Where is the news?

The journalistic process is a grueling one. You are under constant mental strain, trying to figure out how to do justice to the stories of the people you are writing about. You also have to separate yourself, your feelings and beliefs in order to forward an agenda that has already been set. The battle field is already set, the lines are already drawn, you just have to stand at the side lines and watch the war happen.

We have been constantly reminded of how difficult it would be to get access to Somali women and how they don’t speak without the presence of Somali men and one of my colleagues have told me about a similar encounter but this has been for me to process.

I’m starting to think that maybe going into the community with my own preconceived ideas and agendas would be a disservice to the Somali women in Mayfair. Besides, Somali women are not the prototype for Muslim women and the Somali community is a growing one. They don’t feel quite at home but they’ve carved out a space for themselves in Mayfair where they feel comfortable, a place that is their own.

As a journalist, one has to find conflict for a story to be “worth it” a standard that i don’t fully agree with but those are the rules of the game. The conflict iwth Somalis in Johannesburg has been over done. and looking at the rest of my classmates will be explored even further.

Different stories have to be told, that is my purpose as a journalist.

Advertisements

Perils of a dark skinned Cape Malay Coloured Girl

Originally published: rafiekasfauxpas.tumblr.com
Perils of a dark skinned Cape Malay Coloured Girl Yesterday I posted a picture of myself on facebook wearing a wrapped scarf around my head and a hoodie, I was looking rather glum if I do say so myself and only vaguely interested in whatever I was listening to. The picture was taken during a photojournalism class and my colleague Reuven was experimenting with depth of field. I posted the picture because I thought it most effectively captured my mood at the time. One of my older friends from Cape Town commented on the picture, saying “Why had that sarafina look? PS: Shaka Zulu”… this was his comment, verbatim… I’m not sure if he was trying to insult me or trying to make a joke but I wasn’t laughing because I didn’t get it. So I asked him what he meant and his reply was “Dude you look like Sarafina!!!!”… I felt so furious by this underhanded attack at my choice of scarf and once again, my skin colour. I wasn’t insulted by the fact that he had referred to me as Sarafina but the fact that he thought I would take offence to it is what made me mad. I was mad that he intentionally used a racial distinction to make me feel bad or insulted in some way. I have been considered racially ambiguous all my life. People never know whether I am black or coloured.The first assumption is always that I’m black because I’m dark and my hair is covered with a scarf (which I wear because I’m muslim) but when I open my mouth it’s very obvious that I am coloured because of my Capetonian accent and the various shows of vulgarity in my speech (LOL not all coloureds are vulgar). I used to hate my hair and my skin tone because of it, always being referred to as black and made fun of by my coloured class mates because I was so much darker than them, oh and not to mention my derrière, I had a huge bum for a kid, easily twerkable, always in the way but not so much anymore. But it never really bothered me, I took it in my stride, I went with it, even though I knew nothing of being black I wouldn’t mind so much that they made fun of me because these were things that I knew couldn’t change. I can’t change the tone of my skin and even if I could, I’d never want to! My hair is always going to grow the same way, I could straighten it, but it will always come out of my scalp the same way! So my problem has never been with the fact that I’m referred to as something that I no doubt, look a lot like. I could be black any day, all I need is the language and the cultural know-how and you wouldn’t know the difference. My problem is that A: people make it out to be an insult like there’s something wrong with dark skinned coloured girls with kinky hair. It’s that same bullshit that happens in coloured communities where darker skinned coloureds are made to feel inferior to lighter skinned people with better hair and that same notion that breeds self-hate and lack of self confidence among coloured girls and that same notion breeds racism in coloured communities and that is the same fucking ideology that crippled this nation during Apartheid and has fucked up society as a whole! And it needs to stop! My other problem is that you are labelling me as something that I have no knowledge of and therefore disrespecting my own cultural ancestry. This one is a bit more layered and profound and doesn’t convey any element of social justice but I believe it’s important to allow people the freedom to be whoever they fucking are! Just because I don’t aesthetically fit your stereotype of a coloured person doesn’t mean you have the fucking right to impose your ideas of what I should be onto me. I grew up in a Cape Malay home, with coloured family and Cape Malay traditions. That means something to me and I deserve the freedom to embrace that. I am not black because I did not grow up in a black home with black cultural practices, whatever that may be. I do not understand the nuances of growing up in a black home, rich, poor, middle class or otherwise. I grew up on the Cape Flats speaking Afrikaans so fast that half of the words don’t come out; I woke up to people yelling from one corner to the other, with Sundays of Tevin Campbell and The Temptations, the smell of koeksisters and coffee filling up the house as the sun touched the earth; Ramadan meant the exchange of treats that my mother made between us and other muslim neighbours; every eid christian neighbours would dress up and celebrate with us and every christmas we would do the same; Guy fawks (guyfox) meant that we would throw one another with eggs and paint and smear toothpaste over eachothers faces and we’d all clean up the streets the next day; every boxing day we’d go to a beach and every 2nd January we went to watch the Cape Minstrels in Cape Town CBD. This isn’t all of it but it is part of what I believe make me coloured. And the values that these life experiences have taught me distinguish me from any other race. I do believe that it is a cultural distinction being coloured or being Cape Malay because there are things that we do that are distinguishingly different to other cultures of people. (I dare you to contest that) As a kid, I obviously didn’t understand this notion of identity and how bloody important it was, but now I completely get it. Especially in a world of people who are so blinded by everything else, it’s so easy to get lost, to forget who or what you are and where you come from. And I feel like those who came before me have a history and a legacy and played a part in me being who I am today and they taught me so much by showing me all those traditions and all those experiences and I have a responsibility to uphold that. Thats why my identity is very dear to me and I feel as though I have to defend it at all times and make people understand that they should let people be whoever the fuck they are. Gahdammit! Rafieka Williams

