How to dig up political dirt

By Ray Mahlaka and Dineo Bendile

INTIMIDATION, bribery and smear campaigns are the challenges faced by investigative journalists in South Africa, said Sunday Times journalists Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Rob Rose.

Wa Afrika and Rose are experts in this as they are the team who exposed the wasteful expenditure of state funds by former communications minister Dina Pule.

Earlier this year Pule was suspended from her position following an investigation into her improper conduct after she allegedly awarded her boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa, a tender for the organisation of the ICT Indaba in 2012.

The journalists’ interest was sparked by tip-offs and inside sources from the department of communications. They would later use records from a travel agency after Pule had all her own records of her holidays with her boyfriend destroyed.

Investigative journalism tips

The speakers were able to give delegates some tips based on their investigative experience.
According to the speakers, one of the fundamental aspects of investigative journalism was the importance of ensuring the accuracy of any information published. Their initial articles were met with denials, forcing them to get more information on Pule.

[pullquote align=”right”]“The more you deny, the more a journalist will dig. And the more they dig the more stuff will come out.”[/pullquote]

“We became unpopular… we were forced to get more damning evidence for people to believe us,” said wa Afrika. Rose and wa Afrika said they did not stop at getting documents but also sought out the authors of the documents.

“If you get any document, the best way to verify information is to find who is or are authors of this document,” wa Afrika said. “Any document is written by the source, try and trace which is the author and interrogate them on why they wrote the document.”

According to wa Afrika, after breaking the revelations of Pule he had several meetings with the former minister and some of her colleagues where they attempted to intimidate him and offer cash for his silence.

He urged journalists to meet sources in public places that they know well to avoid any possible attacks or being accused of accepting a bribe.

“Make sure that when you meet someone you meet them at a strategic place. Make sure you know the place you are meeting at and you know that there are cameras,” wa Afrika said.

Persistence is needed when uncovering the truth as an investigative journalist. While investigating Pule’s improprieties the team received a lot of backlash from politicians and Pule herself. However, this only encouraged them.

“The more you deny, the more a journalist will dig. And the more they dig the more stuff will come out,” wa Afrika said.

He told delegates that journalists are often intimidated by people with power to force them to back down from investigations.

“When you become an investigative journalist, one thing you open yourself up to is smear campaigns, slander, people trying to intimidate you. People will try to kill you, not because you are a bad person, but because you stepped on some toes,” wa Afrika said.

The Guardian newspaper journalist David Smith, who attended wa Afrika and Rose’s presentation, said he wanted to find out more about investigative journalism in South Africa.

“I wanted to know what stories are being covered and who’s covering them… there is a lot of good journalists doing good work, Mail & Guardian and Sunday Times are a few [such] publications. I think South Africa probably has the strongest investigative journalism in Africa,” he said.


Eyewitness News: Dina Pule fined and suspended. August 7, 2013

GALLERY: Luc Hermann explains how corporates dodge tax

Luc Hermann, a French journalist who specialises in deconstructing corporate “spin” gave a seminar on how corporate tax evasion via Luxembourg on day two of the ninth-annual Power Reporting conference.

Delegates made up of close to 300 journalists from around the world, listened Hermann speak about multinational flouting of tax laws and the use of loopholes in the law.

Project W cries foul over portfolios

Bayas’jwayela: Project W’s Jamie Mighti listens on as Progressive Youth Alliance’s  (PYA) Tebogo Thothela explains why some SRC portfolios were merged and new ones created.                                                      Photo: Ray Mahlaka

Bayas’jwayela: Project W’s Jamie Mighti listens on as Progressive Youth Alliance’s (PYA) Tebogo Thothela explains why some SRC portfolios were merged and new ones created. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

 By Emelia Motsai and Ray Mahlaka

PROJECT W has accused the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) of shutting it down in a “conniving manner” after Monday’s constitutional meeting that allocated portfolios.

PYA’s Shafee Verachia (@ShafMysta)was elected uncontested as the new SRC president and four other PYA members were voted into executive team portfolios.

Project W did not make it onto the executive team despite winning seven of 15 directly elected seats on the SRC.

The PYA won eight seats but has an additional four seats on the SRC which were elected indirectly.

 Consulting SRC portfolio

Project W’s Jamie Mighti (@thenextbarack)said they came to the PYA “with open arms but we were shut down in a systemic, ruthless and conniving manner. Bayas’jwayela [they are disrespecting us]”.

