An IPID investigation found that R33 million was used to spy on Fees Must Fall activists. (more…)
Hundreds of students joined the national #BuildaPresident campaign at Wits University this week. They publicly signed a pledge to good citizenship and shared their views of what an ideal South African president should be.
Hundreds of Witsies gathered below the steps of the Great Hall at Wits University on Tuesday, where they publicly signed a pledge of good citizenship for the #BuildaPresident campaign.
The Drama for Life department hosted the event in honour of Mandela month. Anzio Jacobs, campaign coordinator, said the campaign was created to honour the legacy of former president, Nelson Mandela.
The event displayed a collage of over 600 images of people who showcased their views on what an ideal South African president should be.
Acting SRC president, Shaeera Kalla and Dean of Students, Pamela Dube joined the campaign and also publicly signed the pledge.
The SRC has drafted an international student’s memorandum which highlights their issues surrounding registration, the application process and up-front tuition payments among several other concerns. The memorandum will be handed to Deputy Vice-Chancellor Vilakazi on May 26.
The SRC has drafted a memorandum highlighting some concerns faced by international students at Wits.
The memorandum is said to detail issues which were raised at a meeting held by the SRC on April, 23 which invited international students to voice their grievances.
Students highlighted the registration fee, application process and 75% up-front tuition fee payment as some of their serious concerns.
Tanya Otto, the SRC’s international affairs officer, said the complaints were raised more strongly as a result of xenophobic attacks last month.
“The anger of international students came across when they said that these issues have been happening forever,” Otto said.
“The violence is an aftermath of what has been happening and institutionalised xenophobia is what’s allowing it to happen.”
The memorandum was compiled by Otto and other international student representatives.
Shaeera Kalla, acting president of the SRC, described the initial meeting as “hostile” and said her concern is to get international lecturers at Wits to help “push the agenda for international students at Wits and their own issues”.
“I am looking at this memorandum as a first step to negotiations around international issues,” Kalla said.
“The SRC aims to create a platform for international students to feel comfortable enough to speak about their issues without feeling it is just going to be dismissed,” Kalla said.
The SRC felt there was a lack of response from international students at the initial meeting and said she saw the current memorandum as a “working document”.
“There needs to be more issues addressed in the memorandum that relate to other stakeholders,” Kalla said. She said these were international lecturers and international non-academic staff at Wits.
The SRC aims to have events throughout the year in which they can promote international cultures in order to “create a safe environment where international students feel like they are heard,” Kalla said.
Kalla added that the extent to which local students are willing to get involved in international students’ issues and assist them also needs to be acknowledged.
Otto said the memorandum was compiled last week Friday and the SRC will present the memorandum to Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi on May 26.
Otto and Kalla said of the 15 international student associations on campus, only four have responded and provided input for the memorandum.
“We can’t blame it on unresponsiveness and say that that is the reason for not addressing issues,” Kalla said. “What we need to do is create a space to encourage participation where international student societies don’t feel as though they don’t want to be involved.”
Kalla said the SRC is focused on creating an environment which can foster discussion.
She said they aim to eventually extend the memorandum to focus on broader issues regarding international students and academics issues with home affairs and issues faced by all international visitors.
“We want to contact other universities to discuss these issues and do something about it.”
IN-FIGHTING at the SRC has spilled over into a formal complaint to the university management.
A formal complaint has been laid by Project W leader Jamie Mighti against executive members of the SRC for mismanagement of funds and an audit and internal investigation are underway.
In a letter given to the Wits Vuvuzela, Mighti has written a letter to the Vice Chancellor to lay a formal complaint about the irregularities that have been taking place with the running of the SRC.
It has also been brought to the attention of the Wits Vuvuzela, Project W is also requesting an audit of the SRC’s finances for the last three years.
It is alleged that “serious chunks of money” are missing. Along with this, Project W will also be pressing charges of “abuse of power and corruption”.
Shaeera Kalla, deputy president of the SRC and executive member, dismissed the claims made by Mighti as “entirely false” and stated that the first quarter report of the SRC will outline exactly what the situation with the SRC’s finances is.
