The 2013 Student Parliament Elections, which would have taken place this Wednesday, have been postponed to next year.
“Following a number of procedural irregularities in the run-up to the election, the Independent Monitoring Body on 11 October 2012 ruled that continuing with the election would be procedurally unfair,” the university told Perdeby last week Friday. The university explained that it would not be in the interests of candidates, the voting students or the university to continue with this election process. The university decided to delay elections because it would not be possible to restart the election process this year due to the upcoming examinations.
This year’s elections were first threatened when the majority of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), including the chief electoral officer, resigned on 23 September.
Senior Executive Assistant to the Senior Vice-Principal Michelle Viljoen cited allegations of threats, intimidation and academic stress as reasons for the resignations. She said that the alleged threats and intimidation will be dealt with at an institutional level.
A new IEC was established during the October recess. The IEC is usually comprised of sitting judges of the Constitutional Tribunal, but Mthokozisi Nkosi, the SRC president, told Perdeby that all judges which had been approached “refused” to serve on the IEC.
Dr Madiba then appointed Christina Mosalagae, a post-graduate student in the law faculty, as the new IEC chief electoral officer. Other members were similarly appointed.
A second threat arose when two contentious issues were raised at an election candidates meeting on 8 October, which was chaired by Dr Matete Madiba, the director of Student Affairs.
The first issue was the representation of day houses within parliament. Earlier in the year it was suggested that amendments to the constitution for student governance should allow day houses to receive a maximum of four seats in parliament. Attendants of the meeting rejected this, arguing that day houses should fall into the society constituency and that the addition of a new constituency would alter the entire student parliament model. However, the current constitution has a clause that allows for the possibility of a day house constituency.
At first it was suggested that elections be postponed until next year, and that a temporary student committee be created until elections could take place, so that the constitution could be reviewed. Dr Madiba, however, expressed her concern that reviewing the constitution could take months and originally said that elections could not be postponed indefinitely. It was therefore decided that day houses would not be allocated seats for the 2013 Student Parliament, and no day house representative may run for election.
The second issue raised at the meeting concerned the difference between the number of candidates put forward by the faculty constituency and the number of seats the constituency holds in parliament. Nine less applicants were submitted than seats available. Of those applicants, nine were not approved, creating a deficit of eighteen.
Dr Madiba proposed either allowing the number of parliamentarians to decrease or allowing more nominations for candidates.
The majority of the meeting felt that it would not be democratic to allow a decreased number of parliamentarians. Again, postponing the elections was suggested.
During this process, the Tuks African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) and South African Students Congress (SASCO) presented separate statements in which both organisations announced their withdrawl from the elections.
“The ANCYL would like to express its great disappointment in how elections have been run,” Timothy Ramabulana, chair of the ANCYL at Tuks, read in a statement. The statement continued that “the ANCYL would therefore like to withdraw from elections on the basis that the general student populace and the organisations [have] been undermined.”
After originally deciding to hold elections on 17 October as planned, the IMB decided to suspend elections until 2013.
Illustration: Modeste Goutondji