By Pheladi Sethusa, Ray Mahlaka, Nokuthula Manyathi and Shandukani Mulaudzi
The annual Engineers Breakfast pulled in a record number of “engineering” students this year. Wits Vuvuzela went to the event to get a few snaps of the madness.
By Pheladi Sethusa, Ray Mahlaka, Nokuthula Manyathi and Shandukani Mulaudzi
The annual Engineers Breakfast pulled in a record number of “engineering” students this year. Wits Vuvuzela went to the event to get a few snaps of the madness.
A “very senior” member of management has been accused of using his position to quash allegations against him, the sexual harassment report has revealed.
This is the fifth allegation of sexual harassment since the start of the inquiry. Three lecturers have been fired while the final investigation on Dr Lord Mawuko-Yevugah of the international relations department is still pending.[pullquote]“to encourage other staff and student representatives to coerce the student to retract the complaint and not to take the matter any further”[/pullquote]
The report, which was released last week, says the senior member of staff used his influence “to encourage other staff and student representatives to coerce the student to retract the complaint and not to take the matter any further”.
Prof Bonita Meyersfeld, director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), said she could not say who the accused was or how many people made the accusation due to a confidentiality agreement with all the people who spoke to the committee during the inquiry.
Meyersfeld said she was not certain whether this specific case was investigated.
“Well my honest answer is that I do not think so, but I do not know that for sure.”
At the press conference held last week, Meyersfeld said other perpetrators were discovered during the inquiry, but cases were dealt with on a confidential basis and unless students asked for their accusations to be pursued, they were not.[pullquote align=”right”]“We pursued various other avenues to get to the bottom of it [new cases]. But in those instances our findings yielded no further investigation.” [/pullquote]
Meyersfeld said, however, that she was not certain if there was an explicit instruction from the senior staff member’s accuser/s that this matter should not be investigated.
Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib told the press that all the matters that came to their attention during the inquiry were investigated although nothing materialised.
“We pursued various other avenues to get to the bottom of it [new cases]. But in those instances our findings yielded no further investigation,” Habib said.
One of the report’s recommendations was to have a new, independent sexual harassment office. Meyersfeld said this was important in cases like this where a member of staff from the vice chancellor’s office may be involved.
“We realise that the proposed office must be completely autonomous so that if someone from the vice chancellor’s office is affected, a person can go directly to levels as high as senate.”
The report says, however, that the Legal Office began the process of establishing the inquiry after Wits Vuvuzela published an article in September last year about a professor who asked students for sex.
The aim of the inquiry was not to investigate specific cases of sexual harassment but to find out how prevalent the problem is on campus.
It was conducted by Meyersfeld along with other members of CALS and lawyers from law firm Norton Rose. Together, they compiled the report and made recommendations for the university to deal with cases of sexual harassment on campus more effectively.
by Shandukani Mulaudzi and Caro Malherbe
Wits has pledged to undertake a multidimensional approach to issues of sexual harassment on campus by formulating a special task team initiated by the vice chancellor’s office. These measures and others were announced today at a press conference called to make the findings of an independent inquiry into issues of sexual harassment at Wits University.
Vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib said he takes full responsibility for the abuses that happened at Wits and that the report highlights the failure of the university’s system to address rumours and allegations decisively.
Habib added that the university welcomes the recommendations and will form a Senior Executive Team to start a plan of action on how the issue of sexual harassment will be dealt with, in line with the culture of the institution.
Special Task Team
The special task team will originate from the VC’s office and comprise various experts from within the university including gender specialists, the transformation office, sexual harassment advisors, legal expertise and student representatives.
Habib said student representatives will not be solely from the SRC but from various sectors of the student body.[pullquote align=”right”]“The inquiry was one of the most difficult tasks for the whole team to undertake because we were dealing with our own university. But it was important and totally worth it.”[/pullquote]
Difficulties of investigation
Prof Bonita Meyersfeld, the director of the Centre of Applied Legal Studies at Wits was part of the team who compiled the report together with lawyers from law firm Norton Rose. She said this was one of the most difficult inquiries to undertake.
