No room for hundreds of applicants for Wits Enterprise business course

An email meant for 50 recipients was leaked on social media resulting in over 1000 applications for a short-term certificate course.   

WITS ENTERPRISE has been inundated with applicants after a privately sent communique went viral on social media on the weekend of February1-3, and resulted in over 1000 applications for the less than 100 available spots.

The course being offered on the email is a fully funded programme in Business Management which is a three-month certificate course. The email was sent to around 50 students associated with the organisation, but was leaked on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and gathered huge attention over the weekend.

The organisation has been flooded with applications since the release of the email and warns that many will be left disappointed. Business development and short course manager Melissa Moodley said that the programme could only accept around 100 students although they had now received over 1000 inquiries.

Moodley told Wits Vuvuzela that although the confusion has backlogged the organisation it had opened a window of opportunity. She says that the bulk of applicants were parents interested in the course for their children.

“We are getting a lot of calls from parents who are concerned about their kids sitting at home. So for us there’s this whole group of students that we’ve been missing out on and now they’re coming to us.

“The communique was intended for a very, very specific group of kids. So what happened was that it was shared outside of the group and seeing what happens with things going viral, we have had a number of the public looking to get involved,” she added. 

The programme aims to prepare unemployed youth between the ages 18 to 35 looking to go into the workplace and assist them in navigating their way through the business landscape.

The staff of nine at the Wits Enterprise offices was busy fielding phone calls all Monday morning as interested parties inquired about the programme.

Klaas Mokgomole, a former Wits student and current netball coach, sought the opportunity to assist one of his netball players, Nolwazi Dube.

“A friend sent it over WhatsApp and I immediately thought of [Nolwazi]. She has been looking for a school and hasn’t had any luck yet. I don’t want her to sit around all year so this will keep her busy.”

Dube, who matriculated last year from Barnato Park High School, is looking to go into sports management but sees this as an opportunity to study irrespective of the field.

“I want to learn more and be knowledgeable. I want to get a job and I can only do that if I study,” the 18-year-old said.

Wits Enterprise will only allow a limited number of students to register for the course from 10am to 12pm on Wednesday, February 6.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits Enterprise warns that limited availability will likely mean thousands will be rejected for fully funded programme Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi

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Accounting Science students up in arms about ‘unfair’ exam

Students say that they were set up to fail auditing supplementary exam.

A group of over 50 third-year BAccSci students who failed their supplementary auditing exam fear that they will not be able to secure funding and register for the upcoming academic year.

In a meeting organised by the students with the Head of School of Accountancy, Professor Nirupa Padia, on Wednesday, January 23, the students claimed that the ACCN3015 paper which they wrote on November 27, 2018, was “identical” to that written by the fourth-year class during the same period and that is the reason for their failure.

Padia told the students that she would consider their complaints and try and come up with a solution before their next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, January 31. The students have also written to the Vice-Chancellor’s office and the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Sifiso Mduli, who was repeating third year, fears that he will lose his bursary if these grievances are not resolved soon. The students are demanding a review of their exam or possibly even a second sitting because they say these results cast a doubt on their future at the university.

“I’ve communicated with my bursar but it’s difficult to explain. They’ll believe that I am incompetent especially because of last year. So it seems like I might be forced to fund myself if I want to continue studying.

The students also alleged at the meeting with Padia that some of their classmates had been allowed to view their scripts and review their marks while others were not permitted. Those who had viewed their scripts were said to have subsequently passed.

The situation has gained national attention with the issue being discussed on SAfm early last week. The requirements of the course were highlighted in the radio discussion with Professor Jason Cohen, the deputy dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management. The requirements are that third-year students have to pass all four of their subjects (management accounting and finance, taxation, auditing and financial accounting) to progress to fourth year.

“This is not a qualification requirement to receive the Bachelors of Accounting Science degree, it is an entry requirement into the fourth year or, so-called CTA year,” Cohen said. “So a number of students managed to pass through by obtaining credits in a more piecemeal manner. It is only in trying to access that fourth year that we require those students to pass through.”

Cohen argued on air that, despite these demands, most students had performed reasonably well, saying that nearly three quarters of the student body had passed three of the four courses, while auditing had a pass rate of 60%.

“I understand the frustrations of the students who were not able to succeed this time around but nearly 500 students passed that particular course being referred to,” Cohen added.

Third-year BAccSci student, Rudelle Pillay, said that she had been left with very few options and hoped the situation would be resolved before the academic year began.

“I feel that they have been inconsistent; there’s no transparency in this course. We have been talking to them for weeks so this could get resolved sooner rather than later.

