Concerns for the safety of dating-app users soar after the kidnapping of an 18-year-old student.
A Wits University student is recovering in hospital after being kidnapped by a group of men who had allegedly lured them through online dating app, Grindr.
The victim was found by police, bound and unconscious, on September 20 at the Denver Men’s Hostel and taken to Milpark Hospital for treatment. Seven suspects were arrested and charged with kidnapping and extortion, with police recovering three knives and the student’s belongings in their possession.
Police are investigating if the suspects have links to numerous other cases of a similar nature in Gauteng.
The student is currently staying at one of the university’s residences and on September 19, their roommate reported them missing after not returning from meeting with someone from the app.
“A Wits warden informed [Campus Protection Services (CPS)] that a student was reported missing by his roommate,” said Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel. CPS then immediately alerted the South African Police Department (SAPS). “They worked to track down the student… CPS were a central part of this team and acted swiftly,” added Patel. The university says that this is the first case of this nature that they have been made aware of.
The kidnappers contacted the student’s family and demanded tens of thousands of rands in ransom money.
SAPS Gauteng spokesperson Brenda Muridili said that a large group working together to recover the student were led “to an ATM where one of the suspects was expected to withdraw the ransom money on the M2 Road. The police held an observation and then placed the suspect under arrest [as] soon as he arrived.” The suspect then led the police to the hostel.
Grindr is a popular social networking and online dating app that sees around 3.6 million online daily users worldwide. The app is targeted towards the queer community (mostly men – 69% of users) looking for, as the AfroQueer podcast describes it, “hookups, relationships and love… and some other things in-between.”
However, this app has been an ever increasing medium to facilitate organised crime.
There have been numerous cases where users have been targeted by people who robbed, assaulted, raped, kidnapped and/or murdered them. The app itself issued a warning to its South African users over the rise in kidnapping’s linked to their own platform earlier this year.
Noma Sibanda, who is a representative from LQBTQIA+ rights-oriented society Activate Wits, said that the “app itself is not safe because anyone can open a fake account”. There is no verification process when opening a Grindr account and anonymity is synonymous with most profiles, largely due to stigma, which criminals take advantage of.
“When speaking to someone romantically, people can be misled easily… so when meeting up for the first time with someone on the app, do so in a public place with other people,” said Sibanda.
Activate Wits says that this event “not only causes physical or psychological harm but also perpetuates a culture of silence and fear… [Criminal syndicates] capitalise on this because it is easier in South Africa to be operational because they believe they can get away with it,” added Sibanda.
Sibanda hopes to work closely with the university for victims to come forward and report crimes as “it may be easier for the queer community to speak (and open up) to others in the community”.
FEATURED IMAGE: Student activists pose on the Library Lawns while facing the Wits Great Hall. Photo: File
The book tracks South African women’s experiences with domestic violence over a 100 year period, many of them living in fear and terror in their own homes, some murdered by the intimate partners they shared those spaces with.
Brodie, a veteran journalist, writer and lecturer at the Wits Centre for Journalism was in discussion with broadcaster and journalist Azania Mosaka at the book’s launch at Exclusive Books, Rosebank on September 6.
“By definition, terror is the deliberate instillment of fear…when controlling partners feel as if they are losing control, they up the levels of violence to instil more fear and for them, control,” said Brodie. There are many instances of instilling fear, from smashing a phone to stalking – anything that may cause emotional, physical or any other form of distress.
“Women are often killed with protection orders in their handbags. Police should intervene ‘on the small stuff’ (warning signs) before the ‘big stuff’ happens.”
Dr Nechama Brodie
There is a huge failure of the police and justice system when women seek protection from their domestic partners but are not taken seriously. A more intersectional approach which includes healthcare services and the judiciary is needed she emphasised.
A big takeaway from this book is that the warning signs are usually there. Friends and family see abusive relationships and may know about the abusive nature of partners (mainly men) but ignore it until it is too late. Some families and friends paint violent partners as “devoted” and ignore calls for help from women by sending them back to the abuser for “the sake of the family” explained Brodie.
