The SRC elections are an important event of each academic year at the university. The university in the academic year 2020 had a massive 45 551 eligible voters, which translates to an expected same number of votes in the ballot box. Only 10 905 votes were cast in the 2020 SRC elections.
This translates into a 23.94% voter turnout of the eligible voter population of the university. “All students should participate in SRC elections, it is their elections. The leaders elected are going to represent the whole student body in all the relevant governance structures in the university, including the University Council”; these are the sentiments of the Director of Students Affairs at the university, Dr Matete Madiba. Despondency serves as a fertile ground for the electorate to have limited ground to demand accountability from the elected executive. “The more students pay attention to who gets elected the better. When students participate in elections, they will also take the responsibility to hold the student leaders accountable”, said Dr Madiba in a written response.
The university has been using e-voting for the past four years, hence the emergence of the pandemic cannot be the explanation for the poor showing at the polls. There was a marginal decline of -0.46% in the voter turnout between 2019 and 2020 academic year. It raises the fundamental question of why students are apathetic as far as SRC elections are concerned.
There could be countless reasons for the attitude towards elections and it leaves a lot to be desired considering how imperative the SRC is to the student population and particularly the aspirations of the students to have their voices heard in the university council. The university IEC runs campaigns each time the election season opened, and student media platforms, PDBY and TuksFM, make special provisions to reach students. Further, the office of the Director of Students reaches students via ClickUP. “We are now effectively using ClickUP as an LMS (Learning Management System) to communicate all SRC election processes. We use social media to further communicate key moments throughout all the stages of the elections”. Dr Madiba emphasised the lengths that the university goes to reach out to students during election season.
Theories for voter apathy attribute this to the trends that were set by predecessors who ran for office and did not deliver on their promises during campaigns. “A number of candidates make big promises and then it becomes a challenge when it is time to deliver. To their credit, some demonstrate how seriously they take the role and how far they can stretch their imagination and
creativity about what needs to be done and what needs to change”, said Dr Madiba.
Some candidates take their oath seriously and deliver on their promises as set out during their campaigning season. “You know the popular belief that says you under promise and overdeliver. We should celebrate those who over promise if they are going to work hard towards making those promises a reality. Such set the bar high, and it is a good thing”, advised the Director to prospective hopefuls who want to run for office in the upcoming elections. With 2021 elections in full swing the procedures and processes that are in place will hopefully yield better voter participation and list most systems in place there is always room for improvement.
“If there is one area of improvement we have to work on, is to treat SRC elections as a continuous project, not only communicate the processes for a short period when the campaigning and voting is happening”, suggested Dr Madiba.