Project W ‘s Jabulile Mabuza (@ceejaymabuza) said it was “clear that they don’t want to work with us”. She said they had been sidelined and called it an “insult to democracy”.

“You are saying people can do whatever they want as long as you have one more vote,” Mabuza said.

Comrades discuss politics via Whatsapp

Wits Vuvuzela was given a copy of a Whatsapp group conversation between some Project W members and the PYA deployment committee made up of current and former SRC members. [pullquote align=”right”]“We would desire Mighti Jamie for the position of VP [vice president] and Jabulile Mabuza for deputy secretary-general,”[/pullquote]

In the conversation, Mighti was asked which portfolios Project W members wanted and who they wanted in those positions. Mighti said Project W wanted himself and Mabuza in executive positions.

“We would desire Mighti Jamie for the position of VP [vice president] and Jabulile Mabuza for deputy secretary-general,” he said.

Mighti said Project W wanted those positions because it would give them representation in meetings only available to members of the executive team.

“We would also be able to put our views to these decision-making bodies [senate, council and convocation].”
SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa (@Sibulele_) asked Mighti: “May I ask: does it matter if [Project] W is not in exec? Will it affect their performance in SRC?”

Mighti responded: “I definitely think it will send the message that our say is not valuable to the decision-making process, we would like a voice at the very least in the university structures.”

Mighti warned that excluding Project W would “create an atmosphere of adversity, in that it is the PYA executive versus the Project W candidates, this may lead to more fractious relations over time.”

Divvying up SRC portfolios

Two new SRC portfolios were created and some were merged. Mighti said they were not consulted on this.

“They came to the meeting, merged all the positions that you think are powerful, not because they are trying to be benevolent but because they are trying to monopolise power,” Mighti told Wits Vuvuzela.

[pullquote]“They came to the meeting, merged all the positions that you think are powerful, not because they are trying to be benevolent but because they are trying to monopolise power”[/pullquote] He accused the PYA of merging positions because they ran out of candidates for the portfolios believed to be influential.

PYA deployment committee member Tebogo Thothela denied Project W’s allegations and said the new portfolios were created regularly.

Thothela said they had spoken to Project W members to ask them which portfolios they would want.

Verachia also defended the portfolio assignments: “A lot of thought went into the portfolios,” he said.

Verachia said Project W’s disappointment was because they may have been “ambitious of the portfolios they wanted”.

Working dynamics between Project W and PYA

Mabuza and Mighti were assigned to the two new portfolios, of campus liaison officer and day student liaison officer respectively. Both said they would do their best to serve students in those portfolios.

Verachia said unifying the team would not happen “over night” but he was ready for the job ahead: “It’s a huge responsibility and I am up for the challenge.”

Related articles

SRC to divvy up the spoils, September 13, 2013

SRC President announced: The winner takes it all, September 17, 2013

WITH GALLERY: SRC election results – PYA gets a wakeup call, August 30, 2013

Wits nightshift isn’t mahala

By Pheladi Sethusa and Ray Mahlaka

WITS Campus Control security guards allege they are owed about R40 000 each in their night shift allowance payment.Three Campus Control security complained to Wits Vuvuzela that they had not received increases for night shift allowances since 2002, despite working seven days a week for 12 hours a day. This amounts to about R40 000 per guard.

[pullquote align=”right”]“There is no indication that the night shift allowance increase will materialise”[/pullquote]

The security guards want a night shift increase of R400-500 per month, to their current monthly salary which they say ranges between R4000- R5 000. The security guards said they only received R190 per month for night shift allowance.

“There is no indication that the night shift allowance increase will materialise. Every time we ask the head of security, they say they cannot comment. The money for the night shift allowance is too low,” a security guard said.

Payment received

At a meeting last week Prof Tawana Kupe, deputy vice chancellor of Finance and Operations, showed Wits Vuvuzela evidence of the payment of nightshift allowances via workers’ payslips. He said all Campus Control workers were accounted for.

However, unionist Billy Cebekhulu, the treasurer of Nehawu said a report was commissioned by Wits management to look into night shift increases. While the report is done the issue is that the findings are not yet public .

Cebekhulu said: “We were told the person has been hired [to look into night shift remuneration] and there will be a report. We have not seen it and we are still awaiting a report. The night shift issue is a concern to us.”

We want our money

A third security guard said they are owed at least R40 000 in night shift allowance increases per person from 2002. He said they want the money before December.

[pullquote]“I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, I want to know what their problem is”[/pullquote] Nehawu said that in 2009 it took the university to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to resolve night shift disputes at the institution.