“The inquiry was one of the most difficult tasks for the whole team to undertake because we were dealing with our own university. But it was important and totally worth it.”
Meyersfeld said students and members of staff were initially reluctant to speak to them but in the last two months of the inquiry they were more willing to come forward.
“The emotion involved in both students and staff alike is evident throughout the university and administration. Students felt they were not listened to and not taken seriously.”[pullquote align=”right”]”There were other perpetrators discovered during the inquiry.”[/pullquote]
Meyersfeld said the students were also worried about following the legal process as they were worried about being re-traumatised by speaking to various entities about the same incident.
Members of staff, although they shared the same sentiments also worried about the threat posed to their careers if they came forward.
Two cases have already been dealt with and the accused persons have been dismissed. Habib said there are two other cases that are on-going.
“Two have been dismissed and another who began investigations will hopefully be released to me tomorrow. The fourth is yet to begin.”
Meyersfeld said while there were other perpetrators discovered during the inquiry. However cases were dealt with on a confidential basis and unless students asked for their accusations to be pursued, they were not.
Habib added: “We pursued various other avenues to get to the bottom of it [new cases]. But in those instances our findings yielded no further investigation.”
Habib thanked the media for blowing the whistle on issues of sexual harassment as this forced the university to take immediate action.
Wits’ new vice chancellor and its SRC president have similar visions for the future of the university in the next ten years which they expressed in different ways yesterday at Professor Adam Habib’s installation ceremony.
Habib was officially appointed as Wits’ vice chancellor and principal in a ceremony presided over by Wits chancellor Justice Dikgang Moseneke. SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa stole the show with his light-hearted speech that struck the right chords.
SRC President 2023 writes a letter
Mgudlwa, said his speech from the perspective of a letter written to him by an SRC president leading in the year 2023.
Mgudlwa’s fictional 2023 SRC president wrote the letter from her flat in Soweto off her iPad that she received for free at registration. She told “dear Sibu” that the university’s WiFi had a reach across the city of Johannesburg.
In 2023 there was no such thing as discrimination based on race and poor students were taken care of to the extent that no students were sleeping in libraries, or sleeping with empty stomachs. Mgudlwa said in 2023 sexual harassment was a myth. He had the audience laughing loudly when he said that the Wits University of 2023 did not charge students for protesting, alluding to the charges against 11 Witsies for their involvement in a protest.
Habib’s equality vision
In Habib’s speech, he referred to inequality as South Africa’s Achilles’ heel. Habib said his vision was for an “Afropolitan dream” to drive South Africans and all at Wits University.
Habib said the essence of this dream as defined by Wits Humanities scholar, Achille Mbembe, is: “A commitment to the country, continent and globe; where we are at one with being African and human”. Habib said Wits was committed to addressing issues of transformation and diversity and apologised to those who had faced discrimination of any kind in the past.
Wits “World class university”
Habib also spoke about what it means for Wits to be a world class university. He said it was important for Wits to compete in its own right without imitating the foreign. “It is the responsiveness to one’s contextual specificities that enhances a university’s ability to make unique contributions to the global corpus of knowledge.”
Mgudlwa said in 2023 Wits would sit firmly in the top 100 universities of the world.[pullquote align=”right”]“We trust that you will lead this university to greater heights and if you do not, we have you on Twitter.” [/pullquote]
Hope for student-focused Wits
Mgudlwa said he hoped that Habib would focus on students and listen to students on university issues. He said if Habib was not accountable to students, they would express themselves one way or the other.
“We trust that you will lead this university to greater heights and if you do not, we have you on twitter.” The ceremony was attended by a number of local and international dignitaries including Ahmad Kathrada, vice-chancellors of a number of South African and African universities, Advocate George Bizos, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Moeletsi Mbeki, and the Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom who delievered a speech as well.
Matric learners at the Supreme Educational College in Braamfontein have accused their school of short-changing them by only registering them for five subjects instead of the seven required for a matric certificate.
