Two SRC elections cancelled, one political party banned from taking office, SRC election ballots rigged, election intimidation, racist slandering, violent protest to SRC elections and dismal turnouts at voting stations. South African varsities are in a state of crisis in respects to SRC governance.
In Asian astrology, 2012 is the year of the “water dragon”. This weird and mysterious beast represents, to those who believe in eastern astrology, uncertainty and surprise. “Expect the unexpected” was this year’s mantra. Put less mystically, 2012 was pent up to be the year of drama.
This became especially true for South African universities. The political climate in varsities around the country reached catastrophic climax. From coast to coast SRC’s and the SRC election processes were rocky and marred with controversies which resulted in wide spread media coverage as never seen before, as well as an exposition of how an honorable role in university has become yet another SA political circus.
The actions that have transpired this year have brought to light an old question, one you have probably asked yourself on your own many times, “Should state party politics have anything to do with varsity SRC and varsity student governance?”
We shall discuss that soon in another publication on VB. For now, I would like to draw your attention to the dramatic events that have transpired in many universities this year. We shall go through them varsity by varsity and you will get to see why we are, right now, in a National SRC Crisis.
UP (UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA)
“If I can’t have it, no one can”
The capital city is no stranger to political controversy. Our president, Jacob Zuma, a polygamist and friend to convicted (and later pardoned by him) fraudster Shabir Shaik, sits at the highest seat. He himself has had his fair share of media run-ins (too many to mention here) and has a weird love hate relationship with South African artists.
A stone throw away from our Buildings of the Union lays the University of Pretoria or UP, also popularly knows as TUKS or Tukkies.
For a considerable while, ANC led SASCO had been the victor of the SRC battle for Pretoria, until late 2010, when a political white wash saw their once seemingly eternal hold on UP politics come to an end when AfriForum Youth (AFY), an external but not so independent party won an absolute majority in the SRC.
The following three years watched the steady decline of SASCO in UP and the dramatic incline of AfriForum Youth. But Sasco fought back hard against the new unexpected rivals.
Last year (2011), they eventually took AFY to court and forced UP to run re-elections refusing the results of the original election be released. The Pretoria High Court set aside the re-elections and a court order forced UP to release the results a full five months after the election, in February 2012, a week after school had begun.
It was found that AfriForum Youth had once again decimated SASCO, this time with a record number of 42% of the votes cast and twice the number of votes SASCO received. It was clear, SASCO still wasn’t good enough.
Then this years 2012/2013 elections came along, and it all got really weird, really fast. The AfriForum Youth camp came back with its same game plan and secured a higher voter turn out than the last election. Then, in an act of forgetting past blunders, SASCO, days before the elections, threatened UP again. This time with protest.
Eventually SASCO simply withdrew from the elections and UP was forced to cancel its SRC elections just six days before the elections began. SASCO had pulled off a neat little trick that they probably should have nicknamed “If I can’t have it, no one can”.
They had committed themselves to an injustice- depriving the student body of UP a student-elected SRC. To make matters worse, the University of Pretoria contravened its own constitution when they went along with SASCO and cancelled the election all together by declaring them illegal.
Then UP went so far as to appoint their own SRC. They called it a Temporary Student Committee (TSC) and it would take the place of the SRC indefinitely. This act was a violation of the National Higher Education Act, which compels the university to establish a democratically elected body annually that can represent students.
The last three years have seen a consistent failure at UP to fairly elect a democratic SRC, with the constitution for student governance being changed three times in the last three years. The present constitution was agreed upon by societies and the student body and was approved by the University of Pretoria in September this year.
Now, since the new debacle, the university wants to change it yet again to “suit the parties that do not agree with it.”
The battle for the capital city continues till today, with no resolution on the table.
A statement made by Charl Oberholzer, on behalf of AfriForum Youth in February 2012, when the 2011 election results were released and it was found that they had won, brings us closer to the crux of what AfriForum Youth is about, and what they are doing it all for:
“[AfriForum Youth] also obtained a huge victory for Afrikaans…”
Afrikaans? What about the other ethnicities in UP? What about the other eight official languages?
CPUT (CAPE PENINSULAR UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY)
“Cockroaches and pigs”
A few weeks back, President Jacob Zuma declared in parliament that he wants an “African trial”. He was speaking in regards to the civil and private suits brought against him prior to and during his time on the seat of presidency. Being trialed in an African customary court, as supposed to a normal South African court of law, could potentially see many of his cases being thrown out.
Need I remind you that as the president of the Republic, he is and should be the highest protector and upholder of our laws and our justice system? He is the man who assents all our National Acts. The buck stops with him. So when he took that buck and slaughtered it in parliament by virtually stating that he does not believe in our judiciary system, what message did that send across to the country and particularly the more impressionable youth?
Perhaps we can find out from SASCO. Especially the Cape Peninsular University of Technology (CPUT) SASCO. Who, this year, during their SRC election campaign decided to be completely oblivious to some of our constitutions most important rights and restrictions.
