Debating access to HIV treatment 

The Wits Pharmacy Student Council (WPSC) and the Sefako Makgatho Health Science University (SMU) explored the pros and cons of PIMART in South Africa.

Pharmacists from both Wits University and SMU debated the issue of HIV treatment relating to the Pharmacist-Initiated Management of Antiretroviral Therapy implementation at the Wits Education Campus on Friday, July 28.  

The Wits team argued in favour of the treatment, while SMU argued against it.  

PIMART appeared in the Government Gazette for implementation in August 2021. This type of therapy would allow pharmacists to administer HIV medication without a script or medical consultation from a general practitioner. 

The Independent Practitioner Association (IPA) has taken PIMART to court claiming that pharmacists are not qualified enough to supply ARVs, which formed the foundation of the debate. The IPA represents all primary healthcare practitioners in independent private practice

Former South African Medical Association chairperson, Dr. Angelique said the move would allow for “unfair competition”, as pharmacists would “compete with general practitioners whilst not having the necessary qualifications.”

A pharmacy student from the SMU team, Covenant Ngomana, argued that PIMART is needed to address the “high volume of HIV-related deaths in South Africa” due to lack of treatment. Statistics show that 94.2% of South Africans know their HIV status but only 75% seek treatment.  

Wits pharmacy student, Maria Phalane, disagreed, she said pharmacists mainly work in the private sector with only “27% of South Africans in private healthcare, leaving 73% [of the majority] uncatered for.” 

Dr. Maria Eksteen, a professional in pharmacy education, told Wits Vuvuzela that “PIMART has a valuable place in the South African healthcare context,” and added that pharmacists are the “most accessible healthcare professionals, [changing] the game in terms of accessibility to treatment for employed and uninsured patients.”  

Eksteen adds that PIMART is definitely “part of many solutions to Africa’s high HIV infection rates,” with an estimated 13.2% of South Africans living with HIV in 2022.  

It is unclear at this point whether PIMART will be fully implemented in South Africa, but the debate was meant to help “raise awareness and promote a discussion around PIMART,” said WPSC member, Lethokuhle Ndaba.  

Although the IPA and some practitioners are against PIMART, the debate highlighted how it could help increase the treatment rates of HIV positive patients throughout South Africa. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Students watching and discussing the PIMART Debate at Wits’ Education Campus in Parktown. Photo: Georgia Cartwright


SRC debate investigated

The disruptions and fights that broke out during the SRC debate on Tuesday August 18, are being investigated by Wits Legal Office and Campus Control.

An investigation into the disruptions and fights that broke out during the SRC debate on Tuesday has been made a top priority by Wits Vice Chancellor Adam Habib.

Review of evidence and assessing complaints received by Campus Control began on Wednesday and will continue to make a decision on whether or not to investigate further or have a disciplinary process, said head of communications for Wits, Shirona Patel.

“Once the individuals have been identified, if they then have broken the university’s code of conduct or they disrupted the electoral process in terms of rules that are laid out then obviously the university will take action within our policies and processes,” said Patel.

Habib has asked the Wits Legal Office and Campus Control for a speedy investigation. An official statement will be released once the investigation is completed.

In a video and photos of the debate and fight on, Project W candidate Tristan Marot is seen arguing before dodging what appears to be a punch to the face. Other members of Project W, the Progressive Youth Alliance and the Wits Economic Freedom fighters can be seen shouting and shoving.

Marot claims that the attempted punch was thrown by former SRC president Mcebo Dlamini. He said he does not remember exactly what happened prior to the alleged attack but says he does recall what he said to Dlamini before the punch was thrown.

Marot said he told Dlamini to “Calm down, you [Mcebo] are already in trouble with the university.”

Dlamini was contacted by Wits Vuvuzela for comment but did not reply as of press time.

Marot was also photographed with a man grabbing him around the throat. He said the man attempted to “strangle him” but Marot could not identify him.

