Trading in spaces

The streets of Yeoville are a buyer’s paradise – not only is there a sprawling, vivid green market with hundreds of stalls showing off their wares and services, but outside the market there are hawkers selling sweets and vegetables, second-hand clothes and cheap nail polish.

The market traders are legal but the street traders are breaking the law, creating a tension between the two forms of sellers in one of the oldest suburbs in the city.

FORMAL SALE: The market was built to replace hawking, but is too small to accommodate traders that have spilled into the streets. Photo: Robyn Kirk

Taking up an entire city block between Hunter and Raleigh streets stands the Yeoville Market, a large building painted a vivid green both inside and out. Home to over 200 stalls, it sells varied goods: food stalls – mini-restaurants really – waft tantalising smells throughout the day. Clothing-design stalls display handmade dresses and brightly patterned fabrics, their owners curled over Singer sewing machines. Not far away, in a different section, more Western clothing is sold – an array of luminous tekkies (sneakers), and shirts emblazoned with slogans. On one, “London” is scrawled over a British flag, while another reads “Thug Life”.

Every stall is cramped with as much stock as the traders can fit in. The fresh produce and grocery stalls in particular have shelves stuffed with both expected and unexpected goods: there are bananas and onions, red cans of Lucky Star fish and large plastic bottles of vegetable oil. But there are also goods from the rest of the continent: dried fish, boxes of instant fufu, two kinds of yam, plantain chips and, in one stall, a six-pack of Bavaria Beer jostles packets of maize meal for space on the shelf.

The traders outside the market, trading on street corners or on pavements outside shop fronts, stand in stark contrast. These hawkers sell from simple stalls – boxes in most cases, or crudely constructed stands made of wood. They sell only a handful of goods: small towers of potatoes or tomatoes, secondhand clothes, or perhaps a handful of Chappies bubblegum mixed in with a cheap brand of suckers. Here and there a woman cooks mealies for sale over a brazier crafted from an old tin can and some wire mesh.

All the hawkers outside the market carry the minimum of stock – whatever can easily be packed up if a quick getaway is called for. In Yeoville, this contrast represents the Johannesburg struggle – how to make a living legally in a situation where most people are forced to hustle outside the system to live from hand to mouth.

“All the hawkers outside the market carry the minimum of stock – whatever can easily be packed up if a quick getaway is called for.”

Problematic police and public reaction

The South African National Traders Retail Alliance (Santra) is considering legal action after the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) attempted to confiscate the stock from hawkers at the Baragwanath taxi rank in Soweto on October 12 2014. What made this event different from other such police actions was the public response. According to witnesses and Santra, members of the public (including taxi drivers, pedestrians and traders) reacted to the swoop by preventing the JMPD trucks carrying the stock away by trapping the officers and their vehicles.

Eventually police reinforcements were called in and five people were arrested. This incident highlights tensions between legal and illegal forms of trading in Johannesburg. While some areas, like the CBD and the Bara taxi rank, allow for legal street trading, it is still illegal in most parts of the city. Yeoville is situated east of Johannesburg, one of the oldest suburbs. Originally white, then mixed (in 1990 the population was 81% white), it has become almost exclusively black since democracy. In 2011, it was estimated to be 98% black.  Yeoville is now also an entry point to the country for people from all over the African continent, including Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Ghana. On the streets people speak in French, Shona (a dominant language in Zimbabwe), Swahili and Portuguese.

Although Yeoville was and still is classified as a residential suburb, sales people are everywhere – in the Yeoville Market certainly, but also on practically every street corner.  All traders, however, are not equal. The market is a legitimate trading space under official management by the City of Joburg, with house rules, a rent system and organised security and cleaning.

The hawkers on the street, however, are seen as “pests”, according to Santra spokesperson Edmund Elias, blocking movement on the streets, breaking the city’s bylaws and often forced to move by the JMPD.

All trading on the streets is illegal under the City of Joburg’s bylaws, which specify that an area defined legally as “residential” cannot house street traders. Of the estimated 8 000 hawkers found in the inner city, Santra estimates 500 are in Yeoville, although a walk through the streets makes it seem this number must be much higher.

