SLICE OF LIFE: Paying the rent as a journalist

Percy Matshoba  TJ Lemon

Percy Matshoba
Photo: TJ Lemon

“The only by-line I care about is the one on a cheque” sums up what I took away from the presentation by two seasoned journalists at today’s Power Reporting conference. ‘How to Pay the Rent’ by Raymond and Natasha Joseph, was one of the most well-attended sessions at the conference which took place at Wits University.

As an almost Journalism graduate, I will be the first to admit that despite the nonchalant front I put up about the by-line, it was a very big deal to me. Before the presentation I acted like the infamous by-line did not phase me, although I would work very hard and sometimes free to see my name printed on a newspaper or a glossy magazine. Forget the hours I would dedicated for a by-line, friends and family would easily be shunned if they stood in the way of my glory.

“you can’t pay at Pick n Pay with a by-line.”

The presentation reduced the importance of a by-line to a zero. The Josephs highlighted that for a journalist the by-line is a bonus, and that paying the rent is of fundamental importance. Raymond, a freelancer who has been a journalist since 1973 said “you can’t pay at Pick n Pay with a by-line.” Speaking mostly for the freelance journalists he emphasised the importance of viewing one’s work as a business.

“The free in freelance doesn’t mean free,” he said.

Daughter Natasha, the news editor of the City Press, said that not charging a fee for your work sends the message that “you do not value your work”.

“Don’t end up working where it costs you money,” Raymond Joseph said. “If you are resentful about where you work, you will be resentful about your work.”

Paying the rent is one of the leading factors of stress in the country, and paying the rent as a journalist is even more stressful. Despite the fact that journalists, put in as much hours as doctors at times, however, they do not get paid nearly as much.

The Josephs emphasised that in order to pay the rent, a journalist should care less about the by-line and more about being well read, pitching a relevant story and having a thick enough skin to ask about the cheque upfront. Natasha added that she also found that curiosity and great sense of humour also came in handy in the cut-throat industry.

As I am about to become a full time journalist I am going into the industry with a change of heart about the glorious by-line. However great it is to see my name printed, I have learned that the joys of a by-line are short lived and most importantly, they do not pay the bills.

Recognition for the women of Marikana

Asanda Benya, a sociology researcher and Phd student speaking on women in Marikana. Photo: Percy Matshoba

WOMEN POWER: Asanda Benya, a sociology researcher and Phd student speaking about the role of women in supporting Marikana. Photo: Percy Matshoba

A Wits researcher is challenging dominant narratives about Marikana by highlighting the role of women in the community after the shootings of local miners on August 16, 2012.

Speaking at a seminar at Wits University this week, sociology researcher Asanda Benya said “the voices of women have been silenced in the narrative about Marikana.”

Benya said that when the male miners lost their jobs in 2012 the women used their stokvels and other saving schemes to fund the men and the strikes that subsquently took place.

She said that although they were not directly involved in the strikes, the women sustained the protests by cooking and raising funds. The women also worked to secure the release of 270 miners who were arrested in the aftermath of the shootings.

She said that the notion that “women have not been active in the strikes” is not true.

“Women of Marikana are active agents,” she said emphasising that the women did not only support the miners but also actively taking charge in order to ensure the wellbeing of their community.

“The women of Marikana’s lives are ordered by the mines” said Benya. “The victories and challenges at work is what they talk about every time”

“The mine forms their way of being, their way of living”

Master’s student in Industrial Sociologist, Patricia Ndlovu said that the injustices happening in Marikana were not unique to other economic issues faced by other people living in informal settlements.

“There are a lot of informal settlements in South Africa operating like Marikana,” she said.

Asked about what needs to be done in Marikana Benya said “everything”. She said the living conditions of the people in Marikana does not resemble a constitutional South Africa.

“The government needs to do something to help the people of Marikana, it’s their responsibility,” she said.


Jazzy Jacobs

Jazz vocalist Sean Jacobs.  Photo: Percy Matshoba

Jazz vocalist Sean Jacobs.
Photo: Percy Matshoba

FOURTH year BMus Wits student Sean Jacobs is a jazz vocalist who performs regularly at local jazz venues. His greatest achievement was being chosen to perform at the Nelson Mandela Memorial last year alongside well-known jazz vocalist Lira. He is also a pianist and flautist.

Did you always know you wanted to sing?

I started singing from a young age. Then I stopped in grade ten and took up the flute. It was after a year’s course in theatre that I realised that singing is my passion. I realised I had the desire to use my voice to translate meaning. I believe that music can be used for the social betterment of others and I enjoy doing that.