However, Kupe said during his eight month tenure as DVC, he was not aware of a CCMA case as there might have been a settlement.

Kupe said perhaps the nightshift allowances are not increased like salaries, “not everything is subject to an increase,” he added.

FILE PHOTO: A Wits security guard is pictured on duty earlier this year. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana
FILE PHOTO: A Wits security guard is pictured on duty earlier this year. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

“I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, I want to know what their problem is,” said Kupe.

Cebekhulu said the problem with the nightshift allowances was that before 2009, the allowances were being taken off their basic salaries at cost to company. Cost to company is the amount a company pays employees before any deductions, meaning that any benefits would be charged off of one’s salary.

“We have been paid with our own money,” said a distraught Cebekhulu.

In 2009 it was agreed that a R150 increase on the nightshift allowances would be granted, which meant that the R150 would be a separate entity, that wasn’t at cost to company.

The union and workers want to be remunerated for the years in which the nightshift allowance was taken off their salaries.

Hide and seek

Chairperson of Nehawu Wits Richard Sadiki said there was “a hide and seek on management’s side” in not addressing night shift concerns.

One disgruntled guard said: “We work hard and we can’t afford to take care our family (sic). We are being ripped off.  We should be paid more and we guard the university 24 hours, but there is no thanks from the university. We are doing our level best to make students safe, but the employer is not grateful.”

Security guards also complain of a lack of security guards on West campus.

According to a security guard, there are only three guards at West campus, from the nine hired in 1993.

Kupe said that having more staff on campus would not help to prevent crime on campus, “we don’t need more guards”. He felt we needed students to behave morally and justly towards each other, he felt.

[pullquote align=”right”]”We should be paid more and we guard the university 24 hours, but there is no thanks from the university”[/pullquote]

Rob Kemp, Director of Campus Control denied allegations that nightshift staff were not paid their allowance. “The allowance has not fallen away and still active. The allowance is a requirement in terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act,” he said.


SRC President announced: The winner takes it all

Project W's Jabulile Mabuza and Jarred Hart respond to the announcement of the 2013 SRC portfolio. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

Project W’s Jabulile Mabuza and Jarred Hart respond to the announcement of the 2013 SRC portfolio. Photo: Ray Mahlaka

By Ray Mahlaka and Emelia Motsai

Progressive Youth Alliance’s (PYA) Shafee Verachia was elected the new SRC president at the constitutional meeting that was held yesterday.

The meeting was held to determine which portfolios the newly elected SRC members will take up.

Outgoing SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa said Verachia’s position was uncontested. The new SRC is made up of eight PYA members and seven Project W members who were voted for by Witsies last month.

Paul Ndeweni got the deputy president portfolio, Michlene Monya is the secretary general, Shoki Masha,  deputy secretary general and the treasurer is Sandile Ngwenya.

[pullquote]”It’s clear they do not want to work with us”[/pullquote]

The new SRC will no longer have two deputy presidents but will have a deputy secretary general. Some portfolios like clubs, societies and student governance were merged.

Academics and policy were also merged and so was projects, media and campaigns.

Two new portfolios were created,  day student liaison officer and campus liaison officer.  Having only PYA members in the executive team and merging of some portfolios left Project W SRC elects very upset.

Project W’s Jabulile Mabuza, who got a newly created portfolio  said she was disheartened by what had happened and PYA had merged positions to monopolise power.

“It’s clear they do not want to work with us,” said Mabuza with tears in her eyes.

Outgoing vice president external Joy Phiri said it was normal for the SRC to create new positions to meet the needs of students.

Jamie Mighti of Project W said he was “disgusted and shocked”. He said they were not consulted on the decision to create the new portfolios or who was going to take what portfolio. He described the portfolio’s his organisation received as “fluff positions”.

He added: “They [PYA] don’t want to negotiate. They have created a winner takes all situation.”

PYA member Tebogo Thothela, (SRC 2011/12),  said they had been in talks with Mighti about  the issue of portfolios and Mighti’s demands were two portfolios in the executive team for Project W. He said they (Project W)  said nothing about the other portfolios.

