Wits EFF says ‘NO’ SRC

This week the Wits EFF caused a stir when they criticised the university  for shifting its’ responsibilities to the the SRC and have called for ‘no SRC’.

The Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stopped the inaugurual debate of the SRC election campaign because student government only existed to “legitimise” university authorities.

“The university does not listen to students so the SRC is a body that is meant to legitimise the university because the statute requires every institution of higher learning to have an SRC,” said Wits EFF secretary Mbe Mbhele.

“We feel like at Wits it is just there so that university can be a legitimate body but it does not necessarily change anything. It is also strategic move on the part of the university because they are always shifting responsibility.”

“We are not going to use the normal and orthodox means of protest”

Mbhele made his comments to Wits Vuvuzela on Tuesday afternoon shortly after Wits EFF stopped the election debate by singing and toyi-toying on the stage. The debate was called off and a fight broke out between members of Project W, Progressive Youth Alliance and the Wits EFF on the Great Hall stage.

Mbhele said Wits EFF would continue to protest the SRC campaign and prevent the elections from taking place.

“We are going to go there and kick the ballot boxes and the IEC is not going to be able to count the votes,” said Mbhele.

“We are not going to use the normal and orthodox means of protest, if it means we are going to shit at the Great Hall or at his office then we are going to do that.”

Mbhele said the university has relied heavily on the SRC to help students through initiatives such as One Million, One Month, a fundraising drive for students who did not receive funding the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme at the beginning of the year.

Mbhele said that the university should pay for student’s fees and accused it of paying bonuses to “[Vice Chancellor] Adam Habib and his minions.”

Mbhele said the lack of bus services for Wits students to taxi ranks at Bree and Noord were one example of how the SRC was unable to serve students.

“The bus issue has been raised in 2005 and in 2015 students are still complaining about the bus, 10 years later,” Mbhele said.

Mbhele said Wits EFF will use any means possible to force Habib to take their demands seriously.

After all that was said and done, Mbhele concluded the interview with these words “fuck Habib”.

“Pamberi ne Chimurenga” – Forward with the revolution

Decolonising Wits is a documentary that was filmed last year at Wits by independent filmmaker Aryan Kaganof. In the documentary he follows Wits EFF students as they navigate their way through student politics and questions of black alienation at the university. 

THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED: Decolonising Wits follows a group of students who raise a number of concerns regarding matters of racial transformation at Wits.                                          Photo: Aryan Kaganof/Kagablog

A year has passed since the filming of the documentary, Decolonising Wits by South African filmmaker Aryan Kaganof. It was filmed around the time of the SRC elections at Wits, and the hot debate at the time was the residence admissions policy.

One of the first scenes is of a passionate Wits Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) Chairperson Vuyani Pambo surrounded by a group of students, speaking in an almost preacher-like tone, “But it is not only about us, we are creating an epoch here!” This sets the tone for the film.

In the documentary, Kaganof follows a group of Wits (EFF) members as they navigate through the messy conundrum of student politics and questions of black alienation at historically white institutions. We see students from different political parties – EFF, Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and Project W, fighting amongst each other, and then working together to “fight” management.

Next we see students discussing the prioritisation of white students at Wits. We see Wits EFF members sombrely singing the well-known struggle song – Senzeni Na? while one of the members says, “Comrades, we must never celebrate being at Wits, and think that you are a better Black. You must never celebrate assimilation comrades.”

Later Pambo says, “I’m saying for the mere fact that there is no consequence for messing around or playing with a black body, racism is perpetuated… I want to be able to speak my mind without having to reference or align myself to whiteness.”

A prominent theme in the documentary is the plight of black service workers at Wits. The students speak about the poor treatment of workers, highlighting the segregation of service worker toilets as a signal of Wits’ disinterest in creating a holistically fair environment.

