SLICE OF LIFE: White riches, and white guilt

Oh, what it is to be white and middle class in present-day South Africa! The struggle is real. People, do not brush aside my pain. You do not understand my hardship in trying to convince people I have not benefited from my low-level melanin casing.

Okay, perhaps I need to admit that denial is not just a river in Egypt. I may not like to say it, but hi, I’m Robyn, and I’m a member of the white privileged elite in this country. Luckily, I am not alone in my plight. You’ll see a lot of us around. We’re generally hanging out in places like Sandton City, getting ridiculously over-priced haircuts.

Don’t believe me? Clap your hands if you’ve heard a variation of this argument before:

“I’m tired of hearing about apartheid. I’m tired of feeling guilty for being white, and being made to feel like racism is my fault. I didn’t cause it, why should I suffer through affirmative action/Black Economic Empowerment/*insert other complaint here* in order to fix it? It’s time to move on from the past.”

Robyn Kirk

This statement is an amalgam of conversations I’ve had with many people over the years, and is even an echo of what I used to believe myself. It is also completely and utterly wrong.

When I say that white privilege is still prevalent in South Africa, please try to understand why I say it before you sharpen your pitchforks. I know white privilege exists because I probably wouldn’t be here if it didn’t. Perhaps it’s easier to see the privilege entwined with my skin colour because my roots aren’t as deeply entrenched in this country as other people’s.

I am first generation South African, the daughter of Irish immigrants. My father sometimes tells the story of how our family got here. He was working at a textiles factory in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, 40 years ago. There was a man there named Greg, working as a machine operator, and my father started up a conversation with this man.

“Oh, you’re an electrician?” Greg said. “So am I. I can’t find any of that kind of work though, which is why I’m doing this. There aren’t enough jobs in this country for us … Do you know where there is work, though? South Africa.”

And so, to South Africa Brian Kirk came. He worked on six-month contracts during the 1970s, doing electrical work here for half the year, and returning home for the other.
In 1982, he and my mother got married in Ireland and moved out here a few months later. They’re still here 32 years later with four daughters and one grandson.

They gave us a good life. We grew up in a nice house, went to excellent private schools and had the opportunity and funding to go to university. I don’t mean to take anything away from their love and devotion – they worked hard to provide.

But did they work harder than a domestic worker, who left home at 4am to get to the madam’s house to cook and clean? My parents’ hard work had more material reward because my dad was a white, skilled worker at a time when the “white” part mattered an awful lot.

“I know white privilege exists because I probably wouldn’t be here if it didn’t.”

My story may not be exactly the same as other white South Africans’ stories but, if you look at them critically, you’ll see a common thread running through them all.

Not so long ago, race was a deciding factor in the work and pay you could expect, the humanity you were shown and the standard at which you could take care of your family. We, as the children of those who went before, need to realise and admit this.

Yes, it is not mine or any other young white person’s “fault” that apartheid happened, but we need to accept that we have benefited from it, in small ways and in big.As a country, we need to keep talking about the wrongs and hatred of the past, not in order to assign blame, but rather to create understanding and move forward. I will quote William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Everything exists now because of what was before.

We need to understand where we’ve come from to find the right path to where we want to go. Sometimes this means admitting we’re complicit in something we wish we weren’t, but if that’s the only way to move forward then I think it’s worth the pain.

Porn and the human trafficking industry

Joy Phiri is studying for her MA in Philosophy and was a member of the SRC for 2012/13. Photo: Luca Kotton

Joy Phiri is studying for her MA in Philosophy and was a member of the SRC for 2012/13. Photo: Luca Kotton

by Joy Phiri

University resources and platforms are sometimes used as a means of downloading and exchanging pornographic materials.

I first witnessed this phenomenon in my first year of study. True to the average Witsie-way of doing things I was at the CLM 24-hour laboratory burning the midnight oil, chasing an 8am deadline. At mid-night, earphones emerged from sling bags of my fellow students and suddenly all focus was directed towards desktop screens.

