“Coloniality is far from over, it is all over”

Professor Walter Mignolo had a talk at Wiser on Spirit Return to the East: The Racial Distribution of Capital and Knowledge. Photo:Ray Mahlaka

Professor Walter Mignolo talked at Wiser on ‘Spirit Return to the East: The Racial Distribution of Capital and Knowledge’. Photo:Ray Mahlaka

It is the first time in 500 years that capital and power are in the hands of people of colour, according to Professor Walter Mignolo.

“BRICS, of which South Africa is a member is an example of this,” he said.

Prof Mignolo was speaking at WISER yesterday at a seminar that forms part of his four that he is to present at Wits.

Even though there is a redistribution of wealth along the lines of colour, Minolo maintained that coloniality  and the “colonial wound” still existed.

Coloniality status quo

Coloniality is far from over according to Mignolo.

“It continues whenever anyone anywhere in the world walks down a street and sees a billboard on the modern cathedral that is a shopping mall and sees in that conjunction of power, wealth and beauty an image of desire,” he said quoting from a graduate student report.

Mignolo argued that coloniality, the darker side of modernity,  should be considered as perhaps the most powerful set of ideas and forces in the world.

“It happens these days not by the strength of arms or the power of states, but by the captivation of the eyes, the training of the taste … that we all learn everywhere without even knowing it,” he argues.


 Prof Mignolo told the audience that Eurocentrism is not a geographical issue but rather a political one.

He urged that it was necessary and urgent for non European states to move away  and “delink” from Eurocentrism.

Mignolo concluded by saying that this “delink” from the  colonial matrix of power should be motivated by the need for “human dignity and the celebration of life instead of development and economic growth.”

He argued that it is this that will ultimatly heal the “colonial wound”.

 Means versus ends

Democracy and socialism are two western concepts and options according to Mignolo. “They are means, not ends”.

That is to say, there are other options to imagine and build just, harmonic societies and other forms of governance.

He proposed that ideal would be for “ends” to include: equitable and cooperative societies that live in “plentitude”.

Life beyond the west

Mignolo shared that it is apparent and obvious that there is potential power beyond Europe and the USA, and that global futures would no longer be decided and managed by Western actors and institutions.

“This is true as the world population is in reaching 7 billion. The US and EU (27 states) has a population of 1 billion. The rest of the world has a population of 6 billion.”

The final seminar will be held on the August 14.


Academia lost in translation

Dr Carli Coetzee talks to the audience at her book launch on Monday night at Wits. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

Dr Carli Coetzee talks to the audience at her book launch on Monday night at Wits. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

A South African academic and language activist told Witsies this week every white South African should be proud to speak, read and write at least one African language “and be ashamed if they are unable to”.

An ideal scholar for Dr Coetzee is one who is “aggressively multilingual”.

The author of Accented futures: Language activism and the ending of apartheid spoke at Wits on Tuesday afternoon while promoting her book in South Africa.

Coetzee told the floor that at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London (SOAS) where she lectures, all students are required and expected to study and learn an African language.

“It is inspiring to see how readily they do so. The contrast with South African universities is frightening and saddening for me,” said Coetzee.

[pullquote]“It is inspiring to see how readily they do so. The contrast with South African universities is frightening and saddening for me.” [/pullquote]

Coetzee’s stance on African languages and multilinguism comes at time of the controversial proposed policy of the University of KwaZulu Natal to make learning isiZulu compulsory for first year students.


South African universities and monolinguism

The author said that South African universities work on the imagined idea that monolinguism is the norm.

“They fail to realise that multilingualism is a norm in South Africa,” she said.

Dr Nicole Falkof, who is a lecturer at Wits media studies, shared her issues involving supervising students who are not first-language english speakers.

“I am often faced with students who have brilliant ideas but are unable to adequately express them in English. I then find myself in a difficult position where I have to decide on whether to penalise people or not,” she said.

