Sunnyside res banks on new food garden

STUDENTS making use of the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO) Food Bank can look forward to fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs from one of the 21 planned food gardens that will be planted this year as part of the Food Sovereignty Centre.

The third food garden was planted at Sunnyside Residence on March 11-14 by small subsistence farmers who travelled from as far as Cape Town to instruct other farmers and Wits students as part of an agroecology workshop.

The food grown in the gardens will be used in the Food Sovereignty Centre which is being established as part of a collaboration between WCCO and the Co-operative and Policy Alternative Center (COPAC). The two organisations have been working together to establish the Food Sovereignty Centre at the Sanctuary on East Campus which so far includes two food gardens and a communal kitchen.

According to COPAC Executive Manager Jane Cherry, the Food Sovereignty Centre is being established at Wits in order to be an example to other institutions of a sustainable alternative food system which will benefit students who don’t have access to food.

“We want to create a system where there is zero hunger, we manage waste from the kitchens and gardens by creating mulch, and we manage water,” she said.

Cherry said that the long-term goal was to establish a research centre on food security.

“We want to do research on agroecology, alternative food systems, host talks and workshops on climate change and food production, and establish a seed bank for old seeds,” she said.

Subsistence farmer of 12 years and resident of Philippi in Cape Town, Nazeer Sonday, said that he had volunteered to assist in planting the garden to reciprocate the assistance COPAC had given his community during the recent drought.
“I came to offer my farming experience to help them set up this food garden. We’re planting vegetables, herbs, indigenous plants, fruit and nut trees, and ground cover to make sure there is a diversity of plants and an abundance of food for people to add to their diets,” Sonday told Wits Vuvuzela.

The workshop was the second agroecology workshop hosted by COPAC. It focused on teaching sustainable urban farming methods with the aim of creating food gardens that are diverse, supply good nutrition, and reflect of differing cultures and their traditional food.

Subsistence farmers were invited to teach about indigenous plants and traditional farming methods.

Felix Donkor, a doctoral environmental science candidate and member of Wits Inala Forum, said that produce from the food gardens will give a needed nutritional boost for students who are dependent on the WCCO Food Bank. This may in turn help with their academic performance.

“It was a good idea to have small rural farmers join us because it was a rich exchange of knowledge. They contributed traditional knowledge and told us how they are growing, why they are growing, and how we can sustain [the garden],” he said.

FEATURED IMAGE: WCCO volunteers get their hands dirty to provide food for students.
Photo: Naledi Mashishi


‘I would make the same decision again’

WITS University vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib faced down criticism of how he had handled the #FeesMustFall protests, and other “misrepresentations” in his latest book, Rebels and Rage, at its launch in Hyde Park on Wednesday, March 13.

A group of about 20 people who identified themselves as students took Habib to task over his decision to call police onto campus during the 2016 #FMF protests.

Prof Habib defended his decision, saying, he had called police onto campus because of the responsibility he had to ensure the safety and security of the entire Wits community, and that 77% of students who had taken part in an SMS poll conducted by the university, had indicated that they wanted to complete the academic year.

“If I was faced with the same circumstances and the same conditions, I would make the same decision again as it was the progressive and right decision under those circumstances,” he told the Exclusive Books audience.

His critics were having none of his explanations, and were robust in their engagement. “You are a skilful liar … you are a very, very violent man,” said one, much to the displeasure of the audience that heckled him.
The young man was not fazed, and challenged the VC to host an assembly at the university to allow students to engage with him about the book. Afterwards, he told Wits Vuvuzela that he was a student at Wits, but wouldn’t give his name.

Former Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) member and All Residence Council chairperson, Willie Muhlarhi, said that he had attended the launch to call Prof Habib to account for “misrepresenting the role of student leadership” during #FMF.

In the book, Prof Habib is critical of student leaders and academics he characterised as being “far-left”. He accuses student leaders of being often absent from efforts to provide solutions. As an example, he says the most progressive funding model that was brought to the university was created by a group of accounting students, who were not part of student leadership.

This is inaccurate, according to Muhlarhi, who is studying towards a masters in finance. “Habib fails to mention that there were SRC and student committee members involved in creating the model submitted by the accounting students, which shows a lack of research on his part.”

Students are not the only critics of Habib’s book. Former Wits anthropology lecturer, Dr Kelly Gillespie, who is named in the book as being one of the far-left academics, told Wits Vuvuzela that Prof Habib had misrepresented her and progressive lecturers’ actions and motives during the protests.

