho Hlakudi

Kutlwano Serame, a regular customer, said, “Kara Nichha’s is a good place for [buying food], especially when you want to introduce first years that are struggling financially, especially in terms of having access to food because you can literally come here for R20.00 and you’re sorted for lunch.”

At Wethu Coffee Shop, in Solomon Mahlangu House, directly sourcing from farms is how costs are kept low said café manager, Valentine Nomvuyo.

The coffee bar is open weekly from 7am to 5pm and serves coffee and hot meals. Food prices range from R15.00 for a date and raisin muffin to R55.00 for a lunch meal. Nomvuyo said their breakfast combo special, the americano coffee and breakfast wrap, which costs R48.50, is among their best-selling items.

However, according to the NAMC study, the price of white bread, the main ingredient of their toasted sandwich, has increased by 20,4% year-on-year. Thando Gasa, a regular customer at Wethu Coffee shop, said, “They have really nice wraps, and they are affordable.”

But Jimmy’s Varsity, with outlets on East and West campuses, has announced that their prices will go up in the middle of February. The eatery sells various Halaal foods, from their Original Kota at R19.00 to a Hot Chicks family meal at R199.

The restaurant’s West Campus manager, Sandile Simango, said they are forced to raise menu prices because of skyrocketing costs from their suppliers. “Prices are getting higher and [inflation] is rising, making it harder to make a profit,” said Simango.

Lauretta Masiya, an employee at Jimmy’s, said that they have been told to “watch” portion sizes when orders are prepared, in an effort to remain profitable. “It’s not going well because customers tend to complain a lot… and we want the customer to be happy [but] at the same time, we also want the boss to be happy. It’s very challenging,” said Masiya. Unfortunately, the Bureau for Food and Agriculture Policy (BFAP)’s latest food inflation brief suggests that food prices could rise even higher, which may force many more campus eateries to raise their prices.

FEATURED IMAGE: A barrister prepares coffee for a customer at Wethu Coffee Shop. Photo: Mpho Hlakudi

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Wits changing society for good

‘Wits for Good’ is about advancing social change and innovation, or is it? 

Wits University is using its ‘Wits for Good’ slogan to attempt to change society through innovation and research. In 2019 the slogan was changed from ‘Wits gives you the edge’ to ‘Wits for good’ to represent the university’s achievements over the last century of its existence. 

The university’s head of marketing Ferna Clarkson says: “It differentiates who we are and what we stand for creating new knowledge to advance humanity which ensures that we leave things better than when we found them.”

For Wits to continue playing a leading role in solving global crises and advancing social justice it must find other funding sources, including donations. Peter Maher, the director of the Wits Alumni Relations Office says, “It’s just the reality that we have, we can’t offer free education because then we’re going to bankrupt the university and that’s not going to benefit anyone, and the tax base can’t afford to fund universities fully.”

Peter Bezuidenhout, director of the Wits Advancement, Development and Fundraising Office (DFO) says; “The university creates a vast range of skills for this economy. Sure, these graduates go out and get jobs, but they are doing jobs for good.” 

Dr Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi, Dr Thokozani Mathebula, and Dr Sarah Godsell, who are lecturers at the Wits School of Education wrote an article which appeared in the  Daily Maverick in 2021 titled ‘Wits. For Good’ – For whose good, exactly?’. 

In it, they argue that the ‘good’ is not a public good, but rather a market good for those privileged students with easy access to online learning and who are willing to ignore those outside market-oriented universities. 

Chair of Theoretical Particle Cosmology at Wits School of Physics, Professor Vishnu Jejjala, says that teaching and research are public goods since teaching produces an educated middle class, and research lets the university explore the world in new ways. This role is vital for society to understand better where and how they live. 

Therefore, the role of higher education in South Africa is not merely to churn out research that adorns the bookshelves of the intelligentsia, to be proudly displayed during Zoom calls, or to produce jobless graduates. It’s true function is to transform society and create a space for the coming together of classes, generations, and innovative ideas.  

“Wits for Good (stands for) the greater good of society by enriching young minds and helping nurture young African talent, I think that’s important, and we’re proud to be a part of that legacy,” says Constant Beckrling, a Wits alumnus 

Wits university boasts a proud legacy of producing some of Africa’s most remarkable minds advancing societies globally. According to the latest global university rankings by Cybermetrics Lab Wits is the second highest ranked university on the continent. The university continues to set a high standard for today’s Witsies, ensuring that their excellence inspires future generations. 

“Wits For Good means that it’s something that’s gonna be a part of life, that’s gonna carry me throughout and once a Witsie is always gonna be a Witsie!” says Vidhya Patel, a first-year student studying BSc in Biological Science.  

The university is continuing its eternal legacy as a towering African institution  to transform society for what it perceives as ‘good’.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Wits for Good billboards and posters are plastered on walls and highways across Johannesburg, this one is on the side of the New Commerce Building on West Campus. Photo: Colin Hugo

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