ELECTIONS: Born to vote

Pre-recorded videos and live-streams from the other provinces were projected onto the wall behind the panel. From left to right: Khadija Patel, DJ Fresh, Kagiso Lediga, Shaka Sisulu and facilitator Tumelo Mothotoane. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Pre-recorded videos and live-streams from the other provinces were projected onto the wall behind the panel. From left to right: Khadija Patel, DJ Fresh, Kagiso Lediga, Shaka Sisulu and facilitator Tumelo Mothotoane. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

For a group of people largely labelled apathetic, the youth in attendance at a debate on a Tuesday morning, braving the temperamental and rainy Joburg weather – were anything but apathetic.

Yesterday (Tuesday March 11, 2014), JoziHub in Milpark was the venue for the To Vote or not to Vote debate aimed at so-called ‘born-frees’.

Bornfrees stand up

There is a particular fascination with this year’s youth vote as this year the “born-free” generation, children born in 1994, when South Africa became a democracy, will vote for the first time. How they vote and who they plan on voting for are of particular interest because they have grown up in a democratic South Africa.

Lesedi  Molefi of the organisers Live magazine said in the past three months they have interviewed a number of born-frees and found that, “we’re not apathetic and have an incredible role to play,” not only in these elections but in steering the country’s future.

The panel consisted of comedian Kagiso Lediga, journalist Khadija Patel (@khadijapatel), DJ and tweleb DJ Fresh (@DJFreshSA) and social activist Shaka Sisulu (@shakasisulu). The panelists were chosen because they are seen as accessible to the youth and their ideas.

Why should born-frees vote?

Addressing the question, why should born-frees vote, Lediga said: “If you’re not voting, you’re not participating.” DJ Fresh added that participation goes beyond just voting, part of that civic duty is to hold politicians accountable. Sisulu provided an anecdote to explain further: “If you’re dating someone, you can’t see them once every five years – it won’t work, it’s a one night stand then. Put your ballot in the box but make sure to maintain and nurture that relationship over the five years coming.”

The debate was live streamed from Johannesburg to Cape Town and Ginsberg, King Williams Town with questions coming from all three places to the panel. A common complaint from all three provinces was that the youth were never heard. DJ Fresh responded by saying the onus was on political parties to appeal to the youth on their level through channels like twitter and instagram: “Politicians talk at young people and not to them.”

The focus in the latter part of the debate was on what the born-free vote can achieve and individual agency. Patel said, “agency is important – it means having the power within yourself to do something.” The crowd responded well to this and the conversation started to look at ground level solutions and social activism that gear them in that direction.

Lethabo Bogatsu, a self proclaimed born-free said the talk left her feeling empowered and keen to be an active citizen, “I was always going to vote but now I’m not going to stop there. It’s not just the vote and then I’m done. I’m going to work on the relationship, my man is going to be my vote, my political involvement is going to be my man. I’m going to have a relationship there because being single is rough.”

The entire debate can be viewed here.

The big divide, physical and otherwise

The South Arican Union of Jewish Students (SAUJUS) have erected what they call a peace tent on the library lawns. Not much foot traffic under the tent today on account of the rain. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
The South Arican Union of Jewish Students (SAUJUS) have erected what they call a peace tent on the library lawns. Not much foot traffic under the tent today on account of the rain. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Walking on the library lawns today Witsies were met by two separate installations across from one another symbolic of each side of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

On the eastern most side of the lawns stood spray-painted signs heralding the start of “Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) 2014”. On the western most side stood a big beige “peace tent” erected by the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS).

The peace tent remained deserted during lunch, as the persistent rain kept students from walking across the water-logged lawns to the tent and its contents. Inside they would have found notice boards with information on how to fold peace doves and “images that show the positive and peaceful side of life in Israel,” said SAUJS chair, Ariela Carno.

Right across from the tent, the Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) hosted the first of many film screenings planned for IAW on campus.

The documentary Occupation 101: The Voices of the Silenced Majority, screened at lunch drew a decent crowd of students who were there to watch in support and in an effort to learn more about IAW.

Mpho Sibiya, 2nd year BA said: “I actually just came to find out more about the whole Israel/Palestine thing. I don’t know if I can say I support the cause or not.”

