When times are hard, friends are few

Fietas, a working-class community, lies almost forgotten on the outskirts of Fordsburg. At the bottom of the neglected neighbourhood is 14th Street, a once bustling market street now home to the Fietas homeless community. These homeless people have learnt to make their own way, in the area where faith-based relief organisations reach out to make a difference.

“When times are hard, friends are few,” read the spray-painted words on the blue polyethylene bag balancing precariously on a platform trolley against the pavement of 14th Street in Fietas. Times are hard for the owner of the trolley, 46-year-old Joseph “Old Joe” Ngidie, and the few friends who have made the grassy pavement their home.

Sixty years ago, this was a bustling market street. Shop owners would lay their wares on the pavement, as people came from near and far to find a bargain. Then came the trucks and the bulldozers.

A few people walk up and down 14th Street but it is generally quiet. Photo: Samantha Camara

The Group Areas Act of 1950, a cornerstone of apartheid legislation, forced the segregation of races into designated areas. The black, coloured and Indian residents of Fietas were relocated, to the townships of Soweto and Lenasia. The shops of 14th Street were shut down and reopened in the Oriental Plaza, a vast yellow-brick mall in nearby Fordsburg. Overnight, Fietas became a white suburb and was renamed Pageview by the apartheid authorities though its residents still used its old name.

Today, it is a ghost town, a place of half-demolished homes and vacant lots, haunted by the past and the homeless.

One morning, on the corner of 14th and Krause streets, a man displays his wares on a brown, double bed-sized blanket. “My name is Godfrey,” he says. “I come from Mthatha in Eastern Cape. Come, look at what I am selling.” The deep scars on his face tighten as he points to the old books, the radio, and the yellow vuvuzela. Business is quiet on the empty street.

A day later, Godfrey’s blanket bears a collection of belts, an antique lamp stand and a Motorola phone with charger stand. What he salvages, he tries to sell. He is sitting on a weathered, brown couch which is missing both cushions. He is in a circle with some of the other men who live on the street, listening to news on the old radio, which he delicately retunes every few minutes. One of the men sits on an upturned box, washing his shoes in a bucket of soapy, discoloured water. Joseph sits on the pavement next to the group.

Help for the homeless?

Just a kilometre away from 14th Street is Mint Street in Fordsburg. It is lined with restaurants, clothing stalls, and the offices of faith-based relief organisations that care for the homeless and other disadvantaged members of the community. Caring for the destitute is a pillar of the Islamic faith, guided by the principle of zakah, a tithe of 2.5% given by Muslims for the welfare of the community.

The South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF) is in Zakah House, a double-storey, colonial-style, grass-green building on the corner of Mint and Commercial streets. SANZAF is responsible for the distribution of zakah.

In a blue-walled and windowless office, head of welfare Phomolo “Usama” Beng explains that receiving zakah is an Islamic right. Anyone who is in need can apply. SANZAF helps people pay rent, school fees, and basic living expenses. The elderly, who do not have anybody to look after them, are placed on “permanent assistance”. For the younger and more able-bodied, the organisation encourages skills development through education and entrepreneurship.

“We advise them on the programmes that we have,” says Beng. “We have a skills training programme, we have a university programme and a business entrepreneur programme. If they are not interested in anything, we will not help them. If you are not interested in developing yourself, why must we help you?”

There are about 4 500 people living on the streets of Johannesburg, according to Joburg.org, the official website of the Johannesburg City Council. There are at least 50 people staying on the block at the top of 14th Street, where Godfrey and Joseph live.

“Many people are staying here,” says Joseph. “Many people who are older than me, far older, about 80 years old, who don’t have a pension. They are sleeping on the streets, they don’t have a place to stay. They’ve got a problem with their IDs. That’s a big problem in this place, IDs.”

Joseph wears a beige Imana Foods cap, a faded, black collared shirt, jeans and dusty takkies. When he is pulling his trolley in the street, he wears a yellow reflector vest to make himself visible in the traffic. I ask Joseph about his daily routine. It’s only 10am and he has already been to Sandton and back, a total distance of 40 kilometres.

“With a full load,” he says. “Heavy. Traffic on the street. The taxi drivers, they are fighting with us, giving us big problems. They don’t understand. You try to explain to them, I am also trying to get something to eat. They say ‘fuck off, go back home!’ But I have got a problem at home. That’s why I am here.”