Some students were watching porn in a public vicinity. I was shocked but I managed to act as though I did not notice anything out of the ordinary. A few years down the line and it is not the public viewing of pornography that shocks me but rather how related the pornographic industry is to the exploitation and abuse of women.

United Nations and South African Salvation Army statistics show that roughly 2-million women and children are trafficked in and around the region and continent annually. Many of these persons become subjects of sexual exploitation. Amongst other things, these persons are forced into substance addictions and the production of pornographic materials.

Last week the Wits community boldly declared that ‘Sexual Violence = Silence’ through a march against sexual violence. Be that as it may, many Witsies continue to visit pornographic sites and click ‘watch’ or ‘download’. Is clicking ‘watch’ or ‘download’ on pornographic material not a form of silence as well? Is the consumption of pornography not a form of consent, given the relationship between pornographic materials and modern day sexual slavery?

It is true that not all pornographic materials are produced under the exploitative conditions alluded to above, but it is also true that it is difficult to discern which materials are made under these conditions. Although we may not realise it, our smaller actions feed into the bigger problem.

As we pledge our support for various plights ranging from the returning of kidnapped girls in Nigeria, sexual violence marches, sexuality dialogues, I hope that we would be more conscious of how our smaller actions feed into the bigger picture. The seemingly inconsequential action of pornography consumption is a catalyst to the many social ills that I have highlighted above.

I hope that the next time we think of clicking ‘watch’ or ‘download’ the stories of the persons behind the pornographic films will cross our minds.

Choose your leaders carefully

Shafee Verachia is a BSc Actuarial Science honours student. He is the president of the 2013/14 SRC and a member of the Progressive Youth Alliance.

Shafee Verachia is a BSc Actuarial Science honours student. He is the president of the 2013/14 SRC and a member of the Progressive Youth Alliance. Photo: Luca Kotten

by  Shafee Verachia

I HAVE spent the last two years of my time on campus as an SRC member, first serving successfully as the academic officer in 2013 and then as the president of the SRC in 2014. In all of this time, I have come across students who have served in Student Representative Councils not only at Wits, but nationwide and it is through these experiences that I’ve grasped an understanding what it is that is needed to make a good SRC member.

I have seen both the good side of student leadership, and also the bad. I have witnessed the ugly reality of SRC members who undertook being a member, solely for it to stand out on their CV or a fancy title.

I have served with SRC members who, sadly, are not willing to sacrifice for students. Just this year, when discussing the fact that there are students at Wits who are sleeping in libraries, a member serving on the current SRC with me told me, “These students left home and made a choice to sleep in the libraries. I don’t see why we need to fight for them.”

Before voting then, it is imperative that students ask – is this kind of attitude, a quality of a leader that they would like to have representing them?

But I have also witnessed the good of SRC members. I have been so privileged to encounter and serve with students who are always willing to sacrifice and go the extra mile, to best serve students. Being on the SRC requires you, for example, to have to miss lectures and tutorials because you have to go and fight at Senate House for issues such as academic exclusion rules to be relaxed.

There are many SRC members who are student leaders during the day and students during the night. And it is exactly this kind of leader, which you want to be serving you on the SRC. It must always be remembered, that the heartbeat of students, should ALWAYS be greater than an individual’s own selfish ambitions and pride.

To students, I have one resounding message which I cannot reiterate enough: make an educated vote. Don’t only ask ‘What can this organisation do for me alone?’ but rather what can it do to improve the quality of the state of affairs at our university as a whole? Who is it that cares the most for all student interests and is working towards a goal for transformation?
The prettiest face, or the one who uses the best English, may not necessarily be the best person to be representing the interests of 30 000 students. It is a big decision to make, who to give your vote to. But I will say this: trust an organisation. Take the time get to know the candidates and the organisation alike.

Know what it is that they stand for, and know what it is that they are planning to do. Sit back, and consider: what are they doing to challenge the status quo and to continue to drive Wits towards being the best university in Africa.

I wish only the best of luck to all candidates and to all students.