“Bodies show a life of terror,” said Mosaka, referring to a 2019 case of a 54-year-old woman who was murdered by her partner and had her body dumped in a veld, left to decompose. Pathologists had to examine her bones, with her cause of death (ultimately finding that she was beaten with a brick) indistinguishable from previous injuries – some healed, some had not. Almost every bone imaginable was broken at some point.
For those who survive and report their abuse, the risk of being retraumatized is high during the trial process. Character assassinations, slut shaming and sanitizing the abuser’s image are some of the things victims face in court. “The fact that she was drunk or spoke back does not excuse her for being murdered…this links to the historical nature of the societal entitlement of men over women’s bodies,” explained Brodie.
This is Brodie’s third book on true crime in South Africa. She admitted that she thought she could not finish the book halfway through because of the subject matter, but it was more important to finish writing it. “The terror was far too real. It is a heavy book to read because some of the stories become relatable,” she shared.
Having read the book, member of parliament Glynnis Breytenbach said it is “hugely important, impeccably researched . . . It must be said, and it must be read”.
Attendee, Tannur Anders says she wants to read the book because “Dr. Brodie is an incredible researcher and journalist. [Her] extensive data-driven work provides valuable insights to better understand South Africa.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Dr. Nechama Brodie poses proudly with her third crime book at its launch on September 6. Photo: Seth Thorne.
The Wits Origin Center is hosting Bev Butkow’s Re-weaving Mother exhibit, which showcases a collection of artworks that explores the question of how humans exist in this world and what they leave behind.
South African artist, Bev Butkow, who has showcased her work worldwide has brought her new project on display in her second solo exhibit at the Wits Origin Centre on August 20, 2023.
The exhibition titled, Re-Weaving Mother shows a body of abstract, woven, stitched, painted, and mixed media sculptures, artworks on canvases and fabric that draped over concrete pillars. The exhibit managed to take a dark and gloomy centre and turned it into a beautiful spectacle of colour and life.
As art lovers walked through the entrance, they were ushered in by draping elaborate fabrics – it was like entering a material jungle and artworks were waiting to be discovered. There were different lights filling each space in the room and each piece was made of different textures and colours.
Butkow holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Wits University and made a bold move from a successful corporate career in finance to become an artist. She said her current work is inspired by learning a new and different way to exist in the world.
She described her art as “nurturing” and “caring,” harboring different elements of the human body and art mixed into one. She added that her work represented, “the value of women’s labour [and] the traces we leave and the impact we make”.
Butkow told Wits Vuvuzela that she believes, “creativity is the new intellectual frontier,” and added that art creates “new possibilities around how we engage in the world and how we exist together in community.”
Many people came to view the new exhibit, this included art lover Meaghan Pogue who said the artworks made her feel a sense of “comfort” because the material used on the hanging sculptures were made from a soft and “recognizable” fabric. You can almost feel a sense of home with some of the pieces as if they are woven from memory.
Each person may experience the exhibition differently but from interaction with the artwork in form of sight and touch, Butkow seemingly showcased new ways of being and engaging with the world through her art.
The Re-Weaving Mother exhibit will be showcased at the Origin Center until September 30, 2023. There will be creative gatherings on the:
Body and Art: August 30
A Material Uprising: September 06
The value of Women’s Labour: September 12
Traces We Leave Upon the Earth: September 14
FEATURED IMAGE:Ley Linesand other Networks of Care by Bev Butkow in her exhibit “Re-Weaving Mother” on August 20, 2023. Photo: Georgia Cartwright
The ANC Youth League demanded that the ANC pull out from all coalitions, calling them “anti-democratic”.
The ANCYL finally held their first national congress after an eight-year hiatus on Saturday, August 5, using their platform to oppose Luthuli House on a range of issues.