PSC president Tasneem Essop and deputy chair Alex Freeman addressed the students before the screening.

Contested peace

Essop explained that IAW is an effort to highlight apartheid in Israel and with the help of a global boycott movement to drive the boycotted state into negotiations, as was done in South Africa not so long ago.

In response to the lack of an official stance by Wits University, Essop said: “The university should have a stance,” and this is why the PSC will be having a debate with vice chancellor, Adam Habib this coming Friday to try and challenge the “free space for all” view they currently hold.

Israeli Apartheid Week 2014 is the biggest yet, garnering international support from various political and social players. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Israeli Apartheid Week 2014 is the biggest yet, garnering international support from various political and social players. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

In response to a question about the peace tent, Freeman said: “They (SAUJS) don’t really want peace”. He added that at present SAUJS has a Zionist stance and this is the reason he will never join them, even though he is Jewish.

Once the 2006 documentary directed Abdallah Omeish and Sufyan Omeish got started the information given by Essop and Freeman came to life onscreen through the lived experiences of people in Israel.

The documentary was originally made with the express purpose of debunking misrepresentations of Palestinians to the American public, said Essop.

Sibiya said she had been moved by what she had seen, “I didn’t understand the extent of the problem.”

The “Yellow bone Factory” hits Wits

By Pheladi Sethusa and Nomatter Ndebele

Skin lightening treatments, reviled as part of an apartheid mindset pre-1994, have come back into fashion on campus.

“Yellow-bone”, the hip-hop term for light-skinned black people, has become the latest unattainable beauty standard to meet – along with size 32 hips, a DD cup size and a bulbous bum.

YELLOW FEVER: Wits Vuvuzela journalist, Nomatter Ndebele, took one for the team to explore new frontiers of yellow-boneness in this photo illustration. Image: Luca Kotton
YELLOW FEVER: Wits Vuvuzela journalist, Nomatter Ndebele, took one for the team to explore new frontiers of yellow-boneness in this photo illustration. Image: Luca Kotton

Posters for a company, “The Yellow-bone Factory”, have recently appeared on campus offering skin-lightening treatments to students.

Wits Vuvuzela called the number on the poster. Company founder Neo Mobita said the reason for the demand was simple: “Students want to be yellow-bones.”

How does it work?

Mobita said three treatment options were available: “Skin renew” body and face creams, pills and injections.

These treatments range in cost but even the cheapest and mildest of the pills – vitamin C prep – comes in at between R150 for the smallest bottle, and R1300.

Kojic acid was “more responsive”, said Mobita, because it “stops melanin from making skin darker”. These pills range from R1000 to R2000, depending on the size of the bottle.

Be warned

General practitioner at the Execumed clinic in Killarney, Dr Safeera Kholvadia, warned against making use of any injectibles for “skin brightening” as they were “not regulated in South Africa”. People should be wary of products sold on posters and even online. Using unregulated dosages of any skin brightening treatment “could be deadly”.

“There is no cure for pigmentation, no matter what you use,” said Kholvadia. She explained that pigment cells dictated people’s colour. As soon as they stopped using the treatment, those pigment cells would override its effects. “Everyone is trying to tap into the market at the moment. Consumers should be very wary.”

Aside from being extremely expensive, skin lightening products – through making unnatural adjustments – were harmful not just to the skin but also to the mind and emotional states of users, Kholvadia said: “Usually there are deeper underlying issues for people who do this.”

What do Witsies say?

Although “The Yellow-bone Factory” targets students, the general sentiment among Witsies approached by Wits Vuvuzela was that skin lightening is unnecessary.  Students were bold in their criticisms. David Manabile, 2nd year Education, said skin lightening was a ridiculous concept.

“When women do it, it means that they aren’t proud of their skin colour and their roots. I would never do it, because I’m proud of who I am and where I come from. I was born this way, I don’t feel the need to change who I am, to be something or someone else.”

Liveni Ndlovu, 1st year BA, said because “yellow-bones are seen as hot”, darker people are left being very self-conscious and not very confident about their looks.