Yesterday I posted a picture of myself on facebook wearing a wrapped scarf around my head and a hoodie, I was looking rather glum if I do say so myself and only vaguely interested in whatever I was listening to. The picture was taken during a photojournalism class and my colleague Reuven was experimenting with depth of field. I posted the picture because I thought it most effectively captured my mood at the time.

One of my older friends from Cape Town commented on the picture, saying “Why had that sarafina look? PS: Shaka Zulu”… this was his comment, verbatim… I’m not sure if he was trying to insult me or trying to make a joke but I wasn’t laughing because I didn’t get it. So I asked him what he meant and his reply was “Dude you look like Sarafina!!!!”… I felt so furious by this underhanded attack at my choice of scarf and once again, my skin colour. I wasn’t insulted by the fact that he had referred to me as Sarafina but the fact that he thought I would take offence to it is what made me mad. I was mad that he intentionally used a racial distinction to make me feel bad or insulted in some way.

I have been considered racially ambiguous all my life. People never know whether I am black or coloured.The first assumption is always that I’m black because I’m dark and my hair is covered with a scarf (which I wear because I’m muslim) but when I open my mouth it’s very obvious that I am coloured because of my Capetonian accent and the various shows of vulgarity in my speech (LOL not all coloureds are vulgar). I used to hate my hair and my skin tone because of it, always being referred to as black and made fun of by my coloured class mates because I was so much darker than them, oh and not to mention my derrière, I had a huge bum for a kid, easily twerkable, always in the way but not so much anymore. But it never really bothered me, I took it in my stride, I went with it, even though I knew nothing of being black I wouldn’t mind so much that they made fun of me because these were things that I knew couldn’t change.

I can’t change the tone of my skin and even if I could, I’d never want to! My hair is always going to grow the same way, I could straighten it, but it will always come out of my scalp the same way! So my problem has never been with the fact that I’m referred to as something that I no doubt, look a lot like. I could be black any day, all I need is the language and the cultural know-how and you wouldn’t know the difference.

