City of gold or city of old? Joburg’s crumbling infrastructure points to chronic neglect

Some of the most important arteries linking the city of Joburg’s road network are in poor condition due to years of non-maintenance.

The recent collapse of a pedestrian bridge in Jeppestown (property of Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa) where two people got injured while walking on it highlighted the fragile condition many of the bridges in Joburg are in.

Earlier in the year transport MMC Kenny Kunene said that “the City of Johannesburg’s bridges are crumbling and there is no money to fix them.” This is after The Citizen reported that 90% of the City’s bridges were in poor condition as tabled in the 2021/22 Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) annual report. In addition, the Bridge Visual Condition Assessment (VCA) conducted in the 2016/17 financial year found that 78.4% out of the 902 bridges that were inspected were in deplorable condition.

Several factors contribute to the current state of bridges in Joburg, but this also paints a grim picture of years of neglect by the city.

The city saw an influx of people in its early days as people rushed to seek opportunities in this mining town founded in the 1880s. This 137-year-old city has never stopped growing since the discovery of gold and now accommodates 6.1 million people, it needs functional infrastructure more than ever.

For a city to grow it needs infrastructure that will enable and support growth. Well-maintained infrastructure such as bridges and roads fosters economic development and enhances the provision of basic services. Bridges are the backbone of transport routes that get people to and from work and contribute to the city’s economy.

“The lack of infrastructure maintenance, corruption in which dodgy black economic empowerment companies have been gifted tenders and often build flimsy infrastructure and cadre deployees without the necessary technical skills who have poorly looked after public assets have now snowballed into the breakdown of the entire public infrastructure.”

Professor William gumede

An age old problem

Administrations have come and gone but the question remains, why are our bridges not maintained? Could it be that the City of Johannesburg doesn’t have money to spend on fixing bridges or poor governance?

Concerns over ageing road infrastructure (particularly bridges) are not new. Road infrastructure includes bridges, lights (traffic and street), surface roads, drains and railways. Bridges play an integral part in connecting the city’s roads and people to its seven regions.

In 2018 the Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) revealed that only six percent of the city’s bridges were in good condition. Former city of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba was alerted to ageing infrastructure that is on the brink of collapse by engineers this is as the city’s bridges are over 60 years old. Mashaba has reportedly indicated that the city has been under spending on infrastructure since 1994 which has resulted in the R170 billion infrastructure backlog in the city of Johannesburg. According to Mashaba, “the maximum that has been spent on repairs was two percent and national treasury expects maintenance and repairs expenditure to be between eight and ten percent.”

In the past 10 years the city had its fair share of collapsing bridges i.e., Hendrik Potgieter Road bridge and the Grayston Drive bridge in 2015 and 2022 respectively, leaving two people dead and 19 injured.

The Hendrik Potgieter Road Bridge in Roodepoort collapsed in December 2022 following flash floods that damaged it. The bridge lies on a road that connects Krugersdorp and Johannesburg; the site remains closed.

A bridge that was in its construction phase to link Sandton and the neighbouring Alexandra township collapsed in 2015. Sandton Chronicle reported that the Grayston Drive bridge was initiated by the Joburg Development Agency and the City of Joburg after a traffic and transport study was conducted in the area to reduce travel times and accidents.

The irony is the said bridge aimed to reduce “accidents”, however, it resulted in an accident. A section 32 inquiry was set up by the labour department to investigate the collapse of the bridge. The investigation found that incompetence, negligence, and missing bolts were factors that contributed to the collapse of the bridge. 

JRA claims to conduct regular monitoring and maintenance of their bridges, however, the situation on the ground paints a different picture.

In the 2016/17 financial year, JRA through its Roads Asset Management Systems Unit (RAMS) identified 68 bridges that need to be rehabilitated. As part of JRA’s ongoing programme to ensure effective structural and asset management and maintenance these bridges needed to be fixed in order to avoid a total collapse. The assessment found that majority of the bridges were over 50 years.

Professor William Gumede from Wits University’s School of Governance says, “the lack of infrastructure maintenance, corruption in which dodgy black economic empowerment companies have been gifted tenders and often build flimsy infrastructure and cadre deployees without the necessary technical skills who have poorly looked after public assets have now snowballed into the breakdown of the entire public infrastructure – causing a system failure.”

“This means South Africans will begin to see the rapid collapse of infrastructure, the damage from disasters will be multiplied and the cost of repairs will now be more than building new infrastructure. South Africa’s public rail, roads and state infrastructure have been totally captured at almost all levels – policies have been corrupted, contracts have been given to unqualified politically connected “BEE” contractors and incompetent cadres have been appointed to manage critical assets,” he continued.

To address the City’s infrastructure challenges and to restore its image as a “world class city” it would need a complete refurbishment.

Impact on communities

Joburg’s unmaintained and deteriorating bridges are constantly putting the communities that surround them and road users alike at risk.

Communities living near “poor conditioned bridges” have been raising their safety concerns. Safety concerns for these communities are not the only thing they are worried about other aspects include business and free movement.

Collapsed or decaying bridges make travelling on them not safe therefore communities have to use alternative routes to get around increasing travelling time and diverting customers from businesses.