The first leg held between June 30 and July 1, 2023, at the Nasrec Expo Centre was an elective conference, leading to the elections of Collen Malatji as president of the ANCYL, Phumzile Mgcina as deputy president, Mntuwoxolo Ngudle as secretary general and Tsakani Shiviti as deputy secretary general.
While the second leg at the Johannesburg City Hall focused on policy positions under the themes of social change and economic freedom.
To hell with Coalitions
The ANCYL was clear on its anti-coalition stance, urging the mother body to pull out from all coalitions that do not benefit the majority of South Africa.
During the National Dialogue on Coalition Governments held in Cape Town on Friday, August 4, ANC Deputy President Paul Mashatile said that these partnerships have the potential of igniting the hopes of South Africans.
While secretary general Fikile Mbalula added that the party was willing to enter “grand coalitions” with other parties with the condition that the party with the most votes must lead in the respective municipality.
In response to this, Malatji urged Mbalula, (former ANCYL president between 2004 and 2008) to write a letter to all municipalities telling them to “pull out of those things [coalitions]”.
The youth league president emphasized that people voted for ANC thus they should govern alone. “The ANC cannot reject its own manifesto and implement the manifesto of Al Jama-ah which was voted by five people,” said Malatji.
The burning question of Unemployment
The youth league called for the removal of two ministers from their respective positions, accusing them of hindering youth employment. Malatji called the Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, “the minister of unemployment,” and accused the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel of obstructing the process of re-industrialization.
In response, the ANC released a statement on Monday, August 6 which called the utterances a “denigration of personalities,” which they would not tolerate.
Malatji, emphasized the need for radical industrialization as a way of creating more jobs and developing the South African economy, noting that 75% of South African raw materials need to be kept within the country and economic corridors need to be occupied by at least 50% of the youth.
They did, however, praise Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi for creating employment through the Nasi ISpani programme and further urged premiers from different provinces to learn from him.
The new leadership told Wits Vuvuzela that their tenure would signal the return of the ‘voice of the voiceless’ and championing of youth issues.
FEATURED IMAGE: ANCYL comrades posing for a photo at their 26th National Conference at the Johannesburg City Hall. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov
The Wits Pharmacy Student Council (WPSC) and the Sefako Makgatho Health Science University (SMU) explored the pros and cons of PIMART in South Africa.
Pharmacists from both Wits University and SMU debated the issue of HIV treatment relating to the Pharmacist-Initiated Management of Antiretroviral Therapy implementation at the Wits Education Campus on Friday, July 28.
The Wits team argued in favour of the treatment, while SMU argued against it.
Former South African Medical Association chairperson, Dr. Angelique said the move would allow for “unfair competition”, as pharmacists would “compete with general practitioners whilst not having the necessary qualifications.”
Wits pharmacy student, Maria Phalane, disagreed, she said pharmacists mainly work in the private sector with only “27% of South Africans in private healthcare, leaving 73% [of the majority] uncatered for.”
Dr. Maria Eksteen, a professional in pharmacy education, told Wits Vuvuzela that “PIMART has a valuable place in the South African healthcare context,” and added that pharmacists are the “most accessible healthcare professionals, [changing] the game in terms of accessibility to treatment for employed and uninsured patients.”
Eksteen adds that PIMART is definitely “part of many solutions to Africa’s high HIV infection rates,” with an estimated 13.2% of South Africans living with HIV in 2022.
It is unclear at this point whether PIMART will be fully implemented in South Africa, but the debate was meant to help “raise awareness and promote a discussion around PIMART,” said WPSC member, Lethokuhle Ndaba.
Although the IPA and some practitioners are against PIMART, the debate highlighted how it could help increase the treatment rates of HIV positive patients throughout South Africa.
FEATURED IMAGE: Students watching and discussing the PIMART Debate at Wits’ Education Campus in Parktown. Photo: Georgia Cartwright
On July 18, 2023,co-editors Mbongiseni Buthelezi and Peter Valelaunched the book at Exclusive Books, Rosebank. A discussion with three of the contributors interrogated how and why such a large amount of money was stolen since around 2008, when the Gupta brothers repeatedly secured lucrative deals with a number of key state-owned entities.
