SRC election battle escalates to legal war

By Thuletho Zwane and Nomatter Ndebele

The SRC elections could soon become a legal battle as the PYA (Progressive Youth Alliance) and Project W take legal action against each other. Tokelo Nhlapo, SRC vice president internal, has laid an official complaint with the Wits Legal Office following a confrontation with Jamie Mighti, Project W candidate and former debating union chairperson.

The incident that led to the complaint.

[pullquote align=”right”]“He said I must be careful and I am skating on thin ice.”[/pullquote]

Nhlapo alleges that Mighti told him to be careful and watch his ways.“He said I must be careful and I am skating on thin ice.This happened when Nhlapo and Mighti had a political debate about an article Mighti had written about “blacks being lazy”. “My contestation with him is that he can’t say blacks are lazy because of our history,” Nhlapo said.

Nhlapo said he was also uncomfortable with the sexist remarks Mighti made a few months ago on the Wits Debating Union facebook page. Nhlapo told Wits Vuvuzela that he had lodged the complaint in fear of his life. “What I want from him is that he must stay away from me… he’s violent.”

Project W responds.

Accused: Project W member Jamie Mighti pictured here with Henry Masuku  may have legal action taken against him.

Accused: Project W member Jamie Mighti pictured here with Henry Masuku may have legal action taken against him.

[pullquote align=”left”]“He [Mighti]] is being crucified. They bring out his history and they try to score cheap political points,” [/pullquote]

During an interview with the Project W campaign manager, Cebo Gila, a female student approached him and said, “Guys, please control Jamie… he can’t go around picking fights”. Gila said Project W needed to “protect” rather than control Mighti. “He [Mighti] is being crucified. They bring out his history and they try to score cheap political points,”

Gila said the opposition was preoccupied with personal attacks against Mighti for allegedly being violent and sexist , using his “history” to undermine Project W instead of engaging with the manifesto of the student action group.

“When he is being provoked on a daily basis to the point that he is being crucified, he is going to react,” Gila said. Gila said that members of Project W were being intimidated to the point where “I feel uncomfortable wearing this T-shirt”.“Do you understand that we have been bullied, we have been forced to change strategy, we have been victimized, our volunteers are told we are puppets,” he said.Gila also raised concern that Project W posters were being torn down.

Project W allegedly receives financial assistance from management.

[pullquote] “completely false

accusations” [/pullquote]made against it.

SRC treasurer, Justice Nkomo, claimed that Project W had received R500 000 from Wits management. He said Project W misled the students because it presented itself as humanitarian.“They ran it [Project W] as a charity campaign but it has a political agenda,” Nkomo said. “They are collecting cans [of food] now; were people not starving in March and April?”

Project W is considering seeking legal avenues to deal with the“completely false accusations” made against it. Gila said that Project W never misrepresented itself. “The misconception is an incompletion of how they [the PYA] understand Project W,” Gila said.

Mighti declined to comment on the incident with Nhlapo and referred Wits Vuvuzela to Gila. Gila said the incident was “regrettable, from both parties”. Wits Vuvuzela was not able to reach the Wits Legal Office for comment.

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Mandela’s legacy in question

Representatives of several political parties came together on Friday to debate the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Representatives of several political parties came together on Friday to debate the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

“Don’t blame Mandela because black people are lazy”.  The president of the Wits Debating Union (WDU), Jamie Mighti, said he was willing to be unpopular and tell fellow black students this “inconvenient truth”.

Mighti was speaking at a debate held by the WDU about former president Nelson Mandela’s legacy focused on whether Mandela sold black people out in the name of peace and reconciliation.

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) representatives Hon M A Mncwango and  Bonginkosi Dhlamini, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Makashule Gana and Andile Mngxitama of the Economic Freedom Fighters or EFF also formed part of the debating panel.

[pullquote align=”right”]”Mandela cut deals with white people at the expense of black people.”[/pullquote]

The IFP, DA and WDU all argued that Mandela did not sell black people out but rather “chose peace over justice” so the country could move forward.

This is in light of Mandela’s decision to protect the private property rights of the wealthy, who were still mainly white.

Mandela was also criticised for his decision to keep South Africa a capitalist state.

Public figures such as his former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, have publicly called him a “sell out” for choosing to have black and white people live and work together on what they have called the “stolen” land of black Africans.

Gana of the DA said it was important to consider history and context when looking at what Mandela did for South Africa: “Many other African states were collapsing and skilled people were leaving these countries with no skills transfer … He was driven by that fact and the Freedom Charter, which stated that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.”

Mngxitama was the only panelist who disagreed with the stateman’s approach to building a new South Africa: “Mandela cut deals with white people at the expense of black people. That is his unique contribution, that’s his legacy.”

The activist-turned-politician was met with a room full of applause and cheers when he said the EFF planned to “take the land and he economy back.”

