COOL KID: Freelance journalist Margaret Renn

POWER ORGANISING: Margaret Renn has been  orgnanising the conference since 2009. She says it has grown every year. This year there are over 300 delegates from all over the world

POWER ORGANISING: Margaret Renn has been orgnanising the conference since 2009. She says it has grown every year. This year there are over 300 delegates from all over the world

Margaret Renn is a Wits visiting fellow in investigative journalism. She is the organiser of Power Reporting, The African Investigative Journalism Conference which is hosted each year by the University of the Witswatersrand. Renn is also a freelance journalist in London.

When did you become the coordinator of the power reporting conference?

I took over 2009 and it was the power reporting workshop and then it became the African investigative conference.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face putting the conference together?

Everything is a challenge. From what people are going to eat, the busses, everything. But I think the biggest challenge is the programme, that’s where all of my effort goes and then I kick myself when I come to the conference and then small things have gone wrong and then I think I should have paid attention to that beforehand but then what I was paying attention was important.

The success of the conference?

I’m impressed by then number of Africans that have come to the conference. I’m impressed by everyone’s positivity about the conference, sure you get the odd person who didn’t not like their hotel or the lunch or they couldn’t find the toilet but what I care about is do people go home at the end of the three days with something new. Where they can go back to their work place and say ‘why don’t we do this, I learned how to that and we should be doing that story’. That’s what it’s all about and it always baby steps, nobody goes from being an average journalist to being a top investigative journalist overnight. You have to keep going year after year … And it is better to train as a journalist today with the internet, all these wonderful ways that people that can learn and that makes it so much easier, I mean you have everything.

What is the importance of Power Reporting?

Overall I think the conference has become an attraction for journalists around Africa. They know this is where they can come and learn something new and learn new skills. It’s like building a community of investigative journalists, we have more networks of investigative journalists around the continent.

What do you think about the standard of investigative journalism in Africa?

You know people elsewhere in the world think that Africa is a country and it’s not. But let’s look at the people that are here [Africa]. In Nigeria, they do fantastic journalism, in Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia. All around the continent there are little groups of people in different countries who do incredibly well and I find that so interesting.



No testing for HIV/AIDS during varsity exams

Witsies are not allowed to test for HIV during the exam period, according to a policy enforced by The Wits Campus Health and Wellness Centre (WCHC).

WCHC offers an HIV testing service to Wits students and staff throughout the year – except during exam time. Sister Maggie Moloi of WCHC said the policy is in line with the university. This policy states: “A student may not not use his/her HIV status as the sole reason for failing to perform work.” Moloi said: “We don’t want to add more stress than they can handle.”

Wits students approached by Wits Vuvuzela were generally against the policy. Nonkululeko Mayathula, 1st year BA, said: “I think it [the policy] is kind of loose in a way because it doesn’t make sense in terms of a person getting early detection and medication.”

She believed it was up to each student to make the decision to get tested whenever they saw fit. “I don’t think it’s up to the institution to say: this is when you can get tested and this is when you can’t get tested.”

Another student, who asked not to be named, said the policy should be reconsidered. “It’s a big thing, especially in South Africa, and early detection is important.”

A psychology Masters student, who cannot be named for professional reasons, explained that people reacted differently to trauma or to news that could induce trauma.

“People have something we call the ego-strength and this is the ability for them to deal with different experiences.”

The student said people did not always react immediately to situations. “It’s a process.” She said students should be able to choose when to get tested, since people reacted differently to situations based on their history.
People had different defence mechanisms and, while some might choose to “sweep it under the carpet and go on”, others were overwhelmed and struggled to continue functioning. “It might break them completely.”

Many people were able to switch off their emotions and chose to deal with things cognitively. In the short term, this could help them cope with school stress and the news of their HIV status. But in the long term, this ability was not good because it affected them psychologically.

Lauren Borchers, 1st year BSc, said there should be no distinction between the exam period and any other time of the year. Testing during exams should be allowed.
“The thought that you might be positive [while being unable to get tested] could put more stress than the exam stress,” she said.

Not all students agree, however Anthony Shumba, 3rd year BCom Finance and Management, said the policy is reasonable one. “If a student finds out he or she is HIV positive they could fail and their lives could fall apart because of
their status.”


SLICE OF LIFE: ‘I’m not going to spend my life being a colour’

Rofhiwa SliceI remember growing up unaware that my pigmentation was my most defining feature. But as the years went on, an identity was imposed on me due to the fact that my melanin levels exceeded what was “acceptable”. This colour made it a precondition that I live the kind of life required of a “black” woman.

