Not enough Mr Darcys around

They say chivalry is dead and that the days of men opening doors for ladies, standing up when a woman enters the room, or doffing his cap respectfully seem to be firmly fixed in the “good old days”.

While I’d say that these kinds of gestures may be lacking in modern day culture, but chivalry on the other hand is by no means dead. Perhaps It’s place has changed a little as women now strive to be equals in the business world.

There is a common misconception that confuses the concept of chivalry with that of courtesy and human decency, and that’s why Jane Austen with her writings about etiquette, gentlemanliness and decorum now has a lot to answer for – because there just aren’t enough Mr. Darcys to go around. Jane surely couldn’t have known that 200 years later the iPod-toting, mobile-dependent, skinny-jeans-clad generation of the early 21st century would still be hanging on to the sentiments of Pride and Prejudice as if it were some kind of romantic bible, leaving generations of men and women at odds with their expectations.

As I was getting out of a crowded elevator in Rosebank the other day, an elderly woman who was slow in gathering her belongings was standing in front of me. As I waited for her to get out I felt a shove in my back, dropped my bags to the floor and nearly took the poor woman out with me. I turned around to see not an impatient teenager too young to know better, but a well-dressed, middle-aged man glaring back at me. “Is there no chivalry in this world anymore?” I asked myself. “Can you HURRY UP and GET OUT?” was the unknowing answer from Mr. Haughty. This wouldn’t have happened in Jane’s day. Yes, I know there were no elevators back then, but even if Mr. Darcy were alive today, you wouldn’t catch him knocking old Mrs. Bennett to the floor with his briefcase before asking Lizzie to get a move on as they took their afternoon stroll because someone was messaging him on his Blackberry.

There is definitely a balance between manners and “treating us mean” and that is the problem guys seem to have with the concept of chivalry today. They do not understand that, like Mr. Darcy, a man must present himself to be both respectful and good mannered while at the same time being independent and self-assured. Nine times out of 10 we want you to open the door for us. The remaining time we want to be assured that we are able to do it ourselves. Balance, gentlemen, balance.

DASO accuses ANCYL of singing ‘shoot the DA’

The Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (Daso) at Wits has lashed out at the ANCYL, accusing them of singing “dubul’iDA” (shoot the DA) at an illegal rally on campus.

Daso is now calling for the ANCYL and its members to be disciplined for inciting violence against other students and for flouting university regulations by holding a political rally outdoors.

“The Wits ANCYL attempted to hold a rally on Monday at the amphitheatre, where they hired thousands of rands worth of sound. When the SDLU [Student Development and Leadership Unit] tried to stop them, they were defiant and continued using the sound,” said Daso deputy chairperson Mohammed Sayanvala.

The ANCYL has denied these allegations, saying that this was a Sasco rally, and that any of their members who attended, did so in their ‘”Sasco capacities”.

Sasco president Tebogo Thothela, who admitted the correct permissions were not obtained for the rally, also refuted Daso’s claims.

“If a song like that was sung, the sound would have immediately been switched off,” he said.

However, Daso remains adamant that the song was sung, and is determined to lodge a formal complaint with the university.

“While walking past we heard them saying the phrase “dubul’iDA” and it is unacceptable for them to be singing this on a loudspeaker during lunch. We will no longer accept an apology from the ANCYL, we want disciplinary action to be taken,” Sayanvala said.

Tensions have been running high on campus in the run up to the local elections, and the two parties clashed heads recently when Daso accused the ANCYL of vandalising their posters.

“Our financial aid posters were plastered with ‘Vote ANC’ stickers . At least 10 15 of our posters were missing and they were clearly torn down,” said Sayanvala.

But Godfrey Maja, ANCYL chairperson at Wits, said there are many ‘’vandals’’ on campus, and that ‘missing posters’ is not unique to the DA. Instead,, Maja suggested that this is a political tactic employed by Daso to try to garner votes.