Contributors included professor at the Wits school of law, Jonathan Klaaren, researcher at the Public Affairs Institute Devi Pillay, and journalist turned researcher Reg Rumney.
Defining state capture
The definition of state capture itself was widely contested, as it presents differently in various parts of the world. What was agreed upon was that most countries have experienced some version of it.
Broadly defined, it is the process whereby private individuals (like the Gupta brothers) influence legislative and/or procurement processes through their connections to political actors (like former president Jacob Zuma).
Co-conspirators and the shadow state
Pillay focused on the middleman role played by professionals, such as auditors like KPMG, in state capture dealings. She said they “use their specific skills to benefit a third party” at the expense of the state.
“Professional firms legitimize corruption and operate secretly…with inherent conflicts of interest,” added Pillay.
Klaaren unpacked the concept of state capture as being the contestation of a constitutional and shadow state. The former is a state where the power of the government is limited by laws, while the latter is the power wielded by private individuals and vested interests, who can manipulate state apparatus.
Rumney argued that by capturing the media, one could capture the minds and hearts of the public. This is exactly what the Gupta brothers sought to do so through their own media companies, including ANN7 and The New Age.
“People still value democracy, which is why authoritarians keep up the illusion of it” said Rumney. This was seen by the attempts at starving independent media of state advertising and taking over the ownership structures of “independent” publications (which the Gupta’s attempted to do) to control the narrative and evade accountability.
“A weakened media is much more prone to state capture…[however] private and donor funded media is why [the state is] still surviving,” said Rumney.
The evening concluded with questions from the audience, most of the which were if the country was fully captured. The panellists argued that only partially, as it is true that ailing institutions with massive budgets, like Transnet and Eskom were captured, however crucial institutions like the Treasury and the Reserve Bank were not – despite desperate attempts.
The panel warned that if these institutions fall victim to state capture, that is a fast track to a failed state.
FEATURED IMAGE: The product of 5 years of research, proudly displayed in front of a packed audience at its launch at Exclusive Books in Rosebank on July 18, 2023. Photo: Seth Thorne
Through introducing projects that promote teaching as an aspirational career, the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship aims to improve the quality of education in South Africa.
The Jakes Gerwel Fellowship (JGF) is focusing on improving the poor conditions in public schools across South Africa by introducing uplifting leadership programs and investing in students who have a passion for teaching and education.
Jakes Gerwel is a fellowship that has been mandated by the then Allan Gray Orbis Foundation since 2017, aiming to improve the education system. JGF hopes to position teaching as an aspirational career for young students to promote an increase in employment of quality teachers in public schools.
South Africa’s education system has been declining, with young people struggling to read for comprehension. Only 20% of public schools function adequately with a large gap between the final matric results they achieve compared to those of the other 80% of public schools.
JGF hopes to bridge this gap with strategic communications specialist Sarah Koopman telling Wits Vuvuzela that, “The quality of the education system is dependent on the quality of its teachers.” JGF has identified the teacher shortage in South Africa as one of utmost importance for our economy to thrive.
JGF program participants are selected based off their “expert teacher profile, educational leadership, and educational entrepreneurial skills,” says acting CEO Carla Watson. Wits University is a partner institution of JGF, offering scholarships and bursaries to strong student candidates who are completing their postgraduate certificates of education (PGCE).
One of the initiatives JGF has chosen to take on is the employment support and work readiness program which began at the end of 2022 and will continue throughout the 2023 year. This project aims to support teachers who are qualified but are not equipped with enough information on how to find employment after graduating.
This involves helping candidates with their CV, setting up mock interviews to equip them with valuable interview skills, hosting South African Council of Educators (SACE) registration information sessions, and sharing employment opportunities with candidates so they can access teaching positions easier. This program aims to help teachers find employment, taking preference over government school positions by placing teachers in these schools, hoping to “make resources available to maximise JGF’s impact, connecting with organisations that are contributing to address unemployment in the country,” Menze said.