“The explosion will not happen today. It is too soon”

Extracts from Frantz Fanon’s influential books The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks, are generously sprinkled throughout the documentary. The most quoted chapter though is, Concerning Violence, a chapter from The Wretched of the Earth which has caused much contention and debate around academic circles about what Fanon meant by “revolutionary violence.”

The lines “The explosion will not happen today. It is too soon… ” from the introduction of Black Skin, White Masks are repeated throughout the film, Kaganof seems to be alluding to the nascent anger  bubbling under in South Africa. An anger that is infused with militant and revolutionary rhetoric.

A short appearance by former EFF MP Andile Mngxitama brings home the message of black assimilation in white institutions.

Mngxitama speaks to a point also raised by Panashe Chigumadzi at the Ruth First Memorial Lecture last Monday. He says, “Over the years black people have come to understand that to be civil, to be acceptable, to make progress within the system you cannot raise the black question. We are policing ourselves very well.”

Decolonising Wits should not be viewed as a formulaic documentary with a beginning, middle and an end. It should rather be viewed as an important piece of history. A living archive.

The film cannot be explained, but should rather be experienced. It documents a moment when students of the radical tradition are at the forefront of racial discussions around the country. At the forefront of what others would call ‘transformation’.

Kaganof, a white male, moves as if wearing an invisible cloak between the majority black students. The same Black students that have centred their experiences of blackness at the core of their political discourse. It begs the question, who can document the black struggle?

 

EFF disrupt Wits SRC elections debate

A fight broke out between Project W members and Wits EFF after the red berets disrupted the SRC Elections debate, making the organisers cancel the event. 

Lita-SRC FIGHT 1

ROUND ONE: Wits EFF member on the Great Hall stage after the fight with Project W broke out. Photo Litalethu Zidepa

The Wits SRC Elections candidates’ debate was cancelled Tuesday afternoon when Wits EFF took over the stage chanting “NO SRC.”

Members of Wits EFF were singing and dancing outside the Great Hall before the debate and as the crowds started filling the hall they marched inside and onto the stage.

Wits EFF Secretary, Mbe Mbhele said the party believes the university is not listening to the students. “We feel the SRC is just a body that is meant to legitimise the university…but it doesn’t necessarily change anything because the people campaign against the same things every year.”

Mbhele explained issues such as the bus service has been brought up in campaigns since 2005 and “students are still complaining 10 years later.”

They continued to disrupt proceedings of the debate as the candidates from each party silently looked on from their seats on stage.

Campus Control arrived and stood by, while the organisers were seen going backstage with Campus Control’s Head of Investigations, Michael Mahada.

Soon after all the campaign managers were called backstage for an emergency meeting. When the group came out deputy chief electoral officer, Thembi Dlamini told Wits Vuvuzela the debate was cancelled based on a “collective decision”.

WATCH: 

A tussle broke out on stage between Project W members and those of Wits EFF. Dismissed former SRC president, Mcebo Dlamini was allegedly seen trying to intervene and break off the fight. As Project W tried to get Wits EFF of off the stage, some PYA members physically got involved in the fight against Project W.

Campus Control escorted students out of the hall and locked the doors.

“I am utterly disappointed by the commontion that was caused specifically by the EFF,” said DASO campaign manager, Simphiwe Mbonani.

Mbonani complained the EFF didn’t give the parties a chance to tell students why they should vote for them.

The debate was meant to give the 2015/2016 candidates the opportunity to campaign within their student parties.

*Updated from original.

“You fucking whities”

Two white Wits students allege that Wits EFF supporters hurled racial abuse at them outside the Great Hall yesterday afternoon.  

IMG_3330

Ivan Sabljak and Danita Botes sitting on the Great Hall steps where they were racially abused by Wits EFF supporters. PHOTO: Anlerie de Wet

Two white Wits University students were allegedly racially abused by supporters of Wits EFF on east campus yesterday afternoon.

Ivan Sabljak and Danita Botes* said they were watching an informal anti-xenophobia protest on the steps of the Great Hall when Wits EFF supporters reacted to their verbal show of support.

