[IT’S VERY AMAZING] How A UJ Student Does Wonders Upon Wonders To Shape Africa

By Gaby Ndongo & Magnificent Mndebele

He was a pain in the ass. In other words, he was as bad as hell and so were his friends – naughty young fellows. They partied and drank alcohol over and over again, but his unquenchable thirst kept on creating an emptiness inside of him which sought to be filled up with a vision and focus of being a selfless individual – a young philanthropist who currently performs wonders and then wonders upon wonders.

Samuel Oken, a 25-year-old who is currently a third-year UJ student, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), more specifically in Lubumbashi. He has made his life an eternal river: a source of hope and strength for the less privileged of Africa’s future – the youth.

He is a person characterised by generosity, love, care, ambition, focus and humility but these qualities would not have been part of him without Claudette Katamba, his mother.

Blessed To Be A Blesser

Oken’s down-to-earth attitude and humility are the fundamental humanitarian values which made him establish a non-profit organisation in December 2015, called The Oken Samuel Foundation. This is a foundation that is aimed at alleviating poverty while seeking to make education accessible to every child on the African continent.

“It’s purely a charity-work [organisation], helping people by making sure that they live a better life and [ensuring] that at least kids have three meals per day, like what I am doing in Congo,” said Oken cautiously. “When God blesses you, He blesses you to bless other people. When God gives you something, it is not only for you.”

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He says his vision of The Oken Samuel Foundation was also impacted by his religious stance, Christianity.

The broader perspective is for the organisation to provide aid not only in South Africa, instead Oken hopes for the foundation to spread its wicks and provide shelter to other citizens of the African continent.

This is why the young benefactor prefers to term it as a Pan-African organisation which receives its vitality from the passion of those leading it, who do so not for money neither fame. “The way my foundation is, I am neither doing it for the money nor publicity, [and] it is the passion that drives me.”

An Impactful Life Bears Wonderful Fruits

When Oken decided to quit his bustling, youthful life of drinking and partying he had never thought of how impactful his decision would be to the friends who said it was only a sojourn, he will be back to the old life.

Some later on “called me, saying that they have changed and are reading the Bible,” Oken says. “To be honest with you, a lot of people in Congo have also started non-profit organisations because of my organisation.”

As much as his life has become an inspiration to his mates, “what keeps me going is when I see the children we help smiling. It touches my heart because people always remember how you make them feel,” he says with a smile that symbolises that his thoughts are in an imaginative mode, reminiscing smiles of the children his organisation seeks to aid.

Last year October and December, The Oken Samuel Foundation went to help the children in Orlando, Soweto. But what touched him in spirit is that “those kids could pray Our Father who art in Heaven…that really touched me because at least they know that God cares about them,” articulates Oken. “That even touched my mother because I went with her to the kids.”

A Road To Success Is Rocky And Thorny

Oken reasonably does wonders after wonders then wonders after wonders, but the most difficult thing he had ever faced was raising funds “because people always think you want their money [for personal benefits]. And one of the main challenges was to build [the] trust of people.”

One has to be convincing for those whom he seeks financial assistance from to be considerate. He says that at times an individual needs to exhort them by even ensuring them that he is a transparent person and a Christian. Lack of trust is the source of such complication.

Nonetheless, the humanitarian illuminated that one has to be active on social media and maintain a level of trustworthiness based on consistency that will eventually earn the positive thoughts of others towards what he does. “People must see where the money goes… because when it comes to money, people have real trust issues.”

He says sometimes when he experiences hurdles such as getting transportation so that the children could get help it makes things worse for him and he feels like giving up, “but with the help of God anything is possible, with faith anything is possible.”

Greediness Of People Cripples The World

Oken has learned to be selfless and made his life a living sacrifice for God “by living a life that would bring change to the world.”  However, there is one thing that detonates his heart into unrepairable pieces, “it is the greediness of people. There is enough money in the world to feed everyone,” he says while manifesting his heart-break by some of the “terrible” things he has seen in Congo.

He wants The Oken Samuel Foundation to continue with the spirit of Pan-Africanism, the spirit of uniting Africa. “I love my country, I’ve always wanted to do something. With my Foundation, I can do a lot of things in Congo. I am planning to go back to inspire young people to become better leaders than our actual leaders,” he optimistically says.

IMG-20170412-WA0020Currently, The Oken Samuel Foundation is doing some charity work in South Africa, Congo and endeavours to expand to Angola, Gabon and other African countries. But how could that be possible because greediness cripples the world and if one is reluctant to impact the youth of the continent by supporting his organisation.