The artist that paints with conflict

READ THE SIGNS: Anthony Schrag often uses pieces of cardboard with phrases or questions written on them to engage people in his work.                     Photo: Robyn  Kirk

READ THE SIGNS: Anthony Schrag often uses pieces of cardboard with phrases or questions written on them to engage people in his work. Photo: Robyn Kirk

ARTIST Anthony Schrag is different. People are his canvas, not paper, plus he has echolalia, a rare compulsive condition.

Schrag is one of the last artists to be involved in an exchange between Europe and South Africa as part of the Nine Urban Biotopes project. Artists from the two continents experience working in an unfamiliar setting and use the experience to create art.

He has been in South Africa for just over a month as the resident artist at Wits Drama for Life, but moves as if he has been here for years.

“I don’t make things. I don’t make paintings or sculptures or photos or films. I sort of design events.”

His studio is a small and cramped office, a space temporarily occupied for a certain amount of time and then left vacant for longer stretches. After only being there a month, Schrag has undoubtedly made a mark on the place – a white board has random words and the phrase “the theatre that does not heal” scrawled across it. An idea for future work perhaps?

A rather sombre photo hanging on the wall of actors performing a scene from a Shakespearean play has been covered by a piece of paper with a drawn smiley face. And everywhere there are squares of cardboard with short but powerful phrases written across them. Schrag was born in Zimbabwe, spent his childhood in Oman in the Middle East, moved to Canada with his family as a teenager and is currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Do not expect to see any paintings or sculptures of the experience from Schrag in the coming months though, he prefers to use people as his canvas, not paper.

“I don’t make things. I don’t make paintings or sculptures or photos or films. I sort of design events. I’m interested in participatory projects. Projects that happen with people – not for people, not at people, not using people, but sort of with people” he said.

People are his passion and his talent. A few years ago he was diagnosed with echolalia, a compulsive urge to mimic the accents of those who talk to him.

“It’s supposed to be about empathy and belonging. When you mimic the accents or even the physicality of people around you, you’re trying to fit in, you’re trying to be part of it. I realised that was a lot of my work.” He visits strange places, where he tried to fit in and tries to find out things about other peoples’s lives: “I’m like a spy.”

His experiences at Wits in Joburg has inspired the project entitled “The School of No” in which he wants to focus on the community of Drama for Life to understand just what knowledge an educational institution possesses.

In his short time at Wits, he has become very interested in the broader social problems reflected within the university.
He has picked up that African names are anglicised in order to make administration run smoother. And, he believes this may unintentionally perpetuate racist ideology. Schrag has been given the African name “Lethabo” (joy in Sesotho) by a colleague after he pointed this out. “In a way I hope to create conflict with my work. A lot of times community-based artworks try to erase conflict and make everyone happy. Conflict I think reveals where the real problems lie.”

“An artist’s only skill is that they ask questions. They ask pertinent questions. I don’t want to change things, I want to ask difficult questions … Art doesn’t have the right to change things, I think art’s purpose is to ask difficult questions.”

Can Wits wear both hats?

Barry Morisse is a post-grad accounting student, who played for the Wits Hockey 1st XI from 2011-2014 as well as chairing the Wits Hockey Committee in 2013. Photo: Luca Kotton

Barry Morisse is a post-grad accounting student, who played for the Wits Hockey 1st XI from 2011-2014 as well as chairing the Wits Hockey Committee in 2013. Photo: Luca Kotton

by  Barry Morisse

AS A Wits student-sportsman myself, the constant battle that goes on in my mind and those of my teammates is to ask what is the strength of Wits Sport relative to the other universities around the country? The question we all end up asking ourselves is this:

Can the university wear two hats – both as an internationally recognised academic institution and a sporting powerhouse? Popular opinion says no. But I believe it can.

When I arrived in 2011 and joined the Wits Hockey Club, I was well aware of the entrenched philosophy that would govern the relationship between my academics and my sport. I was coming to Wits to get a world-class degree, while playing hockey on the side to keep myself fit, enjoy the team atmosphere and to improve myself as a serious hockey player. I didn’t get the impression that Wits was competing with the best – but rather represented a pleasant break from lectures.

