SLICE: Misogyny has a new fan

PROFILE: Newspapers are still one woman’s bread and butter

While digital news thrives online, a devoted newspaper vendor from KZN remains a steadfast presence at a Wits bustling intersection, hoping to convince young and old to grab print copies. 

In the centre of Johannesburg, at the busy intersection of Yale and Empire Road near Wits University, Phumzile Msani ,stands as a symbol of a bygone era.  

Phumzile Msani engaging with a potential client at the intersection of Yale and Empire Road.
Photo: Rivaldo Jantjies

As a devoted newspaper vendor, despite the drastic change in the print media landscape, Msani has continued to sell printed news for more than thirty years. 

Hailing from KwaZulu-Natal, Msani stepped out of her comfort zone to seek employment in Johannesburg. Without fully completing her education, she could not secure a formal job, leading her to sell newspapers. The money she earned was sent back home to support her extended family. The 57-year-old and her family still rely on the ever dwindling income from her daily hustle.

From Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm, she sells newspapers on the busy intersection. Her selection includes The Star, The Citizen, Business Day, and Mail and Guardian. 

The latest quarterly figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations of South Africa (ABC) show a further decline in circulation figures. The Star, which used to be one of Msani’s bestsellers has seen a 35% decrease in circulation in the last year alone, less than 6000 paid copies in circulation weekly.

However, Msani’s commitment goes beyond her sales of newspapers, she is a familiar face and voice to regular passersby, making sure to greet passersby with a welcoming grin and willingness to chat.

Msani said the Covid-19 pandemic severely hurt her sales. Despite more individuals using online news sources, sales have not returned to their pre-lockdown level. She told Wits Vuvuzela, “before Covid-19, I used to sell 90 copies every single day, now I only sell up to nine copies a day.”

Price increases have also played a role in decreased sales. For instance, City Press, which was priced at R20 in December 2019, now stands at R29, while Beeld, which was R12.50, has risen to R18.50. Similarly, Die Burger has seen an increase from R13.60 to R16, and Daily Sun’s price has more than doubled from R4.20 to R8 during the same period.

Msani is a monument to the lasting value of print media in an age when digital news is taking over the world. Her devotion, and steady presence beg the question of whether print and digital journalism can coexist, or will screen convenience eventually make the sound of newspapers rustling obsolete? 

GBV panic button: An app that saves lives

Non-government organisation (NGO) “Kwanele – I Am Enough” utilises technology to help tackle the scourge of gender-based violence in the country.  

Combatting gender-based violence with the Kwanele App. Source: Kwanele South Africa

South Africa has the highest number of violent acts penetrated against women and girls in the world. To help women be able to protect themselves, Leonora Tima created the Kwanele app. 

The app, which can be downloaded on any smartphone gives access to its user a panic button – once its triggers, an immediate response from CASI, Kwanele’s partner armed response team will come to their aid.  

Once activated with the survivor’s location, CASI immediately dispatches to the scene, regardless of where the victim is in South Africa. The app operates nationwide, ensuring that the persons’ physical locations does not affect how quickly CASI reaches them. 

Tima started the NGO in 2020, after her nine-months-pregnant niece lost her life to gender-based violence. It frustrated her that her niece could not be helped before losing her life; and after, justice was not served. The experience left her so helpless that she left her work as as a director at Centimex at London, United Kingdom to start the organisation.  

In 2023, she was recognised by InspiringFifty Africa, a global initiative dedicated to increasing diversity, as one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology.  

The latest GBV statistics reported by Police Minister Bheki Cele reveal alarming figures for the third quarter of 2023: 10 516 rapes, 1514 murders, and 14 401 assaults against women were committed. These numbers highlight the urgent need to combat GBV through diverse and effective strategies.  

On the app, survivors can discreetly and safely report abuse, bypassing traditional reporting challenges, and securely store photos, videos, or voice recordings as evidence for up to ten years to strengthen their cases.  

Kwanele works with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to ensure evidence collected through the app is admissible in court, strengthening a survivor’s case. It has been actively working with the South African Police Services (SAPS) to create a memorandum of understanding (MOU).  

This MOU aims to improve the handling of GBV cases, from evidence collection to providing comprehensive support for survivors throughout the legal process.  

But the app is currently facing several challenges including funding, victims ’s lack of access to digital devices, as well as user trust in the law enforcement. Kwanele recognizes that many individuals who need the app lack access to smartphones or the internet, and the organization is actively seeking solutions to address this issue.  

Survivors often distrust law enforcement due to their lack of confidence in the legal system. Kwanele is dedicated to overcoming this challenge and restoring their trust.  

#MakeADifference takes care of students in need

A new wellness campaign is raising awareness around food insecurity among university students.

The office of student success (OSS), under the faculty of health science (FHS) has been running a novel campaign, #MakeADifference, since June, which aims to encourage donations towards basic needs care-kits that include food and toiletry supplies that are given to Wits health science students in need, while simultaneously raising awareness of food insecurity in South African universities.

The #MakeADifference campaign was developed by master’s students in community-based counselling psychology (MACC), in partnership with the OSS, a student wellness department.

Erick Kabongo, a MACC student, says the campaign is intended to, “capture different aspects of a students’ well-being” and this includes ensuring access to basic necessities such as food and toiletries.

“Class issues vary and some students get access to things while others don’t. If we aid students with basics such as food and toiletry, we are allowing them to compete fairly within their academic pursuits,” says Boikhutso Maubane, a counselling psychologist at OSS.

Before the campaign launched, the OSS had a food bank that would receive donations irregularly and only catered to a small pool of students who expressed need. “What was important this year was being able to really provide for students, especially during these trying economic times in South Africa,” Maubane told Wits Vuvuzela.

Despite being disrupted by the covid-19 pandemic, the campaign has increased the visibility of the food bank to potential donors as well as students who may need support.

Since June, OSS has distributed over 70 care-kits and has recently received 74 care-kits valued at R200 through a single donation, which will be distributed to students for the remainder of the year. Care-kits consist of non-perishable foods and basic toiletries.

Anelisa Mofokeng , administrator at the OSS, says an average of 10 students fetch a care-kit when available from the office. Students are identified through the health science course coordinators or they approach the OSS independently. There are roughly 70 students who form part of the campaign’s database and receive an email when care-kits are available.  The office prioritises self-funding students when distributing care-kits but NSFAS students are not excluded from receiving aid.

Due to the pandemic, the campaign has been forced to function largely online, taking away the ability to engage with the Wits community. However, Maubane says the campaign has still managed to make a difference in this difficult time and it still has a lot to accomplish for the benefit of student communities.

FEATURE IMAGE: The #MakeADifference campaign supports health sciences students in need. Photo: Vetiwe Mamba 

RELATED LINKS: Wits Vuvuzela, Students society raises funds for shelters, July 2020.

Wits Vuvuzela, NSFAS students in catered residences to get food allowances, August 2020.