“We were showing them support for the cause they were protesting for and then they showed us middle-fingers and shouted at us in an African language I don’t understand. One guy then picked-up a rock and threw it at us,” said second-year Microbiology student, and Serbian national, Sabljak.

“They shouted ‘pink skins’ and ‘you fucking whities’ at us.”

The Wits EFF supporters, all black males dressed in party clothing, apparently told Sabljak and his first-year Nursing student friend, Botes, they were the cause of xenophobia and should go back to where they came from.

Botes and Sabljak have reported the incident to the SRC (Student Representative Council) and campus security.

“After laying a complaint at SRC Secretary General, Senzekahle Mbokazi, we headed to the Campus Control offices, which are in the Great Hall.

When we passed the EFF guys, they shouted “pink skins” and “you fucking whities” at us,” Sabljak added.

South African-born Botes claims to have told the attackers how ironic it was that they were protesting against xenophobia, while they were trying to kick them out of the country.

Wits EFF chairperson, Vuyani Pambo, told Wits Vuvuzela he is unaware of the incident and cannot comment on the allegations. “We do not condone such behaviour as the EFF of Wits. We must respect everyone who shares space at Wits.”

“This is disgusting behaviour, but I don’t think it’s a real representation of the EFF on campus,” said Sabljak, whose family fled a civil war in Serbia to settle in South Africa.

Campus Control head of investigations, Michael Mahada, has confirmed that he has received complaints from the alleged victims but says he is unable to comment until the investigation is concluded.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual.

 

Wits EFF storm dining hall for food for hungry students

Wits EFF forced their way into a Wits University dining hall yesterday evening in order to take food for needy students.

by Boipelo Boikhutso and Michelle Gumede

HUNGER & RAGE: Tebogo Mabaso forces his way into Royal Mnandi in an attempt to get food for needy students. Photo: Michelle Gumede

HUNGER & RAGE: Tebogo Mabeso forces his way into Royal Mnandi in an attempt to get food for needy students. Photo: Michelle Gumede

Some members of the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stormed their way into the Wits Main dining hall on Thursday evening, demanding food for hungry students.

“That food needs to be given to students not thrown away or kept by Royal Mnandi on top of the profit they are making,” said Mbe Mbele, coordinator of the WitsEFF. Royal Mnandi is one of the catering services on campus.

According to the organisation, many students have been contacting them, asking for help with regards to food and accommodation. “Students are hungry,” they chanted.

The party members, wearing their disctinctive red berets, forced their way into the main dining hall, pushing campus control security guards out of the way and demanded food from Wits Student Liaison Officer, Bontle Mogapi.

The students were adamant that if their demands were not met, they were going to jump into Royal Mnandi and serve hungry students themselves. “We are going to relieve these mothers and fathers, who are paid peanuts of their work, we are going to serve students on their behalf,” said Mbhele.

Vuyani Pambo, chairperson of Wits EFF, told Wits Vuvuzela that they requested at least 20 meals to feed needy students for the night and the dining hall management refused. Wits EFF then took it upon themselves to provide the students with food.

“What you see here is a demonstration of black rage”

Tebogo Mabeso of the Wits EFF told Wits Vuvuzela that there are students who book meals at the dining hall but end up not collecting them. These meals still get billed whether or not they are collected. The Wits EFF say these meals must be given to needy students.

“What you see here is a demonstration of black rage,” said Pambo. The Wits EFF are calling for all students in their respective faculties to reflect critically and make radical strides towards giving the university a “black face”.

According to the Wits Deputy Director of Retail and Catering,  Nicholas Matthes the Wits EFF members did not follow the correct procedure in dealing with this matter. “Students need to approach the Dean of students,” he said.

Mogapi refused to speak to Wits Vuvuzela and said she did not understand what the Wits EFF was demanding.

