WITH GALLERY: Journalism that matters

Paula Fray challenged journalists to “remember the faces” behind the “big issues’ they covered. Speaking at a seminar on “Community Voices”, Fray of FrayIntermedia noted that stories had become accounts of “he-said-she-said” battles between officials. “Nobody speaks to the communities that are really affected, the human face is forgotten,” she said.

“Where were the policy journalists when e-tolling was still being proposed years ago?”

Citing e-tolls as an example, Fray explained the different stages a piece of legislation goes through before it becomes law.

She said the debate among citizens and community members should start while the law is being drawn up, when people can still influence the direction it takes. “Where were the policy journalists when e-tolling was still being proposed years ago?

That’s when the debate should have started because by the time they (the media) broke the story, the debate had already been framed and it had become quite a middle-class he-said-she-said game.”

While Fray said she understood the financial and time constraints journalists faced in the newsroom, she urged them to ask tough questions and not to be intimidated. “I know it’s not easy but many of these problems are universal to all newsrooms and you need to push past them.”

Gcina Ntsaluba of Corruption Watch shared his experiences trying to access information from the government and state-owned companies. He explained how to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to get records from these entities. Using examples of stories published by the City Press and other Media24 publications, Ntsaluba gave real examples of how the Act could give more depth and “exclusivity” to a story: “We all love exclusives here and this tool helps you access some exclusive information.”

A community journalist in the audience spoke about the apathy of community members to the work done by community journalists. Fray said this attitude could be changed by a different approach from journalists themselves: “People become disengaged because they no longer see themselves in these stories. Make the stories about the communities who are affected and it will tell a better story and involve the very people you want to see reading your work.”

Conference an African powerhouse

POWER WELCOME:  (from left) Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Anton Harber and Alex Kotlowitz welcome guests to the three day power reporting conference Photo: Caro Malherbe

POWER WELCOME: (from left) Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Anton Harber and Alex Kotlowitz speak at the opening session of Power Reporting. Photo: Caro Malherbe

Delegates at this year’s Power Reporting conference have labelled it the best investigative journalism platform on the continent.

Idris Akinbajo, editor of Premium Times in Nigeria, was not able to attend last year’s conference but was pleased to be able to share skills with fellow journalists this time around. “This conference is surely among the best if not the best,” he said.

Power Reporting programme director Margaret Renn was introduced to the conference nine years ago when she was invited to be a guest speaker. She said this year’s conference was “by far the biggest” with over 300 delegates in attendance. “It’s managed to establish itself as a place where African journalists hear stories, share skills and share their own experience,” Renn said.

She has  noticed a large number of journalists arriving from South Africa’s major media houses. Some of these included the SABC, eNews Channel Africa, Media24 and Times Media Group. All final-year journalism students from the University of Limpopo and seven staff members were also some of the guests at this year’s conference. Renn said she was pleased that the conference had become an important aspect of skills development for students.[pullquote]It’s managed to establish itself as a place where African journalists hear stories, share skills and share their own experience.[/pullquote]

Renn said she hoped Power Reporting was considered one of the best investigative journalism conferences on the continent. She said the aim was to build a “co-operative ethos” among journalists and to build a community for them to feel a part of.

Hopes for the future

She said the conference is modeled after the Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Annual Summer School in the United Kingdom, which Renn has also run.  “Many of us have been to similar conferences in the [United States] as well and it’s the same model in that you get a bunch of journalists together and you share your skills,” she said.

Rosaveld Parks, a feature specialist and blogger from Johannesburg, was impressed by the session on the use of social media in news: “This conference is about the way forward. We use these tools but don’t understand their power, so these skills are useful.”

Yang Meng is a freelance reporter from China. She and her partner were working on a story about Chinese gold mining in Ghana and attended the conference to learn more about the continent as a whole. She was especially happy with the exchange of ideas and difference in perspectives.  “We heard views from Kenya and Namibia and to us it came as a surprise. On the ground there’s a really different view from what we see in China,” she said.

