VIDEO: Why some Witsies did not vote in SRC elections

While many Witsies took to the polls to vote in this year’s SRC elections, there were other students who expressed no interest in the movement. Wits Vuvuzela caught up with these students to find out the issues that lead to these students not voting.




Fakir addresses protest action politics

The maladministration of over a billion rands allocated to the Urban Renewal Project by former president Thabo Mbeki has contributed to the continued protests in communities like Bekkersdal.

This was one of the findings of the 2014 Ruth First fellow, Ebrahim Fakir, who presented his research at a colloquium at Wits University yesterday afternoon.

Fakir’s research focused on finding possible reasons for the increase in so-called ‘service delivery protests’ which now average about 300 per year.

Fakir focused on the area of Bekkersdal in Gauteng which has experienced protests since 2002 initially sparked by demarcation issues.

According to Fakir, the community of Bekkersdal questioned where the general development of the Urban Renewal project was because the communities still had no water, electricity and basic infrastructure.

In answering the question of why some protests turn violent, Fakir found that “protests are asking for an alternative form of policies away from neoliberalism”.

“The way in which police act don’t spark protest, but [they] help sustain the protests,” he said.

Prof Jane Duncan, one of the speakers on the panel commented that public protests were telling of the “subjective shift of politics”. She said people were feeling betrayed after being let down by their government.

Professor Noor Nieftegodien, also on the panel, gave a critical analysis of Fakir’s paper and said: “As good as the paper is, it’s very ‘business-as-usual’ in how it approaches protests.”

Nieftegodien felt that Fakir underestimated the extent of politics in those communities and recommended that Fakir should have given attention to the young people or older women of the community. He said it was difficult to differentiate between the people of the community.


SLICE OF LIFE: Quest to find thyself through Sunday morning epiphanies

Sunday morning epiphanies are always good for bargaining with your truths. Surely it has to do with the redemptive quality religion has attached to this day. Anyway, it feels as though the Sundays in my 20s are loaded with lessons thick and fast and not enough hot shoes, great sex and the no parents telling you what to do.

I am not sure how I believed I’d have life figured out in my 20s. Or myself.  I am starting to believe it was a side effect of Oprah afternoons, Iyanla’s books and the quietness that refuses to settle in my head.  All I know is I am not the only one with a minor OCD complex to tightly thread my life and feel an unwavering sense of control and certainty.

The business of living is never really “easy like a Sunday morning”.

The business of living is never really “easy like a Sunday morning”. Growing pains simply will not allow it. But a quick reflection reminded me that I am in the second semester of a postgrad degree I am passionate about. Life next year is promising to be pretty dandy. So really, what is up with the tightness in the centre of my chest?  The quarter-life crisis of the modern day homo sapien is what’s happening. Anxiety is our biggest enemy and so is the pop psychology that is constantly urging us to “find ourselves”.

Thabile Manala

There is nothing wrong with waking up every morning interrogating your own existence, choosing the kind of life that is constantly asking the hard questions; attempting to find yourself at every trajectory life calls a lesson. It is necessary, in fact, it’s exactly the kind of living we ought to be doing. But goodness gracious, can we try a little tenderness? Tracee Ellis Ross said: “I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.”

So why are we a generation saturated with so much angst? We are so uncomfortable with the necessary pauses. The moments when you don’t know, when you fail, when you make a mistake. We ride the highs too high and the lows too low – too much intensity, not enough patience.  Of course the proverbial question of “who I am?” was never going to find a definition this soon. At the very most, my living has to open me up. Existential complexes can be really vain. But that’s mainly because the world has drilled an aspiration of perfect facades in our brains.

There are Sunday mornings where I miss Amy Winehouse. To me, she was every woman and every man. Her talent was condensed in her flawed humanness.  She was authentic about how heavily she loved, how much pain she’d seen, the reality of finding who she was. All of this through the gift of lyrics. For me, Amy always sang the truths that I was sometimes embarrassed to think to myself. I don’t mean to romanticise her fall, but the grey-area person in me saw the light in the frailty of her druggie days. I think the more attractive thing was that she was unapologetic – when your mistakes are evident to the world, modesty can be pathetic.

I’m learning that audacity is a principle of survival. Sure, I don’t know it all and neither am I all that. But when peeling the layers of who you are – sometimes winging it as you go along is the only real way to fly.