A search for a better life leads to the streets

Joseph sorts through what he has collected. He is getting ready to go to the recycling depot. Photo: Samantha Camara

Joseph came to Johannesburg from Msinga, KwaZulu-Natal, in 1993, when he was 26 years old. He left his family behind. He came in search of a better life and he found it, qualifying as a butcher and working  for a meat company in Simmonds Street. In 2007, he lost his job when the company closed down.

He went back home to Msinga with his severance package of R37 000. A year later, he was penniless and back in Johannesburg, looking for work.

Now he lies on a stained, used-to-be-white sofa cushion, in the shade of his empty trolley. The green palisade fence behind him is covered in black sheeting. Behind is a double-storey mosque, undergoing renovations. When it rains, Joseph drags his few possessions, a blanket, sofa cushion and recycling trolley, and seeks shelter under the balcony of the mosque.

Occasionally he asks the builders to fill an empty, two-litre ginger beer bottle with water. He says this is the only help he and his neighbours get from the mosque.

Six streets away from Joseph is Jan Hofmeyer Community Services (JHCS), operating out of a converted church. JHCS runs a feeding scheme and nursery school. Manager Linda Pretorius grew up in the area. “There’s a lot of kids who should go to school but don’t because they are on drugs. They are making this place a vrot apple, if I can put it that way,” says Pretorius.

“I won’t show the door to anyone. I will tell people to come in if they are hungry. Food is food and it’s important.”

Joseph says he has gone to feeding schemes in the area, “but they didn’t help with nothing. They tell different stories, you must come back tomorrow, come tomorrow. Come again on Friday. You end up getting sick and tired and say no, I’m not going there.”

Unable to find work in Johannesburg, Joseph decided to get a trolley and start collecting cardboard and plastic bottles. Every day, he wakes at 4am and trudges to Greenside, Parkview and Sandton, hauling his trolley and filling it with packaging material that he will sell to recycling companies for his daily bread.

The weathered, brown chair has collapsed. It has been pushed against the palisade fence. The legs are gone and it is turned on its side, making more room to sit on. The chair seems to be a communal possession, a relief from the upturned crates and boxes that are mostly used when the men sit together for a break from their collecting routines.

Joseph chooses to make his own way in life. He does not seek help from welfare organisations. “You can’t depend on those people because maybe they are coming today or they’re not going to come,” he says. “So it’s better to wake up in the morning and think for yourself.”

People come to Johannesburg from all over the country, he says, “because Johannesburg’s got money”.

A view of 14th Street from the second floor of the Fietas Museum. The museum is one of the few original buildings still standing and is a homage to Fietas before the Group Areas Act. In the distance is the Johannesburg skyline. Photo: Samantha Camara

But he avoids the centre of the city because he is afraid that his children, who too came in search of a better life, may see him, homeless and dishevelled. He last saw them three years ago.

They are old enough now,” he says. “They are passed matric. They are in Johannesburg, they are also suffering like me. They never got the money to go to university so they can get a job. They also look for a small job, like to drive taxis.”

The only contact he has with his two children is via telephone calls. He hasn’t gone into the CBD since he was working there almost 10 years ago.

“Now it is difficult for me to go see them. You see how dirty I am now,” he says. “I haven’t seen them, but I keep on calling them. I ask how’s their life, okay sharp, I’ll see you next time. The last time they see me I wasn’t like this. I was a good man. Like other people, I was working nicely. If they see me, I was going to make them happy, I could give them something, money.”

‘Each and everybody must look after themselves’

Joseph has learnt the hard way that life is hard, and you have to care for yourself. “Sometimes you can have a friend,” he says. “You can help your friend. But each and everybody must look after themselves.”

I walk back to the Oriental Plaza along Albertina Sisulu Street. I see a man of about Joseph’s age, sitting on a street corner. As I walk past, he gets up and begins to follow me. I cross the street. He follows, walking less than a metre behind me. I stop on a side street. He stops too. “Can I help you?” I ask. “I am thirsty,” he replies. I see a sharpened branch in his hand. “I cannot help you,” I say. “Sorry.” And I walk quickly on.

One block up from SANZAF is Islamic Relief South Africa. Sitting in the boardroom, funds coordination manager Abdullah Vawda says their focus is on providing food, water and medical assistance to the community. Food parcels are distributed monthly to recorded beneficiaries. Many homeless people in the area are undocumented and therefore do not qualify for assistance, as Islamic Relief is bound by its international organisation’s protocol.