“You should go see Josh”


AT HIS BEST: A now healthy and strong Joshua Irwin at the Wits gym.
Photo: Sibusisiwe Nyanda

Joshua Irwin had been overweight all his life. During his first year at Wits, his weight reached the point that he was forced to use the disabled parking area.

He remembers the shame of being “effectively disabled” by his weight. At his heaviest, Irwin weighed 130kg.

But two years ago, the third year Psychology major took matters into his own hands and, on his own healthy eating plan, Irwin lost 55kg in eight months. And this year, the self-confessed former sugar and carbohydrate addict took his quest for health a step further.

He is now a nutritional coach and personal trainer. The business idea came to him after he joined the Wits gym and saw “most people doing stupid things”. He became the “go-to guy” after people heard about his success.

He has since landed 13 clients, eight of whom are fellow Witsies. A former anthropology major, Kirby Randall, lost 12kg on his plan. Irwin claims another client lost 9kg in two months and that his own mother lost 12kg after taking some of his nutrition advice.

Irwin’s approach to nutrition goes against some well-known theories about how to get healthy. He argues people don’t need six meals a day to function, especially because most people underestimate the portions they have.

He fasts 16 hours in a day and stays away from carbohydrates and sugar. “By accident I didn’t have carbs once and I decided to go a few days without.”
He says the cravings for unhealthy foods “disappeared” when he stayed away from bread, grains and sugar.
He also doesn’t believe in using food as a reward.
A friend once told him: “Never reward yourself with what you’re trying to recover from.”
At 77kg, Irwin has come a long way from the first year who couldn’t walk from student parking areas.
“Walking uphill and downhill from East to West Campus can be incredibly painful when you’re overweight.”

For a long while, he tried to lose weight but would gain it back. He saw nutritionists for help but felt their “cut and paste” eating plans were impersonal and out of date. Irwin said his confidence had taken a beating.
“I was just tired of it and it hurt. You get overlooked often. You’re not even in the friend zone – you’re just not an option because you’re not desirable.”
He enjoys being able to be more sociable now. “I remember feeling I was extremely visible for my weight, not because I was a nice person or because I was smart … It was just, you know, that fat white guy with long hair. People would have preconceived ideas about you.”

He believes being thin is linked to how well people deal with their past life experiences.
Nutritionists miss this point, he argues, and this leads to their clients not being able to conquer weight problems successfully.
Irwin plans to do his Honours and Masters in psychology, focusing on behavioural and eating abnormalities. He feels the person-centred approach of therapy will help develop more meaningful relationships with his clients.
He wants to be the “go-to guy” for fitness and health in Johannesburg and has his sights on famous South Africans.
“I want celebrities who have had weight problems to be able to tell their friends: ‘You should go see Josh’, because of my work.”

WITH GALLERY: Soulful wrap to a weekend of jazz

The third leg of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festival is usually the most highly anticipated. This year’s finale was no different – with the likes of Selaelo Selota, Stimela and Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse standing out as local favourites to look forward to. Carmen Lundy and The Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards were the must-see international acts.

Saturday was the busiest of the three evenings, with all the restaurants in the enclosed precinct filled to capacity.

A medley of jazz genres and hip hop could be heard as enthusiasts made their way from one venue to the next, rushing to get a good seat with the perfect view.

Bassline and the Dinaledi stages were the more intimate spaces, with the audience almost at eye level with the artists. Stimela and Kabomo Vilakazi were on the more concert-like Mbira stage and their shows were fitting of this setting.

As soon as they started performing their first item, Stimela’s audience was on their feet. The crowd danced and sang along to the band’s very last song – after which they demanded an encore from the Afro-fusion legends.

As the evening drew to a close and jazz lovers made their way out, they were met with crowds that had clearly watched Selota instead. They laughed and shouted “Thrr Phaa!” the catchy phrase and title of one of his more famous singles. The exit queues were abuzz with informal reviews of the shows they had seen, most of which were filled with excitement and satisfaction.

