‘Cleaners’ strike a waste of time’

Cleaners have returned to work after a five-week strike.

The strike was suspended by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).

Nehawu union official, Adwin Kolobe, said they called the strike off due to complaints from cleaners.

The cleaners were worried about not getting paid and some cleaners secretly went back to work.

A Super Care cleaner who spoke on condition of anonymity said the strike was a waste of time- her accounts are now in arrears.

She said she had hoped to get a minimum wage of R4 300 as she already made plans on how to spend it.

Second year bachelor of science student Matlaba Pitjeng said the end of the strike is a relief. “The toilets smelt horrible.”

Some cleaners came back before the union’s order. A Carovone cleaner, who didn’t want to be named, said: “I couldn’t take it anymore; I was not getting any income.”

“I have children to support and accounts to pay.

“I decided to come back even though I had to leave at 2pm every day as I didn’t want other employees on strike to see me working.”

The union has rejected the 8% salary increment offered by the employers.

The matter has now been referred to the minister of labour.

Nehawu is waiting for the sectorial determination from the minister.

Matter of fact: vice chancellor comment

The vice chancellor, Loyiso Nongxa, has drawn to our attention that his quote in the previous Vuvuzela’s front page story about the suspended students did not provide the full context of what he said. He felt that his quote might have been misinterpreted. Here is his full comment:

The right to protest and withdraw one’s labour is enshrined in our country’s Labour Laws.  The right to express or show solidarity to any group of people who decide to raise awareness about their plight and conditions is a privilege I believe is a corollary of our Constitution.  Wits is committed to doing its level best to ensure that people’s rights are protected.  It’s Wits’ obligation to do so – many people paid the ultimate price in order for all of us to enjoy these rights.  We should never allow or tolerate a situation where one group tramples on the rights of others in pursuit of its own rights and privileges.  People who decide not to join a strike or show a solidarity have the right to do so and this should be protected.  People who work and study at Wits have a right to (demand a) a secure, clean and hygienic environment.  Wits has an obligation to provide such.



Students suspended for strike support


THREE students have been suspended after using radical methods to create awareness around the cleaners’ strike.

“The agenda of this whole movement is to hinder the jobs of scab workers,” said Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, chairperson of the Postgraduate Council.

Ndlozi is one of the students who was suspended, after he was identified for trashing the Senate House Concourse a few weeks ago.

“The university is saying we’re dangerous and a threat to the university at large,” he said.

The students are opposing the employment of scabs, or temporary, workers. They trashed the New Commerce Building on Friday morning.

Vice chancellor Professor Loyiso Nongxa said: “Wits is committed to doing its level best to ensure that people’s rights are protected.
“We should never allow or tolerate a situation where one group tramples on the rights of others in pursuit of its own rights and privileges.”

The students are opposing the employment of scabs, or temporary, workers.
They trashed the New Commerce Building last Friday morning.

On Monday, students demonstrated in front of the Great Hall, holding mops and dressed in workers’ uniforms. They took bags of rubbish and put them in the Senate House Concourse, encouraging students to leave their litter lying around.

“If you have litter, dump it in corridors,” said Naadira Munshi. The sociology honours student said students aren’t aware of the strike, which is in its fourth week.

“An entire community of workers’ aren’t present on campus,” she said. “We’re trying to remind people that Supercare and Caravone aren’t here.”

Munshi said the university is attempting to divert attention away from the strike by suspending students. “By charging three leaders, people become wary of actively showing support.”

Simphiwe Buthelezi, a 1st year engineering student, said he agrees with their methods. “People are not paying attention [to the strike] because of scab workers.”

“People are [being] cleaner than ever, because they know cleaners are not around,” he said.

“I think it would be bad if they trashed Senate House- this is a welcoming centre,” said Lucky Mthimunye, a 1st year student. “It would make the point stronger, but management would be upset.”  

Other related incidences occurred at Esselen Residence, where kitchens were covered in rubbish and last week the first and second floors of the Matrix were flooded after taps in the bathroom were left running . 