What has been the highlight of your music career?

It was when I performed at Nelson Mandela’s memorial last year. I got to meet Lira, who was also performing. The great thing about my career path is that I also get to travel and, last year, I got to perform for an Investec corporate event in Mauritius.

Do you think the South African music industry has room for jazz artists?

I think our industry is small but diverse. There is space to be different. Talent needs to be balanced with hard work. Some artists depend on talent and that attitude is what fails them in the end. Musicians of all genres also need to network, a lot, and get as many contacts as possible and make themselves known.

Who inspires you?

I like listening to people who set the trends – music pioneers. I draw inspiration from different people who infuse genres cleverly like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, The Carpenters, Pharrell Williams, Marcus Wyatt and sometimes I listen to rock music.

If you were not doing music what would you be doing?

I would be acting. I’m very involved in the music industry and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.


What do you think about the notion that a music degree is not like any other Wits degree?

People often look down on music and drama students because they don’t know that, in order to do well, it takes hard work and dedication like any other degree at Wits.

Do you practise your vocals at res?

No, if I had to practise at res it would be disruptive to other students. I sometimes sing in my room but not too loud as I would when I’m practising or performing.

The General marches forward

KICKER: The General, Sibusiso Vilakazi is not so relaxed about making it to the top.  Photo: Luca Kotton

KICKER: The General, Sibusiso Vilakazi is not so relaxed about making it to the top.
Photo: Luca Kotton

Sibusiso Vilakazi started playing soccer at the age of 11. At 24, the captain of Bidvest Wits is the newest member of Bafana Bafana and has dreams of playing internationally in the near future.

Vilakazi started his career playing street soccer in Meadowlands, Soweto and was later signed by local team, Meadowlands Chelsea, as a goalkeeper.

The current midfielder of both the national team and the Clever Boys made his (PSL) Premier Soccer League debut in 2009 when he joined Bidvest Wits juniors and Bidboys. He says it has always been his dream to play for an overseas professional team.

Vilakazi tried out several times for Danish club Brondby FC in the past two years with a deal falling through at the last minute each time.

“I have experienced setbacks but everything happens for a reason. I have faith that it will happen someday,” he said.

The soccer star is however making strides locally having been tirelessly pursued by the Glamour Boys, Kaizer Chiefs, this past transfer window.

Nicknamed “General” by his fans, Vilakazi was called up to the national team in October 2013 and nearly a year later says he still gets excited to represent his country. “Every time I go play for the team I get very excited,” he says.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela in his number 10 Wits jersey, Vilakazi says he prefers to spend his spare time with his family in Meadowlands.

“I am a family man,” he says but adds that he occasionally has a few drinks with his friends.

‘Vila’, as most of his Wits teammates call him, says he makes it his priority to build solid friendships with the players. “We need to have that relationship as a team,” says Vilakazi.

As for his pre-match routines, Vilakazi takes a relaxed approach. “I sit on my bed for hours, with the TV on and think about the game,” he says.

And for the question his female fans most want the answer to: Vilakazi says he currently doesn’t have a girlfriend but appreciates the adoration he has been getting from his devoted supporters.

Dynamite comes in small packages

 Photo: provided

BOILING HOT: Braamfontein’s Boiler Room showcases work by students and up and coming designers and architects.
Photo: provided

A small, dark room in a Braamfontein alley is opening spaces and places for lovers of architecture and design.

The Boiler Room is part of the Alive Architecture initiative, located down an alley just off Melle Street, opposite the Neighbourgoods Market. It serves as a space for architecture students and upcoming architects to showcase their work at no cost.

In the first six weeks of its opening, the room had over 1200 visitors, and is becoming known as a space for innovation according to the owners.

Alive Architecture as an architectural gallery was developed in September 2011 and it now has a home in Braamfontein in as of  December 2013. The studio that now houses this innovative space is about 25 square metres is a small dark room. The space has a boiler for the building, which is above it in one corner, hence its name The Boiler Room.

The owner Pieter-Ernst Maré – along with Simon Cretney – says that the room caters specifically for students, upcoming architects and designers because this group does not get the chance to showcase as much as developed designers and architects.

“We felt that the smaller designers don’t get enough exposure to the general public,” said Maré.

Maré says that when the concept was drawn up in 2011 there weren’t many showrooms that were available for these marginalised groups to showcase their work for free.

Maré, who is a blogger and architect, says they look at proposals for the use of the space and choose a variety of ideas so the public can get a range of skills, trades and art exhibited in the space.

