Grindr Kidnapping: Criminals know they can get away with it says Activate Wits 

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.  

A screenshot of the Grindr homepage in January 2023, issuing a “Johannesburg Safety Warning” due to the rise of kidnappings around the city that targeted its users. Image: MambaOnline.com

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

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Horrors of domestic violence explored in new book

“Believe women when they ask for help and believe men when they threaten women,” said Dr Nechama Brodie. 

Dr. Nechama Brodie signing her new book Domestic Terror at its launch at Rosebank on September 6. Photo: Seth Thorne

Incidents of domestic violence are not isolated – they show patterns of systemic violence in South Africa. This is the chilling reality explored in Dr. Nechama Brodie’s new book Domestic Terror: Intimate partner violence in South Africa.

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.

Journalist and presenter Azania Mosaka facilitating the conversation at the book launch on September 6. Photo: Seth Thorne

“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.

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FINANCE FEATURE: High interest rates wrecking young homeowners’ dreams

There comes a time when all birds must fly the nest and leave the comfort of their parents’ home, but for Generation Z, the time is nigh, and it seems there may be nowhere else to land.

“Out of reach.” “Impossible.” “Unaffordable.” These are the words used by members of Generation Z (Gen-Z) on the possibility of buying their own house in their twenties, according to an experimental Instagram poll of 38 respondents run by Wits Vuvuzela.  

However, a 2022 Rocket Mortgage survey revealed that 72% of their Gen-Z sample (2000 people of ages 18-26) are highly motivated to buy a home in the near future but, as interest rates reach their highest peak in 15 years this month, buying a house in South Africa is more expensive than ever.  

The South African Reserve Bank responded to a world-wide increase in inflation rates, which neared the 8% mark in South Africa at the end of 2022. Raising the bank repo rate to 8.25% meant that the prime lending rate rose to 11.75%, the highest it has been since the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. A higher lending rate means that taking out large loans from a bank, such as a bond on a house, becomes more expensive. For younger generations hoping to live on their own, this has added another obstacle to an already almost impossible dream. 

“Unfortunately, it is very difficult for young people to purchase property in this country. The current interest rates are higher than they have been in years, economic times are hard – many young people don’t have good credit scores which negatively affects their lending profile and many young people are not aware of the upfront costs that are required when purchasing a property [bond and transfer costs],” says Rob Pound, a real estate agent working in Johannesburg.  

The latest FNB property barometer reveals that first-time-buyer numbers are on the decline and the average age at which South Africans can afford their own home is 35. The report cited the rising cost of living, inflation rate and unemployment rate as causes for so few people in their twenties affording homes of their own.

This is supported by real estate agent Ronald Oliphant, a Braamfontein area specialist who said that he has seen fewer young people looking to buy or rent properties this year. Braamfontein, Ferndale and Fontainebleau remain popular areas for young first-time buyers in Johannesburg, but the latest Lightstone report indicates that only 18% of stable homeowners in Ferndale are under the age of 35. This number decreases to 16% in Braamfontein and 5% in Fontainebleau. 

For those young people who overcome financial burdens and manage to buy their own homes, the struggle does not end there. “I once had a client who was 27 years old and he found one of my properties, which was R850,000. He said he could afford it because the bond repayments would be the same cost as the rent he was paying at the time, and he was so excited to be purchasing a property rather than ‘paying someone else’s bond,’” said Pound.  “He wasn’t aware of the upfront transfer and bond costs that are required when buying property, which in his case were around R56,000. He had to come up with this money in two months in order to buy the house, but he was living hand-to-mouth, there was no way he could afford it.” 

South African banks, aware of this difficult situation, are open to giving first-time home buyers a bond of 105% in order to cover the upfront costs for properties under the value of R1.8 million. However, for this young buyer only one South African bank offered to grant him this deal.  

Jesse Van Der Merwe (24), a recent Wits engineering graduate also decided to invest in her own property when she started her working life, however, after buying her own apartment, realized that she could not afford to keep up with the day to day costs of owning a property and living alone. “I realized that I can’t really afford to live [in the apartment] and like…eat, so I’m renting it out while I stay at home until I can actually afford to move into it.” 