Wherever you ended up this past weekend, as long as you were in Newtown, you were in for a soulful treat from some of the world’s most celebrated artists.


Transie Missions

Witsies use various modes of transport to travel to and from campus everyday. Some take 15 minute walks, while others have to travel for up to two hours. Wits Vuvuzela went out to bus stops, popular taxi pick up points, pedestrian crossings and trains stations to find out how the commute is for students and staff.

A day in the life 

Witsie Yusuf Bapeekee at the Braamfontein train station. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Witsie Yusuf Bapeekee at the Braamfontein train station. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Yusuf Bapeekee used to travel by motor bike when he lived in the West Rand near Kagiso. He recently moved to Mayfair and now walks daily to and from campus. [pullquote align=”right”]“I normally leave campus around 3.30, [but] because it’s Ramadan I leave around 1.15, after prayers.”[/pullquote]

“I never see anything out of the ordinary… just small school kids that walk free not scared. I see them and I feel free.”

Bapeekee said it took him “half hour tops” to make the commute. He said he left home at 7.15am. “I try to be early for my lectures”, he said as a smile grew across face.

“I normally leave campus around 3.30, [but] because it’s Ramadan I leave around 1.15, after prayers.”

Bapeekee said he enjoyed the walk. “It’s free to walk, plus it’s exercise.”

Asked about the crime associated with route around Enoch Sontonga Avenue, Bapeekee said:

“If I saw more students I’d feel even better.”

Walk on by 

Ntombi Mbatha carefully crosses the street. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Ntombi Mbatha carefully crosses the street. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

A short brisk walk is all it takes for Ntombi Mbatha, 1st year BHSc, to get to and from campus. She lives at a Southpoint building just two blocks away from campus.

Even though her journey is uncomplicated she nearly got hit by a taxi once. She said that experience has made her think more than twice before crossing the street now.

She is fascinated by the high school students she passes on her way because they remind her of her days as one of them.

Ntombi feels very safe walking in Braamfontein.

“I went downtown once and it was just such a mess, Braam is better,” she said.


Ngake Mukgowane rushing to catch his train home. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Ngake Mukgowane rushing to catch his train home. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

 Staff travels

Students aren’t the only ones who have to commute to and from Wits. Staff members also have their own transport missions.

Ngake Mukgowane is a Wits staff member who uses the train to commute.

He leaves his home in Dobsonville at 5.30am every morning and has to travel for about an hour and a half to reach Braamfontein station.

Mukgowane has been working at Wits for 18 years and has been a train commuter for most of those years.

He was in a rush to catch his 4pm train when Wits Vuvuzela reporters found him.

60 minute trip

John Malungani shows us how to call a taxi. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

John Malungani shows us how to call a taxi. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

John Malungani, 1st year BSc Com Sci,

has to commute for at least one hour a day to get to campus.

He says that he is more than willing to make the trip because of the good reputation that Wits has.

John lives in Tembisa. There is no taxi that comes straight from there to Wits, so he has to walk for another 15 minutes once he reaches Noord taxi rank.

He wishes he lived a little closer so that he could work and study till late on campus like other students.

“It’s hard travelling for two hours a day,” said Malungani.


Mighti: Wits is not the SRC’s Spaza Shop


THE MIGHTI LEADER: Jamie Mighti talks about his hopes for improved student-management relations. Photo: Prelene Singh

THE MIGHTI LEADER: Jamie Mighti talks about his hopes for improved student-management relations. Photo: Prelene Singh

INCOMING Vice Chancellor  Adam Habib has agreed to an open meeting between Witsies and management early next semester, to forge a connection between them and address student issues.

[pullquote align=”right”]“You have turned the university into your personal spaza shop and are holding us all at your mercy.”[/pullquote]

The meeting was suggested by Wits Debating Union’s president, Jamie Mighti, who criticised the SRC for failing to represent students adequately. The idea behind the town hall-style meeting is to give students a chance to speak directly to management, as “we’re losing touch with each other”.

