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

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