“Most of our donors are for the international market or big projects,” says Abdullah. “Locally, most donors will put money in the Mandela hospital. They will rarely donate for food items. Families themselves are buying bread and giving it to the poor, therefore cutting out the need for those people to approach us.”

While the organisation cannot formally assist the homeless community of Fietas, they do help if they have surplus donations of food. But, as Vawda says, charity is not the ideal solution.

“It creates a culture of laziness. People don’t want to work. My own experience in the area for the past five years is there’s more and more beggars every time, and the issue of hand-outs is not solving anything. What’s sad is that you find younger and younger kids are full-time beggars. They should be in school.”

Hauling 100 kilograms for 30 rand

Five days later, I return to 14th Street. The left-hand side of the street is covered in litter, plastic bottles, flattened appliance boxes, and old computer monitors. At the top of the street, on the open foundations of a demolished building, an old television set is burning. The thick grey smoke drifts across the street. For Joseph and his friends, this is a marketplace in the making.

Joseph sorts the rubbish before loading it onto his trolley which he pulls down 14th Street. Photo: Samantha Camara

On Wednesdays, Joseph gets together with the group to sort what they have collected. The plastic, paper, and cardboard are arranged in orderly piles. When the sorting is done, each person loads their trolley and they walk to the recycling depot.

“A hundred kilograms gets about R30 to R40, sometimes R50,” says Joseph. The discarded objects of urban and suburban life are the sole commodity of this community’s livelihood.

I ask if I can pull the trolley before Joseph sorts the last haul. It is almost full. It is lighter than I expect, and I easily pull it a few metres up the road as Godfrey and the rest of the group look on, laughing.

Once, 14th Street was alive with colour and the noise of trade. It was the street where a community made its livelihood. Joseph and Godfrey are the new traders of Fietas, trying to make a living by selling abandoned goods and recycling waste material. The empty street and demolished buildings are a reminder of the hard times that have come to rest on this forgotten area of the city.

Joseph hefts his trolley down the street, his hands behind him, his head forward. He sticks closely to the pavement as he starts the journey to the recycling depot, where he hopes to trade enough cardboard to buy a loaf of bread, something to drink, and maybe a packet of cigarettes.

FEATURED IMAGE: Joseph sorts the rubbish before loading it onto his trolley which he pulls down 14th Street. Photo: Samantha Camara

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Review: Vumani Oedipus at the Market

A new theatre culture is being created at The Market Theatre. A culture that goes beyond the boundaries of the spoken word by using a collection of languages, performances and emotions.

Vumani Oedipus is a collaborative effort between the Wits Theatre and The Market Theatre in Johannesburg. The play is a reworking of the classic Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex into an African rendition. Directed by Wits School of Arts (WSOA) lecturer Dr Samuel Ravengai, the majority of the cast and crew are Wits students with two students from The Market Laboratory Drama School also included.

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POWER HUNGRY: Edipha (Lucky Ndlovu) kneels in front of three of the seven imbongis and Jocasta (Nomfundo Shezi) during the performance of Vumani Oedipus at The Market Theatre. Photo: Samantha Camara

Friday night’s performance was nothing short of energetic and focused making it difficult to choose a single stand-out moment. Each action was met with an equal reaction that made the story flow effortlessly and the hour fly by quicker than one would have hoped.

Lucky Ndlovu (Edipha) and Nomfundo Shezi (Jocasta) are the striking lead pair whose interactions captivate the audience throughout the performance.

The theatre was filled with a diverse group of audience members who laughed, gasped and sympathised with the characters.

The play is performed in about 60 percent English and the remainder in a variety of Nguni languages such as isiZulu, Seswati, isiXhosa and Ndebele. Despite the variety of languages used in the play and the intentional abscence of subtitles or interpretation, it is simple to follow even if you only understand one of the languages used.

The performance relies far more on emotion and physical performance than the spoken word.  The facial expressions from perfomers such as Sibusiso Mkhize (Kiliyoni) were more than enough to follow what is happening.

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TRAGEDY: From front, Edipha (Lucky Ndlovu) is helped up by the court attendant (Sandile Mazibuko) while Kiliyoni (Sibusiso Mkize) watches during the performance of Vumani Oedipus at The Market Theatre. Photo: Samantha Camara

Although the story of Edipha was one of prophesised tragedy and the audience left the theatre feeling heart sore for the characters, there were a number of light-hearted moments. Fumani Moeketsi (Thilesi The Sangoma) was responsible for many of these moments with her witty retorts and fiesty attitude.