“You are blessed to be a blessing because at the end of the day it is not about you. You are blessed to be a blessing to others”

“I really want to impact people, bring change to the world and leave a legacy so when I die people would remember what I am doing,” this is one of the key reasons Oken do what he does.

When asked to define himself in a single word, the young philanthropist said he is a “focused” person who focuses on things that matter the most of which education is a part of.

DISCLAIMER: This content is sponsored by The Samuel Oken Foundation, the fundamental aim is to highlight the blocks it has built on pursuit to build the continent for better, to unite us as African people to come together with Ubuntu to collectively shape the future of the continent.

#FREEDOMDAY: VOTING IS NOT WHAT IT WAS 23 YEARS AGO

By Xiletelo Mabasa

The 27th of April 1994 is a day that your history teacher in school would never let you forget. As discussed in the first part of this series the day we now know as freedom day was met with a lot of promise.

It was an explosion of happiness and excitement bringing about feelings that have now turned sour. We spoke to four UJ academics who reflected on the how much has changed and remained the same in the past two decades.

Prof Jane Duncan, Journalism Lecturer

 JANE DUNCAN

“It’s been very different on subsequent voting days because I don’t think that voting has been nearly as popular as it was at that stage. I think it’s lost that kind of communal feeling and that sense of excitement that existed in ’94. And of course, for many people, it was the first time that they were voting so there was also that novelty aspect to it as well.

Apparently, scepticism is nothing new for South Africans. “Many people at that stage were also quite weary about what the transition meant. Not everyone was starry-eyed.”

Duncan explained how voters were critical of the outcome of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) negotiations. “We had a transition that got rid of formal apartheid although there was the government left social relations intact in the country. I think we still live the legacy of that compromise now.”

 South Africans cannot wait for someone else to do things for them we need to roll up our sleeves.

  Thea de Wet, Director of Centre for Academic Technologies (CAT)

 Thea de Wet

“I think we live in a very negative atmosphere which is very unnecessary. If you look at world history and the history of countries all countries go through these cycles. We’re not the only country with a president that’s problematic if you look around the world there are many of them.”

“South Africans are a bunch of moaners,” she said. “We always want someone else to fix the problem. I’m not saying people shouldn’t protest, I’m not against protests. But I think now you burn down the school, you steal from people while you loot you think you’ve actually done a wonderful thing but it’s not going to make a big difference. So what about just rolling up your sleeves and doing something as a community.”

de Wet said that although we cannot change the national situation so easily we could always foster change in our own communities.  She referred to an environmental initiative in her own community. Two weeks ago “around my area, we had a cleaning up operation. You put gloves on and you just clean,” she said.

Thea believes in the power of the youth. “I’m a very optimistic person. I see a good future. The Zuma government will come to an end soon, younger people will take over. Younger people with a different vision for the country, with less baggage and hopefully less greed. Look at the university it’s full of very smart young people.”

de Wet also emphasised the importance of healthy criticism coming from academics. “Academic freedom is very important. It’s important to speak your mind and not land in jail like people in Turkey.”

South Africa is simply following a pattern that exists in post-colonial African societies.

Prof Dumisani Moyo, HOD of Journalism, Film and Television

 DUMISNI MOYO

“It’s like [that] in every other African country, you find that a few years down the line people start questioning whether the Euphoria of independence was well-placed or it was miss-placed euphoria. You see that among the promises of ’94 were these big issues around equality, around economic redistribution, around empowerment of black people that have been formally oppressed.

Then you fast-track to today, then you understand the frustration that you start seeing across the country in service delivery and other things, where you find that the liberation movement has fallen far short of what it had promised. And you start seeing some of those very typical accesses that you have seen in other African countries, post-independence, where you start seeing images of amassing wealth, and intolerance in terms of clamping down on people’s freedoms. Not so much here in South Africa in terms of those things, but I think the general feeling that the leadership has abandoned its moral compass.

“Where looting becomes one characteristic feature of the new dispensation, the leadership is more inward looking and looking at the personal accumulation of wealth at the expense of looking at the poorest in society. The challenge in the country is that you now have the society being pushed to become one of the most unequal societies in the world.”

“And that is the biggest crisis that you face where the gap between the rich and poor has continued to widen, and it seems very little is being done to try to narrow that gap. So all these things that you now see about state capture and so on these are fundamental challenges where you begin to see that actually some of the promises have not been carried through perhaps in fear of rocking the boat in terms of chasing away investors.”

