Torture the numbers and get results

Statistics in African countries cannot be trusted, claims Morten Jerven in his book Poor Numbers.

Jerven, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, presented a seminar via Skype to the Power Reporting Conference in Johannesburg, based on his latest book which claims that the statistics sub-Saharan countries use to calculate gross domestic product (GDP) and national income (NI) are “inaccurate” and full of “discrepancies” and thus cannot be used to give a clear indication of actual African development.

[pullquote]When you get statistics [in Africa], you aren’t getting facts but a mere image of state statistics that tell you the political priorities of a country[/pullquote]The book was the main point of contention at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in September where South Africa’s statistician-general Pali Lehohla demanded Jerven’s keynote address be cancelled. “We are misled by African development statistics. It is important to show African statistics are of a dubious nature,” Jerven said.

“When you get statistics [in Africa], you aren’t getting facts but a mere image of state statistics that tell you about the political priorities of a country.” Jerven based these claims on qualitative studies that included general surveys, in-depth interviews at statistical offices, interviews with central banks and donors’ missions in countries including Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

He did not carry out any statistical analysis and neglected to use quantitative methodology in his research. This neglect gained him his harshest critic yet, Lehohla.  In an interview with the Daily Maverick on September 26, Lehohla said Jerven failed to read and acknowledge the work that had already been done on the subject within Africa. Lehohla also said Jerven failed to make a comparative analysis with countries outside Africa, making his conclusions “invalid” and “unscholarly”.


EFF triggers PYA exodus

SOME SRC members, who are also ANC Youth League (ANCYL) members, have dropped their black, green and gold T-shirts in favour of the red berets of Julius Malema’s new party.

SRC vice president internal, Tokelo Nhlapo, joined the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on Tuesday after what he says was “a long time of introspection” and consultations with people he looks up to and admires.

“Joining the EFF is like jumping from a hot pot into a frying pan, but the EFF questions how the hell are white people living comfortably in this country while their people are suffering.”

In an article published in Wits Vuvuzela on July 19, Nhlapo said there was no difference between the ANCYL and the EFF, but accused the EFF executive of being “dodgy characters”.

“Julius was expelled from the ANCYL. Floyd [Shivambu] was expelled from the ANCYL,” he said at the time

NOT EFF’ing AROUND: Wits EFF chairperson Vuyani Pambo campaigning at Barnato Hall. He tells potential members “we should not fear to exist from white people”.  Photo: Thuletho Zwane

NOT EFF’ing AROUND: Wits EFF chairperson Vuyani Pambo campaigning at Barnato Hall. He tells potential members “we should not fear to exist from white people”. Photo: Thuletho Zwane

Nhlapo said he decided to join the EFF because the ANC betrayed the Freedom Charter and legitimised the poverty of black people while protecting white wealth.

Nhlapo’s sudden jump from the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), which includes the Wits ANCYL, to an opposition party comes at a time when the EFF is starting a branch on campus.

Wits EFF chairperson Vuyani Pambo, said he had been elected to help launch the EFF branch on campus. “We are launching this month but the date hasn’t been set yet.”

PYA and South African Students Congress (Sasco) member Mbe Mbhele has also jumped ship and was seen campaigning for the EFF at Barnato residence on Tuesday night. “I am a member of Sasco but I campaign for the revolution,” Mbhele said.

Wits ANCYL secretary Yamkela Fanini said “such individuals [PYA members who are also EFF members] are termed as agents. But bazoba strong wethu those people [the EFF].”

Pambo said EFF had aligned itself with the Workers’ Solidarity Committee (WSC) and claimed most of workers had joined the EFF. “By Thursday we will have 200 members.”

Pambo said Wits EFF was in sensitive deliberations with members of the PYA, Young Communist League and Sasco but could not give their names because these individuals “hold positions in the SRC” and other ANC-aligned movements.



