My fourth year of living on campus has allowed me not only to acknowledge and appreciate the privilege I have, but to encourage others to give it a try.
Applications to study at Wits are open and will be closing at the end of September. One of the decisions applicants have to make is where they will live while studying in Braamfontein or Parktown.
While there are factors that are influential for staying off campus, there are factors that are influential for staying on campus, too.
A 2020 academic paper reveals many students prefer to stay off campus because they get to become independent, unrestricted by the rules that come with staying on campus, and get a chance to grow.
My experience as a resident at West Campus Village – a postgraduate accommodation at Wits – would imply otherwise because living on campus has made my studies and social life easier. Bearing in mind that according to a 2022 Wits report, while the university has approximately 40 000 students, only 2 000 can be accommodated on campus. So, I am not tone-deaf to the student accommodation crisis.
I have been living on campus since my first year in 2020 when I lived at Barnato Hall on West Campus for the duration of my undergraduate degree. In my fourth year staying on campus, I have witnessed the introduction of three private off-campus student accommodations. Every year, their advertisements tend to lure in students with basic amenities such as: 24/7 Wi-Fi, increased laundry tokens, 24/7 security and how close they are to main campus.
Unlike staying off-campus, on campus residences minimise the worry of travelling to class. You get to do your laundry an unlimited number of times and I have found myself coming back from studying during hours that would compromise my safety had I been living off campus.
During orientation week of my first year, I got a guided opportunity to familiarise myself with the campus space. It was in the tours of libraries, computer labs and study labs that I got to see the lengths Wits goes to make sure we all have an equal opportunity to participate in our academics. For example, campus is never without electricity, students with no laptops have access to computers and the commerce, law and management library is open 24/7 together with access to its printers.
I had only been living at Barnato Hall for a few weeks when loadshedding hit for the first time. To my surprise, the Wi-Fi remained on. As I was still wondering what I would be doing in the absence of electricity, it came back on in less than five minutes as the university’s generators kicked in.
Coming from the township of Mabopane in Pretoria, this was all very new to me because we experience unscheduled power cuts on top of the loadshedding. Those living off campus are not as fortunate as they remain in darkness during such episodes. This has become worse this year after Eskom announced in February an indefinite implementation of Stage 6 loadshedding, signalling no end to the national energy crisis.
I have not enjoyed everything about living in a university residence, such as when we had to wear our yellow freshmen t-shirts and welcome everyone with the residence’s war cry. However, I am grateful to have met and made so many friends during those team-building events in first year. Some remain my friends to this day.
My experience has been vindicated by another academic study, published in 2021, which found that living on campus comes with a greater opportunity to feel like you belong, a more welcoming perception of how campus is and a greater ability to cope with studies as compared to living off campus.
Safe Zones at Wits helps transgender groups to navigate life beyond Wits.
Safe Zones at Wits University and the trans-led non-governmental organisation, Be True 2 Me, have managed to bring diverse groups together through social support meetings for transgender staff and students.
There are online sessions every second Thursday of the month and in-person meetings every Friday at the Wits Disability Rights Unit Boardroom in Solomon Mahlangu.
Programme coordinator for Sexual Orientation and Gender Advocacy, Tish Lumos told Wits Vuvuzela that the group sessions are open to everyone and guarantee confidentiality. Lumos said practical resources on offer include a library and no-perishable food.
Group member Jenna Searle said, “I’ve been to the online meetings on Thursdays, but I just liked the idea of interacting with young students.”
While Wits alumni, Lethabo Msibi said, “There are transgender people around, but we can’t see each other, so this gives us a sense of community.”
For Jessica Bonthys, attending the session was about supporting her partner, Searle. “I wanted to get a different perspective and I didn’t know what to expect today but I found the information about transitioning very interesting and it’s nice to know that there are trained professionals taking care of your well-being,” they said.
The community also hosts an annual mentorship programme called “Train the Trainer Training,” which is a 12-hour training session for allies who want to advocate for and support members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The next session will be on Friday, May 12 at the Wits Disability Rights Unit Boardroom from 13:30-15:30.
FEATURED IMAGE: The Safe Zone Keychain with the shield that identifies a person as an ally once they have completed training. Photo Candice Wagener
Teams play a friendly match, to force the Wits Internal League’s hand, after fixtures postponed.
