Three killed, one injured in alleged hit

Chaotic scenes in Braamfontein as two men are fatally shot, another hit by a stray bullet and one is rushed to hospital.

The corner of Jorissen and Bertha streets became a crime scene on February 29, 2024, as an alleged ‘hit’ took place on the busy intersection filled with students and other passersby.

Two men were allegedly targeted while stray bullets hit two University of Johannesburg (UJ) students, one died on the scene and the other was rushed to the hospital for treatment. The students were on a bus believed to be travelling from UJ to Nukerk Student Accommodation in Hillbrow.

The two dead men, believed to be taxi owners, are moved from the BMW they were sitting in when shot at. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

SAPS crime scene manager, Captain Vincent Saunders said: “What we know is two people were shot, these two people are taxi owners. The bus was passing by with students who accidentally got shot as the bullets crossed.” In videos shared on social media, students can be heard screaming and crying moments after the two students were hit.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela shortly after the incident UJ spokesperson, Herman Esterhuizen said “at this stage everything is quite chaotic,” as the university gathered more information.

In a short statement issued on Thursday evening, the university confirmed the tragic death of an “18-year-old male, [who] was a second-year student,” and the recovery of another. Students who were on the bus have been encouraged to seek out counselling services offered internally.

Eyewitnesses say they heard five gunshots in quick succession before assailants ran off and jumped into a getaway car. By the time Wits Vuvuzela got to the scene, the intersection was being cordoned off and and the three lifeless bodies had been covered with repatriation foil.

Family members of one of the deceased did not want to comment but said answers on what may have happened could be found if Wits Vuvuzela contacted Faraday Taxi Association. Calls to the association went unanswered.

FEATURED IMAGE: The body of one of the students caught in the crossfire is carried into a forensic pathology van. The student is yet to be identified. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov


Mass meeting mayhem 

Student organizations clash at meeting meant to discuss student accommodation and registration.  

Showing up to a crowded Wits Ampitheatre, students adorned in yellow and red regalia, members representing the EFF Student Command (EFFSC) and Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) joined forces to discuss registration and accommodation issues with new and returning students.  

The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC), made up of majority EFFSC members, and the PYA initially had separate meetings planned but decided to merge their efforts on the evening of February 22, 2024.  

Bukisa Boniswa, SRC president said protest action is on the cards but would need to be “sustainable and directed to the right people”, specifically Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande.  

“Wits University has been having protests since I got here, [every year] we find ourselves in the same predicament. At some point, a level of consciousness needs to come to all of us because we can’t keep on doing the very same thing and expecting different results, that’s the definition of insanity,” said Boniswa. 

Viewing this as a party political jab, Chairperson of the ANCYL, Peterson Radasi, grabbed at the megaphone and began chanting “the SRC must fall!” A scuffle broke out when EFFSC coordinator, Sibusiso Mafolo, grabbed the megaphone from Radasi. Wits campus control officers had to intervene to restore order.  

“The president of the SRC started telling us about Jacob Zuma and Blade Nzimande which we highly disagree with. If we’re saying the doors of higher education must be opened, we all know who is closing them, and that’s the institution,” said ANCYL secretary, Kabelo Phungwayo. 

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) introduced an accommodation cap in 2023, after discovering price fixing and corruption by university staff in some institutions. The R45 000 cap has left students with fewer affordable options.  

Since the beginning of the 2024 registration period, around 300 students from the Cape Town Peninsula University of Technology struggled to secure accommodation and slept in the university’s sports hall until they were evicted on February 14. Similarly, News24 reported that a group of 30 students from Stellenbosch University have been rendered homeless and sleeping on the university’s squash court and outside the main administration building.

“Wits accommodation prices start from R65 000, the NSFAS cap means that students must pay R20 000 before they register, where would they get that money?” said EFFSC coordinator, Sibusiso Mafolo.  

He added that around 500 individuals lack accommodation while there are approximately 1000 vacant on-campus rooms. “Wits should turn these into hardship accommodations and collaborate with private student accommodations to secure at least 20 beds for NSFAS-defunded students,” said Mafolo. 

Boniswa reassured the students that they were putting pressure on Wits management and that a way forward would be communicated on Monday, February 26, 2024.  

Words and wit for the win 

Entering its ninth decade of existence, Scrabble remains timeless and is being revived as the “king of board games” at Wits University.    

The communal tables in the Matrix on East Campus are occupied by people eating lunch, watching a game or chatting with friends – now it is the home of green boards and white tiles.

Vice president of Scrabble South Africa, Steven Gruzd has been facilitating game teasers during lunchtimes in February to attract participants for the upcoming launch of the official club on March 7, 2024. So far 77 wordsmiths have signed up.  

