To tweet or not to tweet…

…that is the question.


Okay I lie, there is no question – I just like drama. I have to tweet, scrap that – I need to tweet. I just need to do it differently to how I have been.

We had a class on the how to tweet, when to tweet and what to tweet by our social media lecturer Dinesh Balliah. She presented the lesson to us with an impressive PowerPoint presentation. It made me realise how important twitter is as a social media tool.

Not to say I never thought about it like that, but I never considered how it can empower tweeps, journalists in particular. The gist of the presentation looked at the fact that social media is no longer just about chatting to your mates and discussing the mundane. Social media is now used as a platform to disseminate vital information – sharing video’s, link’s and photo’s that focus on hard news and issues, as and when they happen. Beyond that getting to engage meaningfully with a diverse range of people. As opposed to the ins and outs of little Hannah’s fifth birthday party or the very particular description of that morning’s breakfast.

Social media, if used wisely can essentially “make” you as a journalist. Even though twitter in particular has the power of launching people into (sometimes) illusory prominence. It’s not to say that journalists don’t have legit followers, who largely follow them based on the content of their tweets rather than pure popularity.

By the end of the lesson I was questioning how I have been using twitter for the past two years. That night I had a look through my archive and I realised that my 30k tweets are mostly annoying. There is a lot of whining and whingeing – some of which is funny but a lot of it isn’t.  I imagine it an irksome experience going through my TL. Especially when I was in a particularly good/bad mood – I felt it my duty to inform the world, ALL THE TIME (see what I mean). However, most of them are informative and go beyond the purely personal.

I guess this whole post has been a roundabout way of saying I need to change my tweeting habits. If not for my not-so-distant career, for the sanity of my followers. I won’t go as far as creating a personal account and a seperate professional one.I already manage four blogs, two facebook pages and three email accounts amongst other things. I could not possibly add a new twitter profile to the lot. Along with this I am deeply devoted to my twitter as is, it just screams Pheladi through and through.

I will attempt to tastefully and strategically mix the personal and the professional. It might be a challenge but I’m sure I’ll manage.

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Another blog… Really…

Well yes, I have started another wee blog. Why? To separate my different selves I suppose. I will use this one to document my journey through my honours year. What I consider to be the year that makes me the writer and journalist I should be.

I will refrain from being overly emotional (or try to) and try to keep things as ‘PG’ as possible.

I am two weeks into the Journalism programme at Wits and already I can tell it is going to be a very long year. Long but fulfilling. It has already been a lot of fun because of the amazing classmates I have. I really cannot wait to get to know them better and form lifelong friendships.

I look forward to this new part of my life and hope you don’t mind that I’m sharing it with you.

Ok-thanks-bye 🙂

Pheladi Sethusa 

Fees rally

On Friday the 3rd of August, Wits students took matters into their own hands regarding the proposed fee increment of registration fees. Students heeded the call to meet at Senate House Concourse at 14:00 hours

Students gathered at Senaate House concourse for the rally. Picture: Pheladi Sethusa
Students gathered at Senaate House concourse for the rally. Picture: Pheladi Sethusa

Wits Management proposed that this fee be increased from R7950 to a staggering R8600. There is a steady increase in these fees every year. One would expect improved facilities and services as fees increase gradually but this is not the case. This was the main point of contestation for both students and the Students Representative Council (SRC). Fees are going up continuously yet students don’t see the use of this money in their surroundings. Lecturers and support staff are definitely not benefiting from the increasing fees so who then is..?

According to Professor David Dickinson, a lecturer at Wits and president of the Academic Staff Association of Wits University (ASAWU), Wits is making a profit from their surplus. In 2011 alone they made over R100 million in surplus profits which – when added to the overall surplus profit – came to a staggering R1.8 billion in total. The crowds gathered could not believe their ears when they heard these astronomical figures. Professor Dickinson went on to say that lecturers and students should not be divided on this issue and should help one another in taking management to task. As a parting statement, he highlighted how important it is for students to “engage with the big issues”.

The students gathered at this rally were in high spirits and burst into song whenever there was a pause from the speaker’s side.