One such community affected is the Bryanston community that lives near the Belgrave bridge. This low-lying bridge crosses the Braamfontein Spruit – a river that runs through greater Johannesburg’s suburbs until it joins the Jukskei River.

With every rainy season, the bridge floods making the road impassable. Cars have often driven off the bridge into the spruit thus making the bridge unsafe.

When we visited the area in October 2023, we observed that the concrete bollards placed on the side of the bridge to prevent cars from driving off the bridge were damaged.

Ian Tumiel, chairperson of the Bryanston East Community Forum confirmed to Wits Vuvuzela that the bridge has been an issue of concern for quite some time and the community has been vocal about it. 

Relaying the concerns about the bridge Tumiel says, “A new bridge has to be built. JRA has submitted plans for a new bridge and an environmental assessment has been carried out. Since the plans were shown to the community circa [in] 2018/2019 nothing further has taken place. Residents have been involved in the discussions at all times regarding the design of the new bridge. Since the last communication more than a year ago no further information has been provided by the Project Management company nor JRA.”

A collapse of a bridge means that the community is cut off essentially disrupting people’s lives. In 2020 a vehicular bridge in Kilburn, Roodepoort collapsed as a result of a storm.

Following the collapse of the bridge four years ago Ward 84 Councilor Johannes Goosen says, “There was little done to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities other than concrete blocks that were cordoning off the area.” This action gravely put the lives of the community in danger, explained Goosen.

The Kilburn route provided access to surrounding businesses and schools in the area and since the closure of the road businesses have suffered as a result. Asked what impact the closure has on the community Goosen said it affects the surrounding business with divergence of customers and lessening of foot traffic. Increased Traffic flow and usage by trucks etcetera through other streets in the residential suburbs are issues affecting the community.”

Essentially the entire community from businesses, residents and motorists were negatively affected by the collapse of the bridge.

Infrastructure maintenance and development

Professor Mfaniseni Sihlongonyane from Wits’ School of Architecture and Planning says, “It would take a combination of factors to destroy a brand [image] of a city and maybe we are going in that direction in the City of Johannesburg because it’s not only road infrastructure [bridges] that’s collapsing its many other forms of infrastructure. The “world class” aspect of it is being contested largely because certain aspects are not quite there.”

A “world class city” is characterized by but not limited to functional infrastructure [bridges, roads, buildings etc, that are in relatively good condition] and urban development. The collapse of bridges suggests that the city’s bridges are not functional or first for purpose.

According to the Development Bank of Southern Africa road infrastructure plays a critical role in South Africa’s economy. It makes it possible to transport goods and services, but it also enables movement for people, enhancing productivity within the economy therefore there needs to be adequate infrastructure. 

This is no different to Johannesburg its poor road infrastructure will have an influence on service delivery, this is as the roads in their current state do not support the movement of goods and services. The Citizen reported in 2018 that in a survey conducted in 2017, 3 900 km of the road network fell into the poor, or very poor, condition.

The expected increased congestion on affected roads was expected to affect the local economy, as well as tourism.

Congestion on affected roads will increase costs and travel time for businesses and commuters. Some businesses will move out of the city as business costs mount. The economy of the city will be negatively affected as businesses contribute towards the economy; investors will also not be attracted to the city because of its poor infrastructure.

R14 billion is needed to rehabilitate the City’s bridges this is according to the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) which is an entity of CoJ responsible for the design, repair, maintenance and development of Johannesburg’s Road network and stormwater infrastructure.

With the deteriorating Joburg bridges the JRA requires more money than they are allocated to adequately repair and rehabilitate all bridges. This will ensure that the bridges maintain their structural integrity to avoid bridge failures.

The JRA manages a total of 1 592 structures which are classified as bridges including major and lesser culverts.

Bertha Peters-Scheepers, JRA’s communication operations manager told Wits Vuvuzela that for the current 2023/24 financial year the agency has been allocated R389 million to fix damaged bridges and culvert structures [often used in the channelling of water over a road]. She added that the allocated budget is insufficient to carry out the work.

To tackle the 100-year-old infrastructure the bridge rehabilitation programme was introduced in 2014 as a way of restoring, repairing, and maintaining bridge infrastructures alongside the VCA.

JRA will be embarking on a bridge rehabilitation programme at R389 million – bridges that have been earmarked for the work include Maphumulo, Buccleuch, Pierre Road, West, Cedar, Modderfontien and Canterbury amongst others. Additionally, we are also attending to damages caused by the December 2022 flash floods, said Peters-Scheepers.

The Maphumulo bridge culvert (which channels the Klip River) connects the two communities of Zola and Jabulani in Soweto. It got damaged in 2017/2018. The collapse had bad consequences for the two communities as they were now divided and could not move with ease from one end of the community to the other.

Much like the Maphumulo bridge, the Buccleuch bridge crosses the Jukskei River connecting the communities of Sandton and Midrand.

The bridges JRA earmarked for rehabilitation are mostly used by vehicles, but they also accommodate foot traffic. A lot of these communities rely on them to move between the areas.

