Project W SRC members in transformation flap

SRC members Thamsanqa Pooe and Tanya Otto have been accused of not receiving permission to do an interview on news channel ANN7 on behalf of Transform Wits and the Wits SRC. 

Two Project W SRC members  have received flak from the SRC leadership and a transformation group at Wits who have accused the duo of misrepresenting their organisations in a television interview on ANN7.

Thamsanqa Pooe and Tanya Otto did the interview on Straight Talk with Ralph Mathekga this past Sunday. They spoke on issues of transformation and activist organisation Transform Wits.

The SRC claims that they were not informed that two of its members would be doing an interview on transformation at Wits this past weekend. Transform Wits and RhodesMustFall also tweeted the Wits SRC to express their dissatisfaction.

Transform Wits member Fatima Mukaddam said the movement feels offended by Pooe and Otto and accused them of speaking for her organisation.

“As a former SRC member I believe that Thami’s actions were disrespectful towards the rest of the SRC,” Mukaddam said.

She added that Pooe and Otto were also not the right people to be interviewed about the transformation about Wits because they were ill-formed about the subject.

“They did not know the statistics which was embarrassing and problematic,” said Mukaddam.

SRC deputy president Shaeera Kalla said that Transform Wits should have been interviewed, not any SRC members. “The SRC endorses the views expressed by Transform Wits but we are not leading the movement,” she said.

The RhodesMustFall movement at the University of Cape Town also tweeted its displeasure about Pooe and Otto’s interview to the Wits SRC, prompting the SRC to distance itself from the Project W members.

“There were complaints from the Rhodes Must Fall movement … It was legitimate for the SRC to distance themselves,” Kalla said.

DISTANCED FROM SRC: Thamsanqa Pooe one of the SRC members  who failed to follow protocol concerning interviews.

DISTANCED FROM SRC: Thamsanqa Pooe is one of the SRC members who failed to follow protocol concerning interviews. photo: file photo

Pooe admited that he was wrong by not informing the SRC and Transform Wits about the interview but doesn’t feel he should have been criticised publically on Twitter. “I made a mistake but there was no need for the public isolation,” he said.

Pooe, who is the SRC transformation officer, said that he and Otto did not contradict any views that were already aligned to the SRC and Transform Wits and he would not apologise anything said during the interview.

On Wednesday, repsponding to criticism on Twitter, Otto defended herself an accused the Progressive Youth Alliance, who form the majority on the SRC, of double standards.

“If PYA members did the same thing and received the same hate, SRC would be defending them,” Otto said.

Transform Wits

Transform Wits was started last month by Politics postgraduate students. However, Pooe said that he had started a movement called “Transformation Wits”. He said his views were aligned withTransform Wits.

But Kalla scoffed at Pooe’s group. “Nobody knows about Thami’s organisation,” she said.

Abiding by protocol

According to Kalla, Pooe and Otto did not abide by the rules set out by the SRC for public announcements, whether on behalf of the SRC or their own private capacity. However, she said the SRC does not plan to take disciplinary action against the two.


WITH INFOGRAPHIC: Health science students in HIV exposure frustrated by ARV treatment protocols


FOLLOWING PROTOCOL IS IMPORTANT: A Wits student gets her blood tested for HIV at a testing campaign on Wits Education Campus earlier this year. Photo: Tracey Ruff

From lost blood test results to a lack of guidance about antiretroviral treatment (ARVs), the protocol after exposure to a potential HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) threat is both frustrating and time-consuming for some students.

Students at the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences are required to follow a strict protocol when accessing ARVs after an exposure to the virus in the course of their practical work.

“[Students] have to come to Campus Health for reporting purposes,”  explained Sister Yvonne Matimba of Campus Health. While students can access an ARV starter pack immediately after an exposure from the hospital in which they are working, further treatment can only be accessed through Campus Health located in the Matrix building on main campus.

The alternative is to pay for the treatment through a private health care provider.

“She didn’t really know what the protocol was and just gave me the pills and told me I had to make the decision”

However, as Krystle Moodley, a Wits dentistry graduate currently completing her community service year in Mpumulanga, said, “It sucks [going to Campus Health] if you’re at med school because you have to go all the way to [main] campus. How does that make sense?”

Moodley has been on ARVs twice. Her first time was in fourth year after she pricked herself with a needle.

Once she had reported the incident to Campus Health, her bloods were taken immediately and she was put on a 28-day ARV treatment regime. She then had to go back for a six-week, and three-month, blood test.

Missing results

After not receiving her results from her three-month blood test, Moodley phoned Campus Health and was informed her results had been lost. She then decided to go to a private doctor and had to pay about R150 to get her bloods done.

“No one [at Campus Health] bothered to tell me or bring me in to retake [my bloods].”

Counselling is also provided by Campus Health to the affected students.  However, according to Moodley, she feels that what she was told was information she had studied and already knew about.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: The Wits ARV treatment protocol. Graphic Tracy Ruff.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: What does ARV treatment involve? Graphic: Tracy Ruff.

A sixth-year medical student who did not want to be named, who has been on ARVs twice, has also expressed difficulties with the Campus Health process. “In terms of waiting times, [Campus Health] was good, but the sister (who was a new employee at the time) couldn’t give me advice on whether or not to take the ARVs, she said.

She didn’t really know what the protocol was and just gave me the pills and told me I had to make the decision.”

However, according to Matimba, all staff at Campus Health are adequately trained to deal with the protocol.

A Wits postgraduate student, who also did not want to be identified, said dealing with Campus Health after she received a needle-stick injury was “a  pleasure.”

“The nurses are friendly and extremely professional. They help you every step of the way.”

In need of more guidance

Students who fail to follow the protocol strictly are exempt from making any insurance claims according to the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Student Protection and Insurance booklet.

The booklet directs students to contact any of a number of doctors and staff members if an exposure occurs. There are also two additional emergency numbers provided. Wits Vuvuzela tried to reach an adviser via one of the numbers provided but was told that the staff member in question had left a few years ago.

The sixth-year medical student feels that students need to be given a card with the relevant protocol information that they can carry with them at all times. She also believes students should be informed about the ARV protocol properly at the beginning of their studies.

“They (lectures and doctors) should sit you down and tell you what to do.”

Protocol in the working world also frustrating

A Wits occupational therapy graduate, who asked not to be named, has recently completed her ARV treatment for HIV exposure outside of Wits.

“I had problems with the workman compensation procedures … so I went about paying for everything and thought I could claim back but turned out I couldn’t,” explained the graduate.

Moodley, who is now working for a public hospital, has just completed her 28-day ARV treatment. Describing her experience with the ARV protocol in the hospital she said, “it was kind of haphazard and no one knew what to do.”