Despite South Africa’s constitution enshrining that every citizen possesses the right to access social security – a large demographic has been excluded from the social grant system.
While it may appear inconceivable to subsist on a grant of a mere R350 per month, this harsh reality befalls millions of South Africans, who find themselves teetering precariously below the food poverty line, trapped in a crippling dependency on social grants.
Wits Vuvuzela delved into the lives of five South Africans, confronting the stark reality of surviving on that R350 per month. When questioned about how their families manage on such an allowance, a resounding “We don’t!’ echoed around the room. Donavan Du Pelsen (53) lamented, “R11 a day! It works out to R11 a day!” Another recipient chimed in, “A loaf of bread is R12!”
Social security is firmly embedded in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
Section 27(1)(c) of Act 108 of 1996 stipulates that every South African has the right to access social security, which includes appropriate social assistance for those unable to support themselves and their dependents.
Yet, in a country with a 32.6% unemployment rate, millions of citizens have been excluded from receiving this core socioeconomic right, resulting in 18.3 million South Africans between the age of 18-59 living below the food poverty line.
Prior to 2020, when the Social Relief of Distress Grant was implemented in response to the covid-19 pandemic, unemployed and able-bodied South Africans between the ages of 18-59 were completely excluded from the social grant system.
The grants which exist in South Africa include the older person’s grant, child support grant, grant in aid, care dependency grant, foster child grant, disability grant and war veterans grant.
According to a study conducted by UNICEF one of the common misconceptions held by policymakers, the media, and stakeholders in general, is that providing social assistance to citizens between the ages of 18-59 will lead to long-term dependency. Those who hold this view think such social assistance will disincentivise active job seekers and promote laziness.
This kind of thinking imagines that social grants should exclusively be allocated to the ‘deserving poor’ while unemployed people of working age are simply not trying hard enough to fight their circumstances.
Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRD)
Implemented to help the economically vulnerable South Africans during the pandemic, the SRD grant provided a monthly stipend of R350 afforded to recipients. In the 2023 budget speech finance minister, Enoch Godongwana stated that the grant would be extended until 31 March 2024. Although it was a much welcomed extension, the implementation has less than smooth.
On 27 July 2023, the Pay The Grants campaign and the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ) sued the government over the unfair exclusion of millions of people from the SRD grant. They also included concerns about “the real terms reduction of the value of the grant.” They stated that while all social grants have increased over time, the SRD grant has remained the same since its implementation in 2020. “Given headline inflation over 6%, the value of the grant has decreased to R294 in real terms. Inflation in the price of food is even higher than headline inflation, having reached over 11%,” read the court documents.
Commenting on the exclusion of social grants for people between the ages of 18-59, Pay The Grants chairperson, Elizabeth Raiters, who is also a recipient of the SRD Grant said: “We are not lazy to work. If you [are] over 35 it’s a big struggle to find a job because of your age. So, what happens to us after 35? There’s no grant to support us, we [are] not lazy to work, we are looking for jobs.” Raiters sister, Euradiece Raiters, who is also a recipient of the SRD grant echoed the sentiment, “We would rather have jobs than the R350!”
“There is totally no grant that covers those people, until you get old age (older person’s grant), so for all those years how must you survive?” said Raiters.
Charmaine Martin, another grant recipient and mother, was forced to quit her job when her husband developed a chronic disease which left him dependent on two oxygen tanks and unable to stay home alone. “I have a chronic patient, a daughter that’s 14, no income, we’re waiting for a grant that may never arrive, so in your mind how do you think we’re surviving now at this moment?”
She continued: “Tomorrow, he needs to go to hospital, I don’t have money for him to go to hospital for his appointment.” Martin is receiving a grant of R500 for her daughter, “She’s 14, how much is toiletries? R500 is for toiletries. So where does she eat? Where is she getting clothing from?”
Feeling despondent and out of options Martin said: “I’m at a point now where I want to send my husband to a place where they can help him with his illness, his lungs and everything, and me and my child can go to the shelter and live there… At least at the shelter, we will be able to eat breakfast, lunch and supper.”
Martin is constantly managing her hunger, “I don’t eat [for] like four to five days. I’ll rather buy a grandpa and that will fill me and boost me for the day ahead,” she said.
Valentia Mahlaela (22), an honours in physiology student at Wits University, was a recipient of the SRD grant in 2020 and said she was only able to use the R350 for toiletries. “I used it as my allowance, especially toiletries,” she continues, adding that “I was never granted NSFAS so it helped my folks [parents] a lot.”
Commenting on the need for the UBIG to be implemented Pay The Grants said, “Debts are skyrocketing and so is child malnutrition. Rising unemployment is a structural feature of the system, currently 35% overall and 70% for youth without any signs of improvement.”
