Venda University’s VC implements improved security measures in aftermath of serial killings

Following the murders of four young women, three of them students, in and around the University of Venda campus, security is now under the personal watch of the vice chancellor (VC), and university management.

A delegation led by VC Prof Peter Mbati has recognised the urgent need for improved security to “mitigate against the assaults and murders experienced by” the university community.

Mbati said he was “completely devastated” when he received the news that a university staff member, cleaner Brenda Ndove, had been murdered on campus on June 22. This came just three months after the death of a female student, Livhuwani Mbodi.

In an effort to better understand the security risks faced by students, especially those living off campus, the VC visited all three of the off-campus residences. “We emphasised the need for improved security features at these residences,” he said, in a report issued to the university’s campus community last Wednesday.

Consisting of university management and student leadership, the delegation met last month to discuss and implement security for staff and students in a number of different ways.

These include the purchase of a security patrol vehicle, an increase in the number of security guards across campus, creating a community policing forum, the installation of more CCTV cameras all over campus and limited access to buildings, offices and residences on campus.

The delegation was assured by the South African Police Service (SAPS) that their concerns would be taken into serious consideration and according to Mbati, the municipality also gave its commitment in improving street lighting around the university’s main gate.

“I am hopeful that with the tightening of our internal security infrastructure, and with the support of the SAPS, we will significantly mitigate against the risk of violent crimes against our staff and students,” Mbati said.

Mbati encouraged students and staff to exercise caution and avoid walking alone in the dark or in the very early hours of the morning.

Last week, A 24-year-man, also a student at the university was arrested in connection with the spate of murders on the campus.



From rural Limpopo to the hallowed halls of Wits University – a mining engineer in the making

Nyiko Makhubela is determined to overcome his personal setbacks to achieve his dream of becoming a mining engineer. Photo: Provided.

Nyiko Makhubela is determined to overcome his personal setbacks to achieve his dream of becoming a mining engineer. Photo: Provided.

Nyiko Makhubele grew up fending for himself in a rural village in Limpopo but finds himself at Wits University today, working towards his future as a mining engineer. Eric Mlambo, who helped fund Makhubela’s studies, tells his story.  

It sounds like a far-fetched dream when 23-year-old Nyiko Sam Makhubele talks about his plans for the future. Makhubele, a BSc Engineering student, is determined to make his dream of becoming a mining engineer a reality despite the personal tragedies he has suffered in his young life.

It is the winter break for most university students and during this time Makhubela heads home, 550km away from Johannesburg, to the small village of Mphakane, 30km south of the city of Giyani in Limpopo.

A lack of safe drinking water, scorching summer temperatures of 30-40 degrees Celsius, a high unemployment rate, high teenage pregnancy rate and lack of medical services and supplies are commonplace in Makhubela’s hometown.

Even trying to interview Makhubela for this article turns out to be a challenge as the village is not properly covered by telecommunications networks and the interview has to be conducted via Whats’app, a frustratingly slow and tedious affair.

Makhubela though, is not phased by these challenges and insteads focuses on the positives in his life. He attributes his success at Wits  to “hard work and determination.”

“I obtained 38 points and one distinction paving a way for me to be a Wits student,” he says. His matric results and admission to Wits were a dream come true for the young man who had close to nothing.

Before coming to Wits he lived in one-room house on his own. Makhubela’s mother died at a young age, leaving him and his siblings to fend for themselves.  His father remarried, moved away and never returned to the kids.

“With my good grade 12 results, I met Eric Mlambo who promised to cover my registration costs at Wits.” While his benefactor’s offer to pay his registration costs was a lifesaver, Makhubela soon realised the real challenge was yet to come during his first year at Wits. “I had both financial and exposure challenges. I didn’t have financial aid, a loan or bursary, and this made life to be miserable (sic) on campus.

“It’s stressful to be in the disadvantaged group financially, wanting to dress like ‘them’, not having easy access to money … those kind of things. The social life on campus is little bit higher for a small village guy like me,” he says.

After failing his first year at Wits, his confidence took a serious dent. But Makhubela was determined to make it, and he knocked on all sorts of doors in order to get re-admission and funding. With the help of a bursary from a mining company, he now lives on the university premises, and has made friends with his fellow students who provide some support to him.

He says this has helped him to adjust and acclimatise to the realities of varsity life.  “I meet people with different cultural backgrounds and different economic standards, it offers me an opportunity to appreciate our differences. But, the thing I must say is that the girls on campus are “wow!”.