JGF is also working on other projects such as using theatre to improve reading literacy. A Wits master’s student and JGF fellow, Luna August, co-founded the AK Arts and Leadership program (AKALA) which is a non-profit organization focused on increasing art education throughout South Africa. August’s research focuses on the importance of the arts in education.
JGF hopes to recruit more fellows from universities throughout South Africa who have a strong passion and love for education and invites the “very best” to teach South Africa’s future generations because all students deserve a “switched-on, compassionate and excellent teacher to help unlock their own potential,” says Watson.
Students who are choosing to complete their postgraduate certificate of education can apply for the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship online by completing an eligibility quiz and filling in an application form.
FEATURED IMAGE: The Jakes Gerwel team at a #BeATeacher event in South Africa, promoting teaching as an aspirational career. Photo: Supplied.
South Africans should see through fearmongering by politicians and the idea that a single person or party will save the country.
Voters must vote for values such as justice and solidarity, rather than pledging loyalty to one person or party in the 2024 general elections, in order to progress as a country.
This was the take-home message from panellists at a discussion titled “Where to from here… The state of South Africa” at the Kingsmead Book Fair on May 27.
The discussion was witnessed by a packed school hall of potential voters and facilitated by economist and futurist, Bronwyn Williams. Journalist and political commentator Justice Malala, Wits media studies associate professor Nicky Falkof and journalist-turned-politician Songezo Zibi, made up the panel which critically unpacked issues including fear among the citizenry and the messiah complex – the idea that a single person or party will be the saviour for the country.
Author of The Plot to Save South Africa, Malala discussed the idea that good leadership can get a country through the worst of times. He used the example of Nelson Mandela stepping up when the country was at the brink of a civil war in April 1993 following the death of ANC leader Chris Hani. A “messiah” did come forward in the shape of Mandela to shape the country’s political landscape.
Malala argued that this worked because Mandela was driven by the desire to create a prosperous country, rather than a desire for power – whereas the current leadership’s interests are rooted in political power and it lacks the will and understanding to fix the country’s problems.
Associate professor Nicky Falkof – who described politics as being mostly driven by emotion – said that legitimate fears of violence in the country were politicised, resulting in a culture and narrative of fear which impacted race, class and gender.
She used an example unpacked in her book, Worrier State: Risk, anxiety and moral panic in South Africa, that violence is a threat in South Africa, however, violence with white victims (who are a minority) dominates the media landscape and is presented as more gruesome than other crimes. Calling this the contemporary myth of “white genocide”, Falkof said, “The white far right has tried to convince people that the deaths of white people are far more brutal than those of anyone else.”
This creates panic among communities in an already fearful country and politicians use this legitimate fear to mobilise support by running fearmongering campaigns claiming that only they can solve an issue that has been blown out of proportion and context.
Author of Manifesto: A New Vision for South AfricaSongezoZibi said that the country’s political and legislative systems were “fundamentally faulty”, however, blaming the ANC was “the easy answer [whereas] we have serious structural problems that brought us here”.
A major structural problem is the electoral system wherein constituents do not know who their representatives are. Party members are sent to legislatures and given powerful positions based on their connections to a person or party, rather than sent by their communities to represent their voices in decision-making processes.
“[This undermines the] value of the culture of democratic participation” leaving representatives disconnected from civil society and vice-versa, said Zibi.
The public’s interests have become lost in this disconnection between representatives and society, because the electoral system that was adopted in 1994 “created a block of faceless individuals” that the government overlooks and calls “our people”, said Zibi.
The discussion was concluded with a few questions from the audience. With the questions all relating government shortcomings, such as electricity and education, the panelists all stressed the importance of changing the poor voter turnout in the country, and emphasised that the only way for the country to progress would be to vote those inhibiting it out of power.
