#teamvuvu: Mfuneko Toyana

The only dude in our class, Funi – the prodigal son, humoured me by answering my questions via correspondence this afternoon as he sat in a park somewhere and he didn’t get kidnapped while he did it, kudos.

Another selfie, this one with some foreground/background action - dlala Shakes Jnr. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Another selfie, this one with some foreground/background action – dlala Shakes Jnr. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Me: How would you describe your outfit today?

Funi: I’d describe it as very comfortable and simple. It’s grey and black, a bit bland but it works.

Me: How would you describe your style in general?

Funi: Um, apparently I start all my sentences with “um,” so um. When you asked the question I thought you meant my writing style not my dress style, so I’m going to answer both. My writing style is an inside joke and you could say that my dress sense is the same. It’s very chilled, relaxed, loose with an emphasis on comfort.

Me: Now on to the more serious, are you sure about this journalism thing?

Funi: I’m absolutely, 100% sure about journalism and I guess more widely about writing. But ya, very serious about journalism – it’s a calling and it takes time for you to understand what that means, I don’t fully understand what it will entail, but I’m all in.

Me: That said, if you weren’t doing what you doing this, what would you be doing?

Funi: I suspect I would be doing one of two things, I’d either be studying History or English Literature, probably a bit of both. Or I’d be in advertising, particularly as a copywriter or pushing a desk job as a marketer, which would be terrible, just doom.

Me: How have you found your honours year?

Funi: I’ve found it interesting I guess and useful. More than anything else it’s helped me develop a lot of discipline and be clear about what I want for the future. It’s also been very demanding, extremely demanding.

Me: What’s been the most challenging thing and the most rewarding thing for you this year?

Funi: The most challenging has been the discipline aspect I think. It’s taking what I want to do and what I have to do, and trying to combine those and have and end product. I think I’ve done okay with that though.


Hmmm, the most rewarding thing has been being able to write more and consequently being able to go out into the world more. I got to see different things and watch a whole lot of other situations and other people, and just be around journalists – journalists to be and working journalists. And the free food, the free food has been very rewarding for my belly and my tastebuds.

Me: Where will you be next year and what will you be doing?

Funi: Next year if the world doesn’t end, I’ll be at Wits for the first few months of the year, skivvy for the department – earning my stripes. For three months after that I’ll be at Reuters, watching the markets. Somebody told me it’s like bird watching except there’s no birds. Ya, I’ll be doing financial journalism at Reuters paying them back for school fees this year and I’m not sure what happens after that, hopefully I’ll be in a newsroom, that’s the main goal.

Me: How would you describe #teamvuvu in three words?

Funi: Fuck, that’s tough [these aren’t the words, I hope]. Uh, a whole lot of girls? *chuckles*. I’d day loud, ferocious – no, scratch ferocious, more tenacious than ferocious and very with it, hip , hipsters – yes, that’s how I would describe them.

A fourth word, I can’t believe I left this out very, very, very talented, above anything else. I guess it comes from the other three words.

Me: How did I feel being one of only two members of the opposite sex in the class?

Funi: It felt great, for the first couple of weeks even months. I guess I was excited to tell people that I’m in a class with 15 or 16 girls, depending on how you look at these things. But it was very interesting, I wouldn’t say challenging, who would be challenged by being in a class with 15 women? It brought a lot of insight, I got to be with these 15 very different women, with very different personalities, different opinions and very different ways of carrying themselves – of carrying their beauty, their inner light and their outer light [awwwwwwww]. It was fascinating to see how that all came across in the context of a newsroom, where we’re trying to produce something meaningful for the world outside. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing that and I thoroughly enjoyed the kind of relationships I was able to have and to attempt, because life is just one big attempt isn’t it?


There are a few negative side effects – I now scratch my non-existent breasts, because of monkey see monkey do situation. When you see me in public scratching non-existent C or D cups, don’t look down on me,  it’s not my fault.

Me: A word of advice for the incoming team for 2014?

Funi: Take this shit very seriously, take every day seriously, take close to every moment seriously. I’m not talking about a flippant sort of serious, I’m talking about taking this as a calling. More than anything honour your craft which means  understand what journalism is, read every day, be interested, be fucking curious, watch as much news as you can, keep dissecting things, write as much as you can. Be a geek about this shit because it is a calling and it’s a tremendous calling, ya don’t be an asshole about it – be a geek about it. That’s what it takes to be a championship journalist, like we were in 2013, thank you. No autographs *laughs*

[Thanks Will McAvoy].

