UJ dumps South Point

By Phumi Ramalepe

NSFAS students sign petition for university to reconsider decision.

The University of Johannesburg has rejected South Point’s 2019 accreditation application after the property company failed to fulfil certain requirements by the university’s policy on privately-owned accommodation.

The policy stipulates that, “Rooms should be furnished with lockable closets, single bed steel or wooden frames including mattress/sponge, study desk, chair, bookshelf, study lamp, panel heater and paper bin.”

The policy further states that the kitchen of each ‘Subscribing Service Provider’ should have “a minimum provision of cold storage, 210 litres per five students”.

After the 2019 inspection, the two Braamfontein South Point buildings (Norvic and KSI) previously accredited by U J since 2004 were deemed not to meet the requirements due to the absence of panel heaters and fridges.   

Executive Head of Precinct Development at South Point, Josef Talotta, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “In 2011, [UJ] gazetted new norms and standard criteria (introducing communal refrigerators and panel heaters) for its accreditation partners…we were not accredited for 2019, in spite of previous approvals against the same criteria.”

Last year, South Point “housed approximately 450 students as a UJ-accredited housing provider”, according to Talotta.

Some of those students circulated a petition last week to have UJ reconsider its decision not to accredit South Point. By January 31, the petition had garnered 90 signatures.   

Mpho Stephen, a third-year LLB student who has been staying at South Point for two years said, “I helped distribute the petition because we want a place to stay. We are also trying to tell [UJ] our story. Everybody has a right to be heard,” said Stephen.

UJ students who are funded by NSFAS say they are dismayed by UJ’s decision as they did not have to pay for top-ups and a deposit at South Point before signing their leases.

“I went to J1 (a private accommodation property in Braamfontein) and there is space but…now I have to pay R3 750 for deposit. Imagine the strain I have to put on my parents. I wouldn’t have to pay for deposit at South Point while on NSFAS,” said Mpho Khosa, a third-year Film and Television student at UJ.

South Point is appealing UJ’s decision, according to Talotta.


#FMF: Universities ungovernable

MASS MARCH:

MASS MARCH: The #FreeMustFall students march on Jorrisen Street in Braamfontein. Photo: Nokuthula Zwane

Week two of the #FeesMustFall student protests comes with students drafting memoranda, burning property and marching around campuses following the shutdown of most universities. (more…)

Family speaks about missing UJ student

A second year UJ student had been missing for more than a week now, and his family are still no closer to finding him. 

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A collage of images of missing UJ student Ronewa Mamburu. Photo: Facebook.

The mother of missing University of Johannesburg (UJ) student, Ronewa Mamburu says she is devastated by her 19-year-old son’s disappearance. Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela earlier today, Mkhumeleni Mamburu says ongoing rumours about the case are makes things worse.  “I can’t explain how I am feeling … I  didn’t even wake up today, something I am not used to”, says Mkhumeleni.

Mamburu, a second year mechanical engineering student, went missing on his way from  his home in Limpopo to UJ’s Robin Crest residence at the Doornfontein campus during the weekend of July 30. He was last seen near the Gautrain train station in Johannesburg soon after disembarking the bus he was travelling in.  According to reports given to the family, Mamburu apparently waited at the station for a friend while other passengers dispersed.

Mamburu’s uncle, Justice Mamburu, says the investigating officer has now received the relevant authorisation to access Mamburu’s phone and banking records to allow police to widen their investigation. Justice says he called Mamburu on July 30 and 31, but found that the missing man’s phone was off. “I called his mom to double-check if indeed he left home on Saturday.  They told me he did and they couldn’t get him on his phone,” said Justice.

The family say they also followed up information from one of Mamburu’s friends that the young man had travelled to Pretoria to visit a friend. According to his uncle, Mamburu never visited his girlfriend and the friend later confessed to lying.

The case is being handled by the Hillbrow Police Station and the investigation into the phone and bank records, according to Justice Mamburu, is expected to last about a week.

 

UJ gets interdict against campus protests

The South Gauteng High Court today granted the University of Johannesburg a court interdict prohibiting protest action that contravenes university regulations.

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University of Johannesburg students outside the South Gauteng High Court today. Photo: Sisa Canca.

By Sisa Canca and Nobathembu Zantsi

Twelve University of Johannesburg students have been barred from entering the campus after the institution was granted a provisional interdict against them in the South Gauteng High Court earlier today.

The interdict also prevents “unlawful demonstrations” by protesting students. 

The university’s legal representative, advocate Dirk Vetten, said the university sought court assistance “in drawing the line”, as a result of the increased nature of illegal activities on campus.  The university have charged the twelve suspended students with misconduct relating to a number of incidents on campus. 

Yesterday, the university’s main auditorium was set alight, causing damage worth R100 million according to the statement released by the vice chancellor’s office. No suspects have yet been arrested or identified. 

The judge said there was no evidence before the court proving that the burning of the building was done by the suspended students.