I worked on the Hockey committee for two years, before chairing it in 2013. What I saw was a dogged determination from everyone involved to build the sport section into a semi-professional, competitive, self-sustaining enterprise with the view of taking our performances to the highest level.

Traditionally, it is no wonder that Wits struggles to compete with the other top universities, simply because the financial and authoritative support allocated to Wits Sport is minimal compared to our rivals.However simply by throwing more money into sport won’t automatically turn us into a sporting powerhouse, it needs something more than that.

Instead we need to focus our attention and energies into crafting world-class facilities and a professional support structure to attract top athletes and allow them to reach the highest levels in their code while still maintaining the quality of their studies. That’s the unique proposition that would make Wits a viable option for the top young sportsmen and women of our country.

We are not there yet, by any stretch of the imagination, but we are making large strides towards it. If Wits can continue to offer the unrivalled academics it does while accommodating the needs of top sportsmen and women – that is an offer that cannot be matched across the country.

Once the sporting support structures are at the required level, the academics will draw in top young talent, thus catalysing the transition towards a truly holistic academic and sporting powerhouse.

Wits, wearing two hats.

REVIEW: Interrogating womanhood through performance art

Adriana Cuhna and Bulelwa Ndaba star in The Book of Shade, one of the performances shown on Thursday night. Photo: Robyn Kirk

Adriana Cuhna, right, and Bulelwa Ndaba, left, star in The Book of Shade, one of the performances in the Sex Actually Festival. Photo: Robyn Kirk

Just three actors in two full productions took to the stage earlier this evening to explore, illustrate and explain the various roles and identities of women in society.

As part of the Sex Actually Festival, a double bill of performances took place at the Wits Amphitheatre, featuring few actors and even fewer props. The first, The Book of Shade was created by, and starred, Adriana Cunha and Bulelwa Ndaba and directed by Tshego Khutsoane. The second King of Ghosts, was a one-man-show by Modisana Mabale.

Cuhna and Ndaba, in a relatively short piece, took the audience on a journey through the roles women play through their lives, and the relationships they share with one another.

From washing clothes in a tin basin, gossiping over another woman’s “looseness” with past lovers, exercise routines, and the reaction to sweet nothings whispered by a man on a date, the two talented actresses drew the audience in the familiar lives of everyday women.

The piece was devoid of dialog but the actresses conveyed the tensions of the lives of these women through movement that said more than words could.

The second performance of the night was Mabale’s King of Ghosts. Set in a graveyard, this piece tells the story of King Ubuntu and his struggle to rule his people and accept the heart of his gogo ancestor, in an allegorical play about patriarchy in African culture.

“child of my child, women rule with their hearts, men rule with their heads. I want you to use both.”

Mabale was a kinetic figure on stage, clad in simple black, moving ceaselessly, as he played a number of characters: King Ubuntu, the spirit of the king’s paternal grandmother, the soothsayer and the dutiful servant.

King of Ghosts saw a monarch’s struggle with accepting the heart given to him by the matriarchal character, and the weakness he believed this would cause. A clever allusion to the human condition was carried throughout the play in the form of the king’s advisor, Isintu (translated from Zulu as “humanity”).

The need of balance between the masculine and the feminine was at the heart of this play, summed up perfectly by the gogo as she beseeches Ubuntu to accept her heart as she utters the words “child of my child, women rule with their hearts, men rule with their heads. I want you to use both.”

Both pieces focused strongly on the subject of womanhood, a necessary realm of thought in a festival that hopes to discuss ideas around sexuality.

The Sex Actually Festival runs until August 30, and the double bill of The Book of Shade and King of Ghosts will take place again on Saturday August 23 at 1.30pm in the Wits Amphitheatre.

King David schools have ‘pattern of intolerance’

KING DAVID schools are suffering from a “pattern of intolerance” despite having made the right decision not to discipline its deputy head boy for his support of Palestinians, and expert and alumnus said.

King David in Victory Park deputy head boy Joshua Broomberg triggered controversy when a picture of him wearing a keffiyah and Palestinian badge was posted to Facebook. A petition was soon circulated demanding that he be stripped of his position.