My problem is that A: people make it out to be an insult like there’s something wrong with dark skinned coloured girls with kinky hair. It’s that same bullshit that happens in coloured communities where darker skinned coloureds are made to feel inferior to lighter skinned people with better hair and that same notion that breeds self-hate and lack of self confidence among coloured girls and that same notion breeds racism in coloured communities and that is the same ideology that crippled this nation during Apartheid and has somewhat left our country in turmoil! And it needs to stop! The other problem is that you are labelling me as something that I have no knowledge of and therefore disrespecting my own cultural ancestry. This one is a bit more layered and profound and doesn’t convey any element of social justice but I believe it’s important to allow people the freedom to be whoever they are! Just because I don’t aesthetically fit your stereotype of a coloured person doesn’t mean you have the right to impose your ideas of what I should be onto me. I grew up in a Cape Malay home, with coloured family and Cape Malay traditions. That means something to me and I deserve the freedom to embrace that.

I am not black because I did not grow up in a black home with black cultural practices, whatever that may be. I do not understand the nuances of growing up in a black home, rich, poor, middle class or otherwise. I grew up on the Cape Flats speaking Afrikaans so fast that half of the words don’t come out; I woke up to people yelling from one corner to the other, with Sundays of Tevin Campbell and The Temptations, the smell of koeksisters and coffee filling up the house as the sun touched the earth; Ramadan meant the exchange of treats that my mother made between us and other muslim neighbours; every eid christian neighbours would dress up and celebrate with us and every christmas we would do the same; Guy fawks (guyfox) meant that we would throw one another with eggs and paint and smear toothpaste over eachothers faces and we’d all clean up the streets the next day; every boxing day we’d go to a beach and every 2nd January we went to watch the Cape Minstrels in Cape Town CBD.

This isn’t all of it but it is part of what I believe make me coloured. And the values that these life experiences have taught me distinguish me from any other race. I do believe that it is a cultural distinction being coloured or being Cape Malay because there are things that we do that are distinguishingly different to other cultures of people. (I dare you to contest that)

As a kid, I obviously didn’t understand this notion of identity and how bloody important it was, but now I completely get it. Especially in a world of people who are so blinded by everything else, it’s so easy to get lost, to forget who or what you are and where you come from. And I feel like those who came before me have a history and a legacy and played a part in me being who I am today and they taught me so much by showing me all those traditions and all those experiences and I have a responsibility to uphold that. Thats why my identity is very dear to me and I feel as though I have to defend it at all times and if i have to do it for the rest of my life, I will.

Rafieka Williams

The women are okay

From the tour we did yesterday, there were many of my fellow classmates who seemed eager to focus on Fordsburg and the Somali’s in the Mayfair area.

As a journalist, I believe that focusing on minorities is essential because voices are important. I have expressed my hesitance towards homeless people because I think telling the story of a homeless person would be false. False because I have an inclination to help a homeless person instead of exploiting them just so I could get a good mark. Marks are not everything.

I’ve only been a real practicing journalist for a year and I do believe that I am a journalist, from my core, but I know that reporting on homeless people rarely ever helps them unless it’s done properly and I’m not confident in doing that.

The role of women in little Mogadishu struck me though. Walking around in the streets in the Somali community in Mayfair and visiting the stores, I witnessed that there were very few women around. The tour guide had told us that Somalis prefer women to be home… When he took us to the local masjied (mosque), there was no facilities for women. As a Muslim woman I felt very distressed by this. I didn’t like it at all.

That feeling stayed with me and I still feel today, a day after the tour. However I took it as a learning experience. When in-depth started I was confident because I thought I knew the area but I was sorely mistaken.

As a journalist I believe I have an obligation towards these women. Not because I feel like they’re oppressed. I don’t believe that they are but my obligation I think is to explore the ways in which this is not about oppression or empowerment but the confidence these women have in their religion to express it in the way that is acceptable to you and your relationship with the almighty, not anybody else. There is power in that.

Women in Islam live different lives to women in the broader South African society. The world and society needs to know this.

