02nd May2016

Journey into the Unknown

by admin

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I remember packing my bags with great anticipation for what the future I was heading to held. It was a dream come true for me to be crowned with the glory of studying at University of The Witwatersrand. My arrival in the city of gold was not as golden and glorious as it had seemed in my dreams and thoughts. The pain that pierced half of my heart was knowing just how helpless I was because my mother was not around anymore. She was four hours away from me and I did not want her to know how the life of this city is not as fine as I had always imagined. My goal is just to get a degree and to make everyone around me proud.

The City Gold has all the lights that could penetrate even into an island that is in the middle of nowhere. Looking from a balcony at night, you can see how the lights make this place look so alive but inside there is a lot of darkness. Perhaps darker than the pits of hell. One arrives in this city and one starts to realise that the streets of this city are not entirely paved with gold. Love is rare to be found in the hearts of everyone who has been condemned by the rough living of this place. It is in this city that One gets to understand the real meaning of  the “survival of the fittest”.

There are people who call this city home and I wonder if their lives are just normal like our lives back in the villages. It breaks my heart to open the fridge and find nothing in it knowing that it is almost impossible to get a degree with an empty stomach. Friends are few and far between and my family thinks life in this city is heaven. It is not the same as back at home- you could get out of your house and take a walk with a stranger without fear of getting mugged.

Streets are filled with smoke from the braai stands of young men trying to make a living out of braaing chicken gizzards. Blind women and men- oh what is wrong with this place- sit on bridges singing for money, whilst the sun hits the centre of their heads so hard or are they not getting government grants?

Opportunistic men have filled the streets and always have something to say to young women like “Come, I give you house, I give you nice nice.” Murder is a norm and people do not get traumatized when they hear a gunshot because gunshots that take away the lives of the innocent and guilty have become part of their everyday life. People wouldn’t care if someone beat you up and took your phone; they merely take a glance and move on because they too fear for their lives.

Young girls are always roaming the streets with their waists and thighs on display for everyone to see. Dirty young lost bodies that have been emptied of life are never rare to find, they are always sitting on pavements injecting substances into their veins. You go out to buy bread at night and witness young women selling their bodies and people sleeping on the floors of the streets in lieu of beds.

Life in this Johannesburg is almost predictable. You know where to go if you want to get mugged. You know where to go if you want to see someone getting stabbed and you definitely know that when the paper in your pocket has been torn and left you broke you will find mercy in no one’s heart to share a plate with you.

Coming into this City was a journey into the Unknown but now I know that life in this city makes one stronger.

02nd May2016

The World As An Obstacle

by admin

I know what people say to you. They say that it will all get better. You will be okay- “a little rainbow after some rain”. They are correct but this does not apply to everyone. I walk the streets and I see young men that beg me for some change and food; if I have any on me. I get so sad. What happened? There is a story behind every face. I ask myself what’s the story behind their faces. I want to walk up to them and ask, but I get too afraid – like most people are, afraid to help. Some of them did choose to be on the streets, but the rest of them didn’t. And I want to talk about those. Life is not a bed of roses for everyone. It isn’t even a normal bed for some. Instead what they have is a cold floor to sleep on, and then they make bad decisions that turn into hungry nights and dirty clothing, as well as various infections and cold feet.

He most probably lost his mother and father at the age of seven, or younger than that. Besides them, he had no other family to turn to. His home was taken away from him by the law because he was too young to stay in it alone. He was taken to a “nice” children’s home where he was mistreated by one of the women that worked there because she hated her job (like him, life just threw where she didn’t want to be). He found it hard to fit in with the other kids. Also, there was an uncle there who found him pretty and wanted to touch him in the places no man should ever touch a child. His only option was to run away. He ran away and never looked back. Now, he is here, looking into my eyes and begging me for any little that I have. He looks so angry at the world. His stare pierces through the wall I place before me so it looks like I can’t see him. He knows I can see him and that I am just walking. I, like most of society, am so judgemental and scared that he could be some of those that chose to here. He hopes that society and myself can see that he is didn’t make the choice- like most of them. But I don’t even stop to ask him what happened. The world is good to some, bad to others, an obstacle to so many. I wonder why that is. I wonder why we cannot all be happy, loved, have both our parents and have bright futures. I wonder why we cannot all just walk through life like the community that walks through it with Reebok shoes to their beds of roses, in decent clean clothes, without any infections or pavement scratches.google_image_homeless807786456_homeless_guy

25th Apr2016

Nothing But Freedom

by admin

for the poem

Nothing but freedom on our lands;

We walk for days on end, no shackles on our hands.

Our breath touches oceans even when we don’t see them,

The flowers grow with so much colour in them.

The sky in our eyes is blue, clear,

 

There are no longer smells of tear gas,

Or smells of fear as you grab hold of your daughter

And run away from Angry Men with her.

