SRC vice president-internal Tokelo Nhlapo, promised that they (SRC), would give Wits Vice-chancellor a “political baptism”. Photo: Nolwazi Mjwara
By Emelia Motsai, Thuletho Zwane and Ray Mahlaka
Wits has arranged for another Israeli musician to perform at the university to make up for the concert that was disrupted in March.
After a concert was disrupted on March 12, the university asked the organisers how they could make up for the disruption “for those who had bought tickets but were not able to enjoy the concert”, according to Vice Chancellor Adam Habib.
A group of about 50 students, including at least nine SRC members, disrupted a concert by Israeli-born pianist Yossi Reshef in March. The concert happened during Israel Apartheid Week. Eleven students were later charged by the university for contravening the university’s code of conduct. Habib said the university and the SRC were meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.
Not on Our watch
[pullquote align=”right”]Habib said if he listened to everything the SRC had to say, his role as a vice chancellor would mean nothing[/pullquote]
SRC internal vice president Tokelo Nhlapo said they are “going to debate them. If they fail to debate us, we will use civil non-violent protest to show that the university is being used to cleanse the bloody image of Israel.”
Nhlapo said the concert would not happen on their watch. “We are not going to be silenced by the charges.”
Habib said that, even though the SRC was chosen to represent students, they should realise they did not represent the student body on all issues. “I have in my office a whole range of petitions saying they do not agree with what the SRC did and that I must continue to prosecute.”
Habib said if he listened to everything the SRC had to say, his role as a vice chancellor would mean nothing: “They would just tell me what to do.” University management wanted to “make sure the reputation of the university is not impugned”.
Sitting one the fence
Habib said the music department had been tasked with organising the new concert. They could not secure Reshef so another Israeli musician had been invited.
Habib denied the university had “taken sides” on the Israel-Palestine issue: “You can’t be a free space for ideas and say that one side is allowed and the other is not.”
Nhlapo disagrees. “We think it is hypocritical that the university will fight for the Dalai Lama but refuses to stand up to Israel.” He said they would not allow Habib to go against the values that Wits stood for.
“We are going to give Habib a political baptism.”
The concert will take place on August 28 at the Great Hall. The South African Zionist Federation said it would be open to everyone. The students who were charged are now facing disciplinary hearings, which will resume on September 25.
“If we are going to be expelled for protesting, then I don’t want to be a part of this university,”
WITS university management have welcomed the recent survey featuring academic staff concerns of governance and salaries at the university.
The survey titled Whither Wits? was commissioned by the Academic Staff Association at Wits University (Asawu) and features 400 academic staff who voiced their grievances in their line of work.
“Asawu felt that it was time to get a sense of how academics perceive the institution and how they feel in relation to the university affecting academic life, especially with new management, “ acting vice president Fiona Horne told Wits Vuvuzela.
Asawu last commissioned a survey to gauge academic staff perceptions of the university in 2010.
Since then Horne said there have been a lot of critical issues affecting the university and widespread dissatisfaction amongst academics.
Issues raised in the survey
The number one widespread dissatisfaction among academic staff is salaries.
“Few people are happy with salary levels, which received a satisfaction rating of only 5.1%, while satisfaction rating for individual’s own position on the salary scale was 8.7%,” the report read.
The academics also took a swipe at the poor communication process with management regarding salaries at Wits.
The union representing Wits academic staff proposes that the university should use the bench-marking system, where salaries are compared with those offered at other universities.
Horne added: “If you are a lecturer you must be paid as a lecturer and not a tutor.”
[pullquote]It’s spot on [on] some of the issues of service delivery. We are on to those issues of service delivery. Some of the issues raised in the survey are historical issues. Some are quite regular issues that were raised by the survey[/pullquote]The university is generally not well governed, that is according to academics in the survey.
“This issue received a dissatisfaction rating of 64.6% of the sample with comments focusing on management’s distance from and inability to hear both staff and student concerns,” the report said.
Wits management responds
Deputy vice chancellor of finance and operations Prof Tawana Kupe confirmed receiving the report and told Wits Vuvuzela that by the time the survey was released the university had already started to address the issues raised.
“It’s spot on [on] some of the issues of service delivery. We are onto those issues of service delivery. Some of the issues raised in the survey are historical issues. Some are quite regular issues that were raised by the survey,” said Kupe.
He also said the issues identified in the survey are justified.
