Voice of Wits celebrates a year on the airwaves

Voice of Wits (VoW FM) celebrated its first birthday last week, marking a year since the station reopened its doors after shutting down in 2008.
The station re-launched under the slogan “Hear it. Feel it. Live it.”, offering music and programming presented by students for students.
With a state-of-the-art studio in Braamfontein, the days of broadcasting out of a dusty office in The Matrix are long gone. The studio cost about R3-million to build and boasts brand new equipment which station manager Mike Smurthwaite says is “full-on digital and industry compliant”.
Smurthwaite says the station has taken great strides over the past year.
“We have achieved what we set out to in terms of re-establishing a brand that had been lost. We have shown the Wits community that there is a platform to speak on, to be entertained and informed,” he told Vuvuzela.
The VoW team consists of 60 volunteers and broadcasts 24 hours a day, with a news and sports team dedicated to producing Wits-orientated news bulletins three times a day.

The station recently signed a partnership with BBC World Service which Smurthwaite says has enabled local listeners easy access to international news as well. One of the biggest gripes about the station from staff and students alike is its frequency. It only reaches a radius of about 3km, limiting broadcasting to Braamfontein, Newtown, the CBD and Parktown.

“This has frustrated us the most,” said Smurthwaite, “but we are looking to grow the reach and are applying to have it extended.”
Despite its small reach, the station has managed to attract as many as 11 000 listeners in one month, according to a RAMS report.

“VoW FM has grown tremendously, in fact it has overgrown,” said music manager and DJ, Deza.
“It has done so much better than I would have expected. The infrastructure is top notch and we are above standard when it comes to campus radio stations,” he added.

Zamantunga Khumalo, host of popular talk show The Edge, says the station is also playing a vital role in developing young talent.
“We’re getting hands-on experience and using the best industry equipment that we wouldn’t have had an opportunity to experience anywhere else.”

SRC hungry for funds

The Wits Students Representative Council (SRC) says it is one of the country’s most “starved” SRCs.

The SRC receives a budget of R700 000, of which R300 000 is allocated among the various clubs and societies.

“This leaves us with an operating budget of approximately R400 000 to serve 30 000 students for the year,” said SRC treasurer Tshepo Ndlovu.

While other universities are allocated budgets reaching as high as R3.1-million at the University of Limpopo, R5-million at Fort Hare and R6.2-million at the University of Venda.

Wits SRC members say they are forced to run their student activities on a very tight budget.

Wits SRC president Morris Masutha says they are restricted from implementing all their planned programmes for the year with most of the budget spent on projects and campaigns.

More than half of the Wits SRC’s annual budget is spent on fresher’s week.

“This year’s activities cost us around R240 000, but we managed to make a profit of R30 000 for the rest of the year,” said Ndlovu.

The Wits SRC also says they don’t receive the same benefits as SRC members at other SA universities.

“At UJ, SRC members receive a monthly stipend and their tuition and their res fees are paid for by the university,” said Ndlovu,

“We only receive cellphone allowances. We still need to pay all our own university expenses”.

Professor Patrick Fitzgerald, deputy vice chancellor: finance and operations said it was a philosophical question whether people should be paid for being on the SRC.

“At another university where I worked, SRC members received significant benefits and rewards in terms of free tuition, residence and meals, as well as various cellphone, travel and other perks – to the extent that some members of the executive were serving their fifth year on the SRC .

“Most of the other SRC members were in their third year of service. Competition to get on the SRC was very fierce – but for the wrong reasons,” said Fitzgerald.

“I would wonder whether this would be the kind of culture and behaviour we would like to cultivate at Wits?”

Law students petition against chief justice

STUDENTS across the country are adding their names to a petition urging President Jacob Zuma to prevent Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng from becoming chief justice.
The petition raises concerns about Mogoeng’s approach to gender-based violence.
It states: “Women already have great difficulty negotiating the justice system and the appointment of Justice Mogoeng as chief justice will not instil confidence in women that the justice system will become more receptive and sensitive to their needs.”
Organisations behind the petition include the Sonke Gender Justice Network, the Treatment Action Campaign and the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project.
The petition is calling on the president to re-open the nomination process to new candidates.
Final year LLB student Daniel Barnett said students need to refrain from apathy on this particular issue.
“I have gladly endorsed the petition as I believe strongly that Justice Mogoeng is a below-par candidate for this vitally important role in our constitutional democracy.
“If my signature can make a small difference, then I’m proud to have made that small difference,” he told Vuvuzela.
Barnett has been using social networking sites to urge other students to sign the petition.