Workers are expected to return to work on Monday, with negotiations still in place.

So I ask, how many conditional friends do you have?

IT was the day before my party when I felt a sharp pain piercing my heart.
Some of my friends were sending apologies.
All of a sudden, they were giving me what I think were excuses on why they were not coming to my big, treasured day.
What is nice about hosting a graduation and 21st birthday party is that you get to realise the significant role you play in people’s lives and get to feel good about yourself and your achievements.

Best of all, you are showered with “presents”.
Reflecting back, I appreciate the love and sacrifice received from friends and loved ones.
But the feelings of bitterness I experienced on my special day made me realise that I had overrated what friends are supposed to be.
I unashamedly categorised friendship and redefined what friends are.

Some friendships are like growing trees.You nurture them as they grow. When storms hit they fall. The connection you have with them is rooted but the future is dependent on the changes in both your lives.
Some friendships are a “drive through”. They are visited now and then.
Some bring sunshine just like a butterfly. When seasons change and it becomes cloudy, they are nowhere to be found.
A friend is not someone who must always be present in your life; it’s that person you call in specific situations.
You can call most of them when you want to go out partying but not if you are in trouble.
I have learnt that it’s okay for them to grow in and out of your life, but never depend on them or expect too much.

As long as they are on Facebook or BBM they will remain friends in communication of ‘Poke’and ‘PING!!!’.

It’s all about sex, actually

Photo: Courtesy Drama 4 Life

Sex Actually explores how intimacies cross and inhabit spaces. It is in our spaces where love happens.

The Wits Drama for Life (DFL) festival is a cross-community HIV and Aids arts education, activist and therapeutic intervention.

Running from August 31 to September 9, it promises artistic entertainment whilst promoting a tolerant understanding and accommodating people with its use of visual and performing arts.

The festival will also conduct workshops that seek to speak openly about issues surrounding sex.

Believing in a world of love, empathy and mutual respect, DFL Sex Actually promotes a world free from fear, discrimination and prejudice.

All around Johannesburg theatres, including the Wits Theatre, Sex Actually will host a variety of performances such as dance, poetry, drama and workshops.

This year’s Sex Actually introduces new ways to communicate about how we express love, make love and remember our loves.

Performances will interrogate topics around sex, sexuality, relationships and HIV and AIDS.

Directed by Warren Nebe, Love Happened Here is a performed experience by characters who share their intimate and loss stories. The audience is invited to embark on a taxi ride from Braamfontein to Hillbrow and vice versa. The play officially opens at the Wits Theatre this Saturday, September 3.

For poetry lovers, regional finalists will go head to head in the nottobemissed culminating poetry competition on September 2.

If you are a dance enthusiast, do not miss I should have but I didn’t, directed by Siwela Sonke. The performance includes dance and video that probes both the necessity and the uselessness of secrets.  

For more information go to: www.dramaforlife.co.za

Medical School netball team clinches #1 spot

All-time winners Jubilee Hall were infuriated when they were beaten for the first time 14-11 by Medics at the Wits Netball Internal League (INL) finals on August 27.

In an intense game, Jubilee Hall and Medics maximised their opportunities for shots. The ladies from Medical School maintained their accurate shooting record, and were leading by two points at halftime with a score of 8-6.

The Jubilites  displayed impressive teamwork and staged a comeback in the third quarter, when both teams scored two goals each. But the two points that Medics won earlier gave them the lead.

Jubes failed to come back fully from behind and the Medics finally won the game 14-11.

Medics walked away with a trophy and title; the champions of the Wits Internal Netball. Jubilees were awarded silver medals as runners-up.

The Medics victory took not only Jubilee by surprise as they have never lost in all the league games and to the Medics team.

Medics coach and player Namene Amwele said they were “super excited” as they had lost to the same team in their first game.

“We do not get much time to practise because of the nature of our medical course but we try to meet once a week or every two weeks,” she said.