To avoid another Grayston Drive bridge incident, Amanuel Gebremeskel CEO of the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction says that “bridge construction should be able to match SANRAL’s standard which he deems to be good.” According to Gebremeskel SANRAL has the best bridge conditions in terms of its guidelines.

He alludes that SANRAL does a better job at managing and building bridges than the city.

“Engineers and clients (those commissioning for bridges to be built) need to take into account different factors that go into the construction of bridges such as how will it be used and for how long, and the kinds of material to be used [steel and concrete],” explained Gebremeskel.

FEATURED IMAGE: A bridge that is on the brink of collapse in Selby, Johannesburg a couple of meters away from Standard Bank. Photo: Sbongile Molambo


FEATURE: Land grabs point to social housing failures

Having a roof over your head is not a luxury, but a need most South Africans cannot attain, which is why many settle wherever they can.

Steep prices, bad urban planning, the slow release of land, migration and limited resources are some of the contributing factors to the housing crisis in the country. People in search of better economic opportunities migrate with the hope of bettering their lives, but this rapid urbanisation impacts under-resourced and unprepared towns and cities.

To address this and attempt to reverse apartheid spatial planning and post-apartheid urban sprawl, the government introduced policies such as the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). However, the implementation of these and other plans has been at a snail’s pace.

Almost 30 years into democracy, South Africa still faces a social housing crisis. Residents of an informal settlement in Tembisa’s Glen Marikana, Ekurhuleni, found themselves in a compromised position when they were evicted from the land they had occupied.

They were evicted on July 24, 2023, from the piece of land, it is understood that the land is privately owned and they were there illegally. The Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD) evicted these residents from the place they called home for more than six years.

They were promised alternative accommodation in Putfontein, an area in Benoni demarcated by city of Ekurhuleni for the evicted residents. It is approximately 21 kilometers from Glen Marikana. But this never materialised.

To the shock of many, they were instead dumped together with their belongings on a strip of land that lies between a busy road that stretches from Kempton Park into the informal settlement.

When Wits Vuvuzela visited the area after desperate calls from the residents in limbo, sounds of shovels, nails and hammers could be heard from what can only be described as post-apocalyptic scenes. More than 1 200 people were hurriedly trying to build shelters for themselves, after three weeks out in the cold. Established routines and safety all taken away in an instant, “many children missed out on school,” said Ellie Mashiane.

Hundreds of residents trying to rebuild their lives following evictions in Glen Marikana, many with very little to work with in terms of materials. Photo: Sbongile Molambo

“We feel unsafe as we have been sleeping outside in the cold since we were evicted from Glen Marikana. We haven’t bathed in over two weeks, and we have nothing to eat,” said Shirley Mathopa.

Many residents share Mathopa’s sentiments and are calling for intervention from the municipality. Thapelo Komane and Lesego Phasha say that it is a struggle, and it is inhumane to live under such conditions.

Phasha said, “When we were moved here from Glen Marikana, we were promised 10-meter by 10-meter stands as a temporary fix, however, we are now being given seven-meter by seven-meter stands due to tensions between us and residents from the neighbouring Tembisa township which was not part of the initial agreement we had with the municipality”.

One of the people evicted from Glen Marikana with her belongings on the side of a busy road. Photo: Sbongile Molambo
Belongings of a resident out in the open veld as residents have been sleeping outside for three weeks. Photo: Sbongile Molambo

Mashiane said repeated attempts to reach out to MMC for human settlements in Ekurhuleni, Masele Madihlaba, have failed.

Residents, many of whom are unemployed, cannot afford to rent elsewhere, so they have nowhere else to go. As far as basic services go, the residents say they were only provided with chemical toilets and two JoJo tanks two weeks after their arrival on the strip of land. However, Marven Mnisi, a resident, told Wits Vuvuzela, that the JoJo tanks ran out of water on the day they arrived and have been empty ever since.

He said that they [municipal officials] promised to come back to assess the situation and start allocating accommodation to the evicted residents but they never returned.

Residents said they have been deserted and forced to live under inhabitable conditions and the provision of basic services is almost non-existent. They have to fetch water from a nearby taxi rank on a daily basis. They say they haven’t had warm meals for days and now live on the mercy of good Samaritans.

Chemical toilets that have been provided by the municipality to service almost 1 200 people. Photo: Sbongile Molambo
A JoJo tank that has been sitting empty for two weeks according to the residents. Photo: Sbongile Molambo

Section 26 (1) of the Constitution states that everyone shall have the right of access to adequate housing. Accessibility means that the state must create conducive conditions for all its citizens, irrespective of their economic status, to access affordable housing. 

Municipalities are obligated to provide temporary alternative accommodation to people who would be homeless as a result of an eviction, this is according to the Emergency Programme under the National Housing Code. The National Housing Code of 2009 sets the underlying policy principles, guidelines, norms and standards which apply to various government housing assistance programs introduced since 1994.

According to the Human Settlements Department annual performance plan 2022/2023 the South African government delivered over 3.4 million housing units by the end of February 2022 since 1994.

In their admission, the human settlements department says by mid-2022, there were over 2 700 informal settlements in South Africa. Shows that the release of housing units has been slow as there are people that still live in informal settlements and do not own their own land or house.