 

Nothing but freedom on our lands;

We wear smiles on our faces as our feet kiss with the sands.

Our mind speaks without oppressors,

The Angry Men no longer angry at us.

 

We hear each other silently,

There is white, there is black, there is no brutality,

And we could not be a more free society;

Free from the lights that came at us in darkness,

Free from the even darker places those little lights would take us.

 

Freedom is here, in all our whispers and all our cheers,

It is in all our houses because there is no fear.

We became one, the country says.

Our eyes do close when our heads lay.

 

25th Apr2016

The Idea of Freedom

by admin

for the written piece

I always hear people talk about relativity, the idea being that, that all aspects of our lives are relative. In my opinion, people use that idea to justify their not participating in a debate. For example people will often say things like, ‘Respect is relative. I do not need to respect you because this and that is not what respect is for me’. I find that logic to be unsound and disrespectful in a few cases, considering their own definition of respectful or disrespectful behaviours. Why don’t we just accept we are all human and live according to one book, challenging ourselves to step out of what is often called the comfort zone by respecting others? Ditto for all our other behaviours, given that we have a mind that questions, and a heart that disobeys and is, in most cases, not selfless. These are not bad qualities- in most cases these qualities are beneficial. Rather, these qualities create a world for us that is not ideal. If my idea of freedom is different from yours, then how are we free? Are we free for ourselves? How then, do you we come to define and understand the idea of the freedom of the nation?

 

Our elders will often tell us their thoughts around freedom being objective. Our childhoods have, and continue, to be shaped by their stories related to freedom- or rather a lack thereof. Their stories are the reason the people of my colour get to walk any street, day and night, without fear of being attacked and imprisoned for being there. We are able to access to the education we deserve, and it turns out that we are capable of putting that education to great use. Their  stories serve as the reason that we can all be a part of each other’s worlds.. For them, freedom is being able to live in South Africa as South Africans, and not by any other name. Freedom is not being chained by a system that could only care about catering for a particular segment of the population. Freedom enables them to choose their own system. For them, freedom is feeling physically safe. It is their freedom that has enabled us to have our freedom: a freedom that allows us to be ourselves and express it to the world without any penalties. It is a freedom that allows us to express our own thoughts and ideas. A freedom that enables us to choose what we want out of our lives, what our beliefs are. This is a freedom that we can have regardless of our age, our gender, our race, the challenges we’ve ever faced. Finally, this is a freedom that is both mine and yours- it is relative. Our ideas of freedom were born from their freedom. They fought, they died, so we can have it, and we celebrate it on April, 27.

25th Apr2016

I Remember I Asked

by admin

Freedom from PainI remember I asked, “What does heart break mean”?

She answered, “It is the tremendous and unexplainable pain experienced by an individual after the loss of a loved one.”

I agree with that explanation, yet, I started to wonder about how one could free oneself from such pain. In fact, how does one free oneself from any form of pain? Especially when it is unexplainable; it has no recognisable solutions or rather because you do not even know which direction or form it will come from or when you will experience it again. Given the conditions of pain I ask again to all who know what pain feels like, how does one free oneself from such pain? Rather, how does one free oneself from any form of pain?

My understanding on the notion of freedom is that one is not free; one never has been free and one never will be free. Ask any former slave they will tell you the same thing. Much often than before I am informed about the struggles of freedom, it is such things that speak to me as young black African female residing in South Africa because it furthers my above statement that freedom is not freedom if it has to be fought for.  Yet, we reside in a country with a constitution which promotes the ideology that all humans are born equal and therefore have the right to life.  Anyone who has experienced oppression or deprivation views freedom differently to someone who has never experienced deprivation or oppression. A caged bird seeks to fly; a slave of any kind seeks liberty; an individual in a labyrinth seeks a great escape, a falsely accused prisoner seeks freshly blown air outside colossal walls;  a blind man desires to see what he feels and hears; same for the deaf man wishes to hear what he can see and touch. In this way, freedom is what you strongly desire and associate as a necessity more especially that which you do not have.  This makes it safe to say freedom is not free.

25th Apr2016

Are We Really Free to be Celebrating the Day of Freedom?

by admin

Freedom- Julia Roberts

I define freedom as being free from all societal and religious expectations. This can be extended to include being free from hatred, anger, and any form of oppression. Perhaps the truth about freedom and being free is found in when one dies because when one is still alive, one is bound to the things one may not even know that one is bound to.

We all fight for freedom- we all fight for the chance to break free from what could possibly be the reason for our unhappiness. The question I want to ask is whether there actually exists freedom after the fight? Individuals temporarily oppress themselves through getting an education in order to free themselves from a life of poverty.  These individuals study hard with the hope of finding freedom once they get their dream jobs and are able to begin the process of building their own empires. What most people find, however, is that freedom does not follow after building their empires as they are still bound by various duties and expectations.