“All the governments from Mandela, to Mbeki to Zuma now, none of these governments have done anything that is radical enough to transform the economy. You find that the whole language of radical transformation gains currency because new organisations such as the EFF, which is now trying to appropriate the language of the freedom charter and make it their own.”

“Everybody now is trying to compete in terms of who owns the freedom, the language of the freedom charter. There is deep frustration and for me, it’s quite sad because South Africa being the last to go through decolonisation you would imagine it would have learnt a lot from the other post-colonial African countries.”

“Of course they did learn; they came up with a brilliant constitution, the economy is still fairly strong but I think in terms of addressing the core issues that people were fighting for there are big question marks and one could talk about [a] significant degree of failure or betrayal of the masses if you want to put it that way.

Many socio-economic problems remain despite a significant improvement in the political arena.

Prof Salim Vally, Director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation

 Salim VallyThe issues faced under apartheid are still rife “because the structure of the economy has not changed because for many people having the right to vote and basic democratic rights, while important, remain hollow since ‘you can’t eat the vote’ is what a lot of people say. And certainly, we have repeated the mistakes made by other post-colonial countries.” Karl Marx said: “First time as tragedy, second time as comedy.”

“I just think that looking back there’s a deep sense of disappointment. There’s a questioning about this trajectory we chose and it’s an understanding that comes with knowing facts like inequality continues massively. That racism is part of the warp and woof of the fabric of society. That while there was change it did not benefit the vast majority but those who were privileged in the past and a new layer, a small layer, of the black elite. But basically, the vast majority of black people in our country have not seen the kinds of changes that many of us struggled for.”

“I don’t think it’s still too late I think there’s a lot of work to be done and we can turn the situation around. But certainly, the level of corruption and what we have witnessed over the past two decades has disillusioned many people. So there is a sense of depression but I think that the only way to deal with it, is to be [involved] in the new movements that are starting, that are springing up and to listen to the young people who are trying to change the situation and who are not satisfied with the failed promises.”

So what now?

Twenty-three years into independence and South Africa’s transition into a post-apartheid society has been rocky. Many had predicted the situation we would be in and here we are. A healthy dose of scepticism is needed in order to properly navigate the space we’re in politically. Although corruption may be unacceptable the impact of our colonial history needs to be taken into account. Redressing inequalities that were crafted over 300 years ago is not easy to do in just two decades.

WHAT IT WAS LIKE ON THAT HISTORIC DAY IN 1994

By Xiletelo Mabasa

To our parents, the 27th of April 1994 was current affairs but to us it is history. Born-frees and anyone of us who was a toddler at the time has seen countless documentaries about the fall of apartheid and the ‘euphoria of 1994’.

But what was it like to stand in a line for hours on end, to mark off the name of a party when they previously never having the right to do so? The Open Journal asked four UJ academics to give their account of voting and even watching the event unfold from other parts of the world.

Prof Jane Duncan, Journalism lecturer

…even the sceptics were caught up in the excitement of the day.

JANE DUNCAN

“I was voting with my husband in Yeoville and it was fabulous because there was an incredible spirit on the streets. It was just fascinating, meeting people and listening to what they had to say about their expectations of the day just in the park where the voting took place.”

“We queued, for I think it was about seven hours, but nobody minded because it was just a huge event. You met new people and got to know them and you formed friendships in the line.

The spirit was great and we hardly even noticed in fact that we were queuing for seven hours because it was just like an outing for the day. I just remember the way that the queue snaked all the way around the park and then all the way around the outside of the park as well because there were so many people who were voting,” she remembers.

After the voting, which was more of an event, Duncan remembers spending time with other voters. “There was a very popular drinking hole, kind of a local spot in Yeoville called Times Square, I remember people sat until the middle of the night just discussing how seismic this particular day was,” she remembered.

Some voters took it all with a pinch of salt but they still made their mark that day. “Nevertheless I think that even the sceptics were caught up in the excitement of the day. I think that the nature of the event just transcended any sober-minded analyses of the politics of the process of voting.”

“The ballot paper was incredibly long. There were huge numbers of parties that chose to run. Back then, the parties didn’t have to pay a registration fee; so it was extremely easy to get on the ballot paper. Parties such as the Soccer Party and the KISS party, the Keep it Straight and Simple party, could be seen on the ballot paper. Ballot papers were kept as memoirs.”