Developed in the 1930s by Alfred Butts, Scrabble has evolved into a global game, which is currently sold in 121 countries and available in over 30 languages. “I might even say it’s more strategic than chess since it has the elements of language, grammar and understanding parts of speech. If it’s still around after 70 years, then you know that it’s doing something right,” said Gruzd.  

First year student, Paula Madinga described the game as “intriguing and helpful for one’s memory” adding that more students could benefit from it. 

Another first-time player, Yandisa Nondonga from the Wits secretariat department added that she fell in love with Scrabble because it challenged her to think on her feet. “I love that Steven was always available to help, making it less frustrating and easier to understand,”said Nondonga.

The game has many educational benefits hence teachers use it as a fun and effective tool to enhance language skills for students. Gruzd reminisced about beginning to play Scrabble at the age of eight at Houghton Primary School, where it was offered as an extracurricular activity-leading to his participation in his first competition at the age of 12.   

“I have been playing for over 40 years and I’m still learning with each game,” he said. Wits had a Scrabble club in the 1990s which ran for a year and then closed. Now, Gruzd wants to ensure its longevity, with plans for a student-led committee, a varsity league, and participation in world championships. 

Membership is currently free, and the launch will be at Sturrock Park Sports Centre, West Campus of Wits between 16h00 and 21h00. However, this is limited to Wits students, staff and alumni.

Radio’s resilience: 100 years of broadcasting in South Africa 

“Seventy percent of South Africans get their main source of news from radio, and it’s still considered the most trusted source in the country,” said Head of Regulatory Affairs, Julia Sham-Guild. 

The Wits Centre for Journalism (WCJ) joined the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) at their Radio Park auditorium to celebrate World Radio Day on February 13, 2024.  

Director of the WCJ, Dr. Dinesh Balliah and SABC radio general manager, Siphelele Sixaso extended a warm welcome to all media practitioners who gathered to commemorate the centenary milestone.

“Of course, we will go down memory lane to honour the legends that have graced our airways and dedicated their lives to the mission of informing, educating and entertaining the radio-loving listener,” said Sixaso.   

The WCJ strategically chose this day, to launch their state of the newsroom report titled, ‘100 years of radio broadcasting’. Published annually by the centre, the report looks at emerging issues in South Africa’s media landscape and fosters public discourse. The 2022 edition investigated the evolution of radio broadcasting in South Africa, featuring nine articles by experienced media professionals. 

SAfm radio broadcaster, Cathy Mohlahlana led the first session of the day, a discussion on public interest radio and it’s role in the democratic process. She was joined by the director of Radiocracy, Robin Sewlal and SABC’s head of advertising media strategy, Florence Kikine.  

Sewlal agreed with Kikine’s perspective that “radio is the original social media,” and a two-way stream where the broadcasters and audiences engage interactively, something which has sustained the medium through the years.

The first radio station in the country started broadcasting on December 18, 1923, while the early 1950’s marked the introduction of broadcasting in indigenous languages. Presently, South Africa has 40 commercial and public broadcast stations, along with 284 community stations. “The latter number is staggering, considering that community radio only launched as a sector less than 30 years ago,” wrote Balliah in the preface of the report.  

Despite the “staggering” growth, media consultant, Jayshree Pather added that community stations face challenges of being under-resourced and lacking sufficient funding which contributes to their underdevelopment. 

The idea of ‘content is king’ garnered different perspectives among panelists and audience members. Kikine said listeners increasingly influence what broadcasters talk about on air and warned against discussing topics that resonate with a select few instead of the broader community.  

Shaking his head, Sewlal said a topic should be discussed despite its narrow focus because it can be significant for some individuals or educate others. “Take care of the quality, and the quantity will take care of itself,” he said.  

A debate about podcasts versus traditional radio soon followed. Talk radio host, Morio Sanyane said people opt for podcasts because they have absolute freedom to discuss a variety of topics while broadcast practitioners are governed by codes and ethics of journalism which can curtail their scope.     

Radio broadcast student, Mzwakhe Radebe made his preference for podcasts clear, saying that they are more relatable and personal. “No offence but nobody listens to SABC in my class,” said Radebe. 

“When young people say that they are disillusioned and don’t feel accessed it means that the stories that we’re telling don’t speak to them, it’s not that the story is not important, “said Balliah. She further expressed the need to build a future for radio to ensure that it survives for another 100 years. However, this is a challenging task considering the loss of over a million listeners in 2022, according to the report.


Pirates triumphs over Wits in penalty shootout 

Buccaneers reserve team beat Wits 4-2 on penalties after 90 minutes stalemate  

First-year Wits University students watched a nail-biting football match when Pirates and Wits clashed at the annual Spirit Game which took place during orientation week.  

