STEPHANIE VAN DER PLANK
The Constitution for Student Governance has been under review throughout the year and has undergone several changes.
A meeting held on 8 October created a revised constitution that took into consideration the amendments suggested by the SRC and society and residence members.
Changes to the constitution included the addition of day house and service provider constituencies, new rules on quorum in parliament as well as amendments to the way election campaigns are run. Changes like the inclusion of a day house constituency were met with controversy, while changes with regard to election campaigning were encouraged by members.
SRC President Mthokozisi Nkosi was not happy with the way in which the constitutional review was conducted. He said that the process was rushed and that not everyone who should have been consulted was involved. Nkosi claims that this is what the university seems to have planned all along and that the SRC was not properly consulted. “It’s like we got onto an already moving train,” he said, adding that no one is taking ownership of the revised constitution.
There is reportedly general confusion as to which version of the constitution is currently in place. Nkosi said that he is unhappy with the changes made and would prefer the old constitution until the whole process can be thoroughly investigated with the right amount of time allocated for the review.
According to the university, the review of the constitution was time consuming and could not be concluded. As a result, not all the amendments proposed by students could be incorporated. A more thorough review is expected for 2013.
SRC member for constitutions Jordan Griffiths said that the revised constitution did not address certain major issues, while the changes that were made were mostly small and insignificant.
Griffiths wants to discuss the possibility of a system overhaul where the entire parliamentary system will be remodelled. He told Perdeby that student parliament does not work as well as it should and that, with the current system in place, it never will. “Student parliament is a farce really, it fails consistently,” he said. Nkosi also believes a system overhaul needs to be discussed for next year as a possible solution to the recurring problems.
The university is of the view that the latest amendments that have been included in the constitution address some of the weaknesses and loopholes of the past. However, they commented that it is virtually impossible to legislate for every eventuality and there may still be some weaknesses to be addressed.
Griffiths said that the issue of a quorum has been a problem in parliament since it was constituted. Quorum in student parliament has never reached full capacity because many members do not arrive for meetings. In an attempt to solve this problem, the revised constitution makes provisions for quorum to be formed at the second meeting, comprised of whichever members are present at that meeting. Previously, meetings had to be postponed numerous times before quorum was reached and the meeting could proceed.
Despite these changes, and in light of the postponed elections and a Temporary Student Committee (TSC) being proposed for next year, the implementation of this new constitution seems unlikely. There appear to be fundamental flaws in the constitution which need to be researched and corrected.
Nkosi is hopeful that next year, the TSC can work together with the university to solve the problems that have been plaguing student parliament for the past few years. He said that the current chaos reflects badly on the SRC and the university, but hopes that all members of student governance will take these matters seriously.
In the university’s response they said that, “The Constitution for Student Governance, as approved on 4 September, is the product of consultation with students and replaces all previous versions of the constitution and will remain in effect until it is replaced in 2013.”