Johannesburg metro police raids

Police patrol the streets of Johannesburg. Pic: Marcello Casal Jr/ABr


Nkhangweleni Nemakonde’s day started off the way it usually did. He woke up at 3am, and instead of heading to his stall to start working at 4.50am, he went straight to the market to stock up on mangoes because he had run out unexpectedly.

He arrived from the market with 30 boxes of mangoes, each worth R48, and put them next to his stall.

An hour later he left the stall under the watchful eye of his assistant to run a few errands. On his return, in place of his fresh mangoes was a ticket from the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD).

This ticket said that he was in violation of a Johannesburg municipality by-law and was to pay R1000 to claim his stock from the JMPD compound.

The mangoes were worth more than the fine, he organised money and went to pick up them up. But they seemed to have disappeared.


“JMPD officers can confiscate hawkers’ stock for which they issue tickets used to collect their goods from the impound”


The Johannesburg municipality has devised several by-laws concerning informal traders (hawkers) which regulate such factors as designated trading areas as well as environmental health and safety.

In terms of designated trading areas, hawkers are either allocated standardised stalls provided by the city or designated blocks marked by painted lines. Hawkers are also provided with trading permits as proof of their legality.

The JMPD has a unit whose mandate is to enforce the city’s informal trading by-laws against hawkers trading illegally. The offences range from designated area violations to the trading of counterfeit goods (punishable by imprisonment). In the event that any of these laws are violated, JMPD officers can confiscate hawkers’ stock for which they issue tickets used to collect their goods from the impound.


“JMPD carries out raids at 6am, 11am and 2pm every day”


JMPD Superintendent Zed Mangaliso explained that the situation was more complex than just confiscations of hawkers’ goods however. “The main problem is that there are parts of town designated for hawkers but there are just too many people wanting to sell in the same parts of town and there are not enough designated spots,” said Mangaliso said.

He stressed that the laws were meant to deal with the congestion of hawkers on the pavements in the inner city not to harass them.

An aerial view of Johannesburg. Pic: Lars Haefner


According to Mangaliso the JMPD carries out raids at 6am, 11am and 2pm every day and the fines issued are determined by the municipality: R1060 for perishables and R2115 for non-perishables.

“We are merely doing our jobs”, said Mangaliso.


“They believe metro police operate under their own rule of law”


JMPD claim to be doing their “job” however hawkers see things differently. That may be the law but they believe metro police operate under their own rule of law.

Nemakonde has a stall and a permit that he received in 2005 yet his mangoes worth close to R2000 were confiscated and never recovered. He believes they were stolen by JMPD officers.

“They took my mangoes home to feed their children while I am struggling to feed mine.”

After Nemakonde made several complaints, he was advised by JMPD administration to lay a complaint with the police. “But all they [police] told me was that I couldn’t open a case against other police.”

“So I lost about R2000 that day, money I don’t have.”

At 2pm on one Friday a JMPD raid was set to happen. A convoy of four JMPD cars carrying a team of about 15 officers left for the Park station area with a mandate to confiscate the perishable stock of hawkers trading illegally.

As the first car, a small Ford, entered the area traders looked around them, alert with anticipation. In what seemed like a few seconds, this turned into panic as the two Quantum mini buses, followed by the truck, entered the target area. As soon as the officers jumped out of the cars, hawkers knew seemed to know exactly what to do.

They grabbed whatever they could and ran to try hiding it. One hawker who sold his tomatoes and onions from a trolley just pushed his trolley as he ran. In all the chaos, he was unable to outrun the two officers who grabbed his trolley and lifted it onto the truck effortlessly.

He like several others, was not issued a receipt. The few that were did not bother taking them saying there was no point of paying R1060 to get back stock worth less than that amount and by the time they gather the amount their fruit would have perished in the JMPD storage rooms.