The Wits Rugby Stadium was packed to capacity on Friday, February 9, 2024, as students eagerly awaited the traditional ‘Witsies for Life’ ceremony led by Dean of Student Affairs, Jerome September.  

Pirates’ striker Mehluleli Maphumulo scored the first goal of the match in just under a minute, but before this could even register, Wits FC striker, Prince Manku responded with a goal of his own in the second minute of the game. These two goals set the bar for a remaining 89 minutes of fierce competition.  

Despite the effort to keep the goal-scoring momentum, the first half ended in a stalemate of 1-1, which Wits assistant coach, Andile Zulu viewed as a positive outcome as the team has only trained twice this year and is predominantly filled with first-year players. 

Wits Kudus took control in the second half, immediately scoring their second goal, a solo effort by Bornwise Ntshani. Pirates’ striker Amogelang Matebesi scored an equalizer five minutes after Ntshani’s goal, taking the teams straight to penalties.

Pirates Coach, Joseph Makhanya said: “This [turnout] is lovely, we love playing in such a capacity and I expected this match to be difficult because Wits produces high quality players.” 

Wits brought on their reserve goalkeeper, Skylar Martin, before the penalty shootouts to replace the first-team goalkeeper, Sihlubane Samkele, who suffered a hamstring injury. Their head coach, Abram Mongoya expressed concern and dissatisfaction, pointing out the player’s three injuries in the 2023/24 season. 

Wits players comforted Martins after he struggled to save all penalties against the Buccaneers, leading to their 4-2 victory. Pirates effectively scored four penalties, missing one as it struck the crossbar. 

“I’m so glad I came, I enjoyed every moment of this match although I’m not a big soccer fan,” said first year Bachelor of Arts student, Zandile Mafu. 

Wits FC reserve goalkeeper, Skylar Martin missing a penalty shoot by a Pirates football player. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

This game was part of Wits’ preparations for their upcoming match on February 14 in the ABC Motsepe League. Currently occupying the seventh spot in the league, Wits is set to face Pretoria Ally’s Tigers who are seventeenth and in danger of relegation. 

In their previous encounter on October 28, 2023, Wits secured a narrow 2-1 victory against the Tigers. Coach Zulu told Wits Vuvuzela that the team is preparing to secure a convincing win against the Tigers this time around.  

Almost one journalist killed a day in Gaza 

“What we have realized in this situation is that evidently the pen is not mightier than the sword,” said South African broadcast journalist, Aldrin Sampear at a night vigil held in Johannesburg.  

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) confirmed that at least 83 journalists and media workers have been killed, 16 injured and 25 arrested in Gaza in the last three months. However, the government media office in Gaza estimates that the total number exceeds 100.

Media experts and civil society observing a moment of silence for fellow colleagues killed in Gaza. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

An attack by Palestinian resistance group, Hamas on October 7, 2023, has seen the Israeli Defense Force embark on a 16-week offensive, which has led to over 25 000 Palestinian deaths and is yet to abate – even after a historic ruling made by the International Court of Justice on January 26, 2024 to stop any and all ‘genocidal acts’. The last 115 days in Gaza have been described as hell on earth by those on the ground, and the United Nations has dubbed Gaza the deadliest place in the world for journalists and their families.

The CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator, Sherif Mansour said: “The Israeli army has killed more journalists in 10 weeks than any other army or entity has in any single year.” He added that with each journalist’s death, understanding and documenting the conflict becomes increasingly challenging.  

South African journalists and media practitioners organized vigils across some of the country’s prominent cities, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Makhanda. Proceedings started off with a coordinated national moment of silence on the evening of January 28, 2024.

In Johannesburg, the gathering at Mary Fitzgerald Square, saw journalists in all black attire, gather in front of a stage dressed in the placards and printouts which had the images and names of some of those killed in Gaza.  

Voice recordings of journalists Samer Zaneen, Youmna El Sayed, Maram Humaid, and Nizar Sadawi were played out loud to a sombre but attentive crowd. They each shared some of the hardships they have encountered during the suspected genocide and thanked the group gathered for their ongoing solidarity.  

Using the false reportage of ‘40 beheaded babies’ in Israel as an analogy, Sampear said by simply repeating these and other falsehoods, journalists have become an “unreliable source”. Sampear moderated a brief panel discussion with journalist and political editor, Qaanitah Hunter, photojournalist, Gulshan Khan and student journalist, Palesa Matlala.  

“There is an expectation that you should leave a portion of yourself at the door before you even start [reporting] on issues. Thus we [journalists], especially during the ICJ proceedings were accused of not telling the Israeli story,” said Sampear.  

