WITSIE Puleng Khwezikazi Khuthala Mthethwa had a take-home exam in November last year.
She did her work as required but when the time came to print her assignment something strange kept happening.
She clicked on the “print” icon and her assignment printed but it had someone else’s name at the top instead of hers.
She knew this was strange but assumed it was just a technical fault. She tried again.
Yet again the assignment was printed. This time a different name appeared at the top of the page but it still wasn’t her own.
Mthethwa tried over and over again and the same thing happened, each time a different name.
Mthethwa broke down, right at the computer labs. She didn’t understand what was happening.
She went home and showed the papers to her aunt who told her that each name was an ancestor’s name.
Albert Silindokuhle Ibokwe Khoza was in his drama class as usual. During rehearsals, he started seeing people.
He saw people who were not there, people who were not part of his class. He also started hearing things that other people couldn’t hear.
“I could snap into a trance and be stuck in that position for a very long time,” explained Khoza.[pullquote align=”right”]”I could snap into a trance and be stuck in that position for a very long time.”[/pullquote] He knew all of this meant that he had been called.
Mthethwa and Khoza are two students who are facing a transition in their lives that they feel no one at Wits understands or supports.
They have the calling.
The “traditional calling” is a process of answering one’s ancestors and learning how to use the gift the “called” have been given.
Khoza’s twin sister had the calling first which made it easier for him to come to terms with it.
Both Mthethwa and Khoza explained that people have different callings and that they were guided by their amadlozi (ancestors) to understand what their unique gift was.
“There are different types of callings. You get people that see. You get people that when they speak, their word becomes flesh. You get people that smell and are able to interpret what that smell will lead to,” Mthethwa said.
Khoza, who was dressed in his traditional cloth, and often wears beads and a braided mohawk, said people often judged him for who he is.
“I have a thick skin so what people do or say doesn’t affect me anymore. I am not an outcast but I am a misfit.”
Mthethwa said she had been called many names.
“People will call me ‘dirty’, say ‘I don’t deserve to be loved’. People don’t understand why people who are friends with me are even friends with me because of what I have and who I am.”
Mthethwa describes herself as a hybrid human being, stuck between two worlds – the material and spiritual.
“It’s difficult to explain what you are going through to people when you yourself have not come to grips with what it is,” said a visibly frustrated Mthethwa.
No help at Wits
Khoza and Mthethwa said they were concerned that there are no formal structures at Wits to help with what they are going through.
“What support do they offer for people like me who have the calling? That’s the struggle I face the most,” a disheartened Mthethwa said.
Khoza said the main issue was that they are going through an African phenomenon in an institution governed by western principles.
“They are white and then there are those who are black who have Christian beliefs and therefore this is not in line with their beliefs so they don’t take it seriously,” he said.
Khoza said there had been incidents at the drama department where people had psychological breakdowns and no one knew what they were going through.
He said when it was discovered that they had the calling, they simply left their studies.
These students expressed their concern that they had to present doctor notes from western doctors when they had fallen ill or had to consult with a sangoma.
Mthethwa said: “Traditional healers are registered practitioners. Why can’t we just present notes from them?”
They complained that while people who had depression or difficulties studying could go to the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU), students who had the calling had nowhere to go.
Charmy Naidoo of the CCDU told Wits Vuvuzela she was not sure if there were specific people at CCDU students with the calling could come to for support.
“There is no specific counselling. If they come through we can try and help them but if they have a specific calling and are sure of that then they would need to go see a sangoma.”
A group of “motherly” con artists scammed a Wits student last week after luring her away from a clothes store with promises of back door deals.
Lutendo Maiwashe, 2nd year BEcon Sci, was browsing through clothes at the Legit store in Braamfontein when a middle-aged women approached her.
The woman said she had a cousin who could help her get clothes at half price.
“The lady seemed very sympathetic to the fact that I’m a student and clothes are expensive. She said we could go meet her cousin outside,” Maiwashe said.
The woman led Maiwashe outside and, as they were walking, another woman joined them. They all walked to a spot outside a bottle store on Melle Street.
“The second woman asked me if it was the first time I was doing this and also convinced me that it was a great deal and for my benefit. She referred to the ‘cousin’ as Zandi,” Maiwashe said.
Maiwashe said that very soon after they had stopped outside the bottle store, “Zandi” joined them. The first woman said she needed to quickly go to the bank and left Maiwashe with her belongings. Maiwashe thinks this was to establish trust.
“Zandi” explained Maiwashe would come with her to the store and they would go through the staff entrance. For this reason Maiwashe would have to leave her bag behind.
When they got to the store “Zandi” suddenly realised it was closing time and said Maiwashe should come back with her friends on the weekend. When Maiwashe went back for her bag, the other women were gone. And so was her bag.
“It was traumatic. I mean I would never have expected this from women. I am a trusting person and now I’m not. These women represented a mother figure,” Maiwashe said.
After the incident Maiwashe recalled that one of the women was wearing a pale blue shirt which looked like it could belong to a Pick ’n Pay employee. After searching the streets with some of her friends they went to Pick ’n Pay to ask if they could check the surveillance cameras to see if they could identify the con artists.
A Pick ’n Pay manager, who asked not to be named, confirmed they had heard of two similar incidents in the past two weeks. She said, however, these people were not employees of Pick ’n Pay.
