LESS than 20% of Witsies generally vote in the SRC elections – and this week’s election is not expected to draw more than 23%, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
This week, students were asked to vote for their 15 representatives on campus. The 23 candidates were from the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), Democratic Alliance Students’ Organisation (Daso) or were standing as independents.
Zolile Yalwa, IEC observer of electoral management, said students were ignorant when it came to voting in the SRC elections. “Wits students don’t take voting seriously and they just don’t care.”
First year law student Sipho July said he did not vote in the elections because he did not know the SRC. July claimed he only met a few members of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) when they were campaigning.
“It’s sad really because we’re only contacted when we’re needed for votes.”
Yalwa said the fact that students claimed not to know the SRC meant they were not concerned about the university. “These people [the SRC] will determine the policies that are going to govern your existence at Wits University.”
Out-going deputy president of the SRC, Tshepo Lethea, said the percentage of voting students had not reached 20% in a number of years. He blamed university management for not encouraging students to vote.
The university spent “serious money” on Wits90 celebrations and not enough on voting, he said.
PYA candidate Sibulele Mgudlwa said: “Student turn-out is really bad. Students are just not interested or they have better things to do.”
Mgudlwa said he felt the candidates had to do the job of the IEC in trying to draw voters. “The IEC has failed to attract and entice students to vote”.
Last year the IEC gave away MP3s and iPods to lucky student voters. But this year they were giving away T-shirts.
Yalwa commented: “To vote is to exercise your right. There is no need for incentives for students to vote … actually that would be buying people to vote.”
Lethea said “students must be responsible and vote because it gives the structure [SRC] legitimacy.”
“When you fight for students who were raped or students who cannot see and they need ramps, the university says how many people are you representing really? Just two, just four.”
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 21st Edition, 24th August 2012.