Tokelo Nhlapo did a great job in running the proceedings smoothly and getting people to join in when necessary. Not that those in attendance needed much help, students present were vehement in their stance against this proposed increase. Their attendance and energy proved evidence of this.

After this, the SRC president, Tebogo Thothela, made a speech. 

His main concerns were the fact that Wits registration fees keep increasing rapidly when other universities do their best to make increases as affordable as possible. He made it very clear that the SRC had students’ interests at heart and is taking direction from the student body with all their actions. That together with strong support from students, we could all have a hand in changing any inflexibility shown by management.

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on August 14 2012. 

 

Wits staff strike back

Thursday 19 July 2012 marked the beginning of the Wits staff industrial action against management. The main issue of protest is against the low wages that staff members at Wits are paid.

The strike came to my attention on Twitter via Professor Pumla Gqola’s timeline. Her hashtag#WitsStaffIndustrialAction was very useful in highlighting the staff’s main issues of contention. Members of ASAWU (Academic Staff Association of Wits University), NEHAWU (National Education Health and Allied Workers Union) and ALTSA (Administration Library and Technical Staff Association) joined forces to propel the protest.

Wits-strike
Wits staff marching outside the university’s entrance on Enoch Sontonga road in Braamfontein.

This was what they called a yellow card march, pending a response from management. If their demands are not met, the strikers threaten to enforce full industrial action on the 2nd of August. The groups feel that considering the surplus profits that Wits makes they are entitled to increases. They are demanding a 9% wage increase for support staff and a 7.5% wage increase for academic staff. Along with this was a demand for an on-campus childcare facility, increased amounts for individual research and an end to the overselling of open staff parking areas.

These demands are by no means preposterous or absurd; the staff members simply want decent pay for the work they do. Especially when there is enough money in the University’s coffers to do so. Every year students pay increased fees and the government grant is increased. It only makes sense that staff salaries should also increase. At the moment increases are granted on a performance basis but this can judged very subjectively and is not necessarily the fairest way. The memorandum handed over was accepted by management and will be taken into consideration, they say.

Hopefully, management will heed staffs call by adhering to their demands. Our staff is very capable and deserving of this increase for the phenomenal work they do.

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on July 23 2014. 

Digital Apartheid

exPress imPress hosted its second roundtable discussion on the 11th of May 2012. The topic for discussion was: ‘Digital Apartheid: Is the smartphone age segregating or uniting South Africans?’.

nathalie-225x300
Nathalie Hyde-Clarke.

The Graduate Seminar Room was not as full as we had anticipated but there was an eager audience present and ready to engage with the topic at hand. The first speaker was the ‘headliner’ if you will: Nathalie Hyde-Clarke. She is an ex-Witsie who is now the Head of the School of Communication at the University of Johannesburg. Her presentation was based on a research study she had recently done on trends of mobile phone usage in the Greater Johannesburg area. Her findings were very illuminating and served to debunk some assumptions about mobile phone and smartphone usage that I had.

Her findings could be summarised as follows. In 2010, 85 percent of the South African population owned a cell phone, with around 35 percent of those using their phones to go online. By 2012, there was a major increase in these numbers with 35 million people owning cellphones and 36 percent of those being smartphones. She found that people do not really use their smartphones to their full capacity. Most people use it for social networking and entertainment purposes which is problematic as a large number of people who own phones do not really know how to use them properly – smartphone or otherwise. Hence, the lack of mobile phone literacy was a problem that she identified in her research. There are no classes to learn how to use a phone. Most people just learn as they go along which is not an altogether bad thing but for example for someone who lives in a rural area and is illiterate, this could prove to be a trying task.

