There’s a popular saying that I have seen Thandiswa Mazwai tweet quite often, which says “Until we are all free, none of us are free.”
Today, April 27 is Freedom Day in South Africa.
I woke up to the sounds of the President’s voice, as he addressed people at a Freedom day event in Pretoria earlier. I heard him speak about the evil we managed to triumph over, I found myself nodding when he mentioned that this freedom we have, came at a price.
He spoke about the great strides that have been made since 1994 in housing and with the general provision of basic amenities. The ruling party has actually done a lot to try to improve the lives of the majority. Obviously a lot more could be done and hopefully will be done if we can “deal” with corruption and inequality and racism and and and.
Anyway, I suppose what made me open my laptop was the fact that we hear these things all the time. Which is why at some point I stopped listening and opted to read yesterday’s paper instead. Yes things are changing, a lot has changed. We do have a lot to be grateful and thankful for but we still have a long way to go. A very long way.
For the past two days in my Journalism class, we have had a guest speaker, Kevin Davies from the Mail & Guardian come school us on Financial Journalism. We had very interesting debates with about the state of our economy. Yesterday in particular we spoke about some of the challenges we are facing and tried to brainstorm solutions.
My answer to his question on a solution, was a Pan-African one, which seemed impossible for our speaker to comprehend. I was glad that my classmates however, agreed with me (for the most part). What struck me about the conversation that was going on, was that we too had all these ideas but no solid ways of implementing them. Much like some our leaders today.
To test our optimism about the country’s future, Mr Davies drew a ‘level-of-optimism-scale’ to see where we lay on it. Most of us were on a very high 7, saying that we do have high hopes for the future based on the amount of potential in the country. Then he went on to say that this scale is based on a ten year period, at which point our optimism waned.
Making one thing very clear (to me at least), we are nowhere near where we need or even want to be. Especially when it comes to economic equality. Something that was also mentioned in the President’s address earlier today.
I can’t help but think of Agent Smith’s words in the Matrix Reloaded every time this day rolls around. He said: “We’re not here because we are free. We’re here because we are not free.”
“Gossip Girl” has left the lavish penthouses of New York’s Upper East Side to wreak havoc on our very own West Campus.
On April 13, a number of people noticed that they were being followed on twitter by a user with the handle @WestGG.
This is how they first got wind of Wits’ own gossip girl.She then became active the very next day, sending out tweets containing very personal information about the people she followed.
“She insinuated that I was dating one of my close friends, who was actually in another relationship at the time. It was very childish,” said Yandani Bashman, 4th year LLB.
“GG also taunted an individual about their sexual orientation which is extremely sensitive stuff, so in that regard it can get really hurtful,” said a person who did not want to be named.
Tweeters mobilised to report the account as spam so gossip girl could be suspended, to which the account replied, “you can report me as spam if you wish, but you know I’ll keep coming back.”
Twitter policy does not allow for users to carry abusive content in their tweets. Violating this rule could lead to the suspension of an account.
After being suspended once, gossip girl created a new account under the name @westcampusgg. This account didn’t last long either but was around long enough to cause a stir in the rumour mill.Tweeters again responded by marking her tweets as spam. But all the spam reports couldn’t keep her down as she started a new account for a third time on April 16.
“I felt that it was extremely juvenile but it had the potential to ruin people’s relationships and caused a deep level of distrust within circles of friends,” said one of the account’s most tweeted victims, Livhuwani Makungo, 3rd year BCom Marketing.
“She/he seemed to focus her/his (tweets) on my previous relationship claiming that I was unfaithful and slanderous as if it was a form of retribution. All allegations made against me were false,” said Makungo.
Gossip girl had a lot to say about a past relationship that Makungo had been in. In her tweets she tagged his previous girlfriend and the girls she claims he cheated with.“For the most part I laughed and brushed it off but I did worry about how it affected those who were implicated,” Makungo said.
“Her tweets were out of hand and unnecessary. Whoever is behind the account must just come forward and explain themselves,” said Bashman. He added that there was speculation about who might be behind the account but he believes that there are a number of people responsible for the tweeting.
Another person, who did not want to be named, said they believed the person behind the account must be someone they all know on a very personal level, especially because of the level of information the West Campus gossip girl had access to.
On Friday night, after a long day on campus Sechaba*, 3rd year Construction Management, walked to his car only to find it dented and surrounded by shattered glass.