“They were laminated and if people were aware of the importance of the moment they kept them for prosperity because extra ballot papers were sold off as souvenirs. People gave them as gifts to one another and framed them as well,” she said with a smile.

Prof Dumisani Moyo, HOD of Journalism, Film and Television

…we are the countries that are in the front line facing South Africa, facing to push out the last of the colonialists.

DUMISNI MOYO

In the 90s Dumisani Moyo was teaching literature at a Zimbabwean high school. “South Africa was already so much on the minds of most Zimbabweans,” he said. “Zimbabwe was one of those frontline states and the liberation of South Africa was sort of the last hurdle that everybody was looking forward to. This was a global phenomenon, the global excitement really ignited a lot of joy and celebration across the continent to say ‘finally we have reached the last milestone’.”

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) stood firm against apartheid. It was a way of saying that, “we are the countries that are in the front line facing South Africa, facing to push out the last of the colonialists.”

Moyo explained how the SADC countries were excited by [the] transformation in South Africa. “It was a moment of huge celebration that finally we have achieved the goal of liberation and the goal of the total liberation of the continent.”

It’s only been 23 years and that is exactly why these memories are still fresh in the hearts and minds of our parents. Perhaps in terms of transitioning a previously segregated society into an integrated and harmonious one, 23 years is the equivalent of 23 minutes.

Prof Salim Vally, Director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation

…that energy that creativity that people wanted to promote after that particular day has come to nought it has been squandered.

Salim Vally.JPG

“For me like millions of my compatriots, the 27th of April 1994, was a day filled with exhilaration, expectation [and] joy.”

Vally was a member of the South African Students Movement (SASM), the high school wing of SASSO (SASO) a black consciousness organisation to which Steve Biko was a member. The organisation sparked off the 1976 uprising and was banned after the murder of Steve Biko.

Many of Vally’s friends and colleagues became freedom fighters. His activism had landed him in prison at one point. “So of course, given apartheid, given colonialism and given the lack of basic democratic rights, we looked forward to the 27th of April with great expectation. I must say that most of us were extremely disappointed,” “It was an incredible day, a day that I would not have missed for anything. For many people, it was a culmination of many years of struggle and of course,; these were long lines and ample opportunities to speak, people queued for many, many hours but there was joy,; there were really positive feelings. And it’s such a pity that that energy that creativity that people wanted to promote after that particular day has come to not nought it has been squandered.”

Thea de Wet, Director of Centre for Academic Technologies (CAT)

So that day stands out to me as that carnage; there was blood everywhere and my mum screaming like someone who’s just witnessed a murder and then the contrast of the hopefulness and the joy of voting that first day.

Thea de Wet

On the 27th of April 1994, Thea de Wet and her three sisters went to their local voting station in Adendorp near Graff Reinet where they had volunteered to work. “Everybody came to vote in the tiny little town hall, so they had voting stations there.”

Thea remembers how that same morning a tame springbok that her mother had been sheltering had been killed by a pack of dogs the night before.

“I will never forget it, my mum ran from that place screaming, I thought somebody had died. So that day stands out to me as that carnage; [there] was blood everywhere and my mum screaming like someone who’s just witnessed a murder and then the contrast of the hopefulness and the joy of voting that first day.”

“All the political parties had observers to make sure that there was no cheating; that all the procedures were followed and there were very strict rules to follow,” she remembered.

“We were told not to help anybody and if there were some older people that couldn’t read, which was not that uncommon at that time, that we could help them but then there needed to be several people present and then you could explain to the person what the different parties were.”

One young man, in particular, stood out to her. “I can see his face now in front of me. And I’ve wondered years later what happened to this guy. He was very young I think he was probably just 18, but he was an observer. He was a PAC observer and he wanted to make sure that all of us toe the line,” she recounted.

And if we take into account the more than 300 years of oppression that preceded the 46-year apartheid regime, then maybe, it’s only been a few seconds. But is it truly laughable to expect such radical change in such a short space of time? Find out in the second part of this Freedom day series.

About 1 500 members of the UJ community marched against SGBV

By Onthatile Kgoadigoadi & Palesa Mlambo

According to the UN Statistics 2016, one in three women still experience physical or sexual violence. However, it is not only experienced by women but by men as well. The University of Johannesburg took an initiative to fight against Sexual & Gender Based Violence (SGBV), in a walk which was held on 21st of April 2017.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) community, led by Student Affairs in partnership with the Institutional Office for HIV and AIDS (IOHA), Campus Health and Community Engagement organised a walk from UJ Auckland Park Bunting Campus (APB) to UJ Auckland Park Kingsway Campus (APK). This was to emphasise the University’s commitment to end all forms of SGBV before it happens, and responding to the needs of all survivors, who can be men and women.