“We make the most of the time we get.”

Amwele received the player of the season award and Medics’s Tess Blignaut was awarded the most promising player along with Webster’s Tumi Kgosi and Khanyisile Khanyile from Barnato.

Olwethu Twalo, who plays for Jubilee, received the players’ player award.

Neighbouring teams David Webster and Barnato Hall played off for the third place position, and Webster won 14-10. They received bronze medals.

Photo: Sthandiwe Mchunu

Barnato Hall walked away with the team of the season trophy.

‘R1800 just not enough’


NO WORK, NO MONEY: A single mother of four, Sara Phalane has decided to sell snacks in order to have money since she and other wits cleaners who have been striking for weeks are not going to get played. Photo: sthandiwe mchunu)

Wits cleaners will continue striking until they earn a minimum wage of R4 300 per month.They say the R 1800 they earn doesn’t cover all their expenses.

Forty nine year old Sara Phalane, a Supercare cleaner, says she decided to sell snacks when the strike began to generate some income during the ‘no work no pay’ strike. The single mother of four says she makes about R60 per day, which is not enough for her expenses.

Phalane says the R1 800 she earns as a cleaner is spent on food and clothes bought at a low cost and she can’t satisfy her kids the way she wants to.

“I failed to pay my son’s school trip and he was unhappy. Poverty is ruining my family’s happiness.”

Phalane dreamed of becoming a social worker but her dreams were crushed when she dropped out of school in Standard 3. “I regret dropping out, I feel like I failed my children, but I wish they could get education and better their lives.”

Carovone cleaner Monica Tlhaole says her son blames her for his drug addiction. Her son started smoking nyaope (a drug that contains heroin) after she couldn’t afford to buy him a suit for his matric dance.

 “He calls me all sorts of names when he is high.  He even blamed me for smoking nyaope.

“He once said who am I to tell him to get an education when I am just a cleaner who can’t afford to buy them (siblings) clothes and sometimes food.”

The 38-year-old mother of three says her son wanted to be a meteorologist but “nyaope destroyed his dreams”.

 “I blame myself for my son’s failures, I failed him.”

Tlhaole says she has a matric certificate but could not further her studies because of financial problems.

 Tears ran down her cheeks when she tells us that her son has turned into a thief who even steals from her house and beats his younger sister.

A middle-aged male cleaner who asked not to be named says he feels like he is not man enough because he cannot provide for his family properly.

“I can’t pay lobolo for the mother of my two kids… how can I afford to pay R10 000 lobolo with my R1 800 salary?”

Hunger strikes at Wits

The Wits Health Consortium has allocated R250,000 for a study to find out whether students are suffering from hunger or can afford food to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Vuvuzela asked a development planning Master’s student, Thandiwe Dlamini, if she knew any students who go hungry. “That’s not a question. People are starving,” she said. Dlamini said she knows of students who get a very low budget of about R 300 a month and go to sleep hungry.

The study aims to influence university policy to support what it calls “food insecure” students. Programme coordinator, Anri Landman, said: “A food insecure student wouldn’t have enough food to live a healthy and productive life, and we suspect this has a major influence on students’ ability to concentrate on their academic responsibilities.”

Landman said the research was motivated by students who overheard a conversation amongst students talking about not going to class for the last few days because they did not have enough money to buy food and could not focus.

Second year social work student, Regina Ngwenyama, who receives R 800 per month from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says after two weeks her money and food is gone.

 “It’s painful to go on a hungry stomach; it’s difficult seeing your roommate eating and you don’t have [food],”  Ngwenyama said.

Ngwenyama said she thinks the NSFAS allowance should be increased to R 1 500.

The research will also look at whether or not food outlets on campus provide affordable and nutritious food.

 Landman said early discussions with Wits students indicated “students perceive food available on campus as expensive [with few] healthy alternatives.

“They would like to see more affordable fast food outlets, greater variety of fruit sold on campus and more drinking water stations.”