With unaffordable upfront costs and bond repayment rates, many young people who can afford it are pushed into renting property instead. This has led to a high demand for rental properties which, according to the FNB report, has made rental costs in Johannesburg more expensive in recent years. “Real-estate is simply supply and demand,” said Pound.  

According to Oliphant, a tenant may only be considered for a property if the rent does not exceed one third of their income, but, as rental rates increase due to high demand, many young people apply for rentals that they do not comfortably afford.  

Julia Rolle (24), a 2D character animator from Johannesburg who works remotely, made the decision to move away from the city to the seaside town of Wilderness on the garden route. To afford the rent on what she refers to as a “teeny tiny place”, Rolle pays 35% of her income on rent. When asked if she has had to sacrifice paying for other things for her accommodation, she answered, “Of course, but I wouldn’t trade the independence and having my own space.” 

Interest rates have remained steady the last two months as inflation begins to slow, giving hope to young home hunters that the situation might yet improve. However, in a press conference held on July 20 in Pretoria, Governor Lesetja Kganyago said that the interest rates have not yet peaked, “Is this the end of the hiking cycle? No it is not. It depends on the data and the risks. That’s what it boils down to.”  

In such an economic climate, some young people such as Jennifer Greef (25) have no choice but to stay in their family home for longer than they planned, “I do think I could move out, but my living conditions at home are just so much better than what they would be if I moved out because I would have to move somewhere really small,” she said. “I think still living with my parents is the right way to go about things right now because then I can save and spend my money on other things such as insurance and medical aid rather than rent.” 

FEATURED IMAGE: Feature Image: A real estate agent hands over keys to a young gen-z as they buy their first home. Photo: Kimberley Kersten 

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Speed dating, graduate edition

Top achieving students were invited by the Wits Counselling Careers and Development Unit (CCDU) to network and fast-track their next career moves with potential employers. 

The CCDU Professional Speed Dating event saw over 100 students from different faculties engage with representatives for multiple companies on August 25, at the Professional Development Hub (PDH) at Wits University. 

From companies like L’Oréal South Africa, Life Health Care, BMW Motors, and Standard Bank, students were spoilt for choice when it came to potential suitors. Students with a minimum average of 65% were allowed five-minute interviews, rotating between the companies to gauge what each field had to offer and to gain firsthand interview experience. 

Deputy Dean of Students Tshegofatso Mogaladi welcoming companies and students to the Speed Dating Event on August 25, 2023 at the Wits PDH Building. Photo: Georgia Cartwright

Between the dates, ten-minute informative sessions on the latest developments in specific fields were given. This included everything from new disinfectants against bacteria, to transformative constitutionalism in South African law and discussions around decolonizing the content in the National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement’s (CAPS) economic document. 

Along with this, students were also given slots to present some of their research through presentations.   

Organiser of the event, Bongi Ndlovu told Wits Vuvuzela that the purpose of the event is to ensure that Wits graduates are “employable” and that they “possess the right attributes sought by employers.” 

Many students seemed to have learnt a lot from the event despite only getting five-minutes with each employer. LLB Student Shaheed Wania told Wits Vuvuzela that there was a lot of competition, but he has learnt that “just because you are doing something in a particular field, it does not mean you are stuck in that field.”  

Companies in attendance found the event promising with Ndlovu saying that BMW South Africa and the Boston Consulting Group (BSG) have already been contacting students who attended, impressed with their work. Ndlovu said the event was all about “opening opportunities for students.” 

South African Breweries representative, Rene Kohler-Thomas said that their company is not looking for “skills” in the general sense but are looking for students who are “dreaming big” and can adapt to change. She added that she has thoroughly enjoyed engaging with students as you can see the “quality of the talent coming through.” 

Ndlovu says the CCDU is planning to host more events like this in the future as it teaches students valuable skills for the working world, provides them with networking opportunities, and gives them the chance to brand themselves to potential employers. 