Wits Vuvuzela. Juju recruits comrades at Wits. August 2, 2013

Israel apartheid concert round two

SRC vice president-internal Tokelo Nhlapo, promised that they (SRC), would give Wits Vice-chancellor a “political baptism”. Photo: Nolwazi Mjwara

SRC vice president-internal Tokelo Nhlapo, promised that they (SRC), would give Wits Vice-chancellor a “political baptism”. Photo: Nolwazi Mjwara


By Emelia Motsai, Thuletho Zwane and Ray Mahlaka

Wits has arranged for another Israeli musician to perform at the university to make up for the concert that was disrupted in March.
After a concert was disrupted on March 12, the university asked the organisers how they could make up for the disruption “for those who had bought tickets but were not able to enjoy the concert”, according to Vice Chancellor Adam Habib.
A group of about 50 students, including at least nine SRC members, disrupted a concert by Israeli-born pianist Yossi Reshef in March. The concert happened during Israel Apartheid Week. Eleven students were later charged by the university for contravening the university’s code of conduct. Habib said the university and the SRC were meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.

Not on Our watch

[pullquote align=”right”]Habib said if he listened to everything the SRC had to say, his role as a vice chancellor would mean nothing[/pullquote]
SRC internal vice president Tokelo Nhlapo said they are “going to debate them. If they fail to debate us, we will use civil non-violent protest to show that the university is being used to cleanse the bloody image of Israel.”
Nhlapo said the concert would not happen on their watch. “We are not going to be silenced by the charges.”
Habib said that, even though the SRC was chosen to represent students, they should realise they did not represent the student body on all issues. “I have in my office a whole range of petitions saying they do not agree with what the SRC did and that I must continue to prosecute.”
Habib said if he listened to everything the SRC had to say, his role as a vice chancellor would mean nothing: “They would just tell me what to do.” University management wanted to “make sure the reputation of the university is not impugned”.

Sitting one the fence

Habib said the music department had been tasked with organising the new concert. They could not secure Reshef so another Israeli musician had been invited.
Habib denied the university had “taken sides” on the Israel-Palestine issue: “You can’t be a free space for ideas and say that one side is allowed and the other is not.”
Nhlapo disagrees. “We think it is hypocritical that the university will fight for the Dalai Lama but refuses to stand up to Israel.” He said they would not allow Habib to go against the values that Wits stood for.
“We are going to give Habib a political baptism.”
The concert will take place on August 28 at the Great Hall. The South African Zionist Federation said it would be open to everyone. The students who were charged are now facing disciplinary hearings, which will resume on September 25.
“If we are going to be expelled for protesting, then I don’t want to be a part of this university,”
said Nhlapo.


Related articles

Caught between gender roles


CHILDHOOD TRAUMA: ‘Sthe’ regresses to his unhappy childhood state.          Photo: Mia Swart

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA: ‘Sthe’ regresses to his unhappy childhood state. Photo: Mia Swart

By Thuletho Zwane and Mia Swart

Torn pieces of paper filled the stage. Crumpled clothing and ties surrounded wine and beer bottles.

Sithembiso Khalishwayo, simply known as ‘Sthe’, appears and screams in anger: “As a child, I thought like a child, I spoke as a child. As a child I spoke of ignorance, ignorance is bliss”.

Sthe crawls under a chair, places his hands over his ears and face, shakes and cries uncontrollably – yelling nursery rhymes in an attempt to shut out the voices in his head: “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb…Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall…”

Water Glasses covered in Packets of Salt is a physical theatre production, with elements of dance, about gender roles and sexuality. It asks if sex remains a sacred bond between two people, or if it has transformed into something that happens when it’s desired or taken by force, leaving a path of emptiness, guilt and fear.

“The play deals with sex. The idea of being a man, of being a female. What defines the roles of the mother figure and the father figure and how it affects the child?” said Sthe.

He wanted people to experience the same emotions he felt when he performed, he said. The play has a mixed bag of emotions – “emotions we as human beings don’t want to feel but we have to feel them at a certain point in time.”

Sthe said [pullquote align=”right”]The play came from a very personal space. It encapsulated his stories and stories of other people. “I wanted to show a side of me that I haven’t shown in a while, who I am, how I view the world.[/pullquote]

“If you want to see theatre at its core, people should come watch it. It is an emotional rollercoaster.”

Sthe is an actor, teacher, writer, dancer and choreographer who studied at the Wits School of Arts, majoring in physical theatre and performance.

The play is one of a series of plays in the Drama for Life Sex Actually festival, which will run from August 20 to 31 at the Wits Theatre. Water Glasses covered in Packets of Salt will be performed August 23 at 6pm and on August 29 at 1.15pm at the Wits Downstairs Theatre.

Cosatu under attack, who’s next?

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), gave his lawyers instruction to challenge the CEC’s (Central Executive Committee), decision to place him on special leave after he was found guilty of having improper relations with a junior Cosatu employee.