“How do you negotiate that? You want to maintain global standards but to completely penalise students on a linguistic level further perpetuates a system I am not entirely comfortable with,” Falkof said.

The fallacy of mastery

The South African born linguistic activist argued that what often happens is that individuals are concerned with mastering a language and would rather not learn a language at all than trying to learn the fundamentals of a language.

“People are often happy to learn enough French to order items from a menu and are not bothered with learning the basics of African languages,” Coetzee said.

This comment was in response to what Dr Pumla Gqola said about French at the media seminar. Gqola said people are more interested in learning French as opposed to isiZulu, for example.

“French is culture, art and inter-textual,” Gqola said.

Coetzee is aiming to “theorise diversity” in the South African context by not focusing on skin colour.

The emphasis on skin and race perpetuates “models of spectatorship” and results in little room for growth and development said Coetzee.

Coetzee said that we should stop translating African languages into English, which she foresees that people will disagree with.

She also said the effort to translate African languages into English is a burden to people who are multilingual for the benefit of people limited to one language.

Corina van der Spoel who attended the talk said: “I feel empowered because I know how to speak an African language: Afrikaans.”


Brown wins Heather Martienssen art prize

Kirsty Morrison’s piece The Cut (2013). Attendees were invited to cut the artist's hair at the Wits Art Museum on Wednesday Night. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

Kirsty Morrison’s piece The Cut (2013). Attendees were invited to cut the artist’s hair at the Wits Art Museum on Wednesday Night. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

The Wits School of Arts held the Heather Martienssen art exhibition at the Wits Art Museum (WAM) last night.

The Heather Martienssen prize is an annual award presented to a senior Wits Fine Arts student.The winning artist was Antonia Brown,  3rd year Fine Arts, for her piece titled I will tell him when he comes back.

Brown studied in Edinburgh, Scotland, before coming to the Wits School of Arts this year.

The prize is considered to be indicative of a potentially prosperous artistic career.

The Martienssen prize of 2010 was held at Museum Africa in Newtown. Hosting the art competition at Museum Africa was  strategic, as it was an attempt to build relations with Johannesburg’s cultural institutions.

The 2011 prize was held at the Wits Substation gallery. Last year saw the exhibition at the then, recently opened WAM.

Merit awards were awarded to Daniella Dagnin for Relational Time and Enjay Ndlovu for his piece entitled It looked so much better in my mind.

Dagnin’s piece involved her sitting in WAM from early in the day until the time of the exhibition.

When Wits Vuvuzela arrived at the exhibition she had been sitting for seven hours.


CJC students evicted

Students queue outside the Aengus offices in Braamfontein waiting for accomodation. Photo:Ray Mahlaka

Students queue outside Aengus offices in Braamfontein for accomodation. Photo:Ray Mahlaka

by Ray Mahlaka and Nolwazi Mjwara

SOME Central Johannesburg College (CJC) students with their scant belongings flooded Aengus Investment Properties offices in the hope of finding accommodation this afternoon.

CJC students seeking accommodation were met by a notice which read: “Please be advised that your institution has failed to pay your accommodation in spite of numerous attempts by ourselves to secure payment.”

“The landlord kicked us out and we were moved to Braamfontein where we were told Aengus [Investment Properties] will find us alternative accommodation,” said a student who asked to remain anonymous.

Other students were fortunate to arrange alternative accommodation, and arranged to have a vehicle usher them to their new homes.

Students transported to their alternative accomodation. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

Students cram their belongings into a van. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

Wits Vuvuzela was asked to leave the premises when photographing students who queued outside Aengus offices and employees declined to comment on accommodation issues.

Students said they had been waiting outside the offices since 8am for updates about their accommodation.

Inga Matsitsela, who was evicted said he was not sure where he was going to sleep tonight. He added that CJC has failed them.