As we celebrate Freedom Day this week, we should seriously consider whether we are free from the racism which has played an integral part in our country’s history. If we were really free as South Africans perhaps we wouldn’t be having sleepless nights on social ills that continue to plague our black communities. Seeing our sisters falling pregnant at sixteen and our brothers snatching hand bags on corners to get money to buy drugs shows us that we have not attained true freedom. We would not be fighting our president if this was a democratic country where everyone has been liberated. Instead, we would have a leader who fights tooth and nail to remedy social ills.  There would be little to no corruption taking place behind the golden curtains of the offices of men in white collared shirts and women in stilettos. Although I do not know what happens after our current existence, I believe that true freedom is found only when one dies. By closing their eyes forever, one is able to rest from all the human suffering one is currently surrounded by.

 

26th Oct2015

Wits at a Standstill!

by admin

Sandiswe Sondszaba writes an enlightening opinion piece about her experience of the #FeesMustFall movement and what she learnt from Wits being at a standstill as a direct result of protestors.

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I first heard of the planned protest against the proposed 10.5% increase in tuition on Monday, October 12th. At the time, I thought that the protest would be a minor event involving hundreds of students and that management would not consider students’ grievances… But, boy was I wrong! I realized that this protest turned out to be something bigger than I had anticipated when I bore witness to Empire Road at a standstill. Being forced to walk to the Jubilee entrance at Wits, I realized that the main entrances to Wits were being blocked as a means of preventing people from entering the campus.

Some of my friends expressed irritation at the tactics used by the protestors as they felt that it infringed upon their right to education. However, one of my more enlightened friends explained that their being inconvenienced was a means of demonstrating that several students would be prevented from getting an education as a result of their being unable to pay for their tuition. Some people began to understand the magnitude of what was being expressed by the protestors. Others, on the other hand, were still confusing being inconvenienced with having their rights violated.

Protestors were determined to bring Wits to a standstill and I believe that they succeeded in doing so. Alarm bells were sounding at 08:45am as lectures were being interrupted as a means of mobilizing more students to join the protests. At 10:15am, my lecture ended abruptly as protestors came in and appealed to our conscience. The majority of my classmates joined the protest as it dawned on us that socio-historical factors play a disproportionately large role in determining who would succeed and who would remain impoverished. It became apparent to us that Wits was on lockdown. Entrances were being opened at various intervals. This meant that our movement in and out of campus was determined by protestors. It really demonstrated how one’s education can be stopped by factors beyond one’s control. If one was unable to get funding for one’s education, one would have to drop out and become another droplet in the sea of unemployed youth in our country. One would then become another number; another anonymous person who “good” (middle-class, employed, educated, tax-paying) citizens would complain about when discussing our country’s socio-economic problems.

My friends and I walked around as we observed the protests progress and gradually gain momentum. We spoke to people who were sitting on the road, blocking vehicles from leaving the campus. Although I was tired, I was proud of my colleagues. They found a way of illustrating how this institution does not operate in a vacuum. Our universities serve as a microcosm of South Africa; this means that the inequalities that exist in our society will manifest themselves, to a larger or smaller extent, within our campuses. The protest gave me and my friends the courage to speak of the systems of privilege that we bear witness to on a daily basis. We began to discuss how people within our social circles live in the bubbles of privilege that prevent them from fully understanding where others are coming from. These bubbles of privilege have often stifled our ability to empathize with those who are struggling to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Within my social circle, none of us went to bad schools; we are the products of private schooling and Model C education. This education has informed our worldviews but it has given us the opportunity to observe how privilege often blinds those who possess to others’ suffering. Wits being at a standstill got me to be “woke”. I have a slightly more nuanced understanding of our systems of privilege reproduce themselves as a result of people being, willingly and unwillingly, blind to their existence. I began to understand how the outcome of the protests affected not only my peers, but those within my inner circle – including myself. On Wednesday, October 15th, I may have been inconvenienced by the actions of the protestors, but that inconvenience coincided with the shattering of my blindness to systems of privilege. I stand in support of my peers who are fighting to ensure that the gates to this institution are not closed to those who, despite their financial standing, are deserving of studying at this institution. I have become a proud Witsie who has learnt that the students make the institution.

26th Oct2015

A One-Sided Story: My Thoughts on the #FeesMustFall Movement

by admin

Nokuthula Mkwanazi writes an interesting piece on the students’ perspective of the #FeesMustFall movement, whilst still considering other viewpoints in this complex and multifaceted debate.

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Every story has two sides. In light of the #FeesMustFall movement, I, as a student, will be shedding light on the student’s side of the story.