“It’s incredibly irresponsible for him to argue [progressive lecturers] were proponents of, or encouraging violence when 99% of the time we were there, we were trying to reduce violence and calm things down on both sides. He is creating extremely partial accounts that are very dangerous, and for some it feels he’s creating conditions for [academics] to be watched by state security,” Gillespie said.

Prof Habib has disputed the claims that he misrepresented #FMF events. “I wanted to correct the narrative of Fees Must Fall being pushed by politicians that the vice-chancellors are these neoliberals while the student activists are progressives who are the only ones committed to the goal of free education. That simply isn’t true,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.

Wits will host an event for Rebels and Rage, Prof Habib told the audience at the book launch, but details will be announced later.

FEATURED PHOTO: Wits vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib responded to criticisms that he had misrepresented events and prominent figures during the #FeesMustFall protests at the launch of his book, Rebels and Rage hosted in Hyde Park.
Photo: Naledi Mashishi


SLICE: Don’t fall for Mampintsha’s act

In the early hours of Monday morning, gqom star Sibongekile ‘Babes Wodumo’ Simelane went live on her Instagram, put her phone down, and captured a shocking episode of physical abuse by her partner, fellow musician and producer Mandla “Mampintsha” Maphumulo.

Within a few hours the video was trending on social media with thousands, including prominent politicians such as Nathi Mthethwa, Mmusi Maimane and Fikile Mbalula expressing outrage at the video and at gender-based violence as a whole.
By Tuesday morning, Babes Wodumo had filed charges and Mampintsha had been arrested. He responded by filing counter-charges against Babes Wodumo, alleging that she had assaulted him first.

He had merely acted in self-defence, and was the real victim. I was disappointed but not surprised to see people, mostly men, rushing to his defence and claiming that male victims of domestic violence are not taken seriously.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time domestic abuse allegations against Mampintsha have been made. In late 2017, radio talk show host Masechaba Ndlovu accused Mampintsha of being physically abusive towards Babes Wodumo in a live interview she had with the gqom star. Putting the ethics of that interview aside, according to Mampintsha we should now be made to believe that Ndlovu had invented the accusation, as Sunday night was allegedly the first time he had ever laid hands on Babes Wodumo.

Mampintsha’s behaviour reminds me of a previous relationship that I was in. Whenever my partner called me degrading names such as b***h or c**t, it was supposedly my fault for upsetting him, for pushing him to that point. If I complained about the use of those terms, I was “emasculating” him and “invalidating” his feelings. On one occasion, I remember saying or doing something that he felt so insulted by that he told me he would have no choice but to “defend himself” by blowing up my car if I did it again.

While it is true that male victims of domestic violence are often not taken seriously, this is not one of those instances. Abusers often paint themselves as victims to manipulate the actual victim and any outsiders into thinking that they are the real victims of abuse and that anything they have done to their victim has been done out of self-defence or because the victim has left them no choice.

What this behaviour did was keep me in a perpetual state of confusion. I never knew if I was at best overreacting or, at worst, being abusive myself. At one point, I stopped telling my friends and family what was happening in my relationship because I had been effectively convinced that doing so was a form of abuse.

Throughout the relationship, I was constantly made to feel as though everything that had gone wrong was a result of my own bad behaviour, and that if I continued to behave “badly”, it would justify him behaving even worse. I began to live in fear, and it wasn’t until that fear became so pronounced that I struggled to concentrate on my schoolwork, that I realised I needed to get out. And I did.

So I see straight through what Mampintsha is doing. It’s what my ex did, and what countless abusers before and after him will do. And if you are one of the thousands of people watching what is happening, I have one message for you: don’t fall for it.



We did not pay Twitter influencers – PYA

THE Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) have denied allegations that they paid social media personalities to influence the 2018 Student Representative Council (SRC) elections.
The allegations emerged in an amaBhungane report published on Friday, March 1, which claimed that social media personalities, paid to tweet promotional content and known as ‘influencers’, may have been employed to sway elections in the ANC’s favour.

The report listed last year’s Wits SRC elections as a possible case. The 2018 elections resulted in the PYA winning 12 out of the 13 SRC seats.

The report listed several social media influencers including Wits alumnus Zukhanye Ncapayi, a YouTube and Twitter personality with more than 19 000 followers.

Ncapayi’s Twitter account indicates that on October 16, 2018, she tweeted in support of the PYA and urged her followers to follow suit.  She tweeted that she had voted for the PYA, even though according to her LinkedIn profile she graduated in 2017, making her ineligible to vote in the 2018 SRC elections.

