Members of the Wits community and the media were denied access by Student Governance at the student forum meeting held at Robert Sobukwe block on Tuesday evening, August 29.
Explaining the reasons behind the refusal of entry in the forum, senior programme adviser for Student Governance, Jabu Mashinini in a statement, told Wits Vuvuzela that “given the disruptions we experienced by observers, the house decided on a closed meeting,” adding that the access into the meeting was by invitation only. The student forum held last year had disruptions.
Students were however unhappy to hear this, as they raised concerns on transparency.
Third year politics student Lunga Mkhonza described the student forum as a “student parliament” in which the SRC is supposed to be held accountable. He added that “the media is allowed in the South African Parliament, EFF has always caused disruptions but were never denied access. But then again, how do you expect a PYA [Progressive Youth Alliance] member to hold another PYA member accountable?” said Mkhonza.
Wits Vuvuzela journalist, Chulumanco Mahamba, said she felt it was odd for Student Governance not to allow the media or students into the meeting considering that transparency and accountability are the key tenants of democracy. She also added that the role of the media is to be watchdogs of the society and to hold those in power accountable.
Previously, observers have been allowed in the student forum meetings, however the newly elected SRC President David Manabile said it was wrong because the student forum is a platform where the SRC is meant to account and hand out confidential information that is not meant for the public. However, if students want an open meeting, it is possible to make arrangements for it to take place.
Master’s in heritage studies student, Jafta Kolisang, said it was wrong that students were not allowed in the forum saying that the SRC cannot continue to operate in secrecy especially when three of its members have mysteriously resigned in the past few weeks.
Kolisang further added that, “If VC, Prof Adam Habib, demands that we be respectful and responsible in our engagement as students within the university community, he must intervene urgently and deal with the shenanigans happening in the student governance structure before it leads to a crisis.”