Horne said Asawu has the confidence in the new management, led by incoming vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib (@AdHabb), but cautioned that some issues affecting academic staff are not simple to address.
More issues plaguing academics
Another point of contention at Wits according to Horne is medical aid contribution.
She added: “Over 60% of staff are on maximum contribution. The vice chancellor and tutors are paying the exact amount of medical aid. It’s unfair, and it’s a huge chunk of their salary.”
Horne said another big issue academics are faced with is the workload, as they have to cope with teaching large class sizes and the pressure to do research.
“Demands are made on us. People are feeling tired and frustrated,” she said.
Alleged unfilled vacancies
Earlier this year Wits Vuvuzela reported that the academic union was concerned with unfilled vacancies at the university, which management denied that this was the case. The union also alleged that the number of unfilled vacancies has cost the university “R 100-million”.
“Certain departments are definitely under-staffed. That’s the trend in all universities, especially with the incoming vice chancellor’s [plans] to make it [Wits] a research intensive university. It’s all fine but, when academics are not getting the support they need, they’ve got huge workloads, it puts them in stressful conditions, “she said.
Kupe said the university has a policy of having a three month window period to replace staff members who have vacated their positions.
Other conditions of service raised in the survey are the lack of parking spaces on campus, the need for child care facilities and academic leave taken by teaching commitments.
Despite the issues raised by Asawu, Horne said academics are proud to be working at the institution.
AUGUST 16 marks the first anniversary of the fateful killing of Lonmin platinum mine workers in North West province. The event has been dubbed the “Marikana massacre” because police opened fire at over 30 protesting mine workers. A year later questions still need to be answered by the Marikana commission of inquiry regarding the police’s conduct and events leading to the disputes. Wits Vuvuzela took to the streets to ask Witsies whether they remember the event, its significance and how the day should be commemorated.
Ray Mahlaka and Nomatter Ndebele
Witsies use various modes of transport to travel to and from campus everyday. Some take 15 minute walks, while others have to travel for up to two hours. Wits Vuvuzela went out to bus stops, popular taxi pick up points, pedestrian crossings and trains stations to find out how the commute is for students and staff.
A day in the life
Witsie Yusuf Bapeekee at the Braamfontein train station. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Yusuf Bapeekee used to travel by motor bike when he lived in the West Rand near Kagiso. He recently moved to Mayfair and now walks daily to and from campus. [pullquote align=”right”]“I normally leave campus around 3.30, [but] because it’s Ramadan I leave around 1.15, after prayers.”[/pullquote]
“I never see anything out of the ordinary… just small school kids that walk free not scared. I see them and I feel free.”
Bapeekee said it took him “half hour tops” to make the commute. He said he left home at 7.15am. “I try to be early for my lectures”, he said as a smile grew across face.
“I normally leave campus around 3.30, [but] because it’s Ramadan I leave around 1.15, after prayers.”
Bapeekee said he enjoyed the walk. “It’s free to walk, plus it’s exercise.”
Asked about the crime associated with route around Enoch Sontonga Avenue, Bapeekee said:
“If I saw more students I’d feel even better.”
Walk on by
Ntombi Mbatha carefully crosses the street. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
A short brisk walk is all it takes for Ntombi Mbatha, 1st year BHSc, to get to and from campus. She lives at a Southpoint building just two blocks away from campus.
Even though her journey is uncomplicated she nearly got hit by a taxi once. She said that experience has made her think more than twice before crossing the street now.
She is fascinated by the high school students she passes on her way because they remind her of her days as one of them.
Ntombi feels very safe walking in Braamfontein.
“I went downtown once and it was just such a mess, Braam is better,” she said.
Ngake Mukgowane rushing to catch his train home. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Students aren’t the only ones who have to commute to and from Wits. Staff members also have their own transport missions.
Ngake Mukgowane is a Wits staff member who uses the train to commute.
He leaves his home in Dobsonville at 5.30am every morning and has to travel for about an hour and a half to reach Braamfontein station.
Mukgowane has been working at Wits for 18 years and has been a train commuter for most of those years.
He was in a rush to catch his 4pm train when Wits Vuvuzela reporters found him.
60 minute trip
John Malungani shows us how to call a taxi. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
John Malungani, 1st year BSc Com Sci,
has to commute for at least one hour a day to get to campus.
He says that he is more than willing to make the trip because of the good reputation that Wits has.
