Scores of students still in limbo. (more…)
Litaletu Zidepa and Dana Da Silva
Students have mixed feelings as to whether or not they felt their safety was compromised after a killing which took place last weekend outside a hijacked building next to Esselen Residence.
Florence House is a derelict, building next to Esselen that had been hijacked since 2012. Last weekend’s killing, a stabbing, is allegedly the result of a fight between rival groups in the building who want to claim ownership.Wits Vuvuzela has previously reported about the safety and security issues that have faced students regarding the buildings activities.
In 2014, a shooting occurred where a bullet was fired through a window of a student’s room. The student was not home at the time and no one was injured.Students have been voicing their concerns about the buildings activities and hygiene issues (due to the open sewage) since 2012. When asked about the recent killing Arthur Muhapelwa, a BComm Accounting student, said that he felt scared and uncomfortable.“I would say the reason for me to be so is because I have that thing on my mind that, what could happen next? Maybe it could be me, so my safety is like violated at this time,” said Muhapelwa.
Second year BSc in Biochemistry student, Kgomotso Kibi, felt that she should’ve been told about these incidents earlier before she moved in.“The thing is I heard about it a long time ago while I was moving in so I feel like I was robbed in a way,” said Kibi. “I should have been informed before, but then during the house meetings the house comms have assured us that the matter was actually addressed and they’ve taken precautions.”
However, police say that Wits students staying in Esselen are not in danger.“It’s a safe place for students,” said Sgt Mduduzi Zondo of Hillbrow police station.“In terms of this area, we haven’t had such complaints from Wits to say like students, they are experiencing this and that,” said Zondo.Other students didn’t feel bothered by the incidents that have been taking place at Florence.
“Well I don’t really feel much that affected, it doesn’t really scare me that much,” said third year BSC Biochemistry student Thuile Mazibuko.Mpho Hopewell Molefe, Bachelor of Arts first year student, also shared the same sentiment. “I don’t have a problem with it. It’s pretty dodgy, but it depends on what kind of person they are. I’m here to study. Whatever happens there happens.”Head of Wits communications, Shirona Patel, said that the university was “extremely disturbed” in regards to the most recent killing.
“Although it did not impact directly on our students, the safety of our students living in this residence is of immense concern to the university,” said Patel. Patel said the university has implemented more security measures at the residence, with a guard and dog patrolling the area until late hours.
Residents of Esselen Residence occupied Residence Life Offices in Park Town, with a memorandum of grievance, on Friday.
According to the House committee members, Head of Residence life Rob Sharman made various promises and one of them include a resolution about the building next to Esselen and the closing of Esselen Street, after a shooting that occurred last year in Esselen.
“Last year there was a shooting, even Habib and Pamela Dube came to Esselen to listen to us, but nothing has been done since then” said Thero Montwedi, Vice-Chairperson of the house committee.
Precious Maseto told Wits Vuvuzela that “the problem is not Hillbrow, but the building next to Esselen” she said “that building is dirty, their sewage system passes through Esselen”.
Florence building making life for Esseleners, a living hell
According to the students, Florence building (the building next to Esselen residence) has made their living conditions a living hell and their study environment very unfavourable.
“The environment is not conducive for learning, in the study room there’s sewage dropping from the building from next-door” said Montwedi “I don’t know if it’s because we are staying in Hillbrow that we are subjected to such conditions, we are also Wits Res Students” he said.
Luyanda Mgidlana said “the main problem is the building at the back, the sewage and the crime comes with it”.
When the memorandum was being read out to Sharman, house members started shouting, showing their dissatisfaction with the fact that it did not include the inconveniencies caused by the new bus schedule.
Dissatisfaction with bus service
“I Esselen ayinama Directi!” shouted one person from the crowd, saying Esselen has no direct bus.
Majority of the students are Education students and the new bus system has caused a lot of inconveniences.
“The bus picks up people from Education campus, drop them at Esselen then goes to Amic Deck, after it picked up people at Esselen, rather than going back to Education Campus again” said Lerato, Esselens safety and security officer.
Head of Residence life, Sharman has refused to issue a public statement.
He said “it would be ethically unwise to make a public statement, until we have responded in writing to the students on their memorandum”
The Chairperson of All Resident Council (ARC) and Esselen, Mxolisi Sopiseka told Wits Vuvuzela that the purpose of the march was to make students aware of Esselen and its problems, as it is not an Esselen Problem but a residence issue.
“Students get affected, whether they stay at Esselen or not” he said “you find people who get excluded at Junction and Noswal moving to Esselen”.
“Even those who stayed at Esselen for four years, if you ask them if they applied to Esselen one thing you would find that is common is that they never applied” he said “we all went to Esselen because of circumstances”.
SRC President Mcebo Dlamini, addressed the residence of Esselen and said “we are told it is a privilege to be at University, thus we must obey?” he said “enough is enough, this is not a protest but a rock up”.