“I am within and without. Enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

“I am within and without, enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life”

Fietas, Fordsburg, Mayfair. When I first heard this was the chosen locations for us to do our in-depth research, I felt like it had been chosen for me. I’ve had a battle with journalism this year because I’m not the conventional journalist, I’ve discovered that about myself but this was divine providence.  I live in the area,  I know the troubles and I know the culture. I’m going to nail this! I hope.

Going on the tour through Fietas today I felt partly an insider, partly an outsider. “I was within and without, enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life” is the quote from the Great Gatsby which most accurately captures my experience of the “tour”.

I have always been curious about Fietas. There is an aura of displacement hovering in the air. I have passed 14th street many times on my way to Wits where I have previously encountered what I referred to as a”village” of homeless people sedated their own displacement. I always walked pass very quickly and when I first started writing as a journalist I promised myself that I would tell these people’s stories.. but I never did. Even now for in-depth research project I can’t get myself to do a story about these people – I walk pass them quickly. Not because I’m afraid of interacting with them but because I am so fascinated that it borders on obsessive, which is something I don’t particularly like about myself.

My fear with doing a story about this “village” is that I would be exploiting them. I don’t want to exploit the little that these people have – their stories – for my own journalistic greed. How is 2000 words meant to capture the reality of someones pain and displacement.

Who was suspended?

Fifteen students are currently under investigation by the university following their involvement in the fight that broke out at what was supposed to be a Student Representative Council (SRC) debate on August 18.

“The investigative and suspension process will be concluded before the end of September,” said Shirona Patel, communications officer from Wits. She also said that the people who are under investigation are from the Economic Freedom Fighters, Progressive Youth Alliance and Project W.

But of these fifteen students, only seven students have been suspended, the majority of whom are members of Wits EFF. Lwazi Lushaba, a PhD student and Mcebo Dlamini, the former president of the SRC have also been suspended.

The Wits EFF students suspended were Koketso Poho, Mbe Mbehele, Ayabulela Mhlahlo, Tebogo Mabese, and Vuyani Pambo. All seven students are contesting their suspensions.

The Mail and Guardian reported that Lushaba received a letter from the university which based his affiliation with the EFF on tweets that he posted in support of the group’s agenda. Lushaba was quoted in the article saying that the fighting that happened at the debate was, “fairly proportionate to the intensity or pulse of the political contestation [that] erupted on the stage of the Great Hall, aborting what was supposed to be an SRC Election debate among different contending parties.”

According to Wits EFF, the university also used comments the student’s had made on social media as part of the reason for their suspension.

According to a statement released by the university, those who were suspended were punished for their disruption of the debate proceedings. This means that candidates who were suspended agreed and signed and an electoral code of conduct. The university said the candidates who disrupted the debate by protesting, breached this code of conduct.

Patel said the other eight under investigation did not have immediate action taken against them because they promised to shun violence during a meeting with the university council, whereas the seven suspended students refused.

On Monday another fight broke out at an election circus between members of the PYA and Project W at Education Campus. The Wits Vuvuzela contacted the university to find out about what action would be taken against these students and a response was not sent during the time of publication.

Project W responds to allegations of missing money

Originally published by Wits Vuvuzela on 11 September 2015

Project W recently spoke to Wits Vuvuzela to set the record straight about the allegations of mismanagement of funds.

Project W and SAUJS shared an office during the election campaign period. Photo: Provided
Project W offices. Photo: Provided

An article that was published by Wits Vuvuzela revealed that Project W is under investigation, for mismanagement of funds collected during an iPad raffle competition held in 2014.

Dr. Pamela Dube, Dean of Students at Wits University, confirmed to Wits Vuvuzela that, “A separate process is being conducted together with Project W pertaining to allegations about them.”

But Project W says that they have no knowledge of this investigation.

The organisation also said that it was inaccurate to allege that R50000 was collected in the raffle competition. The actual amount was R10 370, which is the amount that they raised last year for the iPad raffle.

“We never raised R50 000, at no particular point did we say we raised R50 000” said Jamie Mighti, member of Project W. “I don’t know where Shaeera gets that number, R50 000.”

