When the shoe is on the other foot….


The link above is one of many that have totally perplexed me. South African criminals are amazingly quite aware of their rights when the long arm of the law catches up with them.
I had a friend who worked for an organisation that fought for the rights of prisoners, and she was inundated by calls from the said prisoners to help them out when they felt their rights were being infringed upon in prisons.
Some lamented being moved to a prison far away from their families, yet they were in prison for murder – which is taking away other people’s loved ones permanently.
Rights come with responsibilities, but these selfish, cruel people think when it comes to them, the system should bend over backwards to make their lives comfortable.
Meantime, who is making those they wronged comfortable? Criminals should know that they are locked up not because they are model citizens. They are there because they performed bad deeds, and bad deeds must be punished.
I’m not advocating for prison abuse, I’m just saying criminals should not end up looking more comfortable than the people they tormented before they got caught.


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“Don’t judge my path if you haven’t walked my journey”

Last week I wrote a story that touched people from far and wide. A mother and her 17-year-old disabled son were evicted from their flat after the building was auctioned. People from as far as Germany and London got in touch with me to find out what they could do to assist this woman, Lucia Mdluli. In a world where people are primarily concerned about taking care of Number 1, I must say I was pleasantly surprised and my faith in people doing good was definitely restored.


South Africa is torn along racial lines but people across the racial divide came forward with money and offers for free accommodation. Lucia spent almost a week sleeping in the cold with a son who has a bad chest, among other complications.

Amidst all this goodwill, there were of course those that never feel good unless they have put in an ugly word to break someone’s heart. Some people questioned why this woman was not sending her son to a home. They said she was capitalising on her son’s disability in order to get sympathy and everything that came with it from the public.

I disagreed because I believe no child should ever be separated from his mother if the situation can be helped. People dump their disabled children on the streets, in hospitals, and at institutions for the disabled sometimes not because that’s where they will get the best care. It is extremely difficult to look after a disabled child and even the best mothers in the world would gladly pass on the burden to someone else.

There are lots of cultural stigmas attached to disability, especially in Africa. Your friends shun you and relatives also avoid you like the plague. Pregnant women spit inside their jerseys to avoid having a child with similar disabilities, nobody likes disability. So if there are mothers out there who are willing to be shunned, to wash terry nappies of 17-year-old children, by all means let them be allowed to do so for such mothers are few and far between.

Even if she does benefit from her son’s condition, so be it. She has earned, she has lost so, so much and missed out on life as she takes care of him. I raise my glass to all Lucias in the world.

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Three peas in a pod

Photos by Jay Caboz
WITS students and staff have been left seeing triple with the addition of identical triplets Alicia, Delicia and Felicia Arjunan to the campus.
“At first glance, people can’t tell us apart but after two weeks they begin to see the differences, after a while they will so see that our personalities are similar, though not identical,” explained the chirpy Alicia.

Born 19 years ago on the 17th of August in Durban, the Alicia, Delicia and Felicia are studying BComm Philosophy, Politics & Economics, BA International Relations and BComm General, respectively.

According to fertility Doctor Birgit Bothner, "Chances of triplets is 1:80 by power of two without infertility treatment and with it chances a bit higher depending on how many embryos are transferred at embryo transfer."

But multiple births are becoming more common because of the increased use of fertility treatments. Triplets or twins are born when either an egg is fertilised more than once or if the mother has more than one egg at the same time.

According to Alicia, their mother named them in alphabetic order after they were born. But somehow Delicia, who developed in her own embryo, was born second while Alicia and Felicia shared the other.

The Arjunans say they hope to be involved in modelling and advertising where their status as triplets could be put to good use.

Peter Maher, Wits alumni relations director, said his office had no record of twins or triplets studying at Wits at the same time.

“Unfortunately our database isn’t able to capture or indicate family relationships,” he said.

The Arjunans always move around campus together and say it is normal for them to be seen as a collective and not as individuals.

“This is what we have always known since we were born. Maybe it will be a hard knock when we start working and have to go our separate ways,” said Felicia.

The girls celebrate their birthdays by dressing in identical outfits. They share the same interests and friends as they make a point of introducing new friends to each other.

“Because we spend so much time together, we have formed similar likes and dislikes,” said Alicia.
Being twins, and moving around in a group, also affects their love life and how boys approach them.

“They become our friends first, and then they get to know us,” said Alicia.

“They find something they are attracted to, and then they start spending time with the particular person they like,” added Delicia.

Felicia said guys who say they wouldn’t mind dating any of the sisters did not amuse her and her siblings.