Wits Vuvuzela interviewed six Supreme College learners, who asked not to be named.
“They are saying we must do five subjects this year and do two subjects next year. This means we cannot apply for university now,” said one of the learners.
The learners said the college’s deputy principal demanded that the they sign a form promising to only take five subjects. The deputy principal threatened to de-register them if they did not sign, according to the learners.
Part-time versus full-time
Nkululeko Ncube, principal of Supreme College, said the school has full time learners who are taking seven subjects and part time learners who are taking only five subjects.
The learners provided Wits Vuvuzela with forms listing the schools full-time and part-time “candidates”. They said they were full time learners however their names appeared on the list for “part-time”.
“We did not sign for part-time. They told us that it is because we will not be able to manage the workload. I don’t understand because we are still taught seven subjects but we will only write five for finals,” another learner said.[pullquote align=”right”]“Every time we ask what is happening we are sent to a different person in management. They all say it is not their concern.”[/pullquote]
Management does the shuffle
The learners told Wits Vuvuzela they asked school officials about why they were only taking five subjects but were refused a direct response.
“They told us ‘that is for us to know’,” one student said.[pullquote]“The school fee is R800 per month. Learners who agreed to the five subjects are only paying R600. I am still paying R800 but now I am being forced to be part-time.”[/pullquote]Another student added: “Every time we ask what is happening we are sent to a different person in management. They all say it is not their concern.”
The learners said some agreed to take only five subjects because they received a discount on their school fees.
“The school fee is R800 per month. Learners who agreed to the five subjects are only paying R600. I am still paying R800 but now I am being forced to be part-time,” the learner said.
The learners said the school had disregarded their right to choose and did not take their financial status into consideration. The learners admitted that they had become disheartened and had nothing “driving” them to attend classes.
Wits Vuvuzela spoke to a parent who did not want to be named in order to protect her child.
“My child’s education is suffering. She is getting old now. She cannot return again next year. This is not fair.”
Department of Basic Education response
Wits Vuvuzela approached the provincial department of education with the learners’ allegations but were told that regulating independent school’s like Supreme College was difficult. However, the department said that it had made enquiries at Supreme and it found “no evidence” to support the learners’ allegations.[pullquote align=”right”]’You guys think you are clever going around telling people what is going on at the school. Why are you doing that? When you have a problem with your father do you go around and tell the neighbours?’[/pullquote]
“Departmental documents indicate that all 47 learners are registered to write seven subjects this year,” the department said in an email to Wits Vuvuzela.
Following enquiries by the department, the learners alleged that Ncube gathered the matrics and accused them of stirring trouble.
“’You guys think you are clever going around telling people what is going on at the school. Why are you doing that? When you have a problem with your father do you go around and tell the neighbours?’,” the learner recounted.
The learners said their parents were even confused as to what was happening.
“My dad went and asked. They confused him with long answers,” the learner said.
Learners accused the school of fabricating their marks. They said they had not written a third Afrikaansexamin June but had still received marks for it.
Ncube told Wits Vuvuzela that the third Afrikaans exam was not written as the teacher left. The marks on the learners’ report card for the third exam reflected an aggregate of their marks throughout the term.
Edwin Makitla believes he would not be the man he is today if it were not for his experience at initiation school. Makitla first went to the mountain when he was 12 years old. He has been returning every year since then to be reminded of his teachings and to help usher other young boys into their new-found manhood.
Makitla says the initiation school he went to is professional and safe. He says the initiation schools in the rest of the country that he reads about in the papers every year are run by drunks, men who have no respect for true culture and tradition.
Black Joburgers forget who they are
He says black South Africans who move to big cities like Johannesburg forget who they are. They come to the city, follow “the things of white people” and then abandon what they have been doing for years. They forget their ancestors and turn to Western practitioners, whose medicine they believe in without question.[pullquote] “When you are an African man and you don’t go to initiation school, things will go wrong in your life. You will not succeed. This is cultural.”[/pullquote]
Every year, between May and August, the media zooms in on traditional circumcision and its failures that lead to the deaths of young men. Initiation schools and their associated cultures across the country come under the microscope of the media and South Africa.
