Barnato Hall residence claims victory at the EAFC24 tournament

Wits University students showed-off their skills as they fought for bragging rights this weekend in inter-res, e-sports tournament.

On Saturday, April 20, Wits E-Sports hosted their second annual Inter-res EAFC24 Tournament at Wits Sturrock Park. After multiple hours of fierce competition, the Barnato Hall residence prevailed and emerged as winners on the day, taking home a custom Wits E-Sports trophy.

Wits E-Sports is a club that “promotes mind sports and electronic sports at the university”. Whilst EAFC24 is the world’s premiere football simulation game. The tournament followed a 1v1 knockout format, which was seeded based on the number of registrations from each res.

Packed into the Pete Suzman Conference Venue, sixteen participants representing Men’s Res, Knockando Hall and Barnato Hall attended the event. Players huddled around multiple gaming setups, watching attentively as participants made key tactical tweaks to try and gain an upper hand.

A Barnato Hall representative, Asanda Kubheka, stated that the tournament acted as a “bonding session” for residence members, where students could “get to know each other” and make new friends as they battled together for top spot.

A challenger from Knockando Hall, Thapelo Tlowana, agreed, saying “it’s a way to bring all the res’ together”. 

(From left to right) Asanda Kubheka, Thapelo Tlowana, Silindele Nobadula and Tevin Julius representing their respective residences in the EAFC24 tournament. Photo: Tristan Monzeglio

Off to the side of the action, tournament organisers also set up a table providing snacks for challengers taking a break between bouts. Wits E-Sports chairperson, Sibusiso Khumalo, stressed how they aim to make this tournament “a tradition” and a stand-out date to remember in each residences’ busy calendars.

Khumalo also mentioned tournaments like this allow Wits E-Sport to scout and identify skilled individuals to possibly join their competitive team, which will be entered into the University Sport South Africa (USSA) E-Sport Championships in August this year.

Tebogo Rabothata, Wits E-Sport Sports Officer, added that he believes that “[building] from the ground” will allow Wits E-Sport to become more competitive and will open opportunities to invite professional E-Sport teams like Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs to participate in tournaments hosted by the department.

Rabothata also hopes to one day register teams for the African Cyber Gaming League (ACGL), a South African based E-Sports tournament administrator and broadcaster.

An intense game taking place in the Pete Suzman Conference Venue. Photo: Tristan Monzeglio

Wits E-Sport events co-ordinator, Sean Sesing, emphasised how focused Wits E-Sports is on “[getting] more females into the space”. Rabothata added that he aims to “diversify” the club and mentioned that amongst all the E-Sports teams he manages, female membership increased exponentially, from no members last year, to fifteen members in 2024.

Importantly, Rabothata also thinks that the tournament equips students with a “space… to de-stress” during a busy time of the year and “forget about the books” for a little while. This is echoed by Khumalo, who said Wits E-Sports has helped individuals find their passion outside of academics and enabled them to improve their skills in this regard.

Joburg is sizzling hot!

Southern Africa has been plagued by heatwave after heatwave, and the temperature is still on the rise.

Climate change has been an issue many people sweep under the rug, but this past Summer, everyone felt its effects in the scorching temperatures that left no reprieve. With the degrees consistently sitting in the high 30s, Johannesburg was at risk of a health and ecological disaster.

Professor Jennifer Fitchett was the speaker at the first-quarter session of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Seminar Series for climate, sustainability and inequality. She is a professor of physical geography at Wits University and centred her presentation around the effects of a 1.1-degree Celsius warmer climate.

Joburg temperatures are off the charts and continue to rise, along with the globe’s average. GIF: Victoria Hill

In fact, Fitchett says Johannesburg is 1.5-degree Celsius warmer, above the global average.

The seminar aimed to indicate how humans are unable to tangibly feel this gradual temperature rise of the planet, with most saying the difference seems negligible to note.

However, other species which use season changes as their thermometer most definitely feel this increase; so, when humans eventually feel the temperature rise, these species would feel the effects even more intensely.