FEATURED: Journalist-turned-politician Songezo Zibi makes a point at the Kingsmead Book Fair on May 27. Photo: Seth Thorne
Prime a popular drink amongst teenagers fails to quench thirst with no guarantee it won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth
Prime, the new popular range of sports and energy drinks amongst teenagers that retailed in South Africa at Checkers stores from May 1, 2023 disappoints in taste.
The drinks were launched in 2022 by popular YouTubers, Logan Paul and Olajide Olayinka Williams Olatunji also known as KSI. “We created Prime to showcase what happens when rivals come together as brothers and business partners to fill the void where great taste meets function,” said the pair on their Prime website.
The drinks, which are marketed by Prime Hydration have been publicised on social media platforms that it was sold out shortly after it was stocked to retail, with scores of teenagers and parents standing in long queues to stock up.
I had been trying to get my hands on it for more than a week before it was finally restocked at my closest Checkers in Rosebank mall. The drinks are clearly in high demand, thanks to its brand reputation and how well it was advertised by the YouTubers.
There are four flavours to choose from which are: tropical punch, lemon lime, ice pop and blue raspberry. I got all four bottles, with each drink retailing at R39,99.
The ice pop flavour tastes like medicine, it’s sweet and bitter at the same time and it leaves an after taste in the mouth after drinking. The blue raspberry tastes a bit sweet. You can taste the raspberry flavour in it as well as the coconut water. It also tastes similar to the Powerade energy drink, the mountainblast flavour.
The lemon- lime flavour, tastes good with a hint of sweetness and bitterness, you can taste the lemon lime in it. While the tropical punch flavour is sweet and it tastes like a combination of guava juice and watermelon.
Despite the flavours, the drink does not hydrate, instead, I had heart palpitations a few minutes after consuming the drinks – even though I did not taste all of them at the same time.
Uyathandwa Mani, final year BCom student at Wits told Wits Vuvuzela that she did not feel any difference after drinking it, “it did not hydrate me at all, the only thing I felt was a headache.”
The ingredients listed on Prime include: 10,5% coconut water, filtered water, branch chain amino acids, electrolytes, vitamin B, E and A, citric acid, several antioxidants and flavouring.
The Sport Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) said on their website, “Although the Prime website claims the Hydration drink to be suitable for all ages, other sources have warned children under 15 years old from consuming it. Based on the nutrition label provided on the Prime website, the Prime Hydration drink compares with similar drinks in the sports/hydration category.”
However, the two creators said in a video on Paul’s YouTube channel that Prime hydration drink has no caffeine which makes it safe for children to consume whereas the Prime energy drink (which is not available in South Africa yet) has caffeine and it’s not suitable for people under the age of 18.
The packaging of the hydration drink is very simple. I like the ice pop flavour bottle which has several colours combined that make it interesting and appealing. The rest are simple 500ml bottles coloured blue, lime and red with the drinks’ name written in black.
Overall, the hydration drink is overhyped as people made exaggerating claims about the drink saying it’s too good and truly hydrates. Wits Vuvuzela rates it a five out of 10 because the taste was disappointing in three flavours. For the price it retails for, one expected more.
FEATURED IMAGE: Friends drinking Prime hydration drinks at night. Photo: Sinazo Mondo
The hiring of influencers by political parties deprives voters of the opportunity to interrogate what politicians have to offer.
With the 2024 elections around the corner, politicians can be expected to use celebrities and influencers to persuade South Africans to vote for their parties.
Celebrities have become central figures in modern politics globally by using their influence to lead party campaigns and social awareness campaigns. South Africa is not a stranger to this kind of culture. In the 2019 elections, celebrities such as Bonang Matheba took to Instagram with the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC presidential candidate, telling followers to follow their lead and vote for the ANC.
Four years after the success of Ramaphosa’s campaign, Matheba is singing a different tune about how the ANC has failed the country. This proves that she did not have the expertise to make any politically influential statements in the first place because now she is calling for Ramaphosa to resign.
The fusion of politics and pop culture has not served our democracy well as thousands of people would have taken endorsement of politicians by Matheba, DJ Zinhle and the late Kiernan Forbes at face value rather than interrogating their utterances.