2013/14 SRC portfolios

  •  President- Shafee Verachia – PYA
  •  Deputy President  Paul Ndiweni – PYA
  •  Secretary general- Michlene Mongae – PYA
  •  Deputy Secretary general- Shoki Masha – PYA
  •  Treasurer- Sandile Ngwenya
  •  Projects, media and campaigns-  Nelson Maunatlala – PYA
  •  Clubs, societies and student governance – Sarah Mokwebo – PYA
  •  Academics and policies- Angeliki Vidalis – PYA
  •  Community and service development- Avigal Cutler – Project W
  •  Transformation officer- Jarred Hart- Project W
  •  Legal officer- Gerry Comninos – Project W
  •  Strategic planning- Ethan Genende – Project W
  •  International officer- Kay Mlaba – Project W
  •  Campus liaison officer- Jabulile Mabuza – Project W
  •  Day student liaison officer- Jamie Mighti- Project W





SRC to divvy up the spoils

WINNING: Progressive Youth Alliance member Shafee Verachia got the most votes in the SRC elections this year.    Photo: Mia Swart

WINNING: Progressive Youth Alliance member Shafee Verachia got the most votes in the SRC elections this year. Photo: Mia Swart

  By Emelia Motsai and Ray Mahlaka

Project W has been having unofficial “preliminary” meetings with the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) ahead of a meeting to talk about creating an “SRC that works”.

Project W’s Jamie Mighti (@thenextbarack) said a constitutional meeting on Monday would decide who gets what portfolio, so they could come up with a “winning team”.

Mighti said the PYA seemed sincere and interested in helping students, so he felt positive and confident about working together.

Of the 15 seats available on the SRC, the PYA got eight and Project W got seven seats.

Another four positions are indirectly elected and are held by the PYA.

During election campaigning there was often tension between the two organisations.

PYA and Project W SRC members have vowed to put their differences aside and put student issues first.

The top election vote-getter and PYA member Shafee Verachia (@ShafMysta) said they would work with Project W.

“We will have to put personal interests aside and work together. I have faith in working with Project W. We will work hard with Project W,” Verachia told Wits Vuvuzela.

He said he would be happy to serve in any portfolio  his organisation decided on.

Mighti also said he would be happy with any portfolio but “I would like to work in academics”.

After the constitutional meeting the new SRC members will shadow the current SRC until they take office in November.

Related articles

WITH GALLERY: SRC election results – PYA gets a wakeup call, August 30

VIDEO: Wits SRC election Results 2013, August  30

UPDATED WITH GALLERY: Activists thrown out of Ramaphosa’s NDP lecture

TEMPERS flared as activists and mine workers were thrown out of a lecture by African National Congress ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Wits Great Hall last night.

The activists and mine workers from the Marikana support campaign were disappointed that Ramaphosa did not address the Marikana massacre of 34 miners in his lecture. Last year, police shot and killed the mine workers in the North West province in an ongoing labour dispute.

Instead Ramaphosa spoke about the National Development Plan (NDP) which was adopted as a policy by government.

Outraged activists and mine workers 

The Marikana support campaign activists expressed their outrage at Ramaphosa for not talking about the government’s refusal to pay for legal representation of the mine workers at the official commission of inquiry.

Alfred Moyo, one of the activists, accused Ramaphosa of lying to people in his lecture.

“There is no there is no community participation in the NDP. He does not address anything about Marikana and miners’ challenges. They [government] have blood on their hands. We have South Africans living in informal settlements, we have no services.This talk is busy is total rubbish. He is here to lie to people,” Moyo told Wits Vuvuzela.

Claire Ceruti, activist with the Democratic Left Front was thrown out of the lecture for telling Ramaphosa that he has blood on his hands. Ceruti had previously protested against Trevor Manuel at the Ruth First Memorial Lecture in the same venue.

Ceruti said Ramaphosa tried to make himself look good by averting questions about Marikana, as she was expecting him to take responsibility.

“It’s disgusting that he sits there as someone who makes profits. These are the people who gave the go ahead for the trigger at the Marikana massacre. He defended the police for their actions, by sending emails to the police commissioner,” Ceruti said.


Marikana commission of inquiry 

Ramaphosa, speaking about the commission of inquiry said the story of Marikana still needs to be told and addressed fully.

“Many people feel the pain for Marikana. It’s deeply regretted,” he told the audience which were not convinced.

Ramaphosa was boo’ed throughout his speech by the activists. They also carried posters which read: “Don’t let the politicians get away with murder, Marikana support campaign.”

In response to the posters Ramaphosa said people with papers cannot distract those without papers. We must respect each other’s right to speak.”


Zooming in on the NDP

On the NDP Ramaphosa noted that South Africa’s economy does not serve the interest of people as it creates few jobs, skills levels are poor in the country and that inequality plagues society.