“Our posters are also being destroyed. To claim that the ANCYL is responsible for this is highly irresponsible and shows just how desperate the DA and Daso are to gain votes. Our members are too busy with our own campaign to worry about their useless posters,” Maja said.

Daso has also accused the SRC of aligning itself with the ANC by branding its offices with ANC flags and stickers.

Still a man’s world at Wits

Data pertaining to the salary ranges of Wits academics has revealed that female academics are earning disproportionately less than their male colleagues.

Wits management reluctantly released figures this week that indicated a discrepancy in salaries after the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu) used the Promotion of Access to Information Act to take Wits to the CCMA, for the second time in a year.

The data which was published on Asawu’s official website shows that female academics are earning between 2 and 5.6% less than male academics across all grades. These numbers translate into female lecturers earning up to R24 500 per annum less than male lecturers in the same grade.

Asawu has accused management of lacking transparency over salaries and says that these figures are the result of managerial neglect whereby control over appropriate salary structuring has been abandoned.

Determined to put forward concrete proposals in this year’s annual wage negotiations, Asawu president Prof. David Dickinson said they would be asking for a settlement that not only takes into account raising academic salaries to the 75th percentile of the tertiary education sector benchmark, but also looks at discrepancies within ranks and the gender imbalances that the data uncovered.

“This will mean a more complex wage settlement than in previous years where a single figure (for academics) has been awarded. At this stage we do not know if management will be willing to consider such a solution to the current wage discrepancies identified,” Dickinson said.

Elaine Milton, director of employee relations at Wits, told Vuvuzela that management has noted the statistics and is committed to employment


“The Transformation and Equity Office will work together with the Faculty and Central HR Managers and the Remuneration and Benefits Office to investigate and ascertain if there is any unfair discrimination in remuneration practices that may have contributed to the current situation,” said Milton, adding that the Transformation Office has recently developed a draft Employment Equity Plan for the institution which she says will no doubt propose further strategies in this regard.

Wage negotiations between ASAWU and Wits management are set to commence this week and will be chaired by an independent body in the hope for better mediation between the two parties, after last year’s negotiations turned sour and academics threatened to strike.

Studies show that unequal salaries for men and women isn’t unique to Wits and that women in the workplace are generally paid less than males.

An analysis of census data conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2009 shows the pay gap between men and women, which was once thought to be narrowing, has only been getting worse. Women make 75.5c for every rand that men earn.

The news is not good for young women starting new jobs either. A separate study released last week found the average Class of 2010 female with a bachelor’s degree received a starting salary 17% less than her male peer.

SRC declares war on academic exclusion

The SRC has raised funds totalling R700 000 to help students facing academic exclusion this year..

“We are very happy about this achievement as we believe in our students and know they won’t disappoint us,” said SRC president Morris Masutha, who later admitted he was disappointed by the number of students who do not approach the SRC for assistance.

“Through our hunt for bursaries, we managed to secure over R450000 worth of bursaries and scholarships. We are particularly proud of this because these bursaries will run for the period of the entire degree. Eskom, The Jacob Zuma Foundation, BIDVest and City of Joburg are some of the stakeholders that really assisted our students and the SRC is very grateful,” Masutha said.

The SRC has pledged to make all students aware of financial exclusion by “declaring a war against academic exclusion”.

“Over the next weeks, we will be conducting class visits to ensure that no student is excluded due to lack of information,” Masutha said.

“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.”

 The SRC paid tribute to the Financial Aid office and the office of the deputy vice chancellor (academic) for the support they received in this endeavour.

“We would like to emphasise that this wouldn’t have been possible without their help and we will forever remain indebted to these two offices for their commitment to saving the lives of poor students in particular.”

Exclusive: Malema sets the record straight

Controversial ANC youth leader Julius Malema is to some extent an enigma in South African politics. Widely known for his outlandish statements and frequent race-related remarks, Malema talks to Vuvuzela about why it is he is so misunderstood after addressing the SA Union of Jewish Students in Cape Town last week.

