There was immediate opposition to this by the Rag HKs and TuksRag, who communicated with the DSA requesting to discuss alternatives as well as showing their opposition to the decision.

TuksRag had already put measures in place to reduce alcohol at Pot en Pons this year. Elaine Groenewald, one of the outgoing TuksRag EC, said, “We were deeply saddened when we were notified per email that Pot en Pons was cancelled, cancelled after we set in procedures to promote responsible drinking and create an improved Pot en Pons that would reflect sustainability and community engagement.”

On 17 September Prof. N. Themba Mosia, the vice-principal student affairs, residence and accomodation, responded to a written request from former SRC president Enwee Human with a letter stating that he had , in his capacity as the executive member responsible for student affairs and residences, decided to cancel Pot en Pons altogether. Prof. Mosia said, “The essence of the event is clearly not aligned with the vision and mission of TuksRag, nor with the vision, mission, values and strategic priorities of the University of Pretoria.” He further said that “Providing entire festivals dedicated to the making and consumption of strong alcoholic beverages would defeat the University’s efforts to encourage and promote a culture of responsible drinking.” Prof. Mosia also said in the letter that he and the University are open to discussion of constructive alternative student life events.

It is not only residence students who have opposed the decision. AfriForum Youth chairperson Rochelle Oosthuyse said, “We don’t see why this tradition should be taken away.” DASO head of marketing and media Donovan Du Plooy said, “We are cognisant of the fact that the University is attempting to curb irresponsible behaviour among students. However, DASO Tuks feel as if the University simply steamrolled through with this issue, without consulting any students.”

Jasmyn Rag HK Sanchia Radford said, “Although we are saddened by the cancellation of Pot en Pons, as majority were, my fellow HK and I are trying not to see this as a stumbling block but rather as an opportunity, an opportunity to start new traditions.”

The incoming chairperson of TuksRag Arthur Ndabambi said, “The cancellation of Pot en Pons is a great loss to student life at the University. However, the University has assured us [that] it remains open to discussion on alternative student life events.”

What is Pot en Pons?
Pot en Pons is a long-standing tradition at the University of Pretoria. It is an annual event, which is organised by TuksRag, that is held in the middle of October on the Rag farm.

Each Rag partnership for the following year is required to build a themed stall and produce a potjie (pot) and punch (pons). There is no overall theme so the residences can choose whichever theme they want. Along with the theme, their stall has a DJ, as well as a place to dance and very often an activity.

Each stall is then judged according to their theme, atmosphere, potjie and punch. The results of Pot en Pons determine the order of the Rag procession for the following year.

The idea behind the event is for Rag partners to get to know each other and form bonds before they have to work together on the Rag float in the following year.

 

Copy of Prof Mosia’s letter

17 September 2014

Mr Enwee Human

SRC President

UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA

 

Dear Mr Human,

POT & PONS 2014

Your written request to the Director: Security Services and my Office dated 17 September 2014 in

the above regard refers. I met with Mr Fouché and staff in my reporting line and would like to

respond as follows. However, please grant me the indulgence of contextualising my response.

In 2010 the University approved the Policy on Organised Student Life (Rt 456/10). At the time the

Student Representative Council (SRC) was involved in the drafting process and the policy was

consulted before its approval. The policy has been in place ever since. I am sure that the SRC

and all its substructures are aware of the policy. The purpose of the policy reads as follows:

“The University of Pretoria (UP) strives to deliver well-rounded graduates. This policy

(the policy on organised student life) is aimed at providing clear guidelines for the

proper functioning of the various organised student life structures at UP.

“Students have the opportunity to participate in organised student life activities while

studying towards a qualification. The main aim is to inculcate a balanced approach to

student life – one in which work and recreation take their rightful place – and to

ensure that they become responsible citizens. Students are encouraged to

participate in the activities of at least one organised student life structure as there is

a clear connection between participation and overall success”.