I remember one incident that made me change the way I viewed myself. My Natural Sciences teacher, Mrs Shaw, was on aftercare duty. Aftercare was a service provided to those of us not lucky enough to have nannies or mommies waiting to pick us up at the end of a school day.

During aftercare lunch, Mrs Shaw approached a school mate and I, and said: “You know, I’ll never understand why black people chew their bones like dogs.”
That remark shocked me and stuck with me. It became a constant reminder that the colour of my skin, the least significant part of me, would be the thing that always made me less of a person than someone who was white. And in some instances even likened to animals.

It was like the floodgates of racism had opened and washed me into an ocean where there was no island in sight. In that same year, I was called Rafiki the monkey by a classmate, who insisted I reminded him of the monkey in the Lion King. Of course, by now I knew monkeys were the natural comparison point for blacks, as doves are to angels.

It was as if life needed to punish me for the time when the colour of my skin was insignificant. I was broken.

High school and varsity perpetuated the blackness I was abruptly exposed to. And for a while, I went along with the idea that colour really did matter – until I made the decision that I was not going to allow non-blacks to decide, for me, that I was less than they were.

Interestingly, when I eventually moved past these confines, it was no longer the whites who caused me to be conscious of my colour. I just no longer afforded them that kind of power. Now it was my black counterparts.

Black young women were now using this colour as a scapegoat for all their shortcomings, exploiting the inferiority complex experienced by generations before us. They were buying into a complex which should have been broken down because of the opportunities we are able to create for ourselves today.

“An identity was imposed on me.”

The actions and speech of blacks has intensified this complex. They now impose their blackness on the rest of us who, with great effort, have tried to rise above it. Sometimes, even if you do try to fall in with this notion, it’s just not enough. If you don’t have what I like to call the comrade accent, for example, you’re just not black enough.

It’s boggling that even in this day, the 21st century, 20 years into democracy, the most important thing about a person should be the colour of their skin. I’m certainly not going to pass judgment on the choices people make, particularly when it comes to the way they see themselves. To pass judgment on the thoughts of an individual is practically criminal. It infringes on the freedom of expression and forces you to become a sheep. You then begin to act only as you are expected to, as a “black person”.

Make no mistake: I have never, for one moment, disregarded the history which has allowed me to see myself as no less than the white inhabitants of this country. I acknowledge and appreciate the strides made by my forefathers to afford me the liberated life I lead today. I am not ignorant of the issues faced by black people. However, it is also my argument that they also afforded me the opportunity to look at the country in which I live in a post-apartheid South Africa.

Mngxitama: ANC has failed the ideals of Steve Biko

The African National Congress (ANC) has succeeded in making black people accept that they’re third class citizens, said EFF’s (Economic Freedom Fighters) Andile Mngxitama, at Wits yesterday.

Mngxitama was speaking at the first in a series of lectures that commemorates the life of Black consciousness leader Steve Biko.

Speaking about the ideals of the Black consciousness movement to an audience of about 100 people, Mngitama said “[The] ANC has destroyed the capacity of blacks to take themselves seriously”.

“No sane person can defend the ANC … at least [give] a rational defence, at least [give] a pro black defence.” Mngxitama said that in South Africa people black people have to fight for RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) housing even though they should be entitled to these homes. He said many South Africans are not aware of their entitlements as citizens because of the ANC.

Mngxitama said the problem with the ruling party is that its policies are inherently “anti-black”  He argued that Black consciousness as an ideal runs counter to non-racialism as the latter does not recognise “the black situation”. He said even the Freedom Charter, which was written by the ANC in 1955, is suspending black thought because its ideals do not empower black people.

Responding to recent incidents involving his party in parliament, Mngxitama said that “parliament is not a place of truth” and said that radical movements like the EFF are meant to turn places like parliament upside down.

COOL KIDS: Pelonomi Moiloa and Itani Thalefi

Pelonomi Moiloa  and Itani Thalefi are the duo who started the band 8 Bars Short two years ago. Photo: Rofhiwha Madzena

Pelonomi Moiloa and Itani Thalefi are the duo who started the band 8 Bars Short two years ago. Photo: Rofhiwa Madzena

Pelonomi Moiloa and Itani Thalefi formed their band 8 Bars Short two years ago. Moiloa, a Wits biomedical engineering graduate, is completing the 3rd year of her 2nd degree in electrical engineering. Thalefi is completing his honours degree in Sociology. Moiloa is a self-taught guitarist and a vocalist. Thalefi taught himself to play guitar and also sings. Despite their busy schedules, they still find the time to develop their mutual love of music, rehearsing and performing at local hangout spots in Johannesburg.