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It was a triumphant walk filled with excitement which reflected unison between UJ students and the respective leaders of the march. With the red & black colored t-shirts and the vibrant chanting, the words; #ViolenceMustFall and Kwanele were exclaimed.

Amongst the masses were also students who could relate to the sexual and gender based violence march, Jabulile Mbhele says, “It is important for me to engage in this walk because my mom is a victim of abuse from my dad, which she fortunately survived. Most women have developed the tendency of surrendering to the pain of abuse inflicted on them for the sake of being loved.”

Patrick Buthelezi, a Finance Expenditure officer at UJ Doornfontein Campus, came to represent UJ staff to say that, “I am sick and tired of having to read in the newspapers about the treatment that is being inferred onto our loved ones. I am against gender and sexual violence. #Notinmyname.”

Despite the stereotypes that men are the only perpetrators of sexual-gender based violence but a considerable number of men participated in the march to display their disapproval of sexual-gender based violence.

“I think we are not giving enough attention to violence against women and children. I do think it is quite important especially the males showing support for this course,” says Jaco Van Schoor, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Finance at the University of Johannesburg.

Not only was the SGBV walk to raise awareness, it was also to submit a memorandum of concerned students in partnership with students support division for the University of Johannesburg to note and respond to certain demands.

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Requests that the memorandum entails:

  1. Establishment of a division to exclusively address SGBV issues within UJ
  2. Establish a hotline for SGBV reporting
  3. Senior management, frontline service staff and student leadership to attend SGBV sensitisation workshop
  4. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT+) to be considered when allocating accommodation to students
  5. Procedures to follow for SGBV survivors to be made available on all communication platforms
  6. Protection Service patrol radius to be increased to include off-campus accredited accommodation
  7. Improve lighting on campus for ease of movement by students at night
  8. Support all departments engaging in SGBV awareness within the university

 

Which Questions Should We Ask NSFAS On Your Behalf In NSFAS’ Session Today?

Today ( 14 March 2017) NSFAS is going head to head with the students in different campuses at UJ, and we can almost predict that it is likely to be dramatic. However, the information session with regards to the criteria for approval, next step after registration, challenges faced by students on private accommodations that are accredited by UJ and among others, the Fee Grant Subsidy, is very vital for all students.

For in case you wouldn’t be available to the session, but you are encouraged to participate in it. Should you fail to avail yourself, then why not use us?

Give us questions that you would like to be answered based on the key points highlighted.

The Open Journal is a caring news blog for the students and run by the students through the voice of the students, therefore today we will be bringing what will be unfolding at various campuses.

UJ Securities Lost in The Battle of Robbery After Two Men Successfully Escaped

By Onthatile Kgoadigoadi and Magnificent Mndebele

The University of Johannesburg is renowned for being heavily backed up with security forces in all its entrances, but last night it only took two armed men to rob students their cellphones, laptops, and iPads in the labs at Auckland Park Kingsway Campus.

And after that, a shooting altercation between the security forces and the robbers unfolded on 08 March 2017 late in the evening, 10:30 p.m.

“It is also surprising to us because we have very strong policies and procedures for access control. It is very concerning how did those people get onto campus, also bear in mind that around 10:30 p.m. we have securities who do a roaming patrol at that time and the gates are locked,” said Ms Kaamini Reddy, Senior Manager: Strategic Communication at UJ.

UJ said in a press statement that 13 students were held by two armed men in the university lab and were robbed their valuables. When The Open Journal asked whether this had been possible because of an accomplice of insiders, Reddy said: “we are not ruling out that it is the students or staff members within the premises, but the investigation will reveal that.”

The valuables that were held by one robber were retrieved but the second suspect managed to escape with the other valuables, and now attempts are being made by the university to retrieve the other items.

“We are busy trying to get [the other] devices,” Reddy said. “We took statements from the students, but they had gone for counseling because it was very scary for them.”

Other students are asking themselves about their safety when they are within the institution after this incident.

“I don’t feel safe if such is happening inside the campus with so much security. They can’t even apprehend these people. UJ securities are focusing on intimidating students… and they leave the thugs,” one student said who requested to speak on condition of anonymity.

