While many Witsies took to the polls to vote in this year’s SRC elections, there were other students who expressed no interest in the movement. Wits Vuvuzela caught up with these students to find out the issues that lead to these students not voting.
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.
FREE, NOT TO VOTE: Many ‘born-free’ South Africans are staying away from the polls in this year’s national general elections. PHOTO: File.
Although it’s only been 20 years since South Africa achieved democracy, an entire generation, known as the “born-frees” is already showing signs of political fatigue with nearly one million of them choosing not to vote.
Tomorrow, and on just one day, South Africans will take to the polls and cast their vote in this year’s national general elections but the ‘babies’ of a free South Africa are not clamouring to the polls as was anticipated.
In staying away from the polling booths, the children of democracy, who are supposed to be proud to make their mark for the first time, are effectively failing the nation. But their reasons for standing on the sidelines on such a momentous day are varied.
“I’m not voting because … I believe that regardless of who I vote for the ANC (African National Congress) will win … I feel as though it’s between the ANC and the DA (Democratic Alliance), and I don’t really mind who wins between the two,” said Dominic Dandajena, a BCom student from the University of Pretoria.
Sadly, South Africa is no longer a democratic country
A common excuse was the high levels of corruption among politicans. “They [politicians] are extremely corrupt. Especially the ruling party politicians, but nothing is being done about it,” said Mpho Mile, a student from the International Hotel School.
“Our country’s politicians are not exemplary. Most of them do not possess the qualities of a good leader and this leads to them leading the nation astray often,” says Lesego Pitsi, a performing arts student from the State Theatre, in Pretoria..
Others feel political engagement is very far down their list of priorities even though it takes just a couple of hours to cast one’s vote.
“This [degree] is important to me right now, so I am more focused on this than I am on politics,” said Gemma Cooke-Tonnesen, a BCom Accounting student at Wits.
“However, I believe I still need to take an interest in politics.” Despite this sentiment, she is not registered to vote tomorrow.
While born-frees are well aware of South Africa’s history, they would prefer to “forget about the past,” according to Zongezile Qeba, a second year chemical engineering student from Wits. This has manifested itself in the form of apathy and for many, the decision not to vote.
“Sadly, South Africa is no longer a democratic country, but rather a crazy country that continuously tosses to and fro.”
Qeba is choosing not to vote because he, like many of his generation, are not “inspired enough”.
Born-frees are special
Even though she won’t be voting, Mile believes being a ‘born-free’ means she is already privileged: “Being a born-free, I have numerous amounts of opportunities. That doesn’t mean everything will be handed to me without no effort. There are opportunities that we are given the resources to attain,” she said.
“The born-free generation represent an era of redemption, a generation that is free from all forces of apartheid,” said Pitsi.
While the small percentage of registered born-frees is worrying, these elections will have an impact on them whether or not they choose to vote. The government and leaders elected into power will ultimately set the agenda for the youth, even those who care little about politics.
Getting a degree and finding employment after school will always be a priority for young people but if there’s one thing these elections have taught the nation, it’s that an entire generation of South Africans have already moved on from the past and need issues of the present and future to be taken very seriously, very quickly.
When South Africans head to the polls in just over seven hours from now, stringent measures have been put in place to ensure their safety.
The South African Police Services (SAPS) are taking a “zero tolerance” approach to criminal activities related to the elections.
SAPS spokesperson Solomon Makgale spoke to Wits Vuvuzela earlier today and said: “We will not tolerate any activities by criminals who intend to disrupt the elections.”
Police officers will be monitoring polling stations and people who are found to be in possession of dangerous weapons, firearms and alcohol will be dealt with, he added.
Makgale said if one is found guilty of these charges, they may face a jail term of up to 5 years, or be fined anything up to R100 000.
“Everyone has a right to vote and no one may interfere with that right,” he said.
The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) have reported that 63 people have been arrested to date in cases related to various contraventions of the Electoral Act.
These offences include public violence, intimidation, assault with intent to cause grievously bodily harm, common assault, malicious damage to property, including the unlawful removal of posters.
“Those who break the law will be arrested and prosecuted” Makgale said.
Makgale said that political parties are free to campaign wherever they would like to, “we will not allow the creation of no-go zones” he said. According to the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission), political parties are only to campaign until midnight tonight.
The police are not allowed to be inside the area where booths are located, unless requested by the electoral officer in charge of that station. But SAPS officers will partol the perimeters of the stations and stand guard at the gates.
While an official number has not been made available, media reports suggest that close to 200 000 police officers will be deployed for the elections alone.
The latest installation of The Science Inside radio show look at the science of the elections: from predicting results with maths and stats to the computer power involved. Also: how much tech do you need to run an election centre and is it really worth it?
UNITED: Siwve Sopoha an EFF member from Marikana comes to Johannesburg in Support of his community members, Jonas Felling and Nathaniel Baase, who were both miners at Marikana. Photo: Luca Kotton
by Palesa Tshandu and Luca Kotton
Legal ballot voting in the industrial relations sector can be used to prevent violent strike action and promote solidarity among mine-workers, according to Prof Edward Webster.
“A ballot means that there is a democratic mandate that will pre-empt strikes,” suggests Webster who was speaking at phase two of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry panel discussion held at Wits University yesterday.
