Politics / 31 August 2015, 10:23am / Rapula Moatshe and Sakhile Ndlazi
Pretoria - Student politics have not suddenly taken centre stage at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), University of Pretoria and other institutions of higher learning – students are merely waking up from a two-decade political slumber.
Experts say the already complicated situation on campuses was further complicated by the EFF entering the political sphere.
The debate about politics on campus has been raging long before students were injured during violent clashes between the EFF and SA Students Congress (Sasco) last week. Prior to that – at Wits University in Joburg– seven students affiliated to the EFF were suspended over reports of intimidation before student representative council (SRC) elections.
The violence at TUT erupted when EFF leader Julius Malema addressed party supporters before the SRC elections.
Sasco emerged victorious on three campuses following SRC elections held amid tense atmospheres.
At the main campus in Pretoria West, Sasco secured four seats, the EFF three. Sasco president Ntuthuko Makombhoti said the overall votes obtained by the student movement on five university campuses were 5 617.
Elections were also held on the Mbombela and Limpopo campuses, where Sasco won, but the organisation lost the Ga-Rankuwa campus to the EFF. Sasco secured three seats at the Soshanguve campus.
EFF student command president Mpho Morolane said they were in talks with counterpart movements to form a coalition. This could place them in good stead to run the TUT SRC.
Violence erupted again on Friday night at TUT and in the early hours of Saturday morning, but neither party has accepted responsibility.
The EFF claims Sasco and ANC Youth League members stormed Orion Residence early on Saturday, chanting the EFF must be murdered and removed from the institution.
Doors were broken and two EFF students critically injured during these “barbaric” attacks, it said.
But Sasco countered its members were assaulted by a group of 30 to 40 EFF members while they were celebrating the elections victory. Sasco said the attackers were not students.
At the University of Pretoria, the EFF said it had been banned from contesting the SRC elections on Tuesday. A letter to that effect had been received from the outgoing SRC, led by Sasco, it said.
The matter has its roots in a meeting of the students’ forum, at which the EFF insisted on being allowed to ask questions.
The meeting was subsequently adjourned.
Political analyst Daniel Silke said student politics were now leading the way in South Africa.
The fiercely contested SRC elections were marking the re-emergence of students from their political slumber after 20 years, he said.
Universities had always been a battle ground for future politics. “Now partially because of the EFF, the situation has intensified.
“Young people are finding their political voice that’s been lost for 20 years,” he said.
Professor Tinyiko Maluleke of the University of Pretoria said politics on campuses had been around for a long time, but since democracy, students politics had been active “but not in the most constructive manner”.
Also, student bodies had been “proxies for political parties”.
In recent years, Maluleke said, ANC-aligned youth structures like Sasco and the youth league had been at each others’ throats contesting SRC elections.
“The arrival of the EFF on the political space has just complicated an already complicated situation,” said Maluleke.