 

 

 

 

A Magnificent Journey: From Destitute to Greatness

By Masindi Mamphiswana

Somewhere out of the shanty, dusty small village of Thokozani in Mpumalanga – the place of the rising sun – comes a young man of determined character who is undeterred by the abjection surrounding him. His name is Magnificent but there’s nothing quite beautiful and impressive about his humble beginnings yet he is going to change that now that he’ll be the first in his family to get a degree.

Magnificent’s life during the times of hardship and misery.

Life was hard for Magnificent growing up without his parents there. He depended on his grandmother’s laborious efforts to survive. She was his support structure both socially and economically. When he was younger, she would carry the little boy on her back at the break of dawn to go to work in the expanse of the evergreen forests and toil in the deforestation industry for a decent income in order to put food on the table.

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Magnificent with his son Baby Nathan and his dearest grandmother Sbongile Julia Gwebu. Image by Magnificent Mndebele

It was hard to get by as his family was poor and the community destitute. Back then, sometimes Magnificent had to go to sleep only having eaten a meal of pap served with sugared or salted water. Just to have potatoes as a substitute for meat was pleasing enough. Life was not good. His loving grandmother is his superwoman, his sole provider and he has always valued her efforts to make his life bearable.

He lacked the comfort of his parents through difficult times. A car crash claimed the life of his father, robbing Magnificent of a father at such a tender age of three before he could even form strong memories of him. His mother left the village for Johannesburg in pursuit of a better life for herself.

How Magnificent’s Belief Birthed Endurance To Conquer All Odds

Seeing the unprosperous circumstances which surrounded him, Magnificent always dreamed of breaking out of that reality.  He realized that education was the only escape. As he is a politically conscious fellow, he believes in Mandela’s saying that education is the key to success. Magnificent knew he had to do something to escape the prison of poverty surrounding him. There was not much surrounding him; people survived by farming and forestry and there were barely any resources in Thokozane – no water, no electricity, no library, even shops were very far from the village.

But, believing in the ultimate power of education, even though he wasn’t the best academically, he wanted to pursue his dream of acquiring knowledge and making something of himself and to be the difference in a place where achievements were uncommon. But how was he to do that? No one in his community had ever gotten a degree before. But Magnificent wasn’t going to allow himself to be stuck without making attempts to breakout.

One afternoon, after hearing that the University of Johannesburg is issuing free online applications to enroll for the university, he decided to give it a shot. But he had no access to a computer as there was no library in his village but a small one in his town of Amsterdam which only had one computer for the population of a couple thousand people.

He used his smartphone to apply and to his luck soon after that, UJ accepted him. Having also applied for financial aid, NSFAS also accepted his request to be funded since he was financially disadvantaged. Just like that, things were starting to look up for the small-town boy. He really was relying on his faith, knowing God had his back.

The Rural Life vs. Life in the City Of Gold.

Now that doors started to open, Magnificent had to make that transition from rural, village boy to urban city boy. He travelled to Johannesburg ahead of commencing his studies.

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Having arrived in the bustling city of gold, the place of dreams and settling in Johannesburg Central, Magnificent was daunted not having been used to the city environment. But he quickly learned that it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, glitter and gold or glitz and glam in Johannesburg as he had always envisaged.

In some aspects, it was a hard knock life too over here. Hobos lining the streets, begging for money, crime and violence… Johannesburg, he told himself, is also a horrible and cruel place.

In spite of the ugly side of it, he enjoys Joburg as it allows him to flourish. It’s quite a nice life here, he reckons. Much better than the struggle life back home. He gets to eat nice food and this is one of the things he likes about being here – which also relieves him of chores he has to do back home fetching and chopping firewood.

Welcome to UJ…

One day he walked into the student center at UJ, marvelling at and nerve-wrecked by all the restaurants and shops and multitudes of students socializing in the vicinity. He thought it was something like a mall and was afraid to go in and explore.

Magnificent had to find a way of adapting to this new, exciting place. He literally googled the challenges youth face when they gain independence in the city. Realizing how Johannesburg is like a big ocean where people drown, he told himself that he would use his freedom and independence wisely. No boozing, smoking or partying.

The most exciting part about arriving at UJ was the day he walked into the library, confronted with a plethora of books in an array of giant shelves – not quite like he had encountered before. Now he had access to all this knowledge, it was truly gratifying for him. And just like that, he had the key, was education and knowledge, in his hands.

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Now success awaits him if he uses the key correctly to unlock the door to success. Almost a year and counting…His journalism degree is waiting on the other side of the finish line and his graduation gown and cap await him faithfully and hopefully.