Nathalie made a statement about the teenagers and kids of today missing out on the world due to their preoccupation with their phone. It was only fitting to have a representative of the youth to challenge this. Leenesha Pather, a fellow exPress imPress blogger and Media Studies Honours student, attributed the growth of smartphone usage to affordability. Blackberries often come with a R60 internet bundle which effectively soothes the airtime woes of many ‘broke’ youngsters. She did mention that while accessibility had increased, smartphones serve to segregate people on a physical level in the sense that people would rather text, BBM or tweet one another than actually go out for a coffee together, hereby not quite countering Nathalie’s point (as I had hoped) but supporting it. But in the same breath, Leenesha mentioned that perhaps if everybody had access to smartphones, race and class divisions could be bridged.

roundtable2-300x225Following Leenesha, Wendy Willems, a lecturer and now Head of Department of Media Studies at Wits University, spoke. She has been doing research in Zambia on mobile phone usage. She mentioned that patterns of ownership and cost are very similar to the earlier mentioned South African case. People who cannot afford these technologies are ‘left behind’ and this creates a burgeoning digital divide. In Zambia, people attribute mobile phones to a number of social problems like adultery. A lot of people seem to think that mobile phones break up happy homes.

In the discussion held afterwards, the debate echoed ease of access in Africa and questioned how reflective the findings actually are of places outside Greater Johannesburg. Along with this, there was a shared sentiment that smartphones need to be made more affordable, used as more than accessories and used to their full potential. If this happened they could be used as educational tools and really help to put the world at everyone’s finger tips.

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on May 28 2014. 

THEATRE REVIEW: The Line

peuf_20120514_26-247x300This year the Wits Arts and Literature Experience (WALE) had a number of interesting events on offer. Of all the events I managed to attend, one in particular stood out. I wouldn’t call this piece a review but rather an abstruse comment on the play.It was a fairly warm and pleasant afternoon, the 10th of May 2012. This changed completely when we were ushered into the Nunnery. A Wits theatre space which has quite an eerie feel to it. It felt like we had just walked into a dungeon. This was cemented when the huge black doors where bolted shut for the performance to begin. The lights were dimmed, all whispers faded and The Line began.

It was an amazing play to watch. Even though it only ran for 50 minutes, one was not left wanting. The storyline was robust, intricate and full of devastating truths. Truths about who we are as so called South African citizens. Citizens who are so caught up in the ideas of their superior nationality that they burn, torture and destroy the lives of their fellow brothers and sisters. The play was primarily about the heinous acts committed during the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008.

The script and most of the dialogue in the play was made up by a number of interviews conducted by the director, Gina Shumulker. This made for a far more transparent and sincere opportunity to identify with the characters. There were only two actors (Khutso Green and Gabi Harris) on stage but they managed to tell the stories of several interviewees. Ms Green played five vastly different characters. Just by changing her voice and mannerisms, she managed to play each character with spellbinding conviction. Her physical appearance was but a mirage on that stage. We ‘saw’ a different character every time she opened her mouth.

We got an insight into the kinds of people who propelled the violence, in this case an ANC councillor, a young thug and a Johannesburg-20120510-00071-300x225woman who was a victim of the hype incited by mob mentality. We got to see people who just stood by and watched, stopping only to take photographs (people like us). But most importantly we got to see the victims of the xenophobic violence. The innocent people we all let down.

There was a discussion after the play. Most of the audience members were moved by the performance. Moved in that they had never taken the xenophobic attitudes and actions seriously up until this point. There was a common feel around the room that the time of shifting the responsibility of dealing with such issues to government is over. The onus is on us as individuals to say to one another that ‘this is wrong and we will not tolerate it’. We can’t stand back anymore and watch such atrocities take place right under our noses. There are a lot of things that we put up with and ‘let slide’. The killing of innocent people should not be one of them.

The Line left me feeling guilty and ashamed. Ashamed of being a South African citizen and guilty in my complicity of inaction. However, there was a trickle of hope in all of this. There was a character who was involved in the violence who was rather remorseful after the fact. Her guilt is a sign that our people haven’t completely lost their humanity. That we still have the ability to feel for others, that all is not lost.

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on May 22 2014. 

Phansi, e-toll phansi!

strike-300x199The e-toll issue has been a rather contentious one. Since early last year when the announcement on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) was made (emphasis on announcement), both SANRAL(South African National Roads Agency Limited) and the government failed to even propose the idea to the general public. Surely citizens deserved consultation before the tolls were even built. 