An election poster erected at the Cape Town and Bellville campuses of CPUT got them into hot water when the DA Youth took them to the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC).
The grossly racist poster states, among other things, “white pigs to leave South Africa a long time ago because theirs is to exploit us (sic)” and “we have long foreseen that you want to control our country again, that is why as SASCO we support and sing with our President Malema when he sings “kill the boer” kill the “racist” (sic)”.
They also go on to call international students ‘cockroaches’, a derogatory and dangerous word associated with genocide:
“By the way we are maintaining the stunts of the youth president (Julius Malema) who also saw this tjatjarag tendency and called for these white pigs to leave South Africa. “Malema lives in us, and for these cockroaches (international students) that think they are home here (SA) and steal our jobs … they must also leave,” it reads.
It goes without saying that these statements are an overt incitement to violence and have absolutely no place in our constitutional democracy.
So when the CPUT SASCO later went on a raging fight against CPUT’s review of the SRC constitution, it was, well, ironic.
The CPUT spokesman, Thami Nkwanyane strongly condemned the abuse of the schools communication platforms. ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile said that he had not seen the poster, but would urge SASCO to destroy it if they had been responsible for it.
AfriForum Youth an independent civil rights movement was considering taking action on the matter as well.
This year’s drama at CPUT follows a dramatic pattern of unruly youth behavior. Last year the CPUT student body led a violent and illegal protest led by SASCO.
A SASCO supporter from another institution condemned the hate speech posters, saying, “it gives a misrepresented and bad name to our organization”
SASCO provincial chairman Sello Nkhatho denied the poster, “We distance ourselves completely from that poster.”
UL (UNIVERSITY OF LIMPOPO)
“Pick beautiful girlfriends”
Marikana. Unfortunately, the word has entered our daily dialog for the most negative reasons. When 47 people are murdered, and at least 78 people are injured, all in the same clashes, it sets your country into a state a mass questioning. “Where did we go wrong? And how could we have let this happen?” For the most part, the answer to these questions is inseparable from conspiracy.
What was really interesting to see is how our leaders handled the situation. Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, was quick to attack president Jacob Zuma on disappearing at a moment when the country needed him the most.
Very right he was. So he decided to do what the president should have done and went to Marikana himself. In no time he had subsequently turned his visit into an attempt to start a “mining revolution”.
Then he took it to Limpopo. The university of Limpopo has been and still is a Malema/ANC stronghold, it is one of the few provincial universities that SASCO have managed to stay in control of in 2012. This does not mean however, that its SRC elections went under the radar.
During the SRC election process in October, unrest broke out and a number of UL students were assaulted. Two students were arrested for alleged assault during the elections.
The students were aged 21 and 22 and were from different organizations (one of them from SASCO). At the end of those elections it was clear that SASCO had one battle (not to anyone’s surprise).
Malema arrived at University of Limpopo a week and a half after the violence was over and election results had been released. In a canny act of “do as I say, not as I do” he warned the newly elected SRC not to live lavish lifestyles while still in office.
He told them not to buy plasma television sets or expensive clothes as that would create the impression that they had “sold out”. Then, somewhere during his 90 minute speech, he advised the SRC leaders to “pick beautiful girlfriends”. “Even when you pick a girlfiend, you must choose a proper one,” he said to cheers.
He went on to draw comparisons between Zimbabwe in South Africa. Saying compared to SA, Zimbabwe had achieved a successful revolution. He also said we do not need foreign investors. But that he never wanted to chase them away.
UWC (UNIVERSITY OF THE WESTERN CAPE)
“Let me see your papers”
By far the province with the most SRC unrest this year has been the Western Province. If the reasons aren’t obvious to you yet, it is because it is the only country, I mean province that is not governed by the ANC.
The ANC affiliated SASCO was disqualified from the UWC elections by the university’s Election Management Board after handing in their nomination forms in late.
SASCO then cried foul. Saying the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (Pasma) should also be disqualified as “they did not hand in their official academic transcipts.
Then DA Student Organization (DASO) also cried foul about “management interference” and legal opinions sought by the university over the UWC SRC constitution, following a similar pattern to UCT management who also called for a restructuring of the constitution.
Then the university management suspended the election process. The elections were going to be in two more days when UWC suspended them indefinitely, leaving UWC with no functioning SRC body.
When the university tried to call for the election process to start from scratch, thereby giving an extension on nomination form submissions, DASO threatened to take legal action, “we will not allow certain parties to bulldoze the process and we cannot allow such precedent to be set.”- Ashley van Heerden.
SASCO’s UWC deputy chairperson, Kabamba Chipulu, admitted that the election process had failed and blamed the DASO Pasma of submitting incomplete information.
While the UWC management, SASCO and DASO play the blame game, the students, without a democratically elected SRC, are the ones who suffer.
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