How did you two come together?
Moiloa: He [Thalefi] invited me to one of his poetry sessions and then I gate-crashed one of his band practices … I joined his band but then we kind of split apart and now it’s just the two of us.

What kind of music do you produce?
Moiloa: We’re not sure.
Thalefi: I feel like music right now is in a genre-less space. There’s no need to box things into anything and putting us in a box also limits us to a particular genre. Labels suck.

What inspires your music?
Thalefi: It’s really just experiences, just reflecting on what we go through and what other people go through.

Does your music speak to social issues?
Moiloa: You lose a very wide audience when you start talking about social issues.
Thalefi: I don’t want to be boxed into the that thing. I’m a human being like anyone else and I’m just reflecting my experiences. I’m just having a conversation with me, my guitar and Nomi [Moiloa] on stage.

Parties, show us the money

Following a debate earlier in the week, the question of where student political parties receive their funding has taken centre stage a week before the elections.

Claims were made that Project W got funding for its campaign from Zionist groups at a debate during the SRC debate on Monday at the Piazza.

Project W leader Jamie Mighti said: “It’s a lie, don’t get misled that we get money from anyone else. I want to answer these malicious lies. We get our money from students.”

He said they started planning for the election campaign last year. “We all know there would be financial requirements,” said Mighti.

Project W has a budget of R50 000. In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela Mighti said the organisation had money that it had saved from the previous year and members and volunteers also contributed. “Project W is a student run, student funded, student organisation.There is nothing we get from any body.”

“We all know there would be financial requirements.”

He said that members of the organisation take the campaign seriously and they were required to contribute “at least” R1 000 to the campaign. “We have old candidates who also contribute.”

He did also say that some wealthy members of the party contributed a significant amount of money to the campaign.

Wits Vuvuzela approached the PYA to comment on where their funding comes from but got no response.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy coordinator Sive Mqikela said: “We’re working in the budget that the university has given to us. We are not being funded by anyone and we are fundraising.”

The party received R500 for each candidate from the university “so that’s R7 500”. Mqikela said their campaign is “mainly based on ideas”, not how many posters or resources they have.

Mqikela said they did not get any funding from the mother body.

He said they requested money “but we didn’t receive anything”.

Wits on board with digitisation

NOTICE BORED[OM]: Thobekile  Nkosi, 3rd year BA reads the notice boards to get an update on her marks before she had to rush to her next class.                                                                                                                                      Photo: Rofhiwa Madzena

NOTICE BORED[OM]: Thobekile Nkosi, 3rd year BA reads the notice boards to get an update on her marks before she had to rush to her next class. Photo: Rofhiwa Madzena

 PROVISIONAL marks will soon be available to students electronically on the Self Service Portal, according to the registrar.

Currently students can only access their final results. “By final we mean the mark has had an internal and external marking process,” according to Carol Crosley, Wits University’s registrar, who said that from January 2015 the marks will be available electronically.

Students should not have to go from school to school to get their results from notice boards or admin staff, she added.

Crosley said: “We want students to use [myWits] as the one source of information. The marks [are] currently accessible online but students can only access their final marks. “The faculties must load their marks, there must be some assessment there available for students,” she said. There were apparently reservations that many of the marks after the first semester are provisional results and have not gone through the external processes.

“There was no other way of knowing if I had passed or failed the first semester,” said a Zimbabwean student, Anthony Shumba, doing 3rd year BCom Finance and Management. He said he had to ask a classmate to take a picture of the notice boards because he was at home. “They should email us all tests, assignments, exam marks and so on and also put June results online,” Shumba added.

Another issue is the time in which the marks are published. Other Witsies who were approached expressed frustration over their mid-year marks only being made available to them on the notice boards and not electronically.

According to Shumba, marks for class tests like MCQs (multiple choice questions) take three to four weeks to be published, “and that is a little frustrating,” he said.

Administrative officer at the school of Economic and Business Sciences, Patricia Nowlotha said the processing of the marks is a lengthy process. “I deal with 20 courses in first and second semester.” She said: “The relevant lecturers and the marking time depends on the number of students as well as the number of questions in the exam. It won’t be fair to a lecturer to mark 500 scripts in one week.”

Nowlotha added that after the marking she deals with sorting all the results and ensuring they get out to the students.

Crosley said university policy states that marks should be made available to students ten days after the last exam. She said that this is how it was meant to be. “Students are entitled to see their marks, the release of results and the way that they come out, whether it be on a noticeboard or online is the responsibility of the faculty,” she said.