“The NDP serves as a vision to overcome key challenges; inequality which we have inherited, poverty and unemployment which also has roots in our past. The NDP is a plan that can deliver faster economic growth and inclusive growth. Ills are plentiful, there are many problems that beset the nation. The NDP provides pragmatic plan to transform the economy”.

The contentious plan has been rejected by trade unions, which claim the policy will not solve the country’s socio-economic issues.

[pullquote align=”right”]”Ramaphosa just came here to canvass. He just wants votes.”[/pullquote]

Ramaphosa said he welcomed debate around the NDP.

He added: “We are a nation of people who love to talk, we are noisy and robust, that is good. We would love to get full agreement, especially in our country. Those views need to be given a platform to be articulated. “There has been resistance to the NDP, which needs to be debated. Those who are criticising the plan need to engage with the plan. We all want what is best for our people and the country.”

Some members of the audience scoffed at his assertion that socio-economic change has occurred.

Socio-economic change?

Ramaphosa’s assertion that wages have increased since 1994 and that workers have won the right to strike did not bode well with mine workers in attendance.

A Lonmin Platinum miner who shot by police during wage disputes said Ramaphosa’s lecture was a campaign strategy for next year’s national elections. He refused to be named.

“Ramaphosa just came here to canvass. He just wants votes. There is no promises and change for poor people. He just bought a buffalo [which he placed a R20-million bid on and lost], he should have given the money to suffering people,” the mine worker said.

Ramaphosa said the NDP policy is not perfect. He added: “We will continue to engage. Where there are gaps, well work with society to fill the gaps. We need to implement the NDP.”



WITH GALLERY: SRC election results – PYA gets a wakeup call

Article by Emelia Motsai and Ray Mahlaka. Gallery by Mfuneko Toyana

Project W has broken the Progressive Youth Alliance’s (PYA) winning streak by scooping seven of the 15 SRC seats.

The results of the 2013 SRC elections were announced today at the Wits Great Hall piazza.

Newcomers Project W got almost half the seats on the SRC. Last year PYA won 14 of the 15 seats, losing only one seat to an independent candidate.

In 2011 they won all the seats on the SRC. The percentage of students who voted in this year was 24%, a 3.5% increase from last year.

Election results paper with candidates and the number of votes recieved. Page 1

Election results paper with candidates and the number of votes recieved. Page 1

Election results paper with candidates and the number of votes recieved. Page 2

Election results paper with candidates and the number of votes recieved. Page 2

Reactions from organisations

While the PYA narrowly maintains its majority on the SRC, with only eight seats, their shock was evident.

“They got seven seats,” said current SRC external Joy Phiri (@Joy_Phiri) who is a PYA member right after the results were announced.

Project W’s Jamie Mighti (@thenextbarack) said the votes reflected what students wanted.

“The students have voted, we’ve introduced democracy and excitement around politics in the university,” said Mighti.

When his name was announced in eighth position Mighti walked across the Great Hall stairs to where PYA members were standing and mocked them. They booed him in response.

[pullquote]“The students have voted, we’ve introduced democracy and excitement around politics in the university”[/pullquote]

PYA’s Shafee Verachia (@ShafMysta) the incumbent SRC academic officer got most of the votes. He garnered 2967 votes, 3.6 % of the total votes. PYA supporters cheered loudly when this was announced.

“I’m quite happy, PYA will pride its self in serving students,” said Verachia.

None of the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (Daso) candidates made it in to the top 15, the first of their candidates came in at number 31 with 945 votes.

“We gave up half way through,” said Daso’s Dikeledi Selowa (@DK_Selowa) who was visibly upset.

University registar Kirti Menon made the announcement of the results. Menon said the results were fair and free and she congratulated all the candidates, even those who did not make it.

Students react to results

Students who were interviewed by Wits Vuvuzela did not seem to have a problem with the results.

“Project W will sharpen the PYA. We should be celebrating, we have sound leaders. I’m happy with the SRC results said,” Mcebo Sisulu.

Another student said he would have liked to see a 100% PYA SRC but he was ok with the results: “it’s a wake-up call [for PYA], as long as there is representation on both sides.”

Verachia said he was happy that there was more diversity in the SRC: “We will work hard with Project W to serve students.”

Mighti also said a functional SRC was possible even if it was run by Project W and PYA members. “It won’t be broken, it will work,” he said. The New SRC will begin its term on November 1.