He also said that under their (EFF) rule, all members of parliament would be forced to use public hospitals and take their children to public schools – “then they’ll be sure to make Baragwanath a quality hospital”, he said, to which the crowd responded with more applause and screaming.

[pullquote]”Don’t try party like a white kid. He’s going to leave you behind because he’s 12 years ahead of you.”[/pullquote]

Mighti said he was alarmed by the approach of “the Andiles and Malemas of this world”. He urged fellow students to forgive and forget about the apartheid regime and focus on being better students to ensure a more promising future. “What Andile says makes for good slogans, but it doesn’t make for a good supper”.

He said more black students needed to be in the library and “not at Puma [Social Club].

Don’t try party like a white kid. He’s going to leave you behind because he’s 12 years ahead of you. He had a good education, you have catching up to do.”

A student, who chose not to be named,  shouted at Mighti: “You insult us as blacks and yet you are black. This is what the system wanted.” He argued that the 24 hour libraries on main campus are used by black students, objecting to his claim that black students don’t put in as much work as their white mates.

He said white students were able to do better because they had resources like Apple iPads, computers with internet access and cars, which made their learning simpler.

Mighti ended his address by saying to black students “look in the mirror and ask yourself why you are not the top student in your class. There’s too much ‘instagraming’ and ‘facebooking’ going on”.

The debate ended without final remarks from Mngxitama as he was “summoned” to Soweto to join the EFF’s National Assembly.

The debate, which was held at FNB 101 last night, was aimed at addressing what the WDU has called “ongoing conversations” among young people.

Another debate will be held next week Friday as part of the WDU’s “Responsible Reconcilliation” Series. Next week’s topic is Socio-Economic Integration.

I am here, I am queer; get over it

Professor Tommaso Milani  giving a Safe Zones talk.  Photo: Prelene Singh.


A TALK about the “Safe Zones” campaign launched by the transformation office was given today by Prof Tommaso Milani in Umthombo 11.

Milani who is an associate professor of linguistics in the School of Language, Literature and Media (SLLM), spoke about the safe zones project, which is a Wits transformation initiative funded by the Carnegie Corporation in New York.

Milani said the safe zones project is an anti-homophobic practice which addresses issues around gender, sexuality and the making of a public space for the Wits community to be comfortable to speak out about their sexual preference.

The initiatives trains ‘allies’ [allies are academics, staff and students of the university] on issues around lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people (LGBTI) and the problems they face. Safe Zones seeks to increase understanding and awareness of LGBTI on campus and alleviate rising rates of homophobia (from the Wits safe zones Proposal 2011).

“You should never be ashamed of your sexuality – never”, said Milani. He went on to explain that sexual behaviour and sexual harassment need to be addressed more often in the university and in the country. “Sexual harassment happens because of silence” he said.

The “queer” in the title of the talk refers to “an act of defiance”, and “queer” supports the LGBTI theory, said Milani.

We need to think academically about the meaning of queer and critically understand how [sexual] identity categories are used and for what purpose said Milani.

Milani said, “I am a gay man and a queer scholar” and “academics do research about who we are and what we are passionate about,” Milani said this was why he was passionate about the project. “Sexuality will never be an act of surrender,” he added.

Milani also stressed the difference between homosexuality and being gay. “Gay is an identity and homosexuality is a practice”, said Milani.

Safe Zones is a Wits initiative and Wits University is the only university in the country which does not only host a gay pride festival but also sponsors it.

Witsies argue their way to the top

FIFTEEN minutes was the time the Wits Debating Union had to prepare their argument in a debate.

Fourth year accounting student, Tlhalefo Mphuthi, led the team to victory in the South African National University Debating Championships three weeks ago. They went head to head in the English Second Language final with teams from the universities of Johannesburg, Namibia and Free State.

“It’s good to be a champion. After four years of debating, this was the culmination of my debating career,” Mphuti said.

The championship, held at the University of Pretoria from July 9-15, follows the British parliamentary style of debating with nine
preliminary rounds followed by octo, quarter and semi finals, and finishes with one winning round.

 In each debate are four teams with two debaters in each. Topics are given to the teams by officials and teams are not at liberty to choose what stance they take in the debate.

Mphuthi described the last round of the competition as challenging for the Witsies as their team had to begin the debate and present their arguments first.

Their topic in the final was ‘This house (Wits) believes that state-sponsored cyber attacks are an act of war’. They won by an unanimous decision from the adjudicators, chief of whom was a debater from Oxford University.

Jamie Mighti, another member of the Wits team, said by participating in debating “you learn how to argue for the other side [which you may not agree with personally]”.

“A serious debater knows not to attach themselves to the debate. It gives you skills… you understand where other people are coming from.”

Mphuthi said the key to a good debate “boils down to good strategy, good content and good style”.

The WDU will participate in the Pan African Universities Debating Championships in Zimbabwe followed by the World Championships in the Philippines, both in December.