Makitla says African men cannot “survive” without going through traditional circumcision. “When you are an African man and you don’t go to initiation school, things will go wrong in your life. You will not succeed. This is cultural.”
Other side of the coin
Rendani Ramovha, a Wits rugby player, says he went the medical circumcision route but was too young to remember it.
[pullquote align=”right”]”If you consider all of that, then I think if the ancestors really were angry at me, I would be dead.”[/pullquote]On the ancestors “getting angry” when black men don’t go to initiation school, Ramovha says: “I cannot comment on something that does not exist in my reality.”
Ramovha’s father denounced his chieftaincy when he was a young boy. He left the community and turned his back on his traditional background.
“If you consider all of that, then I think if the ancestors really were angry at me, I would be dead.”
Untrained traditional healers are the problem
Traditional healer Thifulufheli Nemavhulani says that in more than 30 years of working with traditional circumcisions he[pullquote]”You can’t just wake up one morning and decide that you are going to work with these things [traditional circumcision].”[/pullquote] has never had a complication. He attributes the problems at some initiation schools to people who do not respect their culture.
“People do not understand tradition. You can’t just wake up one morning and decide that you are going to work with these things [traditional circumcision].“It’s a delicate thing. You have to be called and trained to do this.”
Makitla says he believes that the initiation school he went to is good because there have been no deaths there for as long as he can remember.
He says traditional healers run the initiation school and, if any small complication occurs, there are medical doctors who have been circumcised traditionally on standby to assist.
Traditional circumcision makes “better” men
Makitla says he believes that the medical way can never be a substitute for the traditional route. He says he cannot imagine a woman nurse, in the hospital, circumcising him. To him, it makes no sense.
“It’s not just about being circumcised. We learn things there that we can never learn anywhere else. We leave having been part of a brotherhood of men united by the praise poetry we learn there and men who are strong and respectful.”
He says men who went to initiation schools are better than those who go the medical route.
Ramovha says he does not believe there is a difference between men who went to initiation schools and those who went to medical facilities for circumcision.[pullquote align=”right”]”At initiation schools men are different. They learn endurance. Even women prefer men who have been to initiation schools.”[/pullquote]
“What could they possibly learn there that I cannot learn throughout my life? It’s all about perspective. It’s about the way you programme your mind.
“If you tell yourself you are better than someone, even if it is not true, because you believe it is so then it will be. If you believe you are better men just because you went to the mountains then you will behave as such.”
Women like initiated men
Nemavhulani says men who go to initiation schools and those who go through medical circumcision are different.
“At initiation schools men are different. They learn endurance. Even women prefer men who have been to initiation schools.”
Thomas “Tom” Revington is a long-haired indie kid, who is a student by day and a rock star by night.
The fourth year film student is the guitarist and ukulele player in indie-bele band Shortstraw. His other talents include beat boxing and playing on an electric drum kit.
He lives in a commune in Emmarentia with other musicians, which allows him to jam whenever the urge arises.
Why did you choose to study film?
‘Cause it’s cool. No I’m joking. I wanted to do architecture, but apparently my maths marks weren’t good enough so film was the next best thing. Glad I did though, I get to experience life in its entirety and love the creative process and being able to produce a product at the end.
How did you get involved with the band Shortstraw?
I used to be in a band called The Uncut, but that ended. I just posted a Facebook status saying that I was bored and wanted to jam with people looking for a guitarist.
Jason Heartman, the band’s ex-guitarist, saw it and let the guys know and, yeah, two and a half years later, I’m still the guitarist.
You just went to Oppikoppi with the band. How was that?
It was awesome, dusty and crazy, but I managed to survive it. I particularly enjoyed the performances by Manchester Orchestra and Matthew Mole. He’s a buddy of ours. Also our show was crazy cool, just an amazing experience.
How do you juggle being in a band and being a full-time student?