Engineering PhD student Ntando James said: “I understand why women want to do it, because of the misconception they have that light skin is what all men are attracted to… If someone I was dating, or knew, wanted to do it, I would discourage them. There are serious repercussions and side-effects.

“You can get skin cancer and have bad reactions to all those chemical treatments and lightening cream(s). People just don’t think about it, but they do it because of an identity crisis, to fit into a ‘fake’ society.”

Amanda Dyandyi, 1st year Fine Arts, said skin lightening “puts people in a box. It’s like racism all over again but between black people.”

The official website of Mobita’s company contains a post that says: “All women are or have the potential to be yellow-bones.”

But the demand goes beyond gender and race, apparently. She said there were people who wanted to get darker too.  “The Yellow-bone Factory” was currently experimenting with “crossing racial lines,” she said. “We can make you whatever you want to be, white, coloured, whatever.”

BMI not a one size fits all calculation

by Pheladi Sethusa and Nqobile Dludla

Body Mass Index (BMI) drive by RoyalMnandi was launched on Monday in an effort to raise awareness among students.

BMI drive 

“BMI is basically the ratio that you use, if you’re a certain height you should ideally be a certain weight,” said dietician Neroshnee Govender.

“We weigh their weight and measure their height, we take that down and use a calculation method and then we let them know whether they are within the normal range for their height or whether they are overweight, obese or underweight,” she said.

The testing left Witsie Sannie Baloyi smiling at the paper holding his results.

BMI Drive: Karin vander Walt, senior catering manager calculating student’s BMI to make them aware of the health implications of the food they eat. Photo: Nqobile Dludla
BMI Drive: Karin vander Walt, senior catering manager calculating student’s BMI to make them aware of the health implications of the food they eat. Photo: Nqobile Dludla

He said learning a BMI could be “traumatic”. Though Baloyi was happy with his results he said would still try to improve his lifestyle.

“It’s [BMI] somewhere along the lines of being accurate but it traumatizes people. Now I’m going to try eating healthy food and I’m going to start exercising.”

Royal Mnandi liason officer Bontle Mogapi said the health awareness drive was put in place to provide students with information and the means to lead healthier lifestyles.

While students were queuing, waiting to be measured and weighed, Zazele Mabaso expressed a different opinion as he dodged the weigh-in.

“It’s a waste of time really. What do I gain from knowing my BMI?” Mabaso asked.

Is it useful?

The calculation of BMI is contentious and there are different views of its validity. The intentions of the calculation, to correct unhealthy lifestyles is not in question but the methods of the calculation are in dispute.

For example, a rugby player who weighs 100 kilograms and measures 1.8 metres tall has a BMI score of 30.9, which would fall on the obese side of the BMI scale.

The calculation fails to factor in muscle weight, which is much heavier than fat, so people who are fit and muscular are not catered for in the calculation. “The body mass index becomes worthless when it is used on a general population,” said sport science lecturer Marc Booysen.

He suggested making use of other measurements like hip to waist ratio, in conjunction with a body fat caliber to measure such a diverse population.

He added that BMI “doesn’t look deeper” because it doesn’t give an accurate reading of muscle mass and body fat. Given the example of the “obese” rugby player, he said it would be more accurate to measure body fat in that situation with caliphers.

In a case where the population group being measured is fairly similar, like a soccer or rugby team, the BMI could then be useful because those people have a fairly homogenous BMI score said Booysen.

Students live it up in container homes

Distinctive green and red rectangles and circles that can be seen from miles away are part of a new off-campus residential building for students.

Mill Junction in Newtown is an example of creative, low cost housing in the city. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Mill Junction in Newtown is an example of creative, low cost housing in the city. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Built on 25-year grain silos, the low-cost, environmentally friendly and close-proximity living space known as Mill Junction has quickly become an iconic building in Newtown.

Turning the old into new

The residence is at its core made from the abandoned grain silos and re-purposed shipping containers.  An interesting exploration of architectural creativity and ingenuity, which provides affordable housing to students.

The diverse colour palate on the exterior of the building bleeds into its interior, which each of the 14 floors of the 40 million rand building painted a different colour to add to its overall “funk”.