Fitchett explains how bees are coming to pollinate flowers before they have bloomed; caterpillars are hatching before leaves are ready for them; Jacaranda trees are flowering earlier than usual; land-based Addo elephants are unable to migrate to areas necessary for survival; waterholes dry up and land-mammals cannot survive; and the woolly-mammoth was forced to eat a diet of grass which led to their extinction.

Ecologies are experiencing an imbalance of nature, with co-dependent species having mismatched timelines which are fatal. Slowly, they have evolved to align with each other once again, but the temperature is still rising faster than the rate of evolution.

Fitchett says the solution to climate change lies within an interdisciplinary approach. She explained social scientists should note the impact of higher temperatures — no matter whether they are due to global warming or the climate-phenomenon of an El Niño year — because they can easily cause a health disaster in vulnerable South African communities.

She also said environmental students should have a compulsory climate course in their first year to create awareness of this growing issue. Journalists also need to fact-check their climate articles to ensure they are not over-dramatising the issue for effect which leads to the public losing trust in climate specialists.

Joburg gave a new meaning to the idealised Sunny South Africa, and was sizzling, stifling, and scorching hot this summer season. If humans could feel this temperature increase, other plants, animals, vegetation, or species would have felt it, and been affected by it, even more. 

FEATURED IMAGE: A setting sun seen over the skyline of Johannesburg, burning in colours of red, orange, and yellow. Photo: Victoria Hill

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SLICE: Why art matters to me

Celebrating art can be about letting the art speak for itself, despite the artists internal doubts.

Wits Vuvuzela’s Ofentse Tladi doing what she loves most. Photo: Siyanda Mthethwa

As a writer, I consider what I do to be art, every sentence and turning over of a word a new brush stroke on the page in front of me.

In April 2013, I sat behind the my study desk and instead of scrambling through the never-ending Grade 5 maths homework, I wrote my very first story. It was not planned, the pen just kept going, writer’s block non-existent concept in my head at that point.

What stared back at me in that moment were pages and pages of what I now consider the worst thing to have ever been possibly written in human existence. A story about a girl trying to find herself amid her family’s chaos.

A story I’ve now learnt to partially like or at least, appreciate as a starting point. A story that now sits, cramped in the cupboard with many other pieces. Pieces that have probably long cried out to be heard but have been overshadowed by doubt, fear and many other endless reasons.

Doubt and fear – words that have somehow been ingrained in the minds of artists. Something is just never good enough, interesting enough, anything enough to be shared. It’s this constant battle between the artist and the art itself to be heard.

Your “April 2013” days have long passed now, and like the Grade 5 maths homework, you have to scramble through the very essence of what you do, the very essence of who you are.

To me, celebrating art is about learning to let your work speak for itself in its current state. To let readers, viewers and consumers delve deep in the imperfections of your creations and find beauty in that. It’s about building the trust you have in yourself as an artist and within the work you produce. It’s about attempting to revisit those “April 2013” days.

As a writer, when last did you sit and simply write a piece? When last have you blocked out the thousands of reasons your mind automates that make it ridiculously hard to simply just write? When last have you given your work a platform, a chance, a moment to simply just exist?

For art to be art, it must be born, with or without the doubt, the fear or the endless scrambling. It matters because it speaks. It is its own.

You made them,

Thought by thought,

Dream by dream,

Idea by Idea,

And, yet they still stand,

Waiting for a purpose.

You’ve drawn them from past experiences,

Sculptured them from the very people you know

And dug out of them emotions you fear to dig out of yourself.

They have become your escape,

Your new reality.

Sometimes you hate them,

Sometimes you love them

But most of all you live by them.

You write

And write

And write

Thoughts flow,

Ideas come to paper,

Your face beams

Until suddenly,

It’s all blank.

They come to you every now and then,

Nagging,

Begging,

Whispering their miserable lives on hold.

You made them,

Thought by thought,

Dream by dream,

Idea by idea

And yet through all of this

They still stand,

Waiting for a purpose.

With that being said, I want you to take a moment to breathe life into your art, to remember it has every reason to exist in this current moment.

