Staff union says a new vice-chancellor will have a lot to clean up around transformation, “nepotism, gender-based discrimination and violence, mental and emotional wellbeing, bullying, victimisation” and staff workloads.
SRC president believes that the vice-chancellor’s views on the EFF have no basis.
The university has made a decision not to renew its contract with auditing firm KPMG at the end of the 2017 financial year.
The decision was made at a meeting with the university’s council on Friday, September 29.
Members of the council audit and council risk audit committees met with the current CEO of KPMG South Africa, Nhlamulo Dlomu and international representatives from the firm a few weeks ago and deliberated on presentations which were made by KPMG.
The university has acknowledged that KPMG has taken steps to ease the reputational damage it suffered because of its relationship with companies connected to the Gupta family. However, it says, these steps are not enough.
In a statement released this morning, Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib says, “It is hard to reconcile KPMG’s conclusion that no one did anything illegal, when senior individuals have been dismissed and the South African Revenue Services (SARS) report has been retracted. In these circumstances, the council believes that it would have been prudent to acknowledge the ethical and legal lapses of KPMG’s senior management team.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers will remain the external auditors of the University.[LISTEN]: Wits Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib says KPMG did not do enough for Wits to renew their contract.
The deadline for students who signed the waiver form is fast approaching, students have until March 31 to sort out their financial arrangements with the university .
The nearly 9 000 students who signed a contract to waive their registration fee at the beginning of the year have less than a month to pay their debt of R 9340.
Students who had provisional offers for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for 2016, those with external bursaries and those with a Wits University scholarship did not have to make upfront payments for registration at the beginning of this year.
Instead, students who didn’t have adequate funding at the beginning of the year signed an Acknowledgement of Debt (AOD) form which stated that they are entering into an arrangement for the payment of the upfront fee as well any interest from the date of the signature.
Some of the original signatories of the acknowledgement of debt have since been helped and funded by the SRC’s #Access Campaign and some have since appealed and received approval for NSFAS.
But many students have not been so lucky.
“I’m thinking of deregistering because there is nothing I can do,” says Onkarabile Mokoto, a returning third-year student who signed the contract to waive his registration at the beginning of this year.
Mokoto was previously studying at Wits towards a Bachelor of Education degree from 2008. The young man from Kagiso, in Mogale City on the west of Johannesburg, was previously able to afford his tuition through the NSFAS and the Gauteng Department of Education bursary. He dropped out of university in 2010 due to “personal reasons.”
But Mokoto did not inform his faculty that he would not be continuing with the rest of the academic calendar for 2010 and his marks for that year resulted in academic exclusion.
“Because of lack of knowledge I didn’t know I was supposed to do that [deregister].”
Due to his previous record of exclusion NSFAS rejected his application for funding for 2016 even though he does qualify for NSFAS. With the help of the SRC, Mokoto went through the appeals process but his appeal was also rejected in mid-February. He has since been left with no option but to deregister. Mokoto says although the SRC were initially helping him to secure funding, in the end there was not much that SRC did for his cause.
“They told me to focus on my studies and try to look for other funds.” Mokoto says.
According to a statement put out by the university in January, students who cannot pay registration in full by March 31 should notify the university by completing and concluding an AOD before the end of March.
Provided a student has done that, and fulfils their obligations as set out in the AOD, they will not be charged additional interest on any amounts outstanding in respect of tuition fees.
According to the fees office, all students who have not settled their accounts by March 31 are legible to pay a 1.3% interest on their balance, whether they have signed the AOD or not.
But for students like Mokoto who haven’t been able to secure funds the situation looks dire. He says he plans to deregister because he cannot pay the registration, and cannot afford his textbooks. Mokoto told Wits Vuvuzela that even as he signed the waiver he had no idea of where to get the money to pay his fees.
Vice chancellor Adam Habib told Wits Vuvuzela that he was concerned that if fees are not paid, the university will not be able to keep the lights on. “I wish I didn’t have to charge fees,” says Habib.
Habib said the university was underfunded by the state, with only R1.4-billion in funding coming from the government while it costs R3.4-billion to operate the university.
Habib said that those students who signed an acknowledgement of debt saying that they were going to have the money by the March 31 have to pay, and if they can’t, it means they signed the form under misleading conditions.
According to the SRC’s general secretary, Fasiha Hassan, the university cannot deregister students due to financial exclusion. Only students can deregister themselves.
“No student can be deregistered unless you are academically excluded,” says Hassan.
The #Access campaign launced by the Wits SRC has raised over R2.6-million and attracted the attention of celebrities like DJ Sbu.