Knockando FC failed to hold on to a 2-0 lead as Men’s Res FC came back from behind, equalising in the 87th minute in a friendly match at Wits Digs Field on Saturday, May 6.
In what was supposed to be part of the second round of fixtures in the Wits Internal Football League, the teams could not allow their match to be postponed yet again.
The match initially scheduled for Tuesday, May 3, was put on ice following concerns over security. Mhleli Sibeko (27), a subcommittee member of the league said in the past fights that have broken out during this fixture “[the league] must take other things into consideration before [Men’s Res and Knockando] are allowed to play.”
The match started in Men’s Res’ favour who showed dominance over Knockando during the first 20 minutes of the first half by creating the most chances and having great possession of the ball. Their failure to convert that dominance into goals was to be punished in the 24th minute by a goal from Knockando’s striker Kulani Khoza.
Men’s Res continued to keep the ball away from Knockando but they were caught getting a bit too comfortable with being in possession approaching the 34th minute. Men’s Res goalkeeper Ntando Mvundlela attempted to pass the ball from the back and Knockando striker, Lehutso Matsimela quickly intercepted the misdirected pass, scoring a second goal.
Knockando’s defence eventually gave in to Men’s Res’ extensive pressure towards the end of the first half when Owami Cele scored to make the score 2-1.
Halftime proved to be important for Men’s Res as they came back stronger in the second 45-minutes of the match. They almost scored in the 64th minute when Mooze Magangane had a one-on-one opportunity – with only the goalkeeper to beat – and missed the target.
After 8-minutes, Men’s Res striker Siphamandla Msipha was brought down in Knockando’s 18-yard area but the cries for a penalty fell on deaf ears as no foul was awarded.
Knockando only had two attacking opportunities in the second half but none of them were on-target.
After crossing the 85th minute mark with Knockando still leading, it looked like they might end up winning the match.
However, the 87th minute proved otherwise as Msipha had the last kick of a well worked team goal to end the game at 2-2.
After failing to get official communication from the league, the managers of both teams brought the teams out on Saturday to “show the management that [Men’s Res and Knockando] can put their rivalry aside for the love of the beautiful game,” said Knockando’s manager, Mpumelelo Msani (23).
It remains unknown as to when this match will be officially played in the internal league.
FEATURED IMAGE: Men’s Res FC defender Sandile Mlala (right) being challenged for the ball by Knockando FC striker Lehutso Matsimela (left). Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe
An immortalisation of how the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu inspired South Africa to be a society where peace could prevail.
In her documentary, A Tree Has Fallen – Remembering Desmond Tutu, Swedish journalist Marika Griehsel shows the religious stance of the late Anglican archbishop on a politically-fragmented apartheid South Africa.
A compilation of archive material and interviews, this documentary is not only focused on the apartheid past but also includes present-day footage of children being asked to identify the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Its focus is on comparing the type of South Africa he imagined at the dawn of democracy to what the citizens are currently experiencing.
Tutu is famously known for the quote, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” from a speech given at Stanford University on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1986. In the documentary he is introduced to the viewer as a liberal Christian – he applied the teachings of the religion based on social needs rather than what is traditionally taught, such as staying strong in one’s faith and prayer while waiting for a miracle from God.
In A Tree Has Fallen, Tutu describes himself as someone who became a leader by default because the political leaders at the time were in exile. Griehsel does a good job reflecting this statement in reality by showing the viewer Tutu’s transition from standing in front of a pulpit at church to standing at a podium at political rallies, yet still in his Anglican church attire.
Through Tutu’s statements such as, “No human being is beyond the love of God,” Griehsel shows the viewer how the imagination of a “rainbow nation” – coined by Tutu for the post-apartheid multiracial South Africa – began as not only a call to unite all races but also Africans in their diversity.
In an apartheid society where Africans in South Africa were divided along tribal lines and by political affiliation, Tutu is shown emerging as a non-political, pro-peace preacher to the people of South Africa. This is coupled with some parts of an interview by the same producer of this documentary, Griehsel, done on behalf of the Nobel Foundation.
On Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at the Wits school of arts cinema, students and staff members had an exclusive chance to see the documentary before its unknown release. Griehsel told Wits Vuvuzela, “I think he is one of our times’ most inspiring leaders, like Nelson Mandela.”
Griehsel does well in visualising the close friendship between Tutu and the former president in the documentary. The use of close-up shots on footage of them holding hands after Mandela was released from prison; footage of their meeting during their pension years and multiple clips that have Tutu referring to Mandela are used as great indicators to the type of friendship they had. In one of the clips, Tutu is caught on camera referring to Mandela in a humorous way: “…he has a poor taste in shirts.”
In the Wits Vuvuzela interview, Griehsel continued to say, “I am very grateful that I was allowed to screen the film [at Wits] and I hope that it will inspire young people and those who have seen [the film] to ask themselves: ‘What can I do?’ ‘What is my role?’”
According to Griehsel, the compilation and production of the documentary began in 2001. With the help of a South African editor and principal photographer, Michael Jaspan, it screened for the first time at the September 2022 Göteborg Book Fair in Sweden.
Vuvu rating: 8/10
FEATURED IMAGE: Pictured at the screening of the Tutu documentary, on the second row, left, Minister Counsellor of the Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria, Christian Fogelstrom, and in front, the producer of the documentary, Marika Griehsel. Photo: Michael Jaspan
Wits accounting students pass with flying colours at the first annual chartered accountancy qualifying exams.
Graduates of the Wits School of Accountancy, who sat for the January 2023 Initial Test of Competency (ITC) exam achieved a 97% pass towards being chartered accountants.
Of the 3 021 candidates who sat for the exam, the Wits School of Accountancy was represented by 248 candidates and a whopping 240 of them passed.
The ITC is the first of two qualifying exams for the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) – a regulatory body for all chartered accountants in the country. The second qualifying exam is the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), candidates must pass the ITC before qualifying for the APC.
Although Wits came fourth behind the University of Pretoria (first), North-West University (second), and the University of Stellenbosch (third), the school managed to produce the second highest pass by full time African students at 96%.
In addition, Muhammad Sharaafat Moosajee, Lenn Maja and Riyadh Lakhi from stood out with Honour’s passes – a total mark 75% or more -in the exam. With Moosajee coming joint fifth in the overall candidate’s results rankings.
The head of the school, professor Nirupa Padia (60) told Wits Vuvuzela, “when I started as head [in 2013], [Wits’ pass in the ITC] had been about upper 80s, lower 90s. It wasn’t this high, and it didn’t have [this many] transformation [African] students.” She attributed the stellar results to the school’s teaching approach in the second semester of last year, where they managed to get students back on campus.
Lenn Maja (22) who is currently an academic trainee at the school, said that he had mixed feelings when the results came out. “I could not be excited because I had to focus on my master’s [degree in commerce],” he said. However, he added that the pass came as no surprise to him, “the moment I got my results for postgraduate diploma, I knew I was ready.”
He attested to Wits’ participation in his preparation and said that they showed him and his 2022 group great support. “Consultations, tutorials and ITC past paper were all provided by the school,” he said. Maja was full of praises for the school as he closed off by saying, “When Wits says you are ready to wite ITC, you are ready to write ITC”.
ITC exams are written twice a year, in January and in June. With Wits having performed this well in January, we are all looking forward to seeing their performance in the June exams.
FEATURED IMAGE: A third-year Wits school of accountancy student compiling their lecture notes, shortly after collecting them from the school. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe
The beginning might not have been convincing, but Activate Wits delivered on a fun night for all nonetheless.
The Activate Wits society decorated the former SRC offices with rainbow flags, awaiting students’ arrival at their first event for 2023, a games night at the DJ Du Plessis building on West Campus.
Activate Wits is a diverse all-inclusive student society dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTQIA+ students at Wits University.
Activate Wits chairperson, Justin Yawe (20) asked everyone to join them in a circle of trust – forming a circle while holding hands – for “a proper welcome to the Activate family,” and brief introductions by attendees. This proved a tall order for the 100 strong crowd, so not all got the opportunity.
With the formalities out of the way, the music started pumping and games like chess, table soccer, and 30 seconds were played. Less competitive attendees took to dancing and singing along to those behind the microphone at the karaoke station.