Guardian editor describes SA media as ‘free and inquiring’


Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, spoke at Wits University earlier today. Photo: Dinesh Balliah.

His newspaper is one of the top most-read online publications worldwide and this afternoon Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, described the South African media landscape as robust, diverse and “pretty free and inquiring.”

Rusbridger, who has been at the helm of the British publication for nearly twenty years, was speaking to a gathering of editors, senior journalists, media academics and students at Wits University about the Edward Snowden story. The Guardian broke the story of whistleblower Snowden, who is credited with exposing the extent of international surveillance, in 2013.

Rusbridger told the audience that the decision to publish the Snowden story was “a question of public interest”, even when the British government argued against the publication on the grounds of “national security.”

In facing some of the backlash against the paper’s decision to publish the Snowden story, Rusbridger said the support of the journalism community helped his organisation.  “It is important as a community of journalism to stick together.”

Rusbridger explained that while there is obvious anxiety in South Africa regarding media freedom, especially in light of the secrecy bill (the protection of state information bill), if the media responds by cutting back on the news that sells papers then it is giving consumers an excuse not to buy the paper.

Mondli Makhanya, former editor-in-chief of The Sunday Times, asked Rusbridger about how to react to a government that is mobilising people against the media.

Rusbridger’s response was that “journalism lives in a different place from government … media has a new role to fight [which is] explaining ‘why’ they are publishing a story.” Ultimately that defence should be able to rest on a foundation of the public interest.



Wits rocks the election

On Wednesday a small group of ANC supporters rallied behind their party by dancing near the Old Mutual Sports Hall where the Wits voting station was. The singing was so loud that potential voters heard them while standing in line to vote. Photo: Luke Matthews

On Wednesday a small group of ANC supporters rallied behind their party by dancing near the Old Mutual Sports Hall where the Wits voting station was. The singing was so loud that potential voters heard them while standing in line to vote. Photo: Luke Matthews

Roxanne Joseph and Thabile Manala

Bright and early on Wednesday morning, well before the polls had even opened, many students gave up their holiday slumber to join the long, snaking lines to cast their vote at Wits at the Old Mutual Sports Hall, on Education Campus and in their own neighbourhoods.

Despite the reported apathy among the youth, a large number of first-time voters came out to mark their ‘X’ at Wits.

Others trickled in steadily throughout the day and the lines remained long right up until the polls closed at 9pm.

“I like the numbers and am very impressed with the turnout at Wits,” said Mcebo Sisulu, an honours student in mathematical statistics.

He admitted that he was nervous about the elections and the apparent lack of enthusiasm of the youth.

Born-frees stepped up despite apathy

In the days and months leading up to the elections, the media became fascinated by the born-free generation, those who were born after South Africa became a democracy in 1994.

They were expected to not make a difference to the results, as they only made up 2.5% of the 25 million registered voters, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Only about a third of born-frees had even registered to vote.

Earlier in the week, Wits Vuvuzela spoke to a number of born-frees, many of whom were choosing not to vote due to a general sentiment of apathy.

“I’m not inspired enough to vote,” said Zongezile Qeba, 2nd year Chemical Engineering. He said his generation wanted to “forget about the past”.

“Maybe it’s because the educated, young people are more politicised and more likely to vote.”Prof Daryl Glaser

Despite being well aware of the country’s history, many born-frees have little faith in our politicians and political engagement is not a big priority for many.

But the apathetic young were nowhere to be seen on election day, where thousands of first-time voters showed up to stand in long queues at Wits from the early hours of Wednesday to long after the sun had set.

When asked how her first-time voting was, third-year law student Boitumelo Rammala said, “It was amazing. I’m going to do it every time, over and over again.”
“I was excited, because it was my first time and all,” said fourth-year law student Lethokuhle Ntombela.

Prof Daryl Glaser, head of the politics department, said student turnout at Wits was encouraging, despite registration being disappointing amongst the youth as a whole.

“[The turnout of first-time voters] was encouraging. Maybe it’s because the educated, young people are more politicised and more likely to vote,” Glaser said.