 

PYA counting on track record for votes

TRIED & TESTED: Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) candidate Mcebo Dlamini convincing students to vote for the "very same leadership that has been with you through thick and thin". Dlamini assured students that no amount of insults will take away the PYA from students. Dlamini was addressing a crowd of students at one of the  lunch circuses held outside the  Wits Great Hall. Photo: Nqobile Dludla

TRIED & TESTED: Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) candidate Mcebo Dlamini tries to convince students to vote for the “very same leadership that has been with you through thick and thin”. Dlamini was addressing a crowd of students at one of the lunch circuses held outside the Wits Great Hall.  Photo: Nqobile Dludla

 

The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) continues to maintain it will dominate the 2014/2015 Student Representatives Council (SRC) owing to its track record ahead of the elections this week.

The PYA believes Witsies will send the votes their way as the “tried and tested party,” despite criticisms from their opponents that they (PYA) are far too reliant on their historical achievements.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, PYA candidate Amogelang Manganyi said: “As a tried and tested party, we are still relevant”. “When I speak about us being tried and tested, it speaks to the notion of candidate for candidate, experience for experience, organisation for organisation, we’ve been here the longest, and we know how things work”, said Manganyi.

Among other critics of the PYA, Valentine Ndlovu, 2nd year BA who wasn’t moved by the history lesson given by the PYA at Monday night’s circus at the Highfield Dining Hall pointed out how much the PYA “usually talk about what [they’ve] done” and challenged the organisation on what it’s planning to do for students.

“Rehashing history isn’t really viable. We need to keep up with the times. We can’t always go back to the stuff that you’ve done”, said Patience Raidani, 1st year BA.

Zimbali Mncube who is also in 1st year said you must “re-articulate interests, you cant keep tracking old interests, that yesterday I did this. People want new interests, you must rejuvenate those interests”.

Thabiso Funde 1st year BA felt that as a first year she doesn’t know the PYA’s track record and therefore is interested in what they are offering.

“As first years we don’t know exactly what you [PYA] did and we can’t go off by assumptions that you [PYA] guys did this and that’s going to carry on. We need to know what you [PYA] are offering”, said Funde.

Project W who occupied SRC seats for the first time last year, have also challenged PYA’s “tried and tested” slogan, claiming that “PYA makes superficial promises that don’t (sic) hold water”.

“Straw houses built by competitor’s burn down. The PYA makes superficial promises that don’t hold water and fall apart as straw houses fall when set on fire”, said Project W candidate Kabelo Murray.

Who will occupy the seats?

Despite being challenged by critics and the arrival of the Wits EFF, the PYA is “confident” that the SRC will remain a PYA-led SRC ahead of the elections.

“I think generally students trust the Progressive Youth Alliance however when it comes to elections, you can never be certain because last year we were certain that we were going to get all 15 seats and we didn’t,” said Ntshanana.

Ntshanana also added that he doesn’t “think the [Wits] EFF have penetrated the space, they have been on campus for less than 6 months and I think what students want to know is what you have done for them which is a question that the [Wits] EFF cannot answer because they haven’t done anything”.

Wits EFF member, Tshepo Goba thinks otherwise. Goba claims that they “have raised the bar and brought in a new brand of politics” to Wits.

“As the [Wits] EFF we have raised the bar, we brought in a new brand of politics, we stuck to our guns even when we are being labelled as backward and racist and anti-progressive. It’s really up to the students”, said Goba.

Project W who are also confident about retaining SRC seats based on their “hard work” and “growth”, said: “We will definitely get seats and we will make a difference when we go to the SRC and we have the students that we serve to thank above everything”, said Project W candidate Thamsanqa Pooe.

 

Res policy dominates SRC elections

 

SHUT OUT: Jamie Mighti of Project W dismisses accusations from members of the Progressive Youth Alliance. Project W was accused of being "sell-outs" for not joining a march against  proposed changes to the residence policy on Wednesday. Photo: Nqobile Dludla

SHUT OUT: Jamie Mighti of Project W dismisses accusations from members of the Progressive Youth Alliance. Project W was accused of being “sell-outs” for not joining a march against proposed changes to the residence policy on Wednesday.                                                                                     Photo: Nqobile Dludla

By Nqobile Dludla and Lutho Mtongana

The SRC election was dominated this week by a controversial new res policy which brought together the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in protests, marches and threats to boycott the vote.

