Even with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, politics must go on. Around the country, universities adapted the elections for the 2020/2021 student representative council (SRC). While some universities opted to postpone or cancel their elections, others have gone ahead with some very interesting results. Here’s a roundup of a few of those elections.
[UPDATE November 16] This piece has been updated with results from elections at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) and the University of Pretoria (UP).
Read more: SRC Elections in the time of COVID-19
University of Cape Town
At the University of Cape Town, elections were conducted online. The estimated voter turnout was 7531, which translates to roughly 28% of the eligible voters. The 15 candidates elected were a mix of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC), Independent Candidates and South African Student Congress. (SASCO)
Lance-Selae August, one of the Independent candidates told us the elected council for the most part are a competent group of people. They have said their campaign of “Students First and Politics Last” was more possible as an independent. “Last year members were sabotaging each other, and it was a total mess,” they said.
University of the Western Cape
At the University of the Western Cape elections were set to take place on the 24th of October. It has since been cancelled. UWC will release a statement shortly via online portals about the future election date. They have cited the pandemic as being a major factor in forcing the postponement.
University of Johannesburg
At the University of Johannesburg, elections were held online. The African National Congress (ANC) took to social media to congratulate SASCO “for reclaiming University of Johannesburg (UJ) Soweto and Auckland Park (AP) Bunting Road Campuses during the recently held Student Representative Council (SRC) elections”.
The EFFSC meanwhile won all the seats at the AP Kingsway campus and Doornfontein Campus.
University currently known as Rhodes
At Rhodes University, the elections took place on October 2-9 via the university’s online portal. The results were announced on October 9. The total number of students who voted was 41.1%. Out of the 16 elected student representative council members, 14 womxn were elected. In 2019, 13 out of the 15 positions were occupied by womxn – 53% of the candidates running for office this year were womxn. Leboghang Nkambule was elected the SRC president. This will be her second time on the council.
Speaking to The Daily Vox, Nkambule said the process of the elections were difficult as there needed to be consistent campaigning using social media. With the pandemic and the move to online learning, Nkambule said the SRC helped make management aware of the issues that students were facing. She said they tried to always center the issues facing students during their meetings with management during these times.
“Leading a council with a majority women and even this year’s council was majority women […] it wasn’t looked at the challenges we faced but the fact that we were women was something that was so focal.” said Nkambule. She added that the fact that the council is once more women-majority is progressive and symbolic of dismantling patriarchal structures within leadership.
University of Limpopo
Elections didn’t take place at the University of Limpopo. Instead, management and student structures were given the chance to nominate members to serve on the transitional SRC. Sekedi Mabatha became the university’s first woman to lead the SRC. Mabatha is a member of the EFFSC who won last year’s elections. The members of the SRC were inaugurated through a virtual ceremony.
Elections still to take place:
At the University of KwaZulu Natal, elections will be held on October 26 and 27. Durban University of Technology (DUT) will be holding their elections on November 9-11. Elections at the University of Pretoria will be held on October 26-28. At the University of South Africa (Unisa), elections will take place in December after the examinations have been completed.
At the University of Fort Hare, there is no clarity around elections as it depends on the Institutional Student Parliament sitting for elections to be discussed there. Elections at the Stellenbosch University for the new SRC took place in September. The SRC began their term on September 21. Xola Njengele, a postgraduate student was elected as chairperson by the members of the incoming SRC. A total of 3 543 students voted in the elections. This was the second highest voter turnout in the past five years – the 2018 election saw 4 100 votes.
Elections have been postponed or cancelled
At the following universities, elections may be either cancelled or postponed to 2021: Cape University of Technology and the University of Free State. Elections at the University of the North West were to take place online. However, the electronic voting process that commenced on October 12 was terminated. Engagements are going to continue around how to ensure a valid election. A transitional SRC will be set up at the Tshwane University of Technology made up of structures from the 2019/2020 council.
University of KwaZulu Natal
At UKZN, the electoral commission declared the 2020/21 UKZN SRC Elections free and fair. The total voter turnout for these elections was 13411 across all 5 campuses. SASCO won all five campuses. Speaking to the Daily Vox, EFFSC member Mbali Zondo said the online campaigning process was quite difficult. She said there were many irregularities with the voting process.
University of Pretoria
The UP SRC elections were held from 26 to 28 October 2020 on a secure electronic voting platform hosted externally. These are the first digital electoral processes. The elections had a 23,9% voter turnout, said Dr Matete Madiba, director: Student Affairs at the University of Pretoria. Lerato Ndlovu was elected the first black woman SRC president.