Project W, a group that makes up less than half of the SRC with six members out of the elected 15, has written a letter to the vice chancellor’s office in which the SRC’s executive is being accused of not following procedure, among other things. The executive is made of Progressive Youth Alliance members.
Mighti has requested that an internal investigation and audit into the financial management of SRC funds be launched.
Some of Mighti’s allegations include:
- That the SRC has not had a formal meeting since November 2014
- The SRC’s executive has been making important decisions outside of the rest of the SRC
- Procurement processes have not been followed in the purchasing of certain items
- That there has been unequal allocation of funds to certain portfolios in the SRC with some portfolios being allocated stipends of R5000 whilst others have been allocated nothing.
Mighti also alleged that a Frat house that was renovated as part of the fraternity/sorority programme for day students, that cost an estimated R500 000, has not been opened. The space, which is attached to the DJ du Plessis building on West Campus, was meant to be launched late last year but is yet to be opened due to what he believes is “in fighting” in the SRC.
The letter was sent to Vice Chancellor Adam Habib, Dean of Students Dr Pamela Dube and the legal office’s Dawn Taylor.
When contacted for comment, Dube said:
“I cannot comment at this stage given that the process is in the hands of Prof Tawana and legal office.”
Mcebo Dlamini has been reinstated as a member of the SRC and is back as president—for now.
Dlamini was seen back in the SRC offices and at the Law School Election Council elections on Wednesday
Dlamini was charged with “assault” and insulting senior members of the university staff via emails last year. One of the charges stem from an email sent to the head of Residence Life, Rob Sharman.
The two charges were later combined into a single charge presented at the disciplinary hearing on February 27, where he was found guilty. Dlamini was then suspended from the SRC.
He announced his resignation as SRC President on Facebook on February 28 but, hours later, deleted the posts.
However, earlier this week Dlamini announced he had been reinstated as an SRC member and SRC president.
Dlamini announced on his Facebook page on Tuesday morning that his “suspension had been lifted” by Vice Chancellor Prof Adam Habib who he thanked for “doing the right thing”.
“In short I still remain as the Wits SRC President,” Dlamini said.
Habib confirmed that Dlamini had been reinstated pending a review of Dlamini’s hearing.
“On an application from him [Dlamini], I suspended his termination from the SRC for two weeks until the review of his hearing is complete,” Habib said. “Otherwise we may have to revise the decision again and it would be disruptive. Now, we can make a final decision within the next two weeks.”
Throughout Dlamini’s suspension, resignation and reinstatement, his fellow Progressive Youth Alliance members have been studiously silent on the issue, refusing to comment publically.
SRC deputy president Shaeera Kalla told Wits Vuvuzela she “was not in a position to comment about Dlamini”.
Wits Vuvuzela has also attempted dozens of times over the past 10 days to contact Dlamini via emails, texts, phone, voicemails, whatsapps and even handwritten notes—all without success.
Wits Vuvuzela was at last able to make an appointment with Dlamini on Wednesday afternoon to finally get his side of the story. However, Dlamini did not pitch.
When contacted about the missed interview he replied via whatsapp: “As we speak I am at UJ attending a graduation.”
The suspension of Wits SRC (Students Representatives Council) president Mcebo Dlamini has been lifted by the Wits vice-chancellor (VC).
Professor Adam Habib told Wits Vuvuzela that the decision to lift the suspension was not a final overturning of the ruling.
“On an application from him [Dlamini], I suspended his termination from the SRC for two weeks until the review of his hearing is complete,” he said, “Otherwise we may have to revise the decision again and it would be disruptive. Now, we can make a final decision within the next two weeks.”
Professor Andrew Crouch, the deputy vice-chancellor: academic also confirmed Habib’s sentiments.
“I can confirm that the vice chancellor agreed to suspend the termination of the SRC membership of Mr Mcebo Dlamini pending the outcome of an appeal against the proceedings,” Crouch said a short while ago.
Dlamini was unable to speak to Wits Vuvuzela but a Facebook account in his name confirmed the VC’s decision.