Watch a video showing a JMPD raid:


The JMPD have been accused of confiscating hawkers’ goods without issuing receipts or their goods “disappearing” from storage. In May this year The New Age reported that the South African National Trader’s Retail Alliance (Santra) was applying to the High Court for an interdict preventing JMPD officers from confiscating hawkers’ goods.  This followed allegations of theft by the JMPD. There were incidents where no receipts were issued to hawkers resulting in them not recovering their goods.



Moratorium on confiscations – Law Review Project

Tebogo Sewapa, a legal researcher from the NGO involved in the court application, Law Review Project, said JMPD raids were a violation of human rights. Sewapa and his team who are representing Nemakonde and others have requested a moratorium on these confiscations.

One of the reasons for this moratorium was what they said was an inhumane nature of punishment leading to “the poor losing their only possessions”.

They also mention that cases where hawkers’ goods are never recovered serve as evidence of corruption in the JMPD. In addition, the cost of getting back their confiscated goods is often higher than the value of the goods taken making the process theft from the hawkers by the city.

Legally, they said the raiding process was unconstitutional for hawkers mainly because when their goods are essentially being punished before they can defend themselves in a court of law.

“We want the High Court to declare that the by-law that gives metro police rights to confiscate traders’ goods without following the due process of the law, that by-law has to be declared to be not in line with the constitution,” Sewapa said.



Hawkers in Pretoria

It is not just hawkers working in Johannesburg experiencing such challenges.

News24 reported that hundreds of hawkers in Pretoria went up in arms in during several protests in August this year alleging that they were harassed by the metropolitan police there.

An article in The New Age about the same protest cited the protesting hawkers’ spokesperson saying officers were harassing them by confiscating their wares and trading permits without valid reasons.

To explain the confiscation process, Mangaliso stated that perishable goods stored at the JMPD compound were kept for a maximum of three days and if they were unclaimed at the R1060 fee they were donated to NGOs. He said this might be why some hawkers’ goods might be removed from the compound before they claim them hence the allegations of “disappeared” goods.


“It hurts because I am not breaking the law”


While Sewapa and his colleagues continue in talks with the municipality, the raids continue three times a day – every day affecting the lives of hawkers like Nemakonde and their families.

“The JMPD really harasses us. It hurts because I am not breaking the law I have a permit to trade but they still take my stock,” said Nemakonde while organising his fruit.

“I don’t make a lot of money to begin with, I live from hand to mouth … when they take our stock and leave us with high fines it doesn’t make sense.”

Despite the challenges he has faced with the JMPD, he still has the dedication of the 21year old he was when he started selling fruit at this very spot on Bree Street in 1988. His motivation is his three children, wife, sister and mother who all depend on the fruit that he sells.

He says he has not once made demands on the government for handouts – all he wants is justice served for him and others like him – people making an honest living.

See the map below for the location of Bree Street in Johannesburg



Nemakonde will continue to start his days when he wakes up at 3am, arriving at his stall at 4:50am to start selling to his earliest customers.

He only packs up to go home at 7:30pm all the while hoping he will not be a victim of any of the three raids to take place each day  – and that he would have sold almost all if not his entire stock.



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Maths failure rate at Wits commerce

About 40 percent first-year commerce students have to de-register from their second semester maths component because they failed the first semester component.

The computational maths failure rate has been relatively high over the past few years. Last year, 370 students failed the same course according to course co-ordinator, Karin Hunt.

Out of the 361 students who failed computational maths in first semester this year, 105 did not qualify even to write the June exam because they did not meet the “satisfactory requirements” for the course.

In February, 839 were registered for the course. By May, eight had deregistered. At the end of the first semester, 708 students wrote the exam and 478 passed.

A student who fails computational maths cannot do business statistics in the same year. That student has to do statistics the following year although which should not lengthen the duration of their degree unless they fail other courses.

Hunt said a first year commerce student usually has three other majors to concentrate on that require a lot of attention.