Sechaba’s car was parked next to the bus stop on Yale road, between 9pm and 12am. He had come to campus to pick up friends.On seeing the damage, Sechaba immediately contacted Campus Control to report the matter.
The officers on duty made him fill out an incident form and advised him to come back on Monday to view video footage, if any was available. The officers told Sechaba that the culprit would be easier to apprehend if he was captured by video footage.
By Monday, following discussions with his mother, Sechaba decided not to take the matter further. “I decided just to go ahead and fix it myself, luckily I have a few mechanics in my network and the cost of repair is minimal,” said Sechaba.
Sechaba felt that Campus Control did all they could to help him. However, his concerns lay elsewhere, “as students of Wits, we pay so much money to attend here but our needs are treated as second class,” lamented Sechaba.
Wits Vuvuzela spoke to a number of Witsies about whether they felt their cars were safe on campus. Candice Griev, 3rd year BA Law, said nothing major had ever happened to her car except for a minor scrape.
Griev said she had seen vandalised cars at the parking lot for third and fourth years next to the Origins Centre. She saw one incident where someone had written on a parked vehicle with glue “How dare you park here?”
“The thing is there are security guards around here. I don’t understand why this was never addressed and why the person was never caught,” said Griev.
Mitchell Leering, MA Chemical Engineering, said he did not feel that cars were safe on campus late at night. “My car has been hit five times in the last three years,” he said.
Leering said his car had only ever incurred light damage. He said he had friends who had been victims of hit-and-runs with enough damage to be sent in for panel beating over a long period of time.
Leering told Wits Vuvuzela that they had not reported the matter to Campus Control.
“It’s not really worth it, because in our building we get alarms going off for hours without Campus Control coming. What’s the chance that Campus Control will come around to talk about your car?”
Robert Kemp, head of security for Campus Control, said that some parking lots have CCTV camera’s monitoring them. Along with this he said that there are regular patrols in the parking lots during the day.
He stressed the importance of students reporting their issues, so that they could get the help they needed.
Kemp encouraged those who had accidentally damaged cars to always leave a note with their name, number and student number on it. The repercussions for not doing so could be bad if the culprit later caught.
*Name changed to protect identity.
This week has been an exceptional one.
I had semi decent pitches on the news diary (nothing to write home about but whatevs) making for a busy week. I was also the photo editor for the week. Meaning I would get to make the decisions on all the pictures in the paper for the week, yays.
On Tuesday I covered One Day Without Shoes on campus. Luckily it wasn’t particularly chilly on the day, so it was easy to leave my shoes behind as I got dressed for the day. I quite enjoyed walking around barefoot. Getting to feel all the different textures I never seem to consider when I have shoes on.
People were very concerned about ‘hygiene’ and asked how on earth I could stand being so dirty. To which I said one wash will take it all away. I really couldn’t be bothered with how dirty my feet got. It was awesome to see so many other Witsies supporting the initiative by donating shoes or just being barefoot on campus.
Production this Wednesday was particularly hectic for me, so much so that I missed an exhibition I really wanted to attend. On the plus side I managed to start working out at the gym again, was starting to feel like a right porker. Thursday morning followed the same vain, some tempers flared during production but I was too busy trying to design a front page to be on that boat.
On Thursday afternoon our photography lecturer, TJ Lemon organised us a very cool guest speaker, James Oatway from The Star. A super talented photo journalist. He showed us some of his shoots as a way of teaching – which was different and very helpful. His photographs are really worth a thousand words as the adage goes. I was left saddened by his photographs taken of what is left of a Khoi/San community and more recently some taken in the Central African Republic. It made me realise once more how powerful photo’s can be. For example his CAR photo’s told me stories I would have never even read in the paper, because sometimes seeing is believing.
Our guest speaker also highlighted the dangers of the profession. Just last week he had an encounter where a gun was waved right in front of his face by a Seleka rebel. He told us anecdotes of people who had lost limbs and lives trying to get the perfect shot. I came into the year with photo journalism as THE thing I really wanted to do. I’m not so sure now. I would like to have babies at some point. Or just be alive you know.
On Friday I spent at great deal of my day covering “R U Silent” on campus. I could not have expected how that event would move me. I am very glad I got the opportunity to be a part of it all. I got a sneak peak into the brave hearts of men and women who wanted with all their might to fight sexual violence in our country. My “debrief” came in the form of a concert later that night. All in all a very fulfilling week was had. More to come next week.