The discussion forms part of a series of seminars that examines violence in the industrial relations sector, an example of which led to the killing of 34 mine-workers at Lonmin mine in Marikana on August 16, 2012.
According to Webster, a Wits sociology professor, the process of ballot voting will be used as a tool for mine-workers to have some control in the decision-making process of strike action. Ultimately, this process will result in a negotiated outcome among mine-workers and their employers.
Power inequalities must be addressed
Society Work and Development Institute (SWOP) fellow and researcher Chrispen Chinguno suggests that the democratisation of the mining sector is necessary to address power inequalities that exist among mine-workers which ultimately promotes a culture of violence.
Chinguno challenges the concept of a ballot system drawing on the participation of miners as integral to the process of striking. He said, “a ballot works as an individual vote, striking needs participation”.
According to Webster, the introduction of the ballot system in the industrial relations sector offers an alternative approach to the prevalence of violence, as it calls for miners to act in a democratic manner when addressing conflict.
The suggestion of a ballot for miners was met with mixed reactions. One miner said: “We know that they will break us, they want to divide us, and we know this.’’
In the coming weeks the Commission will host other discussions on the violence that occurred at Marikana.
PLEASE VOTE: (L-R): Pitso Moses, IEC member in Gauteng; Carien du Plessis, a journalist and radio personality Shaka Sisulu, were hosted by the Wits SRC at a discussion on voting last night. Photo: Palesa Tshandu.
A small group of Witsies came together last night to discuss the issue of spoiling a vote in next month’s national elections.
The Wits SRC (Students Representatives Council) hosted journalist Carien du Plessis and radio personality Shaka Sisulu in a discussion that appeared to be a reaction to the NoVote! campaign launched earlier in the day.
In contrast to the Sidikiwe Vukani campaign started by ANC (African National Congress) veterans Ronnie Kasrils and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge yesterday, the popular opinion at last night’s gathering was in support of social responsibility through voting.
“Democracy only works when you work on it yourself”, said Wits Dean of students, Dr Pamela Dube. “You should vote because you can … we [as South Africans] have a lot to be proud about and contribute [towards our democracy].”
But not all the audience members shared the sentiment. “I’m from the Eastern Cape,” one student commented during the talk. “Even after 20 years of democracy, there is still no electricity [in my hometown], there are still no jobs … what will my one vote do to [to change anything]?”
Sisulu, in response to the student, said that South Africans need to participate in the affairs of government beyond just casting a vote once every five years: “What makes us think that we can have a relationship with our government like that – that’s not a relationship, that’s a one night stand … We must be in a constant dialogue.”
The discussion included talks by the Wits SRC President Shafee Verachia and Pitso Moses of Gauteng’s Independent Electoral Commission and was attended by about 50 people.
REGISTERED: Drama students Kelly Heckstein and Ashleigh Kelly talk politics during lunch hour at the Wits Theatre. Photo: Caro Malherbe
South Africans have until 5pm tonight to register to vote for the 2014 national general elections. It is still unclear though whether the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will see the number of registered voters they were aiming for.
Wits Vuvuzela was on main campus today asking students if they had registered to vote for the upcoming elections.
Are you registered?
Ashleigh Kelly is a BA Drama student who strongly believes that it is important to vote but said she identified with people who opted not to vote.
“Not wanting to vote comes from the fact that we don’t know who to vote for. Democratic parties haven’t, especially with the born-frees, given us enough reason to trust their party,” she said.
Sitting next to her on the brick wall outside the Wits Theatre, Kelly Heckstein, a BA Performance and Visual Arts student, said she is registered to vote and plans on voting.
“If we want a say in how the country is run then we should vote and to make sure the majority rule is not an overriding rule and there are certain voices in parliament that can help.”
[pullquote]“As the youth, we are smarter than people in power right now so we know how to think about things and implement them, so if we are not going to vote we are not going to remove these people with authority.”[/pullquote]
The “born-free” vote
Born-frees (the term used to describe people born in democratic South Africa), make up 25% of all registered voters. Voting holds a certain responsibility and this figure could make a substantial difference to electoral outcomes. But it is unclear if those of the 25% who have registered will actually cast their vote.
BA student, Kenny said he was registered to vote but does not plan on voting as he has no interest in politics.
Vutu Mapodi, 2nd year BA, said “It’s a nice activity to do, you feel part of something and not left out.”
Ayanda Mgete, 2nd year BA, said that the problem, with South African politics lies in leadership. “As the youth, we are smarter than people in power right now so we know how to think about things and implement them, so if we are not going to vote we are not going to remove these people with authority,” said Magete
On 7 May South Africans will line up at the voting polls to make their mark. Born-frees will cast their votes for the first time making this election a momentous one in the history of the country.
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
SRC elections officially began yesterday. A steady stream of students entered the tents set up on Main campus throughout the day. It was a different story at Education campus. Wits Vuvuzela went out in search of potential voters to find out what they were looking for from the new leadership they would help to elect.
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.
On this podcast episode, current female learners and students describe what they can remember being taught about Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and how they translate that into their lived experiences as young adults. Parents also offer their understanding and perspectives on the purpose of CSE. This podcast episode is a part of the 2021 in-depth […]