TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE: Students will be updated about online voting processes on October6. Photo: Kayleen Morgan
A TOTAL of 71 candidates have been announced for the upcomingStudent Representative Council (SRC) elections which will take place in over a week’s time. This is the longest list of contesting
students to date, according to the Student Governance Office.
Witsies from different political parties and student organisations are excited about these coming elections scheduled for October 17 and 18.
Jabu Mashinini, a senior programme adviser for student governance, said she is verypleased with the number of candidates running because it means that “students are contesting and are interested in the politics and student governance of the university”.
Wits Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) candidate Hayley Davison said that in the following year she would like to see students from other campuses included in the focus points of the next SRC.
Davison also said she would like to see a more productive approach with regards to challenging issues such as fees and accommodation on campus. She added that student politics and national politics should be separated. “The next SRC should continue to fight for students even if students are not supporters of the mother body,” she said.
While Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA) has the least number of candidates running with only three entries, candidate Phetani Madzivhandila said the number of entries is a
good opportunity “to have diverse perspectives in student politics which will allow us to depart from the sole narrative of the Project Youth Alliance (PYA)”.
Though PASMA is pleased with the candidate numbers, Madzivhandila said he had hoped for more time to campaign as candidates only have one week to engage with students.
Independent runner Morerwa Ngwato said that student political groups did not accommodate his personal drive to encourage community projects and entrepreneurship.
“Political parties tend to reiterate the same issues such as free education policies but I want to bring business innovation and a community entrepreneurship component into student governance,” he said.
Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are gunning to win the majority of the seats in the upcoming election according to candidate Sivuyile Mhato. “The reason PYA has governed with a majority for so long is because there hasn’t been progressive contestation,” he said.
For this reason, he said it is good there are many candidates running this year because it means that students are taking themselves seriously and taking governance into their own hands. Mhato encouraged students to vote based on what they see in the manifesto and values of the organisation instead of friends and popular individuals because “populism is what’s killing us”.
An international law student who preferred to remain anonymous said she is not voting because the “SRC uses international students as a campaign strategy but do not cater to their issues once they are elected. I’m tired and so I’m not voting,” she said. [LISTEN] : Wits Vuvuzela asked students if they would be voting in the upcoming elections
Candidates from PYA were unavailable to speak to the media on its prospects for the upcoming elections. Voting for the SRC general elections will be carried
out electronically this year. Mashinini said students will be updated on the processes on Friday afternoon after the candidates have been briefed.
Wits Vuvuzela ran a poll on twitter to find out whether students would be voting in this year’s general SRC elections. SEE BELOW
Will you be voting in this year’s SRC general elections?
Afriforum Youth, EFFSC UP (Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command of University of Pretoria) and SASCO (South African Students Congress) marched at University of Pretoria, demanding that SRC elections be re-held after claiming that the elections have been rigged. However, the university is still investigating and presently the preliminary results still stand.
The protests have been ongoing since DASO, the DA student party won most seats and the position of the president in the elections held two weeks ago. The university is still conducting an investigation and have so far opted for a recount and not yet called for re-election.
The dispute started after SASCO released a statement on Facebook stating that “one of our party agents notified us of a discrepancy at one of the voting stations (IT voting station) in which the votes and the voters roll did not correlate (58 more votes than voters); which is not unusual in this institution- it’s a practice they have enjoyed for too long.”
Since the university launched the investigation, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has met with concerned parties for a recount and full audit. Prof. Themba Mosia, vice-principal of student affairs and residences, stated in a media release, “In terms of its constitutional mandate, the IMB has found that a full recount of the SRC election votes must take place in the presence of staff from the Department of Student Affairs (DSA), the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), candidates or party representatives, and the internal auditor authorised to complete the audit.” Prof. Mosia emphasised that the IMB has not yet made a decision on whether or not the elections were free and fair.
“This is another tool to silence student activism,” .
According to Naledi Chirwa, the EFFSC-UP’s legal and transformation officer, “a recount won’t be feasible as a lot of time has passed and the votes have already been tampered with thus not making it optimal at this stage.” “This is another tool to silence student activism,” Chirwa said. Wits Vuvuzela contacted University of Pretoria’s management for an update on the investigation and was told “all the processes regarding the SRC elections have not been finalized.”