Judge Raylene Keightley gave all  respondents present in court an opportunity to raise their concerns, explaining to the students that the order was for stopping “unlawful” action.

“The interdict prevents protest action that infringes on the right of other students, staff and visitors on campus and the university’s right to protect its property”, said Keightley.

Lindokuhle Xulu, one of the suspended students, opposed the interdict saying it infringes on their right to access education.

 “We are chased away by bouncers every time we try to access campus to study and go to the library. Can the university guarantee us that we will exercise our right to education?” said Xulu.  

Sandile Mdlongwa, one of the suspended students who was arrested last week following therecent  surge in  violent incidents on campus, questioned the validity of the institution blocking their entrance to the university.  

“Is it constitutionally correct for academically deserving students to be deprived of their right to education?” asked Mdlongwa.

Xhamla Songwevu, claimed that unlawful protests happen because the university never grants them as students, permission to protest whenever they apply.

While deliberating on her decision, the judge asked for a provision to be added to the interdict that the suspended students be allowed to approach the institution for re-consideration of their current suspension terms. 

Keightley stressed that the university should allow students access for academic purposes and reconsider the evictions of resident students. 

In addition to protest action, the interdict prohibits activity by any person from blocking university entrances, threats of violence, obstructing the movement of other students, staff and other members of the university community.

The 12 suspended students will face a disciplinary hearing tomorrow in Kempton Park.

Meanwhile, the provisional interdict will remain in force for the next two weeks until the matter returns to court on May 31, 2016.

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‘Picturing Change’ for university statues

A book written by Professor Brenda Schmahmann in 2013 explores statues, symbols and images at post-apartheid universities. It highlights the urgency felt now in 2015 in light of recent events at universities calling for transformation. 

A BOOK ABOUT CHANGE: Professor Brenda Schmahmann's Picturing Change discusses long existing  symbols and imagery at universities. Photo: Katleho Sekhotho

A BOOK ABOUT CHANGE: Professor Brenda Schmahmann’s Picturing Change discusses long existing symbols and imagery at universities.                            Photo: Katleho Sekhotho

IN THE wake of statues in South Africa being protested, vandalised and removed, University of Johannesburg Prof Brenda Schmahmann’s book Picturing Change, has been put back in the spotlight.

Wits University Press have re-posted on their website a link to the book in their catalogue.

Schmahmann, who taught history of art at Wits between 1989 and 2001, spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about her book, what symbols mean at universities and their influence.

The professor could not have imagined that statues would suddenly become headlines this year. “I viewed such questions as relevant already and not something that would suddenly become relevant in 2015,” she said.

Schmahmann said the book came about from an experience at Rhodes University in 2008 while she was a professor there.

“I was involved in initiating discussion about visual culture on campus that had its origins in imperialist traditions and how to negotiate it,” said Schmahmann.

“I was interested in finding out what other universities had done and were doing, and this developed into an extended research project which culminated ultimately in Picturing Change.”

The fall of the Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town (UCT) sparked much debate and Schmahmann believes that the removal of the statue points to a much bigger problem.

“I think the sculpture of Rhodes at UCT became in a sense a scapegoat for people’s deep sense of frustration, and probably less with UCT specifically than with a larger society in which the impact of poverty, lack of opportunity and sense of inequity is deeply felt.

“But, as I reveal in my book, the removal of art objects from view does not automatically lead to transformative actions,” said Schmahmann.

That it is not simply a matter of who is represented but how they are represented.

“There have been instances in which placing objects associated with British imperialism or Afrikaner nationalism out of sight and in storage has actually been used to curtail difficult discussions.”

Schmahmann said instead statues should be used as instruments to encourage questions around transformation.

“Why not ask artists for ideas about curating and responding to that object or image in ways that prompt new understandings about it?”

Schmahmann said the politics of the Rhodes statue at UCT was more complicated than at first glance, because it had been sculpted by one of the first female sculptors in South Africa, Marion Walgate.

“Imperialist this work undoubtedly is, but it is also bound up with gender politics,” said Schmahmann.

Because of the 2008 discussion, changes were implemented at Rhodes University with the removal of old portraits with community based work.

“I motivated successfully for Rhodes University to commission for the interior of its Council Chamber, and to replace the portraits, [with] a self-help community project of isiXhosa-speaking women,” said Schmahmann.

Schmahmann said the transformation of cultural symbols also happened at University of Free State University. The university received a grant from the National Lottery and with this they’ve been able to acquire a variety of artworks including those by Willem Boshoff, Noria Mabasa and Willie Bester.

“These have completely transformed the “feel” of that campus,” said Shmahmann.

Shmahman said she hoped the book would convince readers that the answer to statues was not to simply substitute colonial and apartheid era statues with those of struggle heroes.

“That it is not simply a matter of who is represented but how they are represented.”

Schmahmann’s book Picturing Change: Curating Visual Culture at Post-Apartheid Universities is available at the Wits University Press.