Accounting student Nothando Kunene failed economics and maths and has de-registered from second semester components of both courses.

Kunene said when she realised she failed, she felt disheartened and disappointed especially because she matriculated from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy with six distinctions.

“When I came to Wits with six As I was sure I’d do fairly okay here at Wits. I did not expect to fail the way that I’m failing right now,” Kunene said. She said she knew it would be a challenge but did not expect to be “set back”.

Although she worries about the consequences of her academic progress on her bursary, she hopes to improve her performance.

Hunt said it is difficult to blame the high failure rate on isolated factors because each case is specific. Nonetheless, in general, many students are overwhelmed by the transition from high school to university. “It’s just so different from school,” said Hunt.

An academic paper Hunt co-authored with Wits colleagues showed that maths is an important indicator of students’ university academic success especially in commerce-related courses like accounting.

But even though more students are passing matric maths and qualifying for university, the current maths the university failure rate is generally higher than that of former higher grade students.

Hunt said a matriculant can get an A for maths exam but not have answered all its sections making maths an unreliable indicator of their university competence. Because they qualify for university, lecturers get the impression that they are prepared for university maths and know how to cope in first year.

Faculty registrar, Marike Bosman, said the faculty was dealing with many cases of mid-year de-registrations which she could attribute to factors such as financial problems.

The faculty provides enough academic support for students mainly in the form of additional tutorials according to Bosman.

Kunene however said that these “drop-in” tutorials at lunch were not helpful because there were only two or three tutors assisting many students.

“Often the rooms are full and not all of us can fit into the two rooms.”


Future doctors self-medicating

The academic pressure at medical school has driven many students to use the stimulant Ritalin in an effort to keep up with their studies, especially as the year comes to an end.

Mainly used as treatment for people suffering from attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Ritalin (also known as vitamin-R) is often used illegally by students to increase their level of concentration and enable them to study for longer periods of time.


Like other stimulants, Ritalin works by increasing levels of dopamine exciting the brain and body, which enhances one’s level of activity, while reducing fatigue.

Because of this, 4th year medical student Thulane Ndaba is taking the pills to cope with exams at the end of each six-week block.

When he first got to medical school, Ndaba read an article in Wits Vuvuzela about students using Ritalin. It was only this year he considered using Ritalin after hearing rumours that some of his classmates were taking it.

Ndaba said he knew six people who were on Ritalin. “I found out that one of my friends had been using it since 2nd year,” he said.

Sandra Khubeka has been using the pills since 2nd year. Her father is a doctor and gives her repeat prescriptions which she shares with Ndaba and other friends. Khubeka said the reason her father still prescribed her these pills was he was not willing to risk her failing a year and him wasting money for fees.

Although Ritalin helped Ndaba concentrate for long hours while studying, he could not sleep one night taking an overdose of 30mg, instead of the usual 10mg dose. He felt very anxious and “fidgety” during his exam the following day and had a “mind block”.

Some of the side effects of Ritalin are anxiety, anaemia and sleep complications.

*Pseudonyms have been used for students

Home ground disadvantage for Basketball ladies

The Wits basketball ladies’ first team lost to the University of Pretoria (Tuks) in Hall 29, on Sunday April 15, in a Gauteng qualifier for a place in a national tournament.

If they are to participate in the University Sport South Africa (USSA) tournament, they will have to win both their upcoming qualifiers. The ladies’ first team is one of four Wits basketball teams attempting to take part in the national tournament, which starts on July 2 in Port Elizabeth.

The women started off well in the first quarter with some good offensive play. They took their opportunities to charge into the free throw lane which often resulted in successful lay-ups.

Although both teams were closely matched, Wits led at the end of the first quarter with 13 points to 10. Similar patterns of play were seen in the second and third quarters, in which Wits’ attacks on the Tuks defence gave them an advantage.