“I’ve had to convert to a BCom because I wanted to register. My parents cannot afford to pay for those four subjects again, considering that I still owe money,” Pillay added.

FEATURED IMAGE: The School of Accountancy is wrapped in controversity as students claim to have disadvantaged in supp exam Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi

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Strike looms as Wits workers reject 6.5% salary increase

Union members have said that they are willing to strike if negotiations with Wits management continue to stall.

Workers have threatened to strike less than two weeks before the academic year is set to begin, following stalled negotiations for salary increases and improved working conditions.

At a joint union members meeting on Tuesday, January 22, at the Great Hall, workers were up in arms after discovering that the concessions made with Wits management were far below their expectations.

In attendance were academics, administrative staff and supporting staffs from the various unions, mainly Academic Staff Association of Wits University (Asawu), the Admin Library and Technical Staff Association, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union.

The unions had met with management earlier in the day to discuss the demands of the workers but the negotiations remained deadlocked following a year of discussions between the concerned parties.

Workers were demanding a 9% increase across the board, but the University’s offer was 6.5% to 7% across different payment grades, according to Asawu president Anthony Stacey.

A professor at the Wits Business School, Stacey told Wits Vuvuzela that the concessions made by the university, which included the granting of 20 days paid leave for staff and a minimised taxation rate on staff’s 13th cheque, were not enough to satisfy the unions.

“We’ve got agreements on a few things. We’ve worked very hard in the last two months to get a working relationship.

“I’m afraid the last few days I’m less optimistic though. Now we’re starting to talk hard numbers, hard details and the collaboration from management doesn’t seem to be coming through,” Stacey said.

Several proposals have been made by both the labour unions and representatives of the University’s management in regards to 2019 salary increases, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. 

“The parties continue to negotiate in good faith with a view towards reaching amicable resolutions on the outstanding issues. As a result of the ongoing negotiations, salary adjustments for January 2019 will not be implemented, except for employees on Grades 16 and 17 where an agreement was reached in 2018,” read a joint statement released by the Bargaining Forum on Wednesday, January 23.

Altsa president Ricardo Sao Joao says that a strike could happen if there is no agreement with management.

“At this point in time, I would say a strike is very likely based on the mandate we just received. I think that the general consensus is that staff are tired in many ways of being misused and abused and, ultimately, want to share in the wealth of the university,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.

Stacey, who is one of the union negotiators, was sceptical about the progress of the negotiations thus far and affirmed that the workers would be united if the call to strike was made by the majority.

“We are happy about the fact that we got agreement on a few of the issues but they are very minor. They are not substantive. I think there’s a wide variety of opinions amongst the union membership. So I think our job as leadership is to see how much progress we can make. However, if it needs to go to a power struggle, we’ll have to lead them.”

Other worker demands include bursaries for staff to study, increased night shift allowances, a R1200 housing subsidy and medical aid support. Negotiations continue.


FEATURED IMAGE:
 Union members congregate outside Great Hall to discuss progress of salary negotiations Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi

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SRC ‘dumped’ at doorstep of Braam hotel

The PYA has some very strong words for the Student Governance Office after SRC members were moved to the Once in Joburg hostel in Braamfontein.

The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) has declared the Student Governance Office (SGO) an “enemy of the student revolution on campus” following what it claims was the forced removal of members of the Student Representative Council (SRC) from university accommodation on Sunday, January 20.

In a statement released on Twitter, the PYA, which won 12 of the 13 seats in the SRC election last year, condemned what it called just “one of the many ills” committed by the Student Governance Office against the SRC after members of the student body were moved from Medhurst Hall of Residence and Highfield Cluster in Parktown to the Once in Joburg hostel in Braamfontein rather than a different university residence.

SRC treasurer general Keneuwe Fetai told Wits Vuvuzela that they were informed that they would be removed from these university residences on Saturday, January 19, but were under the impression that the SGO would find them accommodation on campus for Orientation Week.

“Because some residence students would be returning this week, we were told that we’d be moved. But Student Governance claims no one on campus wanted to accommodate us. So we were moved to the Once in Joburg hotel in Braamfontein. They told us we were there by circumstance.

“We want to move out as soon as possible. It is putting us in a bad light. We are supposed to help students with their accommodation plight but we are here in a hotel. How does that look?”

Manager of the SGO, Jabu Mashinini, denied claims that SRC members were forcibly removed from university residences.

“The SRC was not kicked out of the vacation accommodation/residence, but had to vacate to allow the residence personnel to
prepare for the first years and returning students.”