The organization says that UBIG is a way to restore the basic dignity and survival of most of the country.
An infographic outlining the premise of a universal basic income grant. Infographic: Terri-Ann Brouwers
Although deeply embedded in our constitution, it is clear that a significant portion of South Africans have been left behind when it comes to accessing social grants. One would think that the mother in the Eastern Cape who killed herself and her three daughters due to the extreme poverty they endured, would be a cautionary tale to the government to not only increase the grant amount but also make it more accessible to people of working age. However, this has not been the case. The question stands – how many more tragedies must occur before all South Africans’ constitutional rights are met?
FEATURED IMAGE: South Africa is confronted with a striking dependence on social grants, yet millions have been left out of the social security system. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers
For students starting their studies at Wits University, there is no greater convenience than living a walking distance away from campus. However, the price of that convenience is slowly driving students away.
At the beginning of 2023, Wits University’s daily operations were partially stopped by the #WitsShutdown. The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) mobilised students to protest against unaffordable accommodation amongst other issues.
In 2021, the most affordable room at a Wits residence – a four-bedroom flat at Braamfontein Centre – cost R45 966 per annum. Just two years later, the price has gone up by R5 820 and it now costs R51 786 per annum. This fee increase and a R45 000 cap on accommodation allowances by National Student Financial Aid Scheme, have made it difficult for students to find housing in and around Wits.
Living at a Wits residence
As of 2022, there were 41 794 students enrolled at Wits. Of those students, only 15% of them can be accommodated by the 17 Wits residence buildings in and around the Braamfontein and Parktown campuses.
To make matters worse, nine out of the 17 residences give priority to first-year students and other undergraduate students, two are strictly for postgraduate students and the remaining six residences accommodate irrespective of ones year of study.
Before this year’s protests, students were required to pay a compulsory initial installment of R10 000 before moving into a Wits residence. This is separate from the 10-month rental price, ranging from R41 786 for a shared room to R99 077 for a single studio apartment.
There are two types of residences at Wits, catered and self-catered residences. Self-catered students are provided with communal and individual kitchens, while catered students eat at the five dining halls across the Braamfontein and Parktown campuses.
Catered students pay for both accommodation and meals. The meal prices range from R18 720 for ten meals per week, to R34 570 for 19 meals per week. Students have three meals per day during the week and only twice per day on Saturdays and Sundays.
Living at a private residence
To address the 85% shortfall, Wits approved 69 privately owned residences that range from at least 22m to 4.9km away from either Braamfontein or Parktown campus. All private residences are for students that cater for themselves and depending on the ownership, some provide buses that transport students to and from campus.
Rates at a private residence differ from the rates at a Wits residence. For example, living in a Southpoint student accommodation building would cost at least R38 680 for a room shared by three people and up to R97 650 for a single studio apartment, on a 10-month lease. This excludes the once-off R1 100 registration fee.
Some private residences like Apex Studios make students buy their own electricity when their monthly coupons run out. Others don’t have backup generators for loadshedding, this includes Wits residences that are off campus in Braamfontein, namely Noswal Hall, Amani House and Braamfontein Centre.
Private residences accommodate 21 539 students, and most of those are students heavily reliant on bursaries and sponsorships. According to a report by Wits, “More than 27 000 students Wits students are fortunate to receive funding for a portion of their fees and other expenses from a broad base of external funders.”
On December 5, 2022, the CEO of Universities South Africa (USaf), Dr Phethiwe Matutu released a media statement to announce that NSFAS proposed to cap accommodation allowances at R45 000. This was done “to mitigate the escalating cost of student accommodation,” the statement read.
SRC Compliance Officer, Karabo Matloga (20) told Sunday Times that he stays at Apex Studio – which is 22m away from Wits’ main campus. He has his own fridge but shares a kitchen and bathroom with three other people. That costs him R52 500 on a 10-month lease, leaving him having to cover the outstanding R7 500. Fortunately for Matloga, his mother helps him cover the balance. Matloga is one of the 10 000 students covered by NSFAS, but what about the other 9 999?
Moreover, NSFAS has defunded 559 students since the beginning of the second semester in July 2023. Funds were stopped immediately and fees already covered reversed, leaving those students stranded in the middle of the academic year.
Gloria Mokoena (25) *, a third-year Wits physics student told Wits Vuvuzela, “It seems like a lot of people do not know why NSFAS is [defunding us]” because “I was told our household income is more than R350k,” she said. According to Mokoena, this is not true because her father passed on when she was still young, and her mother is the only breadwinner in the house.