Now that the public is speaking out against the tolls, they are being vilified. The e-toll saga reached its climax when the budget speech took place a few weeks ago. For months the launch of the tolls had been postponed due to public outcry. In the 2012 budget speech, Finance Minister Pravin Gordan made it clear that e-tolls are here to stay. He said that it is the responsibility of Gauteng taxpayers to pay and that the price cut was very generous on their part. Initially, the tolls were set to be 66c a kilometre which could see daily commuters paying up to and over R600 a month. Coupled with petrol money and service fees, driving would become an unbearable cost burden. Gordan considers the price cut from 66c to 30c per kilometre and the R550 capped fee for regular users as generous. There is nothing ‘generous’ about an added expense to road users.

The problem with the e-tolls is that they have already been built and people have been hired to work in the e-toll shops at various malls. If the tolls were just ‘scrapped’ as many are suggesting, hundreds of people would be unemployed. This is the emotional blackmail the Minister used in the budget speech. What he conveniently forgets is that if SANRAL hired those people, they are responsible for them. It feels like SANRAL in collusion with the government have bullied the public into a corner. This is not how democracy should work.

Why do we even need these e-tolls? The justification is that the money made from e-tolls will be ploughed back into road 532611496-300x240infrastructure and aid other national expenditures. Fine. But then what are all our other taxes for? They increase every year; yet it is hard for us to see this money being used efficiently. If I knew that my e-toll money went towards someone’s grant money, building schools and the like I would happily pay it. But I know better and so do you. That money will line the pockets of some fat cat and never be used for what it should. The government is taking advantage of us and we cannot allow it.

This is why I was in full support of the COSATU strike last Wednesday. Since the inception of the GFIP, Zwelinzima Vavi has been very vocal on the matter. He thinks that the tolls are an unnecessary burden, especially to the ordinary working man. He has encouraged commuters to boycott the e-tolls by not registering for them; something that could have heavy penalties (apparently). His comment after the budget speech was that citizens are being used as cash cows and this must be put to a stop. The strike/march on Wednesday was the first decisive measure to protest against the tolls. It was a very peaceful strike which garnered support from an estimated 60 000 people nationwide. The e-toll strike was held in collaboration with COSATU’s protest against labour brokers. What was most poignant about this strike is that among the strikers there were some white middle class citizens; a very reassuring sight.

The response to the strike had the same adamant tone as it did before. It was said in parliament the following day that they will not be making any changes; their decision regarding the tolls was final. COSATU say they will not rest until further concessions are made before April. For commuters’ sake I hope they don’t; these tolls are an unfair burden.

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on March 14 2012. 

MOVIE REVIEW: Otelo Burning

otelo1-201x300I got the opportunity to attend a private screening of this movie on the 11th of April 2012. As soon as we got there, we realised that this movie is a big deal.

As I stood in the line to get popcorn, I was losing my mind at the sight in front of me. Lungile Radu was standing there. Right there, in real life. Not on a television screen. Less than 2 meters away from me. Then just as I got over that excitement I see Jafta Mamabolo who is the leading man in the movie. This was indeed a big night. As I look up from tweeting about my celeb spotting, Ferial Haffajee just casually struts past us. But I digress.

It was a small viewing space, packed with a number of seemingly intimidating people. The movie started off with an intense scene that grabbed all my attention from that moment, right until the closing credits. I really don’t want to give anything away on this one. We should all go out and watch it. What I will say is this: it’s a very different view of the South Africa of the late 1980s/early 1990s. It effectively shows how the apartheid regime managed to seep into all epithets of not only political but social life at the time. It was an inescapable force that incinerated everything it touched.

otelo2-272x300It is a movie about freedom. How freedom has multiple meanings and that the attainment thereof is never easy. Tragedy is etched on the face of freedom and vice versa; the two are inextricably intertwined. It has elements of a variety of genres which makes it the rich movie it is. We laughed (a lot), we cried (a lot) but most importantly, everyone in attendance thoroughly enjoyed themselves. It must be said that the acting was amazing. It wouldn’t be as brilliant without that amazing cast. A most compelling performance was given by all and they rightly deserve all the awards that are sure to come their way.

