Wits’ luxury Res over poor management ‘snafu’

Wits junction

HOMELESS: Wits Junction Res management has been accused of maladministration after students were left homeless. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela.

Wits’ most luxurious residence has been accused of maladministration after failing to accommodate its returning and international students leaving them homeless.

The Wits Junction House Committee released a statement on Facebook regarding the perceived difficulties of student accommodation, describing them as “serious gross irregularities” blaming poor management for the problem.

The new cluster manager Thokozani Manyange has been accused of mismanagement after a number of  students were left without accommodation. “I propose that the new manager of Junction be changed to Esselen residences so that he can gain experience – because Junction is too big,”said Student Representative Council (SRC) president and former Junction House Committee chairperson, Mcebo Dlamini.

Wits Vuvuzela tried to contact Manyange who directed inquiries to the Director of Campus Housing and Life Rob Sharman. While Sharman said he would not comment “on the allegations about staff,” he disputed the contents of the statement suggesting that it was released to serve the interests of certain committee members who were still on the accommodation waiting list.

“It seems one individual person is pushing very hard for his friends to get it”. Certain people have certain interests”, said Sharman.

According to Sharman there were three individuals behind the release of the statement with the application of two of those applicants was eventually successful because they had followed the normal course of waiting list processes, but the third, because he was a non-applicant is still on the waiting list.

Wits Junction House Committee chairperson Ntando Mndawe confirms that they were two returning students on the waiting list who were members of House Committee, but insists that this was not an issue of self-interest “We weren’t saying they should prioritise the two members… management likes to twist things but they said they would be investigating the issue,” said Mndawe.

“I propose that the new manager of Junction be changed to Esselen residences so that he can gain experience – because junction is too big,”

Sharman explained that there are two different accommodation waiting lists concerning Wits Junction students. The first consists of 234 students who are not at the res but have inquired and requested accommodation. The second is a list of 33 returning students who are “waiting to write supplementary exams, funding issues are unable to pay fees or appealing.”

Although he admits to a “hierarchy” with the student waiting list system but insists that the criterion set out by the university has to be “applied consistently”.

“There is a difficulty, students do not understand the complexity of dealing with tens and thousands of applications where each applicant has different need, different financial and academic circumstances. Every application has to be considered on its merits,” said Sharman.

“It’s (Wits Junction) the cream of Wits… everything is there so poorly managed and that’s the fact,” said Dlamini.

When Wits Vuvuzela visited the office, there were at least 10 students sitting at reception, all waiting to be placed in accommodation. After Wits Vuvuzela asked a student a question about the lack of accommodation, a receptionist told the reporter: “you are a trouble maker”.

The receptionist called another staff member who told Wits Vuvuzela that it “wasn’t proper etiquette” to interview students waiting at Wits Junction. However Sharman blatantly denies that there is an accommodation crisis – but insists that there are still many students seeking accommodation “as it is typical at this time of year.”



Mixed reviews for new residence off campus

Students who moved into a new Wits residence had a nasty surprise when they learned they would have to pay for their own electricity.

Noswal Hall, located on Stiemens street in Braamfontein, opened as a student residence this year on February 1.

Students who expected to be offered the same services as other residences were left disappointed when they found out, upon moving in, that they would have to pay for their own electricity.

Tshepisang Mkhize, 3rd year BSc, told Wits Vuvuzela that if she had known she  would have to pay for her electricity, she would not have moved into Noswal.

“They’re giving us 150 units every month, and when that runs out we have to pay for it ourselves,” she said.

Mkhize said it would be difficult for bursary students to get money for electricity from their sponsors.

“Now we have to ask our parents for money and we’re already self-catering,” she said.

Wits Vuvuzela contacted the office of Wits Residence Life head Rob Sharman for comment but he did not reply.

That was not the only surprise Mkhize had when she moved in. On Saturday evening, Mkhize’s bachelor suite was flooded for four hours, after water came up through her shower drain.

