Volleyball set for a bright future

WITS VOLLEY: The Wits volleyball women’s team are aiming for the top three in the Gauteng Volleyball league, with their next match this coming Saturday. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

WITS VOLLEY: The Wits volleyball women’s team are aiming for the top three in
the Gauteng Volleyball league, with their next match this coming Saturday.
Photo: Roxanne Joseph

The Wits Volley ball women’s team is doing better than it has in the past five years, according to the captain, Sidhika Bharuth-Ram.

Their coach, George Fourie, a former player for South Africa, has turned the team around and has a knack for “developing people who don’t even know how to play the sport,” she said.

They are up against some tough competition but hope to make it to the top three in the Gauteng Volleyball league. Depending on the number of points they are awarded in the next few games, this Saturday and the following, they have a chance.

Bharuth-Ram said that in the University Sport of South Africa tournament, the team did really well. There was a lot of pressure on the team because Wits were the hosts. They had to practice and make sure everything was well organised, but they managed to make it to the top 10.

In the league, the team has “done really, really well” so far and are currently in the top three. Ever since the “The setter controls the game, where you want the ball to go and who you aim it at,” the team was moved from the lower premiums to the higher, they’ve faced “quite a bit of competition”, according to Thandeka Shabalala, the team’s newest player. They were doing well in the lowers and she is confident they will win this week’s match against KAD, a team from Johannesburg.

“The setter controls the game, where you want the ball to go and who you aim it at,”

Although volleyball is not a popular sport they have managed to attract some very promising players, according to Bharuth-Ram, “The dedication is amazing,” she told Wits Vuvuzela.

She completed her Honours in Accounting Science at Wits last year and has been playing for the team since 2010. She is the team’s setter, who is the “playmaker of the game”.

“The setter controls the game, where you want the ball to go and who you aim it at,” she said.

There are some first years on the team who only learnt about the game and began playing at the start of this year and have proven themselves as good, talented players. She describes the team as a “developing” one.

The team’s future looks “bright” but they face challenges including students who do not get bursaries and sometimes have to miss matches for work, especially on Saturday mornings.

COOL KID: Woman in power – Prianka Padayachee

Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Prianka Padayachee, 4th year BSc Mining Engineering, is the first female president of the Students Mining Engineering Society on campus.  About 40% of the School of Mining Engineering is made up of female students.  Both males and females voted for her to take up the position.

What is it like being a female president in a male-dominated faculty?

It’s difficult, obviously.  It takes a lot of getting used to, especially because the guys in the school were not used to it.  But over time it has become more acceptable for women to be in leadership.

Would you call yourself a feminist?

I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist but I do believe there shouldn’t be a division in what women can and can’t do.  You don’t need to be anti-men to be pro-women.  Women should start believing in their abilities.

Why did you choose to do engineering?

I was always interested in the sciences and practical work, and getting my hands dirty.  I never saw myself sitting in an office for the rest of my life.

What are some of your most notable achievements?

Well, apart from being the first female president of the Students Mining Engineering Society, last year I was chosen to be the main liaison between the school and the [then] minister of mineral resources, Susan Shabangu, for the mining conference hosted at Wits.  I was chosen by the school to deal with the minister, discussing anything she needed to know.

What was that experience like, working with someone with such a high standing in society?

It was an eye-opener.  It’s so easy to sit in front of a TV and judge someone’s work.  Mining is no longer just about getting minerals and metals out of Earth.  It involves politics and many other factors that govern the industry as a whole.

What are some of the false perceptions women have about engineering?

It’s really not a dirty job.  It’s not necessarily “unfashionable”, you won’t always get grease under your nails.  It’s not only for men.  There is another side of engineering.  It is logical, creative and innovative and women tend to excel in those fields.

Who inspires you?

Khanyisile Kweyama, a business director at Anglo American.  She is in a top position and she makes important decisions about mining.  She is the perfect representation of the influence women have in mining.

Wits theatre staff “cheated” out of overtime pay

EMPTY POCKETS:  Disgruntled staff at the Wits Theatre are clashing with new management, about over-time pay.  Photo: Lameez Omarjee

EMPTY POCKETS: Disgruntled staff at the Wits Theatre are clashing with new management, about over-time pay. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

Wits theatre staff are complaining about changes in the way they are paid overtime saying “new management” limits their claims.

“Our contract says five days a week, but now we work up to seven days sometimes,” said *Sipho, who works at the theatre.

