Wits has no emergency accommodation – Dean of Students

Students without res accommodation have to look elsewhere.

By Onke Ngcuka

Wits students that did not get into res cannot count on
emergency accommodation from the university.

Esselen and Witwaters residence which were made available as
emergency accommodation in 2018 are not available in 2019.

Dean of Students Jerome September told Wits Vuvuzela that Esselen was no longer a Wits residence as of 2019.

“In 2018, the repurposing of Esselen was put on hold to
assist the university with emergency accommodation on a temporary basis. All
students initially allocated to Esselen were moved out in June 2018, and the
repurposing project continued,” September said.

The dean said that Esselen now belonged to the Wits
Reproductive Health Institute and functioned as a research centre. The
Witwaters residence belongs to the Gauteng provincial government and houses nursing

Student Representative Council (SRC) president Sisanda
Mbolekwa told Wits Vuvuzela that as
the SRC, they were told by the university that the opening of the emergency
residences in 2018 was a once-off deal.

“Wits does not have infrastructure. A way forward would be
to raise funds to pay for a building or pay someone that has beds. Braamfontein
is surrounded by so many buildings,” Mbolekwa said.

First-year BEd student, Morongwa Rankoane, who is from
Lesifo, Limpopo, told Wits Vuvuzela
that she had applied for accommodation in a student residence in June 2018 but
was told that there was no space.

“I tried applying for emergency accommodation on Wednesday,
January 23. There were people assisting us that took my details and said they
would get back to me by Thursday, January 24. I didn’t receive a response so
that is why I came in today (January 25),” she said.

Rankoane said that she had tried looking for the accommodation
in Braamfontein but was told that she needed to present a letter of approval.

“I applied for the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme and was told
by the bursar that I would only receive the letter of approval in February/March.
I was able to register by waivering the registration fee,” she said.  

September said that the Wits Hardship Fund assisted students with funding towards accommodation. Applications for the Wits Hardship Fund closed on January 24.

FEATURED PHOTO: Esselen Residence will be used as a research centre by the
Wits Reproductive Health Institute and will no longer be available as emergency accomodation. Photo: File.

Speed Dating raises money for Students

Agnes Mkhonza, Tumelo Ratlhago, Charles Simant and Duanne Manake (from right) ready to start getting to know each other at the Speed Dating night at Reith  Hall. Photo: Tanisha Heiberg

Agnes Mkhonza, Tumelo Ratlhago, Charles Simant and Duanne Manake (from right) ready to start getting to know each other at the Speed Dating night at Reith Hall. Photo: Tanisha Heiberg

Tanisha Heiberg

Reith Hall ladies residence held a Speed Dating Fundraiser for the One Million One Month campaign on Friday night.

“This year we saw the need to take the money to the SRC as we can see that our fellow students are suffering, so we just wanted to help…we also believe that charity begins at home,”

“This year we saw the need to take the money to the SRC as we can see that our fellow students are suffering, so we just wanted to help…we also believe that charity begins at home,” said the house committee’s entertainment officer, Mompumelelo Matsimane.

“Last year I had outstanding fees so I went to the SRC and they helped me … if we can also contribute to the SRC then they can come back and help us.” said Matsimane

The ladies were seated on one side and the gentlemen on the other. The couples then had three minutes to get to know each other before they moved on to the next potential candidate for their affections.

“While they were speaking to each other, they scored each other out of 10 in terms of appearance, personality and romance… whichever girl and guy got the highest score we gave prizes”, explained Matsimane

The students were supplied with refreshments to go with the romantic atmosphere, including strawberries and a chocolate fountain. The evening was met with enthusiasm and cheerful mood with many students hoping to meet that special someone.

Kamogelo Khatle, a BA Law student said “It seems like a very fun experience and I’m hoping to find someone…who makes me laugh, who asks different questions, who doesn’t talk about school or what I’m studying.”

But despite the candles and heart shaped balloons not all the students were there to find a potential partner, like Esselen Residence’s house committee member, Lerato Ramotshela who said he was there to support his sister res.

“Currently I’m not single, I’m here tonight for the ladies and gentlemen looking for love because I’m in love.”

The event was also meaningful for many of the students who were either themselves affected by funding or knew someone who was.

The event raised R3200 after participants donated more money to help their fellow students complete their education.

The speed dating event is an annual charity fundraiser which raises money through ticket sales.




Habib (2)

ASK AWAY: Vice Chancellor Adam Habib along side SRC vice president (external), Shoki Masha, responding to questions from students and staff during the annual Town Hall meeting
Photo: Tendai Dube

Action will be taken on the terrible conditions suffered by students living at Esselen residence, Vice Chancellor Adam Habib promised at a town hall meeting on Tuesday.

Wits Vuvuzela reported in February that students living at Esselen had to endure horrible smells and sewage caused by the derelict Florence building next door, which is allegedly a hijacked building.

“We’ve got a bunch of gangsters who have hijacked the building next door and we don’t have security police or police services to go in to remove them. We have to get either the municipality or the provincial or the national police service to actually intervene in that,” Habib said.