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Wits makes learning sign language accessible to all  

Eager students attend a masterclass to begin learning and using South African sign language.  

The South African Medical Student Association (SAMSA) has rolled up its sleeves to ensure that the Wits community is able to use the 12th official language of the country.

Samsa hosted its first sign language masterclass for 2024 in collaboration with the Wits Disability Rights Unit on Thursday, April 11, at the Wits Medical School.  The classes were initially introduced last September during Deaf Awareness month. 

Students participating in the sign language class. Photo: Salim Nkosi

The classes are conducted by Khetha Mbatha, a professional sign language practitioner, who interprets classes for deaf registered students at Wits from different faculties.  

During the class, Mbatha unpacked how the deaf community forms their language and the basics of sign language, like signing introductions and emotional expressions.  

She also went over some cultural norms of the deaf community, and highlighted the rules one should adhere to when communicating with a deaf person. For example, one should always maintain eye contact and avoid being distracted.   

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela Mbatha expressed her desire to see more people signing up for the classes. She said this will create an inclusive and accessible environment for the deaf community; so that they do not feel marginalized amongst the larger hearing community.

“If we can have teachers in deaf schools signing fluently, then that means the education of our deaf children will be improved” said Mbatha.  

Marianne Ham, Samsa’s event coordinator said, “as a society, we are trying to bring people together who are interested in different things and create awareness”.  

Samsa intends to host three more sign language introductory classes during the year at Wits Medical School in order to continue creating opportunities to expand one’s knowledge and embrace diversity. 

SLICE: Journalism is my future, but it is in crisis

Daily Maverick’s ‘shut down’ successfully highlighted the dire state of journalism, but also left student journalists with fears about the future.

A screen grab of the Daily Maverick home page on April 15, 2024.

BOXING: White-Collar boxers take to the ring

A group of young amateur boxers get to test their strength in a grueling competition filled with bloody noses and technical knockouts.  

On Saturday, April 13, 2024, a white-collar boxing event was held at Lightweights Gym in Northfield, Johannesburg, giving promising and inexperienced boxers a platform to showcase their skills in front of an audience.  

Boxers squaring off in intense fight. Photo: Siyanda Mthethwa.

A group of local boxers came together to create a competition that allowed beginner boxers, who had not competed in official fights, to go up against one another. Ten fights were contested throughout the evening, each one consisting of three, two-minute rounds.

It was a high-adrenaline competition with a couple of fights resulting in a Technical Knock-Out (TKO) which is when a referee stops the match due to one of the fighters being unable to continue fighting or defending themselves. 

Lusanda Komanisi, former IBO World Champion and multiple-title holder, was one of the organizers of the prestigious event. When speaking about the importance of it, he said: “We wanted to put fun in it and make people be able to watch boxing and make them scream as much as they want to.”  

He added that the event made him proud because of the positive shift away from watching professional fighting as it was able “to put amateurs [in the ring] and give them a chance to shine.” 

One of the favourites of the night was Wits graduate, Nota Jiyane, who sparred against Third-year Wits student, Kgothatso Swandle, and won the duel. Jiyane, who was in high spirits following his victory reflected “The fight went to plan, nothing out of the ordinary, you know. I just stuck to the plan that the coaches gave me, it went well”. 

Jiyane says the sport is personal for him, “I used to be bullied back when I was a kid, and this was me stepping out of my comfort zone. So, I’m not going to stop now.” 

He also believes small platforms like this are where untapped talent lies, “we can be known as the hotspot for one of the best fighters in the world and I believe that we can do that just by doing these little events,”.  

Tshepiso Fambe, a spectator, praised the event for bringing people together and allowing people to “showcase their talent”.  

Nevertheless, the event was a success, and potential fighters can look forward to the next event which will be hosted in July, giving them ample time to prepare. 

Wits Shop Merch: Reasonable or rip-off?

Prices of Wits University merchandise are between 24% and 30% higher than the University of Pretoria  and the University of Johannesburg, respectively.