Vavi claims that Sdumo Dlamini, Cosatu president, handed an intelligence report to the CEC members to discredit him and force him out of Cosatu. Dlamini has denied the allegations.

The report claims that Vavi and other prominent members of South Africa want to overthrow the government of South Africa.

National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) general secretary Irvin Jim said they have lost all confidence in Sdumo Dlamini and that there was a concerted effort by forces within and outside Cosatu to turn it from being a fighting Federation to a “toothless”, “labour desk” organisation.

Numsa said there was a “political conspiracy” to discredit Vavi and that state organs were being abused to spy on Vavi,

Numsa “worried” about Cosatu credibility

Vavi OUT, who's next?: Irvin Jim tells press conference political "forces" that got Vavi out are now after him and Numsa president Cedric Gina. Irvin Jim (Numsa general secretary) and Karl Cloete (deputy general secretary). Photo: Thuletho Zwane

Vavi OUT, who’s next?: Irvin Jim tells press conference political “forces” that got Vavi out are now after him and Numsa president Cedric Gina.                                                                              Photo: Thuletho Zwane

Irvin Jim, general secretary of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), said there was a political conspiracy to get rid of Zwelinzima Vavi.

“We are of the view that it has become very clear that there is a programme that Zweli’s head must be chopped,” said Jim. He said there were forces within the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other sections of Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) that weren’t interested in matters of the working class and the poor.

Jim said these forces of capitalism wanted to ensure Cosatu embraced the neo-liberal National Development Plan (NDP) reducing Cosatu into a “labour desk of the bourgeoisie”.

Ideological battle between the ANC, Cosatu and Numsa

He said Vavi has become a target of the ANC because he wanted Cosatu to implement the Freedom Charter and has spoken out against the implementation of the NDP.“There is double speak [within the ruling party]. Speaking left but walking right. Vavi has consistently put forward the issues of the working class and the poor,” he said.

Cosatu’s credibility questioned

Jim said Numsa was worried about the credibility of Cosatu. “We are very worried about the leadership of the federation.[pullquote] there is a programme that Zweli’s head must be chopped[/pullquote] We have lost confidence in comrade Sidumo Dlamini,” he said. He added that Numsa members were “up in arms” about Vavi’s suspension. He told the press they are certain state apparatus and state institutions were centrally involved and used to get rid of proponents of radical thought.

Allegations of political conspiracy

Jim refused to provide evidence of a conspiracy but said everything would unfold in due time. “I am refusing to speak on this thing. I know what has not being reported. When I send an sms, it has been intersected. We thought it was a small thing, we know now it is not a small thing,” he said.

Numsa has rejected the decision of the central executive committee (CEC) to place Vavi on special leave pending investigation and is consulting with their lawyers to over-turn the decision.


Related articles

Wits Vuvuzela. Vavi: It’s a conspiracy, August 16, 2013



Wits staff ‘rural farm workers’

RURAL WORKERS?: Wits landscape workers categorized as rural farm workers in order to pay them rural minimum wage.  Servest workers Tshepo Mabe and Hope Mofokeng                                                                                           Photo: Thuletho Zwane

RURAL WORKERS?: Wits landscape workers categorized as rural farm workers in order to pay them rural minimum wage. Servest workers Tshepo Mabe and Hope Mofokeng  Photo: Thuletho Zwane

WITS landscape workers, who live in the largest city in South Africa, have been classified as ‘rural farm workers’ by an outsourcing company contracted by the university, allowing the company to pay them a lower minimum wage.

This means they only qualify for a minimum wage of R2 275.74 before their unemployment insurance deduction.  Farm workers generally receive additional compensation in the form of food and shelter from their employers but this is not the case with outsourcing company Servest.

Workers don’t want to be defined as [rural] farm workers

Wits Workers Solidarity Committee (WSC) member Shireen Ally told Wits Vuvuzela that existing labour legislation does not formally classify landscape workers. She said the Wits landscapers are seeking to redefine their status. “Workers don’t want to be defined as [rural] farm workers,” she said. “They don’t want to be called urban farm workers.”