Some celebrities even take the baton and run with it into politics, as proven by Donald Trump who moved from The Apprentice showto the White House as the US president. Media reports slammed his term in office because of a lack of expertise to make the right decisions that even saw him refusing intelligence briefings that were crucial for his position.
Brookings, a public policy organisation based in Washington, USA reported that his lack of understanding of the political space made Trump to shut down resources such as the global health security team that would have helped minimise the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “Most American presidents fail when they cannot comprehend the government they inherit,” the organisation said.
Recently in South Africa we have witnessed Kenny Kunene who became famous in 2014 for eating sushi off naked women become an acting mayor of Johannesburg for a day at the beginning of May. Questions of his capability to carry out the duties were raised because of his position as an entertainer. I was one of those who questioned what made him drop the chopsticks and move into politics and why he was entrusted with such responsibility.
An article in the journal Political Psychology highlighted that “Research has shown that a politician’s involvement in a scandalous behaviour can severely damage candidate evaluations and may also decrease voting intentions.” This could cause voters to have mistrust when celebrities move from the entertainment industry to politics.
This raises the issue whether politicians should stick to being public servants and celebrities remain influencers and entertainers. But what qualifies one to be a politician? In 2018 the Mail & Guardian reported that “Many MPs insisted that educational qualifications are not the key to a seat in Parliament — being a good politician is what counts.”
The South African Constitution gives everyone the right to freedom of expression, but that right comes with responsibility. During the 2024 elections, I would like to see less of influencers in the political space and if we do see them, they should be aware that words have meaning. They should educate themselves about the parties they are endorsing to their followers.
I would like to see more politically present politicians with a focus on service delivery rather than those with a social media presence. South Africa is dealing with crises of water and electricity among many challenges. As a voter I would rather know what the different parties plan to do to solve these rather than listen to celebrities who see politics as the next paid campaign.
This thrift maven is not only drastically growing her own local, inclusive, sustainable business, but she also empowers others to do the same.
Wits graduate Gabrielle Onay has redefined much of the second-hand scene in Johannesburg through their thrift store “Crybaby Thrift” and popular sustainable flea market “Picnic and Thrift”.
Born in 1999 in Johannesburg, Onay describes herself as a “seichel” – a Yiddish term which is associated with someone who uses ingenuity, creativity, subtlety and nuance in their work and life.
While doing her undergraduate BA degree in sociology and Portuguese – she would later achieve an honours in sociology – Onay wanted to find a way to make money as a university student to not only feed her cigarette addiction but to pay for fees.
With a lifelong interest in fashion, “thrifting” (the reselling of second-hand items) and passion for sustainability, culminated in her online business. Onay hates everything about fast fashion due to its harmful effects on both labour and the environment. “[Big companies] have proven themselves as bad for this earth,” she said.
In 2018, she began marketing her second-hand clothing on Instagram using the name “Crybaby Thrift,” which gained a substantial following and quickly expanded into selling merchandise made with upcycled clothes. In the process of upcycling, Onay uses businesses run by other Wits students to print and embryoid designs.
In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela, Onay said that she believes that a new future of exchange is dawning – with thrift being its new currency. “Sustainability is our generation’s way forward,” said Onay.
In 2019 Onay, alongside sustainable gift shop owner and close friend Ruby Prager created a market, Picnic and Thrift, comprised of young business owners from the university community. Onay described them as “the thrifters of Wits”.
Underestimating their pull, Onay and Prager needed to find a bigger space after attracting several hundred visitors to their own backyard in Houghton. The monthly market attracts around 2 000 visitors, with around 40 thrift and sustainable product stalls.
The market also prides itself on being a “queer-friendly space” – one which allows members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community to not only grow and support their businesses but allow for free, unfiltered self-expression for attendees. Truthfully so, the event has become very much synonymous with the Johannesburg queer scene.