SRC president Shafee Verachia set the example when he was caught by Wits Vuvuzela helping his 86-year-old grandmother to the voting station in Malboro Gardens. A first-time voter himself, Verachia said he was voting for the South Africans who participated in the struggle to liberate the nation.

“Personally, it’s about honouring the generation before me, they made the sacrifices for me to have this right to make this vote today,” he said.

The reactions that Wits Vuvuzela got from some of the voters after casting their votes ranged between nervousness and disbelief.

First-year Bracken Hall was unsure he made the right choice with his vote. “I am not a 100% [sure] but, like, any change is a good change,” Hall said.

“It’s great it’s just that I don’t know if I made the right choice… I can’t believe I did that. I actually did not vote for the ANC”, said Wits alumnus Thulani Dyasi.

Muzi Mbatha said: “ I voted for the EFF … I also think I exercised my right to vote.”

Voting out of obligation

Many of the youth were torn between voting out of obligation to the ANC, with their history in mind, and voting for another party.  “It’s not difficult for people to be very conflicted by this. People have a strong connection to the ANC,” said Prof Devan Pillay. “Many are conflicted because of their performance and especially because of the current president, [Jacob] Zuma. We don’t have a credible opposition,” he said.

“It’s the classic abused-wife syndrome. It fits in perfectly with people’s attitudes of the ANC. People always go back and are always hoping for change.”
According to Pillay, university students are, as potential members of the middle class, easily sold on all the gains brought by the ANC, such as being able to go to Wits. “Getting them to think differently is a bit of a crisis.”

Glaser said the turnout at Wits is an indication of a more positive future in political engagement for the youth.

“Each generation brings a certain set of strengths to politics. The young bring energy and idealism,” said Glaser.

“They have the longest horizon in the future to look forward to. They should start thinking about how they want to shape it.”

ELECTIONS: Being ‘special’ is not a privilege



SPECIAL ENOUGH: Jermaine and his guide dog Ygor are 'able' to participate in these elections.

SPECIAL ENOUGH: Jermaine George and his guide dog Ygor are ‘able’ to participate in the elections.






















A ‘special’ vote is not a privilege to a disgruntled blind student.

Jermaine George, BMus student, said he chose not to use the special vote provision for disabled people because he prefers to fit in with society instead of being kept apart.

George said his main grievance with the special vote provision is that “your vote is not completely confidential, you have to share it with whoever is helping you.”

George said that while the ANC succeeded in giving disabled people some form of independence, he added they also alienated and separated disabled people from society because there was not enough education to deal with disabled people.

“It’s easier to ignore disabled people than to interact with them,” he said. “They want to get us out of the way so that they can get to the rest of the people.”

George said that he understands the special provision when given to the elderly because of their lack of mobility.  However the blind, the deaf and those in wheelchairs are not slowed in mobility or intellect.

Dr Anlia Pretorius, head of the Disability Unit at Wits University, said: “our students are very independent and geared up and can do this on their own”.

She said some political parties have reached out to the disabled, with the Democratic Alliance publishing their election manifesto in braille and sending it for distribution to the disability unit.

While George is not sure about who he is voting for and his decision will be based on infrastructure, education and the economy.

“With those three things, the rest will sort itself out,” George said.

George can often be seen on campus with his guide dog Ygor. He is regularly found producing music or song-writing at the disability unit’s computer centre.

“I just wanna compete on par with everyone,” he said.





A university career filled with day-to-day struggles

Ontiretse Phetlhu

STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE: Ontiretse Phetlhu, a former UCT student, is struggling to adapt to the Joburg lifestyle and to support himself financially. Photo: Thabile Manala

Ontiretse Phetlhu is sometimes barely able to feed himself, lives in a shanty back room and struggles with life in Joburg, his new home. But he’s a Witsie, studying to be a teacher, and his story is typical of students who hail from financially disadvantaged backgrounds and who have to juggle academic commitments with long working hours to support themselves.

[pullquote]“I have already accepted that things may not go well … I haven’t established a formula, I haven’t found my ground at Wits.” [/pullquote]

Phetlhu is a former UCT  (University of Cape Town), student who has moved to Joburg to pursue a Bachelor of Education degree. He was previously a NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) student and, with help from his mother, is supporting himself while paying back his loan.