Mokoena said that she has now had to resort to camping in the library and showering in the gym. “If I travel every day, I will not have enough money for food during the day because it is just enough for transport,” she said.
Postgraduate students are also affected by this accommodation crisis. Recipients of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Honours funding were only able to move into student accommodations after the academic calendar had already started. While Wits opened on February 21, students only started receiving feedback on the status of their applications on March 8. Students cannot move into a residence without a letter that proves that the student is funded or will be able to afford the fees.
In March of this year, the financial aid scheme promised to intervene when students are denied accommodation over the cap but plans for next year are yet to be known, and no permanent solution has been applied to this crisis.
*Name changed to protect identity
FEATURED IMAGE: Some of the homeless students are squatting at Wits residences and private student accommodation. Photo: File
A 20-year-old Wits medical student compiled a poetry album to share the lived experience of a black South African woman that is tired of shrinking herself to be palatable.
The Rainbow Nation is Black by Nonhlanhla Siwela is a poetry anthology which has also been released as a 19-track deluxe album which interrogates identity, race and gender.
The deluxe version was released on September 1, 2023 after the initial release of the 12-track album on September 25, 2021. The deluxe album is an extended version of the first and includes more poems while exploring three themes from the original book.
The first theme – white – includes the poems Our Boys and Cry, Black men, Cry which encourages black men to express themselves in a way that is not guided by patriarchy and social expectations. Siwela articulates this well in Our Boys, “When will somebody tell the elders that our boys are underage, that our boys are exactly that, just boys,” she writes.
A black woman’s trauma in a gender-based violence (GBV)-ridden South Africa was a topic explored in the second theme – grey. Using poems like: Bring Back Our Girls/Uyinene Is Not Dead; Only Love and My Biggest Fear as a guide, Siwela shared how a black woman’s life in South Africa belongs to anybody but herself. She went as far as saying that her biggest fear “is to die because somebody’s son thinks he is God”.
Through a poem titled I Wish, Siwela confronts her blackness as a South African woman. This is the last theme – black. Without wishing to be a part of any other race, she speaks of a blackness as a burden to her existence. As someone that went to St. Johns school for girls, she did not enjoy having to introduce herself by a nickname so it can be easily pronounced, yet children from other races never had to shorten or simplify their names for anyone.
A Young Poets Mind – as she refers to herself, started writing when she was 15 in 2017 at St. Johns Diocesan School for Girls in Pietermaritzburg. As a scholarship learner from grade eight till grade ten, she recalls how her mother would constantly remind her how grateful she had to be for that opportunity and “not be too Zulu [at St. Johns]”.
To her, this was a moment of realisation. “All this time I have had to make myself more palatable to the white system, even at my school. It felt like [the school] was doing me a favour,” she told Wits Vuvuzela. This is when the writing of I Wish began.
When Uyinene Mrwetyana was murdered, she started organising silent protests at her school and wrote a lot of poetry around it, including Uyinene Is Not Dead. “[The poem] was [recited] in assemblies at different schools in KZN, that is how much I saw my poetry impacting people,” Siwela said.
Friend and third year medical student, Paballo Mofokeng (21) described Siwela’s poetry as her introduction to a whole new world of the arts and culture. “I always associated the arts with classical music and all of that stuff, I didn’t think it could apply to modern kids and modern people, until Nonhlanhla,” said Mofokeng. “Also, the poetry that we did in school was not directed to black kids, [it] was not directed to black girls,” she said.
The deluxe album is available on all digital streaming platforms and serves as a multimedia companion to the text.
FEATURED IMAGE: Nonhlanhla Siwela enjoying a page from her poetry anthology, The Rainbow Nation is Black. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe
There comes a time when all birds must fly the nest and leave the comfort of their parents’ home, but for Generation Z, the time is nigh, and it seems there may be nowhere else to land.
“Out of reach.” “Impossible.” “Unaffordable.” These are the words used by members of Generation Z (Gen-Z) on the possibility of buying their own house in their twenties, according to an experimental Instagram poll of 38 respondents run by Wits Vuvuzela.
However, a 2022 Rocket Mortgage survey revealed that 72% of their Gen-Z sample (2000 people of ages 18-26) are highly motivated to buy a home in the near future but, as interest rates reach their highest peak in 15 years this month, buying a house in South Africa is more expensive than ever.
The South African Reserve Bank responded to a world-wide increase in inflation rates, which neared the 8% mark in South Africa at the end of 2022. Raising the bank repo rate to 8.25% meant that the prime lending rate rose to 11.75%, the highest it has been since the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. A higher lending rate means that taking out large loans from a bank, such as a bond on a house, becomes more expensive. For younger generations hoping to live on their own, this has added another obstacle to an already almost impossible dream.
