Rhodes University’s student body has entrusted 22-year-old Botlhale Phurulla Modisaotsile as the Student Representative Council (SRC) President for 2022. This is a paradigm shift in the SRC as two of his predecessors (from 2021 and 2020) were women. The 111th SRC Council election ceremony took place at Eden Groove on Friday, 27 August 2021. Out of the 16 Councillors, 10 are women.
Modisaotsile holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political and International Studies and Economics and is an Honours candidate in Economics. He was born and bred in Kempton Park, Gauteng where he matriculated at Hoërskool Birchleigh in 2016. His upbringing was shaped by women such as his mother and grandmother and that is what made him a sweet and kind-hearted person. “People should not mistake my niceness for weakness, however. When it comes to leadership, I rise to the occasion and execute my mandate without fear or favour,” he cautioned.
The incoming President is no stranger to leadership as he held various leadership positions in Gauteng, his high school, and Rhodes University. He is the Chess manager for the Johannesburg Metro Chess where he manages teams in the South African Junior Chess Championships. He was the Deputy Head Boy at Hoërskool Birchleigh, Adjudicator for the Debating Society at Rhodes University from 2017 to 2020 and is the Deputy Speaker of the Student Parliament.
“I am passionate about debate and equipping students because I feel like us being at university should not be merely about studying and passing but the university should be producing young people who can put their footprints in the world. Rhodes University is where leaders learn,” he said. Modisaotsile said he was honored to be elected as the President of the student body and said he has what it takes to advance the interest of the students. He said he was both excited and nervous about the journey ahead but takes comfort in knowing that leading is a team effort. “As a politics graduate, I am aware of certain links of power and discourses that I can bring to the fore in student governance. It goes without saying that the 16 of us (SRC) have to work really hard, learn from our predecessors and understand what they went through during their times. We really need to be the leaders that learn and learners that lead,” he added.
He said being the first male President after the two female Presidents is a game-changer, but he is determined to tackle issues pertinent to women such as Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and femicide. “It is really sad to live in a country that is known to be the den of GBV and femicide. We all need to stand firm to fight against this scourge and condemn it as it is inhumane,” said Modisaotsile.
Modisaotsile said one of the things that is prevalent among students is the issue of financial exclusion and he and his executive will work hard to address this. “We need to see how we can step in and approach stakeholders to assist. However, we need to be cognisant of the practicality, realism, and feasibility to avoid baseless promises. We also need to close the gap between us and the students because some do not even understand what the SRC does. They should be able to hold the SRC accountable,” he concluded. The incoming Vice-President, who currently holds the position of Project Manager in the SRC, Tinashe Hlako said she was confident that Modisaotsile will be able to deal with issues affecting women, but she will also ensure that such issues are dealt with extensively. Tinashe is a 21-year-old Bachelor of Arts Law student.
The current SRC President, Leboghang Makghoshi Nkambule sent her heartfelt congratulations to the newly inaugurated SRC. “The students have spoken and have elected you as their representatives. We trust in your guidance and capabilities in leading us to even greater heights even in these times of great uncertainty, represent students diligently. Represent students’ interests and needs and be the voice of the voiceless. Remember, you have all that it takes; it is just going to require all that you have,” she said.
Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela congratulated the newly-elected SRC and said: “On behalf of our Council and the entire Rhodes University community, I offer our heartfelt congratulations to the elected leadership. Like generations of students before them, I’m confident that they will fulfill their role as the authentic voice of the Rhodes University student body. As they embark on this journey, I want to assure them of our university leadership support. Their voice as a democratically elected body to represent students matters. Their active participation in the decision-making structures of our university matters.”
Dr Mabizela called on the incoming SRC to destigmatise mental health issues and make sure that students who need help receive it. “Let us work together to create the safest possible environment for our students and staff. Let us encourage each and everyone to vaccinate so that we can reach community immunity and reduce the risk of the spread of the virus,” added Dr Mabizela.
“I wish to convey our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the outgoing 2021 SRC for the sterling work they have done to serve under the extraordinary challenging circumstances of the global pandemic. They have done a great job,” concluded Dr Mabizela.
The rest of the 2022 Student Representative Council are: Secretary-General, Nobesuthu Mnkandla; Treasury General, Njabulo Mkhulisa; Academic Councillor, Sisenaloikamva Makwedini; Activism & Transformation, Lebo Ramohapi; Environmental Officer, Anda Mtshintsho; International Affairs, Rumbidzai Gondongwe; Media Officer, Khwezi Maloma, Oppidan Councillor, Omphulusa Nengwekhulu; Projects Manager, Bongani Pellemu; Residence Councillor, Mlungisi Dindili; Student Benefits & Sponsorship, Pfano Mulaudzi; Sports & Societies, Palesa Makoli; Community Engagement, Panashe Maneya, and Postgraduate Affairs, Vuyelwa Moyo.