SRC faces dissolution over charges

The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC)  is pulling out all the stops to get misconduct charges dropped that could result in the dissolution of the SRC.

SURVIVOR SRC: SRC President Sibulele Mgudlwa claims intimidation.    Photo: Mia Swart

SURVIVOR SRC: SRC President Sibulele Mgudlwa claims intimidation. Photo: Mia Swart

The incident under scrutiny relates to the disruption of a musical recital by the Israeli born pianist Yossi Reshef. The disruption was part of a protest during Israeli Apartheid Week.  Nine members of the executive of the SRC are charged for not going through proper processes for protests, creating a hostile environment and refusing to obey orders from the university.

These are among other charges such as pushing members of university security, aggressively stomping feet, shouting, chanting, failing to respect the rights and freedom of the attendees at the concert. In addition, they “demeaned and/or humiliated and/or created an environment of intolerance”.

SRC president, Sibulele Mgudlwa said: “According to the SRC constitution if you are found guilty, then you can’t be a member of the SRC.”

Outgoing Vice Chancellor Loyiso Nongxa, issued a statement saying  senior counsel has been appointed to act in lieu of a student discipline committee to chair the hearing, and to carry out all of its functions. And “as such, he or she will make a decision as to whether or not to publish details of the disciplinary proceedings”.[pullquote]“It’s just an environment that is not conducive to student governance.” [/pullquote]

Nongxa said if someone is found guilty, the person presiding decides on “the appropriate sanction”.

The SRC as a whole could not be disbanded, but it will work on a “case by case” basis. If enough members are found guilty and asked to step down, re-elections could be held or the vice chancellor can appoint a temporary SRC council.

SRC Vice President External, Joy Phiri said: “Finding a guilty verdict directly suggests that it is inappropriate for student leaders to fight just causes and that in itself is a negative message that I don’t think the university wants to tag along to.”

Phiri said that the charged members would take all the legal recourse in their power.  SRC vice president internal , Tokelo Nhlapo suggested that they won’t just step down but will appeal the case.

Mgudlwa said:  “It’s an intimidating experience and it really hampers how you do your job.” He added that students come and ask for assistance but between assisting students, the SRC have to address the charges, organize protests, put together press releases and organize responses.

It’s just an environment that is not conducive to student governance.”

If there was an emergency SRC, it would take a whole month to organise as new nominations of candidates have to be called for, as well as submissions and manifestos.

The university has to check whether the students are registered students at Wits and if they are legitimate and credible candidates. After the nominations have been approved, the circuses and the voting process would follow.

It now has more than 100 endorsements to call for the university to drop the charges against them. The endorsements come from a range of  organisations including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and South African Students Congress (Sasco).