While Phetlhu’s mother managed to pay the upfront registration fee from her savings  this year,  she is unable to finance his day-to-day living expenses. He previously lived in Randfontein with relatives and traveled to campus by train. But unreliable trains meant that Phetlhu was often late for morning classes.

He now rents a small room in Thokoza, but he is by no means self-sufficient and is barely able to survive because he is often without a cent in his pocket.

Both his parents have low-income jobs and are unable to assist him.

When Phetlhu appealed to the Wits accommodation office for assistance, he was told that without funding there is nothing they can do for him and that his points, (according to the university’s point system), did not qualify him for a place in res. No other options were available to him. He later turned to the SRC (Students Representatives Council) with no success. “I don’t find them helpful because their availability is questionable … these are urgent matters,” he says.

Toiletries and food packs available

Jabulile Mabuza, Campus Services Officer of the SRC, said the SRC has a limited budget.  It is divided between helping the clubs and societies further their mandate to keep university life vibrant and the Humanitarian Awards used to help students. “The SRC prioritises a larger group of people who need funding to fill in the gaps than one person who needs complete funding”, said Mabuza. She encourages students to seek external funding.

Enid Schutte, a psychology lecturer at Wits, said students from a low socio-economic background are often under pressure to achieve. These students are sometimes the first in their families to make it to university and therefore “[their] anxiety levels are high”. Schutte said these students are able to get toiletry packs and food packs from the dean of students on a completely anonymous basis.

As a first time Joburger, Phetlhu also faces socio-cultural difficulties. He says: “I feel lost in this place, it’s quite sad because where I’m from, I had a support system.” The psychological burden of living in these conditions has affected his academic performance.

Phetlhu, once filled with optimism, now says: “I have already accepted that things may not go well … I haven’t established a formula, I haven’t found my ground at Wits “.

Students can make their rands go further

An investment of R10 000 can yield a return of R142-million over 40 years – a return that sounds unbelievable, but is achievable if young people adopt investing principles from university.

If  today’s students learn the skill of investing and avoid unnecessary spending financial freedom will be a real possibility in the future,  according to a bond agency trader at Regimens Capital, Mbuyi Dlamini.

Necessary Advice : Bank consultant assisting student with investment options. Pictured: Ngwako Mafokane, Tatenda Chikomba Photo: Thabile Manala

Necessary Advice : Bank consultant assists student with investment options. Pictured above Ngwako Mafokane, right , and  Tatenda Chikomba, left. Photo: Thabile Manala

“Investing can be described as using your money to buy something that you believe will earn you more money over time,” according to the investment firm Allan Gray. “Depending on what you invest in and how much you choose to invest, you may make a profit. What you earn is known as the return on investment.”

There are many competing demands for your money and often not enough money to save.  Dlamini says students need to understand that having extra money creates a “safety cushion”. It reduces the extent of instant gratification – the things you want, rather than need – by identifying financial priorities. This philosophy creates a culture of efficient money management and living within your means.

Unit trusts as a starting investment vehicle

Dlamini advises that students look towards full “discretionary investments”, which means the student decides on how much and what to invest their money in. He emphasises that, considering the scale of student finances, they should be looking at unit trusts when beginning their investment journey.

“Unit trusts are easily accessible and affordable investments that give you access to a variety of funds to invest in and are flexible because you can access your money whenever the need arises.”

You can start a unit trust with a monthly debit order of R500, which is the minimum you can start investing with.

Investing requires patience and, the longer the investment horizon, the greater the returns. Ten years is the minimum time for a healthy investment, says Dlamini. A potential investor should always bear in mind the “risk versus return decision” and should never invest more than they can afford to lose.

Saving is difficult for students

For many Witsies, their main anxiety about saving lies in not having enough money initially. This makes it hard to begin thinking about investments and trying to survive the month at the same time. Raeesa Dawood, 4th year MBBCh, says: “I get a set allowance, so there’s not much to save … I am not bothered by not saving.”

Mpilo Shabangu,1st year BA, says: “I don’t save because I haven’t been exposed to the knowledge and culture of saving … Black culture did not teach us the importance of putting coins in a piggy bank. I knew my parents’ payday because that is when I would see them splurge and so I have also adopted that culture of spending.”

Dlamini says his personal philosophy is that it is better to “save now, spend later” and students must try to avoid credit as much as possible.