John lives in Tembisa. There is no taxi that comes straight from there to Wits, so he has to walk for another 15 minutes once he reaches Noord taxi rank.
He wishes he lived a little closer so that he could work and study till late on campus like other students.
“It’s hard travelling for two hours a day,” said Malungani.
By Thuletho Zwane and Ray Mahlaka
SOME Zimbabwean students said Morgan Tsvangarai’s MDC “slept” during the run up to the 2013 elections.
Two Witsies and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters said the party had become complacent and failed to strategise. They said the MDC did not campaign enough and the party lacked the capacity to carry our proper research.
“MDC has been sleeping in the GNU [Government of National Unity]. MDC gave the impression that they were going to win, while Zanu (sic) was working hard,” said media studies PhD candidate Shepherd Mpofu.
Questionable MDC leadership
Mpofu said Africa’s political leaders are trapped in a state of consumption. He said the MDC enjoyed the “trappings of leadership and Zanu-PF used the moment in office to campaign”. He said Zanu-PF gave people land but the MDC didn’t do anything to help the people but were fighting among one another.
Languages professor Robert Muponde said the MDC controlled every aspect of Harare: “They wanted to clean Harare and were charging the locals high rates. Instead of understanding the constraints people had in terms of poverty, they started to switch off their lights.”
Political campaigning strategy
Wits PhD candidate and MDC supporter Crispen Chinguno said he voted for the MDC because he was voting for change but said they were “naïve, complacent, over-confident and were caught off-guard”.
Chinguno said the MDC contradicted its founding principles: [pullquote]“They are supposed to be a workers’ party but seem more neo-liberal. The trade unions aren’t comfortable with the current MDC.”[/pullquote] He said Zanu-PF outsmarted MDC because the party used social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to appeal to the youth market.
Mpofu said: “Zanu-PF hired a British PR [public relations] agency that helped change their image.” However, Mpofu said the election process was flawed.
He said: “The voters’ roll was not released on time and 99% of Zimbabweans are educated, why did they need assistance with voting?”
Muponde said he was “angry and disappointed” about the MDC’s complacency and the months leading to the elections. “There were irregularities, blatant theft and rigging,” he said.
Irregularities in the elections
Muponde said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations (UN) knew about the irregularities but said the election was not violent.
[pullquote align=”right”]“These are double standards. The Zim elections are known to be bloody and lead to dislocations. So because there was no blood, both people housing the elections [the UN and SADC] say it was peaceful. They don’t look at the unfair practices,”[/pullquote] said Muponde.
He said the MDC thought they were the “darling of the people” and forgot “people politics”.
Mpofu said the group that started the MDC is going to start another party.
“I suspect some of the founders of MDC have become disillusioned and despondent. They might fund the new party,” Mpofu told Wits Vuvuzela.
Elections poser for Zimbabwe students, July 26, 2013
Thuletho Zwane @thulethozwane
Ray Mahlaka @Karabo_Mahlaka
By Thuletho Zwane and Ray Mahlaka
JULIUS Malema’s new political party is targeting Wits to gain more supporters.
Witsie and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) executive member, Innocent Thombothi, Political Science and International Relations Honours, said that Witsies were showing interest in the EFF.
“We do have supporters on campus. Most [of them] are people in the SRC, ANCYL and the YCL [Young Communist League], and members of the PYA [Progressive Youth Alliance],” Thombothi said.
He said it was difficult for “comrades” to come out and admit they were members or supporters of the EFF because they still had to serve their elected official terms in their respective organisations.
“They are still deployed in the PYA. There’s a conflict of interest. Maybe after the PYA elections [in August]. Most can’t disclose now. EFF is here, it is in Wits,” Thombothi said.
The EFF is a “radical and militant” political movement founded by former ANC Youth League President Malema.
It is a leftist movement whose policies include land expropriation without compensation, nationalisation of the banks and national resources, free education and health and opening South African borders to Africans.
[pullquote]”We do have supporters on campus. Most [of them] are people in the SRC, ANCYL and the YCL [Young Communist League], and members of the PYA [Progressive Youth Alliance]” [/pullquote] SRC treasurer, Justice Nkomo, however, said the EFF had no support at Wits. He said the EFF was holding an event at Wits but had to cancel it because most Witsies attended a talk by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.
“They wanted to infiltrate. If EFF was strong, they would be able to influence our own people,” Nkomo said.
“Those people who have crossed have always been politically irrelevant.”