We have so much talent in this country. The only way to nurture it is to support it. So do the right thing and go watch this awesome movie. It will be in cinemas from May 11. There is already an enormous buzz around the movie. It hasn’t even come out yet! Go watch it, you won’t regret it :)

**NOTE: Post first appeared in exPress imPress on May 1 2012. 

Second generation trauma

I attended an amazing seminar at the University of the Witwatersrand on Thursday 18th of August 2011. The speaker at the seminar was Eva Hoffman, who is both a writer and an academic. The topic of the seminar was “Lost and Found in Transition: Contested memories and moving on from difficult pasts” , and more specifically second generation trauma. A phenomenon I have recently come to learn about and find very intriguing. cover_lost_in_translation

Second generation trauma has to do with the aftershocks that the children of survivors of gratuitous violence experience. The expression was first used to describe the children of Holocaust survivors. I first came across this term when reading Maus, a great graphic novel by Art Spiegelman. He not only tells his father’s story of living through the genocide but also tells his personal story of trying to deal with that ‘passed on’ trauma. Eva Hoffman’s autobiography Lost in Translation does the same. She too is a “second hand” trauma victim.

Eva Hoffman described second generation trauma as encapsulating contested memories and transitions after great wrongs have been committed. This can prove problematic when trying to achieve reconciliation, especially because the afterlife of atrocity is long. She went on to say that democracy and freedom are difficult to negotiate after such a traumatic experience and that this initiation is necessary. Not from the victims’ side but from the perpetrators’.

In Jewish consciousness, the Polish were and are seen as being conspirators with the Nazi’s in contributing to Jewish suffering. In the same breath, she said that Polish descendants cannot be blamed or punished for their forefathers, but they need to acknowledge what happened. “After such wrongs have been done, they can’t be undone… Recognition, not forgiveness needs to be the starting point of reconciliation.”

As the seminar went on Hoffman delved deeper into the nature of second generation trauma. She said that it has to do with the transmission of memories but not exclusively; memory coupled with the after-effects of parental experience. This transmission often leads to the second generation being frozen in time, in so doing perpetuating the cycle of revenge within their generation. The children of survivors speak of despondency, depression and anger which all arise from trying to locate their parents’ context in history. None of the above can be resolved unless a second generation dialogue is initiated.

Second generation dialogue refers to the conversations that need to take place between the children of the victims and those of the perpetrators. We need to recognise that children of the perpetrators are also going through some form of trauma. They are traumatised by the silence of their parents, their inability to admit they were wrong. As a result they try to reject their parents but cannot do that because it is easier said than done. The fact that both sides are trying to deal with inherited trauma should be the condition that allows for a dialogue to take place. Trust and understanding are imperative for this dialogue to work. This dialogue is the only means of getting on a reconciliatory path and leading to an expansion of minds.

5_5_trc_cartoonI brought all of the above into a proximal context, a personal context. I consider myself as a victim of second generation trauma. I often wrestle with the issues that Hoffman raised. I am angry and despondent about apartheid and racial oppression, and so are a lot of my peers. It is particularly difficult for us to ‘move on’ because the lived reality of inequality is still very real to us. What I mean by this is that South Africa inherited structural violence and inequality. Today we refer to it as the legacy of apartheid.

How can we even begin to let go when the effects of that totalitarian system are still rife in our society? The racial disparities in our society are very obvious and this is something that needs to be addressed.

However, when one starts to speak about such issues we are met with contestations of being too racialised. I find that a lot of liberal whites and blacks want us to repress the past. This would be folly – the past needs to be acknowledged, remembered and addressed. “Wrong doers cannot get forgiveness until they admit to crimes and are willing to repent for them”, said Hoffman.

This brought up questions from the audience about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). One gentleman said it was highly idyllic and aimed to quickly cover up the past. He went on to say it failed because forgiveness is a Christian doctrine and forced people to adhere along those lines. To counter this, a young lady said we cannot look at the TRC as a defining moment but a mere example of things that can be done to help the nation move on. Hoffman answered this by saying: “The side most responsible for atrocities needs to make the first step”. This is where the TRC failed. To add on to this point, another young lady said it is astonishing to her that “those who weren’t allowed to vote before 1994 are now responsible for reconciling a nation that was destroyed by those who were allowed to vote”. Surely it should be the inverse.

