The timing of these demonstrations are also noteworthy when taking into account that the demonstrations started two weeks before the 2022/2023 SRC elections. Players from every side are pointing the finger at everyone else, claiming that their actions, or lack of action, during these protests were politically motivated.
Siseka Soga, who was a member of the EFFSC and a candidate for the SRC study finance officer position in 2021, posted a Whatsapp status in the week of 22 August that the “EFFSC UP will not be lured into a SASCO campaign of using a genuine student issue of fee increase to campaign for SRC elections”. He continued by stating that the “nonexistent shutdown is nothing but a way this organisation of lumpens is using to galvanise votes”.
Liam Jacobs tweeted the following on 22 August: “The SASCO(ANC proxy)-led SRC alongside the EFFSC will use today’s mass meeting to politicise the registration fee issue without providing a substantial and sustainable solution – as they did in 2016. They’ll also use this as an opportunity to subtly advertise their candidates.” In response to these accusations that SASCO or the SRC was politicising the movement, SRC Secretary general Tarik Lalla, who is a member of SASCO, said: “Our intention in the SRC and as student leaders is never to politicise it”. He continued saying “[the SRC] never want[ed] to see this issue as a means to mobilise students to vote for any particular group of students or to vote against the others. This is not a campaign initiative. This is not a means to mobilise students behind a candidate. This is a genuine fight. And it’s extremely disappointing that there are organisations that are allegedly for students that are willing […] to politicise this issue along partisan lines in order to make sure that they emerge […] in some sort of structure or in whatever structures they’re contesting.” Lalla continued, saying that the accusations that SASCO and the SRC are making the fee increases a political issue is “extremely disappointing and it’s disheartening because it shows us that [though] we can continue to fight for students, there are people who, the moment they get elected, the moment they get even a little bit of power, are going to sell out to management”.
Whether or not SASCO’s presence in the student action was politically motivated is something that every voter will need to determine for themselves. While some of the most vocal SASCO members, specifically Lalla and Thuto Mashile, are not running in this SRC election, it also seems inevitable that their presence in the action has bolstered their fellow SASCO members who are candidates, at least to some extent.