The Wits SRC’s #Access campaign for students who cannot pay fees has raised over R2.6-million and attracted endorsements from local celebrities such as DJ Sbu.
“DJ Sbu has agreed to endorse the Access campaign … Sbu along with the SRC will be participating in his fund raising event on Sunday,” according to Wits SRC secretary general Fasiha Hassan. The details of the endorsement are still under discussion.
Hassan said that some of the proceeds from DJ Sbu’s Annual SLEF Benefit Concert will go towards the #Access campaign with the details still to be ironed out.
This comes after the Wits SRC launched the #Access fundraiser at the university’s welcome day for first-year students. The campaign aims to raise R10-million by the end February for the “missing middle”—students who don’t qualify for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) but still cannot afford tuition.
Hassan said the SRC is hoping to raise enough money to help at least 8 000 students with not only tuition but also necessities such as accommodation and transport.
“It’s one thing to get them into the system but it’s another to get them out successfully … we are aiming to look at this holistically,” said Hassan.
“They are students who are too poor to be rich and too rich to be poor … these are children of teachers, nurses and policemen,” said SRC president Nompendulo Mkatshwa at the welcome day.
The fundraiser includes Fill the Jar, pledges forms, donations and the proceeds gained from O-week events, such as Beer Garden, Freshers Party and the Flea Market, will go towards the humanitarian fund. “People think that O-week is about ‘party party party’, let me tell you something O-week is not about that. It’s about raising funds for students. Party with a purpose,” said Mkatshwa
Another key focus to the initiative is the corporate challenge where they hope to encourage big business to donate. At the launch R2-million was donated by Nedbank to start kick start the initiative. Mkatshwa implored not only students and parents to donate but also corporate and other professionals. “We challenge other corporate to bless us, be our ‘blessers’,” said Mkatshwa. Other corporate donation include R600 000 from Abbotts Laboratories.
Last year the Wits SRC raised R4.4-million for the One million One Month campaign to assist students who were affected by the NSFAS shortfall crisis.
In an interview on Wednesday with Wits Vuvuzela, Mkatshwa said the SRC wanted to expand access to education towards every academically qualified student.
“The Wits SRC seeks to ensure that every single academically deserving child gains access to this institution and succeeds in this institution …We need the masses of our people skilled and knowledgeable in order for us to create the type of growth that will create socioeconomic equality and justice in South Africa,” said Mkatshwa.
However, Hassan acknowledged that even if the SRC meets its goal of R10-million, it will still not be enough to help all of the students in need of funding for their tertiary education.
“No amount of funding is enough,” said Hassan.
This initiative comes in the wake of the Fees Must Fall protests that spread to other campuses across the country at the end of last year when students demanded a 0% fee increase and an end to outsourcing.
“#Access is an evolution of Fees Must Fall,” said Hassan.
Student protests against fee increases at Wits University in Johannesburg, entered a third day today and look set to continue into next week.
Student protests may continue into next week if Wits University does not agree to scrap a 10.5 percent fee increase.
Addressing several hundred students in Senate House, former SRC president Mcebo Dlamini said the protest would continue into next week.
“We will do it … until we are heard!”
In response the crowd of protesting students began chanting “Monday! Tuesday! Wednesday! Thursday! Friday!”
The protest, which began on Wednesday, has shut down academic activities on campus.
Students congregated at all of the university’s entrances and wouldn’t let other staff or students come in or out until late at night.
Today, students met at the Yale Road entrance on Wits Campus so that Vice Chancellor Adam Habib could address them.
“This is a revolution and our target is free education,” said Dlamini before the crowd of students marched to Senate House.
— WitsFeesMustFall (@ThickLeeyonce) October 16, 2015
Habib agreed to sit with the students in the Senate House concourse until an emergency university council can be held to discuss the fee increase.
The Chairperson of the Wits Council Dr Randall Carolissen said over the phone, to which Dlamini held a megaphone to, that a meeting can only be held by tomorrow morning.
Students along with the vice chancellor will be sitting in Senate House until then.
The dismissal of Mcebo Dlamini as SRC president was in line with the SRC constitution. However the provision allowing the vice-chancellor to do so is vague and could create an “opportunity for arbitrary used of power” according to a legal expert.
The decision to remove the Mcebo Dlamini as SRC president was in line with the SRC constitution, however there are “abnormalities” in the provision that was used, said the deputy head of the Wits School of Law.
Dlamini was removed from his position on May 4 by Vice Chancellor Adam Habib who said the former SRC president had been found guilty of misconduct before a disciplinary hearing.