According to a status update on the account this morning, Dlamini received an email from Habib who lifted his “suspension from office as president with immediate effect”.
“In short, I still remain the Wits SRC president for 2014/2015,” he wrote in the post.
Crouch added that Dlamini is allowed to return as a member of the SRC but was not re-instated as president by the university.
“The VC did not re-instate Mr Dlamini as SRC president, but suspended the termination of his SRC membership. It is up to the SRC to determine continuation of his Presidency of the SRC.”
Deputy president of the SRC, Shaeera Kalla said she was not in a position to comment at this stage.
Dlamini was originally charged with two counts of “assault” at disciplinary hearing on February 27. He was given a suspended sentence of expulsion and subsequently suspended as SRC president pending an appeal.
By Lutho Mtongana and Ilanit Chernick
Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) president Mcebo Dlamini has been suspended from his position, according to a leaked recording of an emergency meeting between the student leaders and Dean of Students Dr Pamela Dube.
In the recording obtained by Wits Vuvuzela, Dube told SRC members on Monday that a disciplinary hearing had found Dlamini guilty of “assaulting” and insulting senior members of university staff via emails at the end of last year.
As a result, Dlamini has been suspended from his duties as SRC president but would be able to continue studying as a student.
“He is still allowed to carry on with his studies and is still a Wits student during this period,” Dube said in the meeting.
Dlamini was also given a suspended sentence of expulsion for one year, meaning that if he is found guilty of another offence in the next year he will be automatically expelled from the institution.
Dube told the SRC members that Dlamini would have 14 days to appeal the judgement.
Wits Vuvuzela contacted Dube for comment but
was not able to get a response as of press time.
Community service changed to expulsion
Initially, Dlamini had faced two charges of assault and insulting senior members of staff, the first incident taking place before he was elected SRC president. One of the university staff members was director of Residence Life Rob Sharman. The two charges were later combined into a single charge presented at the disciplinary hearing.
Dlamini had been given a punishment for the first charge of 25 hours of community service. Later, this was changed to the suspended sentence of expulsion.
In the recording, Dube said the SRC deputy president, Shaeera Kalla, would become acting president pending Dlamini’s appeal.
Dube said that depending on the outcome of the appeal, the SRC would have to “sit down together and try and find a way forward”.
If the appeal “yielded negative outcomes” Dlamini would have to stand down as the SRC president for good. However, if Dlamini wins his appeal he can return to his position.
“We wish it could be different, we wish they [the charges] hadn’t happened … Mcebo knew this was coming,” Dube said in the recording.
However, Dube said the disciplinary process had to unfold despite Dlamini’s status as SRC president: “We don’t just ignore this because someone is a CEO or the SRC president.”
Both Dlamini and Kalla were not available for comment.
Wits Vuvuzela has previously reported that on Feb 28 Dlamini apparently made two Facebook posts announcing his resignation. In one of the posts he said that vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib had used the “racist zionist controlled” Wits Legal Office to find him guilty of misconduct and sentenced him one year of expulsion from the university.
The posts were subsequently deleted hours later.
The Wits SRC have raised R1, 7 million after Wits chancellor Dikgang Moseneke and ten of his friends donated R50 000 each at the “One million, One month” launch earlier today.
The “One million, One month” campaign was officially launched by the Wits Student Representatives Council (SRC) at the Great Hall today even though the campaign reached its initial target of R1-million last Friday. The SRC was joined by the campaign’s ambassadors whose contributions today saw the total amount rise to R1,7 million.
Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, one of the ambassadors, donated R50 000 and arranged for ten of his friends to match his contribution.
“I have phoned a number of my friends and I said to them I will make a commitment on my feet today … and at least 10 of them said they will match me”, Moseneke said.
“One of my friends was moved by young comrades thinking in a very revolutionary way. They have a deep grievance but they find a positive way to address it”, Moseneke added.
Wits vice-chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, said he hopes that the campaign raises one or two million more.
Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini pointed out that he was no longer talking to the Department of Higher Education (DHE), about the problem but he refuses to see 2788 students go back home.
