KIRSTI BUICK AND AMY-MAE CAMPBELL
The elections for the 2012 Student Representative Council, which took place in September of last year, were characterised by controversy and political mudslinging. An issue that generated particularly heated debates was AfriForum’s distribution of pamphlets that had not been approved by the Independent Electoral Committee (IEC). As a result, the Independent Monitoring Body (IMB) declared the elections “free but not fair”. On 26 October, a special elections court informed the IEC that they agreed with the IMB’s findings and decided to withhold the results and schedule a re-election. Students cast two votes in the SRC election: the first for a political party or society and the second for a member of their faculty house who stands as a faculty member and not as a member representing any political organisation. The IMB believes that AfriForum was contravening election rules when they made the political affiliation of faculty candidates public on a certain batch of pamphlets they distributed.In their statement the IMB cited the pamphlets which included pictures of various AfriForum candidates and read “Vote for the AfriForum candidate in your faculty”. The pamphlets featured candidates from all but the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Theology. The IMB state that this gave these AfriForum candidates an unfair advantage. Following this, AfriForum Youth lodged an urgent appeal with UP to disclose the results of the elections. The appeal was based on the Access to Information Act (section 32 in the Bill of Rights) representing the election results as information within public interest. According to a letter from AfriForum Youth to the leaders of other student societies, the youth group believes a re-election will violate the Freedom of Association Right of the candidates who stood as AfriForum members within the faculties constituency. “Everyone has the right to say which organisation he or she belongs to and students likewise have the right to know the opinions and loyalties of the people they vote for,” says Charl Oberholzer, National Chairperson of AfriForum Youth. As such, the organisation lodged a court application against UP in November last year, stating that “there was reason to believe that the university had acted unconstitutionally in announcing a re-election owing to political pressure.” The matter is set to appear in court on 17 February.“We regard the case against UP as a gesture of protest against UP’s unconstitutional attempts at censorship in the elections,” says Oberholzer. Oberholzer further states that it was after all election complaints has been finalised that SASCO sent a threatening letter to UP, which then caused the rector and the IMB to reconsider their positions. “UP did not take this decision based on principle or any written regulation but rather as a result of SASCO’s political pressure,” he claims. Tokolongo Ngakane, Chairperson of SASCO, says that although SASCO did submit a complaint against AfriForum, it was not entertained by the IMB as it was submitted too late. Ngakane claims the complaint actually stems from the IEC and maintains the issue has nothing to do with SASCO. In an interview with Perdeby last year, Ngakane said that in the IMB hearing “it was the IEC versus AfriForum, not SASCO versus AfriForum.” According to Jordan Griffiths, DASO Chairperson, the re-election demonstrates weakness in how the SRC elections are carried out at Tuks: “What AfriForum did on election day is completely unacceptable, but they have also shown how weak the university is at enforcing the rules running up to the election.” COPE also stated that the constitution needs to be amended, claiming that “a re-election shouldn’t be happening, but we would rather re-vote than accept the results as is. Next elections we call for transparency from the IEC and the SEC [Special Election Court].” The re-election will not take place until after the court proceedings have finalised, however, the university plans to appoint a Temporary Student Committe to ensure the various student activities set to take place early in the year are properly managed.
Photos: Jonty de la Hunt