As the protests began on campus last week, not only did I join the movement, but I also asked many students for their motivations behind joining the protest too. Many said that if they had the money, this fee increase would not be an issue because they understand why the fees are increased yearly. But therein lies the problem: the majority of the students are crippled financially. Most parents are still fighting to get their children out of poverty, a long 21 years after Apartheid’s demise. However, the repercussions of Apartheid followed them through into the new democracy. Bantu Education meant that most of the parents of today’s students were limited in their choice of tertiary education; this in-turn influenced the jobs available to them and subsequently dictated the lives that they could live and the support that they could provide their children with.

Many parents worked to their bones just to get their children through primary and secondary education on minimum wage salaries, lower-income jobs and government grants. This sacrifice seems to pay off when they can send their children to universities like Wits. However, financial exclusion threatens the dreams of these parents. Many parents fall into debt giving their children good quality education because they want them to fight their way out of a vicious cycle of poverty. For them it’s about wanting better for their children, even if they cannot provide it, and debt is the consequence of bursary and scholarship denials.

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However, from the perspective of economists and the financial brains of the country, the fee increase can be justified. And, it makes sense that in order to get the best quality teachers, equipment, international academic journals and so on, one has to spend money. The weakened rand consequently spells disaster for the majority of financially strained students as this results in financial exlcusion. So, how then do we stop the cycle of poverty because students who come from financially incapacitated backgrounds know that their only way out is through education? And as much as we would like a fair scholarship and bursary system, it never really is fair; bursaries and scholarships are extremely selective and often favour the already privileged. In addition, national funding is experiencing a huge shortage of funding from the government as well as from internal and external corruption.

It is such a complex issue, it isn’t just black or white; everybody from every class, sector and race is affected by this issue. Everything can be justified from all perspectives, it’s just about finding a happy medium. This happy medium could mean more involvement from the private sector, in terms of sponsoring and donations; it could mean a stricter selection process in that of candidates for scholarships and bursaries… But, what is certain is that there will be a decision reached on the fees must fall campaign. Somebody is going to have to sacrifice something so we can reach that goal of ultimately eradicating all poverty through better education and subsequent employment opportunities too.

26th Oct2015

Men in Suits

by admin

Jeffrey Motlhamme explains how ‘Men in Suits’ are of much greater threat to those in power than the previously violent and raucous rioting.

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Men in suits are are usually sought after as intellectual men who have economic ambitions for their people. They fight an intellectual and economic battle instead of a physical one. They understand that a physical battle is the one we are bound to lose because the people we are trying to battle – those in power – already have the majority of legitimate physical force with the resources to execute it. You see, men in suits understand that we have to interrogate power to remedy the struggles of society. They know that in this modern world, violence is no longer physical; violence is systematic and institutional. Those in power practice this type of violence through the law, unjust economic policies and the media.

We have seen a failure of the law to hold those in power accountable and bring them to justice. From the Marikana massacre to corruption deals; the media continue to promote the interests and ideas of the powerful in such a way that ideas of the powerless are seen as inferior. Sir Thomas Jefferson was absolutely correct in stating that: “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing”. A revolution is necessary in society. However, we have to acknowledge that there is a change in the nature of revolution, in terms of the resources and the approach. In the modern day revolution, social media is used as a tool to send different messages; it is even used to initiate a revolution. This can be seen in the #FeesMustFall movement. Violence is no longer seen as a necessary evil to effect change.

Now, men in suits no longer want to use violence as means to an end corrpution and injustice; instead, they want to use their intellectual ability to win battles. Those in power are not afraid of the violence people are trying to stage; they are more afraid of the men in suits. Stand up men in suits! This is our time, this is our moment to rise from these struggles and grab glory. We are our own leaders; we are the revolution; we are the people; but most importantly, we are in suits.

Power to the People!

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26th Oct2015

May Nothing Stop You on Your Road to Success

by admin

Bongi Sesane explains why exams should not be a stressful time, but rather a reminder that we are moving forward and on to bigger and better things.

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I believe that everyone of us want to progress in life and we all have great potential to do so. Don’t be fooled by the
fear in your heart; you are honourable even when you don’t feel like you are. There is a lot more that you have to do for your nation and beyond and the process is the key for you to reach those great places. So, exams are not there to harm you, but rather to make sure that you move from one dimension to another. Take your time to prepare for your exams without any fear, understanding that you are in fact moving forward. Change your perceptions of exams.

Focus is the most significant factor in this period of time. Don’t lose focus; know what you are doing and why are you doing it – never do anything without reason or expectations because you might find yourself wasting time on unnecessary things. Aim to do everything to the best of your ability and, of course, keep your mind and your heart in the right place. Work hard towards your goals and prosperity will be yours. You are a blessing to this country because you are the one who holds its future, but remember: everything you do must be for a good purpose, stay focused and don’t let anything scatter your mind.

The student protest that is currently taking place against fees increments is occuring during the final examinations period. However important the cause may be, it is equally important for all of us to keep our minds focused and not neglect our studies because our futures are still shining brightly.

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