CEO of Citiq Property, Paul Lapman, explained that there are ten silos in total, two rows of five which go up ten floors, the remaining top four floors are made from shipping containers. “We’ve actually used the inside of the silos to lay out the corridors, put the lifts in, put the stairs in and everything else,” he added.

The middlemost silos on each floor are painted a different colour and host a different recreational area – every second floor has a communal TV room, others are study rooms, computer rooms and one is a gym. Along with this each floor is fitted with two communal kitchens, communal bathrooms and private bathrooms for those who need their privacy.

Up in the air

A view from the eastern most side on Mill Junction’s rooftop. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
A view from the eastern most side on Mill Junction’s rooftop. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

After a year of construction, the building signed up between 260 and 270 of the 374 spaces available within their first month of opening, the top most floors filling up first because of the exceptional city views provided by the skyscraper. The huffing and puffing from walking up the 14 floors with Lapham abated as soon as the panoramic beauty of Johannesburg came into view.

The rooftop is still a work in progress but when it is done it will provide students with a rooftop braai area and another space to socialise – fitting considering the boom of rooftops as social spaces in the inner city at the moment.

Green living

The motion sensor lights, magnetic stoves and double glazed windows are some of Mill Junction’s environmentally conscious elements. “We’ve sourced quite a lot of the materials from China,” leaving them with enough money to provide energy efficient facilities said Lapham.

Making use of the old silos was also another “green” feature, Lapham said they could have easily chosen to knock down the silos and build from scratch but they had chosen to “preserve some of Joburg’s history and do something different”.

SLICE OF LIFE: I’m a flaming feminist, yeah I said it

“I don’t mind women in general wearing crop tops or short shorts, but I don’t want my girlfriend wearing those things because they make me feel uncomfortable,” said a male friend.

He considers himself sympathetic to feminism. This conversation occurred after I had accepted the label, feminist. If it had happened two or three years ago I might have “understood” where he was coming from, now I don’t. It took me quite a while to come to terms with feminism, to understand it and identify with it. To me feminism simply means the freedom to choose who I want to be.

I’m out

In the past I’ve labeled myself as a “laissez-faire feminist” and described myself as such in social conversations. What I meant was that I do recognize that patriarchy is real and is at work 24/7 to undermine people of my gender. What I was saying along with this at the time is that I prescribed to the gender roles dictated to us by society, and that I was comfortable with this status quo.

The attitude has fallen away to be replaced by a more precise concept “black feminism”. I am out. Loud and proud. I have successfully rid myself of the fear of discrimination for being vocal about feminism.

A lot of people have a stereotypical image of an unshaven, angry, man-hater when they think of the word “feminist”. I was scared to associate with the feminist struggle because of this negative stereotype.I now realize one can shave, like to cook, love men and still be a feminist.

The problem with patriarchy 

People are uncomfortable with accepting certain truths, especially if they somehow benefit from whatever it is you are speaking out against.

Men, whether they like it or not benefit from the patriarchal shield that makes their lives a little sweeter. God forbid he cook and clean, domestic chores are for girls. He should sit on the couch, have beers and snacks delivered as he shouts at the TV in front of him. This kind of behavioural conditioning in the media and in our homes provides a breeding ground for the next generation to play into the same kind of zombie like fixation with gender roles.

The problem with patriarchy is that it makes men believe they are rightfully entitled to certain things where women are involved, women’s fashion choices among them. It makes women believe that they have to do certain things, look a certain way, say certain things to win them the “real women” label. Being desirable trumping other pursuits, overshadowing other attributes of their womanhood.

Patriarchy is the reason we have a rape culture here and elsewhere, it allows for the pathological thinking that says a woman can be owned, domineered and conquered at will.  That a woman’s body can be seized, forcefully if all else fails.

What feminism says 

Feminism stands up and shouts “NO!”. It says women are more than their boobs and their bums, more than the scrubbing their hands can endure, are more than the nappies they can change. It says women are capable of more than they are given credit for. It says that women deserve to be treated justly, that they have a place outside of the kitchen. It says gender roles are bullshit, archaic and oppressive.

Feminism has taught me to ignore the cues given to me by society about what kind of woman I should be, because they say so. I should be the kind of woman I choose to be, because I say so. I don’t have to cook and clean to be “wifey material”, a man who thinks like that has no business looking for a wife because clearly all he needs is domestic assistance, which is fairly easy to find in a want ad.