The highly contested policy states that “[it has been revised] for new first-year undergraduates to make campus accommodation more accessible and appealing to all students, especially those who have a good academic record”.

In addition, the policy states its intention to “ensure a diverse and cosmopolitan residence environment in which everyone can feel at home and can succeed academically.”

The protests culminated in a four-hour meeting at the SRC offices between the PYA, Wits EFF, the SRC, house committee representatives, Res Life director Robert Sharman, Deputy Vice-chancellor: finance Tawana Kupe, Dean of students Pamela Dube and Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib on Wednesday.

At the meeting, Habib agreed to “halt” the roll out of the revised residence admission policy pending further discussions to be held on Saturday.

Public protest about the policy began at the evening circus on Tuesday. The 2010/2011 SRC president, Mukovhe Morris Musatha, pleaded on behalf of Mens residence to the three organisations campaigning in the SRC election—PYA, Wits EFF and Project W—to come up with a resolution.

Initially, it appeared that all three organisations would oppose the policy following a meeting at the circus when SRC president Shafee Verachia said they would all march against it on Wednesday morning.
Verachia said the parties had agreed to boycott the SRC elections if their protests fell on deaf ears.

However, Project W said it had not agreed to the march or a potential election boycott. Project W candidate Jamie Mighti said they disagreed with the PYA and Wits EFF on “process”.

“There’s a process before we follow these things. We can’t make a hasty decision as an organisation,” Mighti told Wits Vuvuzela on Tuesday.

“Consultation was the issue and the fact that students weren’t being consulted”

Although the Wits EFF joined the march against the new res policy they accused Verachia of a lack of transparency, saying he as SRC president had known about the new res policy for weeks.

“They [the PYA] knew this and they did not tell the students, they did not consult with the students when we asked him [Verachia] … We found out last night, then we probed him as the EFF, he buckled under pressure and he said he knew in July,” said Wits EFF candidate Anele Nzimande on Wednesday.

Critics speak out

Critics of the policy said it would result in students already in res losing their rooms and called it racist, arguing that it was designed to bring more white students into residences.

Coming in effect in 2015, the policy will ensure that more single rooms will be available to new students in addition to already allocated double rooms.

This point outlined in the policy did not sit well with majority of the residents who worried about losing their rooms next year.

“The resident students who are currently here now might not have a place next year because they [management] want to open the residences to first-years. What that means is that they want to give single rooms to first-years and when that happens those who are currently staying here now will lose their rooms,” said All Residence Council chairperson Mpho Maziya.

“They are to close off 30 percent space to try and accommodate white kids who can normally afford accommodation outside of university,” Maziya said.

Habib contested the racialization of the policy by critics: “What I don’t like is, people racialize the question as if because we are taking white students, we are going to bring out black students, I never said that.”
Students also contested the policy on the basis that student bodies had not been consulted on the changes.

“Consultation was the issue and the fact that students weren’t being consulted. We said we are not interested in the procedural issues we are more interested in the substantial [issues] for the purpose of that policy,” said Wits EFF candidate Vuyani Pambo.

Maziya said they wanted the decision-making structures around student issues to be more representative, including having non-SRC members a part of the process.

“We are requesting that the decision making structures need to be more representative because what you have now is certain members of the SRC sitting there making decisions for resident students without the knowledge of what’s going on in the residences and how these decisions will affect students,” said Maziya.

RELATED POST:

Wits Vuvuzela, Habib agrees to halt controversial res policy, August 2014

Wits Vuvuzela, UPDATE: Student organisations unite to challenge revised residence admission policy, August 2014

Parties, show us the money

Following a debate earlier in the week, the question of where student political parties receive their funding has taken centre stage a week before the elections.