In 2018, the Gauteng government adopted the Rapid Land Release Programme (RLRP) – a programme developed by the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements which aimed to make serviced stands available to qualifying Gauteng households who would not be able to meet their own housing needs without government assistance. The sizes of the stands provided in the RLRP shall range between 150m2 and 200m2.

However, the government fell short of its promises and protests ensued – Gauteng premier, David Makhura, as cited in this 2020 GroundUp article.

In a commitment to address the housing gap that is prevalent in the country, the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) which administers the government’s social housing program is targeting the delivery of 18 000 social housing units by 2024.

Although the government is trying to improve the socio-economic conditions of its people, it can be noted that the housing crisis is a result of a lot of contributing factors, but must notably of them all, poor implementation.

FEATURED IMAGE: Evicted residents build new shelters next to a busy road in Tembisa. Photo: Sbongile Molambo


UDF40: Calls for active participation in democracy 

Thirty years on, members of the United Democratic Front (UDF) say South Africa is ‘Not Yet Uhuru’. 

“South Africa is a different and better place! But sadly, our beloved country has many failings. Corruption in the private and public sectors is rife. The gap between the rich and the poor is unconscionable.”  

These were the utterances of one of the UDF’s founders, Valli Moosa. The anti-apartheid movement celebrated its 40th anniversary on Sunday, August 20, at the Johannesburg City Hall. 

The organisation was formed on August 20, 1983, in Mitchells Plain in Cape Town by Dr Allan Boesak, Valli Moosa, Popo Molefe, Murphy Morobe and Reverend Frank Chikane amongst others.  

One of the founding members of the UDF Popo Molefe delivering his speech during the 40th anniversary celebration. Photo: Yunus Chamda/supplied.

Rooted in the values of non-racialism and justice, the UDF brought together 400 public organisations including trade, student, women’s unions and religious organisations.  

Addressing the media last week at the Country Club Johannesburg in Auckland Park, Reverend Chikane said this 40th anniversary celebration is an opportunity to highlight the importance  of active citizenry.  

“In the past, the key value of the organisation was anchored in unity as people joined the movement to fight for a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, and just society. We all took a step, we refused to collaborate with the apartheid system, and they took us seriously. Anybody who is in government if we get organised, they [those in government] will take us seriously.” 

The theme of the UDF40, ‘Building Active Citizenry for Transformation and Accountability,’ called for the mobilisation of the people to find resourceful ways to marshal their energies towards defending South Africa’s hard-won democracy.  

Speaking at the event, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the challenges South Africans are currently faced with.  

“The task before us is that those amongst us should not cling to the baton, they should take the baton and pass it on and set sights high on how to overcome challenges facing the people of South Africa,” said Ramaphosa.  

Former trade union leader and chairperson of the South African Tourism Board, Dr Thozamile Botha said the struggle for economic emancipation and social housing continues. He added that we should draw lessons to sharpen our ideology from the UDF as we head into 30 years of democracy. 

FEATURED IMAGE: People gathered in their numbers to celebrate the UDF’s 40th anniversary at the Joburg City Hall. Photo: Yunus Chamda/supplied.


South Africa is putting the legacy of the 1956 women to ‘shame’ 

Two prominent foundations celebrated women; while lamenting the issues that they are currently facing in the country.  

The Ahmed Kathrada, Sophie and Henry De Bruyn Legacy foundations held their annual women’s month commemoration at the Avalon and Newclare cemeteries on Sunday, August 6. 

The event was to pay homage to the fallen heroines who led the 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria against the apartheid government’s pass laws. 

While reflecting on the role these women played in the apartheid era, representatives of the foundations did not hide their disappointment at the current state of the government and on issues relating to corruption and service delivery. The event also highlighted on women’s challenges and protecting whistle-blowers.

The representative of the Sophie and Henry De Bruyn Legacy foundation, Sonja De Bruyn said: “We know that young women of today are suffering with their own challenges, including the lack of access to hygiene products such as sanitary pads. We know the scourge of gender-based violence.”  

According to the Human Rights Watch 2022 World Report ,South Africa has one of the highest GBV rates in the world and over 60 000 rape cases were reported in 2022. 

Adding on what was said, Zarina Motala of the Action for Accountability Project, said that “Corruption and mismanagement in government takes away the dignity of every single person in our country; it takes away their constitutional right to healthcare, water, education, and electricity.” 

The call for justice  

Some of the reflections coming through on the day were the call for justice and the protection of whistleblowers as this year marks the second-year anniversary of the assassination of Babita Deokaran. 

Deokaran was a whistleblower within the health department who lifted the lid on corruption at the Tembisa Hospital, she was killed outside her home in August 2021.  

Former director-general of the GCIS Phumla Williams said, “Babita was brutally murdered for doing the right thing, in reporting corruption. That is what we should be fighting for.” She added that “we should be calling on the security cluster to make sure that justice is being served.” 

Speaking about the safety of women, particularly whistleblowers, the Ahmed Kathrada foundation’s representative, Neeshan Balton said, “We need to demand more from the criminal justice system, they [police] need to do more than just paying lip service to the protection of women.” 