With DASO being occasionally mocked on social media and at circuses leading up to the SRC elections this year many are wondering, what’s the deal with DASO?
DASO who?: Floyd Nyalungu explaining why DASO is the way it is at Wits. Taken at Medical Campus during elections earlier this week. Photo: Tanisha Heiberg
It’s the last circus before the SRC elections, a Project W member got up to tell the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) that he thought it was “cute” that they are trying to run.
The comment shows the dismissive attitude that many student politicians have towards the DASO candidates, as the organisation has struggled to gain any traction during this election.
When DASO’s campaign manager, Floyd Nyalungu, was asked about this particular incident he laughed and joked that “other students even call us ‘DASO The Legacy” in reference to the popular TV soapie Generations, now known Generations The Legacy.
But Nyalungu, PG Law, is looking on the bright side, “cute represents something good”, he said.
DASO have only six candidates running for SRC while rival organisations Project W and the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) each have a full slate of 15.
One of the points raised at the circus was the view that DASO is ‘dying’ and Nyalungu attributes this to their lack of visibility. “The reason people say DASO is dying is because they didn’t see it on campus and that is because previous structures could not coordinate activities.”
Nyalungu added that the graduation of some executive members on an annual basis has affected the depth of leadership of the organisation.
“The important part is that we are here now and if we see a problem why not try and address that issue.”
Despite Nyalungu positive outlook, many Wits students seem to feel sorry for the organisation. The DASO tent has been a point they have been mocked and criticised when some people noticed that it appeared to be a DA tent with an additional “SO” handwritten in white paint.
But Nyalungu said that what looked haphazard was a conscious decision so students can see where they come from and who they are.
“Most student didn’t know what DASO is, but there is branding for DASO … and I believe next year we will actually be using our DASO gazebo,” Nyalungu said.
Even with the eventful lead up to these elections—loud debates, fights, scuffles and lawsuits—DASO seems to be missing from the action, a move that Nyalungu said is part of their philosophy.
“I remember even at the Great Hall when people were fighting we were just sitting there, just folding our arms, but ja that’s how we believe leadership should be. When you have a problem you sit down and solve the issue instead of physically confronting each other,” said Nyalungu.
“We are hoping we can share much of the office with Project W and [the Progressive Youth Alliance], but unfortunately EFF is not here,” he said.
When asked how they have been experiencing the reaction to DASO running for SRC again he said it was very “positive”. Nyalungu said there have even been calls made to the Cape Town office asking where DASO Wits is.
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
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!
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.
This week the Wits EFF caused a stir when they criticised the university for shifting its’ responsibilities to the the SRC and have called for ‘no SRC’.
The Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stopped the inaugurual debate of the SRC election campaign because student government only existed to “legitimise” university authorities.
“The university does not listen to students so the SRC is a body that is meant to legitimise the university because the statute requires every institution of higher learning to have an SRC,” said Wits EFF secretary Mbe Mbhele.
“We feel like at Wits it is just there so that university can be a legitimate body but it does not necessarily change anything. It is also strategic move on the part of the university because they are always shifting responsibility.”
“We are not going to use the normal and orthodox means of protest”
Mbhele made his comments to Wits Vuvuzela on Tuesday afternoon shortly after Wits EFF stopped the election debate by singing and toyi-toying on the stage. The debate was called off and a fight broke out between members of Project W, Progressive Youth Alliance and the Wits EFF on the Great Hall stage.
Mbhele said Wits EFF would continue to protest the SRC campaign and prevent the elections from taking place.
“We are going to go there and kick the ballot boxes and the IEC is not going to be able to count the votes,” said Mbhele.
“We are not going to use the normal and orthodox means of protest, if it means we are going to shit at the Great Hall or at his office then we are going to do that.”
Mbhele said the university has relied heavily on the SRC to help students through initiatives such as One Million, One Month, a fundraising drive for students who did not receive funding the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme at the beginning of the year.