The Wits SRC 2013/2014

1. Shafee Verachia – PYA

2. Angeliki Vidalis – PYA

3. Nelson Maunatlala – PYA

4. Jabulile Mabuza – Project W

5. Jarred Hart – Project W

6. Kay Mlaba – Project W

7. Ethan Genende – Project W

8. Jamie Mighti – Project W

9. Michlene Mongae – PYA

10. Gerry Comninos – Project W

11. Paul Ndiweni – PYA

12. Avigal Cutler – Project W

13. Kabelo Ngwenya – PYA

14. Sarah Mokwebo – PYA

15. Shoki Masha – PYA


WITH GALLERY & AUDIO: Ruth First Memorial silences miners of Marikana

by Prelene Singh and Ray Mahlaka. Audio by Nokuthula Manyathi. Gallery by Nolwazi Mjwara. 

OUTRAGED activists and mine workers walked out of the Ruth First Memorial lecture this evening, in protest at the lack of engagement following Trevor Manuel’s Ruth First lecture.

Members of the public and of the university community gathered in the Great Hall to hear the annual memorial lecture of slain activist, journalist and scholar, Ruth First. Professor Anton Harber of Wits Journalism, vice chancellor Professor Adam Habib and Minister of the National Planning Commission, Trevor Manuel all addressed the audience.

“We should not be afraid to be unorthodox”

In the lecture itself Manuel spoke about the challenges of mine workers, the migrant labour system and the national development plan but was careful to point out that anything he said should not be seen as preemptive of the  decisions of the official commission of inquiry which is ongoing. He also addressed the problem of equality in the mining and migrant labour sectors in South Africa.

The commission of inquiry was launched to find answers to the killing of 34 miners by police last year but has been plagued by financial issues. Manuel said South Africans should give the commission full confidence that it needs for it to find answers. [pullquote]”We are all sorry that people died but clearly Trevor Manuel is not.”[/pullquote]

Manuel said after Marikana last year on August 16: “We have learnt much about the human condition and solidarity and we should not be afraid to be unorthodox.”

Shortly after Manuel completed his speech, Claire Ceruti, activist with the Democratic Left Front said his speech was “rubbish.” From her seat at the back of the hall she shouted “Give us the right to talk about inequality, we are all sorry that people died but clearly Trevor Manuel is not.”

“This is an abuse of the memory of Marikana”

Ceruti said Manuel repeated everything they already knew. She said everyone sat and listened to him [Manuel] speak, now “we want to ask questions”. Ceruti said: “This is an abuse of the memory of Marikana and she said “its ridiculous” regarding the current inequalities in the mining industry and the profit made by the mining companies, which is being sent overseas and not being spent locally.

“People are just getting poor, he can’t argue that there is an improvement in living conditions at the mines … Trevor Manuel is not sorry about people who are dying. We just want to see justice after his role in Marikana,” said Ceruti.



Ceruti and the group of miners she had arrived with were escorted out of the hall by Campus Control with the vice-chancellor in close proximity.

In response to the disruption, Manuel commented after the lecture: “I don’t know what their concerns are. They started shouting and screaming. I don’t know the issues they raised. That was not appropriate raising the issues at the memorial lecture.”

Prof Habib said that the “right to protest is protected and we respected and allowed it to happen”.

Habib said that if questions were taken the conversation might have never ended but “I am glad it happened and I’m glad we managed to move on”. “I think its wonderful and is a representation of the complexity of her [Ruth First] life, and that’s what we hoped for.

Anita Khana of the Marikana Support Campaign said she was not satisfied by what Manuel said. Khana also said that mining companies are more worried about profits.

[pullquote]I feel like vomiting[/pullquote]

Khana said that “Manuel showed a deep understanding of inequality but there is a real gap between what he thinks inequality is and what is actually happening.”

Ceruti said: “I feel like vomiting”. She expressed concern around the fact that Manuel came and gave a wonderful speech and made everyone listen to some music and goes home feeling wonderful about himself.

Marikana Support Campaign

Trevor Ngwane, spokesperson for the Marikana Support Campaign said: “The miners were silenced today” when he expressed his concern over the fact that there was no conversation about this in the lecture. Ngwane said: “The miners came here today hoping to get five minutes to have their say”.

He said the miners wanted to to say that they were still suffering and their wages was “starvation wages”.

The most important thing Ngwane said the miners wanted, was to appeal to Manuel for funds to pay for their legal representation at the Marikana Commission. Workers have withdrawn from the commission because they do not have funds to participate. This is unfair because they are the victims, said Ngwane. Dali Mpofu, the advocate representing the miners said: “It would have been important for him to reconcile the recent decision of the Cabinet to turn their backs on the miners.”

