Wits University shuts down Solomon Mahlangu House following sit-in

Wits University shuts down Solomon Mahlangu House following sit-in

Wits University management has shut down the Solomon Mahlangu building following an altercation between the EFF Student Command and the university’s security guards on Wednesday.

This marked an end to the three-day sit-in of the EFF Student Command inside the building.

The students are demanding that their colleagues who face financial exclusion due to historic debt be allowed to register.

It also wants the institution to extend its registration period, which is due to end next week Friday.

Wits SRC has put the number of students who are facing this uncertain future at 8 142 students are said to be in this predicament.

The EFF SC says it is not backing down until there is a solution to accommodate the students, which it says are academically deserving.

The Student Command wants the university to provide a systematic way to ensure that all students are registered.

It claims that the university has saved a lot money during the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore can afford to register students.

The Wits University Management is yet to comment on the clash between the EFF SC and security guards.

The standoff continues amid a fundraising campaign, launched by the Wits SRC, to avoid financial exclusion of students.

In a statement, the SRC says the risk of exclusion is the result of severe economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought the country’s economy to its knees.

The #21Millionin2021 campaign is gaining traction, with the Public Protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane being one of the high profile South Africans to pledge support.

The Student Council is urging corporate entities, civil society and students to assist in the student’s plight. – Report by Voice of Wits newsreader and producer, Lerato Mohoto.

NPA, Zuma foundation cross swords over graft case

NPA, Zuma foundation cross swords over graft case

An exchange of words has erupted between the state and the Jacob Zuma Foundation over the former president’s case, which is due back in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, on Tuesday.

The verbal tussle follows a statement issued by the Foundation, giving an impression that the matter had been postponed.

“We have noted that state, without stating a reason, has now said it will be ready to start with the criminal trial on 17 May 2021. This is not the first time such a promise is made, while we the Foundation doubt the bona fides or readiness of the state to ever run this case, we hope our judiciary will not tolerate any further postponement beyond this date,” charged the Foundation.

It said it would continue to push for the case to be struck off the roll until the state is ready to prosecute, instead of parading the former president as a criminal while wasting the taxpayers’ money.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has hit back, refuting the postponement claims.

Spokesperson Sipho Ngwema says it is disingenuous for the Foundation to pretend that the trial was set down for Tuesday.

“This Tuesday, February 23 was never a trial date but for the parties to resolve outstanding pre-trial management issues and agree on a trial date, among other housekeeping issues,” it says in a statement.

The state says it is ready for trial and its preferred date and that of the French arms company Thales’ defence team is May 17.

Thales’s South African subsidiary Thint won a R2.6-billion contract in to fit four new navy frigates with combat suites, as part of the 1999 Strategic Defence Procurement Package, known as the Arms Deal. 

The company is in the dock with Zuma for racketeering. It allegedly bankrolled the former president, through his then financial adviser Shabir Shaik, for political support to clinch the deal and for protection from scrutiny.

“The actual date of trial will be determined by the court taking into account its court roll – and availability of the state and the two defence teams,” says Ngwema.

Zuma faces charges of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering, and more than 10 counts of fraud relating to 783 payments he allegedly received in connection with the controversial arms deal.

It is not the first time his foundation accuses the NPA of delaying tactics. Last September, it berated the prosecuting authority for a delay in the matter, saying while the media accused Zuma of delaying tactics – it was actually the NPA that wasn’t ready to proceed.

E Cape health MEC shown the door

E Cape health MEC shown the door

Eastern Cape MEC, Sindiswa Gomba, has been fired.

She, however, remains a member of the Eastern Cape provincial legislature.

Premier Oscar Mabuyane announced the decision during a press briefing on Thursday.

It followed mounting pressure for Gomba’s removal from office.

Gomba has expressed shock and hurt over her sacking.

The former MEC is one of the 11 people who are facing fraud charges over the Nelson Mandela funeral scandal.

They are accused of siphoning R10 million from the Buffalo City Municipality by flouting tender processes during the funeral in 2013.

The suspects are all out on bail and are expected back in court on March 5.

She is also implicated in the controversial procurement of scooters ambulances that were found not to be fit for purpose.

Cooperative Governance MEC, Xolile Nqatha, is acting in her former portfolio.

Zuma’s homestead a hive of activity as Zondo standoff drags on

Zuma’s homestead a hive of activity as Zondo standoff drags on

The small rural town of Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal, is a hive of activity.

Members of uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) have descended on the area in support of former president Jacob Zuma.