FEATURED IMAGE: From left to right: Zarina Motala, Rahima Moosa’s son and Neeshan Balton standing at Rahima Moosa’s grave. Photo: Sbongile Molambo


Wits looks at the benefits of genomic medicine in Africa 

Academics are looking at adding a new medical discipline that could help transform Africa’s healthcare sector. 

The Wits Health sciences faculty facilitated a research lecture on genomic precision medicine to help advance the treatment of diseases on August 1, at the Wits School of public health, Parktown.  

Genomic precision medicine, an emerging field in Africa, looks at an individual’s variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle before administering treatment.  

Director of the Wits Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Professor Michele Ramsay and Dr June Fabian, research director at the Wits Donald Gordan Medical Centre presented a lecture on the matter titled, “Unlocking Opportunities” for genomic precision medicine in the African continent. 

Dr Fabian said that precision medicine has been pioneered in the West; and it is now a matter of Africa catching up and tailoring treatments meant for the African continent. 

Meanwhile, echoing her colleague, Ramsay added that it is important that the continent gather more data, do more research, so that the treatment can be better tailored to the African population. 

“It is necessary for us to develop our own tools; we can’t use tools that were developed for European populations because we have different variations [genomic sequencing]”, explained Ramsay.   

She added that this will help healthcare professionals in the diagnostic setting to prescribe suitable treatments for patients. 

Ramsay explained the use of genomic precision medicine will develop “African solutions for African problems”. This will be a game changer because infectious and noncommunicable diseases account for 50 to 88 percent of deaths in Africa, according to a 2022 report from the WHO.  

Dr Fabian said that more than 80 percent of clinicians recognise the value of precision medicine and how this can improve care – especially in the public healthcare sector. However, he said that its full potential has not been realised yet due to the high cost, training gap and limited access to genetic services.  

The lecture made it clear that genetic medicine is the future; and if the African continent is to benefit from it, it would require collaboration efforts from pharmaceutical companies.  

Fourth-year medical student, Amin Borda told Wits Vuvuzela that the presentation was interesting and he cannot wait for the discipline to be brought into their working environment.

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr June Fabian making her presentation during the research lecture. Photo: Sbongile Molambo


Shadow Voices: a sonic exploration of schizophrenia 

Exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to experience what it is like to have schizophrenia. 

The Wits Origins Centre Museum’s latest exhibition Shadow Voices seeks to raise awareness about schizophrenia. 

Shadow Voices was a week-long sound installation (July 31 to August 5) crafted by MMus (Master in Music Student) student Annemie Du Plessis, music psychotherapist Karin Meyer, and poet Dan Hoeweler. It explored the profound experiences of those living with the mental disorder.  

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that is characterized by continuous or relapsing episodes of psychosis. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behaviour that impairs daily functioning and can be disabling. 

The exhibition uses sound that people can listen to through headphones to allow them to experience what it is like to have “voices in your head”. It mimics one of the realities of a person living with schizophrenia.  

Du Plessis told Wits Vuvuzela that “given the stigma often associated, we wanted to do a sound installation that would help create awareness about schizophrenia symptomatology” [the set of symptoms that are associated with a medical condition]. 

“Sound installations can be a powerful medium to allow for immersive experiences, it supports the narratives of music therapy as part of a treatment and support for people living with schizophrenia,” said Du Plessis.

According to a 2022 report by the WHO, schizophrenia affects approximately 24 million people, or one in 300 people (0.32%) worldwide. This rate is one in 222 people (0.45%) among adults.

According to Dr Mvuyiso Talatala of the South African Society of Psychiatrists (Sasop), in an article published by the Daily Maverick  in July 2023, schizophrenia affects only about 1% of the population of the South African population. He said, “schizophrenia is a disease of young people, with about 90% of people with the disease first showing signs before the age of 25.” 

The Origins Centre Museum’s curator Tammy Hodgskiss Reynard told Wits Vuvuzela that what makes Shadow Voices different is that “exhibitions are often visually focused and this one forces you to listen and use other senses.” 

Music psychotherapist Meyer believes that music therapy can be very effective in treating mental health concerns. Music therapy is the practice in which a therapist uses clinical and evidence-based music interventions to accomplish unique and individualised goals within a therapeutic relationship. 

She said, “Music can naturally lift our moods and, when used intentionally it becomes a tool for processing emotional difficulties.” She adds that “research has shown the benefits of music therapy for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, et cetera.” 

It is believed that music therapy can be used as an aid in the treatment process of different forms of mental illness.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Visitor and student, Aphelele Mbokotho listening to the sound installation which mimicks having voices in your head. Photo: Sbongile Molambo


Malema: “We are the dreams of our ancestors realised!” 

As the Economic Freedom Fighters celebrated turning double-digits, their party president did not hold back in his criticism of the ruling party during their birthday celebrations. Wits Vuvuzela’s Seth Thorne and Sbongile Molambo were there to watch it all unfold.

“It is not a matter of if, but when we are in government next year” (and variations thereof) were the utterances most echoed by the EFF party leadership on Saturday, July 29 at FNB Stadium in Soweto. 