The new system is in place. “We now need time invested and the resources to make sure that the system does what we want it to do.”

Education campus boycott SRC elections

Rofhiwa Madzena and Bongiwe Tutu

Witsies on Education Campus have rallied together to boycott the SRC elections, complaining that they have been marginalised.

The Wits Education Student Council (ESC) Facebook page has been abuzz with complaints and comments by students on Education Campus, with demands that they would like met by the SRC.

The students have threatened to boycott on the day of the elections as a collective and not cast their votes.

The campaign is under the identifiable hashtag: #whyshouldwevote where students place their comments on the ESC Facebook page.

Philip Hlatshwayo wrote: “I think the community of students at Wits Education Campus is taken for granted, we are continually promised services that remain ink on paper, #whyshouldwevote?”

“We are not voting at education campus, we are calling for a boycott of SRC elections at education campus.  We are going to revive and help the ESC deliver because we know it’s not easy – But no votes for SRC,” said Bedney Morole on the ESC Facebook page.

Dzimani James wrote: “#whyshouldwevote? Second and third of September we will still be here asking the same question to the SRC, why vote?”

James was supported by Nqobile McGaga Nqosh, amongst others, who wrote: “I am for the #whyshouldwevote campaign.”

Bedney Morole wrote: “we need a campus that does not just accept things as they come.  This campaign aims to give the ESC teeth to bite”.

Some of the things they want on Education campus include two Kudu Bucks machines, an ATM machine as well as another food outlet.

Former Vice-chairperson of the Education Student Council, Njabulo Mkize honours BA Applied Drama student said that the current food outlet, Olives and Plates is becoming less affordable for students. “It’s a monopoly, they get to determine their own costs because they don’t have competition.”

He also said: “Last year the VC [Prof. Adam Habib] came to Education Campus and he said that they would look into it but still nothing has been done.” “I’m doing my honours on main campus [Braamfontein campus] and you can feel the difference, everything is available here.”

Pkay Mjekevu wrote: “Our aim is to stop the culture of being blinded by unrealistic promises again and again.”

The leaders whom we are going to elect must know that we don’t believe what they say but we recognise what they have done,” he said.

SRC’s liaison officer, Jabulile Mabuza said: “It’s not a secret that Olives and Plates food is expensive for the average student and it’s very frustrating knowing that’s the only food option you have.”

Mjekevu wrote: “Wits extended medical school towards our campus and put hospital on our campus and they did nothing for us.

Don’t tell me about that incomplete lecture theatre at Liseding,” he said.

“Where was SRC when that happened? The SRC has done nothing to make us feel welcomed at Wits.”

Mabuza said: “The University needs to start taking students serious on these issues and if a boycott is what it takes for the University to address these concerns then it must be.”



Ahmed Kathrada turns 85 and celebrates at Wits University


BIRTHDAY BOY: Struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada alongside his wife Barbara Hogan enjoy the performances in the Great Hall last night. Photo: Luke Matthews

Struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada, known to many as ‘Uncle Kathy’ was joined by his peers, South African politicians, school kids, Wits staff and students, as he celebrated his 85th birthday at the Wits Great Hall last night.

Wits SRC (Student Representative Council) and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation hosted the veteran’s milestone birthday celebrations which included special guests Judge Dikgang Moseneke, Deputy Vice-chancellor Prof Tawana Kupe and struggle veteran Advocate George Bizos.

“There is great merit in turning 85 and I strongly recommend it,” Kathrada told the audience in his address. He went on to thank Wits for the recognition it gave him in 2012. “I was a student of this university for three whole months and the university didn’t forget me, they actually gave me a doctorate, a free doctorate,” he joked.

Judge Moseneke, the Chancellor of Wits, said Kathrada’s fight for freedom flowed from selflessness: “We enter the public terrain to server others and not ourselves. We must do more than say ‘Batho pele’.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Ahmed Kathrada stood to receive his birthday cake and for the singing of "Happy birthday". Photo: Luke Matthews

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Professor Tawana Kupe, left, takes a photo of Ahmed Kathrada, middle, as he receives his birthday cake. 
Photo: Luke Matthews

SRC president Shafee Verachia thanked Kathrada “… for showing us what responsible citizenship is about and that good will always triumph over bad.”

Kathrada was presented with a number of gifts including an SRC blazer and a number 85 Bidvest Wits jersey.  He joked that he will be playing in this Saturday’s game against Orlando Pirates.