Despite the distractions though, Makhubela has his sights firmly set on his dream: “I would like to work in Australia, they have the best mining engineers in the world, their mining operations are the safest as well,” he says.

“I wish to acquire skills and knowledge that I can use to get a good job with the big mines in South Africa. My goal is become an expert in the areas of mining safety,” Makhubela says.


Team Vuvu Oppi ball

By Pheladi Sethusa and Shandukani Mulaudzi

ALL ROADS lead to Limpopo in August, this time not for Moria celebrations or to return to one’s roots, but rather to rock out at Oppikoppi.


Bewilderbeast is the theme this year and it marks the 19th Oppikoppi festival since its inception in 1994.

Performers set to take the stage and entertain revellers include Mi Casa, Jeremy Loops, Jack Parow and the Deftones.

Two Wits Vuvuzela reporters will be attending Oppi this year and, in preparation for the festivities, they decided to find out how to prepare for their weekend in the bush.

What to expect

Most people approached for advice said to get a reliable tent, warm sleeping bags and a big cooler box to store food and booze.

A veteran who has attended numerous Oppikoppi festivals, Habrey Landman, from the University of Pretoria, told Wits Vuvuzela: “You need to take a boy, to help you make a fire and set up camp. There are no camp areas, it’s just bush.”

She added that hygiene is a major issue and the best way to stay clean is to bring along wet wipes and dry shampoo that can be bought at Clicks.

VoWFM DJ Max Motloung said he had been warned about the funky smelling festival.

“Just know that you guys are not going to bath, hey,” he said.

Motloung added that one should be prepared to wait in hours of traffic when leaving on the last day of the festival.

Landman said festival goers should keep hydrated: “a case of something, a bottle of something and dash” would suffice.

The festival starts next week Thursday, August 8 and runs for three days until Saturday, August 10.

Team Vuvu is ready, all that stands between reporters and bringing the festival to Witsies is a three-hour drive to a farm in Northam.

Wits projects help high potential youth


Wits professors are studying ways to help youth from marginalised communities to realise their potential. Photo:

A Wits Education project has helped 30 high-potential learners in the remote Limpopo village of Badimong to improve their reading comprehension from about 27% to scores in the region of 75%, Wits researchers heard last week.

The project report was presented by language and literacy professor Leketi Makalela at the High Potential Youth Symposium held at the Wits Club last week. The symposium was organised by the Office of the Vice Chancellor and the Faculty of Humanities.

Makelela described how he had helped the grade 4 to 6 learners to improve their Sepedi and English reading comprehension. Makalela will expand his research project, which focuses on bilingual literacy, to three more schools in Limpopo and a township school in Gauteng.

The projects presented at the symposium dealt with youth at different stages of their education.

Rhian Twine, the Community Liaison Officer at the Wits Rural Facility near Bushbuckridge, described her efforts to help marginalised secondary school learners navigate the complex and costly university application process.

She was joined by first year mining engineering student Nyiko Khoza, who told Wits Vuvuzela he was at the university because of Twine’s assistance.

Dr Jill Bradbury, who teaches cognitive and social psychology in the School of Human and Community Development, spoke about her Reaching for Excellent Achievement Programme (REAP), which started in the middle of 2011.

REAP focuses on Wits psychology students from disadvantaged backgrounds who “are doing well, but not yet excellently in the second year of study”.

Students who were getting about 60% despite difficult backgrounds, showed potential to excel, Bradbury said. “And potential means it’s not yet evident.”

Bradbury said REAP also aimed to increase diversity in the postgraduate psychology classes. She said REAP students had attended events like an international psychology conference in Cape Town  to get a taste of the kind of high-level discussions and activities they would participate in at postgraduate level.

“It’s creating spaces that would normally be postgraduate spaces and we’re saying: ‘Come and play here’,” said Bradbury, who added that “there has been considerable movement in the student’s grades” since the programme began.

Bradbury told Wits Vuvuzela she believes programmes focusing on high-potential youth are not elitist if they produce research which can be made available to educators everywhere.

“What we do must be more than just being kind to a small group of students or helping a particular school. It must deliver something that can help us to do education better in the long run for all other students.”

She said the university plans to compile the knowledge generated by the High Potential Youth research projects in a book.

Read more about Prof Makalela’s project at

Wits professor helps Limpopo learners to read

Wits University professors are conducting several research projects to help high potential youth from marginalised communities to succeed. Photo:

Like the learners at Badimong Primary School, Leketi Makalela experienced poverty as a child and went to a school where resources were scarce and teachers poorly trained.