Claims were made that Project W got funding for its campaign from Zionist groups at a debate during the SRC debate on Monday at the Piazza.

Project W leader Jamie Mighti said: “It’s a lie, don’t get misled that we get money from anyone else. I want to answer these malicious lies. We get our money from students.”

He said they started planning for the election campaign last year. “We all know there would be financial requirements,” said Mighti.

Project W has a budget of R50 000. In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela Mighti said the organisation had money that it had saved from the previous year and members and volunteers also contributed. “Project W is a student run, student funded, student organisation.There is nothing we get from any body.”

“We all know there would be financial requirements.”

He said that members of the organisation take the campaign seriously and they were required to contribute “at least” R1 000 to the campaign. “We have old candidates who also contribute.”

He did also say that some wealthy members of the party contributed a significant amount of money to the campaign.

Wits Vuvuzela approached the PYA to comment on where their funding comes from but got no response.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy coordinator Sive Mqikela said: “We’re working in the budget that the university has given to us. We are not being funded by anyone and we are fundraising.”

The party received R500 for each candidate from the university “so that’s R7 500”. Mqikela said their campaign is “mainly based on ideas”, not how many posters or resources they have.

Mqikela said they did not get any funding from the mother body.

He said they requested money “but we didn’t receive anything”.

UPDATE: Student organisations unite to challenge revised residence admissions policy

THE CRY: Nkululeko Nkosi of the PYA striking along side the Project W and Wits EFF outside Mens Res while waiting for the leaders of the three parties to reach an agreement about the revised residence admission policy, last night.   Photo by: Lutho Mtongana

THE CRY: PYA candidate Nkululeko Nkosi strikes alongside  Project W and Wits EFF outside Mens Res while waiting for the leaders of the three parties to reach an agreement about the revised residence admission policy last night.                 Photo by: Lutho Mtongana

By Nqobile Dludla and Lutho Mtongana

The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) and some of members of the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) along with members of house committees and the SRC marched to the international affairs office this morning to demand a response from Wits Vice -chancellor, Prof Adam Habib about their concerns on a revised residence admissions policy.

 

Habib met the dozens of protestors to receive the memorandum that was jointly written last night by the PYA, Wits EFF, house committees and the current SRC.

The memoranda states: “We as concerned students, social leaders and student representatives say that the time is ripe to demand the university keep students interests at the forefront and not impose policies that will affect our lives adversely, without any consultation or vigorous engagement.”

“We told him that it is unacceptable that issues that relate to students are not properly discussed and debated with students before an actual policy is taken into consideration of being drafted”, said PYA candidate Shaeera Kalla.

Habib told the students that he would meet them to offer his response to the memorandum later in the day. The meeting will be held at Mens Residence common room at 2:30 pm.

 

Original Story

Competing candidates and organisations for this year’s SRC (Students Representatives Council), elections race were united last night in a bid to challenge the Wits University revised residence admissions policy which aims for a more cosmopolitan university at the expense of disadvantaged students.

The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), Project W, and the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), along with the house committee and the current SRC , will occupy the international affairs boardroom from 9am today to challenge the recommendations of the policy, according to outgoing SRC President Shaffee Verachia.

Verachia said the group will draft a memorandum and hand it over to Wits Vice Chancellor, Prof Adam Habib.

The revised residence admission policy, which Habib referred to at a recent townhall meeting, states: “for new first-year undergraduates to make campus accommodation more accessible and appealing to all students, especially those who have a good academic record”. In addition, the policy states that: “[It] will ensure a diverse and cosmopolitan residence environment in which everyone can feel at home and can succeed academically.”

According to Mens Residence chairperson, and PYA candidate, Keoagile Matseke: “Some of the recommendations outlined in the document, we felt that were disadvantaging certain students. We felt that the management tries to achieve the cosmopolitan agenda at the expense of other students.”