Best Reads

New Chinatown-3

As part of our in-depth project, we have to blog religiously to keep our various mentors up to date with what we are doing and how we are progressing (or not). There were a lot of posts to read through and a lot of good one’s out this week, but as always I do have my faves and here they are:

  • A Chinese Necropolis: Day two by Mfuneko Toyana. Learnt something interesting about Chinese tombstones when I read this and it was just a good read. Give it a bash.
  • Chinese Johannesburg: Field Work Day 3 by Liesl Frankson. I legit cannot wait to read Liesl’s final product, her topic is of particular interest to me and this piece is a nice little taste of what’s to come I think.
  • In depth day 5: Thank God for Google Translate by Ray Mahlaka. Ray struck gold when a genius and innovative idea to start breaking down the language barriers we all kept hitting. That’s my team member ya’ll. Have a look at his blog for more posts from the past week, pure quality.
  • Snake wine for sexy time by Caro Malherbe. Last week we tasted some of the most potent alcohol I have ever tasted, Caro looks at what was in that little shot glass.
  • Unpacking prejudice by Shandukani Mulaudzi. Shandu writes about an interview she had, which forced her to realise she had some ‘unpacking’ to do 😉

Best reads

This little thing called life got in the way of me posting a ‘best reads’post last week, I will not let this thing called life do that to me again.

Last week was one of the last editions we’ll produce in a while, so it was jam packed with copy to feed the appetites of our readers.

Here are some of my personal highlights from the edition:

  • EFF triggers PYA exodus by Thuleto Zwane. One would imagine that it would take more than kitch red berets to sway comrades’ alliances, one would be wrong. I kid, I kid. Interesting to see how quickly the new political party is gaining ground among some students.
  • Dr Last loses by Shandukani Mulaudzi. Things came full circle last week when a verdict was reached regarding our supposed ethical misdemeanour with one of our sexual harassment stories. Good to know that even back then our ethics were intact.
  • Wits improves in world rankings by Dineo Bendile. Since my first year of studying at Wits I have been one of its most ardent supporters. Defending it left, right and centre at braai’s and other such gatherings. It’s good to know that we are indeed getting better as an institution and that I can brag even more 😉
  • Enjoying food that has roots by Mfuneko Toyana. For no other reason than the deliciousness that came from this meeting. Glad I got to tag along and literally get a taste of Kenya.
  • “Go see Josh” by Sibusisiwe Nyanda. Lovely and inspirational story about weight loss. Josh had me going til he mentioned something about no carbs, that’s when I knew I couldn’t do what he did. But inspirational nonetheless.
  • Witsie bail-out by Nolwazi Mjwara. A look at the contentious issue of students on campus being bailed out of jail by the university.
  • Survivor: ANN7 edition by Nokuthula Manyathi. Another one I got to sit in on last week. It was interesting to hear first-hand how things are going over at ANN7. The tweets weren’t lying.

Johannesburg: The migrant city that is anti-migrants

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Gallery by Mfuneko Toyana

The Market Theatre’s main stage was the platform where six diverse minds gathered to discuss migration, a topic central to all of their individual work.

The last day and the last panel discussion of the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival helped to make audience members and authors alike reflect on the movement of people in and out of cities and countries.

The poor accommodating the poor

Wandile Zwane from the City of Johannesburg’s Migrant Helpdesk, used an interesting anecdote from a conversation he had had with a woman, illustrating a point made earlier about migration being a situation where the poor are accommodating the poor.

The woman talked about the hierarchy that existed when it came to where one slept in her house. As a young child one was in the main bedroom, the older one got you would move to the dining room and the kitchen to make space for the younger ones. Eventually one would land up in the outside room and from there move on to their own house with a spouse.

Unfortunately her marriage had not worked out so she had to move back to the outside room with her kids, but because there was an immigrant living in that room she had to go back to the kitchen. The story points to one explanation of the animosity that exists around migration in South Africa.


Chinua Achebe’s book ‘There was a Country’ was the theme around which the conversation around which migration had to bend itself.

The panel consisted of writers who had threaded together stories and books, all zooming in on migration and themes central to resettlement. The panel discussion was largely based on the different writers’ works and their experiences of bridging political and personal narratives in their storytelling.

