Student politics: Democracy's under threat on our campuses
Date Released: Thu, 26 September 2013 17:00 +0200
DA Parliamentary Leader Lindiwe Mazibuko delivered a powerful message to students at Mangosuthu University of Technology in Umlazi at the Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (DASO) SRC campaign launch. She told students to, 'stand back for no one and decide your own future'. To express her message, she cited the power of the youth vote in deciding the future of South Africa. She urged young political activists to never to give up when ANC affiliates colluded with Universities to block the Democratic Alliance Students Organisation from campaigning and contesting elections on tertiary institutions.
Institutions of higher learning should provide a high quality free and open environment where ideas, association and expression of the future generations is encourage.. Across the globe, universities have always been the 'think tank' of a nation's 'future political business'.
South Africans must thus be concerned that political freedom on our campuses is being shut down in order to frustrate the growing opposition. At the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, threat of legal action was successful in compelling the University to finally allow DASO to legally exist and operate on the campus.
At Fort Hare University, the DA filed for an urgent interdict to halt the SRC election proceedings, in turn compelling the University to allow DASO the right to exist. At the University of KwaZulu-Natal, DASO is still not recognised as a legitimate student society. The SRC at UKZN have been outright in their opposition to DASO, reasoning that such a move would harm the ANC in the 2014 election - something they have stated they would not risk giving the "Mandela babies" the opportunity to vote for.
DA Youth Leader, Mbali Ntuli, and Chairperson, Yusuf Cassim, were recently on a tour of tertiary institutions around the country. Since they started the tour last month, they have been viciously assaulted at University of Limpopo, and one of DASO's members at the University of Venda got stabbed for their public association with the DA. These events give one a taste of the political intolerance and ideological rigidity that is taking hold on campuses around the country.
Instead of open, free centres of learning and exploration, many of our institutions of higher learning across the country are closing fast being taken over by the so-called Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) or its individual components of the ANCYL, the South African Students' Congress (SASCO) and Young Communist League (YCL). On many campuses, the university management are complicit at the forceful hand to block all things DA.
The 2014 National and Provincial Election is the first election that South Africans born after 1994 - or "born frees" - will be able to participate in. 2014 is the young peoples' election. Youth voters have the potential, if we register in sufficient numbers, to significantly influence the outcome of this election. Young voters in general show a significant favourbaility to the DA, especially as a party of delivery, clean government and job creation. Young South Africans are less influenced by our country's heroic struggle history and thus present the greatest rational threat to the governing party - independent minds more focused on the future than in the past.
The UKZN Howard College SRC President Sandile Ngcobo gave substance to this rationale when he declined to recognise DASO with the following response:
"You want DASO to contest the PYA for the Mandela babies for the elections next year for the ANC? The implication is that you have DASO here campaigning for the DA at those children, the PYA campaigning, and it gets out that it is people that we know where people once in the very ranks of the PYA that put us into SRC and we as the SRC have the audacity to recognise DASO? No, this move has too many implications!"
Ngcobo arrogantly puts the record straight about how he and his cronies are practically willing to subvert democratic principles in order not to avoid the ANC being put at risk of losing electoral support in next year's elections by so called, 'mandela babies'.
University campuses are fast losing credibility as free environments. When democracy is threatened in the Western Cape, it should be UCT, Stellenbosch and UWC at the forefront of showing us what democracy means on campus at a debate and practical level. When politics turns violent in KZN and those in power choose who can participate, it should be the students and lecturers of UKZN, DUT, MUT and UniZulu that prove that politics can be infused with tolerance, and that everyone must partake, and we must defend each others rights to exist. In the Eastern Cape it should be the historically struggle rich Universities like Fort Hare University showing other institutions what freedom can mean, and not defending intolerance in the courts.
Free students in particular need to once more do as Lindiwe Mazibuko advised, "stand back for no one and decide their own future." Students who associate themselves with DASO should heed this call and never allow the PYA or any other bullies and dictators to succeed in their attempt to destroy democracy in student politics. If university campuses in the modern day are a microcosm of the "future political business" then defending democratic practices on our universities today is off a national interest.
By Hlanganani Gumbi
Hlanganani Gumbi is a DA councillor in the eThekwini Municipality. He was a founder and Chairperson of DASO Rhodes University.