Yo, it’s hard hey. I do that and I have to work to pay for rent and stuff. Last year my first day of exams coincided with the band’s first day of tour, so I had to fly back and forth a lot and did a lot of studying on planes.
But everything works out somehow.
Are girls very forthcoming with their advance because you’re in a band?
Ha ha ja, but I‘m just not that kind of guy. I have signed a boob though. There’s a lot of temptation I suppose, but I am single and I’m just really awkward anyway. My awkwardness generally just puts girls off.
What are some of your favourite spots in Braamfontein?
If this Storify does not load automatically, please click here.
By Caro Malherbe, Pheladi Sethusa and Shandukani Mulaudzi
This year’s Bewilderbeast festival treated 20 000 fans to a wide range of local and international acts. Team Vuvu got to experience it and documented it with their lenses.
by Nokuthula Manyathi and Shandukani Mulaudzi
Work in University Corner was disrupted on Tuesday afternoon when a fire broke out in the lifts on the 13th floor, and Wits Vuvuzela has since discovered that no fire drills have been held in the building since at least 2010.
Brigitte Reid, fire marshal for the 11th floor, said that since Journalism & Media Studies moved there in 2010, there had been no fire drills and no official training. “I don’t even know where we are supposed to congregate in the event of a fire.” During the fire, there was some confusion about where the fire was and whether occupants should evacuate.
We just heard the alarm and knew it must be a fire so we left
Theresa Sithebe from the Wits University Press on the 5th floor said they were confused about what to do as they had not had fire drills since moving to the building last year. “We just heard the alarm and knew it must be a fire so we left.”
Zandi Bekwa, an intern with Drama for Life on the 17th floor, said they contacted Emergency Services when they heard the alarm, but were advised to stay put. However, when they saw a great deal of smoke coming from the lift, they decided to leave. She said no officials came up to tell them about the fire.
The lifts in University Corner have been the subject of complaints for some time. During the July vac, a start was made on replacing them.
Tawana Kupe speaks
On Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof Tawana Kupe, sent an e-mail to the Wits community, apologising for the poor functionality of the lifts. He said he would “make every effort to ensure that all the lifts remain in service, that they are operational, and that the safety of users is prioritised at all times”.
Some of the University Corner community, however, has become disheartened and felt this focus on safety has come a little late.
Michael Smurthwaite, VoW fm station manager, said he had also lodged complaints with PIMD (Property And Infrastructure Management Division) about the lifts prior to the fire. The first concerned lift buttons that were not working and the second a lift “jumping between ninth and tenth floor”.[pullquote]I don’t even know where we are supposed to congregate in the event of a fire[/pullquote]
“Last week, we had to carry an analogue machine down nine flights of stairs. Its takes just one guy to trip downs the stairs and then we would have had a lawsuit.”
Another occupant, who asked not to be named, complained about the lift doors’ failure to open again if they started to close when someone was entering or leaving.
Carlo Mombelli, famous South African bassist and Wits music teacher, said he was not surprised there had been a fire in the lifts. He said he had complained about them in the past and nothing had been done. “I used to come here in like 1987 and I used to play up on the eighth floor and they had the same lifts,” he said.
by Shandukani Mulaudzi and Emelia Motsai
TEACHERS resigning from the Supreme Educational College in Braamfontein have left matric students stranded just before their preliminary exams.
A parent of two children attending the school, Gideon Ndlovu, said he was concerned his children were not learning anything at the school as teachers were resigning with no replacement staff.[pullquote align=”right”]“Teachers are not getting paid. It’s been two months now. They have been paying us R1 000 instead of our normal pay.”[/pullquote]
He said teachers were leaving because they were not being paid their full salaries as stipulated in their contracts. “My children are complaining, especially the one in grade 12 because she will be writing her matric soon and I cannot transfer them at this stage of the year,” Ndlovu said.
Strange pay agreements
A teacher, who asked not to be named out of fear of being victimised, confirmed that Supreme teachers were not being paid their full salaries.
“Teachers are not getting paid. It’s been two months now. They have been paying us R1 000 instead of our normal pay,” the teacher said.
