In an article published on Times Live titled “The little election that has big implications for SA”, ANC provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane speaks of his disappointment in the defeat. “Fort Hare is our pride. You cannot complete a conversation about the struggle for liberation without mentioning Fort Hare,” says Mabuyane. He goes further to describe the university as a “cradle for continental leadership in progressive politics”. In addressing the students of Fort Hare at the ANC freedom charter forum prior to the election, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the NSFAS’s failure in activating the meal allowances of
the students. Although this is seen as a shared focus for both ANC-backed Sasco and Daso, the latter identified more with the students and thus received the votes for their majority win.
Heather Thuynsma, a member of the Department of Political Science at UP as well as a specialist election monitor and publisher of electoral strategy articles for the Electoral Institute of South Africa, believes that the implication of the SRC turnover following the win “is significant for the University of Fort Hare’s students”. She describes how students utilised their vote to “register their unhappiness” with the handling of their interests. However, she explains how the fees and government student financial aid scheme are “larger problems” than a SRC is able to solve.
Thuynsma goes further and describes the impact of Fort Hare’s SRC turnover on South African politics at a national level. In order for this turnover to have a national affect, Thuynsma said that students need to “physically vote” in the next election. This, however, may not be guaranteed. She says that the young electorate have “other priorities to manage” and may often feel discouraged about the difference that their vote can make in society. Thuynsma also suggests that this turnover may possibly allow students to realise the importance of their opinions and the importance of voting.
“Students seemed to have voted based on issues more than emotion,” Thuynsma says. If this is the case, she argues that it is indeed a “significant shift” in the voting behaviour of students. It portrays how young voters who physically participate in a election may ask themselves, “Am I better off today than I was five years ago?” If this is the case, Thuynsma speaks of how “political parties should pay attention.” “It is refreshing to see that students can use their vote instead of violence to raise these issues,” Thuynsma says.
Image: Shen Scott