“It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and wearing a Project W t-shirt … I don’t think the attack was against me as Tristan” said Marot. There was very little “calm dialogue” at the time when the fights broke out according to Marot.





International law debated over Gaza conflict

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WAR TALK: Former Constitutional Court Justice Zak Yacoob (centre) uses Skype to moderate a debate on alleged violations of international law by Israel. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

The accusation that Israel is violating international law in the Gaza conflict was the issue at the first in a series of talks moderated by former Constitutional Court Justice Zak Yacoob at Wits Caltsty auditorium on West campus.

The debate featured well known law professors including Prof Alan Dershowitz, speaking for Israel’s actions in Gaza, and Prof John Dugard of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands speaking against Israel’s role in the recent conflict.

Dershowitz said Israel was defending itself in the conflict and should not be reprimanded for this. He argued the Gaza conflict was similar to a bank robbery in which police officers might hurt innocent civilians being used as shields by criminals.

He added that Israel should not be criticized and this would embolden Hamas, its opponent in the Gaza strip, to continue attacking Israel.

“Israel should not be condemned. If it is condemned it would encourage Hamas to do what it does,” Dershowitz said.

Dugard did not agree to the defence claim argued by Dershowitz.

“Israel’s defence claim is non-existent…It is a punishment to kill those occupying Gaza,” he said.

Dugard argued that only three Israeli civilians have been killed but over 2 000 Palestinians have been killed and 10 000 injured. He called Gaza a “killing field”.  He added that Israel was guilty of crimes against humanity because it had intentionally killed a large number of innocent Palestinian civilians who were in hospitals, mosques, schools and homes and should be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or a tribunal.

Dugard said accountability and responsibility was required from both Israel and Hamas.

“Accountability is of great importance in this battle,” Dugard said.

Dershowitz rejected holding Israel accountable in the ICC. He attacked the court’s credibility going so far as to call it an “apartheid court”.

“The international court is certainly not international and it is not a court of justice. It is essentially an apartheid court,” Dershowitz said.

Girls victorious in a guys debating world


FIRST WORD:  The women from the Wits Debating Union celebrate their triumphs. From left to right:  Jabulile Mabuza, Noluthando Yeni, Irene Mpofu, Angelinah Mofokeng and Catherine Seabe.                                                   Photo: Ilanit Chernick

FIRST WORD: The women from the Wits Debating Union celebrate their triumphs. From left to right: Jabulile Mabuza, Noluthando Yeni, Irene Mpofu, Angelinah Mofokeng and Catherine Seabe. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

FOR THE first time in its 15-year-old-history of competing, there are now eight women in the Wits Debating Union (WDU), or the Lions, as they are called.

The women debaters feel they can celebrate Women’s Day with tangible progress, having broken the traditional patriarchal past. However, another transition towards diversity is the fact that the union was once white dominated but is now fully multi-racial.

Chairperson Noluthando Yeni who feels debating has grown her confidence, quipped: “Men are looking for strong, intelligent women.”

BA student, Catherine Seabe, exclaims: “I feel like I can take over the world!”

All five girls joined their high school debating teams and decided to continue until university level. Angelinah Mofokeng, a first year BA Dramatic Arts student, said: “it was fun to come to Wits and find something other than the Arts to focus on”.

“Debating is a team sport. We don’t do it for individual achievement. We celebrate wins and losses as a team,” explained BSc student Jabulile Mabuza.
Yeni told Wits Vuvuzela that they don’t have any gender issues within the team because they train together and focus on “getting into the spirit” of debating as a “united front”.

“We definitely have a strong sense of pride being the only female members in the team but at the same time we have broken the gender barrier. We blend together like a family, nobody thinks they are better than the other.”

When it comes to relationships within the team, they stressed that the 22 male members are like brothers so they don’t see any “romantics” forming.

Some did say that they “enjoy flirting” with debating members from other universities at inter-university competitions.

Individual backgrounds and famous female figures have influenced some team members to be proud of their femininity and to create equality between genders.