“The more young voices that are expressed, the more likely our voices will be heard,” he said.
He said Mogoeng’s appointment doesn’t only affect law students but each and every South African who has interests protected and advanced by our Constitution.
“We do not deserve a chief justice who only pays lip service to the values of the
Constitution,” he said.
Fourth-year Wits law student, Nombulelo Nyathela, expressed disappointment at Mogoeng’s appointment.
“As a gender activist, who happens to be a law student, I think people are being unfair if they expect us to overlook his careless judgment on the man who was a woman abuser,” she said.
Nyathela said she was further disappointed by his response in the Judicial Service Commission interview where “he showed very little remorse”.
“His immense experience can’t even overshadow the fact that he at one point didn’t take seriously the plight of women and abuse,” she said.

Choas erupts on Free State campus over political bannings

SIXTY protesters were arrested at the University of the Free State this week after vice-chancellor Prof Jonathan Jansen banned political activity on campus.

Police used rubber bullets to disperse angry crowds demanding the removal of Jansen.

The protests were sparked by the introduction of a new rule preventing SRC candidates from contesting under political banners.

Jansen said this decision was taken to curb racial conflict driven by political formations on campus.

Chaos erupted at the university when the SA Students Congress (Sasco) and the ANCYL expressed outrage at this decision and staged an illegal protest.

They accused Jansen of being an “apartheid puppet”, claiming the campus had failed to transform and was being run by the Freedom Front Plus (FF+).

ANCYL chairperson in the province, Kgotso Morapela, told the New Age newspaper that they would render the institution “ungovernable” should their demands not be met.

According to fourth year UFS student Zoë Fourie, the protests disrupted classes on Tuesday as protesters threw rubbish and burnt papers in front of the university’s buildings.

“Tests were cancelled as a result of the protests, but by 4pm the police had restored calm,”  Fourie said.

Jansen is adamant that the protest was the work of “thugs”, many of whom he said were outsiders, not students.

On Wednesday the 60 people arrested made a brief court appearance on charges of striking illegally and vandalism. One student is facing an additional charge for allegedly assaulting a police officer.

Wits SRC president Morris Masutha condemned the move by Jansen, calling the vice-chancellor “a disgrace to Africans”.

“I am not shocked at all”, said Masutha, “he is a puppet controlled by backward whites who do not believe in a prosperous South Africa.”

Masutha also deemed the move “unconstitutional”. “No University should be allowed to violate the freedom of association,” he added.

The SRC president is adamant this rule would not pass at Wits.

“I don’t think our students would ever accept such censorship, and I would never support such apartheid tactics of silencing differing political views on our campus.”

Wits ANC Women’s League gets down to business

After its pre-launch rally last week, the Wits ANC Women’s League has signed up 70 members and is raring to go.


Focusing on the importance of “women organising themselves”, the ANCWL has already held a “political school” on campus which was open to both male and female students.


Lebogang Wolf, coordinator of the Wits ANCWL, says the league wants to dismantle patriarchy in all its forms on campus.


“We are the loudspeakers that will ensure that women’s voices on campus don’t go unheard and will be providing all women on campus the platform to express themselves without fear of intimidation or judgment,” she added.


The ANCWL believes that women, when coordinated, can combat any issue.


“When united, women can bring about true change, true equality and true democracy, starting right here with the ANCWL on campus,” said Wolf.


Third year student Nompumelelo Ntuli says the time is ripe for the ANCWL to be formed on campus.


“The ANC needs a new wave of women leaders. If it’s not going to start at Wits with the ANCWL, where will it start?


“We cannot rely on women who are comfortable in their positions as ministers and have forgotten to groom the next generation,” she says.


Wolf says the league’s membership comprises women from different societies on campus “who seek an end to the oppression that women are generally subjected to”.


She expressed concern about the lack of female leaders in university structures such as the SRC, adamant that there is still more room for women leadership.


“When we look at the ratio of female candidates to male candidates in this year’s SRC election we can see that males are the ones that are prominent. I’m very certain there is quality leadership among Wits female students who are very well capable of holding these positions that seem to be generally occupied by males.”


The league says its monthly publication Imbokodo will provoke readers to think about political issues and inspire students to get involved in activism on campus.


SRC puts on a show for a good cause

The SRC is hoping to raise R1 million for financially needy Wits students.

It will be hosting a Humanitarian Benefit Concert whereby all proceeds will go into a fund to help support academically deserving students.

