I didn’t do it – ‘horror crèche’ owner

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on April 11, 2014.

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A relative of creche owner of Petite Bumper Dayare Labeeba Truter, leave Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, 10 April 2014, after cases of child abuse and assault against Truter was postponed to 25 April 2014. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

In a court appearance no longer than five minutes yesterday, Labeeba Truter was told she would have to spend 15 more days at Johannesburg’s “Sun City” Prison.

Truter, the principle and owner of Petite Bumper Daycare in Rosettenville, in the south of Johannesburg, was arrested on April 8 facing charges of assault and child abuse. Truter made the news earlier this week following a viral video of a child tied up and gagged at her daycare centre.

In her first court appearance at the Johannesburg Regional Court yesterday afternoon, Judge Hawkins said Truter can formally apply for bail on April 25. Truter looked back at her family in disbelief when she found out she wouldn’t be able to go home after her appearance.

Advocate Herry Bonke Maluleke, Truter’s legal representative said the State could not let her go because she faced “numerous counts and further investigation by the State” would need to be done. “The allegations are yet to be tested,” and the State has to prove them, he said.

Truter stuck to her guns and said: “I’m not the one who did it.” She claimed she had been falsely arrested and the charges she was facing did not even pertain to the complainant’s child.

“It’s not even the same kid. The kid in the Daily Sun is not Beauty and the “father” they spoke to is not her father,” said a frustrated Truter.

She added the child in the video was not even in the country at the moment, as her father had taken her and her mother to Mozambique at the weekend.

Truter said she was called to the bathroom by one of the other children at her daycare and when she got to the bathroom another teacher was there with the child. “When I walked in she hid something behind her back – a cellphone maybe. She has family at the Daily Sun,” said Truter.

Maluleke said Truter would “most definitely” make bail on April 25.

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Wits sexual harassment inquiry complete

Prof Bonita Meyersfield outlines some of the key findings from the report. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Prof Bonita Meyersfield outlines some of the key findings from the report. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

By Caro Malherbe and Shandukani Mulaudzi

Wits has pledged to undertake a multidimensional approach to issues of sexual harassment on campus by formulating a special task team initiated by the vice chancellor’s office. These measures and others were announced today at a press conference called to make the findings of an independent inquiry into issues of sexual harassment at Wits University.

Vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib said he takes full responsibility for the abuses that happened at Wits and that the report highlights the failure of the university’s system to address rumours and allegations decisively.

Habib added that the university welcomes the recommendations and will form a Senior Executive Team to start a plan of action on how the issue of sexual harassment will be dealt with, in line with the culture of the institution.

Special Task Team 

The special task team will originate from the VC’s office and comprise various experts from within the university including gender specialists, the transformation office, sexual harassment advisors, legal expertise and student representatives.

Habib said student representatives will not be solely from the SRC but from various sectors of the student body.

Prof Adam Habib, Kirti Menon and Prof Andrew Crouch field questions from the media. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
Prof Adam Habib, Kirti Menon and Prof Andrew Crouch field questions from the media. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

 Difficulties of investigation


Prof Bonita Meyersfeld, the director of the Centre of Applied Legal Studies at Wits was part of the team who compiled the report together with lawyers from law firm Norton Rose. She said this was one of the most difficult inquiries to undertake.

“The inquiry was one of the most difficult tasks for the whole team to undertake because we were dealing with our own university. But it was important and totally worth it.”

Meyersfeld said students and members of staff were initially reluctant to speak to them but in the last two months of the inquiry they were more willing to come forward.

“The emotion involved in both students and staff alike is evident throughout the university and administration. Students felt they were not listened to and not taken seriously.”

Meyersfeld said the students were also worried about following the legal process as they were worried about being re-traumatised by speaking to various entities about the same incident.

Members of staff, although they shared the same sentiments also worried about the threat posed to their careers if they came forward.

Continuing investigation 

Two cases have already been dealt with and the accused persons have been dismissed. Habib said there are two other cases that are on-going.

“Two have been dismissed and another who began investigations will hopefully be released to me tomorrow. The fourth is yet to begin.”

SRC President, Sibulele Mgudlwa answers a question from the audience. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
SRC President, Sibulele Mgudlwa answers a question from the audience. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The on-going investigation is that of Prof Rupert Taylor, while the one that has not yet begun is that of Dr Lord Mawuko. This was confirmed by a reliable source who did not want to be named.

Meyersfeld said while there were other perpetrators discovered during the inquiry. However cases were dealt with on a confidential basis and unless students asked for their accusations to be pursued, they were not.