Hunter cited the experiences of South African journalists and writers, Percy Qoboza, Ferial Haffajee and Glenda Daniels who had to report under the apartheid regime. “They reported about the apartheid they lived in, and we cannot tell Palestinian journalists to leave their victimhood at the door before they pick up the mic, because they too, are hungry and displaced,” said Hunter. 

Khan rejected the idea of objectivity altogether calling it a “myth”, while Matlala noted that while biases are difficult to avoid the core principles of journalism are always present in her journalism.

Attendee, Quntha Ndimande later told Wits Vuvuzela that her presence at the vigil goes beyond supporting journalists; she attended because of her concern for truth and freedom. “This [vigil] serves as a reminder of how lucky we are to have the platform and opportunity to express ourselves and I believe that these values [truth and freedom] are something all South Africans should actively fight for,” said Ndimande. 

SASCO denounces corruption amidst NSFAS woes 

SASCO president Vezinhlanhla Simelane passionately declared that “SASCO does not endorse, support nor facilitate any form of corruption or misappropriation of public funds.” 

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) failed to pay 20 000 allowances in 2023, leaving students hungry and unable to focus on their studies, which saw and some dropping out of university. 

The student bursary scheme said all outstanding payments would be made by January 15, 2024. But so far, only 9 128 issues have been resolved, leaving 10 872 students in limbo. An issue that the South African Students Congress (SASCO) said needs to be dealt with urgently in a press briefing held on Friday, January 19. 

Simelane said all payment balances must be made before the closure of the registration period in February 2024, and failure to do so will result in the implementation of mass action or mobilizing students for a protest. 

Simelane also spoke to recent corruption allegations against the minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande. NSFAS board chairperson, Ernest Khoza and Nzimande were accused of defrauding the student bursary scheme according to a leaked audio recording and an investigation report by Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA). 

He said if true, this kind of self-enrichment by politicians is ‘disgusting’. “We call for the harshest form of consequence management to be meted against any NSFAS or Department of Higher Education representative found embezzling funds destined for destitute and poor students,” said Simelane. 

Second-year Bachelor of Arts student, Lindelwa Khanyile is a NSFAS recipient who went over the R45 000 accommodation cap imposed by NSFAS in 2023. This led to historical debt of R101 00, owed to Wits University. The institution has since demanded that she pay a minimum of R30 000 to register for her third year. “My question is, where will I get R30 000 as a NSFAS recipient – it doesn’t make sense,” she said.  

“This is such a depressing experience for me, student organisations such as EFF and SASCO need to meet with Wits management and plead with them to allow students to complete their studies,” said Khanyile, whose hopes of graduating and pursuing a postgraduate degree in journalism remain suspended.  

Similarly, postgraduate student Lesego Makinita owes Wits R50 000. Not being able to raise funds forced Makinita to return to their hometown, Rustenburg in the North West province. “I have made peace with the fact that I can’t go to school even if I want to. I’ve always wanted to go to Business School to study business administration, I’m very good at marketing and I know I would do a great job,” they said.  

On the question of free education in South Africa’s current landscape, Kamtshe told Wits Vuvuzela that it is indeed attainable, but there is a lack of political will to implement it. He criticized the current system which is a mix of bursaries, scholarships, and student loans, “that is not free education, free education must be entirely free,” he said.  

In closing, Simelane urged activists to take decisive action to ensure that “the doors of learning are forcefully opened in 2024.”  

Homelessness a hot potato for the city and NGOs

Various city departments and non-profit organizations in Johannesburg have become entangled in a cycle of shifting responsibility and pointing fingers at each other when issues of homelessness are brought up.

“All that glitters is not gold” is a well known aphorism that conveys the idea that appearances can be deceiving, thus some things are too good to be true. The city of Johannesburg, often dubbed the City of Gold, serves as a vivid illustration of this saying as it grapples with significant disparities stemming from political instability, macro-economic challenges, and persistent social problems.

A typical morning in the bustling streets of Johannesburg is characterised by the noise of car horns, as frustrated taxi drivers weave through traffic, disrupting the flow of traffic. For those who call the pavements on either side of the road home, this commotion is their unwelcome alarm, while the early risers are already up, sifting through garbage bins in search of food or items to exchange for a few coins at recycling centres. This is the daily reality of a homeless person in the city, however, it becomes even more daunting during winter or rainy days.

For some shelters provided refuge, only three government shelters are operational in Joburg. Three Kotze Street Shelter in Braamfontein is the largest, accommodating 350 males and females, followed by the 1 Dan Street shelter which has a bed capacity of 60 for males only and lastly, 21 Windsor West which has a bed capacity for 40 males only.