“I heard a funny noise from the drain after my shower but I didn’t think anything of it because it always happened,” she said.

The dirty water, which had a “pungent smell that reeked through the bathroom”, soon spilled into her living space and around her bed.

According to Mkhize, plumbers had frequented the residence throughout the week as a lot of students in her wing had had problems with their toilets or showers.

In addition to the plumbing and electricity problems, Mkhize said she was unhappy with the size of her room and its layout.

“You have more space for your dishes than for your clothes, and there is a fridge in the cupboard,” she said.

Another resident, 3rd year LLB Gugu Khoza, shared Mkhize’s sentiments and had believed that Noswal would be a cushier residence like Wits Junction.

“It was quite underwhelming,” Khoza said.

[pullquote]”I heard a funny noise from the drain after my shower but I didn’t think anything of it because it always happened”[/pullquote]

Despite Noswal not meeting her expectations, Khoza still said that it was an improvement from her previous residence which was run by a private company.

She particularly liked the view of northern Johannesburg from her room on the 15th floor.

“It’s really beautiful especially at night,” she said.

Khoza’s roommate, third-year BSc Busi Mncube, said that she was content with the residence.

“Considering the fact that they worked as fast as they could so that we could move in now, they did a good job even though there’s a lot of stuff that still needs to be fixed,” Mncube said.

The gym facilities are still under construction, and students do not have access to the basement parking as yet, as ICAM is still processing student access to the res and the parking.

In the meantime, Mncube is parking her car at Men’s Res. Though she has to walk to Noswal at night, she feels safe because it is close to main campus and there is security.

“It’s the closest to campus and the security guards are quite strict,” she said.

Related articles

New RES complex for Witsies, September 23, 2013

Parktown residence to open doors, May 19, 2011

Let it burn, September 19, 2013

“Special” leave?

THE DEAN of students, Prem Coopoo, has been  on special leave for the past two weeks, since August 2, with little clarity on when she will return.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela that Coopoo had been placed on special leave pending an investigation.

Elaine Milton, head of employee relations at Wits, said the reasons behind Coopoo’s absence are “personal and private” and she could not comment on them.

Wits Vuvuzela tried numerous times to get in touch with Coopoo and other members in management for more information but to no avail.

Head of Residence Life Rob Sharman has been named acting dean of students while Coopoo is on special leave.

According to the university’s website, the office of the dean of students facilitates student life and the academic life of students. It also assists with programmes and services to students.

The dean of students also provides “the strategic direction and co-ordination of all student affairs operations” and sets “clear and specific expectations for staff involvement in facilitating students’ experiences”.

Almost bitten twice

A Wits student has fallen prey to car thieves at Wits Junction twice in two months. 

A series of thefts have occurred at the residence where two cars were stolen in February this year. The previous incidents involved cars with Botswana registration plates but Vuvuzela was unable to establish if this represented a trend.

Vuvuzela received a tweet from one of the residents, @stretchdj: “@vuvuzelanews looks like sum1s car was broken into at Wits Junction. Rob Sharman, Campus Control and Hillbrow police at the scene.”

The car that was broken into over the weekend belonged to 4th year medical student, Gayathri Raveendran (20), whose previous car was stolen on February 10. 

Security Upped: One of the security measures that were put in place after the first car theft in February at Wits Junction. Photo: Lebogang Mdlankomo


Raveendran said she went downstairs to the parking lot when she saw two men in her new car, a Toyota Rav4, and one standing outside it.

“After they left the scene I went to check my car and they had dismantled my gear and cut the wires to the indicator, my car was five minutes away from being stolen,” she said.

Raveendran said after her first car was stolen she was incredibly paranoid and felt unsafe and it did not help that she was now a victim for the second time.

Junction Security supervisor Enoch Mdunge said, “The people broke into the car but my colleagues managed to stop the theft but the suspects managed to escape”.

Mdunge asserted that new security systems were put in place at the residence and that gaining entry into the residence premises will be much stricter.