*Sipho said the work hours set in their contracts have been spread out across the week, and not five days.  Even though workers come in on the weekends, they do not get paid for overtime because they are still working off the week’s required work hours.

Sipho was told by management they did not qualify for “overtime” pay because the “minister” does not allow it.  Sipho also said that “all” the staff were unhappy with conditions.

“They [are] limiting worker hours,” said Olivia Moeti, whose mother works at the Wits Theatre.  Workers finish at 3pm on weekdays but come in on Saturday to work the other hours required by their contract, she said.

The theatre employs five cleaners, two of whom are directly employed by Wits.

According to theatre manager Gita Pather, university policy states that anyone who earns under the threshold of R198 000 each year is entitled to overtime and has to work at least 42.5 hours a week. They also cannot work more than 10 hours overtime, because it is against labour law.

“The rules of the industry have been negotiated and are in line with university policy and labour laws,” she said. When she took over as manager, overtime rules were not strictly enforced.

“They were getting paid overtime and taking toil,” she said. “Those who didn’t qualify for overtime were being given it anyway … People had gotten used to being paid huge amounts of overtime.”

But this year, she was given a budget and has to use that amount allocated to overtime across the whole year.

Problems started when new management took over this year, said Moeti.   “My mum has been working here for 31 years, this is the first time it’s happening.”  The new management insists that these new rules come from Wits University, she said.

“According to management, they say, Wits says it’s [work on Saturdays] is not overtime … they say Wits says they must get a day off instead of paying them,” she said.

However, Pather did not know about this and said the only thing that has changed is the number of hours they are allowed to work. Unless it is festival time, employees do not work on a Sunday and they work off a call sheet.

Wits Services, who manage the cleaning staff, are not aware of any overtime issues. According to director Nicki McGee: “We undertake when appointing service providers via the approved, transparent tender processes, and in consultation with numerous stakeholders at the university.

“The service providers adhere to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act … to ensure that such practices do not occur.”

Additionally, there aren’t different rates for night shift, from 4pm to 8.30pm.  No provision for transport is made for staff ending their shifts at night.   “It’s not fair to let a woman walk to Bree in the middle of the night,” said Moeti.

Pather said security provides transport to all Wits employees who work late at night. “They take them to the taxi rank.”

Moeti said management was trying to save on expenses throughout the year so that they could get “more money in December”.  She said: “They’re trying to save, they’re saving on other people’s expense.”

She also said more people had problems but they were too scared to come forward, out of fear of losing their jobs.

“There is an issue,” Pather said. “But I have a set amount of money.” She said the theatre is “completely compliant”. She said she is aware of the unhappiness, but has a budget and has to manage that.

“I am completely satisfied that we are working within the rules set by the university and labour laws.”

Freeze on fees

FEES FREEZE: Wits has backed recommendations made by the SRC to freeze the upfront fees for 2015. Photo: Luca Kotton

FEES FREEZE: Wits has backed recommendations made by the SRC to freeze the upfront fees for 2015. Photo: Luca Kotton

by Luca Kotton and Roxanne Joseph

The upfront fee for next year will remain frozen at R9 350 but it and other fees may still increase in 2016, according to deputy vice-chancellor of finance, Prof Tawana Kupe.

The university had proposed an increase of the upfront registration fee to R10 300 from R9 350. General tuition fees will still increase.

When asked if the freeze will have an effect on the following year’s upfront fee, Kupe said, “In 2015, we will go through the normal processes for setting the various fees, including the upfront fee payment for 2016.”

The upfront fee free was the result of a long process of negotiations by the SRC which reached an agreement with the University Financial Committee (FINCO) surrounding fee increases in 2015, said SRC president Shafee Verachia.

The agreement was reached just over a week ago at a meeting with FINCO, and will be forward for approval to the University Council, which Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib, Verachia and Deputy Vice-chancellor, Prof Andrew Crouch, among others.

Verachia said the SRC successfully negotiated the freeze by commissioning a team of postgrad accounting and actuarial science students to investigate whether or not the upfront fee was unnecessarily high.

Kupe said the freeze is based on a further assessment made by FINCO, which has enabled them to recommend that the university is able to accommodate a freeze in the upfront fee and will not lose any income because “the freeze in the upfront fee amount is not a discount on the fees for 2015”.

He said there was recognition that some fees, such as the Health Sciences degrees, Wits has become too expensive and have been reduced. This is especially significant for international students, who were only allowed to pay their tuition fees in a set of instalments for the first time this year.