[pullquote]“We were supposed to sign a paper saying even if they were to pay us R50, we would still teach.”[/pullquote]Three other teachers, who resigned from the school because of not being paid, agreed.
One of them, who asked not to be named, said on July 17 the teachers at the school had a meeting and they decided to give the school management a letter demanding all the money owed to them.
“But the next morning when we arrived there was a security guard at the reception. We were told not to go to the staff room or to the classrooms.”
She said they were told to wait at reception, then called into the manager’s office one by one.
“We were supposed to sign a paper saying even if they were to pay us R50, we would still teach,” said the teacher. She refused to sign the contract and left the school on that day.
When Wits Vuvuzela went to the school, management refused to give their names: “Just refer to us as ‘the school management team’,” they said.
The management team said they had never received a complaint from a parent and were shocked by the allegation that they had no teachers.
They said they had replacements for the teachers who had resigned. They asked Wits Vuvuzela about its sources.
“These faceless people are making all these allegations all of a sudden. Why do they come to you? Why not to us, or the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] or the department of education? In fact why not go to a reputable newspaper?” said one of them.
Government subsidy revoked
The teacher who is still at the school said he was shocked the school was facing financial difficulties because it received a government subsidy. However, the school was closed for almost a week in April because they had failed to pay the rent.
The school management team denied having financial issues, and said they were paying salaries agreed upon. But in a telephonic interview one of the managers admitted that the school was indeed having financial troubles.
She said the school had lost its subsidy because it received a less than 54% pass rate and they were now dependant on parents paying their fees, which some were not doing.
Management said publishing the article in Wits Vuvuzela would ruin the lives of other students.
“We have more than 20 students who come through these gates every year to learn for their studies. You are just spoiling this process. We don’t want to sit in court and start suing each other,” she said.
By Pheladi Sethusa and Shandukani Mulaudzi
While one of us sits with a heaving chest and the cough of death, the other found the cure to her cold at Oppikoppi.
The last day of the festival could not have come soon enough, we were exhausted, dirty, dehydrated and hungry – but we had survived.
We had the time of our lives and we screamed our lungs out for our favourite acts as the dust made its way into our ill-prepared bodies.
The first thing to remember for next year is that Oppi is also known as “Dustville”. Have something to cover your nasal cavities and mouth. It will save you rocky tastes in your mouth and sandy lip gloss.
Now that we are no longer Oppi virgins, we thought it fitting to provide a few survival tips for those looking to go next year.
How to make it out alive
We had bought enough food and booze to sustain our little bodies for three days in the bush. But on the last day, dry hot dogs with no margarine on the bun or sauce on the Vienna no longer seemed appealing.
The second thing to remember, the festival runs on a cashless system. Those who wish to buy food and drink on the farm have to buy pre-loaded debit cards.
We opted not to do this, knowing it would lead to frivolous spending. We had packed enough food but the smell of boerie rolls and hot chips accosted our senses by the last day, we were dying for a hot meal.
We were also so dehydrated at that point that seeing people’s water bottles had us salivating. Pack enough water, even enough is not quite enough – pack more than enough just to be safe.
In addition energy drinks would have been beneficial. We could barely keep our eyes open by the third day, this would have been cured by a kick and wings from one of those special drinks.
Clothes and shoes
We were so scared of the cold that we only packed winter clothes, big mistake. During the daytime we wanted to cry as the hot Limpopo sun scorched our fully covered bodies. It was as if the devil himself was sitting on the hill by the stages letting his heat out on everybody.
Do not bring shoes you hope to wear ever again and only bring one pair. You are going to be filthy by the end of the festival, so rather go with the general theme and take scrappy clothing.
On your way in and out
On the way to and from Oppi try to choose the route with the toll gates, it will set you back R21 but big, open, un-potholed roads await you. This way you won’t have to battle it out with trucks that are struggling to stay on the narrow, windy lanes.
Most importantly though we had a of fun, we enjoyed all that Oppi had to offer and made memories to last a lifetime.