“No student who is passing must be kicked out of the University because of his/her financial background,” said SRC president Morris Masutha.

The concert is to be held on Friday 27 August with featured performances by well-known artists such as Naves, Sphectacular and DJ Tumelo.

The SRC hopes that this event will encourage students to donate money in the spirit of ‘students helping their fellow students’.

“In the same manner in which we have declared war against academic exclusion, we have also declared a serious war against financial exclusion,” said Masutha.

The Humanitarian Benefit concert will be followed by an SRC Fundraising week.

“During this week, we’ll encourage students to donate whatever they can to the SRC Humanitarian fund,” said SRC treasurer Tshepo Ndlovu.

“For example, if 30 000 Wits students donate R10 to the Humanitarian fund, that will give us R300 000 into the humanitarian fund, which in turn can pay registration fees for 40 students,” he added.

The SRC is hoping to raise over R1 Million which it says will help “fight the financial/academic genocide on poor students”.

The Humanitarian Fund was established last year and according to Masutha aims to benefit students “who are left with outstanding fees at the end of the academic year”.
“Our main struggle is the struggle for a fully subsidized higher education for all academically deserving but financially needy students,” said Masutha.

“However, in every revolution there must be short term and long-term goals. We can’t just sit down and wait for government to provide free education; young people must not be fooled, education is the only guaranteed route to economic freedom in our lifetime,” he added.

SRC campaigns against academic exclusion

The SRC has declared the next two weeks “Academic Exclusion Awareness Weeks”.

SRC president Morris Masutha has embarked on a number of lecture visits to students across campus to raise awareness about academic exclusion.

“Academic exclusion is another word for getting kicked out of the university for failing to meet faculty admission requirements,” said Masutha.

“Many students are not aware of this reality and as student representatives we believe that not bringing the dangers of academic exclusion to the attention of students would be a serious injustice.”

 While academic exclusion affects all students, first years are the most affected by it.

“We also condemn financial students who lose their financial aid packages because they forget to sign their loan agreement forms. This behaviour is unacceptable and it has to come to an end. Students are the reason why there is an SRC and it’s important that they take advantage of the services rendered by this structure,” said Masutha.

The aim of this initiative is to help prevent students from becoming academically excluded by informing them in advance of the risks.

This year the SRC has raised funds totalling R700 000 to help students facing academic exclusion.

“Having participated in the council for readmission committee for three years, I have realised that there are a number of mistakes that students make throughout the year. In the absence of these mistakes, most Wits students would avoid getting academically excluded,” Masutha said.

This week the SRC visited the faculty of science and next week will visit JCE and medical school.

“The high level of university dropouts undermines our fight for a fully subsidised higher education and it is therefore the responsibility of students to justify this cause by fighting academic exclusion,” said Masutha.

DA students gear up for SRC election

After failing to secure any seats in last year’s election, the DA Students Organisation (Daso) has vowed to make a come back.

With 13 candidates put forward to run in this election, Daso chairperson Nazley Sharif says she is confident Daso will win seats on the 2012 SRC.

“Despite not having seats last year, we have continued to fight for student rights and fearlessly represent the interests of our students,” Sharif says.

“We are confident that more and more students see Daso as a vehicle to realise positive and constructive change on this campus.”

Daso’s fiercest competition will come from the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) who managed to secure all 15 seats in last year’s election. But Daso appears undeterred.

“The PYA represents the interests of a closed group of students and has displayed extreme political bias, particularly during the local government election campaign period,” says Sharif

“Daso has no doubt that, given the chance, we could reverse this trend and transform the SRC into the open, responsive and accountable forum it needs to be.”

Sharif says Daso’s manifesto will focus on issues directly related to students such as parking, security, services at res and transparency within management.

“Voters deserve to know the action plans and activities of those whom they have elected, thus Daso will strive for openness and accountability in all matters. We aim to bring the SRC closer to students and make it more responsive to students needs.”


ANC Women’s League to open at Wits


 The first campus branch of the ANC Women’s League is to openat Wits University. The initiative has been in the pipeline since 2008, and with a task committee in place, is ready to launch next month.

 “The aim of the league (ANCWL) is to encourage more women to join the ANC, by giving them an organization that speaks to them,” says Itumeleng Mafatshe, vice-chairperson of the SRC and convener of the newly formed ANCWL.

 “During apartheid women had it tough, they could be part of the ANC but could never lead. This shows their commitment to the struggle – they wanted to exist in a space where they weren’t welcome or appreciated.”