FEATURED IMAGE: LLB student Kamogelo Mathekga being interviewed by law firm, Louw Genis & Rajoo Incorporated during the Professional Speed Dating Event at the Professional Development Hub. Photo: Georgia Cartwright

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Tea for Two: A surrealist take on finding one’s identity 

Witsies showcase their play on the highly coveted virtual National Arts Festival’s stage 

Tea for Two is a deeply personal interrogation of the complexities of understanding your identity as a young adult.  

Zion and the Voice embracing one another after they had worked through the mind maze. Photo: Supplied

The surrealist play, which was created by two Wits graduates, Nqobile Natasia and Reatlilwe Maroga was performed at the virtual National Arts Festival at the end of July. 

“As passionate creators, we have poured our hearts and souls into this production,” said Maroga, as she was explaining their feeling of elation on being accepted into the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent.  

Meanwhile, Natasie, who is now feeling a lot more confident in their work said, “It was a tough journey [to get in], but extremely exciting”. 

The 35-minute play follows the protagonist, Zion – played by final year dramatic art student Mmangaliso Ngobese. She is a young professional, who finds comfort in their strict routines and self-imposed rigidity. However, Zion falls asleep one day, only to wake up in a deliberately confusing dream world – their own mind.  

Here, they encounter a character known as The Voice – played by second-year dramatic arts student Sazikazi Bula – who seemingly looks like Zion. Together, they navigate through and make sense of this confusing “messy mind maze,” by confronting Zion’s deepest thoughts, emotions, and identities, said Natasia.  

According to Forum Theatre, surrealism is a style of performance “characterised by its use of unexpected, often illogical, scenarios or images to create a dream-like atmosphere on stage.” 

Natasia said that they chose to use surrealism because it allowed them to visually put the audience in the protagonist’s head space; with much of the open-endedness left on the viewers to make their own conclusions. The most positive feedback I got from people is they resonate with the play, explained Natasia. 

The themes of the play are self-introspection and identity, focusing on the complex and often confusing journey of self-discovery in your own chaotic minds. 

Natasia said that everything on stage was “modelled after my brain – with all the chaos and absurdity.” 

The set, which represented Zion’s mind showed this chaos. There was a yellow bench in the front of the set, signs reading “Messy Mind Maze” and “Teens” with tin cans scattered on the floor. Most notably were the red threads intertwined, which Maroga said they were symbolising the brain; and like the mind, “everything is connected”.  

“This play tells us that we are not alone…as messy as (our) minds can be, we can work through it” continued Maroga. 

The lead actor, Ngobese said: “You realise that (like most of us) [Zion] is someone who suffocates themself in their mind all the time… as humans we bottle things up for ourselves and we are unaware of the damage we do to ourselves”.  

Overall, it is a powerful play which leaves the audience wondering how they have dealt and will deal with their own struggles with identity as they resonate with the piece.  

FEATURED IMAGE: The poster of Tea for Two advertising their appearance on the virtual National Arts Festival. Image: Supplied

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A mediation process between suspended students and Wits collapses    

Wits SRC has appointed an acting president to deal with the leadership vacuum; pending an arbitration process of their former student leader   

A mediation process between seven suspended students, including former Student Representative Counsil (SRC) president Aphiwe Mnyamana and the university has collapsed last week on May, 22,2023. This is after the two could not reach an agreement on a suitable way forward.  

The seven, which includes other members of the SRC were suspended in earlier March following violent protests over accommodation on campus.  

On April 20, the SRC and University released a joint statement stating that their suspension orders have been reformulated in terms of the University’s rules to allow them to continue with their academic programmes with immediate effect.  This recent collapse still means the seven are still allowed to continue with their studies. 

Following the collapse of the process, Wits university spokesperson Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela that: “Please note that Mr Mnyamana is no longer the SRC President. His suspension terms were amended to allow him to attend class and to stay in residence, but not to hold any leadership position.” 