“We really don’t mind what our tenants do with the space – as long as we get it back like we gave it to them, so that the next exhibitor can step in and showcase with the minimum of fuss and expense in setting themselves up,” said Maré.

He said that many people do not understand the architecture industry. The Alive Architecture initiatives through The Boiler Room aims to educate the public about the work that goes into designing homes and work spaces.

Maré says the initiative wants to show that “architecture isn’t just about keeping water out of a space, that landscape architecture is not about picking the right petunia colour and that interior architecture is not about scatter cushions and curtains”. It’s an exploration of materials, ideas and philosophies that translate into a space, he says.

Maré says they hope to expand and showcase South African talent in other parts of the country in the near future.

Rapists can also ‘get their way’ online

One of the characters of Grand Theft Auto 5.  Photo: buzz wide

One of the characters of Grand Theft Auto 5.
Photo: buzz wide

THE VIRTUAL rapist who has recently appeared in the popular Grand Theft Auto 5 game, could “perpetuate the ritual of rape”, a psychologist has said.

Judith Ancer was commenting on the fact that the action-adventure game was recently hacked in order to create a character called Deep in The Butt, who specialises solely in terrorising and raping other online players in the butt.

Ancer said the implications of this were complex. If this kind of behaviour was accessible to people who had been exposed to sexual violence or abuse, it could perpetuate the ritual of rape.

This kind of fantasy created a “reality that women are victims of rape”, and that could have its implications in society.

She said that this implication can be detrimental to both men and women. “More so with men because they are more secretive about such issues,” Ancer said.

Not that all fantasies led to reality, she said. “I don’t think we should ban all fantasies but there are risks … If exposure didn’t make a diff erence we wouldn’t have advertising.”

Witsies had mixed reactions to the issue. Boitumelo Mpakanyane, BA Politics, did not see it as a problem. “If you can’t separate right from wrong that’s your problem, it’s just a game,” he said.

On the other hand, Edward Chan, 3rd year Bio-Science, said virtual rape “is not ethical and it’s an issue that should be looked into”. And Blaise Koetsie, 3rd year Law, said she was horrifi ed. She added that the way “we women are portrayed in the media is disrespectful and sad”.

“How are men supposed to respect us … I don’t like what the media promotes these days, I think it’s disgusting.”

In the game, the GTA5 terrorist always has his pants down, ready to molest his next victim. Although they get countless attempts to fi ght the perpetrator off , his victims always fail to kill him. When the off ender is done, his victims are left doing a strip dance as a sign of his victory.

When the game was released in September, there was discussion about whether characters should be able to rape. The owners, Rockstars Games, did not approve this change.

It did not stop hackers from accomplishing their mission, however, in their modifi cation of the game, which can be downloaded unoffi cially, whether the owners approve or not.

Commenting on games that allow virtual rape, print editor of Exeposé’s Games and Technology section, Adam Smith, told Marie Claire Online that rape was worse than murder.

“To be murdered is to be killed. It ends. To be raped is to be abused and left vulnerable and most importantly, having to live with that knowledge for the rest of your life,” he said.

When Wits Vuvuzela contacted Rockstar Games for comment, they received an automated reply, which stated: “Your comment has been received, Thanks”.

Brazilian hair scare


Wits Beaty Theatre stylist, Peace Goronga. Photo: Percy Matshoba

Hair salons in Braamfontein are still offering treatments for Brazilian Blow Outs despite recent reports finding many contain the cancer-causing chemical formaldehyde.

According to a study that was recently done by the University of Cape Town, six Brazilian keratin treatments, which are labelled formaldehyde-free, have been found to contain the cancer-causing chemical.

City Press recently named these products as: Re+5 Brazilian Keratin Treatment Formaldehyde Free, Cadiveu Brazilian Cacau Keratin Treatment,  Inoar Professional Brazilian Blow Dry, Hair-Liss Professional Line Keratin Treatment Chocolate and Medusa Professional Complex Brazilian Keratin Treatment.

The Wits Beauty Theatre salon on the corner of Jorissen and Station Street confirmed they use Brazilian Keratin treatment. Stylist Peace Goronga said they believe ”it is good for hair because it makes it silky straight”.

A stylist from a local salon, Teal Freeman, said Brazilian Blow outs need to be done in moderation. “Generally every few months should be okay,” she said.

Freeman told Wits Vuvuzela it is highly advisable for a stylist to use a mask when applying the treatment as failure to do so could result in breathing problems and other sicknesses.

