Illegal Wits merchandise for sale

One of the Braamfontein res jackets for sale at a store in Lagos.

One of the Braamfontein res jackets for sale at a store in Lagos, downtown Johannesburg. Pic: Wits Vuvuzela.

A STORE in the “Lagos” section of Braamfontein is selling Wits merchandise without the university’s permission.

Wits Vuvuzela found the goods at a store on the corner of Simmonds and Jorissen streets, in an area known as “Lagos” due to the large number of Nigerian merchants. The reporter was accompanied by a fellow student posing as her boyfriend.

Inside the shop, five Wits Braamfontein Centre res jackets were for sale at R400 each. The blue and white baseball jackets have the Wits logo on their sleeve. The jackets are only put out in the late evenings, and are nowhere to be seen in the morning or during the day. [pullquote align=”right”]”they were under the impression that the first batch of jackets had then been discarded.”[/pullquote]

The jackets had names of various people on them, written in ink, with the one reading “S’khu chairperson”. The vendor told the Wits Vuvuzela reporter they had made 150 jackets for Wits.

He added that he could make more of the jackets for us, if we wanted them. When asked if the names could be removed the salesman said this was no problem, all he had to do was wipe it off with some remover.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said Wits branded merchandise could only be sold at the shop in the concourse of Senate House.

“Wits does not have not franchises which are allowed to sell Wits merchandise,” Patel said.

Wits Vuvuzela traced the name “S’khu” back to a former Braamfontein Centre residence chairperson, Skhulile Ngcobo.

Ngcobo said they had contracted a designer to make the jackets for them. When the first batch had come out, the jackets were incorrectly designed, so they asked for the jackets to be re-done. When they received the new jackets, they were under the impression that the first batch of jackets had then been discarded.
While the jackets were being sold for R400.00, the salesman offered a discount, saying he could sell the reporter three jackets for R380.00 each.

The man urged the reporter and her “boyfriend” to come back and buy the jackets as they were selling fast. He suggested that they leave a deposit, so that he could hold them on their behalf.

Fong kong and “made in China” for sale

Fake products being sold on campus are not a big issue for students and vendors who say they benefit from the flea market at Wits.

The flea market, set up around the library lawns on Main Campus at the beginning of each term, is organised by the SRC with the assistance of the Student Development and Leadership Unit (SDLU).

According to Siddeeq Omar, SRC entrepreneurship and skills development portfolio holder, students have a chance to buy whatever they need and like at the market. “It’s up to the willing buyer to decide whether to buy knockoffs (due to freedom of enterprise). This is South Africa, you can’t put constraints,” he says.

Omar says the market encourages entrepreneurship within arts and crafts, jewellery and winter apparel. He claims it’s a beneficial event as it generates SRC funds and income for the vendors. “It enhances the social activity and creates a culturally diverse atmosphere.”

George Maina, one of the store holders who often shops at China Mall and China City Wholesale Market behind Ellis Park, sees no wrong in selling fake goods.

“At the end of the day, it’s just money,” Maina says. But the vendors claim they don’t attempt to deceive the consumers into thinking they are purchasing legitimate items.

Maina and his 23-year-old colleague, both from Kenya, say the products are more expensive at shopping malls “just because of the label”, but they are “the same quality, the same stuff” as products sold on campus.

Besides, shop owners have to pay for rent, electricity and staff, they say. They claim shops often buy goods from the same place as street vendors.

Students interviewed said they were aware that the products were not legitimate but didn’t think this was a bad thing. Third year construction management student Phendla Phendla says the market on campus “makes life easier because I don’t have to go all the way downtown” to shop.

Caroline Mahani, 1st year law, says: “I love fake stuff, because it’s much cheaper and more affordable.”