The performance flowed perfectly from beginning to end and it was a pleasure to watch young talent perform with such passion, energy and professionalism.

Vumani Oedipus is showing at The Market Theatre’s Barney Simon Theatre until Sunday, October 11.

 

Kyalami’s female brewmaster

The bitter, yeasty smell of fermenting beer flows out the door as you enter the brewery located in an office park in Kyalami, and the smell is surprisingly appealing. The brewery bar is simple and welcoming with light streaming through the doors making the polished silver beer taps shine. Brewmaster Apiwe Nxusani is out of sight working in the brewery. As a black female brewmaster, Nxusani is a rarity in the brewing industry.

The title, ‘brewmaster’, is given to people who have at least five years of practical brewing experience. As brewmaster, Nxusani oversees the brewing process, recipe design and quality of the beer being made at the brewery.

MASTER: Female beer brewers are rare these days but Apiwe Nxusani is a master beer brewer who has her honours in Microbiology. She hope to inspire more black women to enter the male dominated industy. Photo: Samantha Camara

MASTER: Female beer brewers are rare these days but Apiwe Nxusani is a master beer brewer who has her honours in Microbiology. She hope to inspire more black women to enter the male dominated industy. Photo: Samantha Camara

“My favourite thing is seeing people interact with the beers I have made, knowing that I started them from scratch,” says Nxusani.

Nxusani is currently the brewmaster and part-owner of micro-brewery Brewhogs. She began her career climbing the ranks at South African Breweries (SAB) in 2007, leaving in 2013 to pursue a path in craft beer.

According to Nxusani, women have been the ones who brewed beer throughout history and traditionally in many African cultures men are not allowed to do be brewers. However, in modern culture being a brewer is predominantly a male job.

“A lot of people that come through are actually surprised that you have a black woman actually making the beer, which is something that is uncommon currently,” Nxusani said.

Nxusani said she became interested in brewing while in high school when she attended an open day at RAU (now University of Johannesburg). She completed her BSc (Microbiology) at Wits and went on to do her Honours degree at the University of Pretoria.

Nxusani then went on to get a Master Brewer Diploma from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) based in London. She is the only person in South Africa to get a national diploma in clear fermented beverages and the first black person in South Africa to be approved by the IBD as a Brewing Training Provider.

CRAFT BEER QUEEN: Apiwe Nxusani laughs as she poses with the kegs of craft beer she makes. Photo: Samantha Camara

CRAFT BEER QUEEN: Apiwe Nxusani laughs as she poses with the kegs of craft beer she makes. Photo: Samantha Camara

“I feel I’m opening paths for other people. There are many more [black women] within the bigger breweries but within the craft industry it’s mainly male dominated.”

“It’s really quite a rare thing to find females. I’m hoping we inspire more and more so that more females would get into it and more black people would get into it” she said.

Craft beers have gained immense popularity in the past few years. Nxusani says when she got into the craft beer industry working for SAB speciality beers in 2011 she was one of the first people to make speciality beers for SAB.

“Back then at festivals you’d have five, maybe six breweries having stands but now breweries are fighting to get into festivals. Currently they’re estimating 160 breweries across our country and that’s going to be doubling or tripling by this time next year,” Nxusani said.

When asked which Brewhogs beer is her favourite Nxusani she can’t say choose because “the beers have got different tastes and are targeted for different palates.”

Wits Drama at The Market Theatre

Wits Theatre has collaborated in The Market Theatre for a play called Vumani Oedipus, opening in October.

Vumani Oedipus, a play by Wits School of Arts (WSOA), will be showing at The Market Theatre in October.

The collaboration “came about by default, it wasn’t planned” said director and WSOA lecturer Dr Samuel Ravengai. Due to a number of productions running simultaneously, there was a shortage of performers so Ravengai had the idea to approach The Market Laboratory Drama School, the training branch of The Market Theatre. “Three [The Market Laboratory students] got places, one of them has fallen out so I’m using two and the rest are from Wits Theatre”.

Vumani Oedipus is an “an Africanisation of the classic murder mystery”, the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex or Oedipus The King, according to the WSOA website. “The play is classified as a Greek play but if you look at the history of performance, the so-called Greek civilisation and it’s so called Greek plays are actually an off-shoot of African performances” said Ravengai.

