Due to dispute of the new president of the Students Representative Council, further electing of executives have been stalled.
Wits student organisation, Project W are being challenged on their apolitical and non-partisan stance, after they used the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) offices during the Student Representative Council (SRC) election period.
In a Facebook post, Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) candidate Shaeera Kalla called the organisation out for claiming to be “apolitical” and tweeted a photo of Project W posters on the door of the SAUJS office in the Matrix.
“This kind of sums Project W up. apolitical my foot!” wrote Kalla.
Project W has refused to get involved in non-student issues, including the recent war in Gaza. PYA has criticised this and accused the organisation of being funded by pro-Israel organisations such as SAUJS.
Project W and SAUJS maintain no affiliation
Project W member Tim Karayiannides emphasised that the party does not receive any support from SAUJS, “nor do we support SAUJS” and said the organisation merely lent them an office. He said Project W did not have its own office space and laid the blame for this at the PYA.
“SAUJS lent us their offices when we were failed by the PYA-led SRC that ought to be encouraging more robust political competition,” he said.
According to SRC president, Shafee Verachia, many new clubs and society organisations (CSOs), such as Project W which was founded last year, do not get office space.
“There is a mass shortage of resources for CSOs,” Verachia said. “It is not just Project W, but many clubs and societies which are affected by the university’s continuous lack of investment into student life and CSOs.”
SAUJS chairperson Ariela Carno denied Project W was working out of her organisation’s office. She said SAUJS was only “helping out” Project W.
“They stored some stuff in our office, which means that they are not functioning out of the SAUJS office. They merely used out office for some storage space.”
According to Carno, other societies did offer to help Project W, but SAUJS’ office was “just better located”.
Carno said SAUJS was not officially affiliated to Project W but “SAUJS had Jewish candidates running with Project W, hence SAUJS was supporting our Jewish candidates.”
Project W allegedly funded by SA Jewish community
Kalla also claimed Project W receives funding from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), “whose headquarters are in Israel”. The SAJBD is based in Johannesburg and operates throughout South Africa.
Project W chairperson and SRC member Jamie Mighti, responded by saying his organisation and election campaign was funded by members.
“The organisation has about 200 guys who are really committed,” he said. “We have a budget of about R50 000 and most of that came from the candidates.”
Last month, he told Wits Vuvuzela that Project W candidates are required to contribute R1 000 to the campaign.
He explained that some of the candidates have more money than others, so they all put in different amounts. “I put R5 000 towards the campaign myself, because I believe in what we do.”
He called the attack on their funding by other parties and election candidates “malicious”, saying that rivals are trying to do is discredit the way Project W is run, “because it is different from the way their parties.”
Karayiannides backed up Mighti’s statement: “Project W has never accepted nor received money from the SAJBD. We have a number of Jewish supporters and candidates and may have had donors who happen to be Jewish.” He accused Kalla of anti-semitism.
The SAJBD was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
Wits Vuvuzela: Parties, show us the money, August 29, 2014
CORRECTION: The article initially and incorrectly stated that 31 000 votes had been cast during SRC elections, when only 7024 valid ballots were cast. 31 905 is the total voters roll, or number of students eligible to vote. Wits Vuvuzela regrets the error which has been corrected below.
Two weeks of Student Representative Council (SRC) electoral campaigning ended on Thursday with the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) edging out Project W, nine seats to six.
Current SRC member, Jamie Mighti, who was running for re-election to the SRC, received the most votes, with 2 929 out of the total 7024 valid votes being cast.
“I’m very happy,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.
Political newcomers Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were completely shut out, with their members sitting at rock bottom on the candidate list. Despite this, they continued to sing and dance outside the Great Hall, after election results had been announced by dean of students Dr Pamela Dube, earlier today. They were joined by a mass of PYA supporters, kitted out in their yellow and black t-shirts.
Current SRC president and PYA member Shafee Verachia called Witsies “intelligent” for not voting for the EFF. “There was obviously stuff in the party’s manifesto that they clearly don’t like,” he said.
EFF candidate, Anele Nzimande said the party was “different” from the other organisations and said they would be continue to be active outside of the SRC. “Even though we didn’t win, we will still continue to work from the outside with the students,” Nzimande said.
Also notably absent from the winner’s row was PYA candidate Michlene Mongae, who is a member of the current SRC and was campaigning for re-election.
PYA candidate Mcebo Dlamini put the PYA’s win down to “loyalty”, saying that students voted for what they know.
7 192 students voted out of the approximately 30 000 at Wits, amounting to only 23% of the student population.
The SRC president will be announced later this month and will most likely be someone from the PYA, as they had the most candidates elected onto the SRC.
Mighti said that while Project W had hoped to be the dominant party, they were committed to working in partnership with the PYA.
The new SRC will take office on November 1 this year.