Fetai, a fourth-year BEd student, told Wits Vuvuzela that around 30 members of the SRC members and sub-committees were housed at the Braamfontein hostel but fear that they will be removed soon and will have nowhere to stay. She says that they are disappointed at the lack of assistance from the university.

“If the university supported us they would fight for us. It doesn’t make sense, we are the SRC and we are staying at a hotel.”

Chairperson of the South African Student Congress branch at Wits, Mpendulo Mfeka, said that the removal of the SRC was “counterproductive” as the body needed to be in close proximity to students on campus. He said that the PYA’s statement reflected the souring relationship between the SRC and the SGO.  

“It is very reckless from Student Governance. They are not doing as much as they are supposed to do for the student body. Student Governance is supposed to assist the SRC so they can continue with their operations. But, according to Governance, no one wants anything to do with the SRC.”

Mashinini has replied to the statement released by the PYA, saying “The PYA is entitled to its opinion, Student Governance has an amiable and professional relationship with the SRC and does not make decisions unilaterally without consulting the SRC.”

Orientation Week is scheduled to begin in a few days, on Monday, January 28.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Once in Joburg hostel in Braamfontein is currently home to SRC members who were “forcibly” moved from university residences at the weekend. Photo: Tshego Mokgabudi

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A job for the toughest sole

Informal work is the foundation of any developing area, it provides an avenue for its populace to push back against poverty and deprivation. Melville is no different.

When you arrive on 7th Street in Melville, the veneer of restaurants and bars stand out to all in sight. Boasting roadside cafes and thrift shops, the infamous strip is crowded with hairy hipsters and travelling thrifters, all complementing the niche aesthetic of the area.

Two men stand atop the street, surveying the area predatorily. The first – a tall, inconspicuous man – makes a move towards the adjacent street, into a garage behind a convenience store – disappearing for a couple of minutes. He reappears with wooden beams and begins setting up a makeshift stall outside the Pakistani-owned convenience store.

The second – short and staunch – after greeting a couple of bystanders heads towards the construction site, adding the finishing touches to the makeshift stand.  Their work site is set for the day.

Sam Muzumbi, 35, and Shepard Murwisi, 30, are these two men and they are landmarks of 7th, having been there for nearly 10 years. Unbothered and bold, the two have been repairing and making shoes and other items throughout the past decade on Melville’s signature strip.

THE MAKESHIFT STAND: Akin to a spaza shop, the stall displays a number of different leather items – shoes, belts, wallets and bags

Like Yeoville of the late 70s, Melville is a multi-cultural space, where blacks and whites pose for picturesque ‘post-Apartheid South African’ moments – an enigmatically bohemian place, indeed. In recent years it has taken the role of a tourist destination, like Long Street in Cape Town, because of its artsy aesthetic – appealing to travellers pursuing the taste of an authentic Johannesburg outing.

The brother’s store, oddly named Big Fish Art, has profited from this expansion. Their stall is slotted in opposite a vintage thrift shop, that such, makes the brothers a marquee for tourists looking for genuine South African souvenirs.  These self-employed Zimbabwean brothers will provide this “genuine” merchandise.

ARTISANS: Sam and Shepard see themselves as artists, with each item having a unique style symbolic of
their distinct craftsmanship.

Their story reads as awfully analogous to those of many immigrants who have made the trip to South Africa in search of job opportunities and an overall better standard of living. Sam, the one lesser in length, was the first to make the transition from Harare to Johannesburg, packing his bags and catching a bus south in 2009 seeking greener pastures.

When he arrived in South Africa, unemployed and penniless, he resorted to the same trade he implored in Zimbabwe – fixing shoes. Sam, a cobbler, first learned to repair shoes from his uncles back home.

In Melville this skill would prove helpful as the patrons of the area were thrift-driven hipsters from the surrounding residences, home to mostly University of Johannesburg students, who rather than buying new shoes would prefer to fix their old ones and save the change for more important things.

“They come here to drink, this place for them is about drinking and partying. So they don’t want to waste money on other things like buying new shoes. So they just come to me and I do it for cheap,” Sam says before letting out a cheeky smirk.

These early days were the foundations for the brand’s growth. As his reputation and pocket grew, Sam, also known as Rasta, began pulling in more customers – specifically other workers in the area.

Bartenders, waiters, domestic workers and security guards from the surrounding bars and residences were the sort of customers who would regularly need their shoes repaired because of the nature of their work and the expense of having to buy new ones.

