Wits is hot property

Wits was only able to accept 5 500 students of the 46 000 who applied for the 2014 academic year, a minuscule 11% of the total application pool.

The iconic Great Hall pillars and steps on East Campus. Photo: Tendai Dube

The iconic Great Hall pillars and steps on East Campus.              Photo: Tendai Dube

Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib said: “It’s a sign of the desire to get into Wits. There isn’t another university that has as many applications as per the places that are available.”

“In medicine, by the way, the situation is even worse. We have 250 places, which is the largest medical program in the country, and we get 8 000 applications,” he said.

Wits  has a rich history that goes back over 90 years and is strategically placed in one of the largest cities in Africa. Habib said these were factors new students take into consideration when they apply.

[pullquote]”In medicine, by the way, the situation is even worse. We have 250 places, which is the largest medical program in the country, and we get 8 000 applications.”[/pullquote]

“The fact that this is an institution that goes back, 92-93 years. Partly, it’s got to do with the fact that this is an institution that is located at the heart of the economy. Both the South African economy and also the African economy. ”Johannesburg is one of the most economically active areas in Africa, attracting people from all corners of the country and the continent.

Total ‘energises’ some Witsies and Africa

Total South Africa and Wits University renewed the metaphoric vows of their partnership earlier this week.

In 2010 Total SA signed their first memorandum of understanding with Wits, which saw  Total funding students’ studies and research at the university in an effort to remedy the skills shortage present in South Africa.

DOTTED LINE: Total’s CEO, Christian  des Closiéres and Wits VC Prof Adam Habib renew a memorandum of agreement, in which Total pledge financial support for the university. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

DOTTED LINE: Total’s CEO, Christian des Closiéres and Wits VC Prof Adam Habib renew a memorandum of agreement, in which Total pledge financial support for the university.                   Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Total SA’s managing director and CEO, Christian des Closiéres, said Total had over 90 scholarships on the continent to make sure the youth are equipped with the “powerful weapon” of education.  Des Closiéres said the partnership with Wits went beyond financing students’ studies and included a multidimensional investment that saw Total funding research and training of academic staff at Wits.  In total 14 students had benefitted from the partnership over the past three years.

Highlighting why he saw the partnership as mutually beneficial, Wits Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib said Total would need the capacities of “a whole new generation of engineers” and the skills of many other professions.

While Wits may have a much smaller engineering programme than the University of Pretoria but  it is “perhaps the strongest engineering programme in the country and probably the continent,” said Habib. He said this strength lay in the vast amount of engineering research done at Wits, and being one of the only universities in the world with a mining engineering school, was another advantage.

Wits hopes to branch out into petroleum engineering and the partnership with Total could facilitate this move.  “Wits as an institution is beginning to ensure that the capacity for petroleum engineering, the skill sets required for it and the partnerships required for it, is developed in the country,” said Habib.

Along with this, Wits is trying to build partnerships with other universities across the continent to “begin to weave an intellectual capacity that can begin to support the developmental agenda of the African continent”.

Two ex-Witsies, whose studies were sponsored by Total, were present at the signing and said they were particularly grateful for the opportunity to go to Total’s summer school while they were studying at Wits.

The summer school runs for a week and consists of a series of seminars on various energy issues. Chemical engineering graduate Thulisile Cingo said the summer school was a way for Total to get insight and ideas from the various students they fund worldwide.




WITH VIDEO: Cape to Rio Witsies talk sailing

Earlier this month seven brave sailors from the Wits Yacht Club embarked on an epic sail to Rio, Brazil from Cape Town. Exactly 23 days and 53 minutes later they had reached their destination and managed to be the sixth boat to arrive at their intended destination.

Now that they’re back…

Two weeks after their victory, the crew that was on board the Amtec Wits Aladdin are getting back to their daily routine – which means lectures at Wits for most. Wits Vuvuzela talked to skipper, Bradley Robinson and crew member Alexa Brown, both only 22 years old.