The SRC, in order of the number of votes received are as follows:
Jamie Mighti (Project W) – 2929 votes
Thamsanqa Pooe (Project W)- 2894 votes
Blaise Koetsie (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2812 votes
Senzekahle Mbokazi (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2789 votes
Mthuthuzel Mahlangu (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2715 votes
Mcebo Dlamini (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2606 votes
Shaeera Kalla (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2584 votes
Fasiha Hassan (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2554 votes
Gwinyai Dube (Project W)- 2417 votes
Omhle Ntshingila (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2349 votes
Kabelo Murray (Project W)- 2317 votes
Waseem Talia (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2308 votes
Amogelang Manganyi (Progressive Youth Alliance)- 2307 votes
Tanya Otto (Project W)- 2287 votes
Enhle Khumalo (Project W)- 2279 votes
Turnout for the SRC elections dropped to about 23% this year over a two-day voting period, falling slightly short of the organiser’s target.
The SRC Election Office had set a goal of 25% of student participation for the 2014 election. However, organisers said they were pleased with the result despite falling short.
“We definitely did better this year with 23.1% over two days in comparison to 24% in three days last year… We’re happy with the percentage we received,” said deputy chief electoral officer Nicole Msomi.
However, Msomi conceded that turnout could have been better, “There’s always room for improvement.”
Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) candidate Mcebo Dlamini said that the low turnout of students to vote is due to the lack of advertising from the election office saying “it’s not doing its job”.
However, Dlamini added that student leaders also had responsibility for political apathy and low turnout among the student community.
“Student activism in the university went down drastically…which means we are no longer relevant to the students, we are losing the masses,” he said.
Msomi believes that her office did its job and that it was up to the candidates to promote themselves and their parties.
“The IEC is responsible for putting up banners and letting students know how to vote, we also gave out booklets. The candidates market for their parties.”
Dlamini said he had heard “funny” reasons for students not voting: “The funniest reason I got was that, “I am doing mathematics, thus I don’t vote” but most generally, people complain of the queue or that they are busy and others just say, “I’m not into politics” but others don’t understand why people have to vote, they just don’t see the reason why they have to vote.”
However, Project W candidate Jamie Mighti believes that students understand the importance of voting but the reasons why they choose not to vote is due to the way student politics play out as a “theatre of the absurd”.
“We have turned politics into theatre of the absurd, students are genuinely concerned about the issues, [but] when they see their leaders playing politics with their lives they get on with their daily business.”
Despite the low number and demotivation of some students to vote, some Wities understood the importance of voting.
Mzwanele Ntswanti 2nd year actuarial science, said, “It’s important to vote regardless of who to vote for, it is a right that we should all protect. Some students are not voting because they are indifferent between the three organisations, others are based on religious beliefs and other do not understand.”
The SRC election results will be announced on Thursday afternoon on the Great Hall steps.
by Shafee Verachia
I HAVE spent the last two years of my time on campus as an SRC member, first serving successfully as the academic officer in 2013 and then as the president of the SRC in 2014. In all of this time, I have come across students who have served in Student Representative Councils not only at Wits, but nationwide and it is through these experiences that I’ve grasped an understanding what it is that is needed to make a good SRC member.
I have seen both the good side of student leadership, and also the bad. I have witnessed the ugly reality of SRC members who undertook being a member, solely for it to stand out on their CV or a fancy title.
I have served with SRC members who, sadly, are not willing to sacrifice for students. Just this year, when discussing the fact that there are students at Wits who are sleeping in libraries, a member serving on the current SRC with me told me, “These students left home and made a choice to sleep in the libraries. I don’t see why we need to fight for them.”
Before voting then, it is imperative that students ask – is this kind of attitude, a quality of a leader that they would like to have representing them?
But I have also witnessed the good of SRC members. I have been so privileged to encounter and serve with students who are always willing to sacrifice and go the extra mile, to best serve students. Being on the SRC requires you, for example, to have to miss lectures and tutorials because you have to go and fight at Senate House for issues such as academic exclusion rules to be relaxed.
There are many SRC members who are student leaders during the day and students during the night. And it is exactly this kind of leader, which you want to be serving you on the SRC. It must always be remembered, that the heartbeat of students, should ALWAYS be greater than an individual’s own selfish ambitions and pride.
To students, I have one resounding message which I cannot reiterate enough: make an educated vote. Don’t only ask ‘What can this organisation do for me alone?’ but rather what can it do to improve the quality of the state of affairs at our university as a whole? Who is it that cares the most for all student interests and is working towards a goal for transformation?
The prettiest face, or the one who uses the best English, may not necessarily be the best person to be representing the interests of 30 000 students. It is a big decision to make, who to give your vote to. But I will say this: trust an organisation. Take the time get to know the candidates and the organisation alike.