 

masindijpgMasindi Mamphiswana is a 24-year-old Jo’burg-based aspiring writer and journalist. She did her undergrad studies at Monash South Africa and subsequently pursued a postgraduate honours degree at the University of Johannesburg in 2016. She has an interest in areas such as economics, sociology and literature.

REVEALED: Onwabile allegedly obeyed Paul Mashatile’s orders to stop the fees protests

By Magnificent Mndebele and Gaby Ndongo

The president of the Student Representative Council at the University of Johannesburg, Onwabile Lubhelwana denies all the allegations posed to him that he may have received instructions from a high-ranking ANC figure to stop the FeesMustFall protests.

The Phone Call 

A source who is part of the SRC and who has inside knowledge, asked to speak on condition of anonymity which the Open Journal has independently verified the position that the source holds within the SRC, alleges that Lubhelwana received a phone call from the Gauteng African National Congress chairperson and MEC of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Paul Mashatile, that instructed Lubhelwana to stop the UJ fees protests, and thereof he obeyed the orders.

“From my knowledge, the first couple of days the president did lead the protest until he was called by the member of the ANC to stop what he was doing,” the source said.

Apologising to lead the UJ fees protests

Soon after the fees protests decayed, the Open Journal had learned that Members of the Executive Council (MEC) at UJ held a meeting with all members of the SRC.

“The MEC sent a request to hold a meeting.The focal point of the meeting on the 7th [of October] was about the private security guards (bouncers), finance- the trust fund that UJ offers to students and we also discussed NSFAS, and just the financial position of the university,” the source stated.

In that meeting, Lubhelwana is alleged to have apologised to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ihron Rensburg, and the MECs “with the way he conducted himself and the strike.”

“In the meeting, I kept quiet because he was apologising on his behalf, not on our behalf. I did not apologise at all, I am unapologetic,” the source explained.

After weeks of investigation the Open Journal has received a list of the SRC members who attended the meeting, including the Deputy President of the SRC, Justina Komana. When Komana was asked about Onwabile’s apologies for leading the protests she giggled for a while and said, “I can’t answer that, I think you [should] engage the president on that and ask him.”

“I’ve been attending meetings with the VC (Vice Chancellor) and I don’t recall any scenario where the president had to apologise to the VC unless he did it privately, but I am not aware of that information,” Komana added.

Internal conflicts within the SRC

The entire structure of the SRC on all campuses at UJ is made up of SA Student Congress (SASCO) majority, and now frustrations begin to mount among other SASCO members that Lubhelwana could have interests that deviate from SASCO or the SRC constituency.

“In my personal capacity I do not recognise the SRC, for obvious reasons,” Aluwani Chokoe, a 2015-2016 former treasurer of SASCO at UJ-APK said in a giggly tone. “You can’t be elected to represent students yet you turn a blind eye to the outcry of the students,” she said while referring to Lubhelwana.

Despite the controversies, Komana said she still has confidence in President Lubhelwana because of his “strong leadership skills.”

Lubhelwana admitted to the Open Journal that the SRC is not performing efficiently and there are internal battles in the SRC.

A shot to topple Onwabile from power

Lubhelwana said all these allegations are means of further dividing the structure of the SRC and some of his colleagues want to topple him from power.

When the allegations were once again firmly asked, he denied having to deliver any form of apology to the management.

“I never met the VC alone. I am the first president to refuse meeting prof Ihron Rensberg alone because it allows the space for people to lie, so I call everyone to be [present when meetings are held],” Lubhelwana said.

With the perception maintained by several students leaders that he is a spy due to his tactic of “selling out the SRC by apologizing to the university’s management”. The president asked, “Which spy gets a criminal record; which spy allows themselves to be arrested . . . beaten up [or] . . . sleeps in the hospital?”

“The students who feel betrayed are the students who when others marched: they watched and took pictures”, said Lubhelwana when asked about the promise he made to not disappoint the aspirations of UJ students on the morning of the 27th of September during a consultative meeting leading to the protest.

Nonetheless, he postulates that “The students who were there understand why it was difficult for us [the SRC] to continue; they understand that when others get arrested . . . assaulted . . . pepper sprayed there are some who are watching”. Hence, the need for collective reactions and actions is vital amongst UJ students because the formal interaction is not the ‘only way’ to deal with the crisis that students are facing.

With the allegation of being mentored and instructed by Mashatile to stop the fees protests, Lubhelwana said,“There is never a time when you are told how to lead the people who have elected you . . . [and] I was never called [by anyone] to stop the protest.” He added that if he had ever done that he ‘would be betraying the Constitution of the SRC and the students themselves.’