“Unfortunately, it is very difficult for young people to purchase property in this country. The current interest rates are higher than they have been in years, economic times are hard – many young people don’t have good credit scores which negatively affects their lending profile and many young people are not aware of the upfront costs that are required when purchasing a property [bond and transfer costs],” says Rob Pound, a real estate agent working in Johannesburg.
The latest FNB property barometer reveals that first-time-buyer numbers are on the decline and the average age at which South Africans can afford their own home is 35. The report cited the rising cost of living, inflation rate and unemployment rate as causes for so few people in their twenties affording homes of their own.
This is supported by real estate agent Ronald Oliphant, a Braamfontein area specialist who said that he has seen fewer young people looking to buy or rent properties this year. Braamfontein, Ferndale and Fontainebleau remain popular areas for young first-time buyers in Johannesburg, but the latest Lightstone report indicates that only 18% of stable homeowners in Ferndale are under the age of 35. This number decreases to 16% in Braamfontein and 5% in Fontainebleau.
For those young people who overcome financial burdens and manage to buy their own homes, the struggle does not end there. “I once had a client who was 27 years old and he found one of my properties, which was R850,000. He said he could afford it because the bond repayments would be the same cost as the rent he was paying at the time, and he was so excited to be purchasing a property rather than ‘paying someone else’s bond,’” said Pound. “He wasn’t aware of the upfront transfer and bond costs that are required when buying property, which in his case were around R56,000. He had to come up with this money in two months in order to buy the house, but he was living hand-to-mouth, there was no way he could afford it.”
South African banks, aware of this difficult situation, are open to giving first-time home buyers a bond of 105% in order to cover the upfront costs for properties under the value of R1.8 million. However, for this young buyer only one South African bank offered to grant him this deal.
Jesse Van Der Merwe (24), a recent Wits engineering graduate also decided to invest in her own property when she started her working life, however, after buying her own apartment, realized that she could not afford to keep up with the day to day costs of owning a property and living alone. “I realized that I can’t really afford to live [in the apartment] and like…eat, so I’m renting it out while I stay at home until I can actually afford to move into it.”
With unaffordable upfront costs and bond repayment rates, many young people who can afford it are pushed into renting property instead. This has led to a high demand for rental properties which, according to the FNB report, has made rental costs in Johannesburg more expensive in recent years. “Real-estate is simply supply and demand,” said Pound.
According to Oliphant, a tenant may only be considered for a property if the rent does not exceed one third of their income, but, as rental rates increase due to high demand, many young people apply for rentals that they do not comfortably afford.
Julia Rolle (24), a 2D character animator from Johannesburg who works remotely, made the decision to move away from the city to the seaside town of Wilderness on the garden route. To afford the rent on what she refers to as a “teeny tiny place”, Rolle pays 35% of her income on rent. When asked if she has had to sacrifice paying for other things for her accommodation, she answered, “Of course, but I wouldn’t trade the independence and having my own space.”
Interest rates have remained steady the last two months as inflation begins to slow, giving hope to young home hunters that the situation might yet improve. However, in a press conference held on July 20 in Pretoria, Governor Lesetja Kganyago said that the interest rates have not yet peaked, “Is this the end of the hiking cycle? No it is not. It depends on the data and the risks. That’s what it boils down to.”
In such an economic climate, some young people such as Jennifer Greef (25) have no choice but to stay in their family home for longer than they planned, “I do think I could move out, but my living conditions at home are just so much better than what they would be if I moved out because I would have to move somewhere really small,” she said. “I think still living with my parents is the right way to go about things right now because then I can save and spend my money on other things such as insurance and medical aid rather than rent.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Feature Image: A real estate agent hands over keys to a young gen-z as they buy their first home. Photo: Kimberley Kersten
Top achieving students were invited by the Wits Counselling Careers and Development Unit (CCDU) to network and fast-track their next career moves with potential employers.
The CCDU Professional Speed Dating event saw over 100 students from different faculties engage with representatives for multiple companies on August 25, at the Professional Development Hub (PDH) at Wits University.
From companies like L’Oréal South Africa, Life Health Care, BMW Motors, and Standard Bank, students were spoilt for choice when it came to potential suitors. Students with a minimum average of 65% were allowed five-minute interviews, rotating between the companies to gauge what each field had to offer and to gain firsthand interview experience.
Between the dates, ten-minute informative sessions on the latest developments in specific fields were given. This included everything from new disinfectants against bacteria, to transformative constitutionalism in South African law and discussions around decolonizing the content in the National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement’s (CAPS) economic document.
Along with this, students were also given slots to present some of their research through presentations.