Currently, international students studying health sciences will have their fees cut by 60 percent, dropping to R74 680 from about R191 990.

The university had previously justified the increase of the upfront fee by saying it had high costs at the beginning of the year. Kupe said fee increases were necessary due to rising costs.

“Fees have to increase every year because of rising costs, the fact that our government subsidy is not rising as much as inflation and that some of our costs are related to items that are imported,” Kupe told Wits Vuvuzela.

“As you know, the rand has fallen against major currencies and this fall increases our costs. We also have to ensure we have enough financial resources to offer a quality education.”

‘Important victories’ for Wits tuition fees in 2015

Posters claiming the fees negotiations are 'Important Victories!' are stuck up all over campus. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Posters claiming the fees negotiations are ‘Important Victories!’ are stuck up all over campus. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

Wits University has backed and approved a suggestion made by the Student Representative Council (SRC), not to increase the upfront fee payment next year.

The SRC today confirmed the upfront fee will remain R9 350, as it was at the beginning of 2014 despite an initial proposal by the university to increase the amount to R10 270.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor of finance, Prof Tawana Kupe told Wits Vuvuzela the agreement has been approved by the University Financial Committee (FINCO) and is recommended for approval by the Wits Council, in December this year.

According to a statement released by the SRC this morning, the student body commissioned a team of senior accounting and actuarial science students to do “extensive cash flow and financial modelling to ascertain whether or not the upfront fee payment is exorbitant for the purpose that it serves”.

 “The reduced upfront fee payment as conceptualised by the SRC of 2012 will also be continued and will also remain at the same 2014 price,” read the statement, signed by President Shafee Verachia and Secretary General Michlene Mongae.

Another development in fees negotiations has yielded positive results for international students, whose fees have been reduced for 2015 by R38 996 for Commerce, Law and Management to R15 140 for Humanities.

Additionally PhD students will not see an increase in their fees in 2015.

VIDEO: In memory of Ruth First

Ruth First, a South African journalist, activist and former Witsie was assassinated 32 years ago, yesterday. Every year, Wits awards a fellowship in her name, to address the need for in-depth reporting on social issues. Wits Vuvuzela spoke to this year’s fellow and others about the impact of the fellowship on communities around the country.


Jewish school pupil bullied over ‘political views’

A pupil at King David Linksfield was called “foolish” and “dangerous” for his views on Israel by his principal in the school newsletter, late last year.

The pupil had been active on the Facebook group, KD Confessions, which allows for students to express their opinions anonymously. He posted a comment that criticised Israeli policy which he says “was taken out of context”. The student, who had been elected to the Student Representative Council (SRC), was not allowed to take up his position as a result of the furore.

He and his family have told Wits Vuvuzela they have taken their complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission and are asking for an apology and for the school to abide by the Constitution.

This comes during a time when freedom of expression in the South African Jewish community has come under scrutiny, after a petition was started to remove another King David school pupil, Joshua Broomberg, as deputy head of the school’s branch in Victory Park. Broomberg had appeared on Facebook wearing a Palestinian badge and keffiyeh (scarf) in protest of “human rights violations carried out against the people of Palestine”.

The Linksfield student’s story began last year, when he was told by the school principal, Marc Falconer, he would not be allowed to take an official role as a student leader after being elected onto the SRC “because of my political views,” he said.

“I was challenged over what I said online, I said I don’t like the term ‘I hate Israel’ and the school took that as what I believe,” the student said.

“I love Israel, I consider myself a firm lover and supporter of Israel.”

The student quickly became a victim of “vicious bullying” by a teacher at the school, who the student’s father said threatened and intimidated him. His parents were informed by Falconer that he could no longer protect the student at school, according to the student’s father.

Student “named and shamed” by principal at school assembly

Falconer told Wits Vuvuzela that the issue with the student’s comments were that they were on a public forum like Facebook. He said the post by the student was “contentious.”

“My concern was not a political one, it was an educational one. Any criticism and debate needs to be educationally sound, considered and constructive,” he said.

In a newsletter to the school community, he explained that a Grade 12 pupil’s leadership role would be deferred as he had engaged “in a debate which was neither appropriate in terms of the forum nor bring anything complimentary” for the school.

He said the student was “acting in a dangerous manner.”

“It’s affected me in that my community school is violating the right to freedom of speech- myself and others.”