“They weren’t capable do that without opening up the debate between what obviously are clashing classes. There were workers here and those who belong to the elite should be confronting the issues of inequality” Mpofu said when addressing the question of whether the event was what he expected.

[pullquote align=”right”] “I think Ruth First would have loved it”[/pullquote]

A miner who was shot last year by police in the labour disputes commented in an interview with Wits Vuvuzela: “Its painful what they are doing to us. He was suppose to speak the truth, the real challenges of mine workers. No body is listening to us and it worries me. We are not stupid, we want progress as to why we have been killed.

“At the moment we do not have rights.”

Scatterlings of Africa

Johnny Clegg who was summoned to the stage minutes after the members of Marikana Support Campaign and the miners were escorted out of the hall by security said: “It was a magical moment” and “I think Ruth First would have loved it”. He said that it was a confirmation of South African democracy and a conversation which needs to happen

The night ended off with Clegg performing some of his greatest hits including the international hit “Scatterlings of Africa”.

Day 3: SRC Elections – PYA celebs booted

TELEVISION personality Pearl Thusi (@PearlThusi) and youth activist Shaka Sisulu (@shakasisulu) were prevented from distributing Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) election material on campus today.

The celebrity duo was invited by the PYA to encourage Wits students to participate in this year’s elections. “We encourage Wits students to vote. Once they vote, they will make the wise choice,” Sisulu said.

 Threats of disqualification 

Chief electoral officer Jabu Mashinini stopped the duo and threatened that if they continued to campaign, the PYA would be disqualified from the elections.

“The rule says only students can campaign. This is Wits University, don’t campaign for them. They cannot approach students. I don’t want this debate,” Mashinini shouted at the two visitors. Mashinini also said Thusi and Sisulu’s presence is seen as campaigning for the PYA, which would give the organisation an advantage in the elections.

Mashinini added: “You can’t bring people to campaign, as they will get an advantage. Only Wits students can campaign, it’s part of an election rule. I will disqualify them and this is a last warning.”

[pullquote]“The rule says only students can campaign. This is Wits University, don’t campaign for them. They cannot approach students. I don’t want this debate”[/pullquote]

Roping in Thusi and Sisulu did not bode well for the opposition organisations, who accused the PYA of using under-handed tactics by bringing influential people to campus.

Opposition organisations react

A group of PYA candidates argued that anyone in a democratic country can bring anyone to campaign, as “all of the organisations have been doing dirty things”.

They also accused Project W of buying votes by allegedly awarding students couches worth “R25 000” in a bid to win the elections. They also raised concerns over Project W’s intentions to participate in the elections. Candidate for Project W, Gautam Rao, slammed the PYA’s allegations of buying votes and said “the couches were donated by corporates”.

Rao added: “We were not doing this [buying couches] for votes. We don’t need anarchy at Wits. Anarchy will not help this university. We were told to abide by [election] rules when we joined the campaign. We need to bring integrity back to Wits.”

Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (Daso) candidate, Rebone Segopolo, also weighed in by criticising the PYA’s election move. “How do you bring Pearl Thusi? They should have brought a Wits alumnus, someone more relevant,” Segopolo said.

 Last day of the elections

Today marks the last day of this year’s SRC elections. According to presiding election officer, Nosi Sosibo, the votes will be counted overnight. She also said an indication cannot be given as to which organisation is leading in the election race. “Last year was busier than this year. Last year was worse,” Sosibo gave an indication on voter turnout. The election results will be announced tomorrow.


Wits Vuvuzela, Day 2: SRC elections, August 29, 2013

Wits Vuvuzela, Day 1 of SRC elections 2013, August 28, 2013

Wits Vuvuzela, VIDEO VOX: What are Witsies voting for? August 28, 2013

Witsie sues Vodacom over Please Call Me

Nkosana Makate the man claiming he invented the Please Call Me concept. He is suing Vodacom for the innovation. The case is still pending at the South Gauteng High Court. Photo: Leigh-ann Carey

Nkosana Makate the man claiming he invented the Please Call Me concept is suing Vodacom for the innovation. The case is still pending at the South Gauteng High Court. Photo: Leigh-ann Carey


DESPITE claiming that Vodacom stole his Please Call Me idea, Witsie, Nkosana Makate has no grudges against the telecommunications giant and still subscribes to its services.

Makate has been embroiled in an intellectual property dispute for the service he claims he invented and was not compensated for.