The research is conducted by the Siyakhana team and  involves 15 Wits 3rd year, 4th year and postgraduate students who were selected and trained to do the research.  They hope to release their findings at the end of the year.

If you want to participate in the discussion you can join the Facebook group named: Is there hunger on Wits Campus?

CROSS DRESSING: A day in the shoes of a woman

CROSS DRESSING: To celebrate Women’s day, boys became women and wore female suit and personality to honour women. Fighting for number one spot for Miss Esselen residence, Eric Makgasela (crouching), Prince Masimula and Hangwani Thilivali (from left) were amongst the contenders who made the audience laugh out loud (lol).

Boys became women in a pageant that celebrated women’s month at Esselen Street Residence this month on the 13th.

 Male students wore make-up, tight dresses, high heels and modeled. They flaunted their accumulated curves and hot bodies as they danced the night away.  

 The aim of the event is to celebrate women through laughter and entertainment, not to conform to the formal ways of dinner parties and high tea. The event has become a tradition as it also takes the stress away from books.

 Two non- essellen residence females felt, the guys who were modelling overdid it when it came to their ‘sexy’ moves. “It was traumatising. It’s not how women would handle themselves.”

They believe the essence of the event is to honour women but what they got was defying.

1st year law student, Bheki Makhubu, said, “The modelling part for the purposes of entertainment was okay, but for me as a guy, seeing man do that was defying.”

 This event has widened since its inception, and has moved away from the idea of it being merely about men putting on female identities, says Esselen hall co-ordinator, Clifford Chauke.

“We motivate and encourage the gay community to come out … we embrace them and also the [beauty of women] and everyone irrespective of each and everyone’s sexuality.”

Not a lot of men have the courage and find humour in wearing a female suit. Academic officer/student developer, Masego Dihele, said some of the guys who refused to participate “are embarrassed to be seen looking like women.”

 “I did not enter because as a dignified, respected individual I can’t be seen modelling in woman suit,” said Makhubu.

 Dihele hopes that guys who participated “got a sense of how it’s like being a woman.”

 2nd year Law student, Klass Mokgomole said, the idea behind him entering this pageant is “not to win but for girls to enjoy the day through laughter”.

SRC nominee, Hangwani Thilivali said we enter so that we can “feel and understand what it’s like being a woman and also to honour all ladies”.

The male participants who entered were surprised at what they took away from the experience. Brainwasher said, “I have learnt that getting ready as a woman takes a lot of time. It took me 30min in front of the mirror rather than the 5min that I take on a daily basis.”

 Thilivali said the pageant is also about how “you walk and dress, it’s about being representable, having good communication skills and good choice of words.

The judges on the other hand, thought the male contestant did not effectively fit the shoes of what being a woman entails.

3rd year BSC, Matshego Nkwana, defines a young woman as “a pillar of strength for the one that needs it, a seed carrier, for the world cannot be filled without her. “

Other contestants’ reasons for entering were beyond surface level of entertaining the audience. Vow Fm content production trainee, Neo Mahatelli wanted to appreciate his mother and his 3year old daughter.  

“I am 24 years old, have been to three universities, I am living my life for my daughter, building a future for her.”


Strike leaves a stink on campus

The Wartenweiler library is a mess while the cleaners strike.

Campus resembles one big dustbin as residences, toilets, libraries and lecture halls have been left dirty after cleaners began their strike on Monday.

Wits Solidarity Committee member, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, gave a message of support to cleaners outside Senate House on Monday. “Campus must stink, so that people will know the importance of cleaners; as long as campus is clean, people won’t know how important this service is.”

He said that living comfortably in clean spaces while cleaners are exploited was an injustice, as they are not remunerated properly.

Vuvuzela found dirty toilets and overflowing dustbins all around campus.

3rd year BCom student Mfanelo Mabasa usually  finds the 24-hour section at the Wartenweiler library the only conducive environment to study in, but said the library is currently “unbearable for studying”. He is, however, in favour of the strike as he believes cleaners deserve more pay.