Mtendeweka Mhango the Deputy Head at the School of Law at Wits said Dlamini had been removed in accordance with the SRC Constitution.
“However, it is important to mention that there are a few abnormalities in the above provision, which have been brought to the fore in the current case involving the SRC president and which need to be examined,” he said.
In this case, clause 11(4)(e) of the SRC Constitution was used by the Habib to remove Dlamini. It states that a member of the SRC ceases to be a member if they are found guilty of misconduct by a student disciplinary committee. The member may appeal to the vice-principal or the vice chancellor.
Mhango said, however, the provision is not clear because while it gives power to the vice chancellor it does not describe the legal processes for a SRC member who wishes to appeal. It does not explicitly say what process should be followed when appealing to the vice chancellor or what power the vice chancellor has in granting the appeal.
“This is a problem as it creates opportunity for arbitrary used of power,” said Mhango.
It is also unclear whether the word “appeal” means a request for sympathy to the vice chancellor to not be removed or if it means an application to another person of higher authority for a decision.
The case with Dlamini
Dlamini appeared before a disciplinary panel in February this year where he was found guilty of insulting and assaulting senior members of the university.
In March, Wits Vuvuzela reported that as a result of this verdict, Dlamini was suspended as president. He was allowed to continue studying although he was given a one year suspended sentence of expulsion.
Following the sentence, Dlamini appealed to Habib by asking that his suspension as SRC president be deferred pending the outcome of a review of the disciplinary panel’s decision. Habib agreed, provided the review would be completed in 14 days which did not happen.
Dlamini opposed the delay of the review saying it was the fault of the Wits Legal Office, according to a statement by Habib. Habib said he believes that this delay was partly a result of Dlamini’s inability to provide required documentation to the Legal Office on time.
On the Monday, May 4, two months after Dlamini’s initial suspension, Habib announced that he asked Dlamini to step down as president. He said it appeared as if Dlamini was “deliberately delaying a final decision until the end of his presidential tenure.” This, Habib argued, “would be a violation of the SRC constitution and the principle of justice”.
Habib has denied the former SRC president’s removal was related to his comments in media where he expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and Dlamini’s claims that every white person had a bit of Hitler in them.
SRC President Mcebo Dlamini speaks to everyone except Campus Media
Dismissed SRC president Mcebo Dlamini was a common presence on radio and websites this week with several media appearances. Everywhere—seemingly—except for campus media outlets Wits Vuvuzela and VowFM.
Since his dismissal as SRC president on Monday, Wits Vuvuzela made several attempts to get hold of him: eight landline calls, four cell phone calls, four WhatsApp messages that were read but not responded to (blue ticks!) and countless visits to the SRC offices.
After all this effort, Wits Vuvuzela only managed to get hold Dlamini only once and his comment was very simple: he was still “gathering his thoughts”. He had been booked to go on VowFm but was reportedly a no-show.
But while he has not appeared on campus media, Dlamini has appeared frequently on commercial outlets.
He spoke to the Mail and Guardian and said Vice Chancellor Adam Habib’s decision to remove him from office was because he “succumbed to pressure from the White community”.
He went on to explain to Eye Witness News that his dismissal was “proof to everyone that white supremacy is putting its boots on the neck of the black child.”
The most comprehensive of interviews that Dlamini gave was one where both Dlamini and Habib were interviewed on Power FM. Dlamini said his dismissal was a “joke” and that the vice chancellor knew he had no case against him.
Dlamini said the charges on which he was dismissed are related to a fight he had in a dining hall happened one year and four months ago before he became SRC president. He said that he had been found guilty by a “kangaroo court in an effort to protect the evil that is practiced by the university, chaired by Adam Habib”.
“The university just wanted to get rid of me,” Dlamini said.
He also told PowerFM that Habib was “twerking in my name all over social media
He continued to defend his remarks around Adolf Hitler: “Hitler is a freak of nature, I am failing to separate him from the White people. In all of them there is a small element of Hitler. In as much as they can do good things, there’s an element of Hitler. It is time for the Black masses to speak against White supremacy because we are going nowhere.”
When asked how he was planning on responding to his dismissal, Dlamini told PowerFM that “the students will decide”.
“I was put in office by the students, and if the students are happy that the vice chancellor will twerk in my name and at their expense on all social media, behaving like a pop star, then they will allow him, but if the students believe in the power of blackness, then they will challenge this thing because I didn’t put myself in office.”