The SA Board of Jewish Education, which oversees King David, refused to do so after Broomberg made an apology to the school.

However, Eye Witness News on Thursday reported that a second King David pupil, this time at the Linksfield branch, was bullied and victimised over his views on Gaza. The family of the matric pupil, who wishes to remain anonymous, has laid a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission.

Jane Duncan, a professor in the department of journalism, film and television at the University of Johannesburg, applauded the decision not to discipline Broomberg.

However, Duncan, who was a pupil at King David, said that tolerance for freedom of expression at King David was not trickling down to the schools as a whole.

“If this is the climate we are seeing at school level, where people are supposed to be learning how to embrace ideas, then we have got a serious problem.”

“Intolerance is still happening,” she told Wits Vuvuzela. “If this is the climate we are seeing at school level, where people are supposed to be learning how to embrace ideas, then we have got a serious problem.”

“I think the leaders of the schools, the South African Board of Jewish Education, need to take responsibility for what is happening on the ground in their schools. They can’t say that they promote tolerance if that tolerance isn’t filtering down,” she said.

Duncan said she recalled students being victimised for their beliefs when she was a student 30 years ago.

“I remember classmates being beaten up in the playground because of their beliefs. So the events that are happening currently are not new, and there seems to be a pattern of intolerance at the schools,” Duncan said.

Although the South African Board of Jewish Education decided on Monday night not to take action against Broomberg for the social media post, the matter has raised the issue of freedom of expression, particularly on social media platforms.

Social media as a platform

Duncan Wild, a senior associate at Johannesburg law firm Webber Wentzel, said social media is a good thing for freedom of expression because it gives normal people access to a wider audience than would otherwise be possible.

“The downside to this is that if you say something controversial there could be a huge backlash,” he said.

“What you post may be aimed at a few people, but could potentially be shared all across the world.”

Wild cautioned that people need to be aware that they have no control over how far posts on social media can go, particularly in the case of Twitter. “Saying anything on there is like pputtion it up on a billboard,” he said.

Learners at King David ‘divided’ as school takes no action against deputy head boy

Learners at King David High School in Victory Park remain divided over the recent furore around a Facebook picture of their deputy head boy wearing a Palestinian scarf.

Two learners spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about the atmosphere at the school as the South African Jewish Board of Education (SAJBE)  took a decision last night not to take any action against Joshua Broomberg for the contentious picture.

In a statement released this morning, the SABJE which oversees King David said: “We acknowledge that the picture posted was insensitive and hurtful and was seen as such in the community. This has been a learning opportunity for the 17 year old pupil concerned and he has both explained his stance in a later posting [on Facebook] and genuinely apologized [sic] for the hurt it produced.”

“This statement … brings the matter to a close with no further action to be taken,” read the statement.

But despite this apparent end to the matter, learners at King David describe the atmosphere at their school as “one of tension”.

Wits Vuvuzela has learned that yesterday, the director of the SABJE, Rabbi Craig Kacev addressed the entire school about the matter.

“They only teach one view – to support Israel wholeheartedly and fully.”

According to one of the learners at the school, who did not want to be named, “He (Kacev) recognised that the school is apolitical, but then said that what Josh (Broomberg) did was against the school’s political views (of Zionism). He also that they (the school) support critical thinking and debate, but to be honest, they only teach one view – to support Israel wholeheartedly and fully.”

“The feeling in the school is one of tension. The kids are all divided and friends are arguing over what is going on,” said the learner.

“People are scared to say anything too “drastic” though, for fear of being ostracized and attacked.”

A second learner, who also declined to be identified, said that some learners found the criticism aimed at Broomberg “sickening”.

“I cannot and refuse to comprehend how adults, our moral responsible leaders, have openly vilified, humiliated and even threatened a 17 year old boy for expressing a view.”

Saul Musker, a Wits University student and one of people in the photograph with Broomberg, says he does not regret taking the photograph.