Zuma faces arrest after defying a Constitutional Court ruling, ordering that he appears before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry that’s probing allegations of state capture.

This week was set aside for the former president to answer to allegations levelled against him by more than 30 witnesses at the commission.

However, Zuma refuses to appear before commission chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Zuma believes Zondo is bias and says the commission therefore does not have the attributes to conduct a fair, independent and impartial investigation or hearing that involves him or that contradicts the Commission’s script on state capture.

One of his other gripes is that the Commission took him to the Constitutional Court while he was still pursuing a review application over Justice Zondo’s refusal to recuse himself from the state capture inquiry when he testifies.

On Monday, he pulled a no-show at the commission – forcing it to continue without him.

Justice Zondo slammed the former president’s move as unnecessary, saying there was no valid reason for it.

While wrapping up proceedings, Justice Zondo said the Commission will file papers in the Apex court, asking that Zuma be jailed for contempt of court.

A sentence, the former president says, he awaits with bated breath.

“Now that it seems my role in the Commission has come to an end, I wait to face the sentence to be issued by the Constitutional Court. Accordingly, I stand by my statement I made of 01 February 2021 and no amount of intimidation or blackmail will change my position as I firmly believe that we should never allow for the establishment of a judiciary in which justice, fairness and due process are discretionary and are exclusively reserved for certain litigants and not others,” he says in a statement.

Zuma’s supporters are camping outside his homestead in Nkandla and have vowed to defend him.

They believe the former president is being unfairly targeted and is innocent of corruption claims that have been levelled against him.

Traders are also taking advantage of the moment.

They have set up shop, selling ANC gear, among others.

One Wits University School of Governance lecturer has called on the Constitutional Court to act against Zuma’s defiance.

Professor Ivor Sarakinsky says Zuma is playing a political game and can’t be allowed to continue disregarding the law.

ANC in a fix

While the ANC’s highest-decision making body, the NEC, over the weekend reiterated its call for members to cooperate with the Zondo Commission, the Zuma-Zondo saga has put the governing party in an awkward position.

It has once again exposed divisions within the governing party, which some political commentators believe is the reason for its inability to be decisive on the matter.

Earlier in February, ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule defended Zuma’s refusal to comply with the Constitutional Court ruling, saying he saw nothing wrong with it.

The party’s stalwarts and veterans on the other hand expressed concern over Zuma’s position on the Zondo Commission and called on the former president to follow the example of the country’s first democratically-elected president, Nelson Mandela, who appeared in the high court in Pretoria in 2011, when he was required to do so.

Greyhound, Citiliner on the last ride

Greyhound, Citiliner on the last ride

It is a sad day for Johannesburg long distance commuters and students who were hoping to make their way to Park Station to catch the Greyhound bus ahead of the new semester, as the company will cease to operate on Sunday. 

The Luxury passenger coach announced its decision earlier this month, marking an end to 37 years of service. 

It is also the end of the road for its subsidiary, Citiliner.

Unitrans, which owns Greyhound, has cited lockdown regulations, like the banning of interprovincial travel and curfew, as having played a role in its financial distress.

Many South Africans have expressed sadness at the move, which will see close to 700 workers losing their jobs.

Workers’ union, Numsa, has described this as a serious blow to workers and their families.

According to the company’s website, Greyhound used to service close to a million passengers a year, while Citiliner carried half a million a year. 

Mathebula family insists police shot 6-year-old Gontse

Mathebula family insists police shot 6-year-old Gontse

The family of a six-year-old boy, initially reported to be five, who was shot and wounded in Alexandra recently says the police should take responsibility for the incident.

Gontse Mathebula was walking to a nearby spaza shop when police allegedly started shooting at suspected hijackers.

Mathebula was hit by a stray bullet in his thigh. He was taken by his uncle to a nearby clinic and was later transferred to hospital.

One suspect was fatally wounded in the incident, while others fled on foot.

In a preliminary statement – police deny shooting the child and say he was knocked down by a car.

The police say it is unfortunate that the community believes that the law enforcement officials are lying. – Report by Voice of Wits newsreader and producer, Lehlohonolo Malapane.

Alexandra police accused of shooting 5-year-old boy

Alexandra police accused of shooting 5-year-old boy

Police in Alexandra are accused of shooting a 5-year-old boy during a shootout with alleged hijackers on Tuesday.

Gontse Mathebula had been sent to the tuckshop when he was allegedly caught in crossfire.

He is recuperating in hospital.

While police have confirmed the shootout, they say the child was knocked down by a speeding vehicle of the alleged criminals.

