Solidarity with journalists under fire

PRESS POWER: Human rights 'defender' and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais received a standing ovation for his moving address at the third Carlos Cardoso memorial lecture at Wits University this evening.  Photo:  Zelmarie Goosen

PRESS POWER: Human rights ‘defender’ and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais received a standing ovation for his  address at Power Reporting’s third Carlos Cardoso memorial lecture. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

Standing in solidarity with imprisoned Ethiopian journalists, Rafael Marques de Morais received a standing ovation from fellow journalists and other guests, at the Carlos Cardoso memorial lecture held this evening at Wits University.

Human rights activist and journalist, de Morais delivered the address for Power Reporting’s third Carlos Cardoso memorial lecture. He stressed the importance of investigative journalism in advancing democracy and defending the freedom of expression in the face of opposition and fear incited by government authorities.

Driven by “national and civic conscience”, de Morais says he is proud of his work in defending the rights of fellow Angolan citizens through the exposure of conflict diamonds and corruption. “Journalists should defend constitutional rights”, he said to a packed auditorium.

SOLIDARITY BROTHERS:  human rights 'defender' and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais received a standing ovation for his moving address at Power Reporting's third Carlos Cardoso memorial lecture.  Photo:  Zelmarie Goosen

SOLIDARITY BROTHERS: Human rights ‘defender’ and journalist Rafael Marques de Morais received a standing ovation for his moving address at Power Reporting’s third Carlos Cardoso memorial lecture. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

De Morais criticized the Ethiopian government as an enemy to journalism for arresting and imprisoning journalists. “Journalists and human rights campaigners must be embarrassed for doing little to support our peers in Ethiopia.”

He  also called for a campaign to move the African Union, currently based in Ethiopia, to a country that respects human rights.

Although the challenges of investigative journalists have not changed since de Morais started practicing, he says the Internet has proven to be an advantage in publishing content and reaching wider audiences. De Morais has started his own watchdog website Maka Angola which exposes corruption through his investigations.

De Morais told Wits Vuvuzela that as the values in society have deteriorated, so has the quality of investigative journalism. He says investigative journalists can combat opposition if they realise “government officials are men and women like us”. He says we can limit their abuse of power because “the power comes from the people”.

De Morais said he corresponded with but never met Carlos Cardoso, in whose name the lecture was given. Cardoso, a journalist and a Witsie, was murdered in Maputo in 2000 while working on a investigation into fraud at a major bank.


Wits students tackle social inequality in healthcare through new society


Health sciences students launched a new society dedicated to creating awareness about inequalities in healthcare. Photo: Provided.

Wits health science students launched the Student Advocates for Health society (StAH) at the Parktown campus last night. The society reflects the awareness of these students of the  socio-economic factors affecting the quality of healthcare in South Africa.

The idea for the organisation came about when a group of students doing shifts at a local hospital were outraged by a poster indicating that some patients were denied HIV treatment.

“We saw the social inequality and did not know how to do anything about it.  We [health science students] don’t know what’s happening in the world, we don’t know what politics mean.  This organisation is to inform students about the realities of what is happening in hospitals,” said one of the founders, Ndumiso Mathebula, 4th year MBBCh.

The society plans to facilitate opportunities for students to work with organisations like Section27, Doctors Without Borders, the Wits Citizenship Community Outreach, the Wits Transformation Office and the Treatment Action Campaign . Students will learn different skills of advocacy, said Mathebula.

Empowered students

Neo Mkhaba, 4th year MBBCh and StAH media officer, said as advocates, health science students would be empowered to “identify problems and come up with solutions that are comprehensive and sustainable.”

“We need more people to step into the darkness, because someone has to turn on the light.”

Joseph Tewson, anatomy honours, said: “I get very excited when things happen on campus.  We are a very laid-back generation.  We need more of this on campus.  We need more people to step into the darkness, because someone has to turn on the light.”

Lesnè Pucjlowski, 3rd year MBBCh was keen on standing up for her patients, “I’m really just interested in standing up for my patients’ human rights.  Our patients are important and their needs are important and I am happy that StAH will give me the opportunity to be proactive.”

Cybil Mulundi, 4th year MBBCh, wants to implement what she learns at StAH in her future career: “I am here to learn how doctors can make patients more aware of their human rights and make sure they are not taken advantage of.”

Monique Losper, 4th year MBBCh, added: “I would like to find out how to create a better relationship between doctors and patients in our careers going forward. I am expecting StAH to help enhance awareness of rights and responsibilities so that patients can receive good healthcare.”

The organisers used the event to commemorate the youth of 1976, who died for what they believed in, said Mkhaba.  The same spirit of activism should be carried by this generation, but it should not be destructive, emphasised Mathebula.  In the past, people had to destroy to get their freedom, he told Wits Vuvuzela.


Have you heard about Prisoner A?

Story and images reproduced with permission of the  of the Wits Justice Project. Prisoner A, Ronnie Fakude, is a remand detainee, or a person awaiting trial behind bars. Read Carolyn Raphaely’s original story about Prisoner A on the Wits Justice Project site.


Prisoner A, a paraplegic remand detainee (Photo: supplied)

Carolyn Raphaely, the WJP senior journalist who wrote the story about Prisoner A, Ronnie Fakude, brings us an update on his situation:

The bail application of paraplegic Ronnie Fakude (aka Prisoner A) was heard in Court 26 of the Bloemfontein Regional Court yesterday, and will continue on March 25th.