Students with their belongings on the street. Photo:Ray Mahlaka

Students with their belongings on the street. Photo:Ray Mahlaka

Earlier this year Wits Vuvuzela reported on protests by CJC students, as they accused Aengus Property Holdings of favouring Wits students who allegedly paid more for rent.

CJC students said they lived at Bramley building before their eviction.

“Our landlord said they don’t want to see us there, then transport came and brought us to Aengus offices. We had to queue this morning and only allocated accommodation if we appeared on the Aengus list”, said another student.

The Aengus list refers to students who have covered by CJC in terms of acommodation list for according to some of the students queuing outside Aengus offices.

The names of students are allocated accomodation are read out in the "Aengus  list". Photo: Ray Mahlaka

The names of students are allocated accomodation are read out in the “Aengus list”. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

“I still have exams at school, now I have to worry about accommodation problems,” expressed an angry student who declined to be named.

Related article:

Wits Vuvuzela: Wits students butt heads with Aengus

Stranded students robbed

05_Robbery on buses

PUSH IT: Anxious students pushing to get a seat on the bus after new no standing rule. Photo by: Nokuthula Manyathi


By Nolwazi Mjwara and Nokuthula Manyathi

TWO  Esselen residents were robbed at a bus stop last week. This followed the new no standing rule on Wits buses.
The two women students were left stranded and standing at the bus stop as vulnerable targets for crime as the bus was full.

Wits All Residence Council informed Wits Vuvuzela that two students were robbed last week because of the no standing rule.

No standing

Wits services department has introduced the new no standing policy to bring the university’s buses in line with transport regulations.“The regulations were amended by the Department of Transport following the number of fatalities on buses in South Africa in 2012,” said Bus services operations manager Sue-Ann Reed.

[pullquote]Drivers have been informed not to permit standing passengers on the Wits Inter Campus buses[/pullquote]

“Drivers have been informed not to permit standing passengers on the Wits Inter Campus buses,” said Reed.
Reed also said students who are non-Wits junction residents were not permitted to take the direct Wits junction bus.

Students are unhappy
Layani Makwinja, 3rd year BA, who lives in an apartment near Wits Junction, said she was no longer allowed to enter Wits Junction to take the bus to main campus.
“This Wits Junction bus situation is so inconveniencing as we aren’t allowed to enter Junction to take the bus … Some students that I’ve been waiting with have missed lectures due to this,” said Makwinja.

Reed said Witsies would not be inconvenienced by these changes, in late 2012 two buses were added and this year a 65 seater bus and two 35 seater buses are now part of the bus routes. Students who live in apartments near Wits Junction have been designated their own ‘bus stop’ on Park Lane street, but some students are still not happy with this arrangement.

Reed said a project manager and two supervisors are on site to monitor the bus stops daily. “Should students have concerns, complaints are investigated to identify the problem and if necessary bus routes and timetables are amended to improve the service,” she said.

The bus services department has also received complaints concerning reckless driving and the lack of wearing seatbelts by the drivers.

One complaint on Twitter read: “Wits drivers shud revise the way they drive cz sum of em are reckless. ‘XLZ996 GP’ @ 11:45 bus to JCE! wasnt pleased.”

Management is looking into complaints

Reed said complaints lodged by students had been discussed with management. “I have advised Luxliner Management of the concern that has been raised by the students and they have confirmed that they have had a meeting with the drivers.

Part of the discussion included the wearing of safety belts which is compulsory.”

Fossil find brings widespread coverage

Dr Jonah Choiniere shows Wits Vuvuzela a piece from the Wits palaeoscience department collection  at Wits.

Dr Jonah Choiniere shows Wits Vuvuzela a piece from the Wits palaeoscience department collection at Wits. Photo: Nolwazi Mjwara

When Dr Jonah Choiniere moved to South Africa last year his colleagues thought he was crazy. It was shortly after the Marikana massacre and media coverage of the incident painted a grim picture of the country.

Now the Wits senior researcher has made world headlines with a dinosaur fossil discovery bringing global recognition and extensive media coverage valued at R2.7 million in PR value according to Wits Marketing.