Rewoven, a company that sells materials and products made from textile waste, came across Onay’s work, and wrote the following:
“Crybaby Thrift sits in the heart of queer eccentric culture – it is a curated and unique brand that is centred around sustainability, high fashion, and ethical consumption and development. Crybaby Thrift is also a community and small business development hub.“
Onay describes this as intentional to change a narrative around the Joburg queer community as “not just being associated with hard nightlife.” She describes the space as “lovely, gentle and welcoming.”
Prager described their pure happiness at witnessing Onay’s business and personal growth. “Watching Gabi [alongside other student businesses] grow in the space that they have, has been incredible. I cannot wait to see what they do next. I cannot wait to see what we do next.”
As much as Onay has achieved in this sustainable business adventure, she says that she is just getting started. So, watch out fashion industry – Gabrielle is coming for you one pre-loved item at a time.
FEATURED: Thrifter and businesswoman Gabrielle Onay sorting through her upcycled Crybaby Thrift clothing products. Photo: Seth Thorne
Not even personal phone calls to Vice-Chancellor Zeblon Vilakazi stopped the screening of the documentary that focuses on the state of India’s democracy under current prime minister.
The screening of India: The Modi Question at Wits on Friday, May 12, was a powerful example of the importance of media freedom and open discussions in exercising democracy.
Difficult conversations about nationalism, police brutality, media freedom and command responsibility – the idea that a commanding officer is responsible for atrocities committed by their subordinates – are very often shied away from in postcolonial contexts.
The Humanities Graduate Centre (HGC) hosted the screening and panel discussion of the two-part documentary about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his relationship with the Muslim minority in the country. It was released by the BBC in January 2023 and subsequently got banned by the Indian government as “anti-Indian propaganda”.
The first part follows Modi’s early political life, extending into his time as chief minister of Gujarat province, when in 2002 deadly violence shook the province, with Muslim populations targeted by extremists following the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims.
Among many accusations that followed was that direct orders from Modi had allowed for the violence to play out – an accusation that Modi was acquitted of by India’s Supreme Court in 2021.
The second part of the documentary follows Modi’s career after the riots, focusing on his re-election as prime minister of the country in 2019 for a second five-year term. This is when he presided over a controversial policy changing the status of the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir and the Citizen Act which revoked the citizenship of many Muslim Indians.
The documentary also covers the ever-increasing suppression of media in the country, with Reporters Without Borders stating that press freedom in the country has declined.
Sociology professor Srila Roy and Mellon Chair in Indian Studies, Professor Dilip Menon, made up the panel at the screening, with more than 30 people from diverse backgrounds in the audience. The discussion began by highlighting the fact that students at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university were arrested for hosting a screening not unlike the one that was held at Wits.
The state of India’s democracy came under the spotlight. A group of four individuals in the audience voiced their anger at the BBC during the discussion, labelling the documentary “propaganda” and “hypocritical from colonial Britain” – responses very similar to those made by the Indian government.
Roy rebuked these comments, stating that it was in bad faith to have a debate of “what ifs” when the subject matter was about the loss of human lives during a time of ethnic violence. The real question, she said, was, “Why is there a ban and why are university students being arrested for watching [the documentary]?”
The screening was championed by the director of the HGC, Professor Lorena Núñez Carrasco, following weeks of external pressure from pro-Modi supporters for it not to go ahead. Not even personal phone calls made to Vice-Chancellor Zeblon Vilakazi stopped the screening.
Menon alluded to the possibility of the pressure stemming from not wanting to ruffle any feathers ahead of the Brics summit being held in Durban later this year. He highlighted the contradiction of India being the world’s largest democracy due to the largest population actively taking part in voting, and yet having the documentary being banned where there “should be free, open discussion”.
The full documentary is no longer available on YouTube, with the site saying this was for copyright reasons. Menon suspects the Indian government could have played a role in its removal.
FEATURED IMAGE: Wits hosted a screening of the documentary, India: The Modi Question, which is banned in India. Graphic: Seth Thorne
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