“when we raise money, we raise money, solely for students”

Mighti said that the money from the raffle was initially meant to go the Humanitarian Fund but the organisation later decided that they would instead contribute the proceeds to their own textbook fund. At the time posters about the raffle which had already been printed and put up advertised that funds collected would go to the Humanitarian Fund, but Project W later made it clear to the Student Representative Council that the money raised would not go the Humanitarian Fund.

Project W revealed that they had made numerous posts on their Facebook page about their text book fund, which is what they have used the money for. Evidence provided by Thamsanqa Pooe, President of Project W, indicated that the money was used for the text book fund.

“Thanks to all those Witsies who helped raise money for the textbook fund. Project W has been able to hand over R15000 worth of books over the last semester for students,” read’s a post that the organisation had put up Facebook on May 13.

What about the car raffle?

The earlier article published by Wits Vuvuzela  mentioned that the car raffle that project W was hosting this year was cancelled due to the investigation. Project W however has confirmed that as far as they know, the win a car raffle was not cancelled but instead put on hold.

“The raffle was not cancelled in the first instance, there were some things which were not aware we had to comply with, which we have complied with. We are pending to resume the raffle “, said Mighti, who added that,  “Comrades complained and said we were campaigning and that’s why the raffle was suspended.”

Pooe added that, “With the car raffle, the purpose is to raise money for students with outstanding fees… when we raise money, we raise money, solely for students.”

Where is the money Project W?

Originally published by Wits Vuvuzela on 3 September 2015

Wits University has confirmed that Project W is under investigation after allegations of not depositing fifty thousand rand that was meant to be their contribution to the Humanitarian Fund.

Dr. Pamela Dube, Dean of students, confirmed that Project W is under investigation for mismanagement of funds saying, “A separate process is being conducted together with Project W pertaining to allegations about them.”

The win-a-car raffle that Project W was running during their election campaign was cancelled because of the investigation. “Project W had to be guided about the appropriate University procedures to follow in this regard and they are now addressing the gaps in the process,” said Dube.

“We feel the university has protected Project W for fraud,”

Shaeera Kalla brought up the missing funds during an election rally at Education Campus where she openly confronted Project W about the missing funds, asking “Where is the money?”

SHOWING INITIATIVE: Project W's Jamie Mighti stands with a flyer with information about the win-a-car initiative at the Project W office.
SHOWING INITIATIVE: Project W’s Jamie Mighti stands with a flyer with information about the win-a-car initiative at the Project W office. Photo: Reuven Blignaut

Wits Vuvuzela contacted Shaeera Kalla, acting president of the current SRC. She said that the SRC had made inquiries about the missing money since January. The fifty thousand rand was raised by Project W last year for a raffle to win an iPad. Kalla said that this money was supposed to go to the Humanitarian fund but she has yet to see the money deposited into the fund.

Kalla said that the money has not been accounted for by Project W and upon asking the party about the funds they refused to respond to her.

“We feel the university has protected Project W for fraud,” said Kalla.

Jamie Mighti a prominent member of Project W, was not available for comment at the time of publishing.

We’re all numbers to institutionalised power

Originally published by Wits Vuvuzela on 3 September 2015

We are all victims to the system!

You wake up in the morning, to act out your gendered role, to go to work, to drive on the right sight of the road, to abide by the laws of the country that you belong to as a citizen – just so you don’t get in anybody’s way… We are all victims to the system.

I enrolled at Wits four years ago, unaware of my dis-empowered, caged self. Until my first year in Sociology when I was taught that everything that I know has been part of a systematic control mechanism to ultimately make me a pawn to whatever category I fit into. And I have never felt more like a number than I do now. A fourth year Wits student who has a part-time job just so I can pay for my student loans and get to school, just so I can somehow make it in an industry that I thought was set to keep power in check. I was wrong, no matter how many Ruth First discussions we have, we will never be able to hold power to account in any meaningful way.