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Cry my beloved Oscar

The Oscar I think I know

The Oscar I think I know

THE arrest of Oscar Pistorius for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, has left many people, including myself shell-shocked.

I met Oscar late last year when he came for an interview at a TV station I was working for. He was gracious, showed me an ugly wound on his head, and even offered to make coffee for me. It felt like we had been friends for decades. I immediately decided he was the best celebrity I would ever spend time with.

He touched so many lives, and inspired many disabled people around the world. Now that he stands accused of murdering Reeva, the people that love him are stunned and confused.  Although the odds are against him, I have decided to believe that yes, he killed his girlfriend, but he’s still innocent until proven guilty of murder. He has already been convicted on Twitter, Facebook, other media and the court of public opinion but that does not count.

We definitely didn’t see this coming. I follow him on Twitter and he was really excited about the new year. “Gooood Moooorning 2013! I love you already! ☺☀,” read Oscar’s first tweet of the year. I doubt he ever saw himself sobbing uncontrollably in the dock with the whole world watching.

I have ardently participated in Facebook debates around him because I am struggling to wrap my head around the fact that he could actually be a gun-toting murderer. One “Hang Oscar” proponent had this to say to me after I voiced my opinion on the case:

“You really love this f&%$# murderer, don’t you?”

Heaven help me, I do love this ALLEGED murderer. And love is not a tap that you just turn off and everything stops flowing just because a person has done something bad.

I will condemn in the strongest terms that he had a gun lying around and ended up using it with grave consequences to Reeva and himself. But it doesn’t mean I automatically have to hate him and start cracking jokes about his disability.

Oscar really did South Africa and the continent proud with his sporting achievements. But all that can’t save him from the full wrath of the law if he murdered Reeva.

As much as I hate to believe he deliberately killed his girlfriend because he appeared to be a very sweet person, I’m cognizant of the fact that notorious ‘90s serial rapist and killer, Moses Sithole was remembered by many as a very charming man who was even involved in charitable activities.

Killers do not come with horns or tails, they sometimes come as charmers. I hate to put Oscar in the same category as Sithole and the criminals that have terrorized this country. So until the courts prove otherwise, I will keep the faith, although I have secretly started stashing boxes of Kleenex to wipe egg off my face. Just in case….

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Less Yada Yada, more action

Just two months ago we commemorated the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.

On Valentine’s Day, instead of people concentrating on spending time with loved ones, they were encouraged to join the One Billion Rising campaign.

The next day some organisations encouraged people to wear black from head to toe to show their anger towards violence against women in South Africa. All this happened against the background of the diabolic rape and murder of Anene Booysen, and the alleged murder of Reeva Steenkamp.

How do these initiatives actually help the cause? After we have raised our one billion voices and worn black to match the hearts of perpetrators of violent crime, what next? Are rapists and murderers going to stop in their tracks at the critical time and remember that people made noise and wore black in protest of their deeds?

What we need is not song, dance and placard-waving for two minutes. We need to go back to the drawing board to find a working solution to this scourge. Maybe prison sentences are not deterrent enough. Perpetrators of violent crime should not come out on parole or on medical grounds. A man who had just been released on parole raped a 94 year-old Swayimane woman in August last year. Many of these “reformed” criminals who were unleashed back to society on parole have gone back to commit similar horrific acts.

Amnesty International is up in arms with Zimbabwe for hiring a new hangman after 12 years of no executions.  At the rate at which violent crime is going, more and more South Africans are beginning to feel budgeting for a hangman’s salary this side of the Limpopo would be an extremely attractive idea. Pro-lifers would hate this suggestion but why do we seem greatly concerned about the rights of violent criminals and not those of victims and potential victims?

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 3rd Edition

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CJC, Wits students butt heads with Aengus

Wits students staying at WTF Lofts have been left in the cold following protests by Central Johannesburg College (CJC) students and an investigation by Wits Vuvuzela.

Things came to a head last week after students from CJC ran amok and accused Aengus Property Holdings (APH), a company contracted to give them accommodation, of favouring Wits students because they were paying more money.

After Wits Vuvuzela called APH to investigate, a Wits student, Gundo Mmbi called to say she and other Witsies had been stopped from moving into WTF Lofts after they had paid a deposit and signed leases.

Mmbi said she had been asked to come and collect her keys and move into her room. On arrival at APH with their luggage, she and other Wits students were told to go back home as they were not getting accommodation anymore. Their banking details were taken and they were advised they would be refunded on Monday.