He made the suggestion two weeks ago during an interview with Habib and Wits SRC secretary, Tasneem Essop on Talk Radio 702. The interview followed an open letter Mighti posted on social media. The letter went viral, getting over 960 “likes” and being shared by nearly 400 people on Facebook alone.

In his letter, Mighti said the SRC had “chosen to ignore the ‘R’ in SRC” and questioned some of the decisions made in previous months. He said the SRC, while not incompetent, had no vision, discipline or capacity to deal with students’ issues.

“I love many of the people on the SRC as individuals. They are great people and will do well in politics. But we have had enough of your politics at our expense. You have turned the university into your personal spaza shop and are holding us all at your mercy.”

He said he was worried the SRC was dividing students and “alienating” themselves (the SRC) from management. “We need collaboration versus confrontation with the university.”

Essop said while she could agree there had been a breakdown in communication between the SRC and students, it was unfair to suggest the SRC was not doing anything for them. “We’re just not good at advertising our success.

“It’s a fallacy that we don’t think of more immediate issues,” she said, responding to Mighti’s claim the SRC was more active in international activism than in tackling on-campus issues.

“We’re not trying to dispel student issues  … we’re putting suggestion boxes around campus. We also have an open-door policy.”

Essop said the SRC was happy to be part of the town hall meeting, and that it was in their diary.

Related links:

Wits Vuvuzela May 10, 2013 Petitions, protests and perplexity

Wits Vuvuzela May 17, 2013 The charges against the eleven will not be dropped

Wits Vuvuzela April 26, 2013 SRC accused want a public trial

Urban politics: thrifting in Jozi

Mpumelelo Mfula organises Babatunde gear at his RHTC stall at The Grove Market in Braamfontein

Mpumelelo Mfula organises Babatunde gear at his RHTC stall at The Grove Market in Braamfontein

On Sunday mornings, while most people go to church, inner-city Jozi becomes a refuge for urban youth looking for spaces to express themselves.

The Grove Market in Braamfontein turns into a platform where urban cool kids like Mpumelelo Mfula and Andile Jila meet to further their cause.  Vintage print jackets and tweed pencil skirts constitute their voice of protest – affordability and exclusivity providing them with a weapon against urban consumerism.

Thrift shopping or “thrifting”, as it is commonly called, is the art of finding one-of-a-kind items of clothing at markets and buying them for next to nothing.

A stall owner, who would give her name only as S’ponono, sees thrifting as her way of sharing her sense of style with the world. While doing her regular price negotiations she said: “I just feel like, if I’ve seen a piece for too long, I have to give it away.”

This is at the centre of thrifting culture – the sharing of exclusive items with people who share your passion for being different.

While profit is not the main goal, thrifters benefit from the income they make. Andile Jila, 1st year BA, uses the money he makes from thrifting to pay his fees.

“I’m paying the NSFAS interest, I buy my own books and I have to live. I’m surviving, though. Girls love clothes.”

Thrift stores have evolved from selling women’s clothing only, to becoming mini-department stores in their own right.

Bright African wax print bow ties and colourful clutch bags are some signature Babatunde brand items sold by Mfula, who started wearing the bright hats and matching ‘90s style sweaters when he was a Witsie years ago.

“It all started from varsity culture and wanting to be unique. I started wearing certain things before they were popular and that became my form of expression.”

Mfula, who has an honours degree in Politics, admits that thrifting is an unusual career choice for a graduate.

“People always say: ‘You have two degrees, you could do so much with that’, and I could be, but I’d be dying on the inside. I believe I’m part of a movement of urban politics.

“About five years ago we would take our money and spend it at the malls. Now our money stays in these circles and we benefit from our culture by developing an economy. It’s quite progressive.”

Asked if he felt the money from thrifting could sustain him long-term, Mfula admitted the average person would not think so but that it was good enough for the lifestyle he preferred – a “humble” one.