We are entrenched in capitalism, patriarchy, and a system of laws that are all ultimately steeped in injustice and inequalities. Societal structures that are supposed to liberate us, instead infringe on our freedoms to do whatever the f*ck we want.  Methods of control to dictate to us who and what we should be and even how we should be spending our time.

We are being policed at every point of our lives.

The puppet masters

The only people who benefit from this systematic infringement are those who are on top. They hold the power to do what they want with the lives of others and make decisions in order to allow the oppression to continue.

These people who occupy positions at the top of boards and heads of councils, sit in leather seats – specifically designed for their comfortable execution of oppression – have already made decisions about you and your place in this world. The worst part is that these people consider themselves humans but really they are just pawns as well. These “humans” cower behind their rhetoric of equality, peace and justice because they have the privilege of not having to account for not putting those words into action. Never considering that the money they make is not because of how hard they worked but because of how easily they were able to disregard the lives of others for their own personal gain, and many of us have done the same thing. Whose blood do you have on your hands?rafieka

We have been brainwashed into the belief that if we bow down and submit to the rules of gender, citizenship, religion and money, we would be rewarded. In essence we end up neglecting the self in order to move forward in our lives. But why should that be the case? Why should we submit to the constant policing of our opinions and all forms of our expression? Why should we be victimised by this all-encompassing power that controls universities, streets and social spaces?

It’s because we do not own ourselves. We have been forcefully detached from ourselves for the sake of control and there is no way around it because tomorrow you and I will wake up before sunset to please those who have downsized our worth to a number. Student number, ID number, tax number, clothing size number, licence number…

You and I, we’re just numbers.

Cool kid on campus: Karabo Mokoena

Originally published by Wits Vuvuzela on 24 July 2015

Karabo Mokoena is a 21 year Environmental Science student at Wits who is trying to change perceptions about black women’s natural hair and empower Africa at the same time. She is the CEO of a company called Nalane ea Afrika (African heritage) which produces natural hair care products for anyone who wants to manage their hair better.

EMPOWERING AFRICA: Karabo Mokoena is a Wits student making waves with her hair product Nalane ea Afrika. Photo: Lwazi Mazibuko
EMPOWERING AFRICA: Karabo Mokoena is a Wits student making waves with her hair product Nalane ea Afrika. Photo: Lwazi Mazibuko

Why did you start Nalane ea Afrika?

“It was that thing of, I’ve never seen MY hair. Having my hair natural means that, it’s my hair in its natural state, in its unique state… When we were little we would be forced to relax our hair and in those days, it was so painful. You would always burn from the relaxer and we want to prevent a lot of parents from having doing that to their kids because now we have the resources to change that.”

What is different about your product?

“One of the things that we strive for in the company is to only use African products. Everything that we use must be African. Even if we buy our oils, all our raw materials must be African. We even want the people who are giving us the raw materials to process them in Africa. So we want to empower Africa as a whole.”

How do you juggle the management of Nalane ea Afrika with your studies?

“My role right now is basically running the company, it’s still very small. The company I dedicate to during weekends. When I’m at school, I’m at school. I have my school time and then in between, even in between lectures, I’ll look at my e-mails to see what we need to do. I haven’t neglected my studies, I’m doing very well.”

How has your degree help you create the product?

“It helped in the sense that I did chemistry first year level, so that helped me understand when I was doing the research behind which products to use, which raw materials to use and if they would mix. I had a bit of background in that, so does my sister.”

Do you think that black girls at Wits are becoming more comfortable with their hair?

“I think so, I don’t think I could say yes or no. I only come on campus to do school and then I leave. So the people that I see – I see a lot of people with natural hair.”

What is the most important thing you want to achieve with your product?

“We’re going through a time where people are so conscious especially black women and I think the thing about having natural hair is seeing your true self. So I would like to achieve changing the mentality that – you being your natural self – is not right. That you can’t manage your hair because it looks unruly or it looks untidy. There’s so many hair styles you can do with your natural hair and I just want people to love themselves the way that they are.”