“There was no explanation why we are being refunded or any logical explanation or an apology.”

On Monday, Mmbi said she called APH to ask about the refund and was told her money would be in her account within 21 days. She also accused APH of favouring CJC students.

“CJC students are supposed to pay R2250 per room two people sharing, and they put four of them in that and that means they make more money by overcrowding them. Now we are homeless.”

APH CEO Peter Schubach said agents had accepted money from Wits students, promising them accommodation which was no longer available. He said the Wits students would have their deposits reimbursed.

Mmbi believes she and her friends were denied the promised accommodation because Wits Vuvuzela had approached APH over allegations that Wits students were getting preferential treatment over CJC students.

According to the CJC students the company has a contract with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and CJC to provide accommodation.

CJC students had already moved into WTF Lofts in January, however, on the night of the 29th, an official from APH came to inform them they would be moved to another building in Langlaagte.

“We don’t want to go to Langlaagte. It’s too far, which means we would be late for our lessons every day. The bathrooms there are dirty, transport is poor, water supply is poor,” said a student would only identify himself as “CK”.

The CJC students marched from the building they were being ejected out of, WTF Lofts at the corner of Juta and Biccard streets, to RAD Lofts on Bertha Street, just opposite Wits University.

They sang and toyi-toyied outside and marched back to WTF Lofts where foam single-bed mattresses were being loaded onto a truck.

Students took the mattresses from the truck and carried them back into the building but were denied entry.

Some of the CJC students got rowdy and blocked traffic along Juta Street. One female student threatened Wits Vuvuzela journalist, Zandi Shabalala.

“You will be sorry if you take pictures of us,” she said before hitting Shabalala’s camera with a fist. Another CJC student threw a mattress at her.

A comment could not be obtained from the CJC co-ordinator.  Another official from the school, who would not give his name, referred all questions to APH.

Schubach said CJC students evicted were never meant to stay at WTF Lofts permanently.

“[They] were just supposed to be housed temporarily for one or two nights while we looked for other accommodation. They did not even sign leases.”

Schubach said some students agreed to be moved while those that resisted had to be forcibly removed.

One of the students that moved to Langlaagte told Wits Vuvuzela that conditions at the residence were deplorable.

“We live in a commune and the showers do not have curtains. The rooms have no windows, it’s just walls and walls.”



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Accommodation woes dog Wits 1st years

By Charlotte Nyatanga and Zandi Shabalala

THE accommodation problem at Wits has reared its ugly head again.

Wits Vuvuzela witnessed tearful first years sitting dejectedly in Senate House with their luggage. Some of them were accompanied by their parents.

Lunga from Pietermaritzburg was among those that found themselves without a roof over their heads. He and his mother huddled in a corner near International Office with boxes of take-away. Lunga said he got a NSFAS loan, which caters for accommodation as well, but was told all places were full and the accommodation office was not accepting late registration.

Other individuals offering alternative accommodation wanted deposit upfront, which most new students did not have.

Accommodation flyers were being distributed around campus. On average single rooms were going for R1 700 per month, shared rooms for two people going for R 1 500 while apartments were R2 750.

The problem of housing for first year students is a recurring one. While they continue to struggle with accommodation a solution is yet to be found.

An official from the accommodation office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said housing was allocated on a point system. There are four main factors to be considered when an application is processed: geographic location, age, the time of the application and also matric academic results.

He said most students who were being turned away had not applied on time and would not get accommodation. He said those that wanted to register late were often accompanied by their parents for good measure but their efforts would ultimately be futile.

Another accommodation office official said he felt bad for the students who didn’t make it because their parents often pleaded and said Wits was their last hope.

“You really feel for the parents…they say ‘I’m from Limpopo, my child has no other options,’ it’s sad.” said the official.

However, his colleague told Vuvuzela: “I got used to it, you have to keep it moving.”

“We have limited spaces and we can’t offer a space to everyone…but we do give them a list of the private accommodation that accepts even NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] students.” said the colleague.

Lindokuhle Sibanyoni, a LLB 1st year student from Mpumalanga, explained how she had applied for accommodation on time but was put on a waiting list.

When she went to the accommodation office she was told she only had 71 points and needed 79 to qualify for accommodation. Her brother and mother had accompanied her and were now frantically helping find alternative accommodation.

In 2011 Wits Vuvuzela reported that of the 15 000 first years who applied for residence, there was only space for 739 students.

Wits Vuvuzela requested comment from Accommodations Office head Rob Sharman but had not received a response by the time of going to print.

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