Green light district

A new Wits society aims to make green issues hip and stylish.

Generation Earth – Wits Council will launch at Wits on Saturday, March 3 as part of a green awareness initiative.

The non-governmental organisation, which began 18 months ago, has already been successful in schools around South Africa.

“We want to take the look of a hippie and turn it on its head,” said Michael Constantinides, the Wits Generation Earth president.

“Hippies are cool, but stylish hippies are even cooler. We want to show that being green is cool. Being green rocks.”

The society’s main aim was to raise awareness about environmental issues faced by youth, and to serve as a green networking platform, he said.

They would lobby Wits to create greener campus infrastructures by, for example, being “the eyes and ears” of Oricol Environmental Services, Wits’ new recycling company.

As a “student voice”, they would make sure recycling bins did not overflow, and the recycling infrastructure was stable.

Constantinides, a 2nd year architecture student, was also prompted to highlight green issues by the destruction of trees to make way for new building extensions.

“They’re building a new John Moffat extension and they cut down so many tree. Two huge trees have been cut down, which is a big problem at Wits.”

Fewer trees created social issues after shady spots for student socialising became limited.

“It’s not for a specific demographic. It’s for everyone,” said Constantinides.

He said many people did not know how to be green. The society would help its members to adapt to a greener lifestyle specific to their needs. As the only green society at Wits, Generation Earth wanted to teach people how green and social issues like eco-refugees, food shortage and climate change interacted with each other.

Constantanides said the society received funding from the R80 membership fee and its head office.

Laughter is material medicine

The movie Material delivers a local, curry-flavoured film with love, laughs and tears – enough apparently to make Barry Ronge cry.

Its mix of comedy and drama – now labelled a “dramedy” – is based on the reality of a young Muslim man’s (Riaad Moosa) conflict between his secret love for stand-up comedy and his father’s (Vincent Ebrahim) expectations of him taking over the family business.

Added to that is his father’s conflict with his brother and other community members.

“Anyone who finds family important can identify with the sense of duty to family and the sense of yearning to express yourself artistically in a way that might be different to what is expected by your family,” says comedian Moosa, who takes up his first acting role.

He admits it was challenging making the change from stand-up to acting, “The dramatic aspects, especially, were quite challenging, having had no experience in that regard.”

“But because I was part of the writing experience, and it’s based on personal experiences, I could identify with it a bit more.”


had its opening weekend on Friday 17 and its production team are hoping to make 100 000 ticket sales so the movie can be taken to Britain and other countries.

So far the movie – which was given 40 screens for its opening weekend – has received the highest percentage attendance per cinema for a South African film, so they are optimistic as the sales “are looking good”.

“Hollywood, and the machine behind it, is quite powerful, almost overpowering,” says Moosa, asking people to go out, watch the movie and enjoy it.

“Right now it’s only the Leon Schuster movies that have good feedback and here we have a story that everyone can relate to.”

He says even though the story is shown through the life of a Muslim family and community that element is forgotten because it speaks of issues that everyone battles with.

“There’s this human theme in the movie that family is important and the challenges we face in life are extremely difficult.”

Despite tackling difficult subjects, the movie is meant to be a feel-good experience, displaying the different textures, colours and beauty of Fordsburg, Johannesburg, where it is set.

Israeli Apartheid week to face opposition

This year’s eighth international Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is set to face some opposition in the face of an Israeli envoy.

Israel’s Public Diplomacy Ministry is set to send an envoy of Israelis to represent the state against the apartheid label said an article published in the Jerusalem Post, on February 19.

But Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa condemned it in a press release, saying it was an attempt to undermine the upcoming IAW running from March 5 until March 9.

Rebecca Luton, Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee’s (PSC) chairperson, says, “It’s a reflection that Israel is taking the charge of being an apartheid regime seriously. Unfortunately it’s responding by dispatching envoys to justify that classification rather than try to end apartheid in Israel.”

The ministry is planning to send 100 trained Israelis from different sectors in society to different college campuses around the world where IAW will take place. The mission, titled “Faces of Israel” will be split into 20 groups that will participate in conferences and panels, and speak directly to college students, in Johannesburg, Cape Town, New York, Boston, Los Angeles and other cities.

Boaz Valkin from the South African Union of Jewish Students says he has limited knowledge of the delegation.

“They should be given the opportunity to be heard as dialogue, engagement and open honest discussion is the only way to resolve the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Despite this, Luton says 2012’s IAW is said to be the biggest it has ever been with a “nationwide buzz two weeks before it is even meant to start.”

“We not only expect a bigger turnout for events and activities but also a far more active involvement by ordinary students.

This is partly because of the great IAW line-up but also because students are far more conscientised around the issue with more and more organizations adopting BDS of Israel resolutions,” says Luton.

Witsies can expect two cultural activities and a movie screening during the week as well as an interactive art installation on the library lawns.