 Witsie shooting guards, Fortunate Bosega and Modiegi Mokoka, played key roles in the game. Both made several attempts, most successful, at shooting three pointers and lay-ups. As a result, Tuks tightened their defence during the second and third quarter.

Tuks increased their pace, making it difficult for Wits to score easily toward the end of the third   quarter. They also executed some fast breaks, which put Wits under pressure to improve their defence.

The fourth quarter saw Tuks take the lead by 53 points to 50. From then, the gap broadened rapidly and the final score was a 70-56 victory for Tuks.

Wits captain Xoli Mahlangu said her team was doing well until they relaxed. “We need to add defence to stop fast breaks from Tuks and help each other in offense.”

Wits “lost it” when Tuks played man-to-man defence and weren’t screening for team mates, she added.

Tuks key player Natalie Pike said the game was very competitive and that Wits was always a tough team to play against.

“We had a good game, but we had to work hard for it,” Pike said. However, she admitted that Tuks needed to “get fit”, which would improve their performance.

Wits coach Terry Nxumalo, said the Wits ladies played well in the first 30 minutes as they led for most of the game, but “lost their composure” towards the end where they made several turnovers.


Do Witsies love life?

Lovelife, a national HIV prevention initiative, has launched a series of television adverts called Nakanjani reflecting different aspects of HIV and Aids in South African communities.

Botha Swarts, national head of broadcasting for Lovelife, said: “It [the campaign] encapsulates a sense of resilience and creativity in the face of life challenges.”

Swarts also said the adverts were unusual in that they had no “clutter”. They are simple with no voice-overs and images are black and white. These features, he said, gave the viewer the chance to “experience the emotion and situations the characters in the adverts find themselves in”.

“We believe that it [Nakanjani] will provoke a thought process among our target audience,” said Swarts.

Nakanjani features three Public Service Announcements (PSA) that have different but related themes.

These PSAs feature young people as main characters and demonstrate different situations that youth from various communities and ethnic backgrounds find themselves in and the decisions they take as a way forward in each situation.

The first PSA addressed fears of testing summed up by its tagline: “I challenge my fears-NAKANJANI”.

One of the aims of the campaign is to teach the youth about safe sex and also to motivate them on a way forward should they find themselves in situations where they are infected or affected by HIV/Aids.

Nakanjani, which is also the tagline for each PSA, is slang for Nomakanjani, an isiZulu term that encourages one to persevere through difficult circumstances.

The viewers are also exposed to diversity in ethnicity of the characters which brings to the fore the issue that HIV and Aids isn’t exclusive in who it affects.

Although Nakanjani is aimed at educating the youth as a whole, it does not fully portray the lives of ordinary South Africans where HIV and Aids is concerned according to Wits health sociologist Prof David Dickson.

“Those running campaigns are by definition educated and are socially distant from the majority of the South African population,” said Dickson.

He said that in his experience in marketing research, these campaigns often fail to “fully grasp the cultural dynamics, belief systems, and social context of the majority of South Africans” existing in different communities, the Wits community included.

The second and third PSAs will be aired from April to June and July to September, respectively.

The fear of testing: This PSA showcases a young man who is fearful of the testing process. It focuses on the fear of fear as opposed to the fear due to knowing that you had unprotected sex. Through this PSA Lovelife challenges young people to face their fears no matter what (Nakanjani). Pay-off line: I challenge my fears – NAKANJANI . See video at

Child headed Household: The second PSA focuses on a young woman who finds herself having to take care of her siblings (child headed household). Not that she’s asked for the responsibility or is even ready for it. The PSA shows her struggling in poverty, doing her best to make sure her brother and sister are taken care of. A situation which many a young person finds overwhelming to such an extent that they give up on their own life. The PSA shows the character have her Nakanjani moment…puts on her school uniform and goes to school. She takes charge of her own destiny no matter what her circumstances Pay-off line: I am in charge of my destiny – NAKANJANI . See video at

Lack of access to opportunities:This PSA showcases the reality of the lack of opportunity in South Africa. It shows a young man looking for employment after he has finished matric. Looking for odd jobs, he gets turned away with each attempt. One can see him having his Nakanjani moment, where despite the fact that he has been unsuccessful, he gets up and tries again. Pay-off line:  I won’t give up – NAKANJANI. Video to be flighted in July 2012.