PLAYING AROUND: Director Dr Samuel Ravengai (far left) makes a joke while directing cast members Sibusiso Mkhize, Nomfundo Shezi and Lucky Ndlovu (left to right) during a photoshoot for Vumani Oedipus, a collaborative production between Wits Theatre and The Market Theatre.

PLAYING AROUND: Director Dr Samuel Ravengai (far left) makes a joke while directing cast members Sibusiso Mkhize, Nomfundo Shezi and Lucky Ndlovu (left to right) during a photoshoot for Vumani Oedipus, a collaborative production between Wits Theatre and The Market Theatre. Photo: Samantha Camara

Ravengai explained that his motivation for doing this play was to ground the work in an African context, saying that he was, “appropriating what was stolen or taken or appropriated from Africa and replanting it back into the African stories”.

Ravengai hopes the play will show “the possibility that South African theatre has, which is a celebration of our collective identities”.  He added that, “It is possible to create a uniquely South African theatre that celebrates everybody in this kind of performance, which I think has not been done in many years at Wits and at The Market Theatre.

The play strives to develop a new theatre culture that encourages transformation by incorporating a number of languages and traditions.

“For the first time at Wits and the first time at The Market Theatre we are going to do a play where English occupies about 60 to 65 percent of the linguistic content of the play and the rest of it will be Nguni languages, which is Zulu, Seswati, isiXhosa and Ndebele. I am not going to be using titles because theatre has its own language.”

Vumani Oedipus runs from 6 -11 October at the Barney Simon Theatre at The Market Theatre.

Slut Shaming – the new bullying

Summer has arrived and warmer weather means shorter shorts, bikinis and maybe a crop top or two but do you look like a slut?

When walking through campus, going on a night out or just walking down the street, one can’t help but notice the girl wearing shorts or a dress that are just a little “too short”. Maybe her choice of top is more revealing than comfortable and onlookers can’t help but anticipate a wardrobe malfunction that is bound to happen any minute.

But can and should onlookers judge this person based on her choice of dress?

Slut shaming is a phenomenon that exists both in reality and on social media where people, mostly woman, are judged for their sexual behaviour or wearing revealing clothing and declared to be sluts regardless of whether or not the allegations are true.

A psychological study titled ‘‘Good Girls’’: Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus done by social psychologists from the University of Michigan and the University of California found that slut shaming or “sexual labels were exchanged fluidly but rarely became stably attached to particular women.”

According to the study, “the boundaries women drew were shaped by status on campus, which was closely linked to class background. High-status women considered the performance of a classy femininity—which relied on economic advantage—as proof that one was not trashy. In contrast, low-status women, mostly from less-affluent backgrounds, emphasized niceness and viewed partying as evidence of sluttiness.”

The boundaries of “sluttiness” created between different classes and the social power given to wealthier groups, means poorer groups were more likely to be slut-shamed, particularly poorer students who tried to enter into higher social circles. Higher social circles allowed  “greater space for sexual experimentation” as a form of “sexual privilege”.

Wits Vuvuzela met with a group of friends to get their opinions about slut shaming on campus, and this is what they had to say:

“If there’s someone who you think is really pretty, it feels justified by saying they’re sleeping around. I think it comes from insecurity” said Ayla Senekal, 1st BA (Fine Arts).

“I believe that the word slut should be a compliment, just think about it, why would anyone feel insulted if you told them that they are enjoying their lives more than you are” said Lindo Mashini, 1st year BA(Music).

“It [slut shaming] comes from when you look at someone and you see something other to you. It’s kind of like it’s wrong because it’s not the same, no matter what it is” said Christy Golding, 1st year BA (Fine Arts).

“I think they should have the right to dress how they want to dress but people are going to think what they’re going to think regardless” said Matthew Chadwick, 1st year BA(Music).

Although the use of slut shaming in a South African context may differ from the study, slut shaming is considered to be a form of bullying that exists in and beyond the classic forms of bullying found in childhood.

University students or adults may have moved on from the days when they bullied the “weird” kid around in the corridors but is passing judgement on how people, but more specifically women dress the adult equivalent?

 

 

Marikana memory fades for students

The third anniversary of the Marikana massacre came and went on August 16.

The massacre, one of the worst atrocities committed by the South African police against civilians since Apartheid, has been extensively documented through the Farlam Commission that followed and documented the lives of the families of the deceased miners since 2012.

In contrast, it appears the events of Marikana are quickly fading from the memory of the student community at Wits University, one of South Africa’s top tertiary institutions.