Organiser of the event, Bongi Ndlovu told Wits Vuvuzela that the purpose of the event is to ensure that Wits graduates are “employable” and that they “possess the right attributes sought by employers.”
Many students seemed to have learnt a lot from the event despite only getting five-minutes with each employer. LLB Student Shaheed Wania told Wits Vuvuzela that there was a lot of competition, but he has learnt that “just because you are doing something in a particular field, it does not mean you are stuck in that field.”
Companies in attendance found the event promising with Ndlovu saying that BMW South Africa and the Boston Consulting Group (BSG) have already been contacting students who attended, impressed with their work. Ndlovu said the event was all about “opening opportunities for students.”
South African Breweries representative, Rene Kohler-Thomas said that their company is not looking for “skills” in the general sense but are looking for students who are “dreaming big” and can adapt to change. She added that she has thoroughly enjoyed engaging with students as you can see the “quality of the talent coming through.”
Ndlovu says the CCDU is planning to host more events like this in the future as it teaches students valuable skills for the working world, provides them with networking opportunities, and gives them the chance to brand themselves to potential employers.
FEATURED IMAGE: LLB student Kamogelo Mathekga being interviewed by law firm, Louw Genis & Rajoo Incorporated during the Professional Speed Dating Event at the Professional Development Hub. Photo: Georgia Cartwright
The Wits Origin Center is hosting Bev Butkow’s Re-weaving Mother exhibit, which showcases a collection of artworks that explores the question of how humans exist in this world and what they leave behind.
South African artist, Bev Butkow, who has showcased her work worldwide has brought her new project on display in her second solo exhibit at the Wits Origin Centre on August 20, 2023.
The exhibition titled, Re-Weaving Mother shows a body of abstract, woven, stitched, painted, and mixed media sculptures, artworks on canvases and fabric that draped over concrete pillars. The exhibit managed to take a dark and gloomy centre and turned it into a beautiful spectacle of colour and life.
As art lovers walked through the entrance, they were ushered in by draping elaborate fabrics – it was like entering a material jungle and artworks were waiting to be discovered. There were different lights filling each space in the room and each piece was made of different textures and colours.
Butkow holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Wits University and made a bold move from a successful corporate career in finance to become an artist. She said her current work is inspired by learning a new and different way to exist in the world.
She described her art as “nurturing” and “caring,” harboring different elements of the human body and art mixed into one. She added that her work represented, “the value of women’s labour [and] the traces we leave and the impact we make”.
Butkow told Wits Vuvuzela that she believes, “creativity is the new intellectual frontier,” and added that art creates “new possibilities around how we engage in the world and how we exist together in community.”
Many people came to view the new exhibit, this included art lover Meaghan Pogue who said the artworks made her feel a sense of “comfort” because the material used on the hanging sculptures were made from a soft and “recognizable” fabric. You can almost feel a sense of home with some of the pieces as if they are woven from memory.
Each person may experience the exhibition differently but from interaction with the artwork in form of sight and touch, Butkow seemingly showcased new ways of being and engaging with the world through her art.
The Re-Weaving Mother exhibit will be showcased at the Origin Center until September 30, 2023. There will be creative gatherings on the:
Body and Art: August 30
A Material Uprising: September 06
The value of Women’s Labour: September 12
Traces We Leave Upon the Earth: September 14
FEATURED IMAGE:Ley Linesand other Networks of Care by Bev Butkow in her exhibit “Re-Weaving Mother” on August 20, 2023. Photo: Georgia Cartwright
The failure by registered organ donors to disclose their intentions to donate to their families – is causing a stumbling block for the growth of this kind of surgical procedure, which saves lives
As Organ Donor Awareness Month comes to an end, the lack of donators continues to be a concern for doctors and organisations that work to bring awareness about this medical procedure in the country.
According to the Western Cape Government, more than 4000 people are awaiting a life-saving organ or cornea transplant, however, the country has a mere 0.2% of registered organ donors. In addition to this, South Africa has one of the lowest rates of deceased organ donations in the world with merely one in four donors per million population.
Dr Sharan Rambarran from the transplant clinic at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre explained that there are various factors contributing to the low number, including religious and cultural.
However, even those factors considered, being a registered donor means nothing if the giver is not having the necessary conversations with their loved ones. This is because the organ donation system in South Africa uses an “opt-in” approach — meaning regardless of whether an individual is a registered organ donor or has their wishes to be a donor expressed in their will, their family would have to consent to the donation.
“You can be registered with every association, you can be signed up on every organ donor registry, ultimately when you are declared brain dead your family have the last say as to whether or not you can be an organ donor,” said Rambarran.
Dr Sharan Rambarran in his office at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre Transplant Unit after discussing the various factors which contribute to the low number of registered donors in South Africa.
Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers
The president of Save Seven Jonty Wright, and vice-president, Naazim Nagdee said they have since learned that this problem can be avoided if interested donors can inform their loved ones about their intentions to donate.
“We ran a small survey and realised that over 90% of our peers didn’t know this simple fact and that’s a part of why young people don’t sign-up, it seems complex and time-consuming when it is actually not,” said the pair that works to raise awareness around organ donation.
Tanya Bothma (43) has experienced both ends of the spectrum. Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, she said in December 2017, she had a double lung transplant after living with a chronic lung disease since birth. It was the first transplant of its kind to be done anywhere in Africa. However, five months prior to her transplant, Tanya lost her brother in a paragliding accident. Her brother was an organ donor and although his organs were unable to be harvested, he was able to donate tissue and help 26 people in need.
The sad reality is not every story ends like Bothmas. Jessie Ann Losper faced a different reality when her husband was diagnosed with stage four renal kidney failure in 2020.
Although Losper was a match for her husband, he died before the transplant could take place. Losper said this was an eye-opening experience for her as she got a first-hand encounter of what the people in need of transplants and their families go through.
“Not many are as fortunate as we were to find a donor. Donors are desperately needed for many. During Taariqs’ (her husband) time at the hospital we met so many people who have been on the programme even longer than him and are depressed and hopeless because they have no support from family or friends.” She continued, “Loved ones have abandoned them because of them not being able to be as active as they once were, to earn salaries, even because of the level of care they sometimes need. It’s heart-wrenching to see and know.”
After experiencing both ends of the spectrum Bothma pleads with the public, “Please have the conversation with your family members about donating your organs after you have died, to save more lives like mine.”
Infographic: Six facts about organ donation
FEATURED IMAGE: A Wits student registering to become an organ donor on the Organ Donation Foundation website. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers
Fourth year fine arts students learn the organisational and financial aspects of being an artist.
The Wits Fine Arts department’s graduating class hosted the New Work Auction at the Point of Order gallery on August 10, to raise funds for the print of their first physical catalogue in four years, since disruptions during the covid-19 pandemic.
Reshma Chhiba, curator at the Point of Order, told Wits Vuvuzela that at the end of the fourth year of the fine arts degree, the class is graded through a New Work exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, and a printed graduation catalogue.
The evening started out with a silent auction (where bids were written on a piece of paper) and was followed by a live auction (where an auctioneer called for bids). The auction exhibition featured artwork by both students and staff.
Simangaliso Sibiya, who is part of the fine arts honours class, said that his colleagues had placed starting bids as low as R50, and the live auction helped get as much out of the auction as possible. By the end of the live auction, the highest bid was R3500.
Sibiya’s auctioned work was a portrait of the late Bhekizizwe Peterson, who was a professor in the Wits African Literature department. A tribute to Peterson for a recommendation that influenced Sibiya’s entry into the fine arts programme. In the portrait, Peterson is surrounded by a circle of dancing children and a border of QR codes, both symbolising that his contributions, will live in the future.
Sibiya said he appreciates the New Works Project because it teaches them one of many ways to make an income from their work.
Chhiba also said that the New Work project facilitates the development of some skills that the students will need when they begin work as professional artists. Because this is a student-led fundraising initiative, they get to learn the organisational and financial aspects of being an artist.
Masindi Mbolekwa, who was part of the organising team, and whose work was also part of the auction, said that it was significant in teaching him “how to navigate these kinds of spaces, how to talk to people, how to engage with people when they are interested in the work.”
The New Work exhibition will be showing at the Wits Art Museum in November of this year.
FEATURED IMAGE: Image of a bid sheet for the silent auction at The Point of Order gallery, where the Wits fine arts department held their fundraising auction. Photo: Morongoa Masebe
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are tired of being assumed as change makers in binary spaces that exclude their queerness.
While queerness is now visible in old and new media in society, members of the Activate Wits (LGBTQIA+ student society) argued that there is still much more work that can be done to cater to their needs. This was the central theme in the very first Queer Lekgotla, on Monday, August 7.
The discussion was held at Solomon Mahlangu House (SH6). According to the student society’s advertisement, Queer Lekgotla was held in order “to engage in meaningful discussions concerning the needs and concerns of the queer community [at Wits].”
Sihle Mazibu, former chairperson of Activate explained how queerness and activism should not be treated as synonyms. “Activism is tiring, activism is draining, and you will find yourself [pouring from an empty cup].
Our job as queer people is to simply take up space,” she said.
However, she recognised that it’s unfortunate that queer people must carry the burden of being “changemakers” in circles they normally frequent at.