“It was without a doubt the right thing to do, and the community is richer for the conversation that is now being had. It’s about time that the right-wing fascism that characterises a part of the Jewish community was exposed,” he told Wits Vuvuzela today.

“Actions have consequences”

Ariela Carno, the national chairperson of the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) and former head girl at the King David High School (Linksfield), said that the fact Broomberg made a statement through an image made it open to misinterpretation because of the anti-Israeli sentiment caused by the current situation in the Middle East.  She also said that it was up to the school how to deal with the situation, and not up to the outside community.

“What I think Josh meant to say was that you can stand against Palestine in the sense of being against Hamas, but that does not mean you are against the people of Palestine. Unfortunately the way he said it was not sensitive to the Jewish community. It was understandable, he had very good intentions and is still young. He will learn from this,” she told Wits Vuvuzela.

“I do think the school needs to have a discussion with him though about how actions have consequences,” Carno said.

The furore around Broomberg erupted last week after the photograph was posted to Facebook showing him, Musker and another member of the South African debating team wearing Palestinian badges and keffiyehs (traditional Palestinian scarves).

An online petition, started by the group ‘Concerned Zionists’, was then circulated calling for the removal of Broomberg as the deputy head boy of King David and the revocation of his honours award.


Jewish school board to decide fate of top scholar who wore a Palestinian scarf

The King David High School (Victory Park), scholar who caused controversy with his show of support for Palestinians will know Tuesday morning whether he will be stripped of his position.

Last week a picture of Joshua Broomberg, the deputy head boy of King David, was posted to Facebook showing him wearing a badge and a keffiyeh (scarf) in support of Palestinians. The picture was taken at the World Schools Debating Championship in Thailand and was accompanied by text explaining the badges and keffiyeh were to show “opposition to the human rights violations carried out against the people of Palestine.”

A petition was soon circulated by an anonymous group calling itself “Concerned Zionist” demanding that Broomberg be stripped of his status as deputy head boy at the school and to lose his honours award.

The South African Board of Jewish Education (SABJE), which overseas several Jewish schools including King David, told Wits Vuvuzela they were meeting on Monday evening to discuss the controversy and a decision whether to discipline Broomberg would be reached by Tuesday morning.

“The school hasn’t put out a statement yet regarding the matter,” SABJE director Rabbi Craig Kacev told Wits Vuvuzela.

“A decision is being made this evening and will be communicated latest by tomorrow [Tuesday],” he said.

By Monday evening, the online petition to remove Broomberg had reached 2 000 signatures.

According a report in The Star newspaper, Kacev believed that the initial petition had been started by outside groups, not the students of the school or their parents. He also stated that King David would not be bowing to pressure groups, and that Broomberg was a superb pupil who was entitled to return to a safe school environment.

“We are not the ‘thought’ police. Our students are encouraged to talk about and debate issues in Israel, which they do every day. This was blown out of proportion because of heightened sensitivity around the Middle East issues,” Kacev is quoted as saying. “I will be having a conversation with him [Broomberg] to discuss with him the implications of his actions.”

Another petition, this time in support of Broomberg, has since been created on Intial signatories include 14 former and current head boys and girls of the school, including current Head Girl Jess Weisz, and had reached over 2 150 signatures by Monday afternoon.

It is difficult to understand where all of this hatred comes from – but growing up in an environment where one is told every day that one is under attack, that the enemy is a monster in the dark, that ‘if we don’t stick together we are doomed’, hatred is a hard thing to escape,” wrote Witsie Saul Musker, one of the debate team members seen in the Facebook photograph, in an Op-Ed about the issue published on the Daily Maverick website today.

At the heart of this story is a group of brave children who decided to take a stand against what they saw as a grave injustice.”


Wits Vuvuzela: Jewish top student faces criticism after show of support for Palestinians, August 2014.



Jewish top student faces criticism after show of support for Palestinians

The photograph posted to Facebook showing Broomberg and two others wearing Palestinian badges and Kaffeiyrs (scarves), found on the petition started by Concerned Zionist.

