Marikana miners and family reflect on commission experiences

Article originally published on May 11, 2015 by Wits Vuvuzela, written by 

As the public awaits President Jacob Zuma’s release of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry report, miners and family members affected by the events of Marikana get a chance to share their experiences of the Commission.

MARIKANA ADVOCATE Advocate George Bizos, was among the attendees at the ‘Commissioning the present’ conference this passed weekend. Photo: Tendai Dube
MARIKANA ADVOCATE Advocate George Bizos, was among the attendees at the ‘Commissioning the present’ conference this passed weekend. Photo: Tendai Dube

Veteran lawyer and anti-apartheid activist, George Bizos, implored lawyers and organisations to pressure government to accept civil liability for the women and children of the victims of Marikana.

Bizos was speaking at the closure of the Commissioning the Present conference at Wits University on Saturday. The three day conference was organised by Social Economic Rights Institute (SERI) and the Wits History Workshop and took place from May 7-9.

“It gives voice to the victims of the massacre and their families – a group of people who were almost completely left out of the Commission’s work and narrative.”

Dr Julian Brown, a politics lecturer at Wits, and one of the organisers of the event, said the conference had hoped to “bring the voices of academics, lawyers, the families of the deceased, and the miners themselves into conversation with each other, so that we can learn from our different insights”.

Brown added that the conference would “interrogate the ways in which stories about the Marikana massacre have been constructed by the state and other public players – in particular, by the Commission of Inquiry”.

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry, headed by Judge Ian Farlam, was set up to investigate the events of Marikana (which led to the deaths of 44 people, 70 injuries and 250 arrests).

Stuart Wilson, executive director at SERI said the conference was important because, “It gives voice to the victims of the massacre and their families – a group of people who were almost completely left out of the Commission’s work and narrative.”

Unsatisfactory treatment during the Marikana commission of inquiry

A panel of miners and family members of deceased miners were given a platform to share their first hand experiences.

“I know that wasn’t done in order to find out the truth, it was done in order to persecute us.”

From their accounts, it was clear that there is a general belief that police were treated with greater dignity and respect during the Marikana Commission.

“I know that wasn’t done in order to find out the truth, it was done in order to persecute us,” said one of the panellists.

Nathabang Ntsenyeno broke down in tears as she spoke about how she watched her husband being killed in a video that was shown at the Commission. She added that the Commission was unsympathetic towards her, specifically pointed to the use of the term “uneducated” in reference to her and others at the Commission.

Nomasonto Gadlela explained how miners were repeatedly asked the same questions to the point where they felt intimidated.

Bringing together academia and lived experiences 

The conference also hosted academics who presented their work on Marikana.

The scholarly works dealt with topics such as – the lived experiences of men and women in Marikana; the social conditions in which the strike, and then the massacre took place; the role of Lonmin and mining capital, and the role of the police, to name a few.

Something that resonated from the scholarly works to the lived experiences of those affected was the reality of the lives of women in Marikana. Many women in the community have been forced to work in the Lonmin mines after losing their husbands because they have no other form of income or ways of supporting their families.

This has left many of these women feeling as if they are “a laughing stock” but they do it out of desperation, explained Nomfanelo Jali.

President Jacob Zuma has received Judge Farlam’s report and released a statement on May 10 indicating that he would release it publicly “in due course”.

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One killed and 240 injured in Denver train crash

Oringinally published onApril 29, 2015 by Wits Vuvuzela written by 

The train was on its way from Pretoria to Johannesburg when it collided with a stationary carriage.

METRORAIL CRASH: Metroplus carriages derailed into a building and another onto a platform. Photo: Illanit Chernick
METRORAIL CRASH: Metroplus carriages derailed into a building and another onto a platform. Photo: Illanit Chernick

 

A train crash in Denver, Johannesburg left one person dead and over 240 people injured, on Tuesday.

“I just heard this loud bang. The coach flew forward and lost its balance. I fell to the floor. There were people bleeding everywhere. I’m in shock.”

The rear end collision took place in the early hours of the morning, when a Business Express train collided with a stationary Metrorail train. Both trains were travelling from Pretoria to Johannesburg.

At the scene of the crash, the metroplus carriages were derailed, one crashed onto the platform and another into a building.

One of the victims told The Star, “I just heard this loud bang. The coach flew forward and lost its balance. I fell to the floor. There were people bleeding everywhere. I’m in shock.”

Russell Meiring, an ER spokesperson added, “ER24 paramedics, along with various services, arrived on the scene and found the wrecked trains blocking the tracks completely. Bent metal and parts of the train had been spread across the scene.”