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, a Wits PhD student and chairperson of Wits’ Post Graduate Association, has begun a speaking tour to Europe as part of IAW and will be uploading daily reports on Facebook.

Last year’s IAW saw 90 cities worldwide and nine universities in South Africa participating. This year, Luton says, over 25 different civil societies, political and student groups such as the South African Students Congress, Kaleidoscope, South African Council of Churches, to name a few, are getting involved.

Wits could not be bothered about parking

“Don’t bother trying to take the parking issue up. We’ve been trying to fight that battle for a while now and that’s not happening.”

We were told this by a member of the Wits medical school council in 2011 after a car was stolen outside the medical school campus. He said students who were registered for parking at the education campus had to park outside because they were unable to find any parking on campus.

Vuvuzela took up the battle to try and find out whether the number of parking permits sold at Wits far exceeded the number of parking bays available.

In 2008 Wits “put in place measures to attempt to develop an encompassing parking solution within the confines of the urban environment in which we live and the space available to us for parking”. It said this in a statement on its website.

Since then they have also appealed to drivers to travel in lift clubs or use public transport to “reduce the number of cars that require parking on campus which at the same time will herald enormous benefits for the environment”.

Students and staff can alleviate the parking problem by doing this, but what if the problem is that Wits registers more people for parking than there are parking bays?

If Wits limited the number of people who can register for parking, the parking problem could be alleviated which also “at the same time will herald enormous benefits for the environment”.

At the same time trying to get answers to questions about the problem is difficult and met with much resistance.

On August 8 last year an e-mail request for an interview with the Wits parking office manager, Vijanthi Purmasir, did not receive a response. We then sent questions and had to re-send them because Purmasir – and later Emannuel Prinsloo, Wits director of campus development and planning who took over “responding” to questions – failed to answer specific ones.

In response to an initial enquiry of how many Witsies are registered for parking, we were told the total number fluctuated throughout the year. Purmasir said they did “not have the figures yet” when asked for the figures as they stood in February and August of last year.

As to whether the number of students registered for parking exceeded the number of parking bays provided, Purmasir repeated a response she gave to us in March, saying there is enough parking for students registered and students who did not comply with parking rules or found parked outside of their zones would be fined.

When Purmasir was pushed about why the parking office did not have numbers “yet” in August but was still able to say “the numbers fluctuate” and “there is enough parking”, she did not respond. Further questions were then handled by Prinsloo, who said he was waiting for the total number of permits sold.

And when those same questions were asked in February 2012, when those numbers for 2011 should be known, we received no responses.

Vuvuzela asked if there is a cut-off for the number of students who register for parking and received this reply on August 17 from Purmasir: “Presently there is no cut-off system for the amount [sic] of students who may apply for parking.”

But a week later Prinsloo indicated this could change: “In terms of the proposed new parking policy, the intention would be to limit the number of parking permits sold annually whilst keeping a percentage for sale later in the year.”

Whether that policy has been put in place is unknown because Prinsloo has failed to respond to our query about it. Students however say they have been able to register for parking the same as they were able to last year.

Big bottoms have benefits

Fat bottomed girls don’t just make the “rockin’ world go round” in a Queen song but recent studies have health experts singing its fatty praises. Oxford University scientists have learned that storing fat in your bottom, rather than stomach, cuts levels of “bad” cholesterol and raises the “good” cholesterol that protects against hardening of the arteries. The benefits of having an ample derriere extend even to cutting the risk of diabetes and helping with weight loss in other parts of the body. Those blessed with a bigger bottom might want to shake off the negative stigma that goes with it and hold off on burning off too much of this healthier form of fat. It has been discovered that might not be a good idea. Because the fat around one’s bottom breaks down slower than belly fat it produces fewer chemicals linked to diabetes, heart disease and obesity. But the study – published in the International Journal of Obesity – does not condone obesity in any way. It warns against being overweight and encourages people who have an increased waist size to adopt a healthier lifestyle. “Big is not better, and fat is not the new phat,” said a 4th year law student who did not wish to be named.

Overcrowding of Lecture Halls

The Art of Learning: A first year philosophy lecture was packed to capacity, as students sat on the aisle stairs. Some students also sat on the floor near the door in an attempt to catch what the lecturer was saying. “I think that philosophy should find a bigger and more open space,” says Maggie Selepe, a first year BA student. Josh Urbaa, who was sitting cross legged against the door, said he has not had a seat for any of his lectures so far. “It’s pretty awful, I sort of expected them to split the class by now. I can’t learn properly. I learn more from reading than from attending lectures.” Overcrowding in classrooms is a common occurrence during the first week of campus. Students who want seats are advised to go to classes early.

Becoming an honest woman

I attended a beautiful wedding this weekend. It started on Friday and ended on Sunday. Trust Indians to create three functions out of just one.