Feminism has also taught me that I don’t have to be an emotionless “bitch” to be respected, that independence is not about being alone, that my sex life is no one’s business but mine. It’s taught me that justice and equality aren’t the same, that sometimes justice does mean giving someone an opportunity based on their gender or race – because equality tends to ignore the existing imbalances between two people when handing out the so called same opportunity or advantage.

New contender in the arena

Third year law student, Zareef Minty, is the national youth president for businessmen Kenny Kunene and Gayton McKenzie’s new political party, the Patriotic Alliance (PA).

The slight looking 20-year-old Minty, who is also a fashion designer said the PA was youth-centred and had a strong focus on giving second chances to the reformed, like two of its own founders.

Second chances and new alliances

“If Nelson Mandela could have that chance to be reformed (sic) coming out of jail and having an opportunity, then we should allow Kunene and Gayton to have the same thing.

UGGLING: National youth president for the Patriotic Alliance, Zareef Minty, explains how he manages between being a law student, political figure, fashion designer and author.                                                                         Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
JUGGLING: National youth president for the Patriotic Alliance, Zareef Minty, explains how he manages between being a law student, political figure, fashion designer and author. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

“In the same way a student has been charged with something should be allowed to have a future as well,”  said Minty.

“Ex-cons” Gayton McKenzie, president of the PA and general secretary Kenny Kunene, met each other in jail and following their release in 2003, became business partners.

Minty met the two through his clothing line partnership, after Kunene was asked to be an ambassador for Minty’s own fashion label, Self Made Billionaire (SMB). “Kunene liked the idea of an up and coming clothing brand worn by celebrities,” said Minty.


He said the party also included more young people in its decision-making. He said four of the party’s 12-member national executive committee were under the age of 25.

“We are the only party out there who allows youth to have a platform in the NEC. The ANC and the Democratic Alliance has a separate Youth League so you don’t get young people in parliament,” he said.

Minty is sixth on the PA’s parlimentary list, which means if they manage to get six seats after the national elections this year, he could be sitting in parliament and not in stuffy lecture rooms.

The party’s focus on the youth and a “practical approach” to politics are what Minty believes will make the PA “a better alternative to the ANC”, which he said was policy heavy with little to no implementation thereof.

He believes that PA would be able to relate mostly to the born-frees because it was a party that did not  have any “baggage”.

Campaign trail

The PA’s campaign trail on campus has come with its own set of issues, “Until we have permission to be a club or society on campus we can’t really go out in a group and recruit people. We have been working by going person to person, trying to get them to join,” he said.

The PA, often referred to as the “coloured” or “gangster party”, was founded in Paarl in the Western Cape three months ago and plans to contest in the upcoming elections.

Minty said they have a good chance of having up to six seats in parliament after this year’s elections.

Minty is treasurer of the Wits Law Students’ Counsel and the chairperson of the Student Discipline Committee, which influenced his alignment with the PA and their belief in reforming and empowering the previously charged.

Before the PA, he was part of the ANC Youth League on campus where he took up position as treasurer but the PA presented him with an opportunity for national leadership

Along with the multitude of things Minty has on his plate this year, he plans to publish a motivational book, Empireby March.  Let’s watch this space.


The Newsroom 2.2

The past week in the newsroom has been so hectic that I didn’t manage to get around to this post until now. We had a lot on our plates, resulting in the production of a great edition of the Wits Vuvuzela.

Did some very interesting stuff, some ruffling a few feathers even:

We were also busy over the weekend with a workshop with some students working with One World Media. They are in the country trying to produce feature pieces on various topics. We helped where we could by answering questions they had about how and where to start with their stories. They were a lovely bunch, with interesting projects – I look forward to seeing their work in a few months.

The Newsroom 2.1

The past week was a hectic one, but a very fun one in the Newsroom. I was steering the ship, so that always comes with it’s own personal pressures.

Luckily this week we were “fully” staffed with all six interns on board. This made for a paper filled with much more copy than the week before, copy that was interesting and fun to read.