Habib added: “We pursued various other avenues to get to the bottom of it [new cases]. But in those instances our findings yielded no further investigation.”

Habib thanked the media for blowing the whistle on issues of sexual harassment as this forced the university to take immediate action.

 

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“Special” leave?

THE DEAN of students, Prem Coopoo, has been  on special leave for the past two weeks, since August 2, with little clarity on when she will return.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela that Coopoo had been placed on special leave pending an investigation.

Elaine Milton, head of employee relations at Wits, said the reasons behind Coopoo’s absence are “personal and private” and she could not comment on them.

Wits Vuvuzela tried numerous times to get in touch with Coopoo and other members in management for more information but to no avail.

Head of Residence Life Rob Sharman has been named acting dean of students while Coopoo is on special leave.

According to the university’s website, the office of the dean of students facilitates student life and the academic life of students. It also assists with programmes and services to students.

The dean of students also provides “the strategic direction and co-ordination of all student affairs operations” and sets “clear and specific expectations for staff involvement in facilitating students’ experiences”.

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. 

No under-21’s?

Cream soda only for next year’s Freshers’ bash? Pheladi Sethusa, a second year Media Studies student, discusses recent government plans to increase the legal drinking age.

Last week I saw a news report on the planned change of the legal drinking age in South Africa. The proposed legislation states that the legal drinking age will be moved up from 18 to 21. Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini said that they hoped that this change would help in the fight against not only alcohol and drug abuse in South Africa, but also the fight against crime. 

Myself at Matric Vac in 2009. That was really just colourful water ;)
Myself at Matric Vac in 2009. That was really just colourful water 😉

As we all know, crime is a huge problem in our country and many violent crimes are connected to drug and alcohol abuse result in domestic violence, robberies and assault. The minister also made the point that currently South Africa holds the record for the highest binge drinking among its youth. Binge drinking can be fatal in relation to one’s health, which is why the government feels that this social ill needs to be alleviated in any way possible. Changing the legal drinking age is one way of doing that.

I agree that alcohol abuse is a major contributor when it comes to the aforementioned issues but I believe that it is not the root of the problem. There are stringent laws concerning narcotics in our country but yet that does not stop the drug industry growing from year to year. This is undoubtedly a result of fraudulent and incompetent policing. At the moment, minors can access alcohol fairly easily in spite of the current legal drinking age. I understand that this change of legislature is the only one which looks likely to curb alcohol abuse among the youth but I fear that it may not be enough. I also think that it is unfair to accuse people in the 18-21 age bracket as being responsible for most of the alleged alcohol-related crimes in our country.

Along with my belief that this change will be ineffective, I also believe that this change may prove detrimental to the whole varsity experience and what I would call the-coming-of-age experience. The latter refers to what turning 18 means to myself and most South African youths.

When we turn 18 we are allowed to vote in national elections, drive and legally consume alcohol. Now while the last point seems the least important it is pivotal in the transition to adulthood. Matric dances, 18th birthday parties and most importantly Matric Vac would not be the same without the choice to indulge in alcohol. My matric year would have been rather dull without the alcohol component.

Some are of the view that you do not need to drink to make an event more enjoyable and to some extent I agree but it is a personal preference you should be allowed to make, considering that you are now a young adult who can make informed decisions. With regards to the varsity experience, I think the freedom of choice that comes with entering the varsity world would be severely hindered. Imagine the Wits Orientation Week events and parties without alcohol. No more beer garden and silly buggers vodka parties. Not to mention the Freshers’ bash – somehow a cream soda on the rocks does not quite scream bash.

Personally I feel the proposed change in the legal drinking age will be ineffectual in decreasing overall alcohol consumption amongst young adults as well as decreasing crime statistics. It is a step in the right direction but South Africa needs far more than that. The government needs to look at why people are drinking so much in the first place. Is it purely recreational or are people drinking and using drugs to escape their problems? Such problems may include poverty, unemployment and perhaps even stress. For me this legislation is similar to prescribing someone with tuberculosis normal cough mixture and hoping that that will help.

The ardent drinker in me feels that this law will have a negative effect on after school life and will deprive many of the experiences that come with leaving high school. It would rob youngsters of a formative experience. How can we be trusted with electing a party who will have sovereign power over our lives but not with when and how much we drink? There seems to be a disjuncture between the two, or is it just me?

**NOTE: Post first appeared on exPress imPress on March 23 2011.