Hijacked buildings are properties that have been taken over by criminals without the permission of the building’s legitimate owner. The criminals then collect rent from the buildings residents.

Habib said the university could not take direct action against the building because it was hijacked. Taking the building back from the hijackers was the responsibility of the city of Johannesburg and Mayor Parks Tau.

“We are engaging with the mayor though. We called and we have scheduled a meeting for next week with the mayor’s officials and with executives from Wits to work out how we are going to clean that place up.”

[pullquote align=”right”]”We’ve got a bunch of gangsters who have hijacked the building next door and we don’t have security police or police services to go in to remove them”[/pullquote]

The Florence building was not the only  issue raised at the town hall, students also complained about the lack of a bus shelter at the residence. One student complained that the university had already made “empty promises” to supply the shelters.

Habib said the university had looked into supplying bus shelters but could not because they would have to be built on municipal property.  The university has no power to intervene without going through the city administration.

“Bus stops are established on municipal grounds and we had to engage the municipality around building bus stops on their grounds,” Habib said.

Habib said the problem went beyond bus shelters to hazards on city property such as missing manhole covers that the university was forbidden from replacing.

“The problem is if something doesn’t happen in the municipality we can’t fix this thing,” he said.

However, Habib promised that if the municipality would not take action, then Wits would make improvements without permission and challenge the city to sue the university to remove them.

“We might need to say to the municipal government ‘Please do this and if you don’t do this by this time then we’re building it and then sue us.’” Habib said.

“That’s the only way to deal with this. It’s a very dangerous thing I won’t lie to you but we have to take a position with municipality,” Habib said.

Tuesday’s town hall was the first one this year. Only about half of the Great Hall filled with students and staff members. This was a low turnout compared to town halls last year that were packed with students on both Main campus and Education campus.

The town hall meeting opened with the sombering news from Habib that a Wits female student was raped off -campus. He said the university was investigating the attack.

The panel consisted of Habib, Student Representative Council (SRC) president Shafee Verachia, Centre for Applied Legal Studies director Bonnie Meyersfield, and SRC vice president (external), Shoki Masha.

In addition to Esselen residence, the town hall also discussed sexual harassment, international students, medical aid for staff and student fees.

Habib said Wits could not avoid raising student fees when the university’s costs continued with inflation. He said Wits received a subsidy from government but that had only increased well below inflation.

“Our cost structures are increasing every year. So if I have to take income from some place, it has to come from somewhere. You can’t talk about fees if you don’t get increases on government subsidies and that is the challenge that we face,” said Habib.


Reith feels wrath of Esselen


In the first netball match of the internal league this week Esselen thrashed Reith in a 20-11 victory.

While Reith was the first to get onto the scoreboard and dominated the initial end of the game, Esselen powered to a massive victory to great ululations.

Reith’s goalshooter Cebisa Mdekazi was the first to score in the match, but had to leave the court after her glasses broke during some power actions on the court.

In a dramatic call for help, Mdekazi yelped: “First Aid… or anyone please does anyone have cellotape or anything…my glasses have broken.” Alas, no help came.

Esselen’s coach and goal attacker, Palesa Choma, played a tremendous role in her team’s victory scoring a phenomenal 17 of the 20 goals.

“We are so excited because we practised so hard! We deserve the win and we’re not shocked by it,” Choma enthused.

Choma rescued the game when she restored the faith of Esselen’s supporters after she scored the first shots for every quarter of the match after Reith’s initial goal.

The first quarter of the match ended with a draw of 4-4 by both teams. During the second quarter, Esselen managed to manoeuvre to nine points while Reith managed 6 goals.

The third quarter was another breakthrough for Esselen when the score resulted with 14-8 points to Esselen.

“We are keeping up the ghetto and winning streak of Esselen,” said the excited captain Kelebogile Sebopela.



Injured Esselen resident denies suicide rumours

Suicide rumours spread after a person was seen lying on a side roof of Esselen Residence on a cold Saturday morning on June 11.

Students suspected the worst. The person was a first year education student, who does not want to be named. “I don’t know what happened, all I remember is falling from a window,” he said.

“[The next thing] I remember is waking up in the morning on the floor outside feeling cold and screaming for help because I couldn’t move.”

He said he wanted people to know that it was not intentional, he did not intend committing suicide. His roommate said: “He woke me up at about 1am [on the Friday night], telling me that he feels dizzy.

“I advised him to go to the bathroom sink and wash his face.” The student then decided to take a shower and went to sleep. He woke up later and went to the bathroom. It was then that he fell from the second floor.

He was bleeding excessively and had cuts on his left eye, hands and nose. He fractured his pelvic bone and could not walk for two weeks. The cuts were from a shattered bathroom basin that had been pulled off the wall.

The window he fell through is about the size of a normal computer screen.The student said he was told he might be epileptic. When he was released from the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, doctors couldn’t confirm the diagnosis and are still to run more tests.

He said he is fine at the moment.The house committee held a prayer that Saturday evening and the hall co-ordinator, Muchaparara Musemwa, explained to students that he had a medical condition.

Accommodation officer Elsie Mooke said there are no safety measures taken to prevent jumping incidents.