They say a suspected hijacker was killed during the skirmish.

Mathebula is alleged to be a fifth Alexandra resident to be a victim of police officers in five years.

Nxelelwa must rot in jail, says #NotInMyName

Nxelelwa must rot in jail, says #NotInMyName

The two life sentences handed out to Lungile Nxelelwa for the rape and murder of his girlfriend in 2019 have been welcomed.

Nxelelwa raped, killed 27-year-old Keneilwe Pule in Sebokeng, Gauteng, desecrating her body with a grinder before torching her.  

He was sentenced in the high court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

The judge presiding over the matter said Nxelelwa had stated his intention to kill Pule on numerous occasions.

Pule’s relatives were in court and they welcomed the sentence.

“Lungile is not right to live with other people. People like Lungile should be in jail,” the family says.

Pule’s aunt and family spokesperson, only identified as mmeManana, says the trial has reopened old wounds.

MmeManana says they still don’t exactly know how Nxelelwa killed Pule, among others.

“How did he kill Lungile..because there were kettle, ropes, grinders and knobkirries. We don’t whether he hacked her or he poisoned her and a lot of blood in the house,” she says.

“People like Lungile do not deserve to live with the people. Lungile is not right is person to live with the people. He is a giant. He can kill a person and rape him…rape him..so many things…how could Lungile rape a dead body…it’s not right.. it’s not right,” she says.

She says Nxelelwa’s mother is also scared of him. “Umama kaLungile naye I think..she is at peace,” she adds.

Rights group, #NotInMyName, has also welcomed Nxelelwa’s sentencing, describing it as long overdue.

“We believe South Africa needs more judgments like this in order to deter perpetrators and would-be perpetrators. We want sentences which deter the perpetrators of femicide, which is a scourge hounding our nation,” says the organisation’s general secretary, Themba Masango.

“We salute the courts, investigators and the justice system in this case for giving Keneilwe a voice, even in death. Our chant has been “Nxelelwa must rot in jail,” adds Masango.

The Gender Commission says Nxelelwa’s sentencing puts an end to one of the most traumatic cases of gender-based violence and femicide ever witnessed and heard of in the country.

“The Gender Commission believes this sentence will send a strong and unequivocal message that the judicial system is taking the fight against gender-based violence seriously,” the organisation adds.

Nxelelwa wasn’t happy with his sentence and lodged an appeal.

The judge, however, dismissed the application. – Report by Voice of Wits newsreader and reporter Lehlohonolo Malapane.

Wits launches new online clinic

Wits launches new online clinic

Wits will start providing voice therapy at the university’s speech and hearing clinic from the first week of March.

Patients who have damaged their voice as a result of a traumatic experience or those experiencing difficulties in their voice such as hoarseness or loss of vocal range can now get help at the voice clinic located at the Umthombo building on East Campus.

The senior supervisor at the clinic, Bianca Kruger, says voice problems often occur in people with vocally intense occupations such as lawyers, teachers, actors, singers, performing arts students or loud children.

The establishment of the new clinic comes as result of a recent change in the speech pathology and audiology degree.

“The two degrees have grown substantially in their own right over the last decade or so and it is now not feasible to study them together. All of the other South African universities have split the degree as well. Wits was the last to do so,” says lecturer, Dr Kim Coutts.

The clinic is run by final-year speech pathology students and Kruger. Consultations at the clinic can cost patients R100 – R200 per session.

Sessions will be conducted either in person, via telephone or online platforms. The duration of the therapy will depend on the severity of the problem. – Report by Wits Vuvuzela’s Akhona Matshoba

E Cape liquor board berates revellers for breaking of COVID-19 rules

E Cape liquor board berates revellers for breaking of COVID-19 rules

Backlash continues over the breaking of COVID-19 regulations by patrons of a liquor outlet in East London, in the Eastern Cape.

Over the weekend, a video showing most of the revellers not wearing masks and not observing social distancing went viral on social media.

Buccaneers Bar and Restaurant also exceeded the stipulated venue capacity under level 3 lockdown.

According to the regulation, indoor gatherings may not exceed 50% of the venue capacity.

The Eastern Cape Liquor Board (ECLB) has condemned this and went with the police to verify the incident.

The organisation says the bar manager admitted guilt and was fined R5 000.

The board says it will continue working with SAPS to monitor and enforce compliance with COVID-19 19 regulations and trading conditions.

The Buffalo City Municipality has also slammed the breaking of the COVID-19 rules at the bar.

It’s urged businesses to put lives over profits and the liquor license regulators to take action against businesses that are breaking the law.