After erratic and evasive responses, Lubhelwana said Mashatile had never called him to stop the protests. However, he revealed to have met Mashatile and other ministers to discuss ‘governance matters,’ saying that meeting government [officials ] is a prerequisite [in order] to [be able to] lead [an] institution like UJ.

Questions about the allegations of Mashatile’s influence on the UJ fees protests were sent to the media liaison officer and official spokesman of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mogomotsi Mogodiri, but since then there has been no reply despite the promise to be answered promptly.

At UJ “Tomorrow (Friday) is A-Come-At-Your-Own-Risk-Day”- Woman’s Voice Warned.

Corrections:  The Open Journal had constantly referred to Onwabile Lubhelwana as the Chairperson of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at UJ. The Chairperson is Rethabile Ntshinga and Lubhelwana is the Central President of the SRC. 

By Magnificent Mndebele

Following the composure of the UJ Fees protest this week, there was a woman’s voice that went viral on social media today warning students that tomorrow (Friday, the 14th of October 2016) there will be major disruptions on campus which is presumed to be in the University of Johannesburg Auckland Park Campus.

“Tomorrow is a come at your own risk day, they (SRC) literally told us face-to-face that we dare come to campus. They told us that they are [going to] unleash Black Coffee vibe upon us,” says the anonymous woman’s voice. It continues stating that, “you will be forcefully [and] violently removed from classes. Secondly, any car coming in or going out is [going to] be stoned,” said the woman’s voice.

However, the audio does not specifically state which University she is referring to, but due to paranoia from UJ students, the Open Journal verified the claims made by that woman.

The Chairperson of the SRC at UJ-APK, Rethabile Ntshinga ridiculed the message, saying it is “malicious”.

“We have demonstrated where we could, and we have made the situation voluntarily. There will be no disrupted classes in the process, and there will be no intimidation of students or personnel… and we have no intention of shutting down the campus,” said Ntshinga.

The audio message from the anonymous woman further stated that buses will be denied entry from the school. However, Ntshinga said, “to the best of my knowledge buses will be operating tomorrow and it will be business as usual in the institution.”

UJ Lecturers and Postgraduate Students Join the FeesMustFall Protest #UJAcademicsAction

By Magnificent Mndebele & Lauren Pillay

 Lecturers and postgraduate students at the University of Johannesburg marched in support of FeesMustFall movement. Their support for FeesMustFall was sparked by their academic research findings that South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product percentage used on Higher Education is relatively smaller than other countries in the world.

Their research findings highlight that South Africa’s total GDP contribution to higher education is 0.75 percent while countries that are relatively poorer than South Africa such as Senegal, Ghana and India contribute with at least 1.4 percent of their GDP to Higher Education.

The rank on this table highlights the poorest countries in the world in 2015 and an additional column shows the percent of their GDP these countries give to higher education in comparison to South Africa.

Ranking Country 2015 International Dollars

% of GDP for higher education

29 Senegal 2,398.26 1.4%
48 Ghana 4,338.27 1.4%
61 India 6,176.29 1.3%
99 South Africa 13,078.00 0.75%
130 Argentina 21,924.29 1.4%
135 Russian Federation 25,350.86 1.8%

The Academic movement was headed by the Hashtag #FundingMustRise. With years of research and experience, Professors and Postgraduate students have developed a solution in order to defend public universities. They make a plea to the government to “decisively increase funding on higher education and call for an end to all violence on and around our campuses” as seen on the pamphlet handed out at the protest.

Students that participated in the #FundingMustRise protest did not want to be interviewed, their mouths were taped and it read “scared of suspension” and “freedom of expression is equal to suspension”.

suspension
Following the suspension letters that were sent to the FeesMustFall protestors, these girls were afraid to speak as to avoid being suspended by the University.

Recently, there were students who were sent letters by the University Management at UJ with an intention to suspend them for “participating in illegal gatherings”.

“The government has agreed to subsidize poor students and the ‘missing middle’ by not increasing fees for them. Why are students protesting if they got what they wanted?” these were some of the comments that circulated on a pamphlet during the protest.

“The government’s offer is only to pay the fee increases for 2017 students from households with incomes under R600 000 per annum…To pay those fees, poor students will have to take loans that will leave them in debt for years to come. Those who can’t clear their existing debt will be barred from registering and will be prevented from studying,”