But the student said that his fellow King David Linksfield students knew his views when they voted for him as a student representative.

Later, during an announcement at at a school assembly, the student was again singled out for his views by Falconer, this time by name.

“But the students knew my views, they voted me in as a representative,” the student said. They then made the same announcement in assembly, but this time named him, which Falconer said in retrospect, may not have been what he (the student) had expected and was prepared to apologise for this.

The student’s father told Wits Vuvuzela that Falconer had “named and shamed” his child.

Falconer defended the school’s climate and said it allowed for free debate. However, “we teach a centrality of Israel and the right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, but this is apolitical.”

Falconer said he was open to criticism of Israel and but that the criticism should be constructive and educational.

Not an isolated event

The student told Wits Vuvuzela that last year his marks started to drop due to the bullying, but it has affected him less this year. “It’s affected me in that my community school is violating the right to freedom of speech- myself and others.”

The father said he was standing by his son and said this instance of bullying over political views was not isolated. Not being able to express their views at school and instead turning to a Facebook group to do so is resulting in “children being forced out of the King David School due to their views.”

“There have been numerous incidents of victimisation and censorship in the King David school system,’ he said.

“The school is not a place to use our children as political pawns,” he said.

“It is about education and learning.”

Survivors fear speaking at Silent Protest

Silent Protest

Protesters marched silently across campus in solidarity with rape survivors. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

A fear of speaking out may have been the reason fewer rape survivors signed up to participate in this year’s Silent Protest, according to event coordinator Lauren Gmeiner, a psychologist and community advisor at Wits.

Gmeiner said there was more openness about the issue of sexual violence because of heavy coverage of sexual harassment issues at Wits in the media during the time of last year’s Silent Protest.

This year’s Silent Protest, an event to raise awareness of sexual violence, had only a handful of women participating who were rape survivors.

“Perhaps this is because of last year’s climate,” Gmeiner said. “Last year, there was a lot of sexual harassment, but this year people are afraid to speak out again.”

“We are pledging solidarity and are here to say that enough is enough.”

Gmeiner said that despite disappearing from newspaper headlines, sexual violence remained a serious issue for Wits and South Africa. Only one in nine survivors of rape report their attacks, according to the Rape Crisis Centre.

“This is significant because the numbers are huge,” said Gmeiner. “We are saying that we are not here to victim-blame or stigmatise.”

Nearly a thousand students and staff signed up for the event, said Gmeiner, with dozens marching silently with their mouths taped shut to represent the silence surrounding sexual violence.

Some wore t-shirts which read “sexual violence = silence” in solidarity of survivors. Others wore t-shirts reading “rape survivor”.

Though the event did not have as many survivors of sexual violence speaking out, there were more men attending than last year.

“We are pledging solidarity and are here to say that enough is enough,” said Bongani Ntshimgila, a masters student in drama.

2nd year BA student Rosa Elk had her mouth taped shut during today's Silent Protest. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

2nd year BA student Rosa Elk had her mouth taped shut during today’s Silent Protest. Photo: Roxanne Joseph

This year, theatre group Drama for Life partnered with the Wits Counselling and Careers Development Unit to assist on the day by ensuring that all participants felt supported, according to Faith Busika, a masters student in drama therapy.

“We have come in to support the protest, particularly the holding of space and well-being of people,” she said.

The day began early this morning when students met outside the Great Hall to have their mouths taped, collect t-shirts and have purple ribbons tied around their wrists. They were then encouraged to go about their day as normal—but with their mouths tape shut—before meeting on the Amic Deck for the silent march.

The group marched across campus before removing their tape and having a discussion of the day and a traditional “die-in” where protestors lie scattered, ending the day’s silence.




STORIFY: Mixed reactions to “Blackface” at Tuks

Two students from the University of Pretoria have been expelled from residence after they posted photos of themselves dressed up as domestic workers, with their faces painted black, on Wednesday. They are being taken to task after the photo went viral across social media, as soon as it was posted.



VIDEO: Miner’s Day 2014

by Lameez Omarjee, Rofhiwa Madzena and Roxanne Joseph

Today, mining engineering students at Wits celebrated Miner’s Day by gathering outside the Great Hall in their mining attire. They stood in solidarity with all miners, displaying placards and singing struggle songs throughout the day. Wits Vuvuzela spoke to some students, including the Mining Engineering Society’s president, Prianka Padayachee.

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.