“Our wish is to take all 2788 students to class because that is the future of the nation. I can’t lose 2788 students, I cannot,” Dlamini said.
Advocate George Bizos, who was the first official ambassador of the campaign, shared a moving story of a young woman he knew who struggled financially and recalled his promise to “never let anyone in [his] generation go through the same thing”.
Mpendulo Nkosi, a first year civil engineering student from rural KZN spoke of his difficulties in securing accommodation and funding for his studies at Wits. He was later surprised by the announcement that he was to be fully funded by a donor, the Thusanani Foundation, a youth-led non- profit organisation.
Nkosi said, “I am really thankful, they have done great for me and my family.”
Another significant donation was that of R100 000 from the South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF).
Amongst the ambassadors who joined Bizos and Moseneke on stage was poet Lebo Mashile, and singer, Thandiswa Mazwai, both of whom congratulated Wits and the student leadership for their positive reaction to the funding crisis.
The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) has reached the R1-million target but the campaign to register financially needy students will continue, Sheera Kalla, SRC deputy president told Wits Vuvuzela today.
After an “overwhelming week” of donations, the Wits SRC reached its R1-million target today through a combination of contributions and pledges. However, the SRC is set to continue raising funds since that R1-million is not enough to cover all 2 788 students who did not receive National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds.
Kalla said the R1-million would only cover the registration fees of about 100 students. The SRC said it would “intensify” its efforts to raise funds after the success of the “One Million One Month” campaign.
“A million means we’ll help 100 students’ lives but at the same time you want to change more students and you want to say you did it in a responsible way,” Kalla said.
While the initial R1-million target was reached, most of the money was committed as pledges and is not yet in the bank.
“We’ll have to allocate the funds then we can really say we have reached our goal because students are getting registered,” Kalla said.
The SRC still needs to come up with a criteria on how they will allocate the funds fairly and responsibly. Kalla said they are considering first helping students who performed well academically and then helping third-year students because they will be finishing their degrees.
“This weekend we will have to sit down and decide because we want the funds to get to students as soon as possible,” Kalla told Wits Vuvuzela.
After the students have been registered they will have to take responsibility of paying for the rest of their fees. Though Kalla said the SRC will try to help where they can.
“Students also need to come to the table and try and do their best to get funding because you will now be registered and will have until the end of the year to pay your fees. So it’s going to be a collective effort by students and by the SRC,” Kalla said.
The money that will keep on coming in after R1-million will go to the humanitarian fund.
“The purpose of the humanitarian fund is not to fund student fees, it’s to fund things like outstanding payments that stop you from graduating, its upfront payment fees, emergency things, food, necessities … not pay your entire fees,” Kalla told Wits Vuvuzela.
The Wits SRC is now urging the people who have pledged to go to the bank and send the money quickly. According to Kalla if students are not registered in time they will not be able to do after the end of the month.
“The most important message is that even if we have reached the R1-million that was our target, that was not our goal, our goal is to change as many student lives as possible, a million is just a drop in the ocean,” Kalla said.
The Wits SRC has made national headlines with its “One Million One Month” campaign to raise R1-million for students in need of funding. They’re quickly approaching their goal with R780 000 pledged. We spoke to SRC deputy president Shaeera Kalla.
How is the campaign going ?
This evening we received R100 000 by an organisation that prefers to be anonymous for now. The campaign has really taken off very well, we are however running against time so it is stressful but at the same time rewarding to see how much it means to students and how eager everyone is to get involved.
How is raising the money different to protesting?
Protesting gets you the attention you need to draw people to a certain issue and to make them think about it in a critical, raw and real way. There is ample benefit in protest action and we as South Africans know this better than any other people. There comes a point, however, where one needs to be practical enough to understand that in certain circumstances protest action alone will not have the relevant effect.
What are the challenges the campaign is currently facing?
The campaign’s main challenge is that we now need to look at a fair criteria through which we allocate the funds that were raised because a R1-million is extremely small and will never cover all 2 419 students … It is good to know we can raise money but at the same time a crisis this size needs government intervention.
How are you going to split the R1-million to student who need it, what criteria are you going to use?