Over 100 000 EFF supporters from across the country traveled in over 1 000 buses, painting the stadium red as the EFF celebrated their 10th anniversary. 

Aesthetically, the event was nothing short of a spectacle. The black stage on the pitch was adorned with massive screens, flowers, balloons and later in the day, fireworks, champagne and a birthday cake.  

The invitation to the celebration extended beyond EFF members, with traditional leaders, artists and leaders of other political parties present on stage. These party leaders included Bantu Holomisa of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), who called on “opposition parties to unite as the ANC has “eaten the country’s money.” Others on stage included Vuyolwethu Zungula of the African Transformation Movement, Azapo and the Pan Africanist Congress. 

Born out of need 

EFF president Julius Malema’s speech began with the formation of the organisation, describing it as the directive of the community of Marikana following the 2012 massacre. “We listened to the people of Marikana and formed a party,” he said.  

Malema called the ANC an “organisation of murderers”, who killed miners in “defense of capital” on that fateful day. Malema said president Cyril Ramaphosa belongs “in prison” for the massacre and the Phala Phala scandal.  

Malema also made the friends and foes of the EFF aware that if “you are a supporter of a progressive agenda, you are a friend of the EFF”.  

In their various ‘happy birthday’ messages, the speakers, including Holomisa and Zungula, all alluded to how the formation of the EFF has changed the political landscape of the country. 

Looking to 2024 

The keynote speech was laden with electioneering talk, as Malema called for land expropriation without compensation, the nationalisation of mines, banks, and other strategic sectors of the economy.  

Commenting on crime and corruption in the country, Malema called on the “ground forces [to] go reclaim the streets against criminals.”  

Despite being in multiple coalitions with the ANC, he said the party is “corrupt” and should not be trusted with power, as it “has failed to emancipate its people,” he said. “Unlike the ANC, [the EFF do not] bribe voters” but rather attracts people “wanting freedom in their lifetime”. 

Malema also criticised the Nasi iSpani programme, led by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi. He claimed that applicants were not properly vetted and as such would lose their jobs in no time. He also claimed that the programme is an attempt to bribe votes out of young people.  

Various party leaders called for a collective effort to unseat the ANC next year, especially though coalitions. “There is no future in this country if we do not work together… if we do not unite we will not win as the opposition parties next year,” said Zungula.  

Mihlali Tyebisa from Wits’ EFF student command said that “the event was mind-blowing for many; it was a clear demonstration of what is to come.”  

FEATURED IMAGE: Julius Malema ends his speech with a bang as he is lifted into the air, with confetti and smoke machines going off on Saturday, July 29, as proceedings come to an end. Photo: Seth Thorne


PROFILE: Chemistry student uses AI in water treatment plants

Young prodigious scientist’s unwavering determination makes her strike gold.

Master of science student Taskeen Hasrod wowed judges during the Wits’ leg of the FameLab international science competition and scooped the first-place position.

Wits hosted the FameLab competition on May 10, 2023. FameLab is the biggest science competition that takes place annually around the world, it is designed to challenge science researchers and foster their communication skills in front of a panel of judges and an audience in just three minutes.

Hasrod grew up in Lenasia and has always been interested in maths and science from a young age. The young scientist’s interest grew exponentially by the time she reached high school. Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela Hasrod said, “I really like chemistry, learning the fundamentals, how really small things give really big effects.”

Taskeen’s mother, Nasreen Hasrod, says her daughter has always been drawn to chemistry, “our kitchen has witnessed many scientific experiments” throughout her childhood. She added that Taskeen still has her first kiddie’s laboratory equipment set.

The 23-year-old is currently pursuing her master’s degree in chemistry at the Wits school of chemistry. Her research focuses on applying artificial intelligence (AI) to environmental chemistry particularly in water management. Using AI, Hasrod predicts water quality in acid mine drainage treatment plants.

“Instead of doing the experiments to test the water for values we need, we would use historical data to train the models to predict it without having to do experiments,” said Hasrod. She added that the usage of AI has proven to be more efficient and cost-effective.

It was this research, coupled with her charisma, that made a lasting impact on the judges which got her the first-place finish. Hasrod was able to present clearly what her research is about in a simple way without using too much scientific jargon. The competition equips participants with communication skills and provides a platform for networking as it is centred around interacting with both participants and the judges. It also provides training exercises to its participants.

Professor Hlanganani Tutu, who is her research supervisor, says Hasrod has “a commendable sense of purpose in her research”. Tutu added that Hasrod is “dedicated and focused as a student.” Which has made the supervising experience enjoyable, he added.

Tutu, said Hasrod’s “research findings will have far reaching impacts in dealing with big data from water treatment plants and as well as how the treatment process will be improved.”

FEATURED IMAGE: The outside of the chemistry building with the periodic table on the windows. Photo: Sbongile Molambo.


SLICE: My self-inflicted accommodation crisis 

Applying early for admission and accommodation is the best strategy for prospective tertiary students 

Earlier on in the year, protests erupted at various higher learning institutions including Wits University with students demanding institutions to provide accommodation for all students. 