In addition, the underlying principle is that “all aspects of organised student life must

be aligned with the vision and mission of UP and based on the following values:

respect, integrity, accountability, fairness, commitment, excellence, institutional

pride, relevance and inclusivity”.

Given this policy context, it is imperative that all student life activities should ensure rather than

impede students’ success both inside and outside the classroom. All requests for student life

events should thus be measured against this criterion. The fact that alcohol abuse would impede

the success of students, whether as individuals or groups, goes without saying.

This brings me to your request. I should point out that the Vice-Chairperson of Tuks RAG on 29

August 2014 submitted a request for a meeting with the Director: Security Services to start

planning the proposed Pot & Pons. The matter has been under discussion in various platformssince then. The Department of Student Affairs (DSA) requested Tuks RAG to revise their proposal

and to move away from an event that primarily serves the purpose of providing students with a

platform to consume excessive amounts of alcohol. The essence of the event is clearly not aligned

with the vision and mission of Tuks RAG, nor with the vision, mission, values and strategic

priorities of the University of Pretoria. In fact, the Department of Student Affairs and the

Department of Residence Affairs and Accommodation are currently engaged in a focused effort to

curb alcohol abuse. The initiatives link up with national imperatives and programmes in this

regard.

Moreover, you are aware that the University has recently revised its residence clubhouse rules to

reduce the hours during which students may drink. Providing entire festivals dedicated to the

making and consumption of strong alcoholic beverages would defeat the University’s efforts to

encourage and promote a culture of responsible drinking.

The University is also currently engaged in an intensive process conducted by the Gauteng Liquor

Board to look into the operation of licenced outlets in the vicinity of the University, with a particular

focus on the destructive effect of the indiscriminate sale of alcohol to UP students, the

contravention of the provisions of the Liquor Act and the related consequences in this regard.

Given this context, as well as the obligations of the University of Pretoria as an academic institution

and its mandate in terms of the Constitution and the Higher Education Act, the University cannot

possibly consider knowingly allowing or creating platforms for the excessive use of alcohol.

I have considered your written request of 17 September 2014 as well as the proposal and

operational plan for Pot & Pons 2014 very carefully. After further consultation with relevant role

players, I – in my capacity as the Executive member responsible for Student Affairs and

Residences – have decided not to grant approval for the continuation of Pot & Pons in its current

form. In addition to the contextual information provided above, the reasons for my decision, which

enjoys Management support at an institutional level, include:

 

• the University’s social responsibility, which includes ensuring the safety and wellbeing of

students and the prevention of alcohol abuse;

• the institutional operational costs associated with the event, particularly given the resource

constraints we face;

• the multi-faceted risks associated with the event, as evidenced from the reports of Pot &

Pons in previous years;

• the lack of relevance and/or value this event adds to a balanced student life and the

cultivation of responsible citizenship; and

• the misalignment of the event with the vision, mission, values, policies and priorities of UP,

 

DSA, TuksRes, the SRC and Tuks RAG.

It is more than a month before the event. Given the fact that the events categorisation application

has not yet been concluded and that operationalization has not yet started, I am confident that no

costs have been incurred as yet and that the impact of the above-mentioned decision will thus be

limited.

I am conscious of the fact that the request by the DSA to make Pot & Pons an alcohol-free event

has already elicited some negative responses from a number of individuals and Residence House Committees. From the emails sent to the DSA I do, however, get the sense that students would

much rather have no event than an alcohol-free one. The emails also complain about the limited

consultation. I must point out that I and the University will continue to strive towards serving the

best interest of our students, with or without extended consultation processes, and even if the

students do not agree with the decisions.

Please note that the University and I remain open to discussion of constructive alternative student

life events that do further the aims and objectives of Tuks RAG and other stakeholders, and add

value to the responsible extra-curricular development of all students.

I trust that you will find this response in order and would like to request that you communicate the

decision to the SRC, Tuks RAG and the relevant houses. I would like to appeal to all that the

decision is received in the positive spirit in which it was made.

Yours sincerely

 

Photo: Staff photographer

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