I must say this seminar did help me in negotiating my position as a young black person. Along with this I had a defining “aha moment”. I never thought about the equally complex psychological disposition of my white peers. Both ‘sides’ cannot reject or abandon their parental history but we need to remember it is not our own. The second generation dialogue resonated with me; it is the first step we can all take on this journey of reconciliation. It will not happen overnight; it will be a process. We need to create our own history that will reflect our willingness to try and amend the past.

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on August 28 2011.

Who will get your vote?

Pheladi Sethusa, a second year Media Studies student, attended a local government elections debate held by the Wits Politics Department on East Campus today. She presents a report on the positions put forward by three representatives from the ANC, the DA and COPE.

The topic up for debate was the local municipal elections, which will be upon us in a matter of hours now. There was quite a large turnout. I suspect with the elections a matter of hours away people are desperate to gain as much insight into the various parties so as to cast a vote that will both benefit them and make a difference.

ANC11-300x200The first party to have their say was of course the African National Congress (ANC). Godfrey Madja, a representative of the Wits ANC Youth League, opened his speech with the classic “Amandla-Viva” chant to which the ANC supporters in the crowd responded positively. He spoke for eight minutes in what turned out to be a speech on ANC policy. He made the point that the ANC, unlike other parties, does not have a “cut and paste manifesto, but it has a historical policy”. He went on to speak about how the ANC will and is already implementing programmes for the creation of jobs, education and training programmes, health etc. Everything he had to say was related to what we have all heard President Zuma talk about in his addresses.

Next up was a representative from the Democratic Alliance (DA), Mohammad Sayanvala. For the first time in a speech about the DA, I heard about their manifesto and not just a speech that berates the ruling party. The DA’s policy platform is to create opportunities for all in society and to deliver to all. He emphasized that the DA rebukes the “jobs for pals” system that seems popular within the ruling party. The DA aims to award tenders and other such opportunities to the most qualified applicants irrespective of their race. Mohammad ended off on a strong note, saying that “the DA is no longer just an opposition party but a party of governance”.

The last representative was a young lady from the Congress of the People (COPE), Mukondeli Mphigalele. Her main argument was that people should not dismiss COPE as a joke of a party, as they NewDALogoResized-229x300are merely trying to fight for their rights like everyone else. She went on to comment on members who recently left the party and went back to the ANC as people who are clearly “capable of vomiting and once done, being able to eat that vomit”. This remark had the audience in stitches. There was no talk of policy and empty promises, merely the acknowledgement that the time for blind loyalty was over and that voters need to now vote for their own interests.

Then the floor was opened up for questions to the representatives. The first was a young black man who asked how the parties planned on putting a person like himself, who was born disadvantaged, on equal footing with a person who was born advantaged. Mohammad answered that “the DA will eradicate the legacies of Apartheid by creating opportunities for all”. The ANC rep Godfrey said: “We all need to remember that our democracy is only 17 years old. It did not take the apartheid government 17 years to marginalise us, so it cannot take us 17 years to eradicate all inequalities”. The COPE rep shied away from this question.

Another interesting question was why public servants like Helen Zille and our President do not make use of the public services they promote like public transport. The DA rep vouched for Zille saying she frequents public transport and the COPE rep followed in that vain. Godfrey said “as an ex-MK member and a public figure, President Zuma cannot travel with public transport for safety reasons. You forget that the AWB and people in Orania are still planning things and ready to attack”, ushering in another roar of laughter from the crowd. Most of the questions asked were left unanswered as we ran out of time.

CopyLogoNovember15-300x225I went into the debate thinking the ANC was the scum of the earth, the DA was merely the jealous middle child who wanted a chance in the spotlight and I honestly had no feelings about COPE. Unfortunately the latter has not changed. The COPE rep was not as convincing as she could have been. As for the DA I think they fail to point out how they plan to do the things they say they will. For instance, their response on affirmative action left the person who asked the question still wanting. The ANC appealed most to me in that the representative answered all questions posed effectively. If there was a winner, he would be it.

However, I am still not willing to be complacent in voting for the ANC or the DA. Neither parties proposed changes that met my immediate needs and neither were willing to offer evidence conducive to these planned changes of theirs. It is one thing to look fantastic on paper, but as we are all very aware, delivering on those promises is the number one problem.

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on May 17 2014.