Despite this, homelessness receives little to no attention in annual budgets and planning, census data cannot even accurately capture the number of people on the streets in the municipality. Consequently, careless estimations have been made, such as when Homeless Solutions, a non-profit organisation based in Pretoria said that there were a combined 600 000 homeless people in Joburg and Tshwane. Africa Check denounced this claim after finding out that it was based on opinion rather than evidence.

Moreover, the municipality releases an Integrated Annual Report where overall city governance such as management, service delivery, financial performance and more are covered. This report also did not have any programmes or funding outlined for displaced persons. Instead, homelessness was identified as a hinderance to the public sector housing plan.

In April 2020, Gauteng premier, Panyaza Lesufi said that Johannesburg had 15 000 homeless people while Tshwane had 10 000. Yet, in a recent interview with News24 the CEO of Johannesburg Homeless Network, Mary Gillet-de Klerk said the number is currently more than 20 000 in Johannesburg.

Evidence shows that the municipality has made no financial investments in statistical research which could help to determine the accurate number of displaced persons. The director of research of the Gauteng Department of Social Development, Sello Mokoena confirmed that there are currently no plans to invest in such research. Therefore, speculations will persist.

On the contrary, the City of Cape Town (CPT) conducted an extensive study which not only found an approximate number but also the racial make-up and health status of its homeless population. This type of research required collaboration between various departments and NGOs and ultimately assisted the local government to plan for this vulnerable group’s basic needs.

The departments of Social Development, Financial Development, Human Settlements, Public Safety and Transportation are some of the city’s key drivers of social change. But when questions about shelters, budgets and healthcare for the homeless are raised, the finger pointing begins.

The Johannesburg Department of Social Development (DSD) defines homelessness as “displaced persons who live on the streets, under bridges or open spaces and are unable to provide themselves with shelter at any given time or place.”

The above definition proves that housing is a huge problem, however, Shiraaz Lorgat who oversees social housing funds under Human Settlements said they do not “play in the homelessness space” as they only fund affordable rental projects.

When enquiring about the inadequate health facilities and services provided for homeless people, the deputy director of the District Health Services Dorothy Diale, told Wits Vuvuzela that homeless people are attended by “social development,” but did not comment on the health department’s mandate on displaced persons.

Ultimately, the department of social development acknowledged that they are accountable for the homeless population, but clearly indicated that against popular belief, their mandate is not to remove people from the streets but rather to create awareness and to work closely with those who are willing to be assisted. “Human Settlements is not doing what they should be doing, its mandate is to provide housing, our [social development] mandate is not to build,” said Kebonye Senna, the head of the Migration, Displaced, and Children’s Services Unit in the department.

The lack of accountability propelled the provincial government (Gauteng Department of Social Development) to rely on Non-Profit and Non-Governmental Organisations to care for homeless beneficiaries, and allocated R87 million to the NPOs in 2022 and in 2023. Budgetary constraints saw the same allocation two years running.

Nonetheless, during the state of the province address on February 20, 2023, Lesufi announced that R2 billion was allocated to NGOs without specifying whether this was in addition to the R87 million. In response to this, Senna expressed her dissatisfaction and lack of trust for NPOs, noting that the government is wasting money by funding them. She further referenced an article published on November 6, 2023, about corrupt NPOs using resources provided for the poor for their personal benefits. “The money given to NGOs is meant to assist shelters. R 289 000 should be given to 3 Kotze Shelter per month and R 55 000 to 21 Windsor West, but theres only R 20 000 provided for both shelters.”

The 2022 social development policy document on homelessness has an alphabetical list (A-Z) of objectives. Three specific goals stand out. The first states that the department should “institute regular research (every two years) to establish the nature and extent of homelessness in the city”. The second states that the department should “facilitate access to housing through advocacy programmes for the homeless,” and the third that there should be a “special allocation of a percentage of houses to rehabilitated homeless people”. These objectives have not been realised and there are currently no plans in place to pursue them.

The slogan for the Johannesburg Health Department is, “one city, one health system” thus the assumption is that displaced people are included in healthcare services, especially because they are more prone to contagious, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

The city has 40 public clinics and hospitals, however, according to a report by the National Institute of Health, homeless patients face discrimination, marginalization and stigma when accessing public hospitals. Moreover, there are no programmes in the department of health tailored to the needs of displaced persons, particularly if they are immigrants or do not have identification documents. For example, the latest HIV counselling and testing policy, dates to December 2003 but does not make mention of homeless people.

Twenty three yearold Sandile Letsoele told Wits Vuvuzela that he does not go to public hospitals because the nurses look down on him and other homeless people. “They’ll just look at you and tell you to stand very far, so we normally wait the whole day before we get help,” said Letsoele.

In partnership with the Holy Trinity Church in Braamfontein, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) students established the only clinic for homeless people in South Africa in 2004.