“I am an activist pursuing the national democratic revolution which aims at transferring power from the minority to the majority. That power is social, economic and political power. That’s who I am. I don’t want to go to parliament; I will go to parliament in 30 years. I believe parliament is for retired people,” Malema says.

Often criticised for living in Sandton while calling for the emancipation of the country’s poor, Malema says where he stays is immaterial to his pursuit for change.

“Who should stay in Sandton?” he asks, “Sandton belongs to all of us who can afford to stay there. Why should it be a criminality for a political leader to stay in Sandton?

 “What is material is my political consciousness, I am a child of a working class, I am a child of a domestic worker. I know what my mother went through, I know what I have gone through for me to be where I am, and I will never forget. But I will forgive. That is who I am.”

The youth leader says he can be an activist from anywhere. “I don’t need to shout for the transfer of power when I am in Alexandra and do it less when I am in Sandton. Our struggle is to take the people out of Alex and into Sandton.

“If we can’t take them into Sandton, then we’ll take Sandton into Alexandra and make Alex a living place with living conditions that are justifiable for human beings to live there,” he says, adding that the ANC did not struggle for people to remain in shacks in rural areas.

“That is the type of struggle we are waging, and as to who stays where is petty politics. We shouldn’t entertain material, let’s entertain ideas, let’s entertain consciousness.”

Commenting on the debate about the value of his Rolex, Malema says “society wants to engage in that topic when we have so many serious issues in this country. It’s like we are a society who are suffering from a poverty of ideas. It’s like we’re a society that exercises 5% of our minds”.

“We want to discuss what we can see, not what we think. Our society must never be a society that discusses brand names. We must discuss how to liberate our people from poverty, that’s the type of society we need to be.”

Malema says he is misunderstood because he stands opposed to the owners of the means of production.

“They own everything and they understand me but they deliberately distort me because I don’t agree with them. They own the media, they own radios, they own the economy, but I don’t care because when I took up this struggle I knew I would pay the highest price. They are not talking about me, they are talking about their own imaginations, why should I be worried about the imagination of an editor of a newspaper – that’s why they apologise to me week after week.

“We are ridiculed, but we don’t care, what we care about is our people. Do our people appreciate that this is the direction we are taking. Our people don’t read papers, our people rely on their leaders for leadership – they have never elected an editor to lead them.”

Pointing out that the youth has every reason to vote for the ANC, Malema says it is the only political party that recognises women’s rights.

“It is the ANC which has got a cabinet close to 50/50 both male and females. Where the ANC is not ruling in the Western Cape, there is a cabinet that looks like a boys’ choir, women are only recognised through a poster,” he says.

“If you want your fellow South Africans to be built open toilets, then vote against the ANC. A toilet is supposed to be a private place. People in the Western Cape where the ANC is not governing, are going to toilets with blankets. This is an organisation that doesn’t recognise human rights, the ANC has never done that, the ANC has removed people from bushes and put them into houses with decent toilets. They may not look like my toilets in Sandton but at least there is privacy.”

Malema says the ANCYL’s real struggle is over land distribution, unhappy with the idea that “80% of the population owns less than 20% of the land”.

“If you don’t know us, we are a radical youth organisation, we are not a sweetheart organisation, we are fighting for liberation, we are in a revolution,” he says.

“We want this land, but we are not going to do it the Mugabe way. We want dialogue with those who own the land so that we can live in this country peacefully as equals.”

DASO criticises SRC for favouring ANC students

Last year’s campus elections saw a landslide victory as the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) secured all 15 seats on the SRC. This year, opposition party DASO says they are ready to make a comeback, criticising current leadership for not representing all students.

“I am unhappy with the fact that the current SRC seems to only represent ANC supporters,” says Nazley Sharif, Chairperson of DASO Wits. “When I walk into the SRC office, I am greeted by a huge ANC poster. Why is this not an SRC poster?”