A grey Wits sweater with a R415 price tag. Photo: Victoria Hill

Despite students being its primary target audience, the pricing of items in the Wits Shop based online and on campus are not budget friendly.

The average price point of jackets, hoodies, and sweaters at Wits are R617 per item; t-shirts and golfers sitting at R325; hats and headwear at R160, and other goodies at R186.

While this may seem reasonable in the grand scheme of the fashion industry in South Africa, being a university-based store has financial expectations, which are not currently being met.

In comparison, UP’s t-shirts and golfers are only R238 per item, with UJ’s coming in at R123. For hats and headwear, UP is approximately R30 cheaper than Wits, and UJ nearly R100 cheaper.

Shop Supervisor Sam Magena agrees, “pricing is too high for students” and he told Wits Vuvuzela that students have informally complained about the affordability of the regalia.

He explained the increased prices are partly due to ordering from South African companies in hopes of supporting local businesses despite overseas companies proving cheaper.

The Wits Shop is also a smaller outlet, meaning items are not bought in bulk which might otherwise afford more negotiation benefits of the cost prices.

Nevertheless, Magena says the shop only adds a mark-up of at most 35%, compared to the national norm of above 50%. The Wits Shop is not primarily a profit-making business, but rather focuses on the marketing and promotional aspects of Wits through students and alumni.

Head of Wits marketing, Reshma Lakha-Singh, says the department is in the midst of creating a new strategy which will see revamped stock and additional locations this year.

However, “given the current scale and operational scope of the shop, there are no immediate plans for significant changes in pricing structure” she says, but they are “developing medium and long-term strategies to upgrade the shop”.

Students should definitely keep their eye on this space, as the Wits Shop is rethinking its entire philosophy to start benefitting students more than anyone else.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits Student, Ricardo Lopes, browsing through the racks in the Wits Shop. Photo: Victoria Hill

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EDITORIAL: Why everyone should be a tree-hugger

Trees are one of the oldest living organisms in nature, and they have many great lessons to teach us, one being to slow down and breathe every once in a while.

Feel the groove of their bark on your fingertips. Touch your cheek against its rough skin and inhale the scent of nature. Breathe in the fresh oxygen just released from its leaves. Exhale the toxic feelings that live in your heart. Slow your mind. Lose yourself in the motion. Just exist quietly for a while.

I have always had a fascination with trees, feeling drawn to them in a way I could never explain. Whenever I could, I would scale their trunks and sit amongst the branches. It was always so peaceful in the treetops, and I felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be.

Wits Vuvuzela’s Victoria hugging a tree and showing everyone how it is done on Wits campus. Photo: Thato Gololo
Wits Vuvuzela student journalist, Victoria Hill hugging a tree and showing everyone how it is done on Wits campus. Photo: Thato Gololo

I started hugging trees at a very young age, not knowing quite what I was doing or why, but I knew I had found the one place I could always go whenever I needed life to fade away.

Humans are a quintessential part of nature and are a species who have proven themselves very different from the rest, with verbal language, complex psychological functions, and interdependent social communities.

Yet, when we think about ourselves in comparison to our oldest companions, trees remind us we are part of something much bigger. Humans are not at the centre of life — the world can exist without us.

But trees, animals, insects, and nature are what make the world go round. Willow, acacia, pine, oak, baobab, and many other types of trees influence humans, whether mentally, physically, or spiritually.

Whenever I visit a new place, I look for the tree that speaks the most to me, that evokes the most emotional response, and give it a mighty big hug. I have hugged trees with skinny trunks where I can clasp my hands together, but also wide trees that I can lean against without a care in the world. Then there were trees that were scraggy, and others that were so beautiful they stole the show.

Everyone should be a tree-hugger in this era, because in a world of deforestation and global warming, increased anxiety and depression, feelings of isolation and marginalisation, and spiritual disparity — hugging a tree is a homeopathic solution to human plight.