Know what it is that they stand for, and know what it is that they are planning to do. Sit back, and consider: what are they doing to challenge the status quo and to continue to drive Wits towards being the best university in Africa.
I wish only the best of luck to all candidates and to all students.
UPDATE: Habib responds
Wits vice-chancellor Professor Habib has responded to questions from Wits Vuvuzela about the issue of the registration of the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters).
Responding via email, Habib said, “The SRC president claims that the EFF did not apply on time … EFF suggests that the reason is a political one, and are appealing to me to overturn the decision.”
“The university will not allow political rationales to be used to exclude anyone, but will need to investigate the allegation before acting.”
In response to the protest currently underway in Senate House, he said, “As far the protest goes, I have said that we will investigate and then act. We have enforced the principle of Wits being a free space, even when it has been deemed unpopular in certain quarters. This principle will be defended again. But we will investigate what happened before we act. One should not make decisions because one is being muscled. One makes decision after investigating accusations and then acting by principle.”
ORIGINAL STORY: Published Thursday, 3 April at 10.50 am
Students in solidarity with the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) are not being allowed up to the 11th floor of Senate House today.
The Wits EFF staged a sit-in in the office of the vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib throughout the day yesterday to demand the registration of the organisation as a club and society. But according to Mbe Mbhele, one of the students currently part of the protest, students who want to join them are being prevented from doing so.
11th floor remains closed to more EFF supporters
As of 8am this morning, six Wits EFF members had been relocated from the vice-chancellor’s office to another section of the 11th floor of Senate House. They claim that they were threatened with interdicts and tried to resist. They have been told by Campus Security that they cannot leave the room and can’t get food or their books to study as they would not be allowed into the room.
Downstairs, students are being asked for their student cards and security is not allowing anyone up to the 11th floor. “This shows how much the university doesn’t respect the right to associate [with a political party], they are infringing on our right to protest … this is political intolerance,” one of the students, who refers to himself as a “fighter” said.
[pullquote]”We are tired of waiting to wait. This time, we decided not to wait anymore. As a radical organisation we must take actions that agree with our manifesto. We will continue to occupy.” [/pullquote]
Protests must have rules
Last night and this morning, Habib and members of the EFF engaged in a debate on Twitter. “Habib’s responses on Twitter are not in our favour,” one of the students said. @EFFSpokesperson asked Habib to “be the good professor and register the EFF now!”
However, Habib (@adhabb), tweeted, “you have the right to demonstrate within rules. As I said freedom comes with responsibilities, democracy with rights.” In response to the removal of the protestors from his office he said, “There are (sic) sensitive material in my office. It is irresponsible to leave people there overnight. Protests must have rules.”
“We have been studying, reading books and having debates about men like Steve Biko, because they are who we draw our inspiration from,” one of the “fighters” said. “They had to tighten security, we were respectful of their property the whole day, we didn’t vandalise.”
EFF occupation is being practically impactful
Monwabisi Dlangana, one of the original occupiers said this all “comes back to the university’s intimidation tactics. The first thing they do is take your student ID and card. Before you [Wits Vuvuzela] got here, we were singing, but were asked by a university meeting to calm down”. He added, “We are tired of waiting to wait. This time, we decided not to wait anymore. As a radical organisation we must take actions that agree with our manifesto. We will continue to occupy.”
“It’s 4 weeks to elections and we can’t campaign, but the PYA (the Progressive Youth Alliance) are able to continue. We have a membership of above 500 students who have signed EFF documentation and their basic fundamental right to organise is being denied,” another one of the “fighters” explained.
“We don’t know how Pam Dube reached the conclusion that we submitted our application [to become an official student society] late, we did submit on time,” Mbembhele said. However, according to Habib’s tweet, “We have repeatedly asked EFF for a copy of their application to become a student society. We have not yet received it”.
When asked if they felt they were having an impact with so few numbers, Dlangana said “We are being practically impactful. When students come back next week they will know … even at home students are thinking about this.”
Wits Vuvuzela: EFF occupies VC’s office, April 2
UPDATE: The Wits branch of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), has accused the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) of political intolerance after the PYA attempted to remove EFF from the clubs and society tent earlier on today.
Campus control officers were called, apparently by SRC clubs and society portfolio holder, Sarah Mokwebo, to remove EFF members from the table which they were occupying in the tent.
“They said we are not registered. We are not a club and society,” said EFF Wits chairperson Vuyani Pambo. Pambo admitted that EFF was not a registered club but said they would not move just because an “ANC-led SRC does not want EFF.” Even though they refused to move, Pambo said they did willingly give Campus Control their details.
*Details to follow in Friday’s newspaper.
ORIGINAL STORY: A squabble broke out during O-week on Tuesday after Project W was “banned” and told it could no longer operate as a club or society at Wits.
The altercation took place in the O-week Clubs and Society tent when Project W set up a table there.
Project W SRC member Jamie Mighti told Wits Vuvuzela Project W was banned last year for “having a constitution that is not in line with the SRC’s constitution”.
Mighti, said Project W had appealed the ban and decided to set up their table at the Clubs and Societies tent because “we were banned illegally.”
He said the squabble began when SRC clubs and society portfolio holder and Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) member Sarah Mokwebo came over to their table and told them to leave. Mighti said other PYA “comrades” came and started forcibly moving them.
“[It] is not their job to do, that is the job of campus control,” complained Mighti.
He said he has laid assault charges against Mokwebo with Campus Control.
Mighti said the decision to ban Project W was not taken by the SRC as a whole but was made by SRC president and PYA member Shafee Verachia and Mokwebo.
Mokwebo rejected Mighti’s claim that Project W had been “banned”.
“It never existed,” Mokwebo said.
Mokwebo refused to comment further. Verachia could not be reached for comment.
Last year, the PYA won a narrow majority during the SRC elections. Eight PYA member and seven Project W members were elected to make up the 2013/14 SRC. One Project W SRC member, Kay Mlaba, has since left Wits and her position on the SRC. There will be no replacement for Mlaba. She held the international relations portfolio which will now be taken over by another member of the SRC.
- Wits Vuvuzela: SRC President announced: The winner takes all, September 2013.
By Emelia Motsai and Ray Mahlaka
PYA’s Shafee Verachia (@ShafMysta)was elected uncontested as the new SRC president and four other PYA members were voted into executive team portfolios.
Project W did not make it onto the executive team despite winning seven of 15 directly elected seats on the SRC.
The PYA won eight seats but has an additional four seats on the SRC which were elected indirectly.
Consulting SRC portfolio
Project W’s Jamie Mighti (@thenextbarack)said they came to the PYA “with open arms but we were shut down in a systemic, ruthless and conniving manner. Bayas’jwayela [they are disrespecting us]”.
Project W ‘s Jabulile Mabuza (@ceejaymabuza) said it was “clear that they don’t want to work with us”. She said they had been sidelined and called it an “insult to democracy”.
“You are saying people can do whatever they want as long as you have one more vote,” Mabuza said.
Comrades discuss politics via Whatsapp
Wits Vuvuzela was given a copy of a Whatsapp group conversation between some Project W members and the PYA deployment committee made up of current and former SRC members. [pullquote align=”right”]“We would desire Mighti Jamie for the position of VP [vice president] and Jabulile Mabuza for deputy secretary-general,”[/pullquote]
In the conversation, Mighti was asked which portfolios Project W members wanted and who they wanted in those positions. Mighti said Project W wanted himself and Mabuza in executive positions.
“We would desire Mighti Jamie for the position of VP [vice president] and Jabulile Mabuza for deputy secretary-general,” he said.
Mighti said Project W wanted those positions because it would give them representation in meetings only available to members of the executive team.
“We would also be able to put our views to these decision-making bodies [senate, council and convocation].”
SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa (@Sibulele_) asked Mighti: “May I ask: does it matter if [Project] W is not in exec? Will it affect their performance in SRC?”
Mighti responded: “I definitely think it will send the message that our say is not valuable to the decision-making process, we would like a voice at the very least in the university structures.”
Mighti warned that excluding Project W would “create an atmosphere of adversity, in that it is the PYA executive versus the Project W candidates, this may lead to more fractious relations over time.”
Divvying up SRC portfolios
Two new SRC portfolios were created and some were merged. Mighti said they were not consulted on this.
“They came to the meeting, merged all the positions that you think are powerful, not because they are trying to be benevolent but because they are trying to monopolise power,” Mighti told Wits Vuvuzela.
[pullquote]“They came to the meeting, merged all the positions that you think are powerful, not because they are trying to be benevolent but because they are trying to monopolise power”[/pullquote] He accused the PYA of merging positions because they ran out of candidates for the portfolios believed to be influential.
PYA deployment committee member Tebogo Thothela denied Project W’s allegations and said the new portfolios were created regularly.
Thothela said they had spoken to Project W members to ask them which portfolios they would want.
Verachia also defended the portfolio assignments: “A lot of thought went into the portfolios,” he said.
Verachia said Project W’s disappointment was because they may have been “ambitious of the portfolios they wanted”.
Working dynamics between Project W and PYA
Mabuza and Mighti were assigned to the two new portfolios, of campus liaison officer and day student liaison officer respectively. Both said they would do their best to serve students in those portfolios.
Verachia said unifying the team would not happen “over night” but he was ready for the job ahead: “It’s a huge responsibility and I am up for the challenge.”
SRC to divvy up the spoils, September 13, 2013
SRC President announced: The winner takes it all, September 17, 2013
WITH GALLERY: SRC election results – PYA gets a wakeup call, August 30, 2013