CORRECTION: This article was initially headlined “Wits med students facing disciplinary action”, lending the impression that the group of students involved are those registered for the Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degree or MBBCh. The students referred to are those registered for the BCMP or the Bachelor of Clinical Medical Practice. Wits Vuvuzela regrets the error which has been corrected below.
A group of BCMP (Bachelor of Clinical Medical Practice) students are facing disciplinary action after it was discovered that they skipped out on hours during their hospital rotations.
Some Wits clinical medical practice students are facing disciplinary action, including being forced to deregister for their third year studies, as they falsified their practices requirements in second year.
A group of 24 students, who do not want to be named, are undergoing disciplinary hearings after it was discovered they had lied about meeting the requirements during their second-year clinical practice course. Evidence showed they had skipped out on hours that they were meant to serve at designated hospitals in Gauteng.
Thus far, two students have been allowed to continue to third year, three have been excluded and majority of the students have been told that they need to repeat second year.
According to those who have not been allowed to continue third year, the outcomes of the hearings are unfair because the transgressions are similar.
Unfair treatment and bad conditions
In addition the students feel that the harsh implications of their actions far outweigh the unfair treatment they received at both the hospitals and at the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Between struggling with challenging hospital conditions, lack of facilities, CommCare complications, dismissive doctors and lack of tutors, students claim that they were abandoned in their difficulties.
“The conditions that we worked under, was not what we were promised,” said one of the students.
Leaked e-mails between faculty staff and students, reveal they tried since last year to make their grievances heard but according to them these were ignored. They felt as though no efforts were made to help them better understand the course because they were not assigned a tutor.
“From day one, we’ve complained and nobody has done anything about it,” said another student. “We were left at the hospitals to fend for ourselves.”
The situation took a turn for the worse when two students confessed to their fraudulent behaviour and presented information to the faculty that implicated other students. This evidence would later turn out to be the primary evidence against the BCMP 24.
The dean and staff members of the faculty declined to give comment to Wits Vuvuzela, citing the ongoing hearings.
Meeting with the vice chancellor
Wits Vuvuzela observed a meeting between the students and Vice Chancellor Adam Habib. The vice chancellor told the students he could not interfere with the legal processes of the Wits students to allow them to finish third year.
“Even if I wanted to intervene, I can’t because our disciplinary process is an independent process and the vice chancellor has no authority to over-ride,” said Habib.
He added that it would be illegal to pass the students even if they had met most of the requirements to pass second year.
Students say they had passed the second year and the test they wrote about the practical experience they were meant to receive at the hospitals and by allowing them to register, they were misled to believe that they wouldn’t be taken action against.
In response to their outcry that the penalty was too harsh, Habib told the students that they had not done the necessary clinical practice to qualify for third-year. He added that their initial claim to have done clinical practice was “a fraudulent transaction”.
Habib also said he would be investigating the conditions the students had to undergo whilst they were doing their rotations and make a full enquiry into it, independent of the investigation.
The BCMP course requires students to do practical rotations at specific hospitals in Gauteng and North West provinces. Only students from Gauteng hospitals have been implicated in transgressions.
Wits University hosted another townhall meeting with the vice chancellor last week to give staff and students the opportunity to raise questions with Wits management.
It wasn’t a comfortable town hall meeting for Wits Vice Chancellor (VC) Professor Adam Habib last week. At the meeting held last Thursday, Habib came under heavy criticism mainly over the university’s stance on Israel and over the issue of unpaid electrical workers.
Rashaad Yusuf Dadoo, BA Law, used the platform of the townhall meeting to question Wits’ apparent lack of a stance on the conflict in the middle East and accused the university of having a political conscious only when it suited them.
Dadoo, who is a member of the Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), claimed that the university was quick to stand against xenophobia, in solidarity with Kenyan students, but failed to take up a specific stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I felt the need to bring up the evident hypocrisy shown by the Vice Chancellor Professor Habib with regard to showing equal compassion and solidarity,” Dadoo said.
“I feel Professor Habib should show that compassion equally regardless of who the oppressors are,” he added.
He also claimed that the university had allowed the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) to bring an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier onto campus.
Habib was quick to deny this allegation saying the “soldier” was only a student wearing an IDF shirt.
Another member of the audience accused the VC of allowing racists to speak and mobilise on campus.
Habib, responded by saying that Wits is a place of free ideas where people are free to express their views even if they are not his views or those of the university.
Students took to Twitter after the townhall, to voice their disappointment in the VC’s response:
“APPALLED at the way VC <a href=”https://twitter.com/AdHabb”>@AdHabb</a> treated the <a href=”https://twitter.com/WitsPSC1″>@WitsPSC1</a> as a group of Muslim fundamentalists who don’t stand for freedom of speech,” said Aaisha (@aaishadadipatel).