I offered to be the photographer for this event as soon as I saw the posters on campus a few weeks ago. I knew I wanted to be involved with this event, as I had seen a friend’s pictures from last year’s Silent Protest at Rhodes University.
By the time I arrived on the Library Lawns for the handing out of t-shirts on Friday, April 16, it was already drizzling. This didn’t make people run off, they all just whipped out their umbrella’s and continued to queue for their shirts. There were three different shirts being handed out: shirts specifically for rape survivors (those brave enough to wear them); for supporters of the protest (who had to go a step further and have tape over their mouths) and lastly shirts for supporters who for health reasons could not join in being gagged the whole day.
From what I understand the reason for taping supporters was that they had to endure the burden of being silenced, in their case for a day. Symbolic of the silent struggle that many rape survivors go through. Those who were taped could not take that tape off until later that afternoon, when they would be able to “break their silence.”
The march was powerful in its silence. People are too used to loud protests/marches, which makes them somewhat indifferent to them. In this case the silence of the protesters caused more of a stir for onlookers. There were audible murmurs of people asking one another what was going on, wanting to know how they could join etc. The flip side of that were nasty jeers from people who wanted to belittle the protesters. I heard a group of young men laughing as one amongst them shouted “you have sexy ambitions with this thing you are trying to do,” to which I saw a few faces scrunch up in abhorrence.
The final destination was Senate House Concourse, where a few speakers were expected. Rosie Motene spoke on behalf of POWA, a rape survivor from the crowd Tumi shared her experience and Kelly Gillespie, Wits academic, also addressed the crowd. They all managed to resonate with and inspire the gathered protesters. In between the speakers shocking rape stats were read out to the crowd. Things like 100 year old woman rape, 4 year old raped and mutilated… It made the rape statistics we hear about so much more real.
After this was what they called the “die in,” when all in attendance lay on the floor in remembrance of those who had died from rape related violence. It was at this point I began to see reddened eyes and tears streaming down people’s faces. I saw friends tightly holding one another’s hands and boyfriends mustering up courage to lend strong enough shoulders, or just wiping away tears. It was at this point that I stopped taking pictures, lay next to my friend, to hold her hand.
The silence of the “die in” was broken by wails from two actresses who began their skit in the middle of the crowd. A moving piece which illustrated the torment rape victims go through and their struggle to speak out. After the performance those whose mouths had been taped all day could finally “break their silence” by taking the masking tape off of their mouths. This came at the right time as, the debrief thereafter would be the space in which people could reflect on the day and share their experience
No media was allowed in the debrief, so I simply went in my personal capacity. It was a very emotional experience. Brave young women and men took heed to the messages to break the silence and shared their stories. I heard stories I will never forget for as long as I live. I heard things that made the stats resonate, that made them real. The sheer numbers in that lecture venue of survivors made me shudder. One must keep in mind there were probably more who were too afraid to speak out to that large body of people.
I was thoroughly depressed when I left that venue. Drained. But I realised that I needed that experience. I needed to know the reality of the situation. I can only hope that the day helped others in the way that it helped me and that the movement continues to gain momentum.
Witsies braved stale urine, glass and camel droppings on April 16 when they came to campus barefoot in support of the One Day Without Shoes initiative.
The Wits Volunteer Programme (WVP) hosted an event to raise awareness for the drive, which aims to collect shoes for underprivileged children. Witsies attended the event barefoot to show their support and donated shoes.
A “path without shoes” was created on library lawns, from sand, dried grass, rocks and bits of Lego. The barefoot students were encouraged to walk across it to make them aware of how tough it could be to walk across these kinds of surfaces.
But perhaps a normal walk across campus provided the greatest challenge. Besides camels offering rides, and depositing droppings, on Library Lawns, Wits Vuvuzela caught the scent of urine in corners and saw broken glass on pathways.
“We take shoes for granted…in some developing countries some kids are not allowed to go to school if they don’t have shoes,” said Joanne Tomlinson, 2nd year BA and co-founder of the initiative at Wits.
Some kids were denied the opportunity to get an education, simply because they did not have shoes.Children also get cuts on their feet, which turn septic over time, she said. They caught diseases which were completely preventable.