[pullquote]If they want to call us farm workers then we want transport, food and accommodation,[/pullquote]

Ally noted that Wits cleaners, following a strike, want to be paid R4 300, almost double what the landscapers are paid. Department of labour expert on labour relations, Thembinkosi Mkalipi,said: “There is no minimum wage for landscaping workers”. Mkalipi said the only way the workers could get a better wage was by negotiating with their employer or finding a union to represent them.

In my view you are not farm workers, you are landscape workers

Servest human resources director Peter Fisher declined to comment. “We choose not to address internal employment matters with the press,” Fisher wrote in an email to Wits Vuvuzela. The landscape workers and WSC held a meeting with deputy vice chancellor of finance and operations, Prof Tawana Kupe, two weeks ago to discuss the matter.

“If they want to call us farm workers then we want transport, food and accommodation,” said Wits worker Thomas Baloyi at the meeting. Kupe told the workers that the university disagreed with Servest that the Wits landscapers were farm workers. “In my view you are not farm workers, you are landscape workers. This is the view of the university,” he said to the workers.

Kupe said Wits wanted to examine Servest’s financial records to find out whether a higher wage was feasible. Mkalipi said under the law, company balance sheets and profits could be used to calculate how much the landscape workers should be paid.

MDC fails supporters, fails change, fails progress

By Thuletho Zwane and Ray Mahlaka

SOME Zimbabwean students said Morgan Tsvangarai’s MDC “slept” during the run up to the 2013 elections.

Two Witsies and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters said the party had become complacent and failed to strategise. They said the MDC did not campaign enough and the party lacked the capacity to carry our proper research.

“MDC has been sleeping in the GNU [Government of National Unity]. MDC gave the impression that they were going to win, while Zanu (sic) was working hard,” said media studies PhD candidate Shepherd Mpofu.

Questionable MDC leadership

Mpofu said Africa’s political leaders are trapped in a state of consumption. He said the MDC enjoyed the “trappings of leadership and Zanu-PF used the moment in office to campaign”.  He said Zanu-PF gave people land but the MDC didn’t do anything to help the people but were fighting among one another.

Languages professor Robert Muponde said the MDC controlled every aspect of Harare: “They wanted to clean Harare and were charging the locals high rates. Instead of understanding the constraints people had in terms of poverty, they started to switch off their lights.”

Political campaigning strategy

Wits PhD candidate and MDC supporter Crispen Chinguno said he voted for the MDC because he was voting for change but said they were “naïve, complacent, over-confident and were caught off-guard”.

Chinguno said the MDC contradicted its founding principles: [pullquote]“They are supposed to be a workers’ party but seem more neo-liberal. The trade unions aren’t comfortable with the current MDC.”[/pullquote] He said Zanu-PF outsmarted MDC because the party used social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to appeal to the youth market.

Mpofu said: “Zanu-PF hired a British PR [public relations] agency that helped change their image.” However, Mpofu said the election process was flawed.

He said: “The voters’ roll was not released on time and 99% of Zimbabweans are educated, why did they need assistance with voting?”

Muponde said he was “angry and disappointed” about the MDC’s complacency and the months leading to the elections. “There were irregularities, blatant theft and rigging,” he said.

Irregularities in the elections

Muponde said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations (UN) knew about the irregularities but said the election was not violent.

[pullquote align=”right”]“These are double standards. The Zim elections are known to be bloody and lead to dislocations. So because there was no blood, both people housing the elections [the UN and SADC] say it was peaceful. They don’t look at the unfair practices,”[/pullquote] said Muponde.

He said the MDC thought they were the “darling of the people” and forgot “people politics”.

Mpofu said the group that started the MDC is going to start another party.

“I suspect some of the founders of MDC have become disillusioned and despondent. They might fund the new party,” Mpofu told Wits Vuvuzela.

Related Article

Elections poser for Zimbabwe students, July 26, 2013

Thuletho Zwane @thulethozwane

Ray Mahlaka @Karabo_Mahlaka

Juju recruits comrades at Wits

By Thuletho Zwane and Ray Mahlaka

JULIUS Malema’s new political party is targeting Wits to gain more supporters.

Witsie and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) executive member, Innocent Thombothi, Political Science and International Relations Honours, said that Witsies were showing interest in the EFF.

“We do have supporters on campus. Most [of them] are people in the SRC, ANCYL and the YCL [Young Communist League], and members of the PYA [Progressive Youth Alliance],” Thombothi said.

He said it was difficult for “comrades” to come out and admit they were members or supporters of the EFF because they still had to serve their elected official terms in their respective organisations.