Mbhele said that the university should pay for student’s fees and accused it of paying bonuses to “[Vice Chancellor] Adam Habib and his minions.”
Mbhele said the lack of bus services for Wits students to taxi ranks at Bree and Noord were one example of how the SRC was unable to serve students.
“The bus issue has been raised in 2005 and in 2015 students are still complaining about the bus, 10 years later,” Mbhele said.
Mbhele said Wits EFF will use any means possible to force Habib to take their demands seriously.
After all that was said and done, Mbhele concluded the interview with these words “fuck Habib”.
The celebrity duo was invited by the PYA to encourage Wits students to participate in this year’s elections. “We encourage Wits students to vote. Once they vote, they will make the wise choice,” Sisulu said.
Threats of disqualification
Chief electoral officer Jabu Mashinini stopped the duo and threatened that if they continued to campaign, the PYA would be disqualified from the elections.
“The rule says only students can campaign. This is Wits University, don’t campaign for them. They cannot approach students. I don’t want this debate,” Mashinini shouted at the two visitors. Mashinini also said Thusi and Sisulu’s presence is seen as campaigning for the PYA, which would give the organisation an advantage in the elections.
Mashinini added: “You can’t bring people to campaign, as they will get an advantage. Only Wits students can campaign, it’s part of an election rule. I will disqualify them and this is a last warning.”
[pullquote]“The rule says only students can campaign. This is Wits University, don’t campaign for them. They cannot approach students. I don’t want this debate”[/pullquote]
Roping in Thusi and Sisulu did not bode well for the opposition organisations, who accused the PYA of using under-handed tactics by bringing influential people to campus.
Opposition organisations react
A group of PYA candidates argued that anyone in a democratic country can bring anyone to campaign, as “all of the organisations have been doing dirty things”.
They also accused Project W of buying votes by allegedly awarding students couches worth “R25 000” in a bid to win the elections. They also raised concerns over Project W’s intentions to participate in the elections. Candidate for Project W, Gautam Rao, slammed the PYA’s allegations of buying votes and said “the couches were donated by corporates”.
Rao added: “We were not doing this [buying couches] for votes. We don’t need anarchy at Wits. Anarchy will not help this university. We were told to abide by [election] rules when we joined the campaign. We need to bring integrity back to Wits.”
Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (Daso) candidate, Rebone Segopolo, also weighed in by criticising the PYA’s election move. “How do you bring Pearl Thusi? They should have brought a Wits alumnus, someone more relevant,” Segopolo said.
Last day of the elections
Today marks the last day of this year’s SRC elections. According to presiding election officer, Nosi Sosibo, the votes will be counted overnight. She also said an indication cannot be given as to which organisation is leading in the election race. “Last year was busier than this year. Last year was worse,” Sosibo gave an indication on voter turnout. The election results will be announced tomorrow.
This Side: Chief Electoral Officer Jabu Mashinini oversees the putting up of demarcation tape Photo: Mfuneko Toyana
Demarcation tapes were put outside the voting tents to prevent SRC candidates from talking to voters 40 meters within the entrance of the voting station.
“I think they’re imposing themselves on voters,”said Jabu Mashinini of candidates regularly breaking the 40 meter threshold they are allowed to be from the entrance of voting tents.
Mashinini is the Chief Electoral Officer during this year’s elections.
[pullquote]I think they’re imposing themselves on voters[/pullquote]
“It’s okay they can campaign but they must do it on this side” she said. Mashinini was pointing to the perimeter of blue and white IEC tape she and her team decided to put up to keep candidates on the right side of electoral regulations. SRC candidates who spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about “chance” voters, voters convinced on the spot to vote, mostly defended the use of i-gcebhezana and face-to-face canvassing.
Progressive Youth Alliance candidate, Sandile Ngwenya said that campaigning outside voting stations contributed greatly to the overall number of voters and was necessary to combat Wits’s “historically high student apathy”.
“Some Witsies are just here to study, that’s the niche we focus on. We tell them what we’ve done for them as the PYA and what we’ll continue to for them,” Ngwenya said.