The young and the hairless

Balding or the loss of hair, which has always been a condition associated with men in their 30s or older, is starting to affect men barely in their 20s.

According to one of the leading hair loss specialists in South Africa, Dr Kevin Alexander (, one reason for this increased incidence of hair loss among younger men, is the fact that there are increased stresses placed on these men in today’s society.

Brendan Roane, a 25-year-old former Wits student started losing his hair about 4 years ago and it has gotten worse. He hasn’t bothered with treatment: “there’s not much you can do about it, unless you get surgery which I’m not keen on”. When he consulted his doctor, he said “you’re screwed”.

Male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss in men. It is characterised by a patterned hair loss which starts above one’s temples. This condition can start developing any time after puberty which is when blood levels of the hormone testosterone increase.

Image showing an example of male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia. Image sourced from

Alexander said he saw negative implications in hair loss among his young patients. He said it was “psychologically devastating” for them.  “They lose confidence since baldness can make you look 10-20 years older…they become the butt of jokes.” There are negative impacts for them socially and in the workplace.

A 22-year-old Wits student who wanted to remain anonymous said he started noticing his receding hairline when he was 15. He wanted to have dreadlocks but couldn’t because of his hair loss. After trying different products such a creams and sprays, he has resorted to shaving all of his hair off to hide his condition.

“Losing my hair made me seem old so I just started shaving my hair every second day,” he said.

Although his hair loss had affected him negatively in the past, his confidence has improved because his “chiskop” has given him a unique identity.


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Baby making business…

The conception of  a baby doesn’t take place as naturally for most as it does for others.

As solutions to this problem, many women have turned to sperm banks and egg donation clinics for assistance. Although two similar processes in that their results produce a baby, egg and sperm donations have several motivations and effects.

When women seek help from egg-donation clinics for conception, they usually have problems producing their own reproductive eggs which can be a result of early menopause or premature ovarian failure. Some women may have genetic conditions they don’t want passed on to their children.

In many cases, single or gay men with desires to become parents use egg donation programmes coupled with surrogacy to have children.

Egg recipients can spend up to R53000, which includes medical treatment for the donor and recipient, all in vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedures amongst other things. Also included in the recipient’s fee is the donor compensation which usually amounts to about R6000 per donation.

Some of Baby Miracles’s (a fertility clinic) criteria for suitable donors include mental, emotional and physical health i.e. normal body weight.

These criteria are seemingly prevalent in the student community which may be a reason for the high numbers of students becoming egg donors.

It seems that many students are willing to dedicate themselves to a 10 week process that involves hormonal self-injections for increased fertility and regular visits to the fertility clinic to assess egg development.

“Almost all my donors are students,” said Colleen Oates from Baby Miracles.

Wits postgraduate law student, Nontokozo Setiba, said she had considered being an egg donor about a year ago. After doing her research, however she found that one of the consequences was bloatedness and that “put her off.”

She also felt that many university students might be drawn to egg donations because some of the character traits that potential parents look for in a donor are a good IQ. This made her feel like there were discriminatory factors with the process in selecting “intelligent eggs.” This made her question the motives for parents wanting babies.

Not only female students have the opportunity to make money off of their reproductive cells, male students have also identified sperm donations as a way to earn some cash.

Oates noted however, that it’s a less complicated donation process: “Sperm donations require the guy to ejaculate his semen into a bottle – that is all, then he walks away.”

Another difference is that sperm donations pay R150 to the donor for each of his five sessions (that produce successful pregnancies) after which the donor is “retired” where all their unused sperm is destroyed.