IreneMpofu, a BComm LLB student was deeply influenced by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela who she viewed as “not defined by her gender but rather by her hard work in society”. Mabuza’s own background has inspired her both as a person and in her passion for debating.

“I’ve grown up in the rural areas and seen the wrongs within society, especially the disadvantages women have experienced. This has inspired me to change things. I believe in leaders without titles.”

Talking briefly about the WDU win at the South African Universities Debating Championship, all said they were proud to have seen three female debaters, including WDU’s Athi-Nangamso Nkopo make it to the finals.

It was the first time a win with women in the final had taken place. Yeni said they hope to encourage more young women Witsies to join the WDU through an all-women’s debating tournament happening later this year.

“We want women to be conscious about breaking the stereotypes and gender barriers. It’s all about making us females believe in each other,” she said.

Ubuntu: bringing change to urban South Africa


Ubuntu is a concept often thrown about in discussions about South African society and earlier today, two prominent philosophers unpacked and debated the concept in front of a large audience at Wits University.

As part of The Art of Human Rights workshop, the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) hosted a debate with Prof Thad Metz from UJ (University of Johannesburg) and Wits professor Lucy Allais.

Both speakers dedicated part of their presentations to ideas about how to implement the second phase of Ubuntu into urban South Africa.

Ubuntu is broadly considered to be the African concept of “human kindness” and “community”.

According to Metz, it is “difficult to implement in a place like Johannesburg because of urban influences and lack of community”.

“There are little ways to do it … it takes a village to raise a child. Constructing a compound or a society where everyone takes responsibility to raise the children and rear them in the right direction.”

“If we are going to foster any type of Ubuntu in urban South Africa, we have to deal with the main issues that this country faces,” said Allais.

She stressed that “poverty and inequality” are the two biggest problems in South Africa.

“The State needs to enable everybody to participate as citizens. If we have social welfare, why do we have beggars on the street?”

She emphasised that if the state is not dealing with these issues than it’s up to civil society to pressure the state about what they are doing to about the “lack of social welfare and the like”.

Young people ambivalent about the vote

SERIOUS TALK: Andrew Gasnolar (Agang), Dali Mpofu (EFF), Mmusi Maimane (DA) and Fikile Mbalula (ANC) (from left to right) answer questions at a youth debate that focused on the theme, "Why do you deserve my vote?". Photo: Tracey Ruff

SERIOUS TALK: Political party representatives Andrew Gasnolar (Agang), Dali Mpofu (EFF), Mmusi Maimane (DA) and Mawethu Rune (ANC) (from left to right) answer questions at a youth debate that focused on the theme, “Why do you deserve my vote?” Photo: Tracey Ruff

 by Ilanit Chernick and Tracey Ruff

Young voters had a chance to question political heavy-hitters at a debate on Tuesday but many of the youth still expressed ambivalence about who they would vote for.

The debate, called “Why, do you deserve my vote?”, was held at Jozi Hub at 44 Stanley on Tuesday afternoon and gave young people the chance to ask questions to candidates from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), ANC, Democratic Alliance (DA) and Agang.

Musician Simon Tshukudu voiced the opinion of many of the young people present when he said he was uncertain about who to vote for because “none of the political parties running keep their promises” and he was concerned about “corruption within the parties.”

[pullquote]“No one has been that impressive or awe-inspiring,”[/pullquote]
However, despite his ambivalence, Tshukudu said he attended the debate because he wanted to “voice his opinion about issues in the country”.

Tuesday’s debate focused on addressing the youth’s lack of participation in the upcoming election and the great amount of voter apathy among the youth. In addition to being held at Jozi Hub, six students from across the country were chosen to participate in the debate via Google Hangout.

DA Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane said was encouraging the youth to vote because “it’s a South African’s right” to do so.

“We would like to build a country that is inclusive of all, including young people, especially the 1.6 million youth [in Gauteng] who can’t find work.”

The EFF’s Dali Mpofu said there was a “problem with the youth” and he hoped to “interest young people who are undecided to get involved and participate”.