One would imagine that being the only woman on board might have been a daunting experience for meteorologist, Brown but she took  it in her stride. “I’ve known all the guys for a really long time and have three brothers at home, so it’s not unfamiliar for me to be surrounded by testosterone,” she joked. Brown said that she got used to the guys “behaviour” and ignored what she needed to and only participated in conversations she felt comfortable with.

Getting to the finish line required much more time, effort and money than making it safely across. Months of planning and fundraising were needed beforehand to get the campaign going.

The money

[pullquote]“We wanted to give people a reason to donate, that’s why we came up with the R50 a mile concept.”[/pullquote]

Initially the idea to take part in Cape to Rio originated from the four “pioneers” of the team, who later recruited three more members, Brown being one of them. The four were Robinson, coach and manager, Brennan Robinson, trimmer Ricardo de Carvalho and watch captain, Alistair Moodie. The three “newbies” were navigator, Staurt Purchase, bowman, Patrick Chappel and Brown.

“It’s not a cheap campaign, we needed a large budget,” said Brown. The pioneers each contributed a substantial R30 000 each for the campaign and the other crew members R20 000.

The Wits Amtec Aladdin arriving in Rio. Photo: Provided

The Wits Amtec Aladdin arriving in Rio. Photo: Provided

Along with this the team had three main sponsors namely, Wits, Amtec Engineering and PPS Insurance. Additionally the crew started a something called “R50 a mile”, whereby they secured donations from ordinary people. “We wanted to give people a reason to donate, that’s why we came up with the R50 a mile concept,” said Brown. She explained that people could donate R50 for one of the estimated 4000 miles they would travel. “We printed all the names of our donators in the Wits emblem on the side of the boat, so in essence they came all the way with us,” said Brown.

Training beforehand

“They (the recruited members) knew nothing about sailing when came to Wits. It’s incredible that after just four years later they travelled across the sea,” said skipper Robinson. The training for the race started almost a year ago and happened in an incremental manner, but luckily all members had been sailors for a while and more than half had been sailors or years.

By November of last year most of the crew travelled down to Cape Town and lived on the boat for five weeks in preparation of their journey.  In those five weeks the crew was preparing the boat, cleaning it, checking its safety, fixing it up and so on. The Aladdin was a yacht generously lent to the crew, it is now at sea once again being delivered to its owner.

Along with being placed in sixth place, the crew won the Youth Ocean Sailors Award, which commended them for being the only student boat in the race and recognition for doing so well in the race.

While the crew was at sea they had a “stig” who was taking care of all their social media, to update people who were following their progress, see the journey on their website: witscapetorio2014.


How to back your boytjies

Earlier this week the Wits Rugby team got smashed by Tukkies in Monday’s Varsity Cup match. Tuks is known for their rugby and being a physically aggressive team. Wits, not so much. The 53-8 thrashing drove this point straight home.

[pullquote]”Fifteen burly men, a ball that bounces funny and more than one way to score…”[/pullquote]

There are still weeks of Varsity Cup matches yet to come, which means many more beatings (for our team and others) so perhaps a primer is needed for those of us who are rugby neophytes but want an appreciation for the ruthless game.

Fifteen burly men, a ball that bounces funny and more than one way to score—sounds like my kind of game. Rugby is one of the only sports I enjoy watching because as a nation we tend to prosper in that field.

Wits and Tuks go head to head in a scrum. Photo: Caro Malherbe

Wits and Tuks going head to head in a scrum during their Varsity Cup match on Monday. Photo: Caro Malherbe

There’s something inspiring in knowing the team you’re backing actually stands a chance of winning (side-eyes Bafana Bafana). There is more to the game than hoping on a try though.

The 15 giants on each team are made up of eight forwards and seven backs, with a bench that allows for up to eight more players. Much like life, rugby is about scoring, in this case scoring the most points by the time the two 40-minute halves have run their course.