In order to deal with the leadership vacuum, the SRC has elected a new acting President Kabelo Phungwayo, who previously was Treasurer general of the SRC. Wits SRC compliance officer, Karabo Matloga said: “The  SRC  sits in important committees that take decisions which affects students, we therefore needed to ensure we have an individual who will be able to represent the students view in the delegated committees such as university council, Senate and forum where the SRC has an opportunity to express grievances and contribute to change that is in the student’s best interest,”  

After the mediation process collapsed, Mnyamana released a statement on his Twitter page saying: “We hung our heads in horror and terror as we walked out of their boardrooms because once again, we had fallen into the illusion that we were negotiating with people”.  

He furthermore went to say “To silence us[SRC] is not enough, to suspend us will never be enough. We the elected representatives of the students at Wits University are not shaken. We remain evermore resolute in ensuring the realization of the right to free education”. 

Despite this collapse, Mnyamana explained that he is currently waiting for a hearing that will be taking place on June 17, 2023; and a meeting will be held with students to update them on the intense months the SRC underwent and what this means as a way forward for the student community.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits SRC members with Dali Mpofu after the mediation meeting. Photo: Supplied.  

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PROFILE: Jakes Gerwel Fellowship helps to improve the quality of Education in SA 

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.  

Many of these schools fail due to poor infrastructure, teacher shortages, and a lack of educational progress, resulting in high unemployment rates. “Unemployment amongst the youth in our country is the highest [and] amongst graduates, teachers have the highest unemployment, especially Bed [bachelor of education] graduates,” says JGF fellow Samora Menze. 

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. 

August is hoping to improve literacy rates in the country with over 80% of children in the country struggling to read. August’s research focuses on how drama can help improve student’s reading and listening abilities and vocal acquisition. She goes on to explain how drama in education holds value because it has been recognised as a decolonising pedagogy through embodied drama strategies in classrooms

August explains that by implementing certain drama-education strategies such as role-playing and improvisation, students can benefit from enhanced reading abilities but can also develop their creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. AKALA’s goal is to launch an art centre that is registered with the education department that allows for dialogic theoretical engagement, critical reflexivity, and artistic development through increased learning in the arts disciplines. 

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.

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Party at your own risk at South Point properties  

South Point residence mum on an incident that took place at one of their parties, raising serious concerns about the management’s response to the safety and security of students.  

It’s been a little over a month since an alarming incident unfolded at a Retro Block Party hosted by South Point, where students were stubbed while others had their phones stolen. However, management at the student residence has not made any headway in finding the culprits.  

According to one of the witnesses, on the night of the party, April 28, 2023, intruders gained access to the party by paying an entrance fee like anyone else.  The party was hosted in one of the South Point buildings, 87 Juta in Braamfontein.  

While mingling and dancing, students suddenly heard screams and saw cell phones being stolen. The security officer was called, and the suspected intruders were removed from the party. Angry victims then followed them outside to try fight for their belongings.  

What these partygoers did not know was that the intruders had additional team members waiting outside – a scuffle ensued, and some students were stabbed in the process.   

The party is an annual event, and this year’s party was designed to commemorate South Point’s 20th anniversary, and it is reported to have begun at 17h00 in the evening.  

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to workers at South Point about the incident, but they did not want to be named in fear of retribution from their employer.  

“Yes, I heard about a boy who was stabbed, but I can’t say much about it because I don’t know what’s going on, and management doesn’t tell us anything,” said the worker. 

Wits Vuvuzela contacted South Point manager Mahlodi Mathiba, who was not aware of the incident. “Unfortunately, I don’t know anything but let me refer you to the student liaising who should know”, the manager said. 

The manager then referred us to the student liaising officer, Brenda Sambo who said she was aware of the situation but was uncertain about the facts. What the student liaising said is that “I don’t really know the story, the only thing I know is that students’ phones were stolen, and they ran after the suspects only to get stabbed”. 

One of the witnesses, Ngwato Mashile (22), said they have been left traumatised by the incident. “I was hurt, it really affected me because those people aimed for sensitive parts without even looking where they were stabbing, and I thought the students were dead, and I’m still traumatized because the screams keep replaying in my head,” he said. 

