By Nqobile Dludla and Lutho Mtongana
SRC ELECTIONS are well underway but, unlike in previous years, candidates will no longer be able to campaign in the evenings in dining halls with the cancellation of evening circuses.
According to chief electoral officer Jabu Mashinini, evening circuses in dining halls during dinner hours is not allowed because it disturbs students from eating peacefully.
Campus housing director Rob Sharman said it was “long-standing policy that election circuses in dining halls are not held during meal times.”
Holding circuses after dinner hours, after 8pm, was also shot down by the SRC election office because it would be an unwelcome distraction during study times.
“We are considering student academics. When are they going to study if we start at 8pm and finish at 10pm? So that’s the reason why we cancelled the evening circuses,” said Mashinini.
Sharman said that while two dining halls, Main and Highfield, only close at 8pm this was not the case for all dining halls.
“The other four dining halls close at 7pm, as they always have, so election circuses can start earlier in those venues,” Shaman said.
Sharman said a proposed circus at Noswal Hall would have clashed with a previously planned Women’s Month event at the residence.
“So the circus obviously had to give way to the residence event. I have not seen any proposed alternative date for the circus,” Sharman said.
The decision to call off the evening circuses came as a surprise to candidates who arrived on Tuesday for the first scheduled evening circus, meant to take place at Convocation dining hall, only to learn it was cancelled.
Reaction from candidates
Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) election management committee chairperson Lesego Mokwena said the cancellation of evening circuses was “a shame” and would make it more difficult to get Witsies to turn out and vote.
The PYA felt that “not having evening circuses is really a shame” because they were also campaigning to encourage Witsies to actually vote.
“The issue of us not having evening circuses is really a shame because apart from trying to promote your manifesto, the first thing we try to do is to actually get the Wits students to actually go vote,” Mokwena said.
“What was beneficial about these evening circuses is that we target students that are not usually around during the day. For us not to be afforded that opportunity is really a shame.”
After the cancellation of the Tuesday circus, the ended up campaigning door-to-door at West Campus residences, David Webster Hall and Barnato Hall.
Project W candidate Gwinyai Dube said the cancellation was due to “a disconnect that exists between management structures and students.”
“It’s disappointing to limit the political process like that just because some guy sitting in the office somewhere is thinking for the students. Just because I’m eating doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear what someone has to say,” Dube said.
Sharing the same sentiment, Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) felt that the student community should have been consulted before a decision to cancel the circuses was made.
“It should have been consultative to find out from students which do they prefer because some have tutorials during lunch time and are missing out on lunch circuses,” said Wits EFF candidate Anele Nzimande.
“It’s a huge disadvantage because evening circuses bring everyone together, so everyone is in the same place and you don’t have to go door-to-door giving people your manifesto one-by-one. Now we are missing out on that opportunity, we are missing out on so many people,” added Nzimande.
However, Nzimande said that the cancellation of the evening circuses won’t tarnish their effort to reach more students as new members.
First week of campaigning
The SRC elections officially began on Monday with a lunchtime SRC Great Debate held in the Great Hall. It was the first time the PYA, Project W and Wits EFF were able to present their manifestos to students who packed into the large venue.
Transformation on campuses and residences was a common issue raised by all three parties. Wits EFF called for changing the names of campus buildings to honour African leaders while the PYA said it was committed to transformation “at all levels”.
Project W countered by saying their candidate list was the most transformed because it was the most “representative” of the parties.
This issue of representativity came up at the Wednesday lunch debate, when first-year student Dan Peter, Bcom Law and Economics, challenged the PYA on its diversity asking if the organisation is “a representative party which can represent me as a white student in this university?”
PYA candidate Fasiha Hassan responded that the PYA advocated transformation on all levels on campus and defended the diversity of their candidates.
“If you look at all these people [PYA candidates], we have our candidates from all campuses and all religions,” Hassan said.
Day circuses will still take place during lunch at respective venues while organisations will organise their own evening campaign sessions.