Vote “Me”: PYA candidate Banks Sandile Ngwenya crosses over to woo a voter. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana
Fellow PYA candidate Michelene Mongae agreed on the importance of talking to students before they went in to vote.
“Some students, we’ll talk to them and they’re like “oh, I can relate to that as a problem,” she said.
Daso candidate Luyolo Mphithi said “this is the most important point in the elections”. Mphithi said interacting directly with potential voters was important because it made those who weren’t aware of the issues.
Project W candidate Gautum Rao also defended active campaigning outside the stations. “We just want people to know exactly what’s up,” Rao said.
“I don’t say vote … I give them a run-down of our policies. I want them to make an informed choice.”
Day 2 of the 2013 SRC elections saw a marginally lower turnout of Witsies coming to cast their votes, as the term winds down and students look forward to the September break and the final semester of the year.
The mundane pace allowed Wits Vuvuzela to observe more closely the different candidates, as they went about convincing students strolling past the voting tent pitched outside the Great Hall stairs.
[pullquote]”i-’gcebhezana”[/pullquote] For some Witsies, that stroll would turn into brisk scamper and eventually a light jog, as they attempted to dodge eager candidates hovering around the voting tent with “i-’gcebhezana” (slips with photographs and candidate numbers of particular party’s candidates)and asking for a “word”.
One anonymous Wistie, who said he would not be voting, even after “enduring” more than 15 minutes listening to a Daso campaigner on why he should, said all the parties were “selling a product I’m not interested in buying”. Chief electoral officer Jabu Mashinini also had a problem with the campaigning tactics.
HUDDLED MASSES: 2013 SRC elections candidates debate with each other and voters. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana
X MARKS THE SPOT: Witsies came out to support their favourite SRC candidates on the first day of voting. Voting will continue until August 29. Photo: Emelia Motsai
2013 SRC elections got underway today under a hot Autumn sun, though the temperature between candidates who continued to campaign outside voting stations remained mild and friendly.
The candidates hoped to match a real person to the campaign posters, as well as encourage Witsies to participate in electing a new SRC.
Candidates get candid with voters
Project W’s Gerry Comninos said it was going well and that turnout was “relatively good”. “Compared to previous years people seem to be more engaged with the issues,” Comninos said.
“It [the turnout] will pick up tomorrow”, Comninos said as he returned to stalking the area outside Great Hall with handful of pamphlets in search of potential voters. Ntshembo Vuma of PYA agreed that voting was going well. Vuma said he had been successful in convincing people to vote and to vote for him. “A lot of people have been convinced … they’ve been engaging the issues. Our track record speaks for itself that’s why people are voting for us.”
Vuma was canvassing potential voters alongside other PYA candidates, as well as members from Daso. Perhaps it was the Daso mascot, a large grey figure that looked liked the Puss-in-Boots character from the Shrek movies, that thawed the usually icy relations between the rivals.
Not impressed by “bread and circuses”
One Witsie, however, was not impressed by the various candidates’ attempts to woo voters.
“All you’re seeing is this”, said Nonhlanhla Motanyane, 2nd year Mining, pointing to the Daso mascot and candidates handing out pamphlets. Motanyane said she did not her base her vote on catchy campaign slogans and “politicking” between candidates, which she felt was done mainly to secure their spots politicians.
“This is not a school of politics it’s about what you can do for the school.” Adi Ramaru, 2nd year BSc Earth Sciences, expressed similar sentiments. “This year I’ve been attentive. I didn’t just go for one party, its different strokes for each person. I looked into what each person has to offer,” Ramaru said.
Thobile Dlalisa, 1st year MBBCh, said she based her vote on her personal experience of the candidates.“Honestly there’s someone that I knew and I knew the programmes they’ve been working on,” Dlalisa said. SRC elections will continue until Thursday the 29th. Voting stations can be found on every Wits campus.
In this season of our podcast, We Should Be Writing, the Wits Vuvuzela team has partnered with UniversityConfessions.za on Instagram, to explore some of the student confessions posted on their feed. In this episode we listen to and unpack confession number 964 where we have someone putting the Plan B pill in their mother’s morning […]