Anouk Klijnstra (19), who is not a member of Activate Wits and was attending the event hosted by the student society for the first time told Wits Vuvuzela, “I am enjoying the community. I feel at home, happy and in a safe space.”
Itumeleng Moalusi (21) an Activate Wits member said: “I like how everyone is just happy and [Games Night] is a vibe. Did you see the dance moves that [other attendees] were doing!?” she exclaimed.
Activate Wits events officer and organizer of the Games Night, a third-year student Noma Sibanda (20) called the night a success. “Our aim as this year’s committee is to grow and further our family and the relations we have. Tomorrow these people are going to be able to greet and talk to each other on campus because they met each other here tonight.”
In the coming months, “More talks [around queerness], the pride march and regular smaller events like [Games night],” are in store for Activate Wits members.
FEATURED IMAGE: A member of Activate Wits, Itumeleng Moalusi (21) at the Games Night posing in front of the LGBTQIA+ rainbow flag. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe
Prospective journalists, doctors and accountants are among some of the Witsies who might see their dreams deferred for lack of funding from NSFAS.
Witsie Anelisa Tuswa told Wits Vuvuzela that she was accepted into Journalism Honours at the university but may not be able to take up her place because her NSFAS application is still pending.
Tuswa has been on financial aid since her first year and receiving funding had never been a problem before.
“My mom is a domestic worker who works only three days a week and NSFAS have never been hesitant to accept me. They always gave me the full package – accommodation, food and tuition.”
Tuswa has no other funding options and if “NSFAS doesn’t fix this” she will not be able to continue her studies.
Wits Vuvuzela spoke with Marvin Mhlanga, a third year BCom Accounting student, who applied last year for NSFAS 2015 but has not yet received an outcome on his financial aid request.
“Scholarships grant me funding and some study loans require someone to pay monthly or someone to pay a certain amount monthly and my single mother can’t afford that,” Mhlanga said.
Mhlanga added that he fears he won’t be able to “raise the money needed to pay for the registration fee”.
“Some study loans require someone to pay a certain amount monthly and my single mother can’t afford that.”
A fifth year medical student who wished to remain anonymous said he could not return to his classes because his NSFAS funding had not come through .
“Medical School started on January 5. I could not return because I was unable to register,” he said. “I don’t have the money to pay the registration fees. How am I supposed to continue?”
A second issue facing NSFSA applicants at Wits is loss of documents.
Vice-Chancellor of Academics Prof Andrew Crouch partially blamed last years postal strike for missing documents.
“Some students sent in their NSFAS applications by post and due to the strike we were unable to receive them. Some applications have only been received now months after they were sent to Wits,” he said.
Wits LLB student Andile Mbhele applied for NSFAS funding at Wits to continue his degree in 2015. Mbhele said he had not heard back from Wits and when he called them on Monday the university said “the document was missing”.
“When I asked them if I could resend the missing document, they told me it was too late,” he said. “How am I going to finish my degree with no funding?”
Mbhele said that NSFAS is his “last option” to continue his studies at Wits.
Nkandla is much more than just a story about a very, very expensive house, according to investigative journalist Sam Sole, one of the members of the Mail & Guardian’s amaBhungane team.
Sole, Lionel Faull and Craig McKunne, three of the journalists who helped uncover and develop the “creation of a presidential palace” in 2012, spoke on Monday at the annual Power Reportingconference about their work on the story dating back to 2009.
Nkandla documents ‘repeated gumpf’
The team spent weeks compiling the data they had received, after months of filing and pushing for the promotion of access to information act (PAIA). After being turned down and appealing several times, they were eventually handed 42 lever arch files, containing 12 000 pages of documents, which they had to copy through a single scanner. The team, comprising of 8 people, split the workload and spent an entire weekend scanning.
Sole said that the team did not know how long they had to deal with the information provided. “We got an exclusive, but in a story that is embarrassing to government, they [the government] tend to make press statements and spoil the exclusive.”
Faull explained that a lot of the information was duplicated. “It was repeated ‘gumpf’, a tactic to slow us down and make it hard.”