Being an unmarried Indian woman I dread these events.

When I was in my early twenties I was always hit with that vomit-inducing question: “So when are you getting married?”

If I knew, the invites would have been sent, don’t you think? But respect for my elders engrained in me by loving parents taught me to simply respond with a smile.

During my late twenties the question became more of a statement. “Don’t worry, you’re next my darling”.  While I cringed, not only at being called a darling, but also at their Nostrodamus-like powers of foreseeing the future, I once again, smiled.

Now in my early thirties, that statement has changed and been replaced by a look. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s a look of pity, constipation or indigestion after all that briyani.

During these phases of growth however, the one thing that hasn’t changed is that all my relatives still refer to me as a girl. No matter how old you are, if you’re unmarried and Indian you’re a girl who will be told by a relative that they have a “nice boy to bring over, to see you”.

This nice boy most likely will be their cousin’s neighbour’s sister’s son from a far off land they have never even met.

But the one thing that admittedly bothers me is that you are only regarded as a woman once you’re married. Until then you might as well still be seated at the table reserved for kids at functions.

Being married excludes you from certain things. Like sleeping on a floor bed, being asked to serve or clean up, and endorses that you are now grown up.

So never mind if I receive a degree – or two – open my own company or win a national sports title, I’m never regarded as successful until a man takes me as his wife. I could win a Nobel Prize but I would still be invisible.

It will still earn me those unnecessary whispers behind my back. “She’s become too independent,” they’ll say.

And the best one yet: “These career girls don’t want to get married.”

Sadly, it comes down to a gender issue, and it is the women in society who keep us at the bottom.

You will only be a somebody until a man says you are.

You must not become too independent because apparently men want you to depend on them.

You’re only worthy of respect until a man chooses you.

We’re still being told that we can’t stand on our own. Marriage should be – to me – about companionship. Not a race for acceptance.

Wits Matrix roof to turn a new leaf

An urban jungle will soon be sprouting on Wits main campus in the form of a rooftop garden, called the Wits Sky Garden, situated on top of the Matrix.

The Matrix was chosen for the project “because it’s perfect”, says Tiisetso Daniel Murray, a 4th year industrial engineering student.

“It’s a wonderfully open area exposed to fantastic amounts of sunlight. It’s got [access] to rain … and the area is looking for some improvement, it’s not the prettiest,” he jokes.

The added bonus about the 600 square metre space, he says, is that it has student access from the SRC offices.

Although Murray did not come up with the idea of changing the space into a roof garden, he has taken over managing the student aspect of it.

Other key members in getting the project off the ground are the Wits volunteer Programme and the Siyakhana Initiative for Ecological Health and Food Security.

Programme manager from Siyakhana, Moira Beery, says the findings from research conducted in 2011 on hunger and food insecurity at Wits showed that overall levels of hunger are low amongst Wits students. But there are pockets of significant hunger, particularly amongst students receiving financial aid and living off campus.

“The assistance available to needy students must be expanded, and a productive garden could contribute significantly to this.

In addition to providing food for hungry students, the garden will be a demonstration site and practical learning laboratory for productive and healthy urban environments,” says Beery.

Murray says they have no funding at the moment and everything comes to them either by donation or by picking up scrap and making it into something.

They are hoping to launch the garden with the help of the Absa graduates who, apart from helping build infrastructure, also contribute materials, says Karuna Singh from the Wits volunteer Programme.

Aside from growing fruit and vegetables for the needy, the overall vision for the garden is that it will improve Wits’ ecological footprint and offer a lush recreational space for Witsies.

Additional leadership comes from Engineers without Borders, the Biological Society, Animals, Plants and Environmental Sciences and the Engineering Faculty.

It’s an amazing race at Wits

While Wits freshers who sign up to play in the Muslim Students Association’s (MSA) Amazing Race won’t be in line to bag a million dollars, they are guaranteed to have loads of fun and learn about the campus.

The game is set up to help first years find their way around campus and to make new friends says MSA vice chairperson, Aslam Bulbulia.

“We’ll form them into teams so they get know one another and then run around Wits so they get to know the University because it’s more fun than a tour. They’ll have to solve little clues along the way and sometimes be challenged with getting around Wits or finding a building,” says Bulbulia.

The race kicks off at 10am from the Library Lawns on East campus, after students are split into groups of three, and is expected to be over by 1pm.

It will be followed by the mid-day afternoon Jummah prayer at the Musalla and a talk by Abdurrahman Laily. Students can then look forward to pizzas and an informal get together.

Events that have taken place so far during O-Week are the Silly Buggers Party which was held on Tuesday 7 February, the Alley Party which ran after Monday night’s rugby match.

Wits boxers pull no punches

Wits University’s boxers left their opponents punch drunk after serving them with a flurry of punches and fancy footwork at the University Sports South Africa (USSA) championships held in December 2011.