Crash was not caused by signal failure

Mosenngwa Mofi, CEO of Prasa (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa) rail operations ruled out signal failure as the cause of the accident. He said that the crash occurred during the two minutes that the Metroplus train driver was communicating with the Metrorail control officer about whether or not to continue.

The woman who died has been identified as Tiisetso Napo, a Metrorail safety guard. Napo was standing at the back of the stationery train when the crash occurred.

Another woman, who has been identified as one of the train drivers, was air-lifted from the scene and taken to hospital where she is currently receiving critical healthcare.

CEO of Prasa, Lucky Monatana has said that Prasa will compensate the passengers that have been injured and has set aside 25 million rand. “The 25 million are for people who have suffered minor injuries… People will claim and we will pay them between R7 500, which is the minimum amount, and the maximum amount we will pay is R15 000, that will depend on the nature and extent of your injuries.”

Montana acknowledged the shortcomings of the current system and said that Prasa is in the process of implementing better railway systems. He also said that with the new systems there will be less space for human error.

Wits clinical med practice students facing disciplinary action

Originially published in Wits Vuvuzela on April 24, 2015 written by

A group of BCMP (Bachelor of Clinical Medical Practice) students are facing disciplinary action after it was discovered that they skipped out on hours during their hospital rotations.

Photo: Thendai Dube
Photo: Thendai Dube

Some Wits clinical medical practice students are facing disciplinary action, including being forced to de-register for their third year studies, as they falsified their practices requirements in second year.

A group of 24 students, who do not want to be named, are undergoing disciplinary hearings after it was discovered they had lied about meeting the requirements during their second-year clinical practice course. Evidence showed they had skipped out on hours that they were meant to serve at designated hospitals in Gauteng.

Thus far, two students have been allowed to continue to third year, three have been excluded and majority of the students have been told that they need to repeat second year.

“The conditions that we worked under, was not what we were promised”

According to those who have not been allowed to continue third year, the outcomes of the hearings are unfair because the transgressions are similar.

Unfair treatment and bad conditions

In addition the students feel that the harsh implications of their actions far outweigh the unfair treatment they received at both the hospitals and at the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“From day one, we’ve complained and nobody has done anything about it,”

Between struggling with challenging hospital conditions, lack of facilities, CommCare complications, dismissive doctors and lack of tutors, students claim that they were abandoned in their difficulties.

“The conditions that we worked under, was not what we were promised,” said one of the students.

Leaked e-mails between faculty staff and students, reveal they tried since last year to make their grievances heard but according to them these were ignored. They felt as though no efforts were made to help them better understand the course because they were not assigned a tutor.

“From day one, we’ve complained and nobody has done anything about it,” said another student. “We were left at the hospitals to fend for ourselves.”

The situation took a turn for the worse when two students confessed to their fraudulent behaviour and presented information to the faculty that implicated other students. This evidence would later turn out to be the primary evidence against the BCMP 24.

The dean and staff members of the faculty declined to give comment to Wits Vuvuzela, citing the ongoing hearings.

Meeting with the vice chancellor

Wits Vuvuzela observed a meeting between the students and Vice Chancellor Adam Habib. The vice chancellor told the students he could not interfere with the legal processes of the Wits students to allow them to finish third year.

“Even if I wanted to intervene, I can’t because our disciplinary process is an independent process and the vice chancellor has no authority to over-ride,” said Habib.

He added that it would be illegal to pass the students even if they had met most of the requirements to pass second year.

Students say they had passed the second year and the test they wrote about the practical experience they were meant to receive at the hospitals and by allowing them to register, they were misled to believe that they wouldn’t be taken action against.

In response to their outcry that the penalty was too harsh, Habib told the students that they had not done the necessary clinical practice to qualify for third-year. He added that their initial claim to have done clinical practice was “a fraudulent transaction”.

Habib also said he would be investigating the conditions the students had to undergo whilst they were doing their rotations and make a full enquiry into it, independent of the investigation.

The BCMP course requires students to do practical rotations at specific hospitals in Gauteng and North West provinces. Only students from Gauteng hospitals have been implicated in transgressions.

Social media used to mobilise youth against xenophobia

Originally published: April 19, 2015 by  on Wits Vuvuzela

Young people from Johannesburg used social media to mobilise a march to the Gauteng Legislature in an anti-xenophobia silent protest

SILENT PROTEST: group of youngsters sit quietly in front of Luthuli house in Johannesburg CBD. Photo: Rafieka Williams
SILENT PROTEST: group of youngsters sit quietly in front of Luthuli house in Johannesburg CBD. Photo: Rafieka Williams

Using social media and the hashtag“#SilentProtest”, a group of young people came together in an anti-xenophobia silent protest in Johannesburg CBD (Central Business Dsitrict), yesterday.