Choiniere was part of a team of international researchers who found a new species of meat-eating dinosaur in north-western China.

Choiniere said the dinosaur lived over 161-million years ago, during the late Jurassic Period, and it was younger than one year old when it died.

The researcher almost didn’t find the dinosaur.

“I had been walking all over the fossil; my footprints were all over it. It was only after we had returned [from the site] to examine the fossil that we realised we had something new,” he said.

Choiniere and the team named the dinosaur Aorun zhaoi after a character in the Chinese story Journey to the west .

Choiniere moved to South Africa from New York City in November 2012. He said: “So many people were surprised that I wanted to move here. Even South Africans themselves are always surprised.”

He said he moved just after the Marikana incident. The US media had reported the event in a sensationalised way and this made people caution Choiniere about his decision.

“The US media had reported that there were fires all over Johannesburg during and after Marikana. When we got here we realised this was false,” he said.

He said he had fallen in love with South African things like Ultra Mel custard, braais, Emmarentia dam and the friendliness of South Africans.

The George Washington University graduate is a senior researcher at the Bernard Price Institute at Wits.

“Wits’ Palaeoscience department is one of the best in the world … and I am not just saying that. The collection here is impressive,” Choiniere said.

Choiniere recently returned from Elliot in the Eastern Cape where he was called in to dig out another dinosaur fossil.

The researcher said he wished South Africans knew how rich their country was in terms of dinosaur fossils.

“South Africans should really feel proud of what they have here. Your country is rich and special in many ways,” he said.



No career fair for Humanities


HUMANITIES students have expressed their frustration with the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) for not hosting a  Humanities Career fair.

This frustration become apparent on the Twitter social media platform when the Career fairs for the Engineering Science and IT departments were held.

The Careers unit of the university has confirmed that the university has in fact hosted two humanities career fairs in the past two years.

Graduate recruitment officer at the Counselling and Careers Development Unit, Bongi Ndlovu, said that a career fair that is exclusive to humanities students has now been terminated.

“We have decided to stop hosting a fair that is just for humanities students as the students told us that they thought it was pathetic because of the low turnout by companies,” Ndlovu said.

[pullquote] “We have decided to stop hosting a fair that is just for humanities students as the students told us that they thought it was pathetic because of the low turnout by companies,” Ndlovu said.[/pullquote]

Ndlovu shared that only four companies had showed up to last year’s fair and that most companies had pulled out at the last minute.

The graduate recruitment unit does not appear to be doing well in terms of representing humanities students. The recruitment service, aimed at linking students to potential employers, has not been as successful in servicing the humanities faculty as it has been with others.

Speaking on the low turnout of companies at the humanities graduate recruitment programme, Ndlovu said: “We have a large number of humanities students and employers don’t feel the need to recruit them [via the programme].”

The Graduate recruitment unit is however looking into hosting a Recruitment agency day in August to support the interests of potential Humanities and all other faculty graduates.

The unit is also hosting General Career Fairs where companies who are looking to recruit humanities graduates will also attend. These General Career Fairs will include all faculties.

According to Ndlovu, the successes of the graduate employment programme are not measured by the unit, but by the university’s Alumni department as well as by the companies who offer Wits feedback on the number of Witsies they have recruited.

“[Humanities]students also need to understand that they also need to market themselves and understand that there will be more of a demand for students with other niche and targeted qualifications such as a BComm or Engineering degree,” said Ndlovu.

Acting Dean of Humanities Ruksana Osman shared that none of the faculties at the university have a special unit dealing with recruitment.

Osman said: “At the level of the faculty we have students who pursue academic and professional qualifications – and the latter are in constant contact with potential employers. The former are always encouraged to pursue an honours degree as this is the distinguishing feature in the job market.”

CCDU are planning two workshops entitled ‘Job Search Skills for the Humanities Graduate’.