SA professor speaks outside French university after ban

A University of Johannesburg professor addressed an audience outside the gates of a French university after he was banned from speaking at the institution yesterday.

Despite being banned from speaking at the Pantheon-Sorbonne University in France yesterday, Professor Farid Esack still managed to deliver a lecture on “Israel as an Apartheid State” at the main gates of the institution.

Esack is a professor in the Study of Islam, and Head of the Department of Religion Studies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and also chairs the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa board. He was due to speak at the public research university in Paris as part of the Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) but was not able to after complaints were received by the institution.

“A pretty sad sight for France which turned out in their hundreds of thousands to defend ‘freedom of speech’ only a few months ago,” said Esack.

“The major allegations was that I was violent and anti-Semitic. The basis for this?”

“The major allegations was that I was violent and anti-Semitic. The basis for this?” asks Esack

According to Esack, allegations of violence against BDS supporters during the Boycott Woolworths campaign were ascribed to him as the chair of the organisation. “This was the sum of the Israeli lobby’s petition to French universities,” Esack continues.

Esack also addressed allegations that he is anti-Semitic by saying, “believe it or not, it all started with Dubula-i-Juda story that was first printed in Vuvuzela!” he exclaims.

According to Esack, BDS South Africa’s (through coordinator Mohammed Desai), attempts to explain the Wits incident “in the context of larger liberation struggle songs was presented as proof that I am anti-Semitic.”

“The BDS Board, which I chair and of which Desai is a member as the organization’s director, concurred with, unambiguously condemned that incident and BDS reaffirms its commitment to non-violence as its way of responding to the crimes of occupation and dispossession committed against the Palestinian people.”

 

UJ student vigilantes

After hearing someone shout ‘Vimba, Vimba!’ students wearing pyjamas have been seen flooding out of residences into the streets, armed with knobkieries and mops to join the chase for the mugger.

This phenomenon where students play the role of vigilante, has apparently developed in and around the UJ residences in Doornfontein over the past seven years. The students take it upon themselves to help one of their own by searching for the suspects and “beat them to bits” if they find them.

Joy Shikwambana and two of her friends were mugged by three men last year. They shouted for help and within five minutes, hundreds of students were in the streets.

“It is a wise form of protection. Crime would definitely be higher around reses without it,” said the second year Environmental Health student at UJ. Shikwanbana explained victims can only yell after the criminals start running, “because they can hurt you when you scream if they have weapons.”

“When the students hear the call there are hundreds of them running out of the res to go and hit these muggers. But then sometimes they get excited and run in the wrong direction,” said Fidelity security guard at UJ Sunvalley Residence, Ntsieni Manezhe.

He said the students get out of hand and grab stones and bricks in the streets to beat the attackers.

“We security guards from Fidelity, Stallion’s and UJ security have to protect these muggers from the mob, because if every one of those hundred students get one hit in they will kill them. It’s not right to take the law into your own hands.”

This vigilante culture has drawn attention because of its violent nature. The purpose of the use of violence is “to send a message to criminals that pain will be inflicted upon them, which tends to keep them away,” said third year Sports Communication student at UJ, Selby Mogale.

In some of these cases UJ students have chased and beat the wrong guy, according to Marnitz Oldewage, a third year Mining Engineering student at UJ.

“I once drove past a crowd and saw students dragging the mugger by his feet down the street while he was full of blood and unconscious,” said Oldewage. He said although it gets violent he is all for this trend because not only does it scare criminals away, but “no matter what race, gender or background you have they will always have your back.”

Oldewage said students think the police only drop off the muggers somewhere else after taking them away from the crowd, to get out of the paper work.

The police are unaware of the Vimba culture in Doornfontein, where many UJ residences are situated, according to Gauteng Police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale.

 

 

Ubuntu: bringing change to urban South Africa

"DEBATE

Ubuntu is a concept often thrown about in discussions about South African society and earlier today, two prominent philosophers unpacked and debated the concept in front of a large audience at Wits University.

As part of The Art of Human Rights workshop, the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) hosted a debate with Prof Thad Metz from UJ (University of Johannesburg) and Wits professor Lucy Allais.

Both speakers dedicated part of their presentations to ideas about how to implement the second phase of Ubuntu into urban South Africa.

Ubuntu is broadly considered to be the African concept of “human kindness” and “community”.

According to Metz, it is “difficult to implement in a place like Johannesburg because of urban influences and lack of community”.

“There are little ways to do it … it takes a village to raise a child. Constructing a compound or a society where everyone takes responsibility to raise the children and rear them in the right direction.”

“If we are going to foster any type of Ubuntu in urban South Africa, we have to deal with the main issues that this country faces,” said Allais.

She stressed that “poverty and inequality” are the two biggest problems in South Africa.

“The State needs to enable everybody to participate as citizens. If we have social welfare, why do we have beggars on the street?”

She emphasised that if the state is not dealing with these issues than it’s up to civil society to pressure the state about what they are doing to about the “lack of social welfare and the like”.