Starting with a twitter rant, organisers Thabang Manyelo and Sandiselwe Gamede decided to put their concerns about the recent attacks on foreign nationals into action. They asked fellow twitter users to join them in a protest at Luthuli house at 10am yesterday morning.

In response to Manyelo and Gamede’s tweets, a group of approximately 100 youngsters, many of whom had never met before, came together to show solidarity with foreign nationals living in South Africa.

WE ARE AFRICA: Protesters from different backgrounds gather at Beyers Naude Square in solidarity with foreign nationals who have suffered. Photo: Rafieka Williams
WE ARE AFRICA: Protesters from different backgrounds gather at Beyers Naude Square in solidarity with foreign nationals who have suffered. Photo: Rafieka Williams

Manyelo said his hopes for the march were about “Applying pressure on the government, saying that we won’t stand for this and we’re hoping you [government] see us and actually do something about it, not just make a statement and then let it be”.

From Luthuli House to Gauteng Legislature 

The march started at the ANC (African National Congress) headquarters, Luthuli House where the protestors stood quietly holding up signs condemning ‘xenophobia’. They then moved silently, with tape over their mouths, through Beyers Naude Square to the Gauteng Legislature.

When they arrived at the Gauteng Legislature building, they remained completely silent for an hour before singing the national anthem.

Acie Lumumba, Chairperson of the Youth Council of Zimbabwe, thanked the youth for their support.

Lumumba said the march changed his perception of how the majority of South Africans felt towards foreign nationals.

“I came here specifically against the advice of many Zimbabweans because I wanted to know, is this really what South Africa has become. And I’m happy to go back with a message to say even if it’s one, even if its two, there is still hope where Zimbabwe and South Africa can have a young generation that intertwines and builds towards a more prosperous region in Africa.”

Silence is Golden 

Explaining the reason for silence, Gamede said they wanted, “To start peacefully and end peacefully… We need to find pro-active ways to challenge views that we disagree with, without killing each other.”

According to Manyelo, the big message that the march is trying to drive is that social media can be an effective part of activism. He believes that their efforts will have a ripple effect on the government to be more pro-active in doing something about the violence.

LEST WE FORGET: the group of youngsters ended their march on  Gauteng Legislature doorstep, where they sang the national anthem. Photo: Rafieka Williams
LEST WE FORGET: the group of youngsters ended their march on Gauteng Legislature doorstep, where they sang the national anthem. Photo: Rafieka Williams

Smash Afrika, Yfm presenter and a former Witsie also heard about the cause through social media.

“The reason why I came here is because we have a f*cking crisis in our country that we need to fix ASAP and the only way we can fix it, is if young people come together and stand up against this … Xenophobia is whack (sic) and it needs to come to an end,” said Afrika.

Kirsten Leo, a 23 year old former Witsie said, “People are frustrated and they are directing their energy in the wrong way … As South Africans we can’t allow this.”

Conference to shift human perceptions

Originally published: April 8, 2015 by  on Wits Vuvuzela

Combining creativity and academia, the International Doing Human Conference hopes to “transform people’s thinking”.

Graphic: Provided by Wicds
Graphic: Provided by Wicds

A novel conference that aims to interrogate the idea of the human, will bring together academics and creatives at Wits University next week

The Doing Human conference takes place from April 14-16 with prominent speakers including Professors Ranabir Samaddar, Achille Mbembe, Xoliswa Sithole and T. O Molefe among others.

Prinola Govinden from WICDs (Wits Centre for Diversity (WICDs)), the hosts of the conference, said it was conceptualised by looking at creatives and the work they do in relation to humans. As such, the conference includes writers, artists, filmmakers, and intellectuals.

Haley McEwan, a researcher at WICDs said, “The motivation behind the event would be to foreground the politically contested nature of the category of the human”.

She also said the idea of the human is used in a common sense way but there is not enough critical debate and discussion surrounding the subject of human.

Although the 3 day conference will host keynote academics including Wits VC (Vice Chancellor) Prof Adam Habib,  the interdisciplinary nature of the event encourages people of all different backgrounds to come and participate.

The event on April 14th is open to the public at the Wits Theatre.

For more information visit Doing Human Conference.

To cycle or not to cycle, that is the question!

Originally published: March 16, 2015 by  on Wits Vuvuzela website.

In light of the start of Johannesburg cycle week there is a difference in opinion between public transport and cyclists.

COMMUTERS: Cyclists want consequences to be enforced when vehicles are parked in cycling lanes. Photo: Rafieka Williams
COMMUTERS: Cyclists want consequences to be enforced when vehicles are parked in cycling lanes. Photo: Rafieka Williams

This week will be used as a way to educate commuters about the use of cycling lanes. But taxi drivers and bus drivers, are complaining about the space that lanes take up on the roads in Braamfontein.