Kathrada, who spent 18 years in prison on Robben Island, was particular appreciative of the school children in attendance. Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela after the event, he said: “The nicest part of this day was the school children. What you miss most in jail is children so it was just the right way to start my birthday.”

A Wits group called The Scent and SAMA (South African Music Awards) winner Ifani also performed at last night celebrations.


South Africans should be enjoying fruits of the freedom charter

NO MORE APATHY: Irvin Jim emphasisied the importance of meeting the demands of the freedom for equality and democracy. Photo:TJ Lemon

NO MORE APATHY: Irvin Jim emphasisied the importance of meeting the demands of the freedom for equality and democracy.
Photo: TJ Lemon

By Rofhiwa Madzena and Lameez Omarjee

The exploitation of the working class by “white monopolists” is the reason why South Africans will not fully enjoy the benefits of the Freedom Charter, said keynote speaker, Irvin Jim, at the Ruth First Memorial lecture in the Great Hall tonight.

Jim, the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa General Secretary, spoke about the life and work of Ruth First, arguing that she sacrificed her life for a just and equal society.

He said: “We live in a safer, less threatened environment … For Ruth First, racial and gender oppression and national domination was not acceptable.”

Jim explained that the current socio-economic climate in South Africa contradicted the Freedom Charter which was developed in 1955 by the ANC ( African National Congress’). “… We are apathetic about the sufferings of millions of South Africans,” he said.

Jim said: “Ruth First was killed for our Freedom Charter. It is not irrelevant. She paid the highest price. We must feel her suffering, fear, the terror she faced throughout her adult life.”

Ebrahim Fakir, the 2014 Ruth First Fellow,also presented his research findings on political protest and political participation at the lecture. 

He spoke about “democracy, delivery and discontent”. He said there are close to 300 protests a year in South Africa, which indicates the remaining inequalities in our democracy.

Fakir based his research on the conditions in the Bekkersdal municipality, South-West Gauteng.  “Bekkersdal, is a microcosm of what is happening in townships across South Africa,” he said.  “I found a disaster and dystopia in Bekkersdal”.

Academics, students from Ruth First’s former high school (Jeppe High School for Girls) and others came together in honour of Ruth First at the annuam lecture hosted by the Wits University Journalism Department at the Great Hall.

“Ruth First was assassinated for her belief in the struggle for just, democratic, socialist, non-racial SA.”

To read Ebrahim Fakir’s full address, FinalRuthFirstLecture2014.EF

To read Irvin Jim’s full address, Irvin_Jim


VIDEO: Do you know how to tie a doek?

In celebration of Women’s month the Department of Arts and Culture initiated the #wearadoek campaign. The campaign encourages women to wear a doek every Friday in the month of August in celebration of womanhood. Wits Vuvuzela went out to find out if women have the skill and in doing so perhaps teach a fellow colleague how to tie a doek for the campaign.



Chemistry ceremony celebrates top Witsies

Top achievers in the Wits chemistry school were honoured and celebrated at an awards ceremony on Thursday. The ceremony, held annually, hopes to raise awareness of chemistry as a possible career path.

“I want to make students realise that chemistry is a viable career… Many students enrol for chemistry because it’s a prerequisite for another subject but they know nothing about chemistry and so they wouldn’t even consider it as a career, said ” Gaby Meirim, a chemistry tutor.

Meirim said currently there are 116 3rd year students enrolled in the third year course. She also said that there are 112 students currently enrolled in the postgraduate programme and great numbr of them are from other universities. “By doing this we are giving them an opportunity to actually mix with our researchers… We really expose them to chemistry and career opportunities we have to offer.”

One of the winners, Pheeha Joseph Moeta, 3rd year BSc Chem said: “It’s [winning] incredible because I’ve been putting in a lot of my time into my studies. I have also established a study style that works for me so I am happy.”

Kirsten Youlton, 2nd year BSc Chem said: “It was so unexpected, I didn’t see it coming at all so it was awesome. I’ve put in a lot of weekends for this course but I enjoy chemistry so it doesn’t feel that frustrating.”

Together with Rena Joao, 1st BSc, Youlton and Moeta achieved a semester mark of 74% and above. All three received a R1000 book voucher  as well as the opportunity to join the First Year Research Assistantship Programme.

Dr Nosipho Moloto, lecturer in the department said that while chemistry is not the most popular course among students, it is a “central science”.

“It’s an important science and I try to encourage my students that if they are unsure of the career path they want to take in science, its best to stay in chemistry because it has many opportunities. Because it’s central, you can do whatever you want with it.”