Sperm donations are not as costly or complicated as egg donations and can be used for artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilisation. Donors can also choose their recipients by their ethnicity and religion.

Amir Bagheri (22) a Wits student said he had never thought about donating sperm until a close lesbian friend asked him to donate sperm to her. After thinking about it carefully, he decided he was uncomfortable with having a baby conceived that he would have no hand in raising, especially because he didn’t want to have kids of his own. “If I considered having kids, I would adopt”.

According to Medfem clinic website, a variety of people use sperm donation clinics including “single ladies and same sex couples.”

Because the commercial trade of human tissue is illegal in South Africa, money given to egg and sperm donors is not payment but  for covering their expenses.

A rare leap from honours to PhD

Two biochemistry students received such outstanding results in their honours year, they will be skipping Master’s and moving straight on to PhD degrees.

Bianca Dias and Bradley Peter (both 22) completed their honours degrees last year and received above 80% overall.

The head of the School of Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB), Professor Rob Veale, said the decision to exempt these candidates from master’s degrees was based on “holistic assessments” of their academic, laboratory performance and personal factors that could affect their performance at PhD level.

“The selection and registration of a higher degree candidate depends greatly on their relationship with their supervisors, as this allows the supervisors the opportunity for good judgment of suitable candidates,” said Veale.

“Although the final decision of exemption is made by the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) of the school in question, the discretion of the supervisors in the decision process in a key factor.”

According to the Faculty of Science Rules and Syllabus, a student who has shown a level of competence that satisfies Senate in their research, writings, experience and professional standing during their honours year may be admitted as a candidate for a PhD.

Member of the GSC, Dr Yasien Sayed, said no student in the history of MCB had ever been afforded this rare opportunity before.

“It’s not to say the school has not produced academically excellent students in the past,” said Sayed. “The fact that past excelling students weren’t offered this opportunity may be attributed to lack of awareness of this rule by many lectures, supervisors and students alike.”

Dias’s research, which is supervised by Professor Stefan Weiss, is focused on the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Although I’m a little anxious about the year because it will be very challenging, I am excited about this opportunity, and pleased that the university has this much faith in me.”

Peter, who is also a classical ballet dancer, planned to do his master’s at a university overseas when he was approached with the offer by his supervisor, Professor Heinrich Dirr. He said the science faculty took this step because they wanted to train more students at PhD level.

“I think the university wants produce more independent researchers.”

Why can’t I have my cake and eat it?

I know I’m a touch over-analytical, but I can’t make head or tail of many of the idioms and proverbs that exist in English – if you’ll excuse my using one of them.

We know what they mean because we’re used to hearing them. But do they make sense? An idiom is defined as “an expression peculiar to a language not readily analysable from its grammatical construction or from the meaning of its component parts”.

This definition, at least, makes sense because of the very senselessness of some of the phrases we hear every day. A great example is the phrase: “You can’t have your cake and eat it too”.

What else am I supposed to do with a cake? My failure to find a logical answer led me to my friendly source of reliable information – the internet.

Dramatist John Heywood first used this phrase in written form in 1546. In old English, the phrase read: “Wolde you bothe eate your cake, and haue your cake?”

He meant that we often wish for things to work out in more than one way, even if those “ways” conflict. We have to make decisions and live with the consequences.

Discovering the intended meaning left me only partially satisfied. Surely he could have found a better way to express it: “You can’t have your cake and eat it the way you would like” or: “You can’t have your cake and eat it all”, or even: “You can’t eat your cake immediately, and still keep it for later”.

My interest in language evolution has led me to the conclusion that language is like a large playing field on which writers play, watched by gullible readers. Besides that, language is dynamic, and this inevitably leads to some wear and tear.

I console myself with the fact that I may not always understand the meanings of particular idioms, but then I have to remember that I “I can’t have my cake and eat it too”.