Simangele Bhila, a Legit employee, said she had also heard of two incidents, one at their store and one at Pick ’n Pay. She said the one who robbed a lady at their store was a man who was allegedly working with women.
Maiwashe has reported the case to the police but she said she wasn’t sure if they would investigate as they did not ask her to describe the perpetrators.
“I could’ve just bought the shirt, it was only R80 and I had the cash in my bag,” said Maiwashe, adding she has been put off discount offers for life.
The words “Propaganda” and “Brain Washing” were spray-painted across the wall in large, black letters. The phrase “Realise, Real Eyes, Real Lies” was also written into a corner of the wall.
The wall is used by different student groups to announce events and messages. Vandalism against the wall when its subject is the Israel-Palestine conflict is a regular occurrence.
Last week, the same wall, this time painted by the SA Union of Jewish Students, was also vandalised. A depiction of Israel on a map of the Middle East was blackened out and part of a written message was also blackened out.
On Tuesday, students sympathetic to Palestine protested against a performance by Israel-born pianist Yossi Reshef in the SW Engineering block.
Members of the Student Representative Council (SRC), Muslim Students Association (MSA), Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) and the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) gathered outside the Atrium ready to bring the concert to a stop.
SRC secretary Tasneem Essop said: “We heard of plans to host an Israeli pianist brought to South Africa by the Israeli embassy. We then immediately wrote to the relevant university staff calling for them to cancel the event as it is a direct violation of the cultural boycott of Israel as adopted by the SRC last year.”
“Protest was our last resort.”
Israel Apartheid Week is hosted annually across the world by pro-Palestinian activists. As part of their involvement, Wits PSC hosted a series of events throughout the week, which were open to students on campus such as an exhibition at the library lawns.
“We have some photos up as well as a mock prison which represents Palestinians who have been detained illegally,” Essop said.
There was also a discussion on Tuesday evening and a film screening on Wednesday.
A balloon release, silent protest and panel discussion were planned for Thursday. An open mic session is planned for Friday.
Essop said that they had faced some challenges with regards to planning their events. They wanted to have a photo exhibition and film screening in a residence but university officials said no political events were allowed in there.
Essop said usually society events were organised through the Dean of Students Prem Coopoo and Student Development and Leadership Unit (SDLU) however this year they were requested to submit their information and list of events they planned to both Coopoo and university Registrar Kirti Menon.
Coopoo denied that Israel Apartheid Week had been treated unfairly as this was not the first time that a club or society event was reviewed by the vice chancellor’s office.
“Events hosted by SAUJS and Wits PSC have to be approved by my office. This has been the practice for the past eight years. Tasneem and Tokelo Nhlapo objected to this six weeks ago in a discussion with me. I explained that all policies and practices are subject to evaluation and review,” said Coopoo.
She suggested they submit a proposal to review the policies but they had not taken this up.
Coopoo said that when she had doubts about an event she seeks advice of other members of management.
Shandukani Mulaudzi and Caro Malherbe
It is unclear whether an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against the former head of the political studies department, Prof Rupert Taylor, has been undertaken following a report last year in the Wits Vuvuzela.
Prof Daryl Glaser, current Political Studies head of department, confirmed that an investigation is underway against the former head of department [HOD] but stopped short of confirming the identity of the individual.
Glaser did say that it was public knowledge that someone in the department had allegations of sexual harassment against them.
Dawn Taylor, Director of the Wits Legal office refused to speak with Wits Vuvuzela and Tasneem Wadvalla, a legal advisor at the same office, said they could not respond to questions about an investigation into Taylor.
According to Wits University spokesperson, Shirona Patel, there were two investigations on sexual harassment currently happening at the university. The first, where an individual was named, was that of Tsepo wa Mamatu, while the second was a campus-wide inquiry where all people have been encouraged to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment.
Glaser indicated that no students had come forward with official statements against Prof Taylor to “the best of my knowledge but once the issue was brought into the public domain, the department wanted to be seen as acting.”
“We have invited the person to step down as HOD despite his denial of allegations,” Glaser said.
Dikeledi Selowa, the former politics first year class representative for 2012, told Wits Vuvuzela that students were aware that Taylor stepped down as head of politics. Selowa said there had been “hearsay” amongst the students about Taylor. “We knew of his history and some students were warned about him,” she said.
She said that no information was given to the students by the department and they weren’t provided with a platform to discuss the allegations.
“It is not true to say that we were aware of issues of sexual harassment until Wits Vuvuzela broke the story. The article was a revelation to most staff,” Glaser said.
“Students have not been informed of the investigation. But we have drawn their attention to issues of sexual harassment,” said Glaser. He said that the students were not informed of the investigation due to legal reasons given to them by the University.
Shahid Vawda, Head of School of Social Sciences said, “No students have come forward. All I can say is the legal office report said they have investigators. It is difficult for us to comment once a legal process has commenced. It is in the hands of the Transformation office.”
In another development, an anonymous blog which is run by an unnamed group of Wits students and known as 11th Floor Senate House (11thfloorSenateHouse.tumblr.com) responded to last year’s Wits Vuvuzela article by posting: “everyone in the Political Studies department (students and staff) knew that it was Professor Rupert Taylor.” Despite numerous attempts to contact Prof Taylor, Wits Vuvuzela was unable to reach him for comment.