She said formaldehyde is like any other chemical and can easily affect humans if they are overexposed to it.

“All chemicals if used in any amount can be harmful – just like if you eat too much food, it can also be dangerous,”

L’Oreal Institute stylist and co-ordinator Rocky Makhubo said their salon uses the “extensive” range instead of keratin as it is safer for clients.

Dr. Pranar K. Tripathi, a carbon material specialist at Wits who specialises in formaldehyde, said the chemical cannot cause cancer if it is not mixed with benzene.

“All chemicals if used in any amount can be harmful – just like if you eat too much food, it can also be dangerous,” he said.

Tripathi said he had not assessed the products and had not yet had a chance to see the UCT study.

As reported in City Press, Medusa Professional’s Denzil Ferreira said the product’s formaldehyde content was not indicated on the labelling but was reduced to 0.05% after UCT’s research was done.

“I became aware of the formaldehyde content about a year and a half ago. The supplier had told me the product was formaldehyde-free. Little did I know they used aldehyde, which is the same thing. This was their reason for calling it formaldehyde-free,” Ferreira reportedly said.

Nadine Bekaardt, a BCom Finance honours student at Wits, said she had always wanted to do the Brazilian treatment and that she was not aware that some of the products could cause cancer. “Now that I know that it can cause cancer I will think three times at least before I do it,” she said.

Third year chemical engineering student Rene King said she has done a Brazilian treatment before and the next time she goes she will opt for the organic product.

Transgendered to pee freely

OCCUPIED: Wits toilets to be transformed for the safety of the transgendered.                                                                                                  Photo: Percy Matshoba

OCCUPIED: Wits toilets to be transformed for the safety of the transgendered. Photo: Percy Matshoba

THE university is proposing “gender neutral” toilets in future to accommodate transgender students and staff.

According to the Wits anti-discrimination draft policy, all new buildings should have “gender neutral toilets, change-rooms and bathrooms”.
In addition, the draft policy states where applicable “all disabled toilets, change-rooms and bathrooms should be considered neutral spaces available for use by non-gender conforming staff and students with disabilities”.


Second-year bio-med student Alaine Marsden said gender neutral toilets are a necessity at Wits. “For gender variant individuals, we don’t feel safe going into bathrooms.”
Marsden, who is transgender, said the university needed to put the plan of introducing these bathrooms into action. “We don’t want spaces of contention, abuse and harassment. It will make us feel more at ease on campus.”

Marsden expressed fears of going into male or female bathrooms in the university. “I have to be careful,” said Marsden.
Diversity, ethics and social justice manager Pura Mgolombane told Wits Vuvuzela once the policy is approved it will then be put into the 2016 budget. “Some toilets’ signage will either be changed to a gender-neutral sign or new ones will be built, but it all depends on the approval of the policy,” he said.
First year BMus student Max Liebenberg said gender neutral toilets are the first step in fighting gender inequality. Liebenberg said for the convenience of transgendered individuals the university should make gender-neutral toilets available.
Foundation music student Shakeel Cullis said gender-neutral bathrooms and toilets are the norm in households. “I don’t see why it should be any different [at Wits],” said Cullis.


Heritage studies student Rita Potenza said men have the tendency to not keep their bathrooms clean and because of that, she would prefer to keep toilets separate.

“I wouldn’t want the unhygienic level [of male bathrooms] to spill over into the girls’ toilets,” said Potenza.
Francis Burger, MA Fine Arts, said if the university were to introduce neutral gender toilets she would prefer them.

“I prefer peeing standing up,” she said.


The University of Cape Town has introduced gender-neutral toilets on campus to accommodate transgender students and staff.
Gender-neutral facilities are common in many institutions in the United States of America. Other South African universities such as Rhodes University are also in the process of making these facilities available in line with anti-gender discrimination policies.

5.3 tremor shakes Witsies

Witsies were left shaken when a magnitude 5.3 earthquake was felt in Johannesburg shortly after noon on Tuesday.

The U.S. (United States) Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake was in Orkney in North West 120km southwest of Johannesburg.  The earthquake measured 5.3 on the Richter scale at a depth of 10km.

The quake was felt in Johannesburg, Klerksdorp, Durban and as far as neighbouring countries like Mozambique and Botswana.

First-year BA student Samukele Biyela felt the earthquake but thought the shaking sensation was because of medication she had taken earlier.

“Because I did not see reactions of people around me I thought I was going crazy,” she told Wits Vuvuzela.

Third-year Media Studies student Mxolisi Mkhabela said he was caught in a building during the earthquake and jumped from flight-to-flight of stairs in an effort to flee.