A young writer making waves in the literary world, NoViolet Bulawayo, said emergent personal narratives are based on political events, and that it was not possible to separate the two in one’s writing.

While the works of the six on stage were central to the discussion, engagement with audience members opened up the dialogue and brought up issues that were left out in the initial conversation.

Photographer and self-proclaimed book lover, Victor Dlamini (@victordlamini) made a poignant point from the floor, which steered the conversation to a meaningful point. He commented on people who are migrants themselves taking issue with people who migrate. He used Johannesburg as an example, saying most people who are in this city are not even from this city. “Johannesburg is a migrant city,” he added.

Panelist and writer, Achmat Dangor responded by saying that he agreed with Dlamini and pinned negative attitudes around migration on mechanisms of ‘othering’. He added that people migrate to places with a gravitational pull because of new ideas in that specific place. This is always the case with ‘big cities’, the activity and promise of economic emancipation lure people in, be it across borders or provincial lines.

Caroline Wanjiku Kihato, author of The Bookseller of Kibera, added to Dangor’s response, saying that human beings had a tendency of finding one another’s differences and using them to oppress one another.

Another audience member asked why was it that only Africans were considered immigrants. He did not understand why the Chinese and Europeans who come to this country were not treated with the same hostility that “our brothers” were.

In response Kwanele Sosibo (@KwaneleSosibo), journalist at the Mail & Guardian, simply said “we do it to ourselves”. He went on to narrate an anecdote about how people in an Eastern Cape community believe in measuring people according to certain pedigrees. Mining house recruiters divided them up according to body size, using pedigree determine who’d make best workers, exemplary of systematic ‘othering’.

Writing Invisibility

The Writing Invisibility e-book was launched. Some of the writers on the panel were contributors in the book which was a project done in collaboration with the Wits African Centre for Migration & Society.

The book is available for free download here.


Best reads

Last week saw us delivering another 12 pager, how we did is beyond me, but anyway here goes:

Best reads

Last week I was the editor of the paper, proud to say these were my best reads:

  • Wits staff ‘rural farm workers’ by Thuletho Zwane. A great article that exposes an outsourcing company which used dodge classification of workers to pay them less. It is disgusting that this kind of thing is still going on in this day and age.
  •  Rumble in the tunnel by Caro Malherbe. A story about the supposed improper conduct by the PYA last week. Points to some of the tactics being used ahead of SRC elections.
  • Women’s team won’t whimper by Mfuneko Toyana. A story on women’s football at Wits, it highlights the big difference in attention and resources provided to teams based on gender.
  • Oppikoppi photo spread by myself, Shandukani Mulaudzi and Caro Malherbe.

Best reads

Decided to start this new little section, to promote what I thought were the best reads from the newspaper.

Obviously none of my work will feature in this section because that’ what the rest of this blog is dedicated to.

I’ll just share some of the best work from #teamvuvu that week and hope others enjoy it as much as I did.  So here goes:

  • Academia lost in translation by Nolwazi Mjwara. Fasctnating piece on monolingualism in South Africa. I felt like I was at the talk and agreed with everything the speaker had to say.
  • A coffee shop that’s stirring things up by Mfuneko Toyana. A write up about HEI Cafe, i may be a little biased considering my vested interests in HEI but regardless it was a well written piece with beautiful imagery.
  • Dismissed “sex pests” speak… by Prelene Singh and Emelia Motsai. Our front page this week, the quotes in this article are priceless. This article also represents something much bigger though. It’s about showing that the collective efforts of our team, the University and the brave girls and boys who came forward have been effective.
  • Habib No money for in-house cleaning by Emelia Mostai. Outsourcing has been and continues to be a serious problem at Wits. Readings
  • I did not report my harasser by Shandukani Mulaudzi. In my humble yet not so humble opinion there has not been one ‘Slice of Life’ written that isn’t compelling. The section lets us truly speak in our voice, Loved that this read like a conversation. Literally though, Shandu and I discussed this matter a few weeks ago and now here it is on paper (well on screen here).
  • Letter to SRC president by Saul Musker. He is not a teamvuvunite but his letter made the opinions section of the paper. Shucks if ever there was a response to an open letter, this was it. I could hardly believe that I was reading the words of a first year. His response was clear and left me with a lot to think about.