Student bodies cry foul on eve of campus elections

2008-09-30 00:00

Controversy continues to plague the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and its student governance office in the run-up to the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) elections, which should start today.

In a statement released on Monday, the South African Democratic Students’ Movement (Sadesmo) accused student governance officer Zola Saphetha of violating the student formation’s right to contest the election.

Sadesmo claims Saphetha prevented it from contesting the elections at the Westville campus on the grounds that Sadesmo had no following at the campus.

This, Sadesmo said, is evidence enough that democracy at the university is under attack. The movement appealed to the Independent Electoral Commission and the South African public for support.

The allegation of political bias is now being supported by the Socialist Student Movement (SSM).

This formation has also accused Saphetha and the dean of students at Howard College Campus of bias.

SSM spokeswoman Liv Shange said the ruling student organisation, the South African Students’ Congress (Sasco), is trying to silence them and frustrate their campaign.

“The chief electoral officer, who has strong links to Sasco, announced on September 23 that SSM has been disqualified. That means that Sasco is the only party to vote for,” she said.

Shange said they appealed the decision with the dean of students, who responded by saying that the matter has been investigated and the decision to disqualify SSM is based on the existing electoral rules.

“These bureaucrats are using invalid technicality to block SSM from the elections by claiming SSM failed to submit copies of student cards of two of our five candidates.”

She said the party submitted all required documents including these copies on the final day of submission and that those had been accepted by the independent electoral commissioner at Howard College.

“The disqualification must therefore be seen as an attempt to manipulate the election process and make a mockery of any pretence on the part of the university to commit to democratic principles.”

SSM is seeking legal action. Attempts to reach the university for comment were unsuccessful yesterday.

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