On 4 May 2017, UCT announced an uncharacteristically strong message from its 30000 students. They are sick and tired of ideology and politics on campus in general and intimidating, violent and destructive fallist tactics against the UCT Students Representative Council (SRC) in particular.
By refusing to participate in a sham election overwhelmingly dominated by apparatchik fallist candidates and/or actually voting against them, nearly 90% of the students eligible to vote rejected intimidation-based representation on the SRC. In fact, even in spite of this boycott, all of the independent, anti-intimidation candidates were elected, finishing 1, 2 and 4 respectively in the final tally. The number 1 ‘vote-getter’ made her open mind crystal clear in her ‘vision statement’: “You can’t change a regime on the basis of compassion. There’s got to be something harder. If you asked me a month ago who the SRC was and what they do, I wouldn’t have been able to answer you. For too long has the SRC been a group of students merely in theoretical existence, who represented a student opinion which had no accountability”.
The competing ‘theoretical existentialist’ candidates largely represent the Pan-Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters Students’ Command (EFFSC), both of whose “basic programme[s] [are] the complete overthrow of a neoliberal anti-black system and the realisation of students’ power”.
The top fallist candidate (500 votes behind the leader) was Masixole Mlandu, the multi-arrested (for contravening a high court order, malicious damage to property, trespassing, and intimidation), ‘Black’ nationalist, Agreement signatory, ‘clemencied’ PASMA leader who had to be released from incarceration in Pollsmoor Prison to ‘negotiate’ the infamous November Agreement. But, by illegally occupying the Bremner Building at the end of March 2017, he violated his ‘clemency’. He received less than 5% of the potential student votes, and is noted for stating: “We will usher into this country an attitude of black rage, black liberation, an attitude that threatened the foundation of whiteness,” and, “Revolution is the answer to our problem. … We must live up to our historical task … to change society from bottom up with no compromise.”
Another SRC ‘winner’ and ‘clemency’ violator was EFFSC candidate Sinawo Thambo.
Given the clemency violations of two of the ‘winners’, Mlandu’s disturbing personal position statement, and that a 25% voter turnout is necessary for a legitimate SRC election, let’s see if the ‘elected’ slate will be ratified by the Student Parliament, the relevant committee of the Department of Student Affairs and then by the UCT Council, so that a new SRC can be inducted. This may take a while, since the current SRC vacate office on 30 June 2017. Then, of course, there would need to be a governing coalition between the EFF and PASMA which has not been the case on other campuses.
Why only boycott?
But why did most students choose to boycott and not participate in the SRC election? Some might attribute this decision to students’ disgust with the publicized disgraceful rejection by the UCT Alumni Association (AA) of a motion calling for “support for the [outgoing] Student Representative Council (SRC), celebrating the positive impact that they have had during very difficult times”. Initially, a vote by hand supported the motion. But this decision was challenged by an impassioned plea from Ms Lorna Houston (President of the UCT Convocation and key ‘player’ in its Internal Reconciliation and Transformation Commission). In the end, despite a rational rebuttal to it by an alumnus, meeting chairperson Ms Dianna Yach overruled the vote and unilaterally decided on an anonymous vote by ballot, resulting in the motion’s rejection. VC Price was present but contributed nothing to the debate on this motion.
The “difficult times” mentioned in the motion relate to unrelenting intimidation during 2016 of the anti-fallist SRC by PASMA-affiliated fallists and Mlandu in particular. Because of this, some described the failure of the Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (DASO) (which had been a dominant force in the SRC of recent years) to put up candidates as “gutless”. I countered this, arguing that students chose not to participate because of a collapse in their confidence in the endlessly-capitulating UCT Executive, academic staff and alumni.
The pro-fallist Cape Times described the election as a fallist “triumph”. Fallists comment inter alia that it was “an excellent outcome” and a result of voters’ “faith” in their ability “to fight for… marginalised peoples… involved in the struggles at the university” to “eliminate the monopoly held by the executive and the council of the university with regard to decision making”, thereby “strengthen[ing] gains already made.”
Should UCT’s Executive and Council once again capitulate to SRC fallists without a legitimate mandate, they will totally cede control to a visionless, violent and destructive minority bent on deconstructive “decolonization” of Africa’s finest university.
The students have spoken, but will the academics, alumni, executive and Council listen and act? Their silence is deafening.