SET-UPBelts on the left, wallets ordered all in the middle and shoes scattered miscellaneously
around the desk-size stand. Their bags hang over a rack facing the road, dangling with a slight silliness. 

In need of an extra hand, Sam invited Shepard, his wife’s brother, to South Africa to work with him. Shepard, a cobbler by blood, was the ideal partner for this venture, he was family and his father had been a cobbler too.

The two brothers have since come to represent an indiscernible aspect of Melville’s artsy aesthetic, an army of informal workers looking to capitalize on the demographic of its curb-side coffeehouses and bookshops with handmade products and hands-on services.

The informal sector is often considered as existing outside the economy; its impact viewed in a vacuum compared to the rest of the economy because it escapes the realm of regulation, statistics and taxation, according to Caroline Skinner, senior researcher at the African Research for Cities at the University of Cape Town.

Skinner considers this a “missed opportunity to regularly highlight the quality of work in SA.” Many of the jobs in the informal sector are unrecorded and, therefore, deprived of analysis and study. 

BREAK: Sam takes a break during the day, he usually works from 9am to 5pm. 

The work of a shoemaker, for example, is a particularly precarious one. Sam and Shepard leave their two-bedroom Auckland Park apartment at 8am on a warm spring Saturday, saddled on a small motorbike with all their tools and material needed for the day.

Most of their shoes are produced in the comfort of their own home; with their own machinery they stich up the products from the leather they purchase from a second-hand warehouse on Plein street in the CBD.

Their arrival in Melville is not met with awaiting customers and eager clients, their spot is bare, unoccupied and expressionless – no employer for them to check in with.

Their task for the first hour is to set out their stall in the same orderly fashion they do every day.

Their days are slow, spent mostly repairing the few shoes available on the day. Sam casually patches up the hole on an old loafer while Shepard sits there observing.

Parked on Coca-Cola crates outside the convenient store, escaping the scorching sun, the two speak about football while evaluating onlookers on the merit of their likelihood to purchase an item. No focus group or market research for them to identify and reach their ideal target market.

They simply assess their clothes, walk and proximity to the stall, working on their gut, before pouncing, “good day ma’am, you see anything you like?”  

She walks away, ignoring their pitch, and they return to their seats. This goes on for well over an hour before the first onlooker commits. “These are nice,” a 30-something year old white man says while showing his girlfriend a brown pair of leather farm-style shoes.

Sam switches into salesman mode and starts smothering the couple, “Yes, these will look nice on you, sir. Try them on”. Carefully caressing the man’s ego, Sam works his magic – the kind of sales pitch he’s worked on for years.

A LONG DAY’S WORK: Patrick sits outside a convenient store repairing shoes for
Melville residents from 9am to 6pm every day. 

The moment has come for Sam to make his move as the Ray-Ban-draped man lowers the size 9, “the shoe is R700, boss. But for you I can give it for R600,” he says with the kind of ‘bargain struck’ demeanour of a true salesman.

It fails, and the man walks away with his girlfriend hand-in-hand to the opposing thrift shop. Sam returns to his seat and Shepard takes the chance to explain the maths behind their pitch.

“I can make these shoes for R250 or R300, then we sell them for a lot of money and we can always make more profit. It’s b-b-b-business, my friend,” he says with a slight stutter airing out the awkwardness which brands him the more reserved of the two.

The course of the day mostly plays out like this, Sam and Shepard share some business tips with me before putting them into practise on unsuspecting passers. Their day comes to an end and besides the few wallets and odd pair of shoes they sell; this Saturday has been a quiet one.

Operational every day besides Sunday, Saturday is usually their most rewarding day. The pair usually make around R2000 on a busy Saturday, when families gather for lunches in Melville’s niche cafes and tourists inspect the hoardings of different thrift and charity stores.

A WORK OF THE HANDS: Patrick reaches through his tools,
his coarse hands have been doing this for the past eight years.

Today, the brothers leave with slightly under R1000, the kind of money that makes their 9-5 shifts seem a little shameful. It makes little difference, however, they are neither renting the space they occupy or pay taxes for their income, they simply walk away with it – likely to support their livelihoods and send the rest home to their families in Zimbabwe.

The sunset on Melville’s 7th is especially beautiful, setting just above the steep slopes of this lively street – it is ironically romantic considering all the labour that takes place here. The brothers pack up their store and return its structure to the garage behind the convenience store – disappearing unnoticed, like the sun.

The two hop back on their motorbike and return home, hoping to get a good night’s rest and an early start tomorrow.