DASO failed to secure one seat in last year’s election and were widely criticised for having only two candidates running in the election.

“Unfortunately we have to come to the realisation that DASO wasn’t strong at wits. We didn’t have a full executive, and that was one of the main problems,” says Sharif

But Godfrey GaMaja, newly elected chairperson of the ANCYL Wits branch, says there is no opposition on campus. “If there is opposition, we certainly don’t see them.”

GaMaja says certain parties only come to life around election time, and this paints a bad picture of student politics.

“Opposition parties create a bigger space for debate, and they should be more effective and visible. They need to call us to task and challenge our views.”

Bevin Dorkin, former spokesperson of the Young Independent Democrats agreed wholeheartedly with GaMaja’s standpoint.

“It’s true there is no strong opposition on campus,” says Dorkin who along with the rest of the YIDs, resigned from student politics after the YID was forced to disband when the Independent Democrats (ID) merged with the Democratic Alliance (DA).

“Since we disbanded, there has been no effective opposition. We used to put up a fight,” says Dorkin who originally took up position of president of DASO, but resigned a month later.

“We didn’t want to be associated with the authors, originators and benefactors of Apartheid in the form of the DA,” says Dorkin adding that the DA “has absolutely no significant role or position on this campus. Their leaders should never be politics”.

Commenting on the current PYA led leadership Dorkin says they are doing a good job. “To be fair, the PYA currently is more organised than any other political party on campus, but I’d rather spoil my ballot than vote for them”.

GaMaja however, remains adamant that even with a strong opposition, the PYA would dominate.

Wits ANCYL branch calls for nationalisation of South Africa’s mines

Nationalisation of the country’s mines would solve all issues of financial exclusion on campus, the ANC Youth League at Wits said this week.

“We believe that nationalisation would benefit students the most. The wealth of this country should be in the hands of everybody, and if it were, we would not have a situation where academically deserving students don’t go to school because they are not funded,” Itumeleng Mafatshe, coordinator of the ANCYL’s working class team at Wits, said.

“We are going to find a way to buy them out, and the sooner we nationalise mines the sooner we will realise free education,” said outgoing ANCYL Wits president Kholofelo Selepe.

Agreeing with the national ANCYL’s stance on nationalisation, Mafatshe said that although it is not a new issue, it’s an important one. “There is a lot to gain here and we need to think tactically and relook at its implementation,” she said.

However, not all students are supportive of this call.

“We shouldn’t nationalise mines, because our government can’t even run state parastatals efficiently, how are they going they run the mines?” asked Themba Khumalo.

“A better solution would be to fix up the current state of the parastatals so that government can prove their capacity to run these,” he said, adding that cadre deployment has failed and the government now needs to find new ways of fixing current problems before taking on new ones.

Refuting the ANCYL’s claim that students will benefit, Khumalo said that “there is no guarantee students will see even one cent of that money”.

“The parastatals such as Eskom and the SABC are being run into the ground. Their profits aren’t being distributed, so how will those of the mines be any different?” he asked.

Mafatshe said the ANCYL’s main objective on campus is to lobby people under the ANC and “conscientise” students.

Our primary concern is the issue of the financial exclusion of deserving students, but, by virtue of us being on campus, we are not excluded from things happening off campus, we fight battles that affect the youth as a whole. We are black and working class, and this doesn’t change because we’re at Wits,” she said, adding that although nationalisation was not their main priority on campus, its remains a priority.

ASAWU wage battle begins

The Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu) is preparing to go into annual wage negotiations with Wits management.

“The relationship between Asawu and Wits management became strained last year when negotiations stopped and management imposed a settlement on us,” said Asawu’s president Prof. David Dickinson, adding that there is a widespread perception among staff that management treats them with disdain and with a petty approach to their issues.