However, the leader of the church, Father Bruce Botha told Wits Vuvuzela that the clinic has not been operating since covid-19 due to “institutional problems” which he did not wish to elaborate on. The Health Sciences Faculty at Wits did not respond to queries around this either. “When it does run, it provides basic health screening, medical consultation, providing free prescription medication, wound dressing and HIV screening,” said Botha.

The issue of stigmatization goes beyond health care facilities, it is also seen in local communities.  Senna said that social development looks for hotspots before establishing a shelter, “We tried in Lenasia but there were issues of security, people don’t understand homelessness- they associate it with criminal activities.” She added that they are currently building another shelter in Freedom Park which will accommodate both males and females.

Displaced persons sometimes complain about the accessibility and treatment in NGOs and shelters.  Thirty year old Nicholas Mncube, from Zimbabwe said he went to 3 Kotze shelter in Braamfontein, but they refused to take him in without a social worker. “I really don’t know why they wanted me to bring a social worker, but now I’m staying at MES [an NGO for the homeless] which is also here in Braam.” Mncube said staying at MES costs R30 per night which he cannot afford regularly, he can only go on days he has raised enough money from begging.

Apart from this, the homeless also try to forge their own homes, be it on the streets or by occupying abandoned buildings. Mncube who left Zimbabwe at the age of 23 said he lived and slept next to Joburg Theatre but was chased away by the police before going to MES.

Letsoele, who ended up on the streets due to drugs said he stayed at 3 Kotze but they kicked him out before his due time, “I was attending my sessions and recovering but they kicked me out during the weekend when my social worker was not there so I couldn’t even speak to him.” Contrary to this Senna said, the beneficiaries go through a three to six months programme which includes assessments and rehabilitation, and only released once their social worker believes they are ready for the outside world.

Councillor of Braamfontein, Sihle Nguse told Wits Vuvuzela that the homeless affect all sectors “everybody must play a role to assist the homeless, they are such smart guys they deserve a second chance at life”. He added that Braamfontein has approximately 500 displaced people.

Although the health and social development departments are jointly responsible for the city’s homeless pupulation, it is crucial to note the African phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This implies that the upbringing and development of a child are not solely the responsibility of their parents or immediate family. Instead, it suggests that a community, including extended family, neighbours, and friends, play a crucial role in nurturing, guiding, and supporting a child as they grow and learn-this same analogy could be used in the case of homeless persons.

FEATURE: On pursuing a degree at Wits, two options remain —Eat or drop out  

Scores of Witsies are forced to eat little or nothing at all as they attempt to cross the finish line at Great Hall, where they will obtain their qualification.   

Each year, students are burdened with the high costs of university fees, academic pressure and accommodation crisis. Added to this, some students with limited financial resources are forced to choose between studying on an empty stomach, or simply giving up on their dreams to obtain their degrees. 

According to a statement released on August 14, 2023, by the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC), the university has an inherent severe food insecurity crisis, hindering the productivity of students. The communication was released as a response to NSFAS’ failure to provide allowances to some of its beneficiaries – which further deepened the crisis.  

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines food insecurity as when a person does not have regular access to safe and nutritious food for normal growth, development and a healthy lifestyle. It can be experienced at a mild, moderate or severe level. 

What makes matters worse, most Witsies who are experiencing hunger are ashamed or reluctant to say that they are struggling. Wits Vuvuzela also discovered that hunger is not only a reality for financially aided students, but also for those who are self-funded. 

Makopa Letsoalo, a postgraduate Bachelor of Education student had to self-fund her degree as efforts to get financial aid bore no fruit.  Her parents could not assist her as they juggle odd jobs to stay financially afloat. She disclosed to Wits Vuvuzela that she had to spend days without eating or having very little to eat as she had no means to buy food. She also had to rely on collecting food packages from the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO) or charities and campaigns where food was given out. “We [students] don’t expect people to be dying of hunger at Wits, we have put [the institution] on a pedestal, and we’re forced to carry a false identity,” said Letsoalo. 

Senior program advisor of the WCCO, Karuna Singh added that people feel stigmatized when they are poor or hungry because society expects them to be self-sufficient. “People will look at a student in the queue and say why does this person have a weave or long nails but can’t afford food,” said Singh.  

South Africa is the most unequal country in the world with high unemployment rates, poverty and rising costs of living, which are the main causes of inaccessibility to good nutrition. According to a study conducted by Wits, one in five South African households are food insecure; this also impacts the university as some of these students come from those homes. 