Trevor Mkhawana, 2nd year Mining Engineering, said he knew a lot of people who support the EFF. “They believe in Malema. They got disillusioned by Zuma.”
Witsie Mabhoko Mojela said if the EFF won the 2014 elections, SA would turn into a banana republic.
“[But], the presence of Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, [EFF spokesperson] allows me to give EFF the benefit of the doubt. I trust his intellectual opinions and the good work he has done in the student organisations on campus.”
Puleng Tsehla, 2nd year Media Studies, from Lesotho, said she supports the EFF because the new party promotes open boundaries in Africa.
She said South Africans are always welcome in other African countries.
Other Witsies in the EFF include Floyd Shivambu who is studying his MA in political studies, Andile Mngxitama who has completed an MA in sociology and Ndlozi, a PhD politics candidate.
Just EFF’ing around? July 19, 2013
UJ says no to EFF July 29, 2013
[VIDEO] Do Witsies know the EFF? July 19, 2013
By Thuletho Zwane and Ray Mahlaka
WITS students will not be affected by a reported R42-million shortfall in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the university told Wits Vuvuzela.
According to media reports, the department of higher education reported the shortfall in the NSFAS budget to Parliament last month.
The announcement resulted in student protests at the University of South Africa (Unisa).
Wits financial aid status
Wits Financial Aid Office manager Busisiwe Sithole said Wits students are not affected by the constraints in the NSFAS national budget.
“Wits has not been affected by the NSFAS funding. The Unisa issue is a separate issue. Wits is alright, there are no funding issues,” Sithole said.
SRC treasurer Justice Nkomo rejected this and said 200 Wits students have been turned down for NSFAS funding.
Nkomo argued that the Wits NSFAS administration system had problems.
“The system is not perfect, the system has many loopholes,” said Nkomo. “I don’t know, if they say ‘there is no money crisis’ where is that coming from.”
Financially excluded Wits students
Nkomo said there were a number of students who were financially excluded, with some owing as much as R36 000.
He said there were students who didn’t receive NSFAS funding and instead had to receive help from the humanitarian fund.
[pullquote]”Wits has not been affected by the NSFAS funding. The Unisa issue is a separate issue. Wits is alright, there are no funding issues,”[/pullquote]The R3-million fund is an initiative by the Wits SRC and the university registrar to assist students caught in emergency situations without food and other basic needs.
“We need a permanent mechanism that handles fees. There is no plan here, there is rhetoric. We have entered into negotiation with management,” Nkomo said.
Nkomo said Wits needed permanent funding that goes to the humanitarian fund.
He said the SRC did not plan on leading a protest but would instead follow official channels to solve funding issues.
“Last year NSFAS did not open for second round because there was no money. This year there won’t be a second round. This is why we call for free education,” he said.
Second round is a decision by NSFAS to allocate more funding to students when there is enough money in the budget within the same year.
Administrative issues at Wits and Unisa
Nkomo said administrative issues within NSFAS at Wits can also be attributed to students not submitting all documents during the application process, which leads to their applications being denied.
Unisa SRC secretary general Ayanda Mngadi said the university is using its own money to fund students as NSFAS said, “they don’t have money”.
NSFAS Central Application System launches next year, May 16, 2013
Financial Aid funding late again, March 28, 2011
Wits science students Zwane Sicelukwanda, Edwin Mokoena and Ntomfuthi Khumalo talk to Wits Vuvuzela about their experiences of the astronomy talk. Photo: Nolwazi Mjwara
THE discovery of a massive collision of galaxies in space, a complex and massive astronomical riddle was made simple by Witsies.
This was all revealed at an astronomy talk chaired by Director of the Cosmic Dust Laboratory Prof David Block, at the new Wits science stadium on Monday night.
The talk was part of National Science Week hosted by Wits University all week to put the spotlight on science and technology research.
“No other team of astronomers had discovered this [collisions of galaxies]. This happened on our door step. Wits Applied Maths solved the riddle, solving a 200 year old riddle,” Block said.
School pupils and university students were part of the audience and were treated to graphical images of galaxies, space and years of research conducted by the Wits science team.
Block said the challenge was making people interested in science, as he is involved in an astronomy outreach programme which brings “1000 students” to Wits.
He also extended an invitation to Wits vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib to address people at astronomy talks.
