The elections at the University of Pretoria have come and left in the year 2018.I must say the burden that they carried sometimes lead to sleepless nights filled with anxiety and contemplating the number of people that would actually partake in the elections, whether as candidates or as voters. My anxiety or fear was mostly because I myself was going to be a candidate to these elections, running as the President of the Student Representative Council at the University, writes THULI ZULU.
When I joined the university in 2015 I was always attentive of the political and the social space of the university. I further paid attention to how during the SRC campaigning period the university was the playground of the Afriforum. In the year 2015 and the subsequent years at the University of Pretoria, the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command University of Pretoria (EFFSC UP) which I am part of ran for the SRC elections in which we found it very difficult to find expression on the ground. This was either because the political climate in the university was that of White and Christian Afrikaaner students who have been told from home that they were in the university to vote for the Afriforum in who refer to themselves as the civil movement fighting for the rights of the minorities (the Afrikaners of course) or you would find the White babies that were not so conservative which related more to the Democratic Alliance Student Organization (DASO) than to the EFFSC UP.
There was also a “Black organisation” that ran in the SRC elections being the South African Students Congress (SASCO) however one can never equate the expression that SASCO find in the university of Pretoria to that of the EFFSC UP. With SASCO, the organisation had funds for their SRC election campaign. This means that they get to bring T Shirts to the students on campus, make Braai for students, everything to get as much votes, you name it. There are also independent candidates that are for the “no so political” students who would still vote in the elections ( whatever this apolitical means) that find way more expression than the EFFSC UP because on the apolitical stance.
In setting out the political and the social climate in the University of Pretoria, it is also important to note that the University is a very “White” institution meaning that in roaming the campus, you are more likely to bump into a white student than to a black student. With that set aside and the political climate described above taken into consideration: Where does the EFFSC UP stand in the SRC elections? Where does a Black and poor girl candidate running for the SRC elections within such an organisation stand in the SRC elections?
The anxiety and the fear did not come without reasons, the EFFSC UP have already been labelled in the university as the poor Black rascals who put the university in the standstill during #FeesMustFall. Chances of us appealing to the minority Black students in which whose votes are split mostly between us, SASCO and the independent were very slim. Nevertheless it is always heartbreaking to parade the poverty of the poor and the marginalised in the university in order to get votes. We don’t just do it as our fellow SASCO comrades but we must be sincere and talk to the students directly seeing that we cannot talk to them through T Shirts.
What was most frustrating about the SRC election season is that we got our fellow EFF SC cadres from other Universities throughout the years to come and help us. They would demoralise us on the number of votes that we get each year. Comrades must work the ground. The ground Comrades. They would say these words with so much conviction, as if they really believed them. That they were the truth.
I mostly find it very disturbing of how much “respect” I did not get within these so called comrades. Besides me being from the White and Elite institution I was also female. There was then no way that I knew the ground, for some reason men in the EFF don’t think we do as much as them. So this brought me a number of anxieties. I was not only poor, Black and female from the rascals in the University but I was also female in my organization and didn’t know the ground. There was no way that I could find expression, within the University sphere nor within my organization.
As a Black girls in these spaces we have always had to maneuver our existence. Despite the University being Classist and have already classified me as a rascal because of my political affiliation, it is mistaken because I can never find enough expression in the organisation because I am still female, besides all of us being Black and poor.
Although I still got to Deputy President, I firmly believe that Class, Patriarchy and Racism are the reasons the University of Pretoria still have not had a Black and Female SRC President.
Thuli Zulu is a final year law student at the University of Pretoria, a struggling blogger, fiction writer and aspiring saxophonist.She is passionate about Social Justice and been involved in several movements to this course.She did her final year research on the decriminalisation of sex work which is another course she is very passionate about and have just been elected the SRC Deputy President for the year 2018 with an intention of furthering her studies.
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Featured image by Ihsaan Haffejee