Wits has students from different backgrounds – but most of them come from suburbs and townships as opposed to those living in rural areas and farms. However, 70% of the students who come from some of these well-to-do backgrounds are still in need of financial assistance – which slightly impacts their access to food. While 30% come from underdeveloped backgrounds. Under-privileged students are evidently fewer; however, they make up for most of the food insecure population at the institution.  

The role of student financial aid 

Most students at Wits rely on bursaries, with NSFAS currently aiding 9 950 students according to the SRC treasurer general, Kabelo Phungwayo.  

Phungwayo said that “2200 NSFAS beneficiaries did not receive their allowances in August 2023.” However, some students admitted to facing this dilemma since the introduction of Tenet, three months ago. Tenet is a direct payment method into students’ accounts, established to make receiving funds easier as opposed to waiting for the university to send the allowance.   

However, the method has received much backlash than praise from students who took to social media to complain about it. In response to the outrage, Phungwayo said the SRC is working on giving out food parcels and toiletries for those in need. 

Second year Bachelor of Education student, Nozipho Khumalo recently dropped out because of the inconsistency of the national aid.  She explained that for three months, she did not receive her allowance from NSFAS: “I’ve had to eat once a day [and lived] without toiletries. I do not eat on weekends since we don’t get food [from the WCCO] on those days.” She further said she will probably continue with her studies next year “if the situation gets better.” 

Another Wits student, Zeldah Merria said that the allowances are not enough because on average, a student receives R1 650, this is after the allocation went up by R150 in 2022. However, a study conducted by Wits (in consideration of essentials such as bread, potatoes, eggs, etc.) it indicated that monthly groceries/meals for one person cost approximately R2000 to R4000. The study was done when the rand was between R14 to R16 against the dollar-it is currently pivoting around the R19 mark, which means the money needed for meals is much higher now. 

Attempts at curbing hunger? 

The university has six dining halls, 41 food retailers, and the WCCO across its campuses as a way of ensuring that students have adequate access to food, however- the WCCO is the only place where students don’t have to pay for meals.  

Eateries such as Olives and Plate, Zesti Lemonz, Vida Café are incredibly expensive and attract students who can afford them, while dining halls cater to students who pay in advance for their meals.  

A graphic representation of meals distributed at Wits University by different dining halls and WCCO food banks during lunch time, September 5, 2023. Visualisation: Sfundo Parakozov

The WCCO consists of the Masidleni daily meal project (which serves lunch), the Wits Food Bank (which distributes meal packs on 3 weekdays between 3 and 4pm) the meals can be taken home, and the food gardens, which has student volunteers who grow vegetables for those in need and for the food bank. 

Wits LLB Postgraduate student and Volunteer, Nelisiwe Mgiba harvesting cabbages from the WCCO community gardens. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov  

The food bank also relies on donations and therefore risks running out food -which happened in 2016 when former SRC member Thami Pooe encouraged students to find alternative sources of food while the bank waited on donations. In response to this, Singh told Wits Vuvuzela that there is always an anxiety of not having enough food because the demand is high, and they depend on the generosity of others.  

Letsoalo has now started collecting her meals on Monday, September 4, at the dining hall after she managed to save up money. “I have been saving for quite some time from the money I made while sewing and altering clothes for students and from my teaching practical,” said Lestsoalo. 

She explained that she noticed differences between the WCCO and dining halls. “I realized that you can never fear running out of food at the dining hall because they cater for everyone that paid.” She added that whilst one might feel “embarrassed and anxious” queuing for food at the WCCO, you feel proud collecting it from the dining hall, as it’s an “elite space.” 

“Imagine if I lived like this all my academic years, I would do so well, having the WCCO was great, however the university needs to ensure that it’s dependable. I’m starting to enjoy varsity now knowing that someone is cooking for me,” she told Wits Vuvuzela. She added that the WCCO closes during recess “there’s no food and no lunch, what about the students who are still here and need it.” 

Creating a food secure future 

Although poverty largely contributes to food insecurity, climate change is contributing to the problem. To conscientize people about this, the WCCO held a workshop series from August 14 to September 6, 2023, focusing on climate justice and food sovereignty. 

August 14 was an introductory seminar where Professor Vishwas Satgar spoke about the role of the WCCO and its partnership with organizations such as La via Campesina, The Climate Justice Charter Movement, South African Food Sovereignty Campaign and the Co-operative and Policy Alternative Centre.  

Singh said the education program was aimed at teaching students about how weather patterns influence their access to food. “We’re hoping to get people to grow and control their own food, but also understand that the climate crisis doesn’t affect everyone equally, the poor will experience it at a larger scale.”  

Students have been attending the program consistently, “I think what I took from this is that there’s nothing we can really do to prevent climate change because its already here, but we need to make sure that we don’t leave people behind when working towards food sovereignty,” said attendee, Leniese Kock who also volunteers at the community gardens.  