The dispute between the two parties last year was heightened by Asawu’s claims that management was denying them of their legal rights by withholding information, culminating in Asawu successfully taking Wits to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

“Last year was quite a bruising year, and we hope management has learnt from their mistakes. However, as we go into wage negotiations this time, there is at least a commitment that has been reaffirmed by the university to benchmark salaries of academics,” Dickinson said.

Asawu said Wits salaries should be at the 75th percentile of the tertiary education sector – which means 75% of the average for the sect across all 23 higher learning institutions. “At the moment we’re well below the 75th percentile and this year we will be looking at a substantial, above-inflation increase for academics to help bring us to that 75 percent,” he said, adding that Wits has to pay their academics at a reasonable rate.

 “The reason it should be in the 75th percentile rather than the 50th, is because on average the cost of living in Joburg is higher and, more importantly, because we are one of the best universities in South Africa and we have to pay competitive wages in comparison to the key competitors – UCT, Rhodes and Stellenbosch. We have to compete for talent,” said Dickinson.

In a letter titled “A Change of Gear” that was sent to their members, Asawu called for a relationship of mutual respect between management and academics to be established.

“We don’t want to strike, we’re a professional union, we have more PHDs in our union than probably all the other unions combined in Gauteng, we’re a different breed,” said Dickinson adding that the vast majority of Asawu’s members were reluctant to see the disruption of education.

“But one thing we are very clear on is that if management refuses us information that we have a legal right to, we will go straight back to the CCMA,” he said.

Sasco calls education minister to task

Busloads of students belonging to the SA Students Congress (Sasco) gathered outside the Pretoria City Hall last Friday before marching on the higher education department’s offices.

Sasco are demanding fully subsidised higher education for all financially needy and academically deserving students.

About 2500 students from campuses across Gauteng joined the march, where a memorandum of demands was handed over to a government official.

“The memorandum of demands was given to the department to remind them that students are here and are not going anywhere in our demand for fully subsidised education,” said Morris Masutha, Wits SRC president and chairperson of the Wits Sasco branch.

The students have slated higher education minister Blade Nzimande for making little progress in the two years that he has been in office.

Earlier this year Nzimande announced that an additional R150-million had been allocated to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to focus on addressing scarce skills.

He said the department has set aside R22.9-million that would be dedicated to funding 820 first year students and R7-million towards a special bursary scheme targeting rural students who had done exceptionally well in the 2010 Grade 12 examinations.

However, students say the department has failed them by not implementing these resolutions properly.

“Last year there was a ministerial review committee on the National Skills Fund (NSF) which had specific recommendations to the minister. These recommendations are very clear and we are fully in support of what is left for him to implement,” said Masutha. “It shouldn’t be our job to remind him what he needs to do.”

Sasco is now waiting for a response from the department and is adamant that they will not give up until their demands are met.

“Year in and year out students are kicked out when they can’t afford to pay for their tuition, and it is Blade’s responsibility to implement what he started,” said Masutha, who promised to pay the minister another unexpected visit if he continues to “underperform”.

“I have a degree and am not scared of activism,” said Masutha. “This is one cause we will not back down on.”

COSAS calls to hit teachers back outrages Witsies

School pupils have been encouraged to retaliate when hit by teachers in a controversial statement made by the Congress of SA Students last week.

“We call on all students to fight fire with fire; when teachers hit you, you must hit back,” said Cosas provincial chairperson Ntsako Mogobe.

He then defended his statement by saying that teachers were failing in their duty to teach.

The statement has since caused widespread condemnation, with the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) calling it “highly provocative and irresponsible”.

Members of the Wits student community are equally outraged.

“I think is unacceptable,” said Nompumelelo Ntuli, “violence should not equal violence. There should be other proper disciplinary measures put in place to reprimand teachers who hit their students. What is Cosas teaching our children if they encourage this?” she asked.

Dina Hendler, an industrial psychology masters student, said that while children must be empowered to defend themselves against abuse, this was the incorrect mechanism to do so, especially in a society where violence begets violence.

