In light of the controversy in the weeks building up to the SRC elections, the Freedom Front Plus organised a protest where student democracy was bid farewell. Charl Oberholzer, VF+ spokesperson for the party’s youth league at Tuks, presided over the service that took place on Tuesday, August 11.
A copy of the Bill of Student Rights was placed within a coffin and representatives from political parties were invited to say a few words after Oberholzer gave a eulogy. “This is bigger than one political party” he stated, refering to the new limitations on public political association of Student Assembly candidates. The IMB (Internal Monitoring Body) has stipulated that candidates may not make their associations with political parties known to voters. This is an attempt to enforce the apolitical nature of the SRC constitution.
Hector Beyers, SRC chairperson, stated in an interview with Perdeby that the measures the IMB have taken are too drastic. A motion was passed through the SRC, making a recommendation to the University Council that the campaigning rules be withdrawn. According to Beyers, there is no check on the IMB which would prevent it from passing rules that fall outside the spirit of the SRC constitution.
Prof. McGlory Speckman, Dean of Students, denies these claims, stating that the IMB crackdown on political association in the elections is as a direct result of the recent political meddling in the campaining process. Furthermore, no rules within the SRC constitution have been altered. He also stated that appeal structures are present within the university if the SRC would like to appose the decisions.
According to a press release from the university, the enforcement of an apolitical election should be viewed in the context of Tuks history which has shown that political elections “are divisive and an SRC elected on such grounds is usually dysfunctional.” It is in view of this that the enforcement of campaining material restrictions should be seen. Prof. Speckman sees the protest action as a “play that’s being used during the election”.
In response to these controversial issues, a poll was conducted on the Tuks website to determine the views of the student body at large. The results show that 23% of voters favour a voting system based on political parties, while 33% prefer the current constituency-based system. A further 43% of students do not vote in the elections.