Fakude has been awaiting trial in Bloemfontein’s Grootvlei prison since December 2011 without even the comfort of a wheelchair  – until the recent intervention of the Wits Justice Project and the Free State Association for Physical Disabilities (FSAPD).

With tears running down his face through much of his testimony, the 50-year-old paraplegic in nappies described his life in the prison. He told the court how hard it was for him to cope with the limited bathroom facilities and how difficult it was to keep his wounds clean. He also outlined his health problems, resulting from the poor prison diet.

Fakude has no bowel or bladder control. He also has ulcers, a damaged lung resulting from prison-acquired tuberculosis and is prone to infection because of his compromised lung. He has one kidney and his intestines are sutured because of injuries from the hijacking that caused his paraplegia. Predictably, he also suffers from depression.

Next Monday, Dr Reggie Mabuye, a private medical practitioner sent by the FSAPD to assess Fakude, will testify about his health and his medical requirements. Dr Mabuye will also testify about the medication he prescribed for Fakude.

Fakude has recovered since being placed on a drip two weeks ago but has remained in the hospital section because it is believed to be more comfortable. “The truth is, it’s a converted cell with single beds instead of bunks. It is less crowded than my former cell which housed 88 men because the cell was designed to only accommodate 32.”

Notes Fakude’s lawyer Herklaas Venter: “He looks very weak, still has bed sores and pressure sores and the prison doesn’t supply adequate nappies. However, the State is opposing his bail application because they believe he’s the mastermind behind a number of fraud cases…”

If you would like to help with Fakude’s medical expenses, please make your donation using the following banking details:

BANK ACCOUNT:    ABSA, Alice Lane Towers, Sandton

BRANCH CODE:     63-20-05

ACCOUNT NO:        10-4060-3511

REFERENCE:         Prisoner A

Please send an email, with your details and amount donated, to the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa or NCPPDSA (Louise Bettel

Am I Really

Physical theatre – usually considered the preserve of fit, able-bodied actors – will give disabled actors the chance to show Witsies “how they view themselves and interpret other people’s view of them”, during March. Pictures by: Thule Zwane and Emelia Motsai

State-sponsored homophobia

“It degrades human dignity, it’s unnatural, and there is no question ever of allowing these people [homosexuals] to behave worse than dogs and pigs.”

Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, made this shocking declaration a few years ago and said gays and lesbians should be handed over to the police. Even in these times he is not a lonely voice.

Africa is the continent with the least liberal laws regarding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) rights. Over 30 countries criminalise homosexuality, and there are many cases of state-sponsored homophobia.

In most countries where homosexuality is illegal the law establishes penalties that range from a fine to years in prison – life imprisonment in Uganda.

In Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigeria, the punishment is the death penalty.

In most African countries there is not even anti-discrimination legislation on sexual orientation or gender identity basis specifically, and South Africa is the exception.

Homosexuality on the African continent has often been blamed on colonialism. The notion that homosexuality is not African is widely spread.

“[That] is just a defence tactic and a prejudice driving tool,” says third year LLB student Motlatsi Motseoile, who is gay. He claims people usually base their “lack of knowledge and understanding on tradition and ‘Africanness’”.

Motseoile adds: “You know certain things are not of African origin by whether there is an African term for it, and there is one in Zulu [for homosexuality].”

He says he has read a lot on the subject, and the readings suggest “same-sex sexual relations have been around on the African continent for ages. They just have not been widely recorded… and perhaps not as spread or understood in its current form”.

Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) archivist Gabriel Khan says: “GALA is the best place to stop on campus if one is interested in both the history and contemporary experience of LGBTI people in South Africa and also Africa.”

The core of the organisation is a unique archive of LGBTI materials. According to Khan, GALA also offers programmes and activities that aim to educate the public, create dialogue and inspire action.

Even though the legal system ensures equality, social acceptance is still a concern in South Africa.

Two tickets for human rights, please

Amnesty International (AI) Wits will do its part for the “social justice cinema” and support the Tri Continental Film Festival happening next week in Johannesburg.

The South African festival is dedicated to the promotion of human rights. Amnesty International is one of the partners of the event and has provided a selection of films to be screened.

Pearl Pillay, AI Wits president, says: “We as an organisation can talk about human rights issues until we are blue in the face, but until people actually see what is going on, it won’t really make that big of a difference.

“This festival is a chance for people to have a narrative from the people who have actually experienced it [human rights issues], and that in itself is amazingly effective,” she adds.

The festival films – documentary and fiction – will reflect global concerns on human rights, such as HIV and Aids, the International Criminal Court, political affairs, poverty and environmental issues.

Some films will be followed by a question and answer session with the filmmakers and discussions will also be hosted.

Pillay says the discussion at the end of each film is crucial because it will give people the forum to air their views and talk about practical ways to sort out human rights issues.

The selected titles, chosen from over 500 entries, are intended to “promote democratisation” and “afford those marginalized a substantive voice”, according to the festival organisers.

Rehad Desai, the festival director, hopes the event can play “[its] own small part in building a movement to halt the forward march towards the end of humanity as we know it”.

TCFF was founded in 2003, and this year’s event will host over 25 directors from South Africa and the rest of the continent.

The films are being screened in Johannesburg at Rosebank Cinema Nouveau from September 9 to 18. There will be an Amnesty membership recruitment desk at the place.

The films supported by Amnesty International are: Amnesty! When They Are All Free, Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children, Prosecutor and Manenberg.