He chanted or, as he calls it now, “barked” text he didn’t understand, moving his finger and his head as he followed the words on the page.

But despite ineffective teaching methods, he miraculously managed to learn. Now, with a doctorate in English, linguistics and education from Michigan State University, he teaches teachers.

Makalela, a professor of language and literacy at the Wits School of Education, is an example of the talented young people who were the subject of the university’s symposium on high potential youth from marginalised communities.

The symposium was organised by the Office of the Vice chancellor and the Faculty of Humanities. It featured current and future research projects which might provide solutions to some of the problems which prevent South Africa’s young people from fully realising their potential.

At the symposium, Makalela presented a report on the bilingual literacy project he recently concluded at Badimong.

A simple but effective intervention

Over the period of a year, Makalela and his three assistants helped 30 high potential grades 4-6 learners improve their reading comprehension scores from about 25% to about 75% in both Sepedi and English.

He did this through a simple intervention. He provided the learners with culturally-relevant Sepedi storybooks which he asked them to read to their parents for 15 minutes every day. For the first three months of the project, Makalela visited the families of the 30 children, a few every weekend, to monitor the learners’ progress.

Makalela also conducted interventions which benefited the other 300 children in grades 4 to 6.

Making reading less painful

He worked with them to change their reading techniques, which he said made reading “so painful a task”.

Makoma Makgoba, a grade 4 social science and grade 5 Sepedi teacher, told Wits Vuvuzela about the reading skills of the children before Makalela’s intervention.

“The sitting posture can hinder how they read. They move their head, as if they are conducting a choir.”

She said Makalela taught the learners to avoid following the words with their fingers and moving their heads and mouths as they read.

Enriching the classroom environment

Makalela conducted workshops with the teachers, encouraging them to enrich what he described as a “barren classroom environment with no visual support to provide opportunities for incidental reading”.

He solved the problem of a lack of money for posters by asking the children to read stories in Sepedi and then rewrite them in English or vice versa. The children then illustrated their versions and put them up in a colourful “literacy corner”.

This technique also achieved Makalela’s objective of encouraging learners to see their home language as valuable.

Makalela said he wanted to prevent the children from becoming “academic monolinguals”.

“It’s like driving on one wheel. You need both wheels to get to your destination.”

Makalela will expand his project to three more schools in Giyani, Polokwane and Thohoyandou (Limpopo) and one in Soweto.


Editorial: Bite the hand that doesn’t feed

So it looks like Limpopo might produce a whole generation of Malemas. Education is the key to success but these northern youngsters aren’t exactly experiencing the “better life for all”.

The textbook saga is just another example of the ANC’s failure to curb corruption and mismanagement. But are voters finally going to ask: “What about the kids … what about my kids?”

Voting for the ANC in 1994 was certainly no mistake. Voting for them ever since, out of loyalty, fear, hope or whatever other reason, might’ve been a bad idea. Unemployed youth are angry and from these hopeless masses rise the likes of Julius Malema. Whether he still stands for that crowd or just stands to profit from their desperation is debatable. But he represents where it all went wrong – trying to fix things that may not be broken and further breaking things that need fixing. Case in point: education.

In a radio interview this week president Zuma insisted that education is a top priority as it receives a hefty portion of the budget. But one can’t help question why things are so bad in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo if that were true. Perhaps the wrong aspects within education are being prioritised.

It seems the ANC-led government may be trying to fix the problem from the top down. BEE, possible lower university entrance requirements, alleged inflated matric results … why not make just a slightly better effort at improving primary and high school education? Delivery of textbooks is such a basic process, how could it possibly have gone this wrong? Why not pay teachers, arguably the most important members of our society, a better salary? If you are a teacher in the Eastern Cape you might appreciate being paid at all.

The ANC-led government is giving our children a slap in the face. Yet parents and young adults keep voting for the party. Is that not a slap in the face to everyone who is trying their hardest to get ahead? Minister Angie Motshekga’s defence of her actions, or lack thereof, is offensive to say the least.

The Ethics Institute of SA should be supported for saying this week that officials should take responsibility for this debacle. An emotional observer might go further and say that Minister Motshekga is a disgrace to women who lead and a disgrace to what the ANC once was.

But forget about her. Just think of all the opportunities school children in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape will miss out on. Malema is right about one thing: the gap between rich and poor is widening. But neither he nor the current government has the solution.

The money is there, we just need the corruption and mismanagement to stop. For our children’s sake.