All political parties have ambitions for their chosen candidates to run for office in the SRC. Its importance for the political parties concerned results in parties pulling out all the stops to campaign for their chosen candidate. This inevitably comes with an implicit faith in the candidate by the party that the candidate embodies the principles and values of their party. This is evident by
the responses given by political parties when faced with this question. As said by EFFSC UP chairperson, Fikile Sibanda, “This question is similar to asking how important it is for a tree to be rooted to the soil or for a fish to swim in water, this is to say it is of utmost importance that the person deployed to a particular portfolio in the SRC must carry the ideology of the party, must be able to represent, articulate, apply and serve through our policies, guidelines and schools of thought which are also our ideological tools of analysis viz Marxism-Leninism and Fanonism”.
Similar sentiments were echoed by DASO chairperson, Chardonnay Arendse, to the same question – “It is of utmost importance that our candidates carry the party’s political ethos and principles. It is however equally important that they display an eagerness to serve the students as that is evidently our main concern.”
Political parties therefore carefully select their candidates that will run under their banner. Arendse explained the DASO processes of selecting and eventually backing their running candidates as follows: “We select candidates to run for the SRC by posting on our group. Anyone who is interested gets into contact with the DASO chair or secretary. Thereafter we have a selection panel that includes both EC members (in the instance that they are not running for SRC) as well as representatives from the Motherbody DA to determine whether the candidates will cater to the needs of the students while upholding the political ethos of the party.”
EFFSC UP has a variation of a similar method. “Candidates are selected based on a criteria that is developed by the incumbent leadership structure. The Branch Student Command Team (BSCT) or a task force which is appointed by the BSCT ensures that well equipped members who are in good standing are deployed by the EFFSC UP to the SRC structure. They also ensure that they will be able to further champion what the EFFSC advocates for through whatever means available [at] their disposal in the SRC once they are elected into office. We also work tirelessly to deploy trusted forces to specific and strategic portfolios within the SRC based on relevant capabilities. The criteria is amended annually, if necessary, by the leadership so that it fits into the current dynamics at play in the institution”. With these different methods of selecting candidates to run for SRC office comes with what political parties have in their policy. However, political parties running for office in the SRC are bound by the Constitution of Student Governance (CSG) that applies to all student structures. There is a regulation that demands running candidates to achieve a GPA score of 60% in their academics. This implies that running candidates, irrespective of what their political parties think of their leadership credentials, will not be eligible to run for office if they do not meet the prescribed GPA score. This may place a burden on parties when they have a candidate that they believe will represent their organisation well but who does not have the required GPA. In such events some political parties opt to cheat the system by putting forward candidates that are not even members of the political parties so that they have candidates running for office. The IEC does not have a responsibility to background check if political parties have fielded a member in good standing with their party. This implies that voters run a risk of voting for candidates that are not members in good standing of the political party concerned.
“Yes, as previously mentioned above we only select members in good standing to run for SRC elections deployed by the EFFSC UP. To avoid rallying behind political nonstarters we only select those who are ideologically fit to handle the responsibility of serving students through our policies and will be able to do so effectively and diligently. Political parties aren’t bandwagons for parasitic students to use to gain SRC offices and blazers; afterwards they abandon them, so we are very careful on who we rally behind even in the pool of branch members,” said Sibanda. But this is not always absolute as she further explained that “yes, previously the leadership before us had given opportunities to members who had just joined closer to election and sometimes this may be a risky move as the members are often not on the same page with the vision of the EFFSC at large ideologically and otherwise. I know of a [candidate], who was recruited a month before SRC elections and he went on to do very well and always
advocated what the organisation stands for even without a briefing.We will admit this strategy has not always bore great fruits and that is why this year we took the approach of only deploying members in good standing for a fairly longer period prior [to] elections – in addition to ideological sanity in the standards of the EFFSC UP”.
The 2021 election season is over but there is are elections each year and the student population has a responsibility to make a choice for credible leadership. Voters need to understand the dynamics that come with having candidates running under a political banner. There is a burden of responsibility on voters to be aware and make informed choices.