FASHION STATEMENT: A screengrab of the photo posted to Facebook showing King David deputy head boy Joshua Broomberg (right) with Wits Debating Union member Saul Musker (centre) and his brother Sam (left) wearing Palestinian badges and keffiyeh (scarves) which has triggered controversy.

THE DEPUTY  head boy of King David High School in Victory Park is facing a storm of criticism, and an online petition to remove him from his position, after a photo was posted to Facebook showing wearing a badge and keffiyeh (scarf) in support of Palestinians.

The photograph was taken on Wednesday at the World Schools Debating Championship being held in Thailand. Broomberg is the captain of the South African national debating team. The picture was posted by Wits Debating Union member Saul Musker who is featured in the centre of the photo.

The text accompanying the photo reads: “Team South Africa wearing Palestinian badges and Keffiyehs to show our opposition to the human rights violations carried out against the people of Palestine.”

The Facebook post has triggered debate and drawn an online petition by an anonymous group calling itself “Concerned Zionist” demanding that Broomberg be stripped of his status as deputy head boy at King David and have his honours award revoked.

As of Saturday afternoon, the petition had more than 1 000 signatures.

The petition claims that Broomberg’s actions go against the contract King David Victory Park (KDVP) Student Representative Council members sign at the beginning of their leadership roles “to uphold all the core Jewish values of KDVP and all the traditions that accompany it and to support  the school in all its Zionistic and Judaic activities.”

The petition is addressed to the school’s principal, Gavin Budd, and the South African Jewish Board of Educators.

Broomberg defended himself from the criticism in a status update posted to Facebook on Friday. He said wearing the badges and keffiyeh was not a political stand but a humanitarian message of solidarity for the civilians hurt in the current violence in Gaza.

“I am proud to be a South African Jew, and I am proud to attend a Jewish Day School. I am also a Zionist,” Broomberg said in his statement.

“While I apologise for the hurt we seem to have caused, I do not apologise for standing with Palestine on this issue. This is not because I do not believe in Israel or its people.”


Pay for the grade

by Ilanit Chernick and Robyn Kirk

14_Pay websites for students

Journalism student Ilanit Chernick explores a pay essay website. Photo: Luke Matthews

Some Witsies could use dishonest means to complete essays and assignments in order to get a degree.

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to a number of students about their willingness to turn to other students and websites which offer to do their work for them for a small fee.

David* said he would “pay someone” as long as he “didn’t get caught. It’s about getting my degree and passing. I just want to graduate.”

Another student, Najeeba*, said, “I would do it all the time but I would just change it around a bit before handing it in.”

One Witsie said he knew of students who had paid people to write their essays for them and had made use of pay websites without getting caught. But he was unwilling to elaborate.

A number of students said they would only do it in the most “extreme circumstances”, such as if they were failing and it was the “only way” they would pass their degree.

Zondo*, also a student, said he would “happily write essays for others if he was paid for it”. When asked about his price he said he would “charge between R100 and R150 a piece”.

But not all Witsies were willing to take the chance because of the repercussions that come with committing plagiarism. These include the reduction of marks, loss of dually performed points, suspension and even expulsion.

Wits defines plagiarism as not only “failure to acknowledge the ideas or writings of another” but also using someone else’s work as your own.

Wits Vuvuzela found a number of websites, including and which cater for South African students even though they have to pay in dollars.

Wits Vuvuzela was told: “there has only been one disciplinary hearing this year in connection with plagiarism within the Humanities Faculty”.

Dean of Student Affairs Dr Pamela Dube said, “Plagiarism is not just a faculty concern, but impacts on holistic student development. A structured approach to plagiarism offers the best protection for the student and the best protection for the rights and thoughts of others.”

A student member of the disciplinary committee, Tshidiso Ramogale said, “Plagiarism is an issue that is not unique to Wits, it is of concern to any institution of higher learning. The student disciplinary committee has, and will continue to, condemn plagiarism in the strongest words possible as it is that an act that undermines the quality of the Wits degree and the reputation of the university. It also reflects negatively on the student community and the university alumni.”

He suggests students approach the Student Representation Council to get assistance with their cases because they don’t do so often enough.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.