All cheered up!

Nicole Herdman (centre) represented South Africa in two international cheerleading competitions in Orlando Florida. Photo: Provided

Nicole Herdman (centre) represented South Africa in two international cheerleading competitions in Orlando Florida. Photo: Provided

A WITS staff member placed in the top ten of an international cheerleading competition held in the United States.

Wits Services senior secretary Nicole Herdman returned to Wits last week after she represented South Africa in the International Cheer Union and International All Star Federation (IASF) championships in Orlando, Florida.

It was the cheerleader’s first trip to the USA. She also managed to sneak in a day at the Walt Disney World resort in Florida.

“I felt like a real kid again, it is a really special concept in that they were able to create this magical world for children and adults too,” said Herdman.

Aside from her full-time job at Wits, she is studying a BCom in business management. She is also planning on acquiring an events management diploma in June this year.

“It gets super hectic! I have practice twice a week from 7pm to 9pm and once a month have full weekend sessions with the team…that is if we are not competing on weekends,” Herdman said.

She also had high praise for her co-workers at Wits: “I really work in an amazing department. Everyone is incredibly supportive. I love working here.”

Herdman’s mother told Wits Vuvuzela: “I am extremely proud of my daughter – who through hard work and dedication has achieved this amazing opportunity.”

Herdman has been training for some time and strategically chose Bryanston High School for her education as it was one of the only in the country that offered cheerleading as an official competitive sport.

“My mom wanted me to go to another school, but I managed to convince her to put me into Bryanston,” Herman laughed.

The cheerleader said cheerleading is developing in the country and on the continent.

“It’s great that people are beginning to understand cheerleading as a competitive sport…and not just pom-poms and yelling,” Herdman said.

The South African national team also made it through to the final round of the IASF competition and are awaiting the results for this round of the contest.

The South African cheerleading squad’s routine



Intimacy a must for student-staff relationships

“I’m not convinced that relationships between students and staff should be off bounds,” said speaker Eusebius McKaiser at a talk yesterday afternoon at the Wits Theatre Complex.

McKaiser was addressing the topic of  “student-staff intimacy: a requirement of effective teaching or a danger in a violent society?”

Eusebius Mckaiser tackling a burning issue during his talk on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Eusebius Mckaiser tackling a burning issue during his talk on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The notion of intimacy

As a point of departure, McKaiser let the audience know that the kind of intimacy he was going to talk about was a “non-sexual intimacy between students and staff.”

He stressed that in South Africa the knee-jerk understanding of intimacy is always associated with an erotic and sexual interpretation and this has come to defile the word.

Personal experiences with “intimate” teacher relations

“It takes one academic to have a profound, lifelong impact on a pupil,” said McKaiser. He went on to give examples of high school teachers who had impacted his life by taking a personal interest in him, one that went beyond a rigid teacher-student relationship.

The teachers that remain memorable to him are the ones who taught with a duty of care and not in an authoritative manner, said McKaiser.

He shared that the Rhodes University philosophy department understood the importance of personal contact with students. Lecturers in this particular department knew their students “beyond their student numbers”, said McKaiser.

The care with which this department handled him led to him dropping law, a department he described as being “cold and impersonal, with no emotional touch point.”

Intimacy is necessary

Intimacy was important in the sense that teachers need to take a deep and profound interest their students backgrounds.

“In South Africa this kind of intimacy which is not sexual but rather a sincere concern for the well-being of students is important. Many students do not speak English as a first language nor have enough social capital to excel in institutions,” McKaiser said.

Can’t avoid South African realities

McKaiser went on to say that while he promotes intimacy between students and staff, one cannot ignore the fact that there is violence on campus. Universities are not special spaces free from South Africa’s social ills.

He went on to say that, “monsters aren’t aliens,” they are the everyday people we interact with, as such even lecturers.”

Code of conduct also necessary

McKaiser said when he began lecturing Philosophy at Wits, he does not recall signing a code of conduct.