A statement released by Vice-chancellor Professor Loyiso Nongxa said that “the cleaning companies contracted to Wits are to appoint temporary staff to clean both private and public areas at the institution”.

Workers from eight unions march down Jozi streets.

Wits lecturer in the politics department, Dr SP Lekgoathi, has a “please don’t clean this office. No to scab labour” poster outside his office door.

Lekgoathi said: “The place should be dirty so that the service providers can realise we can’t do without cleaners.”  He also said that, as academics, it is fair to support the cleaners.

Simon Skosana, a 1st year BSc mining engineering student studying in Wartenweiler library said he was disturbed by the dirt. “I don’t have a choice because I want to study.”

Another 3rd year student, Gqamile Dladla, said: “Wits should respond and workers should come back, the bathrooms are disgusting”.

These Witsies said the strike had made them realise the cleaners’ worth.

Marching against minimum wage and eight-hour shifts.

The strike began on Monday when unions, including Wits contract cleaners, marched to the library lawns in Johannesburg. The unions want the salaries of workers earning less than R2 400 a month increased to R4200 a month. Other demands include a yearly 13th cheque and an eight-hour working shift.


General secretary of the National Services and Allied Workers Union, Sam Mbou, said no official offer has been made by the employers.

Wiseman Dinwa, Hotelicca deputy general secretary, said the strike will continue until an agreement with the employers is made.




100 percent increase or nothing

Wits cleaners will go on strike on Monday, demanding a 100% salary increase while employers are offering 8%.

Cleaners from Supercare and Carovone said they are “fighting for a living wage” of R 4 300. They said they have not received an increase since they went on strike in 2006 when they negotiated salaries of R2 031, before deductions are made.

Cleaner representative, Siyabonga Makhalani, said they are not happy with the 8%  employers are offering them. “We do not want percentages,” he said. 

Makhalani said they are also fighting against outsourced workers as other universities, like the University of Johannesburg, employ cleaners directly.  

Carovone worker, Julia Mahlosi, said: “I get about R1 800 and I am so overworked”. She said she is responsible for cleaning all the rooms on one floor of a residence building.

Cleaners said they are suffering as their salaries do not cover their expenses. Supercare worker Alina Modimolla said with six kids she cannot afford to stop working. “My child complains all the time about the low pay.”   

Speaking last Friday at a meeting of the cleaners and the Workers Solidarity Committee, PYA member Feziwe Ndwayana said: “As the ANC Youth League we are here and saying to all the workers we are in full support of the strike and will be there in numbers.  If it means we as students must mobilise at night we will do it because we’ve done it before.”  



Injured Esselen resident denies suicide rumours

Suicide rumours spread after a person was seen lying on a side roof of Esselen Residence on a cold Saturday morning on June 11.

Students suspected the worst. The person was a first year education student, who does not want to be named. “I don’t know what happened, all I remember is falling from a window,” he said.

“[The next thing] I remember is waking up in the morning on the floor outside feeling cold and screaming for help because I couldn’t move.”

He said he wanted people to know that it was not intentional, he did not intend committing suicide. His roommate said: “He woke me up at about 1am [on the Friday night], telling me that he feels dizzy.

“I advised him to go to the bathroom sink and wash his face.” The student then decided to take a shower and went to sleep. He woke up later and went to the bathroom. It was then that he fell from the second floor.

He was bleeding excessively and had cuts on his left eye, hands and nose. He fractured his pelvic bone and could not walk for two weeks. The cuts were from a shattered bathroom basin that had been pulled off the wall.

The window he fell through is about the size of a normal computer screen.The student said he was told he might be epileptic. When he was released from the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, doctors couldn’t confirm the diagnosis and are still to run more tests.

He said he is fine at the moment.The house committee held a prayer that Saturday evening and the hall co-ordinator, Muchaparara Musemwa, explained to students that he had a medical condition.

Accommodation officer Elsie Mooke said there are no safety measures taken to prevent jumping incidents.