Mashile, like other witnesses and even the victims have thus far not received any kind of assistance from their landlord.

RELATED FEATURED: Outside the residence in question, 87 Juta. Photo: Patience Masalesa

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Architecture students re-imagine the Matrix 

 Students are stepping in to redesign the hub of social life on east-campus, which aims to turn the food court into the ‘heart of Wits’. 

Final-year undergraduate students from the school of architecture and planning at Wits are working on a year-long project named the “Matrix Re-Imagined”, where they will be redesigning the food court.  

The project, which started this year, comes after tenants and users of the Matrix on east campus complained about the building not being user friendly. 

The task is aimed at rethinking how the space can be better utilised, instead of rebuilding a new building. It is not a campaign by the university management but stems from calls from tenants themselves, who spoke with lecturers in the architecture department to ask for a process of brainstorming a way to improve the way in which the space is used.

Believing that this would be a perfect practical application of what the students have learnt; the department developed the project into this year’s curriculum.

“[What we have gathered is that] there is a problem – the Matrix is not functioning properly,” said Wits school of architecture and planning lecturer Sandra Felix. 

“Students are the largest stakeholders of the use of the buildings on campus,” said Felix. This project will bring in completely different ideas than it would if the university were to bring in outside architects for the design.”  

Students have a lot of answers we [external architects] don’t have” she added. 

The project is currently in its research phase – and so far, students have interviewed both tenants and users of the space and found various prevalent issues of practicality.  

According to third-year architecture student Kyara De Gouveia, the issues found include having “bad entrances” which results in people flooding the area, narrow passages, and impractical locations for some of the vendors. For example, the clinic is located downstairs, making it difficult for those with mobility issues to access it. 

Bookseller at Campus Bookshop, Lebogang Rabothata described the current composition of the Matrix as “impractical” due to extremely tight entrances which results in a large congestion. She hopes for a redesign which allows users to be relaxed and use the space for “reading and studying”. 

The outdoor amphitheater located on east campus where students currently go to relax and work, with the Matrix in the background. Photo: Seth Thorne

As yet, there are plans to move all student office space (including clubs that are currently located by the science stadium and the Voice of Wits [VOW FM] which currently finds itself on the ninth floor of university corner) into the area; and making the space more student friendly with open study areas, and better connections to both the library lawns and the amphitheater.  

Later in the year, the students will exhibit their work and designs to university stakeholders and tenants. Based on their presentation, the university will then decide if they will adopt their redesigns.  

Students working on the project said they are aiming to make the Matrix the “heart of [student life at] Wits”.  

In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela, third-year architecture student Tshegofatso Mashile described the project as being pressure filled, yet exciting due to the opportunities it presents. “[This is] the beginning of every architect’s dream” she said.   

Another architecture student, Milan Prioreschi, said that this project is extremely motivational as it bridges the gap between university work and practical work outside. “We are getting real life experience for the first time”. 

If implemented, the improvements will form part of the university’s much larger “Building Impact Beyond 100” campaign, which was launched in celebration of Wits’ centenary in 2022. The campaign aims to raise funds which will be directed towards teaching, research, scholarships, student support, student experiences and campus improvements; R2,5 billion of its R3 billion target has been raised so far. 

FEATURED: A busy stairway during lunchtime leading to the entrances of the Matrix. Photo: Seth Thorne

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Seed of entrepreneurship flourishes on market day 

Student business owners appeal for valuable platform to be regular as it boosts brand awareness. 

From student-manufactured perfumes to thrift stores presenting affordable clothing items, the Student Entrepreneurship, Education and Development (Seed) market day was a colourful display of creativity and variety. 

The market day was held at the Library Lawns on Friday, May 19, offering a lively and vibrant experience, inviting student entrepreneurs to showcase their diverse range of business products. 

In addition to introducing students to their products, the market day proved profitable for student entrepreneurs as Jean Banda from Zer Thrift, an online thrift store, said, “You can see by the way students are buying, they want more of this.”  