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to a number of students on campus about their recollection of the massacre, their thoughts about the Farlam Commission and whether they commemorated the anniversary in any way.

What do you know about Marikana?

“Marikana is the human rights violation, the killing of the miners that happened in North-West,” said Boniswa Mdangi, 2nd year BA Social Work.

“I just know the strikes and the killings that happened a year ago or a year and a half ago, whenever it was,” said Michael Sithole, 3rd year Accounting.

“Absolutely nothing. This is definately the first time I have heard about it,” said Didi Allie, 1st year BA Fine Arts.

“I know there was a shooting between miners and the police and things got a bit ugly, some people died,” said Wandile Mgwenya 3rd year Accounting Sciences.

“Marikana is in the North-West where we have a platinum mine called Lonmin. I know about the massacre that happened there,” said Lutendo Mulaudzi, 1st year Mining Engineering.

“I know that Marikana was a very gruesome event that shook South Africa. I know a lot of people failed to take accountability. I know a lot of miners died,” said Lindelwa Didiza, 3rd year Bcom Accounting.

“I know it has to do with mining and it’s been going on for a long time. There’s a lot of politics around it. I’m not 100% sure what it’s regarding,” said Nthabi Maine, 1st year BA Film and TV.

“I know Marikana is a mine in Rustenburg where there was a strike and people got killed during that strike by the police,” said Mthetheleli, 3rd year BCom Accounting.

“Miners were rioting for higher wages and it’s all around the police reaction because they started shooting,” said Nicky Patchitt, 1st year Film and TV.

“There was a strike because miners were unhappy about conditions on the mines and pay. And the strike ended in miners being shot by police,” said Lunga Mputa, 3rd year Economics and Finance.

What did you do to commemorate the 3rd anniversary on the 16th August?

“No, but we were planning to do something about it since we have the Marikana killing as part of our assignments for human rights, social work,” said BA Nomasonto Bore, 2nd year BA Social Work.

“I kind of feel there’s other things we could have celebrated and gone back to, just simple protestings and shootings like, in Apartheid era, the Soweto strikes and people that were shot there, that’s old news now and now they’re worried about miners?” said Daniel Jean van der Merwe, 2nd year BSc Archeology and Anatomy.

“No, I’m very aware of what happened at Marikana and the stuff that happened but I didn’t do anything, in my heart I’m not satisfied with what they giving them, I’d like for them to get more than what they are getting [referring to a statue he saw being build near the site]. Rembering is good but people want more than that,” said Philani Ntuli, 3rd year Business Management.

Why is Marikana important?

“This Marikana issue has shown us that it’s not always a race issue, it’s also a class issue and power struggle … It’s not always a race issue, even our own black people can oppress us,” said Thato Mokoena, 2nd year BA Social Work.

What is the Farlam Commission?

“I think I’ve heard about that but I don’t know what it actually is,” said Nicky Patchitt, 1st year Film and TV.

“It’s a commission that was set up to enquire what happened at Marikana. The results were talking about questioning the authority of the SAPS (South African Police Force), if they were experienced enough to be in power,” said Lutendo Mulaudzi, 1st year Mining engineering.

“Some people that were set up to enquire about the whole thing, that’s all I know,” said Wandile Mgwenya, 3rd year Accounting Sciences.

“Not much except that it never really addressed the problem or come up with any solutions. What I know nothing really happened for the miners, which I think is unfair,” said Lunga Mputa, 3rd year Bcom Economics.

The Marikana reality 

Despite media coverage, the lives of miners and their families have not changed, as explored in a recent article in the Daily Maverick. “Marikana looks the same”, the article states. Living conditions of the miners and their families have not improved significantly despite government and Lonmin mines promising to build better housing, improve infrastructure and provide support for families affected by the massacre.

SRC debate investigated

The disruptions and fights that broke out during the SRC debate on Tuesday August 18, are being investigated by Wits Legal Office and Campus Control.

An investigation into the disruptions and fights that broke out during the SRC debate on Tuesday has been made a top priority by Wits Vice Chancellor Adam Habib.

Review of evidence and assessing complaints received by Campus Control began on Wednesday and will continue to make a decision on whether or not to investigate further or have a disciplinary process, said head of communications for Wits, Shirona Patel.

“Once the individuals have been identified, if they then have broken the university’s code of conduct or they disrupted the electoral process in terms of rules that are laid out then obviously the university will take action within our policies and processes,” said Patel.

