A mediation process between suspended students and Wits collapses    

Wits SRC has appointed an acting president to deal with the leadership vacuum; pending an arbitration process of their former student leader   

A mediation process between seven suspended students, including former Student Representative Counsil (SRC) president Aphiwe Mnyamana and the university has collapsed last week on May, 22,2023. This is after the two could not reach an agreement on a suitable way forward.  

The seven, which includes other members of the SRC were suspended in earlier March following violent protests over accommodation on campus.  

On April 20, the SRC and University released a joint statement stating that their suspension orders have been reformulated in terms of the University’s rules to allow them to continue with their academic programmes with immediate effect.  This recent collapse still means the seven are still allowed to continue with their studies. 

Following the collapse of the process, Wits university spokesperson Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela that: “Please note that Mr Mnyamana is no longer the SRC President. His suspension terms were amended to allow him to attend class and to stay in residence, but not to hold any leadership position.” 

In order to deal with the leadership vacuum, the SRC has elected a new acting President Kabelo Phungwayo, who previously was Treasurer general of the SRC. Wits SRC compliance officer, Karabo Matloga said: “The  SRC  sits in important committees that take decisions which affects students, we therefore needed to ensure we have an individual who will be able to represent the students view in the delegated committees such as university council, Senate and forum where the SRC has an opportunity to express grievances and contribute to change that is in the student’s best interest,”  

After the mediation process collapsed, Mnyamana released a statement on his Twitter page saying: “We hung our heads in horror and terror as we walked out of their boardrooms because once again, we had fallen into the illusion that we were negotiating with people”.  

He furthermore went to say “To silence us[SRC] is not enough, to suspend us will never be enough. We the elected representatives of the students at Wits University are not shaken. We remain evermore resolute in ensuring the realization of the right to free education”. 

Despite this collapse, Mnyamana explained that he is currently waiting for a hearing that will be taking place on June 17, 2023; and a meeting will be held with students to update them on the intense months the SRC underwent and what this means as a way forward for the student community.

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits SRC members with Dali Mpofu after the mediation meeting. Photo: Supplied.  


Rehabilitation is better than punishment

The five-year suspension of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema makes me think hard about the allocation of appropriate punishment in getting someone to acknowledge their mistakes and not repeat them.

No, of course Malema should not walk scot free if the disciplinary committee found him guilty of sowing division and bringing the party into disrepute. Those are definitely serious violations of the ANC’s code of conduct.

But suspend him for five years? Seriously?

That seems to us more like a conscious decision to effectively end his political career and silence him forever as opposed to making him acknowledge his wrongdoing and rehabilitate him to ensure he does not repeat the offences.

We are not at all fans of Malema or the ANC, but we certainly do not believe “Juju” is a bad leader. Looking only at his leadership, he has bravely challenged unemployment, education, skills development and other socio-economic issues affecting us as young South Africans, most of which even the senior leaders have not been daring enough to speak out on.

At Wits, the Men’s Res committee is facing suspension for “misconduct” during O-week. For two weeks now they have not been formally charged and have continued to endure the hardships of eviction from men’s res, forfeiting leadership privileges and experiencing academic strain.

How appropriate is all this in ensuring that if at all these young leaders are guilty they acknowledge their wrongdoing and more importantly do not repeat their offences? Is Wits trying to rehabilitate them or simply punish them with the aim of destroying their leadership aspirations?

While they wait for their charges to be laid and disciplinary hearings, it has often been the case that leaders at Wits who have been vocal about sensitive issues have seen their academic careers end prematurely.

Just like Malema who has been “disruptive” and “tjatjaraag” the Men’s Res committee could be in for a tough time.

However, I hope management deals with this issue in a manner that rehabilitates and allows these young leaders to acknowledge their wrongdoings, if any, as opposed to simply punishing them aimlessly.

Men’s res crying out for leaders to return

FIRST years at the Men’s Hall of Residence feel “lost” and “confused” without the mentorship of their residence house committee which is currently suspended.

All nine members of the committee were evicted from men’s res two weeks ago after they were suspended.

They are accused of misconduct after they allegedly arrived intoxicated and disrupted an inter-residence talent show during orientation week.

Whilst suspended, the committee has been forbidden by Wits management from any form of communication with first years whom they had been orientating and mentoring during their first days at Wits.

Pius Chilonda, a 1st year BCom student, does not understand the “so-called misconduct” for which the men’s res committee is suspended.

“I find it hard coping without their [men’s res committee] leadership.

We are missing out on the opportunity to learn from them and this is ruining our first year experience,” he said.

Chilonda was backed by his colleague, Sbonga Mthalane, who said: “O-week was the best time of my life.

Activities we did with the house comm were fun and they didn’t force us into anything.”

Last week Dean of Students, Prem Coopoo, said the house committee had been warned against engaging in initiation practices and that humiliation of first years would not be tolerated.

A first year law student, Anathi Jakuju, said during the initiation activities he “felt built up rather than broken down.

“The real humiliation is that we are currently suffering without our leaders and we are missing out on things such as ‘Brotherhood’ which they [house committee] designed to help us,” he said.

Brotherhood is a programme in which senior students, including some from the house committee at Men’s Residence, tutor first years and give them advice on how to cope with academic issues.

First year bachelor of accounting sciences student, Tondy Gubba, believes “students from men’s residence are friendly towards each other and work as a team because of the efforts put in by the house committee.

“Even if we took a vote right now I’m pretty sure that 95% of the people at men’s res want the committee to come back,” he said.

The house committee said they still have not been formally charged and for now they will continue to comply with their suspension.