The dispute has been playing out for three weeks at the South Gauteng High Court, where both parties presented their arguments. A court date still has to be set by the judge for closing arguments.

Makate, a sociology and psychology student said he had no grudge against his superior at the time, former Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig . Knott-Craig was at the helm of the company between 1993 and 2008. He is now the CEO of Cell C.

“I’ve always respected the man. I still do. It’s just that we had quite an awkward moment, that he probably loved the invention so much that he believed it came from him.”

Where it all started

It all started with a love affair in 2000, according to Makate, when his then girlfriend now wife who was a student at the University of Fort Hare had no money for airtime.

Lack of airtime for a long distance relationship and a couple of communication barriers, sparked an idea for a free telecommunications service which allows mobile users to send free messages for the recipient to call back.

“Please Call Me solved a relationship love problem, which culminated into technology.”

Makate, a Vodacom accountant at the time pitched the idea to his boss and executive for product development at the time, Philip Geissler. He claims that his idea was captured in a proposal and concept documents and “that’s how it [Please Call Me idea] got to Vodacom.”

According to Business Day Knott-Craig has refuted in court that he had any knowledge of Makate’s agreement with Geissler and that he was not contractually bound to compensate Makate.

[pullquote]I knew that for me I had nothing to lose further except to try to get justice and fear will always be there when you take on big giants[/pullquote]Knott-Craig also has his own version on how Please Call Me came about.
According to media reports, Knott-Craig in his memoir details how he allegedly invented the idea. While observing from a balcony how two security guards were trying to communicate with each other through missed calls, that’s was the gap Knott-Craig saw for the inception of the service.

“Between him and I, we know who came up with the idea. In a court decision it will come and be clear exactly who is the inventor.”

Pursuing “justice”

Makate said his quest for “justice” through the legal route was the last option, as he tried to settle the matter out of court.

All what Makate wants is for Vodacom to recognise that he “has been wronged.”

And only in 2008, after failed attempts to get Vodacom to discuss the Please Call Me concept, he approached the courts.

Makate alleges that after summoning Vodacom to court, he tried to engage with Vodacom about the matter, but to no avail. On taking on a large telecoms conglomerate, Makate said he got to a space where fear didn’t matter.

“I knew that for me I had nothing to lose further except to try to get justice and fear will always be there when you take on big giants.”

He also said looking back in time, he surprises himself by the strength he had to see through the 13 year Please Call Me battle with Vodacom.

Compensation bid

His bid is to have the telecommunications company compensate him atleast 15% of the revenues made from the successful service and the company to keep the lions share.

Although he had a turbulent relationship with the company which gave him grief for 13 years, still subscribes to Vodacom.

He suspects that Vodacom is tapping his conversations.

He added: “When you pursue the truth, there is nothing to hide. I know they are tapping me, they know what I’m talking about. This interview is probably known, for me it doesn’t matter.”

Litigation against Vodacom according to Makate doesn’t come cheap. He initially had to fund the case from his own pocket. When Makate’s story continued to be publicised by the media, he then garnered financial support from donors in 2011. “[pullquote align=”right”]In Ubuntu culture, you try to engage people first. Courts are foreign to us. Unfortunately it was something I was forced to do when I got a response to say they are not prepared to meet with me ever. It was a watershed moment[/pullquote].”

“I got funders who came on board who said we can assist. They evaluated the case and saw merit in it and they assisted.”

When asked how the please call me offering had developed since its inception, Makate said it had been successful.

“It has done well. I think it has grown over the years. It’s the kind of market where its audience will be the poor. It will always be those who cannot access whatsapp.”

Lessons and future endeavours

Makate said his struggle with Vodacom has not deterred him from producing innovations. However, he is now cautious about patenting his innovations.

“I protect [innovations] now before divulging…I am probably more skeptical in how I approach things now than I was at 24 years old.”

Life beyond the Vodacom battle for Makate involves giving motivational talks at High Schools on his intellectual property battle. He is also penning his book titled Taming The Beast on his please call me story.

He is quick to clarify that the beast in his book title is not Vodacom, but “corporate in total”. The book will be completed, once a judgment has been served. A movie on please call me is also on the horizon.

Related Articles

Business Day ,Knott-Craig denies he knew of ‘invention fee’, 08 August 2013.

Mail and Guardian, Vodacom’s ‘Please Call Me’ case: Investing in the fight for justice,

Money Web, Vodacom’s Please Call Me case: the inside story,16 August 2013.