At last night’s meeting, Verachia announced that: “ All three structures (PYA, Project W and Wits EFF) further accept that there may be a call to boycott SRC elections if tomorrow our voices fall on deaf ears.”

“We felt that the management tries to achieve the cosmopolitan agenda at the expense of other students”

Project W disagrees with process

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela after the meeting, Project W’s Jamie Mighti said while his organisation agrees with the rejection of the policy, they disagree with the manner in which the issue is being addressed.

Speaking on behalf of Project W, Mighti said, “We disagree with a protocol, we disagree with the process. As Project W we cannot support something we haven’t seen, we haven’t engaged our minds with, we haven’t spoken with our constituencies about.”

He added, “We are united around student issues, when they are genuine, this is a genuine student issue but we don’t think the way it’s being articulated is genuine. There’s a process before we follow these things. We can’t make a hasty decision as an organisation.”

SRC elections evening circuses halted

TRANSFORMATION AT PLAY: Wits EFF candidate Brian Sibanda at the SRC circus outside the FNB Building on Wednesday, giving closing remarks about transformation through creating sports for the disabled and changing the names. Photo: Lutho Mtongana

TRANSFORMATION AT PLAY: Wits EFF candidate Brian Sibanda at the SRC circus outside the FNB Building on Wednesday, giving closing remarks about transformation through creating sports for the disabled and changing the names. Photo: Lutho Mtongana

By Nqobile Dludla and Lutho Mtongana

SRC ELECTIONS are well underway but, unlike in previous years, candidates will no longer be able to campaign in the evenings in dining halls with the cancellation of evening circuses.

According to chief electoral officer Jabu Mashinini, evening circuses in dining halls during dinner hours is not allowed because it disturbs students from eating peacefully.

Campus housing director Rob Sharman said it was “long-standing policy that election circuses in dining halls are not held during meal times.”

Holding circuses after dinner hours, after 8pm, was also shot down by the SRC election office because it would be an unwelcome distraction during study times.

“We are considering student academics. When are they going to study if we start at 8pm and finish at 10pm? So that’s the reason why we cancelled the evening circuses,” said Mashinini.

Sharman said that while two dining halls, Main and Highfield, only close at 8pm this was not the case for all dining halls.

“The other four dining halls close at 7pm, as they always have, so election circuses can start earlier in those venues,” Shaman said.

Sharman said a proposed circus at Noswal Hall would have clashed with a previously planned Women’s Month event at the residence.

“So the circus obviously had to give way to the residence event. I have not seen any proposed alternative date for the circus,” Sharman said.

“What was beneficial about these evening circuses is that we target students that are not usually around during the day. For us not to be afforded that opportunity is really a shame.”

The decision to call off the evening circuses came as a surprise to candidates who arrived on Tuesday for the first scheduled evening circus, meant to take place at Convocation dining hall, only to learn it was cancelled.

Reaction from candidates

Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) election management committee chairperson Lesego Mokwena said the cancellation of evening circuses was “a shame” and would make it more difficult to get Witsies to turn out and vote.

The PYA felt that “not having evening circuses is really a shame” because they were also campaigning to encourage Witsies to actually vote.

“The issue of us not having evening circuses is really a shame because apart from trying to promote your manifesto, the first thing we try to do is to actually get the Wits students to actually go vote,” Mokwena said.

“What was beneficial about these evening circuses is that we target students that are not usually around during the day. For us not to be afforded that opportunity is really a shame.”

After the cancellation of the Tuesday circus, the ended up campaigning door-to-door at West Campus residences, David Webster Hall and Barnato Hall.

Project W candidate Gwinyai Dube said the cancellation was due to “a disconnect that exists between management structures and students.”

“It’s disappointing to limit the political process like that just because some guy sitting in the office somewhere is thinking for the students. Just because I’m eating doesn’t mean that I don’t want to hear what someone has to say,” Dube said.