The Seed programme, a collaboration between the Wits Development and Leadership Unit (DLU) and the Young African Entrepreneur Institute (YAEI) was established three years ago. The DLU, a division of student affairs, provides co-curricular development opportunities for personal, social and professional growth, while the YAEI, a registered youth-led non-profit organisation, empowers youth with practical skills and support to transition their venture ideas into impactful start-ups.  

Their joint venture, Seed, aims to equip students from all faculties with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to start and successfully start and manage their own businesses. 

Thato Wesi, the executive head of marketing and corporate affairs at YAEI, said that the market day served two primary purposes: to foster confidence in student entrepreneurs, enabling them to effectively “sell themselves” and to provide them with networking opportunities with fellow student entrepreneurs.  

Madhi Mohamed, a civil engineering master’s student and the founder of HnH perfumes, said the market day was an excellent platform to raise brand awareness for his business. “People are not aware of these more Arabic, Dubai perfumes and also locally based products … where its more affordable than going to the stores where you buy perfume for R2 000. You might as well purchase one that lasts just as long for R200 [from us].”

Mahdi Mohamed (22) says his Arabic perfumes offer better value than those sold at regular stores.
Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers

Echoing Mohamed’s sentiments Lehlogonolo Mabitsi, founder of Rebellious Clothing, an online based clothing store, said that he was happy he got the opportunity to introduce his merchandise to more students. The third-year bachelor of arts in film and television student added that it was a great feeling to have customers experience his product for themselves. 

Among the vibrant stalls, a prevailing sentiment resonated among the student entrepreneurs—a unanimous desire for the market day to become a recurring event. “I feel like it would be more satisfying if these were held every two weeks,” said Banda.  

Yasmin Wania, a fourth-year LLB student and founder of Cyber Rats Attic, an online thrift and consignment store emphasised the need for more effective marketing targeting students. “If Wits decides to do it more often, which I hope they do, they should definitely tell everyone it’s happening,” says Wania. 

In response, Kristan Sharpley, a student development practitioner from the DLU, said, “The Development and Leadership Unit is definitely interested in providing more opportunities for students to showcase their businesses. As the student entrepreneurship community continues to grow, so will opportunities for them to engage with their customers.”   Samuel Zitha, a third-year politics and international relations student who attended the market, said he had discovered several brands he had been unaware of and appreciated that the market was “advertising what students really need, like clothes and affordable jewellery. It was student based, we were their target market, they did their homework, so it was good.” 

Students Sphelele Maseko (21) and Samuel Zitha (21) take a break from shopping at the Seed Market. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers

FEATURED IMAGE: Lehlogonolo Mabitisi (22), owner of Rebellious Clothing, poses with his merchandise. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers

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PROFILE: Diana Ferrus, the people’s poet  

In celebration of Africa Day, Wits invited internationally renowned South African poet to perform and teach students. 

At age 73, famous poet, writer and activist, Diana Ferrus continues to dazzle audiences with her spoken word.  

Born in 1953 in Worcester, in the Western Cape, Ferrus started writing poetry at the age of 14. She went on to study psychology and sociology at the University of the Western Cape in 1988. She then did a Master’s degree with a focus on Black Afrikaans women writers.  

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, the mixed heritage writer of Irish and Khoisan explained how her hometown had an influence in her writing — specially to placate her, when hardships arose. 

“The winters were so cold that there was ice on the top of the mountains. That has been etched into my mind”, she said, in addition to this, she grew up in a household where there was domestic violence and child abuse.   

Furthermore, people in Worcester worked in the surrounding vineyards which paid them with alcohol — leading to the area having the highest foetal alcohol abuse in the world.  

She recalls how the street that separated the coloured area from the white area was nicknamed “Kanteen Straat” (Canteen Street) and those who wanted to shop for groceries on the other side of the street would have to pass this road, “many people never got there” because they stopped to drink in the bars instead.  