Meanwhile, panelist and Activate deputy chairperson Zandile Ndlovu said that during her high school years, she saw varsity as a space that would accommodate how she identifies. “I remember seeing somebody with pink hair kissing another person with pink hair” she said, adding that she remembers saying to herself, “I want to be you.” Yet her first experience from first year reflected the opposite of that.
Ndlovu was surprised by how queerness was politicised in university. Referring to how straight identifying student leaders used it in a way that would help them appear as progressive, yet still excluding the people they claim to represent.
Ndlovu said that when she would attend events that facilitate spaces for queer people, there would be straight women speaking there.” I was like… I am not sure if this is [how it is supposed to be],” she said. This is until she found Activate, a society she calls, “home”.
Wits alumnus and fellow panellist, Moeketsi Koahela shared his experience of being an employee while being queer. For him, the workplace made him realise “activism is not for everyone, the struggle is not for everyone. I think it is a calling.
“Not all of us have to go to the streets and picket, there is much more that can be done in terms of policy making,” he said.
Koahela encouraged the attendees to start asking themselves, “What is my role?” because not all of them have to burn tyres. “Some of us are good in the boardroom and that is where we will be trying to find solutions from”.
In closing, students were encouraged to find a type of activism that spoke to them as individuals — and that they should wear queerness as an identity that speaks to who they are, and not as tools meant to fix the world.
FEATURED IMAGE: Friends and members of Activate Wits that were in attendance at Queer Lekgotla (From left to right: Noma Sibanda, Sipho Mcani, Ayanda Ntuli, Lesego Makinita, Siyanda Madlokazi, Onkokame Seepamore) . Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe
A night of rewarding hard work and academic excellence turned sour, as not all students received their certificates of achievement.
Current and former residents of Barnato Hall who did exceptionally well in the 2022 academic year, left Convocation dining hall on West Campus empty handed at the residence’s 2023 academic dinner on Friday, August 4.
The annual event started off well, with guest speaker, Theresa Oakley Smith, regaling the room with the history of the residence and her experience as its first warden in the 1980s.
“[Barnato] was the first res that was mixed race and mixed gender,” she said, adding that it was foreign at the time because of the racial segregation that existed in the country under Apartheid laws.
The first round of award giving began shortly after Smith got off stage. At the time, the dinner seemed to have started going well as everyone that got on stage received their certificate and took a picture with the current warden, Millicent Motheogane.
The second guest speaker and masters in computer sciences student, Phindulo Makhado (24) said Barnato resident helped him socially and academically.
“I am a living testament to the power of academic diversity and cross-disciplinary exploration [from Barnato],” he said.
It was only after dinner service that the event took a turn. Chairperson of Barnato’s House Committee, Siphesinhle Shiba (22) got up on stage to handout the remaining certificates. However, the certificates she had were less than the students that were still waiting to receive.
“We are still waiting for some certificates and the names that I will be calling now will not be receiving any tonight, but they can come and take a picture with a [decoy] certificate we have here,’ Shiba eventually announced.
Some students opted not to go on stage for the picture as they felt it was pointless. A disgruntled theatre and performance arts student, Sanele Radebe (24) told Wits Vuvuzela, “I feel like I have been played [because] I am looking [nice] and the thing that I came here for is not here. Might as well not take a picture with that [fake] thing.”
When asked about what the cause for this could be, Shiba (22) could not allow anyone in her committee to take the fall as she claimed that this was the printing company’s fault. “[The academic officer] submitted everything on time and the latest information was sent by Wednesday,” she told Wits Vuvuzela.
Student of the night and Barnato’s 2022 highest achiever, Katlego Mashiane’s light could not be dimmed by the residence’s poor planning. Having passed last year with an average of 83.43%, Mashiane received a special award for her achievements and said, “I am overjoyed, it has been one hectic year.” Despite the earlier disappointment, most students stayed on until decided to the dinner officially ended.
FEATURED IMAGE: A copy of the certificates of achievement that were being awarded to the students in attendance of the academic dinner. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe
The well-known sports event disappointed qualifying teams by removing the hockey and cricket tournaments this year.
Wits’ cricket and hockey team members qualifying to participate in the varsity cup games — alongside the top eight universities in South Africa — will not be partaking in the sports due to lack of sponsorship.
Sharmin Naidoo, the sports officer for hockey at Wits said that sponsors pulled their funding from supporting these games; and new ones could not be found. According to the Varsity Sports website, the main sponsors for all included sports are FNB, Cashbuild and Suzuki. However, it is not yet clear why they pulled their money from cricket and hockey.
Naidoo explained that all universities are part of a company called University Sports Company, which contracted ASEM Sports Entertainment and Media to manage and get sponsorships for Varsity Sports.