Habib has asked the Wits Legal Office and Campus Control for a speedy investigation. An official statement will be released once the investigation is completed.

In a video and photos of the debate and fight on WitsVuvuzela.com, Project W candidate Tristan Marot is seen arguing before dodging what appears to be a punch to the face. Other members of Project W, the Progressive Youth Alliance and the Wits Economic Freedom fighters can be seen shouting and shoving.

Marot claims that the attempted punch was thrown by former SRC president Mcebo Dlamini. He said he does not remember exactly what happened prior to the alleged attack but says he does recall what he said to Dlamini before the punch was thrown.

Marot said he told Dlamini to “Calm down, you [Mcebo] are already in trouble with the university.”

Dlamini was contacted by Wits Vuvuzela for comment but did not reply as of press time.

Marot was also photographed with a man grabbing him around the throat. He said the man attempted to “strangle him” but Marot could not identify him.

“It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and wearing a Project W t-shirt … I don’t think the attack was against me as Tristan” said Marot. There was very little “calm dialogue” at the time when the fights broke out according to Marot.

 

 

 

 

Virgin Active Palestinian t-shirt row to go to Human Rights Commission.

Pro-Palestinian activist Muhammed Desai was removed from a Virgin Active gym for wearing a BDS t-shirt that some fellow gym members said they found offensive. BDS South Africa has now said they will be taking Virgin Active to the SA Human Rights Commission and Equality Court. 

BDS South Africa will be taking Virgin Active to the Human Rights Commission for an infringement of freedom of expression.

The action against the gym franchise follows the removal of Muhammed Desai, Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) coordinator,  from Virgin Active at Old Eds in Houghton. Desai was escorted away by police for wearing a Young Communist League t-shirt that featured an image of Chris Hani and a BDS message. Desai was reported defending the wearing of his shirt by saying he is a paying member of the gym.

BDS is an international Palestinian solidarity group that calls for economic action against Israel.

Virgin Active said the T-shirt worn by Desai “generated strong complaints” from other gym members and he had previously been asked to not wear such t-shirts to the gym. The statement also said Desai is welcome to return to the gym provided he “respects the conditions of membership”. The statement suggested Desai wore the t-shirt to make a political statement, however the choice to wear the shirt does not directly infringe the gym rules.

Screenshot of Virgin Active's club rules. Image:  Samantha Camara

Screenshot of Virgin Active’s club rules. Image: Samantha Camara

Virgin Active’s club rules regarding clothing do not limit the wearing of shirts that support a political party or ideology. The rules do however, not allow the use of offensive language, intimidation or threats towards staff and other members.

702 Talk Radio host Redi Thlabi discussed the incident on Thursday during her show, and a caller identified as “Hilton”, claimed to be the person who confronted Desai over the t-shirt.

Hilton accused Desai of provoking the row by wearing the t-shirt and bragged about forcing Desai to remove the t-shirt by threatening to “take this outside and settle it like men”. Hilton said the t-shirt was offensive because the Virgin Active was a “predominately Jewish” gym.

Following the altercation, Desai tweeted this picture of the shirt he wore to the gym:

Studying from the streets of Jozi

Zakhele Ndlela*,a part-time Wits student and business owner, began living on the streets of Johannesburg after being evicted from his building.

Johannesburg took root in a gold rush and many glittering opportunities – real or imagined – remain in its bustling streets. Going home a failure is not an option – you have to make it.

The ideal Johannesburg is appealing but the reality of life in the city is not always what it is made out to be. For 38-year-old Zakhele Ndlela* living on the streets while studying part-time at Wits is his reality.

09_Homeless

MAKING A NEW LIFE: Making it in Joburg isn’t easy but being homeless doesn’t mean giving up on your dreams. Photo: Samantha Camara

Ndlela left his hometown in KwaMashu, KwaZulu-Natal for Johannesburg in 2006. After a year of film school he ventured out with some partners and set up a business. Two business attempts and failures later Ndlela decided to go “solo”, starting his own media company in 2010 while renting a flat in Jeppestown.

Joburg life

“The flats are not looked after, they are very dirty, [and] sometimes there is no electricity,” Ndlela said. After six months of people complaining, Ndlela realised the building had been hijacked and they were paying the wrong person. “Most of the people that own these things have guns, if you don’t pay you go out. Sometimes people are scared of them, you don’t have support,” Ndlela said.

