Student Representative Councils are one of the most important decision making body’s in campuses around South Africa when it comes to representing and protecting legislature and the interests of students.
(Wits University’s incoming 2016 black female SRC President, protesting during the recent #feesmustfall campaign)
There seems to be a trend across South Africa’s top universities of having mainly and mostly a black body of its student representative council. This can be seen in Wits University’s controversial and now ex-president of 2015, Mcebo Dlamini. Ramabina Mahapa also president of University of Cape Town is a black student. Rhodes University has a much similar trend with newly elected president Sisesakhe Ntlabezo who will serve as 2016 president.
When the 2016 Student Representative Council was announced at Rhodes University. We witnessed the university’s first all black SRC body.
This year only 48 percent of students at Rhodes University voted in the elections. This is an increase from last year’s election where only 45 percent of students voted. The entire new elected body consists for the first time of only black council members. These demographics however reflect a sense of political apathy that roams the University.
The question now arises whether or not the race of South Africa’s leaders of top elite institutions does or does not matter in light of transformation issues circulating across campuses. Does being a black SRC President play part in achieving objectives outlined in the mission statement of the SRC such of that of Rhodes University of achieving institutional governance and “transformation”,
“In pursuit of this vision, the SRC will strive to develop an informed student body that is able to participate in institutional co-governance and transformation in a scholarly and progressive manner.”
The question of whether or not race is essential was posed at a few students from Rhodes University who had interesting opinions on the subject. Khuselwa Thembani who is a first year at Journalism student responded passionately; “Personally, the race of the SRC President is the least of my worries, basically it doesn’t matter. Because the SRC represents the student body and it requires a President that will be able to do exactly that and quite frankly compatibility to fulfil the duties of a position has nothing to do with race. Therefore skill, knowledge basically being compatible for the position should take priority over race.”
Khuselwa further motivated her opinion by explaining her feelings about whether or not South Africa as a country, specifically black people were possibly not ready for a white president because what she calls obvious reasons. “If the student body has a say as to who becomes president, then I would use the above statement as a reason for why the trend of having mostly black SRC presidents exists. If the student body doesn’t have a say as to who becomes president, then I would say its either the end is unintentional and it just happens that the SRC presidents are black most of the time. Or maybe the SRC members feel a black president is more or would be more influential and able to relate and appeal to the majority of students at Rhodes, who happen to be black. Basically I do not have a clue why this trend exists, all of the above are assumptions and opinions”.
Sibusiso Kinat had contrasting views; “Personally I feel that race does matter in the SRC simply because it allows for people from different backgrounds to at least have a representative who they can identify with their problems” .
There seems to be a divide on the trend of having mostly black student representatives, however whether or not “my president is black” is an issue remains a question students across South Africa are yet to explore.