 POLITICS OF FUN: The EFF's Dali Mpofu and the DA's Mmusi Maimane share a lighthearted moment at a youth debate held on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: Tracey Ruff

POLITICS OF FUN: The EFF’s Dali Mpofu and the DA’s Mmusi Maimane share a lighthearted moment at a youth debate held on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: Tracey Ruff

ANC representative Mawethu Rune said he did not agree that the youth were apathetic because ANC Youth League members were winning SRC elections in universities. “[This] shows more young people are getting involved in mainstream politics”.

Following the debate, many students were still ambivalent about the election. Student entrepreneur Tebogo Photoane told Wits Vuzuzela that he was still unsure who to vote for.

“No one has been that impressive or awe-inspiring,” Photoane said.

Former Wits student Mashokane Mahlo, however, said she had done a lot of thinking about her vote and had decided on what party to support.

“I know who I’m voting for, but my decision was changed recently because of new information I received,” said Mahlo. “It took a long time for me to decide.”


ELECTIONS: Born to vote

Pre=recorded videos and live streams from the other provinces were projected onto the wall behind the panel. From left to right: Khadija Patel, DJ Fresh, Kagiso Lediga, Shaka Sisulu and facilitator Tumelo Mothotoane. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Pre-recorded videos and live-streams from the other provinces were projected onto the wall behind the panel. From left to right: Khadija Patel, DJ Fresh, Kagiso Lediga, Shaka Sisulu and facilitator Tumelo Mothotoane. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

For a group of people largely labelled apathetic, the youth in attendance at a debate on a Tuesday morning, braving the temperamental and rainy Joburg weather – were anything but apathetic.

Yesterday, JoziHub in Milpark was the venue for the To Vote or not to Vote debate aimed at so-called ‘born-frees’.

Bornfrees stand up

There is a particular fascination with this year’s youth vote as this year the “born-free” generation, children born in 1994, when South Africa became a democracy, will vote for the first time. How they vote and who they plan on voting for are of particular interest because they have grown up in a democratic South Africa.

Lesedi Molefi of the organisers Live magazine said in the past three months they have interviewed a number of born-frees and found that, “we’re not apathetic and have an incredible role to play,” not only in these elections but in steering the country’s future.

The panel consisted of comedian Kagiso Lediga, journalist Khadija Patel (@khadijapatel), DJ and tweleb DJ Fresh (@DJFreshSA) and social activist Shaka Sisulu (@shakasisulu). The panelists were chosen because they are seen as accessible to the youth and their ideas. 

[pullquote]”we’re not apathetic and have an incredible role to play”[/pullquote]

Why should born-frees vote?

Addressing the question, why should born-frees vote, Lediga said: “If you’re not voting, you’re not participating.” DJ Fresh added that participation goes beyond just voting, part of that civic duty is to hold politicians accountable. Sisulu provided an anecdote to explain further: “If you’re dating someone, you can’t see them once every five years – it won’t work, it’s a one night stand then. Put your ballot in the box but make sure to maintain and nurture that relationship over the five years coming.”

The debate was live streamed from Johannesburg to Cape Town and Ginsberg, King Williams Town with questions coming from all three places to the panel. A common complaint from all three provinces was that the youth were never heard. DJ Fresh responded by saying the onus was on political parties to appeal to the youth on their level through channels like twitter and instagram: “Politicians talk at young people and not to them.”

The focus in the latter part of the debate was on what the born-free vote can achieve and individual agency. Patel said, “agency is important – it means having the power within yourself to do something.” The crowd responded well to this and the conversation started to look at ground level solutions and social activism that gear them in that direction.

Lethabo Bogatsu, a self proclaimed born-free said the talk left her feeling empowered and keen to be an active citizen, “I was always going to vote but now I’m not going to stop there. It’s not just the vote and then I’m done. I’m going to work on the relationship, my man is going to be my vote, my political involvement is going to be my man. I’m going to have a relationship there because being single is rough.”

The entire debate can be viewed here.