He recommended that the university should include mandatory codes of conduct regarding lecturer conduct in their contracts.

“A safety requirement is necessary in a place like South Africa,” he added.

Reith feels wrath of Esselen


In the first netball match of the internal league this week Esselen thrashed Reith in a 20-11 victory.

While Reith was the first to get onto the scoreboard and dominated the initial end of the game, Esselen powered to a massive victory to great ululations.

Reith’s goalshooter Cebisa Mdekazi was the first to score in the match, but had to leave the court after her glasses broke during some power actions on the court.

In a dramatic call for help, Mdekazi yelped: “First Aid… or anyone please does anyone have cellotape or anything…my glasses have broken.” Alas, no help came.

Esselen’s coach and goal attacker, Palesa Choma, played a tremendous role in her team’s victory scoring a phenomenal 17 of the 20 goals.

“We are so excited because we practised so hard! We deserve the win and we’re not shocked by it,” Choma enthused.

Choma rescued the game when she restored the faith of Esselen’s supporters after she scored the first shots for every quarter of the match after Reith’s initial goal.

The first quarter of the match ended with a draw of 4-4 by both teams. During the second quarter, Esselen managed to manoeuvre to nine points while Reith managed 6 goals.

The third quarter was another breakthrough for Esselen when the score resulted with 14-8 points to Esselen.

“We are keeping up the ghetto and winning streak of Esselen,” said the excited captain Kelebogile Sebopela.



Wits staff in sex harassment inquiry

Four cases of sexual harassment in Faculty of Humanities are among those that are the subject of an university-wide inquiry by the law firm of Bowman Gilfillan.

“There are a number of cases being investigated by Bowman, four cases in the Faculty of Humanities,” Prof Libby Meintjes, head of the School of Literature Language and Media.

The inquiry follows allegations of sexual harassment against Wits staff members including suspended senior drama lecturer Tsepo wa Mamatu, former head of the political studies department Prof Rupert Taylor and former head of the media studies department Dr Last Moyo.

Meintjes emphasised that Moyo was on “special leave” and not “suspension”. “Dr Moyo has been placed on special leave with no access to the campus pending the investigation,” she said. [pullquote align=”right”]“Students, feel free to speak out openly, without fear.”[/pullquote]

She said Moyo has not been suspended, as there have not been enough formal complaints made.

Director of employee relations Elaine Milton told Wits Vuvuzela it is better for a staff member who is the subject of an investigation to be off campus while such an investigation is taking place.

Milton said proceedings were at a “very delicate stage” and she could not disclose the names of staff members involved as this will prejudice the investigation.

She said that “special leave” is a leave of absence without the loss of benefits or remuneration in order for the university to be able to conduct an investigation in an “unfettered” and an unhindered” manner.
Milton added that Taylor, who stepped down as head of the political studies department last year following sexual harassment allegations, has not been formally placed on special leave.

Meintjes stressed that students should not fear to come forward with complaints about sexual harassment. “If they take [their complaints] to the correct sources, to the correct persons, there will be no backlash,” she said.“Students, feel free to speak out openly, without fear.”

Dr Mehita Iqani, acting head of the department of media studies, said: “There is a lack of trust in the institution. I don’t think anyone should HAVE TO work in an environment where there is a sense of fear…Students need to know that if they have a complaint against staff confidentiality will be absolutely protected.”

University Registrar Kirti Menon said the university is hoping to receive feedback from the Bowman Gilfillan attorneys by the end of next week.

Meintjes said: “We are hoping it will be concluded very soon.”
“I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this.”

While the investigation into the sexual harassment allegations is being conducted, a separate inquiry into the university’s procedures for the reporting of sexual harassment is also taking place.

The vice chancellor’s office has asked Norton Rose Attorneys and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at the university to conduct the inquiry into the university’s policies and mechanisms dealing with sexual harassment. This inquiry is expected to be concluded by August.