A glimpse into one of the most anticipated and exciting annual exhibitions.
The Unite Against Corruption (UAC) held a series of fun tests on Tuesday, August 25, to test Wits student’s of corruption. The aim of the event was to raise awareness on the fight against corruption.
On Friday, September 4, Wits held its annual Pride March.
Wits Activate held a mock lesbian wedding during the Wits Pride Week. The aim was to raise awareness around same-sex marriage.
The Chanceplant Initiative, a student organisation started by a group of Wits medical students, hosted a debate that this house would legalise the sale of human organs. The debate was adjudicated by Constitutional Court Judge, Chief Justice Edwin Cameron, and addressed the attendees of the debate after discussions were opened to the floor.
It is 8am in the morning in Johannesburg, it is already ridiculously hot for a Johannesburg morning. My fellow Journalism students and our mentors are heading on a field tour to Mayfair and Fordsburg as preparation of our in-depth project.
Everyone is filled with excitement as we prepare to leave. Little did we know that what we find in those parts of Johannesburg will give some of us a culture shock.
We first walked down the streets of Fietas, where in one streets homeless people could be seen lurking around in their own little corners. “Take a picture of us sistas”, shouted one of them. And it hit me, we have just become foreigners in touring in their space.
Later on, we met up with Somali Community leader, Amir Sheikh who gave us a cultural tour in a place called Little Mogadishu. Before the tour, we had a Q&A session that gave one insight into the Somali culture. For example, in their culture, women are forbidden from giving men handshakes.
They also believe that one of the ways to preserve their culture is to only marry other Somalian. If one does not comply and marry someone from a different nationality, they become alienated from the Somali community. This was quite ironic coming from a nation that is constantly seeking social integration in South Africa.
Despite all these shocking revelations, we got to tour the town of Little Mogadishu where we treated with great hospitality. We were treated with great Ethiopian coffee with popcorn and most importantly, lots of information about their culture and tradition.
In the midst of all this hospitality, we were met with wild stares by the community members. Sheikh explained that the Somali people were so involved in their culture and their own people that when other people visited their community, it becomes a shock for them. “Our community is closely-knitted and not used to strangers.” For the first time in my country, I felt like the ‘Other’ amongst other black people. Little Mogadishu is very Somali and anyone who is not Somali can feel the alienation when walking down the streets.
However I learned a lot today and look forward to the next day in the area.
Themed ‘People Change Spaces’, this year’s Wits Pride or newly called Varsity Pride has been running from August 24 until September 5.
The two weeks have been jam-packed with various activities, events and discussions which aim to celebrate diversity of LGBT people. It also aims to create awareness around LGBT issues, which according to Tish White of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advocacy, include heteronormative spaces.
“We want to claim back the spaces which privilege heterosexual and cisgender people.”
What started off as a small march called Campus Pride in 2008 has grown over the years. This year, Wits Activate, which is an LGBT society on campus partnered up with the Wits Transformation and Employment Equity Office, Drama For Life, SRC, Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) and UJ Liberati to create safe spaces across all campuses and universities at reach.
Varsity Pride programme has a series of initiatives which are educative and interactive. These include lunch-hour information stalls where students can learn about different sexual identities and health. There has also been various discussions around LGBT issues such as the issue of coming out.
Mercy Binga, a first year BA student told Wits Vuvuzela that “I have learned a lot about different sexualities this past week and how to support my fellow gay friends with issues they may face.”
On the lighter side, there will also be a Drawing Marathon where artists explore unique and fun ways to express themselves.
On Tuesday, they also had a Queer wedding outside Great Hall. According to Ivan Sabljak, the aim of the unofficial wedding was to show everyone that same-sex couples deserve to get married as well. This according to him was to eradicate frowns that same-sex couples get.
There will also be an Academic Symposium where Wits academics will research and discuss how spaces can be changed to include LGBT identifying people in universities.
The week will end with a Pride March on Friday.
“I am definitely joining the march on Friday,” Binga said with excitement.
Jaco Oelofse is a philosophy and political sciences graduate from University of Pretoria. He is also an EFF member, a former Secretary General of Tuks EFF and describes himself as a feminist. He is currently doing his internship at the Wits Centre for Cultural Diversity.
You are part of the anti-racist forum at the University of Pretoria, what is your take on the call for transformation of higher education?
Firstly, we do not see transformation as a necessity, but rather as decolonisation. Transformation in my opinion is too liberal, the problem with transformation is that it just wants to cover the racial make up of an institution, fill a specific racial quota.
Whereas a decolonialisation project goes deeper to the roots of the problems that we are identifying in transformation as well. For the decolonial project is concerned with universities’ curriculums (sic) which are very eurocentric. This also includes an attitude of transformation around gender and sexuality, which includes studies of feminism and queer theory.
Essentially we are working towards an African university in Africa not just a university in Africa.
Speaking of feminism, you have described yourself as a feminist, what lead to that?
Well, basically I think it all started with the fact that I have a very strong mother. Even before I subscribed to feminism I had these tendencies and associations with women and their struggles for two reasons.
Firstly because I could see strength in my mother and secondly because I am queer and as queer people, we identify with sexual and gender-based oppression. So it is easy for me to understand, sympathize and empathize with women on that level.
For me, feminism is not just about equality, but freeing men from patriarchy as they are also oppressed by the standards of patriarchy. Why can’t men be who they want to be rather than what they are expected to be? Feminism is about freeing both men and women.