This followed the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSfas) introducing a R45 000 accommodation funding cap this year. According to NSfas news the accommodation allowance cap was introduced to manage the unregulated costs of student housing and prevent profiteering and price collusion. Wits, UKZN, Rhodes, Sol Plaatjie, Stellenbosch and UP were some of the institutions adversely affected by this cap.  

The high influx of students to universities has resulted in a common supply versus demand crisis. More and more students are currently pursuing higher education studies and universities are struggling to cope as according to a 2018 Inside education report, SA universities were never designed to accommodate large numbers of students in on-campus residences.

Ironically, the demand can be seen as an NSfas success, as access to public higher education opened up post-1994, particularly through the scheme’s funding of poor students.

Careers portal, a website that provides updates on career and education related information reported in April that the department of higher education had revealed that there was a shortage of 400 000 student accommodation beds at 12 tertiary education institutions. 

Wits has approximately 40 000 students but can only accommodate 2 000 students on campus, according to the university’s website. The university’s response to this year’s protests was to provide 150 beds through its Hardship Fund, which was set up to assist financially needy students. This can go towards tuition or accommodation costs.

According to research by professor Fulufhelo Netserwa, executive dean at the Durban University of Technology, the student accommodation crisis in South Africa is a result of a complex set of factors, including inadequate investment in student housing, financial constraints faced by universities, and broader challenges related to urbanisation and housing affordability. 

This crisis is not new, which means prospective tertiary students should be nimble and wide awake when they apply to study at a university and give due consideration to where they would stay.

Unfortunately, over the three years of my undergraduate study at Wits, I have been one of those students who have been caught napping when it came to securing accommodation. During my matric year, when I was applying for admission to universities (Johannesburg, Free State, Limpopo and Wits) I also applied for accommodation, but for some reason not to Wits.

My excuse was that I had self-doubt and was not sure whether my grades would be good enough for me to be admitted at Wits. This does not make sense even as I am writing it. In first year I only secured accommodation a few days before the commencement of the academic year, at the South Point private student residence in Braamfontein.

One would have thought that I had learnt my lesson, but no, I let a couple of months pass after applications opened, and by the time I applied, all the university’s residences were full. This happened for two years and I had to settle for another private student accommodation, Campus Africa, also in Braamfontein. (Ironically, this year Wits has taken over the accommodation and renamed it Amani). 

So, my struggles to secure accommodation at Wits have been self-inflicted. I am back at Wits this year to pursue an honours degree. This time I do not have access to NSfas funding since I am in postgrad. I did not apply for university accommodation because this time I was uncertain whether I would secure funding for the year. Being self-funded, I was not going to be able to afford Wits accommodation.

Wits charges R 51 786 to R 109 077 for accommodation a year, for studio apartments and shared rooms at its self-catering residences. 

Private student accommodation residences require confirmation of funding and because I could not produce what was required, I was unable to apply for student accommodation near campus. 

This is how I found myself living way off campus in a residential flat in Maboneng in the CBD. Rent is between R 3 800 and R 4 000, including extra services such as water, sewage and refuse collection by the City of Johannesburg.  

I must see to it that I have electricity as the units have pre-paid meters. Electricity usually costs me R400 a month and I am able to stretch my usage because I live alone and switch off my appliances when they are not in use. Roughly my monthly expenditure amounts to R 5 300 including transport which is R 900 a month. This is a better option than the R 5 000 to R 10 000 rental one would find in Braamfontein. 

My experience is a cautionary tale for those applying to study at tertiary institutions to apply for admission and accommodation as early as possible so that they do not end up as part of the statistics about student accommodation crisis.  It is going to take a while for the problem of a shortage of beds to be resolved. According to a 2021 Sowetan Live article, higher education minister Dr Blade Nzimande revealed that R7,6 billion has been invested by the Development Bank of Southern Africa since 2020 in infrastructure projects across all 26 public universities. Through this infrastructure project the higher education department aims to provide 300 000 beds by 2030. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Sbongile Molambo. Photo: File


Wits SRC partners with Dunwell Properties to alleviate the accommodation crisis

Student leaders have secured at least 300 beds for scholar without a roof.

The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) has managed to secure 300 beds for students who have been without accommodation since the beginning of the academic year.

This comes after the SRC’s meeting with Dunwell Properties’ COO Thando Cele on April 19, to try resolve the Wits accommodation crisis. A deal was then struck to provide beds for students that are without a roof.

In a written response to Wits Vuvuzela, Cele said that “the deal was initiated by Dunwell’s drive to participate in solutions to resolving student accommodation challenges.”

The SRC said in a tweet on Wednesday, May 17 that “the first 180 NSFAS appealing students have been successfully allocated beds and the remaining 120 beds will be issued as per the increase in demand from affected students.”

The deal comes after students protested at the beginning of the year over financial exclusion and accommodation. The student protests were fuelled by the NSFAS R45 000 accommodation cap as well as the lack of response to students that are appealing their funding status. The cap was instituted as a way to manage price fixing and profiteering by private providers, this is according to higher education minister Dr Blade Nzimande.

Karabo Matloga, SRC compliance officer, told Wits Vuvuzela that Dunwell Properties reached out to them and said they have beds. They then agreed in the meeting to accommodate all the NSFAS students, including those that are appealing.