Sharing the same sentiment, Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) felt that the student community should have been consulted before a decision to cancel the circuses was made.

“It should have been consultative to find out from students which do they prefer because some have tutorials during lunch time and are missing out on lunch circuses,” said Wits EFF candidate Anele Nzimande.

“It’s a huge disadvantage because evening circuses bring everyone together, so everyone is in the same place and you don’t have to go door-to-door giving people your manifesto one-by-one. Now we are missing out on that opportunity, we are missing out on so many people,” added Nzimande.

However, Nzimande said that the cancellation of the evening circuses won’t tarnish their effort to reach more students as new members.

First week of campaigning 

The SRC elections officially began on Monday with a lunchtime SRC Great Debate held in the Great Hall. It was the first time the PYA, Project W and Wits EFF were able to present their manifestos to students who packed into the large venue.

Transformation on campuses and residences was a common issue raised by all three parties. Wits EFF called for changing the names of campus buildings to honour African leaders while the PYA said it was committed to transformation “at all levels”.

Project W countered by saying their candidate list was the most transformed because it was the most “representative” of the parties.

This issue of representativity came up at the Wednesday lunch debate, when first-year student Dan Peter, Bcom Law and Economics, challenged the PYA on its diversity asking if the organisation is “a representative party which can represent me as a white student in this university?”

PYA candidate Fasiha Hassan responded that the PYA advocated transformation on all levels on campus and defended the diversity of their candidates.

“If you look at all these people [PYA candidates], we have our candidates from all campuses and all religions,” Hassan said.

Day circuses will still take place during lunch at respective venues while organisations will organise their own evening campaign sessions.

 

Circus Schedule

Wits EFF’s proposal to name-change buildings, receives backlash

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GIVE US A CHANCE: Among other things, Wits EFF proposed to change the names of residences and some buildings in the name of transformation. Photo: Nqobile Dludla

By Lutho Mtongana and Nqobile Dludla

A proposal to change the names of campus buildings by political new kids in the block, Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was welcomed with backlashes at the SRC General Elections Great Debate today.

Wits EFF chairperson, Vuyani Pambo, said they  aim to change the names of buildings on campus to honour those of “Africa’s heroes” including the Great Hall which served as the venue for the debate.

“I think it’s important that we locate ourselves so that we know where we are sitting, we are in Africa by the way but the buildings around us do not signify that … You would think in a university where [Robert] Sobukwe lectured, that hall will bear that powerful man’s name on it,” said Pambo.

Wits EFF candidate, Cathrine Seabe, said the party is “planning to help the VC with his 2020 vision of making wits university a more cosmopolitan university”. She said the Wits EFF would also work to racially integrate the campus.

“We are going to do this through university residences, that’s where it starts, we still don’t have enough students in university residences, we still don’t have enough racial groups,” said Seabe.

One of the PYA candidates rebutted the EFF’s name changing plan for some Wits buildings, saying “next thing you know they [Wits EFF] will change [the name] Mens Res to Julius Malema”.

Also disagreeing with Wits EFF’s vision, Project W said that the university has bigger problems than changing names of buildings on campus, arguing that there lot of students who are being academically excluded. They made the accusation that the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA)-led SRC “waits for students to fail first before helping them fight academic exclusion.”

Project W’s statement drew the ire of the PYA whose supporters threw their hands in the air in disagreement, chanting “Hhayi hhayi, unamanga!” [No, no, you are lying!].

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela after the debate, Seabe said she felt that their proposals as the EFF was dismissed. She said they were not given an opportunity to engage with the students and elaborate on their points.

“We didn’t necessarily get the engagement that we wanted, not only from the other parties as well but from the audience [too] … We are coming around as the new kids in the block asking them to give us a chance,” Seabe said.

The debate held at the Great Hall was to introduce students to the 2014/2015 SRC candidates.

Tomorrow, a round of circuses at residences and other campus buildings will begin where candidates will debate each other and take questions from students on their grievances and issues.