Kick-off starts after a coin toss, followed by a kick from the halfway line that flies at least ten metres. If unsuccessful, the opposing team gets to pick between a scrum (short for scrummage) or a line out to fight for the ball

A scrum is when die manne do that intense huddle that somehow requires giving one another wedgies, pushing and shoving until the ball is kicked backwards to the mouth of their teams scrum, passed to a halfback who will either run like Forest or kick like Montgomery.

There are three main ways to score points during the 80 minutes of play.

Firstly a try, running through the opposing teams line of defence and touching down in their goal area, this gets five points on the scoreboard.

Secondly, a conversion can add on another three points, after a successful try, the best kicker on the team (usually a flyhalf) gets a go at kicking the ball through the goalposts for what’s called a drop goal.

The Varsity Cup 2014 scoring system is slightly different to regular scoring where conversions are usually only worth two points. Another difference is that penalty kicks or drop goals are only worth two points, as opposed to three.

There are rules on rules on rules on how players tackle one another, go for the ball etc, but those are lessons for another day. Until then, take this primer and get out to a Varsity Cup rugby match and cheer for our boys in blue.


EDITORIAL: Twisted love affair

It starts  with some subtle courting, then a proposal for a dinner date. You plan the outfit carefully a week before, pick the right shoes and accessories? The day before you get a call to confirm your date, along with it an sms that night saying: “I’m really looking forward to our date tomorrow, sleep tight.”

[pullquote]”We continue to show up, allow ourselves to trust, to hope and make our mark.”[/pullquote]

You arrive on time –15 minutes before, in fact, just to be safe. You ask for a table right in the middle of the restaurant so your date can spot you immediately and so that  the two of you can be seen. After an hour you start to worry, your call is met by voicemail, you text incessantly but in vain. You start to notice patrons whispering about you.

The waiter is optimistic, says he’ll arrive any minute now. The manager has seen this happen before. She is sure you’ve been stood up and should probably just head home. She comes over and says: “These things never work out, don’t do it again.” After waiting 2 and 1/2 hours you admit defeat and head home, maybe it will work out next time, you think.

Voting in our beloved country has become much like the above scenario for many discouraged South Africans. We continue to show up, allow ourselves to trust, to hope and make our mark. Only the other side doesn’t show up. They leave us all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The upcoming elections present an opportunity to make our voices heard, or so they say. There are millions of voices trying to have their say, our government can only do so much, right? They may listen but it’s hard to believe they actually hear us. My generation has only just entered the arena as citizens with a voice, but already so many of us are weighed down by an overwhelming apathy because of the disconnect we can see in the promises made and the promises kept. [pullquote align=”right”]”We don’t have the answers, we may never have them. They don’t have them either…”[/pullquote]

We fill our heads with countless readings, hours of roundtable discussions and engage with one another on the interwebs trying to find a way. Just trying to find someone and something to believe in, someone and something bigger than the various constraints of our supposed privilege and contrasting poverty. There’s not much consensus between our leaders and us, the youth and the future. We don’t believe their lies, but we know it’s all  part of a bigger  game – if they don’t do it someone else will. We don’t believe there’s any point in choosing the lesser evil either, picking a side just to pick a side. The whole thing smells like a convoluted fishy mess to me.

But what choice do we have? If we keep quiet, we’ll have to watch it all burn. If we make a spoiled mark we may be accused of dishonouring those who shed blood to give us this right. If we agree to just pick a side as an act of “democracy”, we would willingly be hopping aboard  “The Assimilation”, a ship destined for failure.

We don’t have the answers, we may never have them. They don’t have them either but they think they do. We have a choice to make, an important one.

It’s up to us to make the one that says the plan isn’t working, one that says let’s revise the plan, let’s turn the plan on its head if need be.