Mfula plans to grow his online store and one day develop pop-up stores around the country. “I want to promote the street culture that comes with thrifting and have stores for a few months in different spaces.”

He said it was important to remember that living with purpose wasn’t easy. “I’m building from the ground up and taking a stand in what I feel is an urban politics.”



Oh my Lord, wenzeni?


Dr Lord Mauko-Yevugah

Dr Lord Mauko-Yevugah

INTERNATIONAL relations lecturer Dr Lord Mawuko-Yevugah has been placed on special leave following an investigation.Social Sciences head of school Prof Shahid Vawda said Mawuko-Yevugah had been put on leave about two weeks ago and would “be back as soon as the investigation is over”.

Vawda could not confirm the details or the nature of the investigation. He said he had not recieved formal confirmation of the nature of the allegations or the investigation.

Vawda said the investigation could be in relation to any form of misconduct such as sexual harassment, racial discrimination or gender-related issues.

He told Wits Vuvuzela to approach the Wits legal office for any further information or comments regarding the investigation.

Wits Vuvuzela was unable to reach the Wits legal office for comment. The communications office referred the paper to Wits employee relations.

Director of Employee Relations, Elaine Milton, said she could not rule out that the pending investigation was unrelated to sexual harassment. Milton referred further questions to the legal office.

When contacted Mawuko-Yevugah said he was on “personal leave” due to ill health since his return to the country from his trip to Ghana.

“I don’t know how long I will be away for but I will be back,” said Mawuko-Yevugah.

 Administrative officer for the  international relations department, Hilda Potgieter, said Mawuko-Yevugah “had taken personal and family leave”.

Potgieter said a contingency plan had been implemented to ensure students did not miss lectures and were not inconvenienced by Mawuko-Yevugah’s sudden absence.

“New lecturers have been assigned,” said Potgieter.

Mawuko-Yevugah is one of at least four lecturers who have been put on special leave by the university in the past two months, pending investigations.

Following Mawuko-Yevugah’s sudden absence, social science students were left confused and approached Wits Vuvuzela to express their concern.

Mawuko-Yevugah who teaches international relations subjects to undergraduates, postgraduates and Wits Plus students, joined Wits University in June 2011. He holds a PhD from Alberta University in Canada, with a specialisation in international and comparative political economy.

Additional Resources

Wits Vuvuzela. April 13, 2013: Wits staff in sexual harassment inquiry.


Masutha opts out of SABC’s ‘One Day Leader’

Former Wits SRC president Morris Masutha shocked viewers last week when he left SABC 1’s reality series, One Day Leader, after winning a challenge and qualifying for the next round.

LEADER ON THE RISE: Former SRC president, Morris Masutha Photo: Provided

LEADER ON THE RISE: Former SRC president, Morris Masutha
Photo: Provided

Masutha, who was part of the top six, said he had to leave the show because of a job offer he could not turn down.

The youth leader is now a Policy and Strategy Analyst for the City of Tshwane’s division of Economic Intelligence.

“It’s my dream job given that it’s in line with what I studied … I tried my best to juggle the job and the show but the travelling factor made it physically impossible,” Masutha said.

Masutha has also been awarded a PhD scholarship by Georgia State University in the United States and will be leaving South Africa in September this year.

When asked how he felt about the gap in youth activism and the private sector being accused of poaching young talent, Masutha spoke of the importance of young people creating jobs and the promotion of “an entrepreneurial culture”.

Masutha’s youth foundation, Thusanani, worked with Wits this year in helping first year students adapt to university life. The lectures held by Wits and Thusanani were aimed at avoiding financial and academic exclusion.

The foundation will also soon give bursaries to students from high schools in townships and rural areas.

Two more Witsies, Anele Nzimande and Seadimo Tlale, are top contenders in the show. One Day Leader airs on Sundays at 6.30pm on SABC 1. Read about the other Witsie contestants here.