‘It is a huge responsibility and I am humbled’

Just two weeks ago the newest SRC president was elected at this year’s PYA Branch General Meeting. Nompendulo Mkatshwa (22), affectionately known as Ulo has been chosen to sit on the Wits throne that allows her the power to push student agenda’s and politics. 

AT THE HELM: Newly elected SRC president, Nompendulo Mkatshwa, met with Wits Vuvuzela to discuss her responsibilities, feminism and social issues. Photo: Reuven Blignault

AT THE HELM: Newly elected SRC president, Nompendulo Mkatshwa, met with Wits Vuvuzela to discuss her responsibilities, feminism and social issues.                                 Photo: Reuven Blignault

As the newest president, are you excited or are you nervous about your new appointment? 

It is a huge responsibility and I am humbled. Together with my collectives and the PYA. Remember we have a huge backing, there are four organisations that will back us up in anything that we do and we will deliver as the PYA and the SRC. Our prime being in this institution is to deliver to students, why else would we then have a PYA and SRC? We are the voice of students.

What is your first and most important concern as you enter the role of president of the SRC?

My term will officially begin in November, and I think by then one of the biggest challenges the campus will be faced with will be students writing their exams. To ensure that all students are supported in whatever manner they can, we are readily available to consult any student that needs to consult and [after the exams] when results have come out and students have written their exams, we will ensure that we are here as the PYA and we’ll be here during the holidays to ensure that we represent all students that the institution excludes from itself academically and financially.

In light of the EFF members who were subsequently suspended from the elections, do you think that in any way made PYA an obvious choice for students to vote for?

One may say that a PYA vote is a vote that can be shared with the EFF as well, however speaking as someone who was observing how elections were going, I still think the PYA was going to come out victorious as it did, because at the end of the day students have always had faith in the PYA and we are humbled by that; and it’s not because we are arrogant, it’s because we try our best and we are as authentic as we can be.

As a female president are you going to consciously adopt a feminist approach in pushing women agendas in how you discuss things?

As a gender activist I have my own reasons as to why I don’t want to be called a feminist, because I’ve been called a feminist over and over again and I’m fine with it really but, I refer to myself as a gender activist for various reasons around how there’s a lot of blurred lines around feminist terms, characterization of terminology, and I so want to be part of the revolution that will seek to consolidate all feminists through the best way possible. So, yes I am a gender activist, I believe in the emancipation of all genders in society.

Then what do you advocate for concerning gender related issues? 

I advocate for the engagement and deliberations of issues of LGBTQIA; strongly so because we also reduce the discussion of gender to man and women and that’s not where it is, we talking about everyone.

Q&A with Guy Richards

Q&A - Guy RichardsProfessor Guy Richards graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1978 with a MBChB degree. He went on to become a Fellow of the College of Physicians of South Africa in 1985 and acquired a PhD in medicine in 1992. He is the director of the intensive care unit at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital. Professor Richards is also a professor in the department of medicine at Wits and a principal physician in the pulmonology department.

How and why did Ebola resurface?

Ebola is a virus that seldom affects man. However, as we invade areas that were previously wilderness, we will interact with viruses that are usually limitedexclusively to these zones. The reservoir host is the fruit bat, which itself is unaffected by the virus. It can however infect primates or possibly other animals and can then be transmitted to humans if they eat or slaughter these animals – so called “bush meat”. It is frequently associated with diarrhea and bleeding from the gut or nose etc. People who come into contact with these secretions could become infected, especially if they have cuts or beaks in the skin or they get the secretions on their mucous membranes or eyes. Women are most often affected as it is their duty, traditionally, to wash and prepare a body for burial and, as such, are most frequently exposed. The other problem is that health care workers (HCW) dressed in protective clothing look frightening and seldom can speak the local language. They then attempt to remove the bodies in order to dispose of them safely, which is in direct contradiction to cultural beliefs that dictate thata person should be buried in andaround the village where they lived.

Regarding the widespread panic: is the public overreacting or not?

There are no cases in South Africa at present. If there were, they would be isolated and spread of infection limited. Only people who have been recently in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea or, to a lesser extent Nigeria, HCW in Lagos hospitals or HCW who have dealt with such patients, are at risk. It will not “waft” across our borders and the prime mode of spread would be by air as those who are ill would not survive a road or rail trip from West Africa.

What precautions are taken to screen individuals at our South African borders?

Those people coming from West Africa are given a questionnaire regarding their contact with ill patients and all patients are screened with the “fever screen” device. This would only pick up patients who are already ill, whereas those incubating the disease would present later with fever.