Our inked thumbnails do mean something and will mean something either good or bad for those to come. As the architect in the Matrix said: “Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”

Artists collabo for LGBTI awareness

CRAFTY SYMBOLISM: Onlookers were drawn to the Faces and Faces wall, full of black and white photographs taken by visual artist  Zanele Muholi.                                                                                                  Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

CRAFTY SYMBOLISM: Onlookers were drawn to the Faces and Faces wall, full of black and white photographs taken by visual artist Zanele Muholi. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Walking onto the eerily silent ramp that leads to the new exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, one is met by death. Small mounds of sand stand,holding up colourful wooden crosses that have dates of birth and death written on them.These graves that lie in glass containers are in the Zanele Muholi’s Mo(u)rning section of the exhibition.

The next piece of the collection, Faces and Faces catches the eye immediately as a wall of black and white portraits look one in the eye. There are some gaps between some of the photographs by Muholi which speak to the nameless but dated graves.

“The spaces were left there to show that they could have been a part of this section of the exhibition if they weren’t killed for being gay and lesbian,” explained facilitator Ace Kekana, whose face appears in one of Muholi’s portraits. Queer and Trans Art-iculations: Collaborative Art for Social Change is a collaborative exhibition by visual artists, Muholi and Gabrielle le Roux. [pullquote align=”right”]”…men who gang rape women, who murder lesbians, who beat their wives – they walk the streets as free men.”[/pullquote]

Muholi’s work is on the ground floor of the museum with a focus on the LGBTI community in South Africa – their beauty, their struggle, their murders and more. Muholi is not only a photographer, so her work varies and in this exhibit includes some of her bead work and a documentary film.

The most elaborate display in Muholi’s section are rosaries that hang from the ceiling. The beads in the rosaries are tennis balls and kitchen utensils. The vertical end of the cross at the end of the rosary is made from a knife which represents the violent killings of members of the LGBTI community experience, and the horizontal end from braai forks to represent the supposed hell killers think they’ve sent their victims to, or perhaps the lived hell victims endure.

This is one of the rosaries that hang from the ceiling. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

This is one of the rosaries that hang from the ceiling. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

“When people kill based on gender they like to say it’s for religious reasons, these crosses represent how dangerous that kind of thinking can be,” said Kekana.

The most moving part of Muholi’s exhibited work is a wall with a number of written messages from victims and their family members about their experiences. One of the messages read: “Here in South Africa you have judges sending women to jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her baby, but men who gang rape women, who murder  lesbians, who beat their wives – they walk the streets as free men.”

In contrast to the quiet reception on entering Muholi’s floor of the exhibition, walking down the ramp into the basement area, sounds from the television screens set up with short documentaries by Le Roux lure attendees with their mixed up buzz.

Le Roux’s collection, Proudly African & Transgender and Proudly Trans in Turkey looks at the experiences “trans and intersex people in Turkey and Africa,” said Kekana. Another facilitator, Thekwane Mpisholo is in one of the portraits put on display by Le Roux.

The painted portraits are inclusive of their “subjects” and this can be seen in the quotes the artist let them scribble on their actual portraits.

The newly launched Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, helped to find the funding for this project. “They’re the ones who helped us with the planning and funding because they (Diversity Studies) study things that aren’t ordinarily studied by other faculties – that’s how they came on board,” said Mpisholo.

There is a lot to read, watch and see at this exhibition and people can do so until March 30 2014 at the Wits Art Museum.


VoWFm brings chemistry to the airwaves

A student conducting a chemistry experiment at the Wits Science Stadium. The university has psycho-social programmes to identify and nurture learners from disadvantaged high schools who show promise in science and mathematics. Photo: Tanyaradzwa Nyamajiya

The Science Inside brings chemistry of another kind to campus via VoW FM airwaves. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela

By Pheladi Sethusa and Paul McNally

Wits campus radio station, VoW FM (90.5), debuted a pioneering science show called “The Science Inside” last night.

The show  aims to teach listeners about science in new and interesting ways. The show produced by The Wits Radio Academy with funding from The Department of Science & Technology, takes major news events and goes into the science behind them. 