“Traders are sometimes desperate,” explains Elias. “The people who become traders on the street are a wide variety – unskilled, semi-skilled and retrenched people, and also people who just want to be their own boss. The slow rate of economic growth [in South Africa] means that, for many, this is the only entry point into the economy. You also need to understand that urbanisation means people from other parts of South Africa and from the rest of the continent are streaming into the city, and there simply aren’t enough jobs for them.”

Elias believes there is room in Yeoville for both the Yeoville Market and street traders: “A market is a destination where people go for specific items [while street trading] is just when you walk past the item, you see it and you buy it. This is more impulse shopping.”

FRESH STOCK: Traders buy spinach arriving outside the market. Photo: Robyn Kirk

A legitimate space – the Yeoville Market

Yeoville Market is near the centre of the suburb and was started in late 1999 as an alternative to street trading. The city built it in the hope that all hawkers would be able to move off the streets, which would bring them within the law. It contains 212 stalls which provide a number of goods (like vegetables, clothes and cosmetics) and services (like hairdressing and shoe repairs) to the Yeoville community. Only 5% of the stalls are run by South Africans, with the other 95% being owned by people from other African countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. It employs a full-time manager to oversee the building, along with a support staff, which includes six on-duty security guards.

For the past three years, Sabatha Mekuto has been the manager appointed by the City.  A young man from Soweto, he explains passionately that he walks around the grounds several times a day, interacts with stall owners and is responsible for the functioning of the market.

There is strict organisation in the market, he says: each trader signs a lease before setting up and is subject to a number of house rules. Every stall owner pays rent, and this ranges from R60 to R300 a month, depending on the location and size of the stall.

Mekuto has been in discussion with the eight-member committee of existing traders, his line manager and the managing director at the City of Joburg, about increasing the number of stalls. But the space within the building will only allow for a maximum of five new, rather small stands. When he took over from his predecessor in 2011, he also inherited a waiting list for spaces in the market. This list, which started in 2005, now contains approximately 4 000 names.

Mekuto admits the opportunity to trade there is hard to come by. One reason is the difficulty in evicting people. “I’ve only ever got rid of two people,” he says. “One for fighting, which is against house rules, and one woman who got a job outside the market and never came in to work.” The second reason is that once traders are established in the market, they are reluctant to leave.

“…once people get a space in the market they don’t want to go,’ Mekuto says. “I’ve even heard rumours that some stall owners do so well that they hire someone else to work here for them and they [the owners] sit around at home, or go to other jobs on the outside. But we don’t work with rumours here, and what can I do without proof?”

Sebastian Zaremba has been trading in the market since 2000 and is a member of the market committee. From Mexico originally, he is the only Caucasian in the market. He has a slight build and a well-maintained moustache and is always wearing a blue, knitted hat with a yellow stripe. He owns a stall on the outer edges of the market, selling mostly imported foodstuffs like rice, cooked fish and fufu. He started out selling tea and coffee to people who would pass the Yeoville Market on their early morning commute, and with the money this created was able to expand his goods to include Thai rice, roasted peanuts and semolina.

“I was fortunate to put my name on the waiting list, and to be allocated a stall in the market,” he says. “But other people are only [trading] on the street because they need to make a living, they have to survive. It’s hand-to-mouth, we must appreciate that and also respect that.”

“I do feel it’s unfair to those in the market if people sell the same goods for less on the street.”

At the same time, Zaremba believes the majority of street traders are only there because they do not want to follow the rules and pay the market rent. He also believes the illegal traders create a bustle in the streets that can lead to an increase in crime.

“I like the market, I like my neighbours, I like my colleagues in the market, we’re like one big family,” Zaremba says. “We help each other, and we succeed. I do feel it’s unfair to those in the market if people sell the same goods for less on the street.”

Selling on the streets in order to survive 

One of those traders can be found close by, also on Raleigh Street, but a five-minute walk away from the market. Nolicent Ntete and his wife Brita are Zimbabweans, and have lived in Yeoville for five years. Together they sell vegetables outside a discount grocery store. From 8am until the Yeoville Market closes at 8.30 at night, you can find one or both of them sitting a couple of metres from the store entrance. Nolicent usually wears a brightly coloured shirt and Brita a wide-brimmed straw hat to shade her face.