Zukhanye Ncapayi tweeted on October 16, 2018, that she was voting for the Wits PYA in the 2018 SRC elections.                        Photo: Naledi Mashishi

A screenshot emerged on social media during the 2018 SRC campaign of what appeared to be a post by well-known social media influencer, and Ncapayi’s boyfriend and business partner, Karabo Motsoane, in a Wits campaign WhatsApp group: “Afternoon guys. So as some of you might know, SRC elections are underway. And PYA are asking for us to. Promote gor the for 3 days. They’re paying R100 a day.”

The Wits PYA queried the authenticity of the WhatsApp screenshot and the time and tweeted a statement that read: “We would like to clarify that the below screenshot and alleged campaign/WhatsApp group have not been commissioned, endorsed or agreed to by the PYA.”

SRC deputy-president Nkateko Muloiwa said it would have been impossible for the Wits PYA to have paid any social media influencer to tweet in support of the party.

“We cannot get access to cash, as everything has to be approved by the internal financial structures of the university.

“We never paid anyone, and anyone who says otherwise is living in a fool’s paradise,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.

Final-year BA student and Wits EFF member, Duma Nkabinde, said that he found claims that there were paid influencers believable.

“I’m convinced that, yes, the PYA uses characters who seem apolitical on their social networks but have a large following, to influence young people in spaces of higher learning,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits PYA members who were voted onto the SRC in the 2018 elections have denied that they paid social media influencers to swing votes in their favor.
Photo: Provided


Live performance disrupts established norms, expectations

By Naledi Mashishi

Live performance can be used as an act of transgressing societal norms and expectations. This was the sentiment shared by the panellists at the launch of Acts of Transgression: Contemporary live art in South Africa, hosted by the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research (WiSER) at Wits University on Wednesday, February 20.

The non-fiction book of essays, published by the Wits University Press, was edited by the director of the Institute of Creative Arts, Prof Jay Pather, and writer Catherine Boulle. Pather says that he and Boulle decided to compile the book because of the unique position of live art in South Africa and because of Pather’s professional experiences in combining performance and choreography with academia.

“We had an awareness of how much live art was in the country and the uniqueness of it which needed to be written about in depth,” Pather told Wits Vuvuzela.

Pather said that he and Boulle had a list of potential writers that they used to select the final group of contributors.

“We wanted people who had been published, and some who hadn’t. We wanted people who were writers, artists and academics, and we made up the book that way,” he said.

The panellists at the launch, Zen Marie, Prof Achille Mbembe and Katlego Disemelo, focused heavily on the subject of ‘performativity’ which was defined as the description or the contribution of something new to a discussion rather than a representation of something of the past. The panellists also discussed how performativity had been used by performance artists to disrupt established social norms and expectations.

Disemelo, one of the contributors to the book, described how he used Instagram for research on his chapter on queer bodies and performativity.

“I viewed Instagram as a storytelling medium. By scrolling through carefully curated photographs you can see queer people telling a story about themselves to the public,” Disemelo said.

Wits Applied Drama MA student, Rutendo Chigudu, who attended the launch, said that she would be interested in reading the book based on the discussion that had taken place. “I think it really raises questions to artists, academics, practitioners, and audiences on what our view and interpretations of art are,” she said.

“It forces us to question the artists’ intentions and the audience has to ask themselves, am I coming to see the art or be part of it?”

FEATURED IMAGE: Prof Achille Mbembe, Zen Marie and Katlego Disemelo argue for the relationship between power and performance.
Photo: Naledi Mashishi

Faculty of Health Sciences to celebrate centenary

By Naledi Mashishi

The Wits Faculty of Health Sciences will be observing its 100th birthday through a range of activities and events in 2019. The Faculty which is based at the Wits Medical Campus in Parktown will showcase its achievements and strengths while identifying areas for growth during its centenary celebrations.

Assistant Dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences Dr Wezile Chita says that each of the Faculty’s seven schools will celebrate their individual achievements through a series of events.
The planned programme also includes a visit to Australia by a team of Health Sciences staff, led by Dean Martin Veller, to engage with alumni there.

“We want to draw our graduates from Australia and New Zealand to keep them up to date with the faculty’s progresses and engage with them on their experiences,” Chita told Wits Vuvuzela.

Included in the faculty’s centenary celebration plans is a booklet documenting the history of the faculty and its contributions to medicine and science in the country and abroad.

The Adler Museum, located on Medical Campus, will also host a dedicated centenary exhibition starting before the end of June.

Chita says that the faculty has grown over the years to become the biggest medical faculty on the continent.

“Wits is diverse, innovative, globally competitive, and locally responsive,” Chita says. “We are embedded in the development of the public health system and our students have influenced policy on [antiretroviral drugs], the sugar tax, and research on malaria and infectious diseases.”