Dunwell will offer accommodation to students who have appealed for NSFAS and are still awaiting their respective outcomes, students will be able to reside at our building without confirmation of funding”, emphasized Cele.

Matloga, added that “this mechanism is mainly to reduce the pressure from the ‘hardship fund’ so that the university can focus on students that are not NSFAS funded and are not funded by bursaries.” The hardship fund is established by the university to assist students with financial assistance and accommodation based on their socio-economic circumstances.

Students were seen sleeping in libraries and in labs while waiting for NSFAS’ decision on the appeal process.

A third-year accounting science student, who did not want to be named said, “I was struggling a lot, it was affecting me bad mentally and I felt isolated because I was sleeping in a lab.” “I was also struggling academically”, he added.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits students walking into Dunwell offices to sign their leases after receiving communication from the SRC. Photo: Sbongile Molambo


REVIEW: Rosebank’s JoyJozi a haven for young and old  

A family restaurant nestled in the heart of Rosebank deviates from the norm in the upmarket mall, catering specifically for patrons who want to play more than they want to eat.    

An outdoor play area with swings, slides and obstacle courses is overlooked by the patio. Photo: Sbongile Molambo.

Joburg’s newest addition to the culinary scene JoyJozi located on 51 Eastwood Road, Dunkeld is a great place for children who need to expend energy and parents who need to take a break.  

Located opposite the Radisson RED hotel in Rosebank, JoyJozi is both a playground and a restaurant, “a place where kids can take their adults out,” is their tagline.  

Upon entering the restaurant, one is greeted by big cute knitted stuffed animals such as lions, giraffes, elephants and other toys lined up on the walls. The foyer then leads to an indoor play and outdoor play area.  

Danielle Green, JoyJozi’s manager says “The space was designed with kids in mind, kids spend too much time on gadgets and PlayStation, so the owner wants kids to have fun and play without the distraction of technology.” 

An amphitheatre at the back of the garden and an arcade game room are some of the other tailormade spaces.   

Parents and guardians can watch their children from a safe but peaceful distance on the patio while enjoying a meal. But there are staffers dedicated to watching over the smaller patrons as an extra measure. 

When it comes to the menu, one must be prepared to part ways with their hard-earned money because the cost of the food stretches one’s budget. The cheapest item on the menu is a side, the twice fried fries, and will set you back by R38.  The most expensive, the Wagyu ribeye, will set you back by R560.  

Wits Vuvuzela ordered the FUNGUY pizza, priced at R142. The pizza was underwhelming with chives that didn’t add much as a topping but were rescued by perfectly cooked mushrooms.  

For dessert, the baked cheesecake (R95 a slice), topped with orange zest looked most appealing, and it did not disappoint. One could taste the sweet citrus flavour that was infused in the syrup, every bite better than the last.  

The menu also has vegan options on offer, like their vegan pizza and dessert. Their menu consists of “everyday food” with a touch of gourmet dishes for more discerning palates. 

JoyJozi has an entrance fee of R60 per child whereas adults do not pay an entrance fee. Although walk-ins are available the restaurant doesn’t guarantee that you will get a table, so reservations are encouraged, especially as it is a popular spot with an average waiting time of 10 to 15 minutes when at capacity.  

FEATURED IMAGE: JoyJozi signage is lit by LED lights at night at its entrance. Photo: Sbongile Molambo.


Curated Makers Market brings Con Hill to life

New night market hopes to put local creators on the map.

Curated Makers in partnership with Obrigado South Africa launched the ‘Curated Makers Market’ at the Constitutional Hill on Friday, May 5 at the Old Fort complex (number four prison).  

Visitors at the market were treated to a night of eclectic live music and good food, while shopping at some of the stalls at the market.   

Speaking at the launch, MEC for economic development in Gauteng, Tasneem Motara said that the market will “grow local businesses and Joburg tourism as the constitutional hill is a historic place and is a tourist attraction”. 

The market provides a platform for small and medium enterprises, artisans and entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses to people looking to shop and unwind.

Sasha Conradi, founding partner of curated Markers and founder of the Linden market said, “Our South African makers are on par with international brands but sometimes they need a bit of encouragement, confidence and guidance along the way.” 

The makers market showcased stalls of different local fashion brands, beauty products, tattoo art, alcohol, cigars and food. 

Tebogo Motloung of Impilo Leather Craft told Wits Vuvuzela that spaces like this make it easier to reach varied clientele. “They [Markets] are good for exposure and access for us to sell our products,” he said.  

Franco Kamanga of FMK clothing said that “the more you are exposed to certain places abantu bayeza [people come] and the more ba za kuwe [people come to you] they will ask questions and you will answer them, exposure is good.” 

One of the attendees at the market launch, Thabo Ngoepe told Wits Vuvuzela that the aesthetics, artwork and overall concept of the market are “extraordinary”. He said, “It’s nice that we are doing it in the city, and we are still honouring the ConHhill spirit.”  

The newly launched night market will be open on the first Friday of every month. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Tebogo Motloung of Impilo Leather Craft posing in his stall with his products. Photo: Sbongile Molambo