The boxers, who did not have a coach for most of last year, won seven gold medals which put them in the number one spot as the tournament’s overall champions.

Bakholise Mabuyane, who was the club’s chairperson in 2011, congratulated everyone. “We worked together as a team and fought hard and smart,” she said.

This year the team plan to compete in the Johannesburg championships and defend their title at the December USSA games. “We hope our win last year motivates people to sign up to the club this year,” said Mabuyane.

The best male boxer of the championship, Khayelihle Maseko, proved the old one-two goes a long away after a crowd stirring win in the light welterweight division. Lightweight and USSA 2011’s best female boxer, Hedda Wolmarans, did not get to show much of her skills after her opponent threw in the towel during the second round.

The other medallists were two times light heavyweight champion Njabulo Mahlaela, three times super heavyweight winner Scott Yarham and middleweight champion for the second time Sipho Mhlambi. The light bantamweight championship medal went to Monwabisi Botha, with Nosipho Mtshali taking the female bantamweight medal.

Former Wits boxing USSA champion, Winston Nxumalo was awarded gold for being the tournament’s best coach. The USSA tournament was held at the Wits Old Mutual Sports Hall in the first week of December.

Wits venue packs a punch

Wits University is the venue of choice for a professional
boxing bonanza to be televised by SuperSport and highlighting a South African
national title fight.

After Gauteng boxing promoter Pat Molefe attended a Wits Boxing
Club tournament in August at the Old Mutual Sports Hall (OMSH) he enquired about the

Molefe, director of Rainbow Boxing Promotions, says: “My choice
this time round was to host it at Wits, a learning institution. I’m very excited
to be part of it because a tournament of this magnitude being showcased by
SuperSport nationally and internationally will also bring Wits into the

Wits Boxing Club
chairperson Bakholise Mabuyane says: “After the tournament they asked me what
they have to do to host a boxing event at OMSH so I gave them the [Wits] sports
administration contacts and the rest, as they say, is history.”

The Eastern Cape’s Good Man Djwili and Balemo Weliya will battle
it out for the South African middleweight title. The undercut fight is an
international bout which will see light heavyweight Alex Mbayo (Congo) and
Johnny Muller (SA) touch gloves. Six more bouts will also be featured at the bonanza.

Molefe is regularly involved with amateur boxing and says he wants
to showcase professional boxing at various tertiary institutions in Gauteng.

This past week Witsies were
invited to apply to the Wits Sports Council to be ring girls for the event.
Four girls were chosen and will be paid, receive a SuperSport shirt and appear
on Supersport5.

The Wits Boxing Club will run a tuck shop to raise funds for the

The event takes place on October 9 at OMSH and starts at
2pm. Tickets will be sold at the door and are R50.

COSATU not allowed air time

THE Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) cannot
broadcast as a national radio station from its newly built studio because it
will not be granted a licence to do so.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa
will not grant Cosatu the licence because the law does not allow political
parties to own a broadcast licence.

Even though Cosatu is a trade union it is seen as a
political party because of its alliance with the ANC and SACP. A potential
hiccup the party says it knew it would be faced with from the concept of the
radio station.

The studio which plans to start airing in October will try
to get the law amended but in the meantime will broadcast via satellite and
link to community radio stations such as Alex FM. It will also be broadcast on
the internet and mobile phones; its conceptual broadcast name is Cosatu waves.

Since Cosatu already has a resource and archive centre, the
union has planned an expansion project which includes radio broadcasting and
production, video and television production, a photo archive and digital
documentation, all of which is to be accessed on the internet.

“The project focused on radio [first] because of the
availability of funds for it and the need expressed by workers to tell their
own story,” says Nandipha Miti, Cosatu digital hub’s project manager.

Miti, who attended the Wits radio course in July, will be
managing the expansion project and will also assist with news production. The
station plans on hiring presenters and wants to broadcast news programmes,
interviews, information, drama and political debates “and thus give Cosatu and
its affiliates [unions] an opportunity to speak to its members and society as a

Mike Smurthwaite, station manager at VOW FM, says a person
would just need a recorder and a laptop to broadcast over the internet. He also
found it puzzling how Cosatu would reach its members and the people they

“Members are based all over the spectrum, it’s not an
in-house radio station like Pick ‘n Pay,” he says,

“They [Cosatu] are fighting for a liveable wage of R4500 for
its members, where are they going to listen and how – while they are working?
The cost of data streaming on your mobile is high, is it affordable for its

Political science honours student, Mncedisi Mvelase says he
thinks it is a “great move from them to bring about their message”.

“Right now they feel marginalised by the ANC and, within the
current debate in Cosatu, they are dissatisfied with the ANC, it could be a
move to show their independence,” says Mvelase.