They sit on empty plastic crates behind a stall made from a piece of wood balanced on stacked tomato boxes. Small piles of tomatoes and potatoes are arranged neatly next to hand-knotted bags of chumaulia, a spinach-like plant popular in Zimbabwe. Sometimes they get chillies for a good price and will sell those as well. To their left, a woman sells shoes (mostly sandals during summer) placed neatly on a square of material laid out on the pavement. Brita chats amiably with customers and passers-by. Nolicent spends much of the day chopping the chumaulia, which they buy in big bunches and chop to sell in smaller quantities.

“There is too much problems selling here [on the street],” Nolicent says. “The metro [police] come, when the rain is falling we get wet, and when the sun shines like now we can’t go to the shade. When the police come, they take our stock and it’s too expensive to get back. When they write a ticket, it’s going to be R1 500 to get it back. I just leave it because that’s too much money, I can’t [get] that money. I will only make that much extra after two weeks.

“I left Zimbabwe because the situation was bad there, everyone knows how it is there,” Nolicent explains, when asked why he trades illegally. “My children are in Zim, I’ve got two daughters, one is seven and one is two. I send money home at the month-end, I make sure I send something home for my kids to eat. My mother will take care of them, but she needs to pay.”

Every day when Nolicent and his wife trade on the street, they break at least five of the City of Joburg bylaws, mostly the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality Street Trading By-laws of 2004. These include selling in a space which could block pedestrian movement, trading outside the entrance to a public building (which also sells the same type of goods), being there without written permission from the city council and, finally, from a position closer than five metres to a road intersection.

PASSING TRADE: Police are struggling to enforce bylaws that prohibit hawking. Photo: Robyn Kirk

According to press statements by councillor Ruby Mathang, a member of the mayoral committee for economic development, talks started in June this year between informal trader organisations such as Santra, Centre for Urbanism and Built Environmental Studies (CUBES) and Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri) to find a way to accommodate informal traders throughout the city. However, in all talks so far, both the city and organisations involved have made it clear that they are only concerned with legal traders.

“Bylaw enforcement [against illegal trading] in the city is continuing to take place to ensure that the inner city does not become chaotic. This remains vital in managing the inner city and serving as a deterrent against illegal trading and crime,” says Virgil James, a communications specialist for the City of Joburg.

In another press statement, Mathang adds: “The City embraces its hawkers – we want to make life easier and more stable for those who trade legally because we want a commercially viable and dynamic informal trading sector in a clean and welcoming environment.”

This means that, while there is some progress towards improving the situation for street traders, it is aimed at aiding legal hawkers and will not necessarily aid those who break bylaws in the course of their trading.

“I like selling on the streets, because here I get quick money,” says Nolicent. “In the market it is a big mess, and you have to pay rent.” He doesn’t plan to stay in South Africa for much longer. He says in his home language, Shona: “Ndiri kuda kuZim muma kore anotera [I want to go back to Zim in the next two years], I want to take care of my children.”

“I don’t want to trade on the streets forever,” adds Brita. “I want a job. A real job.”

Because of the growing number of street traders in Johannesburg, Santra is in the process of talking to City of Joburg officials to find resolution. “There is a so-called process of engagement, which started in June or May of this year,” says Elias. “They were supposed to call us last month [September] but they haven’t yet. We want Yeoville designated as a mixed-usage area so that street trading is legally allowed there, not as a residential area where it isn’t.”

Santra also wants more street trading rights across Johannesburg. “We’ve requested that the city has a database of traders so we have an accurate number of traders that we can keep updated. The City says there are 2 000 legal spaces that can be made available [for legal street trading], but there are 8000 people. We’d like designated legal trading areas with security and cleaning services, for this we’d want the traders to pay between R10 to R30 a day.”

Until the city and organisations reach an agreement, however, the Yeoville Market is the only place in the suburb where traders can sell their goods legally. This means that 212 people can feed their families without fear of legal repercussions, while the hundreds of other traders in the area, like Nolicent and Brita, must break the law in order to survive.

The lives that revolve around the selling of tomatoes. By: Robyn Kirk

FEATURED IMAGE: The market was built to replace hawking, but is too small to accommodate traders that have spilled into the streets. Photo: Robyn Kirk


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.”