“@WitsPSC1 was received with such hostility, WHY? Our first question was nothing but respectful,” tweeted Courtney Morgan (@Courtz_RM).
Electrical workers who have gone unpaid through this year staged a silent protest on the steps of the Great Hall before the meeting started. The workers, part of MJL Electrical, then walked into the hall and stood at the front of the stage for the duration of the meeting.
MJL workers have been in dispute with their employer, who has not paid them for over a month, and have taken the matter to court.
Habib addressed the issue of the MJL workers by saying that the university would support them as a friend of the court.
He also said that it was not the university’s responsibility to guarantee the jobs of employees of outsourced service providers as it would set a precedent for workers from other service providers.
The life of anti-apartheid activist Bram Fischer was celebrated at Wits University this past week.
by Sinikiwe Mqadi & Queenin Masuabi
Wits honoured, anti-apartheid activist and Rivonia Trial defence lawyer Bram ‘Mr Black’ Fischer. A posthumous honorary doctorate in law was received by his daughters, Ruth Rice and Ilse Wilson, this past Thursday.
Fischer was an Afrikaner communist who defended many anti-apartheid activists like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki from a government which had been seeking the death penalty for the crime of sabotage.
Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib said that Fischer best represents the best traditions of Wits, South Africa and the future. “Fischer represented Afrikaner royalty, transcended the negative parts of the environment, defended Nelson Mandela,” Habib said.
Wits also hosted a colloquium to honour Fischer’s work. The panel consisted of Fischer’s former clients, family and friends. Ahmed Kathrada, Max Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Denis Goldberg and George Bizos were just some of the people who were part of the panel.
“We stood for our liberty and our rights, and if Bram said something it carried weight,” Bizos said of his friend.
Max Sisulu, whose father, Walter, was a friend and client of Fischer, recalled the moments he shared with Fischer’s family. Sisulu said that Fischer would always be remembered for the influence he had on the outcomes of the trials of anti-apartheid activists.
The Rivonia Trial
The Rivonia Trial took place in South Africa Between 1963 and 1964. Ten leaders of the African National Congress were tried for two hundred and twenty one acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid system.
Fischer was arrested in 1966 and and also charged with sabotage. The prosecution called for the death penalty but he was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment. He died on 8 May 1975 from cancer.
There is no intention to replace black students with white students in Wits residences, says Wits Vice Chancellor (VC) Prof Adam Habib.
Speaking exclusively to Wits Vuvuzela, Habib responded to this week’s furore around the revised residence admissions policy which saw some student organisations threatening a boycott of the upcoming SRC (Student Representative Council) elections if Habib did not address their concerns.
Habib said “there is no special incentives for white students.” “What is at place is making sure that we have an appropriate balance between demographic representivity and cosmopolitanism. We believe this can be done without adversely affecting poor students or existing students.”
“We want to ensure that our students have a holistic experience in our residences that they interact with other students across racial boundaries, religious boundaries, ethnic boundaries and cultural boundaries but also class boundaries. We do not want rich students sitting in one place and staying in one res and poor students staying in another res”, said Habib.
On Wednesday, student organisations, residents and house committee members accused Habib of wanting to replace black students with white students in the effort to make residences more cosmopolitan.
According to Habib, the university’s “integration agenda” should be reflective of South African society.
“Even though our society and institution is majority black, obviously our residences will be majority black. But a majority black institution does not mean that we can’t be cosmopolitan.”
Speaking on behalf of student leadership representatives, Sunnyside chairperson Maame Boateng said:”We are not against diversity in our residences but a policy that looks to disenfranchise the majority of current residents in order to serve a privileged minority”.
The student leadership representatives are “calling for a recall of the policy in its entirety and/ or creation of a new policy that will be fair and equal for all students and not unjustifiably benefits any class or race group”, Boateng said.
Habib, along with university management and student leadership representatives, will hold another round of consultations on Saturday afternoon where more cases will be heard and discussed.
“Student leadership will stand firm tomorrow in the fight for students those who we serve. We will not stop until a policy is put in place that will in no way detriment any student, a decision that will serve the best interests of all students”, said Boateng
In the meantime, Habib has agreed to halt the implementation of the controversial policy pending further discussion with student organisations.
Wits Vuvuzela, Res policy dominates SRC elections, August 2014
Wits Vuvuzela, Habib agrees to halt controversial res policy, August 2014
Wits Vuvuzela, UPDATE: Student organisations unite to challenge revised residence admission policy, August 2014