Food insecurity is a crisis larger than expected at this institution, it is now a question of what can be done to ensure that students do not drop out because of hunger.

FEATURED IMAGE: A graphic showing a frustrated Wits University student that has to choose between eating or studying. Visualization: Sfundo Parakozov


Ignore the noise to get to the top  

Trailblazing women encourage young women to challenge patriarchal norms.

“Being a black woman is extremely difficult especially when you get to the top, because the assumption is that you slept your way to it,” these were the words of former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.  

She was speaking at the Women in Leadership symposium held at the Wits Senate room on August 22, where the theme ‘Dare to lead’ was aimed at encouraging young women to assume positions of power without fear.  

Along with Phakeng, The Wits School of Social Sciences invited speaker of the Johannesburg City Council Collen Makhubele, Group executive director in mining, Sibu Majozi and Policy advisor, Lutfiyya Dean to the women month event.

Attendees were eager to know about tackling power dynamics and sexism in the workspace, which panellists addressed as they delved into their personal experiences. 

Majozi argued that women need to understand that they live in a post-colonial and patriarchal world, but they must rise above the entrenched system. “You need to earn the right [to take on a leadership position] especially if you’re a black woman,” said Majozi.  

Emphasizing the inherent double standards of patriarchy, Phakeng said the media and the public alike have been overly critical of her over trivial things like dancing.  “There was a male vice chancellor in this country that was charged with gender-based violence at this very university [Wits] but the parents, students and women in this country did not raise their voices,” said Phakeng.  

Attendee, Sibusiso Msibi enquired about the significance of feminism in empowering women, where the panel reached a consensus that the socio-political movement is only relevant to some extent because of its lack of intersectionality and failing to consider ‘the struggles of black women’.  

In response to the fact that women hold 29% senior management positions globally, Makhubele told Wits Vuvuzela that there is clearly something we have not cracked as a society, and it must come from the current generation of young people. “In order to change the political space-we need something more than a feminist movement,” said Makhubele.  

At the end of the seminar, panellists encouraged students to reach out if they need personal mentorship.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng speaking at the women in leadership symposium at Wits University. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov


Young Lions oppose mother body 

By: Sfundo Parakozov & Nonhlanhla Mathebula 

The ANC Youth League demanded that the ANC pull out from all coalitions, calling them “anti-democratic”. 

The ANCYL finally held their first national congress after an eight-year hiatus on Saturday, August 5, using their platform to oppose Luthuli House on a range of issues.  

The first leg held between June 30 and July 1, 2023, at the Nasrec Expo Centre was an elective conference, leading to the elections of Collen Malatji as president of the ANCYL, Phumzile Mgcina as deputy president, Mntuwoxolo Ngudle as secretary general and Tsakani Shiviti as deputy secretary general. 

While the second leg at the Johannesburg City Hall focused on policy positions under the themes of social change and economic freedom.  

To hell with Coalitions  

The ANCYL was clear on its anti-coalition stance, urging the mother body to pull out from all coalitions that do not benefit the majority of South Africa.  

During the National Dialogue on Coalition Governments held in Cape Town on Friday, August 4, ANC Deputy President Paul Mashatile said that these partnerships have the potential of igniting the hopes of South Africans.  

While secretary general Fikile Mbalula added that the party was willing to enter “grand coalitions” with other parties with the condition that the party with the most votes must lead in the respective municipality. 

In response to this, Malatji urged Mbalula, (former ANCYL president between 2004 and 2008) to write a letter to all municipalities telling them to “pull out of those things [coalitions]”.  

The youth league president emphasized that people voted for ANC thus they should govern alone. “The ANC cannot reject its own manifesto and implement the manifesto of Al Jama-ah which was voted by five people,” said Malatji. 

The burning question of Unemployment  

The youth league called for the removal of two ministers from their respective positions, accusing them of hindering youth employment. Malatji called the Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, “the minister of unemployment,” and accused the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel of obstructing the process of re-industrialization. 

In response, the ANC released a statement on Monday, August 6 which called the utterances a “denigration of personalities,” which they would not tolerate.  

Malatji, emphasized the need for radical industrialization as a way of creating more jobs and developing the South African economy, noting that 75% of South African raw materials need to be kept within the country and economic corridors need to be occupied by at least 50% of the youth.  

They did, however, praise Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi for creating employment through the Nasi ISpani programme and further urged premiers from different provinces to learn from him.  

The new leadership told Wits Vuvuzela that their tenure would signal the return of the ‘voice of the voiceless’ and championing of youth issues.  

FEATURED IMAGE: ANCYL comrades posing for a photo at their 26th National Conference at the Johannesburg City Hall. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov