Student politics marred by party differences 

The University of Johannesburg’s student leadership tried to bring campus leaders together to collaboratively build on a shared vision for students, but was divided along party lines 

UJ’s first student parliament after four years of the covid-19 pandemic, collapsed as students refused to continue in the absence of the treasurer general and the academic officer. 

The UJ Central Student Representative Council (SRC) hosted the two-day student parliament at the Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) Campus. The hope was that UJ students from the four campuses could hold their various representatives to account. However, the student parliament did not reach this objective as delegates found it difficult to come to agreements on basic parliamentary rules throughout the sitting. 

The system at UJ is such that each campus has its own SRC, and a ‘UJSRC’ that is comprised of two members from each campus. The APK and the Doornfontein campuses are affiliated with the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) and the SRC members from the Banting (APB) and Soweto campuses, are affiliated with South African Students Congress (SASCO), which is the student chapter of the African National Congress (ANC). 

Missing delegates cause delays  

The first day of the student parliament came to a chaotic end because there were delegates missing, and according to student parliament secretary, Martin Huwa, suspicions were raised by the SASCO affiliated members of the APK SRC that the EFF affiliated members of APK SRC, may have removed names from the list of delegates, but these suspicions could not be proved.  

After the rules, duties and functions of the student parliament were adopted by the house, and the parliament speaker, deputy speaker and secretary were elected. The speaker of the house was Bonga Mshunqisi from the APK campus, deputy speaker was Karabo Kgobokwe from Soweto campus, and the secretary was Martin Huwa also from Soweto campus. 

Regalia relegation and no shows    

On day two political tensions flared when Lehlogonolo Mokwena came to the sitting dressed in EFF regalia. Student parliament rule number (I) states that “no member shall be allowed in the house with regalia of any political party”. Mokwena was asked to move to the gallery for contravening this rule.  

Mokwena refused, and this triggered a lengthy and chaotic back and forth between some members, the chair and deputy of the house. 

When calm was restored, new names for chief whips for each campus were brought forward for election.  

The treasurer general Zethu Mafuyeka and the academic officer Tshegofatso Molapo from the Central SRC were not present due to “academic commitments”. As such, they could not give their respective state of finances and state of academia addresses. 

Amotion was then raised to adjourn proceedings and call an emergency meeting at a later date, when all members of the APK SRC are available.  

The inter-political failures to set party politics aside and agree for the sake of the constituency, is something that has become increasingly problematic in South African politics. One need only think back to Johannesburg’s recent mayoral election, which was riddled with coalition failures and infighting. It is worrying that these political trends seem to be trickling down to student led organisations, sacrificing governance and efficiency to toe party lines.

FEATURED IMAGE: University of Johannesburg. Photo: Supplied


Wits pedestrian entrances to get facelift

Wits University Campus Planning and Development Unit will begin a Gateways Project intended to upgrade the pedestrian entrances on the main campus. Entrance that will be getting a revamp are the Oppenheimer Life Sciences (OLS) steps, on Jan Smuts Street, and create the Sutton Close entrance on Jorissen Street, between the Richard Ward Building and Solomon Mahlangu House. The construction to refurbish these entrances will commence March 7 and is expect to be completed in the next four months. These entrances will be closed during this period.

The objective is to improve access to the university by creating more welcoming pedestrian entrances for staff, students and visitors.

Re-imagining Wits Properties Programme manager, Yael Horowitz said, “OLS is the most popular and used pedestrian entry point, that is why it was chosen. We had done a movement study the year before for the whole university, how many cars and students enter the institution and gotten all the data from all the entry points. There are over 20 000 card swipes during a day at the OLS steps.”

“We realised that we needed to give a better experience to the students, by treating students with dignity. Wits is based in the city and we need to start being friendly and opening our door to the city in which we are placed. Wits has been very closed and concrete. If you go to the gate, you see a very strong barrier and uninviting entry. So, we relooked at how we make the edge more user friendly,” she added.

Some of the benefits of the upgrade include Wi-Fi connectivity hotspot, charging points, information points and maps, lighting for security purposes, iconic and more visible signage, CCTV surveillance and universal access to accommodate users with mobile and visual impairments.

MAKEOVER LOADING: One of Wits most busiest entrance will be one of the first to get a new look by Block 3 of the academic calendar.     Photo: Nomvelo Chalumbira

Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) spokesperson, Sandla Mtotywa said, “The SRC thinks they are unnecessary because it’s a whole expenditure of money that could be used for other things like accommodation and food security for students. This deal was signed at council by the previous SRC, so it’s useless for us to even try even do a protest of some sort, the deal is signed. However, what we commend is the Disability Rights Unit, which was also involved in the designing the entrances for making ramps for students using wheelchairs.”

Horowitz told Wits Vuvuzela that posters letting students know what is happening had gone up on February 28, inside and outside of the OLS stairs.

Second-year BSc Construction Studies student Won-Hyang Muthimba was not impressed at the timing of the project. “Most of us use that entrance in the morning and to get home. In the mornings, especially in the beginning of the year the line ends at the bottom of the road. Now that they are going to build it for like four-months, they should have done it in the holidays in November, they could have finished in February. Now it’s going to inconvenience a lot of people that stay on this side or the end of Braam to come around Senate House or WAM to enter. It’s gonna (sic) take a lot of time and waking up earlier. For me it’s gonna (sic) be an inconvenience but I guess it will be worth it,” she said.

Another second-year BSc Construction Studies student Thembelihle Nombewu said she is looking forward to the upgrade even though she will be inconvenienced. “I think it’s a good thing. If the end product is gonna (sic) be good then it’s worth it,” she said.

Horowitz encouraged students to use the Station Street entrance, next to the Wits Theatre as an alternative entrance and give themselves an extra 10-15minute walking time to classes.

Delayed study permits hinder international students registration

More than 30 international students are still unable to register for the 2018 academic year at Wits University as they have not yet received study permits.

The Student Representative Council (SRC) deputy president, Tshenolo Leshika, told Wits Vuvuzela that students the approached his organisation, the International Students Office and the Wits Zimbabwe Society for assistance.

Leshika said although the Zimbabwean students were the most affected, students from Swaziland had had similar issues earlier in the semester.

“The issues are being handled in the same way. It might just take slightly longer with the Zimbabwean students because of the volume issue,” Leshika said.

“We are liaising with the office of International Students, and they are communicating with Home Affairs and the embassy to speed up the process. We’re pleased with the cooperation we’re getting from the office of International Students and their willingness to go above and beyond for the student body. We are reaching out to faculties to allow these students to register late,” said Leshika.

Tinashe Dzinoreva, a student unable to register for his first-year of BA Law said he had applied for his permit on January 20. “I thought I’d be at school by now. I went to the Visa Facilitation Services Global (VFS) to ask what was the problem and they said they don’t know. I also found lots of other people in the same situation. We are just waiting, sitting at home and there’s not much we can do.”

VFS administers the visa applications so students don’t go directly to the embassy anymore.

Dzinoreva is hopeful that the SRC’s advice to get in touch with his faculty and plead his case will work. “I sent an email to the Faculty of Humanities on Friday [February 23] to ask for permission to register late but I haven’t gotten feedback yet,” he said.

The Faculty of Humanities told Wits Vuvuzela that the official deadline for late registration for their students was February 12.

Wits University’s Senior Communications Officer, Buhle Zuma said, “By law, the University is not permitted to register international students who do not have a valid study visa. The Wits International Students Office has been in contact with officials at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to highlight the challenges faced by applicants. The Office requested intervention from the DHA as they are the custodians of the Immigration Act. The University permitted late registration for students who were experiencing delays; these were also specific faculty requirements. Students should check with their Faculty for the last possible date. It is not in the student’s academic interest to register late as many classes have already commenced with tests and other assessments.”

Zuma told Wits Vuvuzela that this is not an unusual occurrence. “In previous years, there has always been a backlog at the South African Embassy in Zimbabwe; this is mainly due to the high volume of applications submitted. To expedite the process the DHA deploys additional staff in Pretoria to assist. In 2018, the South African High Commission in Swaziland introduced new requirements for study visa applications which were outside of the standard check list,” she said.

International Students Office’s manager, Gita Patel, said, “The returning students should have applied for renewals here in South Africa and always have the correct supporting documents when they apply for new or renewal of visa. The faculties have to agree because you also don’t want to disadvantage the student. It’s already three weeks into the term and some courses may have already covered a lot.”

Tafadzwa Chikanya 20, a student unable to register for her BCom Honours told Wits Vuvuzela that she is also one of many struggling to get her study permit. “I hear that there is a go slow happening with either the South African Embassy and/or the Zimbabwean embassy. I know of people who applied for their visa on the 10/11th of January and already got theirs last week yet I applied for mine on the 9th of January and I am still not sure when I will actually get it.

“The past two weeks I have contacted the SRC and they have tried to help. Previously we had asked for our respective faculties and International Students Office to extend our registration dates. They agreed to extend mostly up until February 28, although some faculties are not allowing this. For my programme I have been given up until March 2, to explain what is going on. My faculty accepted my reasons and they haven’t really expressly allowed me to register late but there has been ongoing communication between us. There is a big Whatsapp group I’m on of 106 participants, where we update each other and some people say that they got offers to get their visas quickly at a hefty charge of $600,” said Chikanya.

Leshika said the SRC had plans to make sure such delays don’t occur in the future. “We intend on reminding international students to apply much earlier for their visas through heavy campaigning, their school councils, faculties, CSO’s and house committees,” said the deputy SRC president.

Accommodation woes at NMMU


It is day 3 of the accommodation protest action at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University as students have staged a sit-in at the university’s main building to have their demands heard.

An accommodation crisis at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth has caused students and Student Representative Council (SRC) to stage a sit in at the university’s main building.

The sit-in, which had been going on since Sunday night, is aimed at accommodation. Hundreds of NMMU students who have found themselves without a bed despite having been accepted by the schools accommodation office.

“[Things were] hostile last night because students had blocked the building, however we are waiting to meet with the vice chancellor today,” Baxolile Nodada, SRC secretary general at NMMU, told Wits Vuvuzela.

According to the NMMU SRC, the university has 3 237 beds on-campus divided between George and Port Elizabeth campuses which only extends to 11.9% of the total student population. Of these beds, 33% currently accommodate first year students.

Nodada said no outcome was established at last night’s protest action but the university’s vice-chancellor, Prof Derrick Swartz, had committed to meet with students and the SRC where the group intends to hand him their memorandum of demands.

“Students are still occupying the main building (Embizweni main building). At the moment things are still peaceful, we are waiting for the VC,” said Nodada.

Nodada said the SRC has been accommodating students who are in need.

“We have found that some students were sleeping at police stations, outside buildings, in the SRC offices while some of them are sleeping in the toilet and the labs,” said Nodada

“70% of these students are from the poorest province in the country and cannot afford the off campus accommodation,” Nodada said.

Nodada added that the SRC through donations and partnerships is trying to accommodate and feed the displaced students at the Ekhaya residence “but there is not enough space for all of them”.



DUT’s SRC demand Jewish students be kicked out

The Durban University of Technology's SRC and the Progressive Youth Alliance have demanded that Jewish students be kicked out. Photo: Facebook

The Durban University of Technology’s SRC and the Progressive Youth Alliance have demanded that Jewish students be kicked out. Photo: Facebook

The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT) Student Representative Council (SRC)  and the Progressive Youth Alliance have demanded that Jewish students, especially those who support Israel, should be kicked out, Independent Online reported on Wednesday afternoon.

This also applies to students who are sponsored by the Israeli government. The demand was sent to university management and has shocked and angered Jewish organisations.

The university’s vice-chancellor, Prof Ahmed Bawa, responded by saying the demands are “outrageous, preposterous and a deep violation of our national Constitution and every human rights principle.”

SRC secretary Mqondisi Duma told Independent Online: “As the SRC, we had a meeting and analysed international politics. We took the decision that Jewish students, especially those who do not support the Palestinian struggle, should deregister.”

On Tuesday night, Natan Pollack, national chairman of the South African Union of Jewish Students, called the demand to kick out Jewish students from DUT “deplorable”.

“To discriminate against people because of their religious and political standpoint goes against freedom of speech,” he said.

Chairwoman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Durban-based Mary Kluk, said she was “appalled” and said it was unacceptable such demands could be made in an academic institution.



SRC Election turnout drops

Great Hall_side


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.

Choose your leaders carefully

Shafee Verachia is a BSc Actuarial Science honours student. He is the president of the 2013/14 SRC and a member of the Progressive Youth Alliance.

Shafee Verachia is a BSc Actuarial Science honours student. He is the president of the 2013/14 SRC and a member of the Progressive Youth Alliance. Photo: Luca Kotten

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.