 The ANCWL was founded in 1931 as the Bantu Women’s League, with Charlotte Maxeke as its first president. It was integrated into the ANC in 1943, when women were first admitted as members of the ANC. It was active in organising protests such as the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the passbook protests of August 9 1956.

 Mafatshe says the focus of the Wits ANC Women’s League would be to develop young women.

 “We want to strengthen the women’s voice within the ANC, as we feel there is not enough room within the existing structures for development, and the programmers’ don’t always speak to our specific requirements.

 “We all know that we live in a patriarchal society and we believe women need to organize themselves. In the past men would organize for women in the ANC, who would then participate by doing domestic tasks. But in the 1940s women started saying they could contribute more.  Our ANCWL would make sure there would be seasoned women leadership on campus.”

 Mafatshe says the women’s league will continue to be inspired by anti-apartheid activists such as Albertina Sisulu.

 “We takecognisanceof the role comrade Sisulu played in the organization and a lot of the principles she lived by are principles we abide by. She withstood the odds of patriarchy – those are the types of things we need to learn from her.”

 Students who are members of the national ANC may join the Wits ANCWL.



Academic union takes Wits to Labour Court

Wits academics have declared a dispute with management, accusing it of imposing a wage settlement and trivialising their concerns.

“We find it very discouraging that management can completely ignore our role in negotiating, and merely impose a settlement. It speaks of arrogance and disdain,” said Advocate Liz Picarra, vice president of the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu).

Management rejected Asawu’s proposed salary increase, which would have cost the university about R60m to implement.

“Asawu demanded increases which the university could certainly not afford,” said Professor Patrick Fitzgerald, deputy vice chancellor: finance and operations.  

Academics received an 8% increase in July, after the Administration, Library and Technical Staff Association (Altsa) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) , two unions representing support staff, signed a wage agreement.

“This year’s increases are significantly above inflation and Wits staff has consistently received above inflation increases for a number of years,” said Fitzgerald.

However, Asawu has requested access to the Wits financial system to verify the claim that Wits cannot afford the increase, referring the matter to the Labour Court after management failed to comply with an order granted by the CCMA instructing Wits to provide Asawu with financial information.

Earlier this year Asawu used the Promotion of Access to Information Act to take Wits to the CCMA, forcing management to release figures relating to their salaries. This data was published on Asawu’s website and revealed that female academics are earning between 2 and 5.6% less than male academics across all grades.

Fitzgerald is adamant that there is no gender discrimination at Wits.

“In terms of our values and policies the university does not discriminate in regard to gender, race, sexual orientation, religious belief or non-belief, or any similar category. However, the university is certainly open to further discussion, investigation and debate in terms of how diversity matters can be better managed in our particular context,” he said.

Asawu is refusing to back down on this issue. “We are determined to pursue all avenues to address the gender discrimination, be it institutional culture or salary related, especially in the face of management’s blunt refusal to address this issue,” said Picarra.

Picarra also said they will continue seeking legal recourse to achieve their objectives.

“Management’s arrogant and obstructionist attitude has given us no choice but to pursue these avenues – their imposition of the increase and refusal to engage with our other issues in the negotiation process is indicative of their disregard for our role as a representative union and their utter disdain for academics’ concerns,” she said.

Fitzgerald said it is Asawu’s democratic right to follow this route. “Whether Asawu actually needs to do so is entirely another matter.”

“In terms of our values and policies the university does not discriminate in regard to gender, race, sexual orientation, religious belief or non-belief, or any similar category. However, the university is certainly open to further discussion, investigation and debate in terms of how diversity matters can be better managed in our particular context,” he said.

Asawu is refusing to back down on this issue. “We are determined to pursue all avenues to address the gender discrimination, be it institutional culture or salary related, especially in the face of management’s blunt refusal to address this issue,” said Picarra.

Picarra also said they will continue seeking legal recourse to achieve their objectives.

“Management’s arrogant and obstructionist attitude has given us no choice but to pursue these avenues – their imposition of the increase and refusal to engage with our other issues in the negotiation process is indicative of their disregard for our role as a representative union and their utter disdain for academics’ concerns,” she said.

Fitzgerald said it is Asawu’s democratic right to follow this route. “Whether Asawu actually needs to do so is entirely another matter.”









SRC fails in attempt to reshuffle executive

The SRC has failed to remove its president Morris Masutha after three attempts to do so.

