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Disgruntled Sasco faction set to interdict SRC elections at UKZN

The group claims the nomination process, which closed last week Tuesday, was flawed because it prejudiced the nomination of their preferred candidates.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: Supplied.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story did not contain comment from the university's executive director for corporate relations. This article has been updated to include this comment.

DURBAN - A disgruntled faction of the ANC-aligned Congress of South African Students (Sasco) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) said on Monday it planned to interdict the upcoming Student Representative Council (SRC) elections on Tuesday, which are scheduled to take place on 26 and 27 September.

The group claims the nomination process, which closed last week Tuesday, was flawed because it prejudiced the nomination of their preferred candidates.

Sasco member Yamkela Duze, who belongs to the group planning to interdict the elections, claimed that university officials colluded with outgoing student representative council members to disband Sasco branches at the university’s four campuses, and imposed “unofficially” elected Sasco task team members.

Duze said the task team members are vying for SRC positions under the banner of Sasco at the campus and have been accepted as legitimate nominees by the university.

In legal documents sent to the university this month by lawyers representing the aggrieved students – which Eyewitness News has seen – the students claimed that the upcoming elections would not be free and fair as they were sabotaged during the nomination process.

The group wants the nomination process to start afresh.

Duze, in his capacity as secretary of the Howard College Sasco branch, said he was denied nomination forms by the university’s Student Governance and Leadership Development (SGLD) department on 4 September, two days after the nominations had opened.

“I was informed, to my dismay, that the campus representative council secretary Zipho Sibiya at Howard College had submitted documents stating that a newly formed branch task team had been appointed to lead K.K. Papiyane branch [the Howard College Sasco branch]). I was told that I could not be given the forms as forms had already been collected on behalf of Sasco,” said Duze.

Duze alleged that Sibiya, a fellow Sasco member, acted on the instruction of central student representative council secretary Siyabonga Khumalo to ensure that the outgoing SRC was succeeded by its preferred candidates.

Duze further alleged that Khumalo abused his power as the central SRC secretary-general by granting recognition of existence to Sasco branches led by task teams at the university’s Howard College, Pietermaritzburg, Edgewood and Westville campuses thus enabling parallel structures to rival Sasco branches and officials granted recognition earlier this year.

Duze said Khumalo was enabled by university officials - in particular, UKZN acting SGLD manager Mzomuhle Mhlongo - whom he added overlooked university processes in rubberstamping the installation of a branch task team at the university’s Howard college.

In an interview with Eyewitness News, Khumalo denied the allegations against him and said he granted recognition of existence following consultation with SRC secretaries at the four university campuses.

“As far as I am concerned, I behaved in line with the university constitution and I am willing to accept any legal challenge to my decisions. Unfortunately, I cannot engage further on this issue as the comrades who are making such allegations against me are aggrieved after losing the political fight to lead Sasco,” said Khumalo.

The university's Ashton Broderick, executive director for corporate relations, said he has not received official complaints about the process.

"The Electoral Commission received a list of all recognised clubs for 2019 along with candidate lists for each campus. Should there be a leadership dispute, Sasco UKZN branches would resolve this internally as an organisation," it said in response to questions sent by EWN.

A former SRC member who spoke on condition of anonymity claimed that the battle between the two factions had little to do with student politics but more with accessing patronage networks that can be acquired through SRC positions.

“Some go into the SRC so that they can influence decisions on procurement of services by the university. They want to choose service providers for events such as Freshers’ parties and landlords for outsourced buildings. Their modus operandi is that they negotiate kickbacks with service providers and then apply pressure on university officials to appoint service providers who are favoured by them,” they said.

Khumalo admitted that SRC members influenced decisions on the selection of service providers but said there was nothing corrupt about this.

“Freshers' parties usually form part of SRC programmes. We usually suggest to the officials the names of artists we would like have at the parties, but it is university officials who make the final decisions. We cannot be accused of corruption because we do not give tenders to any artist or service provider.”

Khumalo added: “As student leaders at UKZN, we are acquainted with other leaders from neighbouring institutions such as Mangosuthu University of Technology and the Durban University of Technology. We interact with these comrades and they often advise us on buildings we can suggest to our management for provision of accommodation to off-campus student residents. We then make informed suggestions to the university management on buildings that can be outsourced. However, the final decision is made by the Department of Student Residence Affairs.”

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