On Friday the University of the Witswatersrand released a statement around the suspension of students and the exclusion of the Wits EFF society. This comes after a disruption that was initiated by the Wits EFF at the SRC debate which ended in a physical altercation between parties. It was the start of an unusual campaign season.
This year four parties registered to run for the 2016 SRC elections these included the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters, Project W, the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (DASO).
Cancelled SRC debate
Campaigning started off with a bang this year when the annual Student Representative Council (SRC) debate was cancelled after a fight broke out between parties.
Members of the Wits EFF filled the Great Hall stage dancing and chanting “No SRC!” The party continued to disrupt the proceedings of the debate.
The organisers, campus control head of investigations Michael Mahada, and campaign managers then went backstage for an emergency meeting. The group then came out and announced that the debate was cancelled. Chief electoral officer, Thembi Dlamini explained that the cancellation was based on a “collective decision”.
Exceptionally disappointed with the puerile & disruptive actions of Wits EFF. For Pete’s sake debate ideas & win argument through persuasion
— Kenneth Thobejane (@ramabifiT) August 22, 2015
Then more confusion hit at what was supposed to be the first campaigning circus for the year. Only the PYA and a few Wits EFF candidates arrived at the FNB building on Wednesday. According to PYA’s Twitter account, supporters were requested to meet at 1:20pm at the FNB building, for an official election circus. But on arrival it seemed that there was no organisation for the event and only a few PYA candidates handing out pamphlets.
A handful of PYA members were handing out pamphlets encouraging students to vote for their party. When asked, the candidates told those that gathered that they were waiting on the party’s officials and the Independent Electoral Committee (IEC), none of whom showed up. PYA representatives told Wits Vuvuzela that, “It seems as though only Project W were made aware of the postponement, because it was only the EFF and the PYA that prepared for today’s circus.”
What seemed at first, to be a defiance of the cancellation to those who knew about it turned into a simple misunderstanding and miscommunication on the part of the candidates and their parties.
We will be at FNB today for the first official election circus, 1:20pm! Come through, meet your PYA candidates and hear why #PYALEADS!
— WitsPYA (@WitsPYA) August 19, 2015
The show goes on with circus at the Matrix
On Thursday the first organised and official campus circus was held at the Matrix on Wits East campus. Students were encouraged to question candidates on issues surrounding party mandates and burning topics related to the university. While at one point the EFF caused a bit of a disruption, all in all the circus went off with no major incidents.
Suspension of Wits EFF and students involved in debate disruption
On Friday the EFF were not at the second circus that was held at the Wits Medical campus. That evening at 6:30pm a statement was emailed to the Wits student body from the Council of the University of the Witwatersrand. The document gave comment on the decisions to suspend the Wits EFF as a society and said some of the students involved in the fighting at the Tuesday debate would be suspended.
— EFF expelled at wits (@lovezamazama) August 21, 2015
Varsity is a place where young intellectuals meet,discuss & bring new ideas, a hub for challenging the status quo so reinstate Wits EFF now
— Modibe J Modiba (@10dibz) August 21, 2015