The beautiful, green landscape at Wits University, with many trees waiting to be hugged. Photo: Victoria Hill
The beautiful, green landscape at Wits University, with many trees waiting to be hugged. Photo: Victoria Hill

Here’s how and why:

    According to research, hugging a tree can reduce stress and anxiety levels through the lowering of cortisol levels, allowing one to feel centred and grounded. Rashmi Schramm, a medical physician and meditation coach, says trees emit negative ions which science says has an impact on humans’ perception and experience of stress.

    Dr Stone Kraushaar, a clinical psychologist also known as ‘The Hug Doctor,’ says oxytocin, our happy hormone responsible for emotional bonding and trust, is released after 21 seconds of physical contact. During or after hugging a tree, people say they feel calmer, happier, and more optimistic.

    Dr David Scholey, a lead researcher on determining the physical benefits of hugging a tree, says it has been proven to reduce one’s heart rate and blood pressure and boost one’s immune system. Dr Hugh Asher, a certified forest bathing guide and forest therapy practitioner, says humans absorb organic chemicals called phytoncides emitted by trees which protect them from diseases.

    Trees are important for carbon dioxide removal and oxygen deposition in the atmosphere. They are also vital for ecosystems to survive. In the age of climate change, they are more important than ever, with increased human dependency on these organisms. By hugging a tree, one is acknowledging their role in life and the interconnected nature of our planet.

    Peter Wohlleben, an avid forester and author of The Hidden Life of Trees, says “a tree can only be as strong as the forest that surrounds it”. Human society is very much the same, yet has seemingly forgotten these underlying morals in the face of current challenges.

    Trees are living beings that have existed through many histories and live to tell those stories. Through hugging them, one can feel connected to the space they inhabit whilst reconnecting with their soul. Feelings of inner peace, outward optimism, and all-round serenity are just some results, and if these mighty trees can grow from little seeds, so too can you.

    FEATURED IMAGE: Victoria Hill, 2024 Wits Vuvuzela Journalist. Photo: File/Leon Sadiki

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    FNB VARSITY CUP: Final whistle frustration

    The season ends with a disheartening loss for FNB Wits, but there is hope for the future thanks to the rise of young talent. 

    A gruelling 12-24 season-ending loss to the FNB Shimlas on April 8, 2024, at Wits Rugby Stadium saw the Wits side effectively nudged out of the contest with a fifth place finish

    Tension was high throughout the first few exchanges as both teams tried avoiding mistakes on a wet field. Even though the hosts had the ball early on, they frequently made handling errors, which cost them potential points. 

    The visitors were clearly a real danger to breach the Wits defense once they found their rhythm. Following a period of continuous pressure, the visitors scored first, with hooker Liyema Mgwigwi converting from close range.

    Flyhalf Ethan Wentzel slotted the conversion, putting Shimlas up 7-0. That lead was increased when winger Siviwe Zondani capped off a beautiful team play by leaping over for a try beneath the posts.  

    Wentzel continued his immaculate kicking, adding the conversion to give the visitors a dominating 14-0 halftime score.

    Despite the halftime deficit,  Wits fans remained upbeat, their chants ringing across the whole stadium. ”I’m not going to say we lost already, we can still do it,” Avela Sisilana, told Wits Vuvuzela.  Mmambowethu Katsande said, “One thing that’s been true about the boys is that we [are] the comeback kings.” 

    UFS doubled their lead after the break with a goal from fullback Michael Annies. However, Wits responded swiftly, as Drew Bennet crossed the line following a superb ball from outside center Liyema Matyolweni. Shimlas’ Gideon Nel scored the important bonus-point try, but his conversion attempt bounced off the upright, leaving the score at 19-7. 

    In a last-ditch effort, Wits flanker Kelvin Kanenungo charged over for a try. However, it was too little, too late, as the conversion attempt went wide, ending the match 24-12 in Shimlas’ favor. 

    Hugo van As, the head coach, has voiced his dissatisfaction with how the season has unfolded.  

    “Disappointed yes but obviously looking forward to the future, at one stage we had eight youngsters in our environment, which obviously, if we can keep them on board, would be good for the future,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.  

    The semi-final matches will be played on Monday, April 15.