The Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) have retained the Wits University student representative council (SRC) majority. On October 7, Jerome September, dean of student affairs announced the provisional results for the 2020/2021 elections. However, the elections have not been without controversy.
The PYA at Wits have marched to victory despite controversy about the candidates it had fielded. The PYA, which consists of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), South African Students Congress (SASCO) and Young Communist League (YCL), won ten of the available seats while the remaining three were won by members of Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command.
The Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) which had previously supported the PYA raised concerns about a candidate on the PYA list who it claims is also affiliated to the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS), a Zionist-aligned organisation.
In a statement released last month PSC said it would be terminating their “longstanding friendship with the PYA”. They urged students not to vote for the PYA if the reports of a Zionist candidate on the PYA slate were true. The Daily Vox had attempted to contact the student at the centre of the controversy but she declined to comment, referring all questions to the PYA.
Faatima Laher, a former Wits SRC member and PSC member told The Daily Vox that the PSC had supported a candidate from the Muslim Students Association (MSA) for the PYA list. Laher said the candidate was fully qualified and had served on many different committees. However, the MSA candidate was told by the PYA they had not made the list. Instead the student who was a member of SAUJS made the list.
She said the decision by the PYA to run the candidate goes against the national ANC policy as well as SASCO. During the 54th national conference of the ruling party a resolution passed. It read as “Delegates endorsed the proposal that we must give practical support to the oppressed people of Palestine and resolved an immediate and unconditional downgrade of the SA embassy in Israel to a Liaison Office.”
Speaking to The Daily Vox, Cebolenkosi Samuel Khumalo, chairperson of Wits SASCO and the Wits PYA said the result proved the trust students had in the organisation. “The students have entrusted the PYA again based on the work they have done with previous SRC and the fact they assisted students with issues around accommodation and registration,” he said.
Khumalo waived away the controversy over the list. “In the PYA, everyone is welcomed. We do not choose between religion or religious individuals. As long as someone is true and dedicated to serving the interests of our people, they are welcome to join the Progressive Youth Alliance,” he said.
As with most SRC elections this year, the entire process was held online. However, unlike most other universities, Wits had already been using the online voting system since 2017. Nominations closed on September 11 and voting process took place on October 6 and 7. The final results were only due to be announced on October 12.
Read more: SRC elections in the time of COVID-19
Other political parties and candidates will now have two days to contest the results. If the results are not contested, the elected SRC members will meet to consolidate the different positions in the next few weeks.