“This year they were only able to find sponsors for Varsity Cup [the rugby tournament] and some varsity sports. There have been no sponsors for cricket and hockey,” he said.
Naidoo said that the varsity sports which have secured sponsorship besides rugby are men and women’s football as well as netball.
The Wits hockey team has a history of competing in the Varsity Hockey tournament, according to Naidoo, and finished in second place in 2022.
However, Nono Pongolo, coach of the Wits’ cricket team said that to his knowledge, the team has never qualified to be included in the Varsity tournament, and “to have it ripped away from them like that is disappointing”.
He said the team worked hard to win in their division in Pretoria, in the USSA tournament in 2022; and it is important for them to continue showcasing their talents.
Pongolo added that the universities are organising a smaller cricket event amongst themselves which is set to take place at the University of Pretoria later this year, “so it’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s not the varsity cup.” However, he hope that they will be able to participate in the tournament in 2024.
Wits’ cricket player Joshua Streak said Varsity Cup “is significant because of its name” and even though there are other tournaments, there are not as big. He added, “It’s an important tournament when it comes to [national and provincial] selections, and for exposure because it’s usually televised.”
Wit’s hockey and cricket player Reese Scheepers said, “I’m extremely disappointed. We work extremely hard during the year to play in such a tournament. Now it feels like our hard work and talent won’t be displayed.” He continued, “I’m a passionate sportsman and I look[ed] forward to competing in such tournaments and now it feels like this year has been lost.”
Storme Johnson, the chairperson of the Wits sports council, who played hockey for Wits in the Varsity Sports 2019 tournament said, “It was an experience that I will never forget. It is so sad that the younger girls in our team won’t get the opportunity to experience it.”
Wits Vuvuzela reached out to previous sponsors of Varsity cricket and hockey for comment; but did not receive a reply by the time of publishing.
FEATURED IMAGE: a Wits cricket player kneels on the field after catching a ball at the Walter Milton cricket oval at Wits main campus. Photo: Kimberley Kersten
Jephta is a bassist and composer and has performed with prominent international artists like Dianne Reeves and Terri-lyne Carrington.
Levin is a jazz studies lecturer while Jephta lectures in both jazz and film music.
Renowned jazz maestros, such as Sisionke Xonti (saxophonist), Bokani Dyer (pianist), Tlale Makhene (percussionist), and Jonno Sweetman (drummer), performed alongside the two during the launch.
The evening was divided into two sets. Levin kicked off the night with tracks from his fifth album, The Past is Unpredictable, Only the Future is Certain, performing 2/3 parts of the album: The first one titled The Past is Unpredictable with movements Gijima and Chaphela and the second one titled Prayers Made From Grass with Homily and Rites.
Led by Tlale’s poetic chants and Xonti’s melodious sounds, an African rhythmic experience was created. The inclusion of African instruments like the udu ceramic drum, cymbals, chimes, ankle rattles, and triangles added a distinct African essence.
Levin said, “The album blends indigenous and western musical instruments, making it a unique and special representation of Pan Africanism in music.”
Following a short intermission, the spotlight shifted to Jephta’s set, performing hisBorn Coloured, not Born-Free album, Jephta’s compositions delve into the complexities of race in South Africa. The music encapsulated his personal experiences as a coloured male in post-Apartheid South Africa.
Jephta’s set featured soulful tracks like An Incomplete Transition and Gadija (part 1), a heartfelt tribute to his grandmother. The bass-driven Ben-Dhlamini Stomp earned him a standing ovation. Closing the show, Jephta’s last two movements, Acceptance/metamorphosis and Resurgence, delighted the crowd with its infectious rhythm and captivating melody, leaving them singing and bobbing along.
Speaking about the two musicians, Wits Music lecturer, Dr Peter Cartwright said, “They are both new in the permanent staff… so it’s a way to welcome them, you know, with their first public concert.”
Elliot Rogers, third year music student said, “Benjamin Jephta is my lecturer for ensemble, and I do guitar [classes] with Vuma Levin; and seeing this concert where their music is coming together is a beautiful sight, looking at it from a [scholastic] lens.”
The Narratives concert got the audience singing and clapping throughout, the multiple standing ovations received on the night spoke to the pair’s expansive talents.
FEATUREDIMAGE: Benjamin Jephta performing his bass-driven composition, Ben-Dhlamini Stomp, at the Chris Seabrooke Music Hall. Photo by: Ayanda Mgwenya
In this episode we take a look at the work of Joburg Theatre, through the eyes of the people that work at there. Justine, who has been at the theatre for more than 20 years, walks us through its history, and Mbongeni, a ballet dancer, tells us how he came to make this beautiful theatre […]