The use of data journalism, combined with extensive probing and investigation revealed how much Zuma should have paid for the three private houses he started to build at the time of security upgrades (R19.5 million in total), as well as the fact that he would never have been able to afford it. It also allowed the team to create an “Nkandla phonebook”, which led them to useful contacts, some of whom were willing to speak.
The delegates who attended the session were from predominantly from other African countries and found the team’s investigation “impressive”, considering the amount of work it took to get the information.
There are very few investigative journalists around the continent, according to Panic Malawo Chifulya of the Zambia Daily Mail. “It is too risky,” she told Wits Vuvuzela. “We are all just all-rounders, covering a bit of everything.”
One of her colleagues, Rebecca Chileshe, explained that no editor would ever allow their journalists to conduct such an in-depth investigation, because they would “be the ones to lose their jobs”.
Chileshe spoke of a story she had done, which, if published, would embarrass the Zambian government. Her newspaper refused to publish the story and in the end, it was picked up by a smaller, private media house. According to her, this is one of many examples where stories have been swept under the carpet out of fear.
Margaret Samulela, of the same newspaper, also explained that such large legal costs would make it impossible to do the same type of story in Zambia and other such countries. “But this is happening in our country, it’s just that journalists aren’t able to investigate,” she said.
Social media in journalism is increasingly becoming a useful tool for investigative journalism said Raymond Joseph, social media expert and freelance journalist, at this year’s Power
Reporting journalism conference. Twitter, if used properly, can be used as a tool to probe sources for investigative stories. According to Joseph, Twitter can be creepy because you can monitor what
people say and do without their being aware of it.
“There are conversations that are going on there [Twitter] about things that you want to know. You can actually monitor someone without them actually knowing that you are watching them. There
are useful tools which allow you to get to the heart of a subject or source.”
Garaki Fadzi, a delegate from Zimbabwe, said he was not active on Twitter until he attended a talk on its use for investigative journalism. He says he now realises how helpful Twitter is when it comes to crowd-sourcing stories.
“I’ll be able to get leads from people without following them directly and I will be able to get more depth than I was doing now.
It also keeps me secure when I’m confronting people … So I think I will benefit a lot,” he said.
A journalist from China says there is a Chinese twitter called Weibo. It works the same as
Twitter and people interact in the same way as they would here in South Africa.
You can actually monitor someone without them actually knowing that you are watching them.
Liam Lee, a delegate from Hong Kong, said he noticed South Africa and China have similar ways of using social media as an investigative tool to write stories. He used Weibo to find out what happened to people after an earthquake struck a small town in China.
“I try use my Chinese version of Twitter to find people who were living in a small town where there was an earthquake.” He thinks social media is fast and efficient because ordinary people are always posting breaking news and are at the scene when a story breaks. When the story broke about the earthquake, people using Weibo who were at the scene were very descriptive in how it all happened.
“A young, kind father replied to my request and gave me leads to phone numbers and an email so
I could contact people to tell me what happened and they described every detail for me so I appreciate it,” Lee said.
Adeonke Ogunleye, from Nigeria, thinks Twitter can have positive and negative effects on journalism. She said she has been bullied on Twitter for exposing corruption in Nigeria. Ogunleye complained about the bullying to Twitter and the harasser was suspended, only to return to social media two weeks later.
“I’m a victim of Twitter bullying because of all of my stories from the past, stories I’ve done or investigative stories I have been able to carry out and so many people have come after me on Twitter, they bully me, even fellow reporters and journalists.”
However, according to Joseph, Twitter, if used correctly, can help journalists uncover stories in a way they have never been covered before. He said in all his experience as a journalist he has never seen such a powerful tool.
“If you use Twitter properly you should never have to look for stories … If you’re doing it properly. The tools do the heavy lifting.”
He admits that Twitter on its own is not enough and conversations on Twitter need to be written and read in context so that the story is not skewed or clouded by rumours. He said using lists is also a way for users to sift through tweets.
“Twitter on its own is not enough. There is a variety of tools that you are using that you use around it. The secret source is lists where you can distil right down to subjects so what you really want is an controlled stream,” Joseph said.
In this episode we take a look at the work of Joburg Theatre, through the eyes of the people that work at there. Justine, who has been at the theatre for more than 20 years, walks us through its history, and Mbongeni, a ballet dancer, tells us how he came to make this beautiful theatre […]