Eventually, the owner of the building returned in 2011 and used Red Ant Security and Eviction services, often called “The Red Ants” because of the red overalls and helmets they wear, to evict everybody in the building. Ndlela lost everything he owned when he was evicted from his flat. He only had the clothes he was wearing.

“And worse, that day, the rain came … there is nothing that you can take there. You just have to go somewhere and hustle,” said Ndlela.

Ndlela then went to stay in Park Station where he slept outside for 18 months before moving to a Johannesburg street where he still is today.

According to Ndlela, people on the street stay there because “it is cheaper than paying rent”.

Park Station has facilities where people can pay R10 and bath before going about their daily routine. “Up until you feel you have made enough money then you can start looking for your own place but then most people, they haven’t,” Ndlela said.

Shelters are tough too

Many people on the street choose to stay there instead of going to shelters because shelters are over-crowded, strict and have a lot of crime.

“You can’t go to a place where they steal your stuff,” he said.

“It’s about protecting me, I protect myself, [and] I don’t want people to know me or know about me. This is what I do here. It’s my hustle and I need to do my hustling until I’m ok, that’s how things are outside there,” Ndlela said.

The building that Ndlela was evicted from has now been revamped and became part of the popular Maboneng District in the city.

Despite his current circumstances, Ndlela continues to work and run his media company, which runs two websites. He uses free Wi-Fi around the city to run his company while writing episodes for TV programme Isibaya and studying journalism part time at Wits.

*Name has been changed at his request.

 

10 ways to keep your cash in check

As a young person it may be difficult to gain control of your finances. Even though money may be low while you complete your studies, it is important to learn good habits now so you are better prepared for the future. Here are 10 simple tips to keep your finances in check.

  1. Track your spending

It is easy to lose track of where your money goes. Try to keep receipts in a safe place so you can refer back and see what you spent your money on. Write down your spending in your budget and become aware of bad spending habits such as buying on a whim. 

Graphic: Samantha Camara

  1. Keep a good credit record

As soon as you enter the working world banks and stores will want to offer you credit and store cards. There is always the temptation to go out and buy everything you want on credit. Everything you buy on credit needs to be paid back so the best way to keep a good credit record is to only buy on credit when you have the cash to pay it off straight away.

This way you can avoid getting into a cycle of bad debt.

  1. Save for emergencies

It is always helpful to have a “rainy day” fund that you add to every month. Settle on a monthly amount to add to this fund and only spend it on real unforeseen emergencies. Open up a separate bank account that you can transfer the money into as soon as you are paid and if you feel like you could be easily tempted to spend the money give the bank card to a trusted friend, sibling or parent who can hold you accountable.

  1. Do a monthly budget

Write down all the money you receive, regardless of the amount and add it all together as “income”. Minus your expenses from your expected “income” and you have the basics of a budget. In your expenses include a set amount for going out, food and petrol. Just because you are working to a budget, doesn’t mean you can’t do things you enjoy. Be realistic about your spending limitations. For a step-by-step guide watch the video by NerdWallet below:

  1. Invest in your retirement

It is never too early to save for your future. Starting a pension fund as early as possible gives you more years to save. Go to the local banks and shop around for investment accounts that can earn you interest. These accounts are often set at a fixed time period which means you may not have immediate access to your money, which will curb the urge to spend the money before you retire.

Many companies have retirement plans which are taken from your salary, when you start working find out what pension or retirement plans your employer offers.

  1. Learn about taxes

At some point, being a responsible adult means having to pay taxes. Before you get too excited about that first salary learn how to do your taxes so when that first pay check arrives you will know how much to budget towards taxes.

  1. Buy smart

Buy in bulk, coupon, look for the best prices and specials. Making a monthly shopping list may seem like a silly idea but it prevents you from buying things you don’t need.

This will keep your budget in check and save you unnecessary trips to the shops.

Graphic: Meme Guy

  1. Take responsibility

Becoming an adult means being financially independent. It may be great that your parents can help you out when you need it but the time may come when you need to step out on your own. Take responsibility for your own finances no matter how little you have.

  1. Cut back on take out

Making lunch at home can be time consuming and not as delicious as getting lunch at your favourite café or take-away but it will save you a lot of money.

Getting a “quick bite” everyday adds up, limiting how often you buy out can make the world of difference to your budget.

Graphic: Samantha Camara

Graphic: Samantha Camara

  1. Ask for discounts

Having a student card can come in handy for money saving. Ask for student specials and go to places where students can get in for free.

People understand that being a student is tough, take advantage of the discounts while you can.