Even in the heart of the handsome suburbs of Melville, Sam and Shepard’s livelihood is subject to the realities of a harsh economy and an unreliable demographic. Informal work anywhere in the country is largely unpredictable.

Patrick Nyame, a shrewd and hopeful Ghanaian man, sets up his site a few streets down from the brothers in Melville. He, too, is a cobbler and his work includes stitching, etching and mending shoes.

He has recently expanded his business into producing sandals and other footwear.

He came to South Africa, like Sam and Shepard, seeking a better life. His brother had been the first of his kin to embark on the journey, arriving in 2011 only to discover the sad truth that poverty and depravation were no different here.

Patrick Nyame, a shrewd and hopeful Ghanaian man, sets up his site a few streets down from the brothers in Melville. He, too, is a cobbler and his work includes stitching, etching and mending shoes.

He has recently expanded his business into producing sandals and other footwear.

He came to South Africa, like Sam and Shepard, seeking a better life. His brother had been the first of his kin to embark on the journey, arriving in 2011 only to discover the sad truth that poverty and depravation were no different here.

When Patrick, a cocoa farmer, arrived two years later, pushed by the same optimism, his brother had worked as a cobbler and was now a barber in the dilapidated Brixton centre. He was in an unyielding position to lower Patrick’s expectations, quickly helping his younger brother to set up as a cobbler in the area.

“There’s too many jobs here, that’s what everyone says. But when you get here you have to make a plan. You spend all your money coming here, so when I arrived I had no money, no job,” Patrick says while astutely focusing on removing the grip of a struggling sandal.

With a short hand knife, he picks the stitching off the sandal one by one before continuing, “And you can’t be the guy with nothing or else everyone will laugh at you, so I made a plan.”

Patrick’s livelihood wholeheartedly depends on his clientele and if they are not in need of his work he can go home with less than R100 a day compared to his usual R300 income. His dependency on his customers is a point of despair for the 53-year-old.

“If I find something else, I’ll leave this”. He drops the sandal and reaches out for a brown stiletto, rubbing its 10-centimetre sole before considering his next thought. “At the end of the day, if people don’t bring shoes then there’s nothing for me. It’s like that, one day can be good then tomorrow there’s nothing.”

The work of an informal worker like a shoemaker, thus, is irregular. The issue with informal work remains its vulnerability, with a number of informal start-ups closing within six months of their establishment, according to Skinner.

Sam and Shepard, like Patrick, have passed the test of time and are considering ways to expand their business in the Melville area. The introduction of their own merchandise into their work was an especially inspiring move for their business.

Rather than simply repairing shoes, the two brothers are creating their own signature merchandise with a production line they are in full control over, ensuring their stay in Melville is extended.

The journey to making their own products has been a long one but now it has brought some reward. Luka Epstein, 18, has observed the store’s growth in recent years and has purchased a few items in the past.

The web developer, who has lived in Melville for the past 10 years, says, “I always check on their stuff. They are putting in effort to make a life for themselves. It brings this bourgeois area to the level of the people.”

The thrift shop, the Moral Kiosk, opposite their stall has helped them reach a new and younger clientele. The two stores share an appreciation for one another, working to develop a deeper connection within Melville’s thrift community.

“They have a very unique approach, it’s craftsmanship and fashion. I think it’s very dope. A lot of people come to Melville looking for a vintage aesthetic rather than going to a store I mean. So this is more authentic,” says Lwando Gwili, an employee at the Moral Kiosk.

The thrift store sells secondhand clothing and footwear as well offering vinyl and other antique items. The nappy-haired twenty-five-year-old described the bond between their store and the brother’s one while scratching his patchy beard, “We complement each other. We have vintage clothing and they have vintage accessories. It just works well.”

Dwellers of Melville have, too, taken an appreciation for the work of Sam and Shepard. Ezekiel Mofokwane, 45, has been jogging through the Melville area for over 10 years and has developed an admiration for the informal work in the area.

“This place is fine and safe. These guys make quality stuff and it’s affordable, so they give people options. Plus, its original and authentic stuff that you don’t find in other places,” Mofokwane says while sneaking a break in on his weekly jog.

Melville in all its allure and antiquity is made up of individuals like Sam, Shepard and Patrick. Their labour is the heartbeat behind the vibrant suburb – they are the worker bees of this buzzing hive. 

They go unnoticed and are only around when there’s work to be done. Modest and humble, they are the indiscernible army of Melville.

FEATURED IMAGE: A variety of belts on display at a trader’s site. Photo: Tshegofatso Mokgabudi.

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