According to presenter Paul McNally, the show is committed to science education in a climate where South Africans consider knowledge of political parties superior to chemistry (and by extension corruption-uncovering journalists are deemed more worthy than science journalists). This is a perception the show hopes to chip away at, as our science and maths education was ranked second last in the world last year, just ahead of Yemen, according to a World Economic Forum Report. 

In the pilot episode Deejay Manaleng explained how a pepper spray was dropped in a girls’ bathroom. The gas escaped across the toilet and up to the ceiling. She giggled at the memory of her running out of the toilet cubicle of a packed club spluttering and coughing. She starts to cackle when she explains how each girl – for the rest of the night – squeezed into the cubicle, pulled down her pants and burnt her ass. “They were screaming,” she laughed into the microphone.

The episode with Deejay then focused on chemical weapons in Syria – a macabre and bloody topic – but the pepper spray story helped ease the tension before investigating the technology behind complicated killing machines. One of the experts on the show cited pepper spray as the world’s simplest chemical weapon.

Next Monday the show will look at the science inside South Africa’s ARV shortage. Tune in live every Monday at 6pm or stream/download the Science Inside podcasts on soundcloud.


#Teamvuvu #Neknominated

#NekNomination, a social media challenge, has flooded profile pages and time lines of young people around the world. Formerly a drinking game, #NekNominations are now used to encourage people to do good.

A person or organisation challenged does an activity that helps someone else out, then passes along the challenge. It’s sort of like a electronic chain letter for charity.

The Wits Vuvuzela team (#teamvuvu), was challenged in a #NekNomination from Wapad, the student publication of the North West University. We had 24 hours to take on the challenge of making a difference and recording it.

Wits Vuvuzela reporters hit the streets of Braamfontein to hand out cupcakes to the homeless. But we also wanted to  ask the homeless what they needed because sometimes a simple gesture is not enough.

GALLERY: O, What a jol!

By Pheladi Sethusa and MfunekoToyana

The weather wasn’t warm but thank God neither was the beer.  The atmosphere in the beer garden was positively sizzling.  O-week offered students a great way to start the year, explore the campus and get to know each other.  The fun isn’t over yet, with tonight’s  Fresher’s Bash sure to be a razzmatazz humdinger. Ziyawa Mo.

Students feel the petrol pinch

Students who use the national roads in Gauteng (and not Malawi) were served another blow to their already gantry-sucked pockets.

The fuel price increased by a further 39 cents yesterday morning, after a 30 cent increase in December, raising the petrol price to an all time high of R13.96 for a litre of unleaded petrol. Diesel went up by 24 cents bringing it to R13.15 a litre. The Automobile Association predicts that by the end of the year petrol prices may increase to a staggering R16 per litre.

Driving woes: It's costing more and more for students to drive themselves to campus. Photo: Mia Swart

DRIVING WOES: It’s costing more and more for students to drive themselves to campus. Photo: Mia Swart

Alicia Jacobs, 1st BComm is a new driver but plans to use public transport to try and alleviate some of her costs. “Luckily I have access to reliable public transport but there are days driving through will be necessary, so I’ll do that.” She added that travelling does cost people too much money and has no idea, “how people are meant to keep up and still live off what they earn.”

Second year politics student, Xavier Mann said this increase was crazy considering how “bad the rand is doing at the moment”. At the beginning of last year Mann recalls paying just over R500 for a full tank in his VW Polo and is now paying around R630 to fill up his tank.

He added: “I think a good alternative for me right now would be starting a lift club with mates that live close to me.”

Mann also bemoaned the fact that on top of this increase are e-tolls, “I only have a part time job, I don’t make enough to keep up with increases and e-tolls.” He is taking a civil disobedience stance by not buying a tag or paying the bills sent to him and plans to keep doing so.

There was a half promise made by President Jacob Zuma late last year to look into e-toll concessions for students, but nothing has come of it yet. Afriforum Youth has launched an online petition to address this, amongst other e-tolling issues.