Citing lack of sufficient governance and leadership, the SRC passed a motion at the end of May to replace Masutha with his vice chair, Itumeleng Mafatshe. At a special meeting held on June 10, SRC members elected Mafatshe as president and Masutha as gender and transformation officer.

These elections were later deemed unconstitutional by the Wits legal office on the grounds that the SRC had failed to secure a two-thirds majority. This decision has been appealed by the SRC.

Meanwhile Masutha, who remains president, is adamant that the motion to have him removed was politically motivated by his refusal to support Julius Malema in the ANCYL elections.

“This has nothing to do with the competency of the SRC and everything to do with personal agendas against me by a few leaders within the ANCYL,” said Masutha.

“I made it clear that I did not support the re-election of President Malema, and I remain convinced that at no point do I view him as the champion of the poor. This was merely an attempt by the ANCYL to humiliate me, because whoever disagrees with Julius will be humiliated,” said Masutha.

Godfrey Maja, chairperson of the Wits ANCYL lashed out about Masutha’s relationship with Wits management. He also says Masutha insulted the branch by going against their organisational stance when he did not back Malema.

 “He chose to disregard it, I allowed him the space to say whatever he wanted, but we knew the organization would have to take appropriate steps”.

The PYA sent out a letter announcing the removal of Masutha from their structures. The letter was signed by the heads of ANCYL, SASCO and Young Communist League. It read:

PYA DISOWNS this former comrade and distances itself from any conduct, speech or activity of whatever nature he engages in. He must never in any platform speak or act on behalf of PYA or any of its Constituents and we NO longer regard him as president of the SRC as per the uncontested resolution of general members.

Bongani Jacob, media and publicity officer for the SRC has refuted that the motion was politically motivated. “We are dealing with student issues not politics, this decision was based on his failures and inability to govern the SRC properly,” he said.

Jacob said the SRC was unhappy that Masutha had not delivered on his promises and hardly spent any time in his office.

“We respect his programmes and his efforts to raise funds for students, he is a very active member of the SRC, but as the head of governance he has failed,” said Jacob.

Masutha argues that the he has fulfilled his role as president and the reason for slow implementation of SRC objectives had to do with delayed budget approval by management.

Not all SRC members supported the motion. “The SRC constitution does not accommodate for reshuffling,” said SRC member Brendan von Essen.

 “I think Morris has done a pretty good job so far and I didn’t think the reasons given by the SRC constituted such drastic action,” he added.

In the meantime the SRC continues to function. “We are being professional about this and doing our work. We are here to serve the students,” said Jacob.

Masutha said he put up a fight because he is concerned about the precedent this would set. “I didn’t want to give into this kind of bullying because it would mean that any SRC president after me would be passive, spineless, and would have to be very careful as to who he/she offends or differs with. I did it for the future presidents who don’t need to be yes men/women because they’re afraid to be recalled.”

Students strike over food at Main Dining Hall

Students are refusing to eat at the main dining hall on East Campus, demanding better food and service.

In a joint initiative led by Men’s Res, Sunnyside and South Point residents, students say they will boycott the dining hall and have called on other students to join them.

“The price of our meals has increased but the standard of food has declined,” said Dominic Khumalo, deputy chairperson of Men’s Res.

Students are complaining about the quality of the food they receive, with dry chicken, stale bread, salads that ”aren’t fresh” and juice ”that is sometimes expired” topping the list of complaints.

There is also widespread concern that students are not receiving good value for money, with prices having increased this year to nearly R30 a meal.

“I don’t mind paying the price for the food, but the quality needs to improve with the price. They need to offer us variety. I’m a vegetarian and I am forced to eat veggie schnitzel three times a day,” said Derick Mohlala, a 4th year student.

Students who frequent the main dining hall say the food at residences such as Convocation and Jubilee is of a much higher standard, and that bigger portions are served.

“I only come here because it’s convenient,” said Bandla Mabaso, an accounting student. “They need to be more creative, and explore more options so that food is more tasty. If they are going to make briyani it should taste like briyani,” he adds.

Female students are also complaining that there aren’t enough healthy options.

“It’s just not up to standard, they serve us the same thing every day, it’s so mundane and not at all healthy,” said Thato Imasiku, an honours student who has lived in Res her entire university career.

Bad service also seems to be a talking point among disgruntled Witsies.

“The staff are sometimes very rude,” said fourth year Sibeso Kamanga.

At a mass meeting to be held this week, students who say they are being ”undermined” will call on their peers to book meals at other dining halls until the quality and quantity of food improves.