One Day Without Shoes is an initiative that was originally started by the American shoe company TOMS. “For every pair of shoes they [TOMS] sell they give one away… They have actually handed out some in Diepsloot. They take each individual pair and fit it onto a kid’s feet. They don’t just drop the shoes off,” said Tomlinson.
Asked by Wits Vuvuzela how she had survived her day without shoes, Vivien Teijlingem, 1st year Fine Arts, said: “It’s nice for us to get to experience how tough it is walking without shoes, so we can care and understand what people go through.” BSC student Khosa Solly,added: “We can feel the pain that they [children who go to school without shoes] feel today, which will raise awareness.”
Tomlinson said she was grateful for the support the initiative had received from the WVP. Karuna Singh of the WVP attended the event barefoot.
Those who missed out on Tuesday can still donate shoes at the WVP offices in Senate House, Tomlinson said the shoes collected on campus would be given to the Bryanston Bible Church, who run a number of community outreach initiatives.
The chill in the air over the past weeks signals the onset of winter – and also the start of the annual Voice of Wits Winter Collection drive.
VoW aims to collect clothing and anything else that will keep people warm in winter. These items will be donated to those in need, according to marketing manager Lucky Mdaweni.
The organisers would be grateful for anything, from scarves and hats to blankets, he said. But they were particularly looking for clothing in good condition. “We don’t want any torn and tattered clothes.”
He asked that people wash their clothing before dropping them in one of the branded boxes placed around campus. Boxes can be found in various strategic spots, including residences.
“We will distribute the items we collect to people in the Braamfontein area, as it is the community that supports the radio station,” said Mdaweni.
Wits Students in need would also benefit from the drive. VoW had a partnership with the Wits Volunteer Programme, which would distribute clothing to students on an anonymous basis, said Mdaweni.
The drive will run through the months of April and May and Vow will host on-campus promotions
Underprivileged children in Alexandra are scoring with some assistance from a non-governmental organisation, the African Sports and Scholastic Initiative for Students in Townships (Assist).
Harvard graduates started Assist last September to aid underprivileged children in Alexandra.
The name of the initiative is a clever play on a basketball term, which means helping someone score a goal. In this case, the assistance comes in the form of a mentorship system to tutor children in their school subjects.
Harvard graduates from the class of 2012 Dennis Zheng, Patrick Li and Ian Choe started the initiative in September 2012. This came after Zheng and Li had visited South Africa in 2011 to volunteer as basketball coaches at the Special Olympics South Africa.
On this 2011 visit they had the opportunity to work at different schools in Alexandra township with intellectually disabled children. Zheng said: “We then became connected with Harry Nakeng, a local community leader of the Alexandra Basketball Association (ABA), and began coaching basketball with township youth every afternoon.
“What Patrick and I discovered was a testament to the power of athletics; each day after school, 50 players of varying ages took to dusty courts in bare feet or their school shoes to learn the sport,” said Zheng.
The children made such an impact on Li and Zheng that they could not stop thinking about them. They decided to return to Johannesburg with their classmate Choe to found Assist. Zheng said: “The programme aims to leverage Alexandra township youth’s excitement about the emerging sport of basketball in order to catalyze students’ success in the classroom and ultimately improve their lives.”
The founders believe it is important to have a balance between sports and academics. Assist incorporates basketball to encourage physical, emotional and mental health, Zheng added. Sports also promotes a sense of camaraderie and helps to develop traits like discipline, he said.
The initiative has teamed up with the Wits Volunteer Programme (WVP) to outsource tutors. “Forty five Wits students are tutors for the ASSIST project now,” said Karuna Singh who heads the WVP.
These students tutor on Monday to Thursday afternoons and on Saturdays. Assist provides the tutors with transport to Alexandra. They help with subjects like Maths and English, Singh explained.
Zheng agreed: “Their consistent mentorship leads to not only better marks from term to term but also empowers each child to develop and reach his or her life goals.”
The initiative continues to seek funding, Zheng: “We initially funded the first year of the programme through the generosity of supportive friends and family, but we are currently exploring local options for financial support while preparing for another world-wide fundraising campaign.”
Up until now, by April 2013, close to 60 learners have benefited from the initiative. If you wish to assist, and help children, then find out more about the initiative and go to:
theassist.org. You can also visit the WVP at Senate House, Ground Floor.