Students at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) have had enough of parties who are out of touch with their political needs. At this week’s student representative council (SRC) elections, the African National Congress Youth League/South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) alliance lost all 15 seats it won in a clean sweep last year.
The Independent Students’ Association (ISA), which says its sole mission is to pursue student interests, claimed an overwhelming victory, with its candidates winning all the seats in the SRC.
Last year’s elections were marred by allegations from opposition parties that the ANCYL/Sasco alliance had cheated, though this was never proven. This year, an independent chief electoral official, Naziem Randera, oversaw the elections. Randera says the elections were incident free, and all parties signed an electoral code of conduct to which they adhered.
Laura Pereira, from the victorious ISA, says students were disillusioned by the old SRC’s lack of performance. “Students realised the need for a strong SRC that is accessible to them and presents their interests. The old SRC was not doing that.
“We are dealing with student politics here, not a national agenda. We are here to study, not to pursue a higher political motive.”
Floyd Shivambu, the outgoing SRC president of the youth league/Sasco alliance, says the alliance lost “because the campus demographics were not suitable for us to win.
“We represent worker class poor students and we push political issues such as equity and transformation, but the majority of the students do not care about those issues. They care about parking and coffee shops.”
Shivambu denies that the alliance has fallen out of step with students’ needs. “We are raising the correct issues,” he says. “There is a lot of frustration out there on campus.”
A Wits Internet forum has been buzzing with comments on the youth league/Sasco defeat. Kholo, a Wits student, writes: “ANCYL/Sasco lost touch with the very people who put them on top. If these guys are really going to be our future leaders, I think we are going to be in trouble.” He adds, “We black students will just have to wait and see whether we will be neglected by ISA.”