“They are still deployed in the PYA. There’s a conflict of interest. Maybe after the PYA elections  [in August]. Most can’t disclose now. EFF is here, it is in Wits,” Thombothi said.

The EFF is a “radical and militant” political movement founded by former ANC Youth League President Malema.

It is a leftist movement whose policies include land expropriation without compensation, nationalisation of the banks and national resources, free education and health and opening South African borders to Africans.

[pullquote]”We do have supporters on campus. Most [of them] are people in the SRC, ANCYL and the YCL [Young Communist League], and members of the PYA [Progressive Youth Alliance]” [/pullquote] SRC treasurer, Justice Nkomo, however, said the EFF had no support at Wits. He said the EFF  was holding an event at Wits but had to cancel it because most Witsies attended a talk by ANC secretary-general  Gwede Mantashe.

“They wanted to infiltrate. If EFF was strong, they would be able to influence our own people,” Nkomo said.

“Those people who have crossed have always been politically irrelevant.”

Trevor Mkhawana, 2nd year Mining Engineering, said he knew a lot of people who support the EFF. “They believe in Malema. They got disillusioned by Zuma.”

Witsie Mabhoko Mojela said if the EFF won the 2014 elections, SA would turn into a banana republic.

“[But], the presence of Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, [EFF spokesperson] allows me to give EFF the benefit of the doubt. I trust his intellectual opinions and the good work he has done in the student organisations on campus.”

Puleng Tsehla, 2nd year Media Studies, from Lesotho, said she supports the EFF because the new party promotes open boundaries in Africa.

She said South Africans are always welcome in other African countries.

Other Witsies in the EFF include Floyd Shivambu who is studying his MA in political studies, Andile Mngxitama who has completed an MA in sociology and Ndlozi, a PhD politics candidate.

Related articles:

Just EFF’ing around? July 19, 2013

UJ says no to EFF  July 29, 2013

[VIDEO] Do Witsies know the EFF? July 19, 2013

Wits still in the money

By Thuletho Zwane and Ray Mahlaka

WITS students will not be affected by a reported R42-million shortfall in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the university told Wits Vuvuzela.

According to media reports, the department of higher education reported the shortfall in the NSFAS budget to Parliament last month.

The announcement resulted in student protests at the University of South Africa (Unisa).

Wits financial aid status

Wits Financial Aid Office manager Busisiwe Sithole said Wits students are not affected by the constraints in the NSFAS national budget.

“Wits has not been affected by the NSFAS funding. The Unisa issue is a separate issue. Wits is alright, there are no funding issues,” Sithole said.

SRC treasurer Justice Nkomo rejected this and said 200 Wits students have been turned down for NSFAS funding.

Nkomo argued that the Wits NSFAS administration system had problems.

“The system is not perfect, the system has many loopholes,” said Nkomo. “I don’t know, if they say ‘there is no money crisis’ where is that coming from.”

Financially excluded Wits students

Nkomo said there were a number of students who were financially excluded, with some owing as much as R36 000.

He said there were students who didn’t receive NSFAS funding and instead had to receive help from the humanitarian fund.

[pullquote]”Wits has not been affected by the NSFAS funding. The Unisa issue is a separate issue. Wits is alright, there are no funding issues,”[/pullquote]The R3-million fund is an initiative by the Wits SRC and the university  registrar to assist students caught in emergency situations without food and other basic needs.

“We need a permanent mechanism that handles fees. There is no plan here, there is rhetoric. We have entered into negotiation with management,” Nkomo said.

Nkomo said Wits needed permanent funding that goes to the humanitarian fund.

He said the SRC did not plan on leading a protest but would instead follow official channels to solve funding issues.

“Last year NSFAS did not open for second round because there was no money. This year there won’t be a second round. This is why we call for free education,” he said.

Second round is a decision by NSFAS to allocate more funding to students when there is enough money in the budget within the same year.

Administrative issues at Wits and Unisa

Nkomo said administrative issues within NSFAS at Wits can also be attributed to students not submitting all documents during the application process, which leads to their applications being denied.

Unisa SRC secretary general Ayanda Mngadi said the university is using its own money to fund students as NSFAS said, “they don’t have money”.

Related articles:

NSFAS Central Application System launches next year,  May 16, 2013

Financial Aid funding late again, March 28, 2011