I did some fun things last week, the videos being somewhat of highlight. Here’s the list of things I managed to do:

  • #Teamvuvu #NekNominated. We got a Nek Nomination from Wapad, another student newspaper. Instead of downing a drink as most people do with this new social media game, we decided to do a philanthropic nomination with a journalisty twist. Watch here.
  • STORIFY: “Real jobs” march turns into real fight. On Tuesday the DA decided to march on Luthuli House and that did not sit well with the ANC. Watched the whole mess unfold on twitter and curated this story.
  • Artists collabo for LGBTI awareness. Went to an exhibition at the Wits Arts Museum and wrote a short review. Exceptional work by visual artists Zanele Muholi and Gabrielle Le Roux are on display.
  • How to back your boytjies. Wrote another one of my sports columns, in an effort to teach myself and others a thing or two about rugby.
  • EDITORIAL: Twisted love affair. Scribbled some thoughts on the upcoming elections and called it an editorial.
  • WITH VIDEO: Cape to Rio Witsies talk sailing. Had a very cool interview with two crew members who just finished the Cape to Rio race 2014. Their achievement is truly amazing.

We also handed over one of the first paper realated duties to the “new kids” by letting deliver the paper on Friday. In a few short weeks we will be leaving everything in their capable hands.

WITH VIDEO: Cape to Rio Witsies talk sailing

Earlier this month seven brave sailors from the Wits Yacht Club embarked on an epic sail to Rio, Brazil from Cape Town. Exactly 23 days and 53 minutes later they had reached their destination and managed to be the sixth boat to arrive at their intended destination.

Now that they’re back…

Two weeks after their victory, the crew that was on board the Amtec Wits Aladdin are getting back to their daily routine – which means lectures at Wits for most. Wits Vuvuzela talked to skipper, Bradley Robinson and crew member Alexa Brown, both only 22 years old.

One would imagine that being the only woman on board might have been a daunting experience for meteorologist, Brown but she took  it in her stride. “I’ve known all the guys for a really long time and have three brothers at home, so it’s not unfamiliar for me to be surrounded by testosterone,” she joked. Brown said that she got used to the guys “behaviour” and ignored what she needed to and only participated in conversations she felt comfortable with.

Getting to the finish line required much more time, effort and money than making it safely across. Months of planning and fundraising were needed beforehand to get the campaign going.

The money

Initially the idea to take part in Cape to Rio originated from the four “pioneers” of the team, who later recruited three more members, Brown being one of them. The four were Robinson, coach and manager, Brennan Robinson, trimmer Ricardo de Carvalho and watch captain, Alistair Moodie. The three “newbies” were navigator, Staurt Purchase, bowman, Patrick Chappel and Brown.

“It’s not a cheap campaign, we needed a large budget,” said Brown. The pioneers each contributed a substantial R30 000 each for the campaign and the other crew members R20 000.

Along with this the team had three main sponsors namely, Wits, Amtec Engineering and PPS Insurance. Additionally the crew started a something called “R50 a mile”, whereby they secured donations from ordinary people. “We wanted to give people a reason to donate, that’s why we came up with the R50 a mile concept,” said Brown. She explained that people could donate R50 for one of the estimated 4000 miles they would travel. “We printed all the names of our donators in the Wits emblem on the side of the boat, so in essence they came all the way with us,” said Brown.

Training beforehand

“They (the recruited members) knew nothing about sailing when came to Wits. It’s incredible that after just four years later they travelled across the sea,” said skipper Robinson. The training for the race started almost a year ago and happened in an incremental manner, but luckily all members had been sailors for a while and more than half had been sailors or years.

By November of last year most of the crew travelled down to Cape Town and lived on the boat for five weeks in preparation of their journey.  In those five weeks the crew was preparing the boat, cleaning it, checking its safety, fixing it up and so on. The Aladdin was a yacht generously lent to the crew, it is now at sea once again being delivered to its owner.

Along with being placed in sixth place, the crew won the Youth Ocean Sailors Award, which commended them for being the only student boat in the race and recognition for doing so well in the race.

While the crew was at sea they had a “stig” who was taking care of all their social media, to update people who were following their progress, see the journey on their website: witscapetorio2014.