“It inspires an anarchic approach in which children are taught to distrust authority and legitimate societal structures put in place to address grievances. Basically it encourages widespread deviance, and a violent society,” Hendler said.

Another student, Ayanda Khumalo, called Mogobe’s statement “Malema-like behaviour”.

“It is completely irresponsible; one cannot make such statements knowing how much influence they have,” she said. “They should have learnt from the Julius Malema’s ‘shoot the boer’ statement that such violent speech can result in violent action.”
Just a day after Mogobe’s comment, a 17-year-old boy stabbed his teacher in the stomach at a school in Soweto and was arrested hours later in Dobsonville. Mogobe later denied there was any link between the incident and his statement.

“I never said you must violently assault teachers,” he told the Mail & Guardian.

“With police ‘shooting to kill’ and pupils ‘striking back’, Wits students are emphasising the need for their leaders to think before they speak.

“There is enough crime and violence around us; we don’t need our leaders adding fuel to the fire,” Khumalo said.

SRC wants free education for worthy students

The SRC has called for a march to the Department of Higher Education to demand fully subsidised higher education for all financial needy and academically deserving students.

“We have once again realised there is an overwhelming amount of students who are academically deserving but due to their socio-economic background cannot access the doors of learning,” said SRC president Morris Masutha. “This has to stop and it has to stop today!”

In a widely circulated statement, the SRC said raising tuition fees was “a direct exclusion mechanism used by those who benefit from commercialisation of higher education across the country”.

It pointed out that in 2004 the registration fee at Wits was just over R2000. Today students pay R7300. Masutha said the demand for financial aid (NFSAS) at Wits this year is R230-million, but with government only allocating R160-million to the university, thousands of students are left unable to access learning.

Masutha said Minister Blade Nzimande needed to be reminded of the reason he was appointed. “We deployed Nzimande to go and implement our mandate as young people, and no student from 2012 onwards should be denied access to higher education due to their financial background,” he said.

Masutha is also chairperson of the South African Students Congress (Sasco) at Wits and has been a long-standing advocate in the fight for fully subsidised higher education.

“We need to stand up as students across political, religious and racial lines and fight against this commercialisation of higher education where students are treated like clients. We need to remind our government what its priority is.

“If we don’t stand up as an academic community, no one will. If we do not stand up for one another, no one will stand up for us.”

“We need to convince society that education is the only investment that can solve all the social ills facing of country.

Wits debating team does its bit for society

The Wits debating team has embarked on a project to teach pupils and prisoners the “art of debate”. The team is the highest-ranked debating team in South Africa, after having claimed victory at the South African Debating National Championship in Port Elizabeth last year.

“The focus of our community outreach programme is to go into disadvantaged schools in Soweto where English is a barrier for most students, and train them to be more confident in speaking,” says Mvuyo Makhasi, a biomedical engineering student and member of the debating team.

“When I was in high school Wits students trained and adjudicated our debates, and this is our way of giving back to our schools, by helping the younger scholars develop their skills.”

The team is also working on a project with the Department of Correctional Services to teach prisoners how to debate, as part of their rehabilitation. “We’re looking at ways to get the project up and running. It’s a brand new project and could potentially be very rewarding, so it is something we’re more than willing to give our all to and see how it goes,” Makhasi says.

“Debating is a culture within the university and, even in a small capacity, we want to conscientise the whole of South Africa, because there is a lot of skill to be gained in learning to debate.”

Makhasi says that debating has given him confidence and helped him become a more grounded person. “Apart from thinking on the spot and understanding the importance of making logical arguments, debating teaches us to evaluate things, to pay attention to detail and not to be too quick to judge. To become a clear, rational speaker, one has to recognise the importance of communication – being able to think rationally, speak and be heard,” he says.

The team will be defending their Pan African University title in Zimbabwe and progress to the World Universities Debating Tournament in the Philippines later this year.