The faculty’s plans include strengthening partnerships, reaching out to the private sector to increase student and staff involvement, and expanding and developing its rural clinical school in Mpumalanga in partnership with the Mpumalanga Department of Health.

“We are following the university’s framework in forming institutional partnerships in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, and Africa. We want to develop further to join the top 100 medical universities in the world,” Chita says.

Precious Magane, a BHs Chemical Pathology honours student, says that although her time at Wits has been academically difficult, she believes that the Faculty of Health Sciences is among the best in the country.
“They have the best researchers and the best facilities. The academic standards here are very high,” she says.

It is estimated that 24 000 – 26 000 students have graduated from the faculty over the past 100 years. Notable alumni include: Nobel Prize Laureates, Sydney Brenner and Aaron Klug, and surgeon, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Patrick Soon-Shiong.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Wits Faculty of Health Sciences will be celebrating its 100th birthday.
Photo: Naledi Mashishi

Private security set to remain on campus indefinitely

By Naledi Mashishi

Private security personnel are set to remain at Wits University indefinitely as the institution says it has no immediate plans to remove them.

The guards, who have been outsourced from Johannesburg-based security company, Diligence Services Group, have been on Wits campuses since the first week of February after fees-related protest action started on February 4, and have remained at the university for almost two weeks after the protests ended on February 7.

“The University assesses the national and local higher education context and deploys security accordingly. As the need for the security personnel diminishes, so will their presence on campus be reduced,” said Buhle Zuma, Wits University spokesperson.

Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) deputy president Nkateko Muloiwa says that the SRC’s stance is that the university must remove all private security that is on campus.
“We don’t want private security to stay on campus and we have relayed that to management,” Muloiwa told Wits Vuvuzela.

He says that by continuing to keep private security on campus, “it is quite clear that [the university management] somehow want to provoke students and they’ve embarked on wasteful expenditure.”
According to their website, Diligence Services Group has provided private security to Wits University during student protests over the last three years.

In a testimonial published on their website, Wits director of protection services Mokgawa Kobe wrote that, “The company was very instrumental in assisting the university to manage the protest actions since January 2016.”

Students ended their protest action after Wits management agreed to allow some students with historical debt to register.

FEATURED IMAGE:  Private security personnel block protesters.
Photo: Phumi Ramalepe


Movie Review: Sew The Winter to my Skin

Directed by: Jahmil X.T Qubeka

Starring: Ezra Mabengeza, Zolisa Xaluva, Mandisa Nduna, Kandyse McClure

Genre: Western

Vuvu rating: 6/10

“Sew the Winter to My Skin” (2018), which was put forward as South Africa’s Foreign Language entry to the 2019 Academy Awards, is a movie that uses classic western tropes and mythology to tell its story. The movie is set in 1940s Western Cape, South Africa, and tells the story of real-life John Kepe, known as ‘the Samson of the Boschberg’ who notoriously stole food and livestock from nearby farms until 1951 when he was convicted of killing a shepherd named Dirk Goliath and sentenced to death.

Director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka chooses to tell the story with minimal dialogue, leaving the narrative heavily dependent on visual clues and the musical score. Rather than focus on the life of Kepe, Qubeka focuses more on the myth and presents Kepe as a Robin Hood type figure who steals live sheep from the farm of Nazi-sympathizer and failing sheep farmer, Mr Botha, and gives them to his poor community.  The audience is treated to scenes of Kepe narrowly dodging bullets from white farmers in pursuit of him, hanging off the side of a cliff while carrying a sheep, and hiding in a well-kitted out secret cave.

Qubeka uses Kepe as a lens to tell the wider story of Apartheid and racial oppression. The movie explores the tensions between the white Afrikaaner farmers who are quick to use violence to cement their power, and the poor black communities near them who face the brunt of it. Kepe then emerges as a symbol of black resistance. The movie ends with Verwoed’s description of Apartheid as a “policy of good neighbourliness” and the stark irony of this quote is explored throughout the film.

The lack of dialogue can at times make the movie unclear. It also means that character’s motivations are unexplored, and they are left as two-dimensional caricatures. This is most obvious with Zolisa Xaluva’s depiction of the villain, who is a black man that carries out racial violence against other black people, and the women in the film, who are given little to do other than cry in pain.

While it is beautifully shot, the Western-style film sacrifices clear storytelling for flair which may make it inaccessible to many. It is also at times, quite violent given its 13 age restriction. Audiences who enjoy arthouse-type movies will greatly appreciate the layered storytelling, symbolism, and interesting cinematic techniques of this film.

FEATURED IMAGE: Sew the winter to my skin is South Africa’s entry to the 2019 Academy Awards
Photo: Provided