[pullquote align=”right”]”There is now a paradigm shift in sciences and it’s amazing to learn new things.”[/pullquote]
Bavukile Dlamini, 3rd year mechanical engineering, said he was inspired by the astronomy talk and that Wits was at the forefront of astronomical research.
“It was very interesting and informative. There is now a paradigm shift in sciences and it’s amazing to learn new things,” Dlamini told Wits Vuvuzela.
While Zwane Sicelukwanda, 1st year BSC computational and applied mathematics urged young people to be involved in sciences as the industry has a lot of “old people”.
Through his astronomical research career, Block met renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and former president Nelson Mandela and joked that “UJ [University of Johannesburg] was not there”.
The Wits Science week runs from July 29 to August 2.
Wits Vuvuzela: GALLERY: National Science Week kicks off
Wits Vuvuzela: National Science Week: Be an archeologist at Wits for a day
Wits Vuvuzela reporters Ray Mahlaka and Thuletho Zwane attended the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) conference from this Friday night to Saturday. The conference happened in Soweto and drew a significant crowd.
EFF founding members Julius Malema and businessman Kenny Kunene march through the streets of Soweto. Photo: Thuletho Zwane
RAY MAHLAKA and THULETHO ZWANE
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) supporters were barred from entering the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Doorfontein Campus on Friday.
“Luthuli House was sabotaging us,” said EFF municipal co-ordinator and former ANC youth league secretary Walter Mokorodi. He said UJ’s decision to bar them from entry was politically motivated.
“We were given permission to be at UJ, but were refused entry. The ANC sent UJ students messages not to attend [the event]. We ripped up ANC t-shirts,” said Mokorodi.
EFF released a statement “condemning” UJ’s decision to close the campus to EFF’s event and Julius Malema, their commander-in-chief.
However EFF still maintains proper procedures were followed to secure a venue for Malema’s speech.
“EFF condemns the decision to close the university campus against the EFF event despite the fact that permission for the event was granted,”said EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
Ndlozi said “UJ has chosen a political side, fallen prey to the cheap tricks of the ruling party which use public institutions like the police, NPA [National Prosecution Authority], SABC…”
UJ media relations coordinator Herman Esterhuizen said “the university didn’t cancel the event. There was no application. The submission was not in the time period of the university”.
Esterhuizen said the UJ process for booking or hiring a venue should happen eight-weeks prior to event, and said the university did not “cancel the event”.
An EFF delegate handed Wits Vuvuzela the minutes of a meeting where booking of the venue was discussed. The document, with a UJ letterhead, which was not confirmed by UJ, shows that Mayibuye Anarchist Society requested to book room 2212 on July 2 to use on July 18. The minutes show the venue bookings were approved by the UJ bookings and hiring committee.
UJ venue bookings and hiring committee minutes showing a late venue application. Image: Provided.
Ndlozi said in a statement: “Economic Freedom Fighters were held at ransom because the toothless lapdogs of the African National Congress vowed that the EFF will not enter University of Johannesburg.”
EFF Mpumalanga media liaison officer Mpumelelo Masina said “people can cast out the fact we are disgruntled people who just want to sing and dance, we have intellectuals.”
Masina said EFF will be launching in Marikana on August 17 , a day after the first anniversary of the Marikana Massacre where 34 miners were killed.
Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron had a talk on transformation at Wits University on Wednesday at FNB Building. Photo:Ray Mahlaka
Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron raised concerns about the scourge of corrective rape in South Africa and the need to celebrate differences and diversity. He was speaking at the FNB Building on Wednesday about transformation policies for marginalised groups including women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community. Cameron is often celebrated as Africa’s highest ranking openly-gay public official. He said: “[Being gay] is not a preference or a choice. We should be proud of the way we are.”
THE new football season will kick off with Bidvest Wits signing stars Moeneeb Josephs, Matthew Booth and Benjani Mwaruwari on the squad, according to reports in the media.
Josephs has secured a three year contract with the Clever Boys.
Booth and Mwaruwari have each signed one year contracts, with an option to extend the contract for an additional year.
The signing of players by Bidvest Wits is a move away from the club’s tradition of young players, as the trio are in their 30s.
The Clever Boys are currently training in Cape Town for the next season which starts in August where they will face Platinum Stars.
The club also starts the season with new coach Gavin Hunt who replaces Clive Barker.
Bidvest management declined to comment on details of the new signings.
SuperSport : Wits sign Josephs on long-term deal
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Kick off: Benjani to Wits a done deal