EFF members are often thought to be anti-white, how has your experience been, not only as a white member?
I think we must first understand how the EFF is portrayed in the media … by a very white media. So they are portraying the EFF as anti-white.
But yes, there are certain individuals in the EFF that are misinterpreting the purpose of the EFF. We must also understand that the EFF is primarily concerned with working class issues, and when the media comes into play, we have a class issue, because the media is primarily bourgeois orientated.
They serve the bourgeois class, they inform the bourgeois class. The EFF is against whiteness, white supremacy and white privilege, not white people. But they are also very clear that if white people stand in their way to transform, then we will remove you out of the way like we will remove anybody who will stand in the way.
The EFF is committed to radical transformation of land and unfortunately, white people control most of the land so obviously they are going to be the targets because they have been holding on to that land for 400 years and you do not want to give it up!
What about the reported cases of EFF members attacking students and a journalist?
We’ve witnessed where the EFF has been caught in situations where there is violence. I was put to investigate the situation and it came down to mostly a ‘he says, she says’. She [the journalist] claimed that it was, and they claimed that they didn’t. Although, there were some loopholes in the arguments. The investigation just died out. But in these instances it is important that we do investigate. We do not tolerate it, especially because it was a female journalist who was assaulted by a group of men.
What is your take on white privilege?
Most people do not even think that it exists. It is invisible; we carry it around with us. Basically it is a concept and reality a white person can be so privileged hat they do not even know they are. The problem today white privilege is the rejection of the fact that you are privileged by being white. You cannot deny that you are privileged.
There was slavery, colonization, apartheid and economic exploitation to benefit from. Most of us still live a above, middle class lifestyle, many of us travel and some are one of the most wealthiest people in the country. I am not saying there aren’t any black powerful people, but it is still small fraction of them.
Steve Hofmeyer once wrote you an open letter, referring to your beliefs and sexual orientation as a rebellious student phase that is designed to shock older generations with something new. What was your response to that?
I have actually never read the letter. I refuse to read the letter. I got a lot of comments from friends and random people so I know what the letter was about but I never personally read it. And up to this day, I still refuse to read it because it is like reading a verse out of Satan’s bible or something. It is unholy, it is evil, it comes from a very sick and twisted human being.
And I do not want to read that. But what I took from it, from what I was told is that he is a liar. He clearly has never read Karl Marx in his life. And when I say read I mean, read, not just opening a book and flipping through the pages. I did not read Karl Marx. I was reading with Karl Marx to produce higher forms of understanding.
Now if Steve Hofmeyer had actually read Karl Marx, he would’ve produced a higher form of understanding. I do not take anything that he says seriously because he has no commitment to a better life for every human being. He is only concerned about one group of people and that is Afrikaners.
Does your family support your political views?
They support me because I am their son, not my political views. We do not politically agree on many thing but they still support me. We do not really talk about politics.
Oscar Pistorius was due to be released on parole from the Kgosi Mampuru II prison this Friday.
His possible release to house arrest, once again questions the inequalities in the justice system of South Africa.
Pistorius was convicted of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, last year. He was found guilty of culpable homicide despite prosecutor’s pursuing charges of first degree murder. In his defence, Pistorius claimed that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and so he was acting in self-defence. He was sentenced to five years but he will likely be paroled after only 10 months due to good behaviour.
In the same prison, two months ago a man strode out of prison after being wrongfully convicted 11 years ago. Thembekile Molaudzi, a taxi driver from Soshanguve, was arrested in 2002 after a co-accused falsely identified him as one of the suspects.
“Molaudzi, a former taxi-driver, was reliant on over-worked Legal Aid lawyers provided by the State while Pistorius, an affluent celebrity, had access to some of the best legal minds in the country,” Carolyn Raphaely, a Wits Justice Project Senior Journalist said.
Legal Aid are lawyers who are tasked with representing poor people who cannot afford to pay for their own representation. But they are often not able to properly defend their clients, something Pistorius did not have to worry about.
While Molaudzi was struggling to access the transcripts of his trial and having his Legal Aid lawyers fail him repeatedly, Oscar Pistorius had his trial quickly concluded with a very strong legal team with the tenacious Barry Roux as the lead.
The fact that Pistorius had a speedy trial was also a sign of the special treatment that might have been afforded him. According to Wits Justice, many people wait years for their trials to begin.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]“A third of the South African prison population is locked up awaiting trial, many for years. Yet approximately two in five of these people will eventually be acquitted.”[/su_pullquote]
“A third of the South African prison population is locked up awaiting trial, many for years. Yet approximately two in five of these people will eventually be acquitted.”
Molaudzi received life imprisonment for murder and robbery and the eleven years he spent wrongly imprisoned were traumatic ones.
Molaudzi reported that he and fellow prisoners were “made to strip naked and tortured by warders for no reason. We were made to squat up and down in front of females with our genitals showing for everyone to see. They shocked us with shock-shields, just for fun. And they klapped me because they said I was a gangster.”
In Pistorius’ case, prison officials recommended that he be released due to good behaviour. According to Stephan Terblanche of the University of South Africa, the state’s prisons are overcrowded, so parole boards regularly recommend correctional supervision which includes house arrest.
The National Prosecuting Authority have filed an appeal against Pistorius’ culpable homicide conviction in the hope that it will be changed to murder which would result in a longer sentence. The appeal will be heard in November.