“It’s disturbing because it makes the roads smaller”

Luka Sibiya (59) who has been driving buses for 25 years said, “It’s an interruption because you stand here for one hour but you won’t see a single person riding a bike.” He added, “Now we have to stop in the middle of the road and that is going to hold up traffic.”

“It’s disturbing because it makes the roads smaller,” said 33-year-old taxi driver, Sifiso Thwala. He thinks the lanes are unnecessary and that it threatens taxi drivers’ job security because people will want to cycle instead of taking taxis.

Making Johannesburg a more cycle friendly city

Cyclist Mehita Iqani of the Johannesburg Urban Cycling Association (JUCA) believes that Braamfontein is an ideal place for cycling lanes. According to Iqani the lanes provide a protective space for cyclists on the road. When asked about other commuters who don’t respect the cycling lanes, she said “they’re not interested in sharing the road … Cars that park in the lanes need to stop doing that”.

Simphiwe Ntuli of Johannesburg Road Agency said the reason for the lanes were on the basis that there are a large number of students who cannot afford public transport and don’t have their own cars.

“As the City of Johannesburg, our strategy is to educate our community with one on one talks and leaflets” said Ntuli. The next step would be to enforce the rules of the road said Ntuli, “if you park on the lane you get a nice big fine.”

Wits Vuvuzela boot camp: not for the faint hearted

By Rafieka Williams

It’s 8:32am on a Monday morning. I am two minutes late for the first day of boot camp. As I step in, I squeal out an apologetic murmur, thinking that it would suffice for a measly two minutes. Surely they’ll go easy on us, it’s only the first day, or so I thought…

Jo-anne Richardson, our lecturer for that day, was not so lenient. Immediately she singled me out for my late coming. Her icy glare darted directly at me from across the room and shot me down. It was at that moment that I knew that this course was not going to be a walk in the park.

The next two weeks was followed by intense intake of knowledge – journalism 101. The do’s and don’ts, the hows, whens, whys, for what purpose, for who’s, these were all established in two weeks.

Following those two weeks, we were immediately put to work running the Wits Vuvuzela. And although the Vuvuzela is a campus newspaper, it’s run the same as any good newspaper, with pitches and deadlines.

My hope for this journey is that at the end, when I graduate, I will have all the tools to not only be a good journalist but one that has an impact on the current system of injustice and inequality. I want to break the boundaries and show that marginalized voices count in every way.

I can say that it has been an exciting experience and the journey thus far has been a thrilling one and I know that it can only get better from here on out…

STILL HAPPY: taking things one day at a time at the Wits Journalism department. Photo: Yagazie Emezi
STILL HAPPY: Rafieka Williams is taking things one day at a time at the Wits Journalism department. Photo: Yagazie Emezi

 

The six most important things you need to know about British American Tobacco operations in South Africa

The British American Tobacco (BAT) has fueled controversy after it was discovered by SARS to be involved in dishonest dealings of corporate espionage. Here are a few important facts about the company and their operations in South Africa.

british_american_tobacco_building_nw260709

By Rafieka Williams

1.  Multi-Billion dollar company: BAT is a leading supplier of tobacco in the country and is the largest company listed on the JSE. They supply brands like Peter Stuyvesant, Lucky Strike, Dunhill and Craven A.

2. Getting rid of the competition: BAT was accused by rival companies for allegedly committing corporate espionage. BAT had apparently used underhanded methods to undermine their competition. It was said that BAT used spies and agents employed at competing companies to gain information to further their own agendas and stay ahead of the competition.

3. Guilty as charged:In 2014, South African Revenue Services (SARS) launched an investigation into the company.  The investigation revealed evidence on affidavits, audio, video recordings and copies of financial transactions implicating the company of money laundering. Sources from SARS and a senior BAT agent confirmed these allegations.

4. Spies: Belinda Walters, employed at the State Security Agency was reported as being one of the agents involved in corporate espionage for BAT. According to City press she had an affair with SARS head of security in order to gain information. Michael Peega was also accused of being a double agent for both BAT and Forensic Security Services.

5. International Operations:  Travelex was the service used for payment to various agents in different countries. BAT had reportedly recruited agents far and wide to spy for the company. They set up off shore accounts to pay these agents. 

6. Not the first time: The allegations of corporate espionage is not new to BAT. In 2012, President Robert Mugabe warned the tobacco company about their dodgy dealings in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe independent reported that the president would take action against the internationally listed company for trying to out their Zimbawean competition Savanna.