“I fell and hurt my leg,” he said. “I thought I was going to die.”


Wits tops Africa

Wits has been ranked the top university in Africa and 114th in the world. Photo: Wits Communications
Wits has been ranked the top university in Africa and 114th in the world. Photo: Wits Communications

By Percy Matshoba and Roxanne Joseph

Wits University has been ranked the top university in Africa and among the best in the world by the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR). 

The CWUR looked at 1000 universities around the world and ranked Wits at 114 overall. University of Cape Town is ranked 267, Stellenbosch 311, the University of KwaZulu-Natal 459 and the University of Pretoria 609. 

The criteria include the quality of education, alumni employment, quality of faculty, publications and research papers, influence, citations, broad impact and patents. Wits scored highly in alumni employment (29th) and quality of education (79th).

“It makes me feel like I am in a world class institution.”

The CWUR previously compiled a list of the top 100 universities in 2013, and has now extended the ranking to 1000 universities in the world.  The group claims to be the only ranking system that includes in its research the quality of education and skills development of students without relying on surveys and university data submissions.

Third-year law student Lerato Maviya said she was not quite convinced by the CWUR ranking system in terms of the quality of education. “I still find flaws in the way we are taught [at Wits],” she said.

BA Law student, Dimpho Bendile said the rankings made her proud to be a Witsie. “It makes me feel like I am in a world class institution.”

Approach ranking systems with caution

Wits Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib discounted the rankings and said they should be looked at with caution.  Different ranking systems used different criteria for universities. 

“We believe that as a university we should not be distracted by such ranking systems,” he said.  

Habib said the university’s focus should be to build a “nationally responsive and globally competitive institution, one that is both demographically diverse and cosmopolitan.” He said that if the university focuses on these qualities it will surely build a strong accreditation which will be acknowledged by more “established and relevant ranking systems”.

Proud to be a Witsie

Wits university alumnus Simiso Ndlovu said, in terms of graduate employment, the university had gone out of its way to find employment for graduates. “I got my current job through my honours lecturer,” she said. 

Ndlovu said the university’s top ranking gave her a sense of honour and prestige among competing graduates. “I can go anywhere in the world and proudly proclaim that I am a Witsie,” she said.

Director of Alumni Relations Peter Maher said the CWUR ranking was a confirmation of previous reports that had ranked Wits highly.  He said Wits has produced high achieving graduates when compared to other universities in Africa. 

“The overall ranking is good news for Wits graduates,” Maher said. Harvard was ranked as the best university by the CWUR, scoring the highest in seven of eight categories.

The top 10 universities on the list were shared between the United States, represented by eight universities, and the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Japanese universities were also heavily represented in the top 20 with the University of Tokyo at 13th and Kyoto University in the 16th spot.  The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology took the 18th spot and other US institutions completed the list.

The best of both worlds inside the shop with the red car

Braamies enjoying African Blended coffees and free Wi-Fi

Braamies enjoying African Blended coffees and free Wi-Fi. Photo: Percy Matshoba

Braamfontein locals know this store as the one with the old, red Mini Cooper inside it.

Branson Centre, its official name, is the store that offers a cup of java that has could have its origins in as far afield as Rwanda served under exotic names like The Dictator.

Serviced by Motherland Coffee, the coffee-shop part of the Virgin Mobile store, dares to be bold and different in the coffee-drinking experience.

Beverages with personality

With the names of their beverages ranging from ice d’Ivoire invented in Cote d’Ivoire and The Dictator that comes with a slogan “Make your day, Obey you”, it’s no wonder that young, hip, urbanites are attracted to the shop.

The coffee is also sourced according to fair trade practices which ensure ethical and fair practices in farming and sourcing coffee on the African continent.

There is also the pull of free Wi-Fi which is a sure bet in attracting student patrons but with a small cup of coffee costing around R22 and the larger at R35, it is likely that usually cash-strapped student customers are leaving the store with a thirst.

Wits Vuvuzela visited the store at various times on four separate occasions and in all instances, the store was unusually quiet. Manager of the coffee-shop Webster Ndebele sees an increase in foot-traffic over the weekends as tourists passing by from the Neighborgoods market pop in for a cup of coffee. Most tourists admire the style,” he said.

To celebrate these visitors from abroad, the shop has created the ”Tourists” – the name for coffee laced with the varieties of European syrups.

The store opened last October and has even managed to make it into the Guinness Book of Records for cramming the most number of people – 25 – into the little Mini Cooper.