However, Ferrus is proud of her upbring: “The town formed me. Those were my formative years”, she said. 

She won a fellowship to study at Utrecht University in the Netherlands in 1998. It is here that she wrote her most famous poem for Sarah Baartman, I’ve Come to Take you Home. Ferrus said she was homesick at the time and learnt about Sarah Baartman again in a course entitled, “Sexuality in the Colonies.” 

Baartman was a Khoikhoi woman who was taken by French travelers in the 19th century to be displayed in Paris as a freak show where she died, and her remains were kept and displayed. 

Ferrus said when she stared out of her window in Utrecht, “the stars were so far away. If I was in my own country, I’d be able to touch them.” It was then that she heard a voice in her say “take me home” and, she thought, “that must be Sarah. In fact, it might have just been me,” she said jokingly.    

Poet Diana Ferrus teaches the Wits community to write their own poetry in a workshop on May 24 at the Wits Writing Centre. Photo: Kimberley Kersten

Ferrus has written many other poems since then about South Africa. One such poem, My Mother Was a Storm, was inspired by the murder of the University of Cape Town’s student Uyenene Mrwetyana in 2019. “I was angry about that, ” she explained.   

“I’m disappointed in the patriarchy and the corruption and the violence.” She continued, “It is too far gone now, I do not know how it will change. Unless we put women in charge.” 

Philippa De Villiers, Diana’s friend of 15 years and creative writing lecturer at Wits said, “I love her poetry. She is an example of a tradition that has been overlooked by academy, that of the community poet. She carries the dreams of a community. It is the raw animal of poetry.” 

Nosipho Mngomezulu, lecturer at the Anthropology department at Wits ,who uses Ferrus’ poetry in her teaching said that her work is important for social science students. 

“I use her work to humanize Sarah Baartman and make her a three-dimensional person.” Ferrus humanizes history through storytelling, she explained.

FEATURED IMAGE: Diana Ferrus performs one of her poems in celebration of Africa Day on May 24 at the Wits writing centre. Photo: Kimberley Kersten

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WITH INFOGRAPHIC: Unmasking online violence 

In this digital first era, users need to be aware of technology-facilitated gender-based violence and how to report it says Wits GEO.  

A collaboration between Sunnyside Hall’s student development and gender equity office and the Wits Gender Equity Office (GEO) hopes to make students aware various forms of online violence and harassment.

The event named “Siders for Survivors,” cleverly plays on the residence name “Sunnyside,” and took place at their main study hall on May 18, 2023. The GEOs started off with definitions and examples of gender-based violence (GBV) students may experience on campus and ways to report and find help.

However, it wasn’t until technology-facilitated GBV (TF_GBV) was mentioned that people sat up in their chairs and started engaging in the discussion more enthusiastically.

TF-GBV  refers to acts of harm, such as sexual, physical, psychological, or social abuse, that are carried out or intensified using digital tools like social media. It includes cyberbullying, online harassment, non-consensual sharing of intimate content, and any other harmful behaviours online.

GEO intern Ebenezer Maimele presented the six categories that fall under TF-GBV to the group. Maimele said something as innocuous as sharing posts that portray someone in a negative light could be classified as an act of TF-GBV. Bystanders can be held legally liable for any harm caused depending on what they post or repost.  

Maimele, said people can be “upstanders” instead, by abstaining from liking, sharing, or reposting TF-GBV posts. In this way one avoids complicity and can take further action by reporting TF-GBV they come across on the timeline.

Attendee, Chioma Nzelu (18) said, “We often perceive gender-based violence as highly aggressive and explicitly violent, but it can also be subtle and considered normal or a daily occurrence.” 

Tiisetso Maleke (25), GEO member said she hopes more students report any misconduct experienced on campus, “we are there for everybody,” not just women. 

Mukelwe Mdluli (21), Sunnyside’s student development and gender and transformation officer, shared the sentiment, and said awareness is the first step in empowering students.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits GEO armbands which were gifted to the attendee’s of the “Siders for Survivor’s” event. Photo: Terri-Ann Brouwers

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