We are awaiting the official university Financial Aid and Scholarships Office reports which detail how many students are affected … We need these reports urgently before we can process any funding or finalize a method of processing the money. These students are not charity cases they are deserving recipients of financial aid.
The R1-million will not cover all the students, what plans do you have for those who will not be covered?
We will be compiling a report on the experiences of students who were on NSFAS. I’m not sure how we are going to solve this but again, it is a crisis, we are students who are responding to it … We call upon Wits University, NSFAS and the Department of Higher Education to resolve this crisis so that our students can complete their studies, and for some at least, begin their university careers.
Despite widespread reports that the Wits Students Representatives Council (SRC), has reached its target in the “One million, One Month” campaign, the organisation’s deputy president says this is not the case.
Sheera Kalla says it is difficult to estimate the total amount donated as the money comes in regularly but still needs to be properly allocated. But according to announcements made by Wits University via Twitter and its website, the R1 million target has been reached.
In a report released a short while ago, Wits University says the latest donation of R553 000 means the campaign has surpassed its target. The Wits announcement says that together with the SRC, it has “collectively raised over R1 million to assist the students from poor families who have not been granted funds for studies by the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).”
But, according to Kalla, some of the money mentioned by Wits in its announcment came in before the SRC’s campaign started. She added that it is likely that some of the donations may fall through as close to R300 000 has been pledged but not yet received.
“Thousands pledge but just like a pledge is on radio, it doesn’t mean that all the money pledged will come in”, Kalla said
In addition, Kalla said many donors “have been sending money into the accounts but without any reference to the humanitarian fund, the SRC or the campaign the money still needs to be traced back to the donor to find out where it is going.”
The campaign is still ongoing but the SRC was unable to confirm when the total amount raised will be made public.
Kalla told Wits Vuvuzela the campaign will continue even when the SRC reaches their target.
“The one million will not cover all the students so it would be silly of us to stop the campaign if/when we reach the target whether that will be tomorrow or next week, I don’t know”, she said.
The choice of Mcebo Dlamini for Student Representative Council (SRC) president was not contested within the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) , one of the organisation’s leaders said.
“There’s no one who contested presidency, Mcebo was elected unopposed,” Wits Young Communist League secretary David Manabile told Wits Vuvuzela. The Young Communist League is part of the PYA.
Last week, Wits Vuvuzela reported that there was disagreement within the PYA over who should be SRC president. According to one of the PYA leaders interviewed in the article, there was a struggle to decide between Dlamini, Amogelang Manganyi and Senzekahle Mbokazi for president. There was disagreement over their different levels of experience and ability to carry out their duties.
But Manabile rejected this claim and said only Dlamini was mentioned as a potential president at the PYA’s deployment committee meeting and the following branch general meeting (BGM).
“We adopted recommendations of the deployment committee as they were. The only name raised for presidency was Mcebo Dlamini,” said Manabile.
“Those faceless people you interviewed might have had a different view but rest assured in the meeting we had, no one raised any other name for presidency.”
Sharing the same view, incoming president Dlamini said PYA members who believed there was a contest for SRC president were “lying”.
“There wasn’t any contestation for presidency, the sources were lying. I do not know if they were in the same BGM that we were in,” Dlamini said.
Although presidency was uncontested, Manabile said that PYA members in the BGM, which is the organisation’s highest decision making body, had differences over who would be Dlamini’s deputy.
“We did have different views as to who must deputize him but at the end we reached consensus, we left the meeting united, believing in the leadership that the BGM has agreed upon,” said Manabile.
A deployment committee list seen by Wits Vuvuzela listed Dlamini as president and Manganyi as vice president. The house reshuffled Manganyi to deputy secretary general and Shaeera Kalla from secretary general to vice president. Mbokazi who was initially given CSO and Student governance, was moved to secretary general.
Dlamini said although the vice president and secretary general portfolios were contested, that should not be seen as though “we are fighting”.
“It’s not like we are fighting when we contest. Contestation is fine and is allowed. It’s wrong for people who were in the BGM to witness this contestation and say that there is bad blood,” said Dlamini.