CSG amendment suggestions poorly communicated


MBALI MKHITHI

On the 27 March, the First Quarter Student Forum was held by the SRC in the Sanlam Auditorium. The items that were to be addressed on the agenda included a presentation of the SRC quarterly report, which would’ve been delivered by the SRC President Kwena Moloto, a 2018 financial report and budget, which would have been delivered by SRC Treasurer Duane van Wyk, and amendments to the Constitution for Student Governance (CSG) which would have been delivered by SRC Deputy-President, Mamello Molotsi. The meeting collapsed after approximately seventy minutes, with none of these issues having been addressed. This was caused by members from the House requesting that amendments to the CSG, which were scheduled for later in the Forum be heard first. After a first voting, no majority vote was reached. Students raised more questions and arguments regarding changes to the agenda, this continued until the meeting collapsed. The issue of the amendment to the CSG comes after the 2017 contention of UP’s constitutional function.

In 2017, a referendum was held in terms of section 50 of the CSG which stipulates that at least every five years after the adoption of the 2013 Constitution, a valid referendum must be held on whether the Constitution should be reviewed. Three questions were asked in the 2017 referendum, namely whether students voted in the previous SRC elections, whether students thought the current student governance model in the CSG and its election process should be retained, and whether the current CSG should be changed. For a valid referendum to be constituted the condition was that the number of UP students who participated in the referendum must have been equivalent to the number of voters of the immediate past SRC poll preceding the election. In a DSA report regarding the referendum sent to Prof. Carolina Koornhof, a UP Executive Director, the referendum that took place in 2017 did not see the required amount of respondents take part to validate it. Only 3986 students voted in the referendum, whereas the number of voters in the 2015 SRC election stood CSG amendment suggestions poorly communicated at just over 7000. Out of those that voted in the referendum, the majority voted against amending the CSG. However, there were some students who felt that certain clauses of the CSG needed to be amended, but these were in the minority. According to chapter eight of the CSG, comprising sections 49 and 50, which deal with Constitutional Amendments, the SRC is not obligated to involve the students in making amendments. Section 49 (1) states, “This constitution may be amended by a two thirds majority decision of the SRC reached at a meeting of the SRC duly constituted for such purpose and in consultation with the Constitution Tribunal. The amendment will only be passed subject to the final approval by Council”.

On 14 April, the SRC took to social media and extended an invitation for students to submit suggestions of how they would like the CSG to be amended. Their Facebook post read, “Good Day UP Students, this communication serves to inform you that submissions of proposals for the CGS Amendments are officially open and close on the 19 April 2018 at 14:00pm”. The post continued to say, “This is due to the following: 1. The collapsing of the Student Forum which resulted in the SRC not being able to give a presentation on the proposed amendments and allow for opening of submissions for proposed CSG amendments. 2. There is a deadline that we have to meet to ensure that such proposed amendments are presented at Council in June, and if approved they will impact the manner in which the elections will be conducted and run.” SRC Secretary, Soraia Machado explained that, “The reason we opened it up to the students was that as the SRC, one of our mandates … is transparency for the students, and we are accountable to students as students are important to us.”

EBIT Faculty House and SRC Academic Portfolio holder, Janie Geldenhuys explained that, “As Chairperson of EBIT Faculty House and one of the SRC Academic Portfolio holders I have been consulted and aware of the CSG amendment process for some time. When I came into office one of my key objectives were to aid the amendment of Annexure A Index 12 which describes the quota system. I am pleased to say that this section of the CSG has been amended by the SRC subject to approval by the University of Pretoria’s Council.” Geldenhuys continued to say that, “Unfortunately the SRC has faced a lot of pressure from the DSA and management hence the rushed process. However, all inputs given to the SRC were robustly debated and amended accordingly.” She concluded by saying that, “Please note that amendments were due for the June council meeting but the SRC managed to convince the Standing Committee of Council to allow such amendments for the next SRC elections. Council is due to sit in June, however, the agenda items have to be submitted before 10 May 2018. The SRC’s deadline was unfortunately also today, 20 April 2018 for management and the DSA’s perusals.” 

According to Section 49(3) of the CSG, “Any proposed amendments to this Constitution or Annexures must be prepared and submitted for consideration by Council by the March meetings of Council each year.” Section 49(4) states, “Any proposed amendments to this Constitution or Annexures after March of each year may only be tabled for approval by Council at the last meeting of Council in the same year.” The last meeting of Council this year is in November. On the 19 April, EFFSC released a statement relating to the SRC post stating, “We request that 2 separate sittings be organised, one dealing with the CSG amendment, where students can actively participate in redefining how a student forum functions together with its constitution, normal amendments that will ensure we rid the CSG from its problematic nature and other sitting being the student forum.” They continued to say, “We believe this should be a project that goes beyond having deadlines for submissions to council, but one that will ensure students get involved more at a much broader scope.” Some faculty houses argue that the manner of and delay in communication by the SRC when asking for submissions resulted in a limited time being available for the suggestions to be sent in. Commercii chairperson, Remofilwe Dikoma said that, “I strongly believe that a mere post on social media regarding the amendment of the CSG is not enough. The SRC needs to communicate all this information better and they need to be transparent. They cannot amend the CSG on their own.” NAT house chairperson, Karabo Sephofane argued that, “There was no official communication for our attention with regards to the CSG amendments. There should be engagements that will ensure effective discussions about the CSG to students and such platforms to get students familiar with the CSG and have their input can be achieved through debate sessions on the different sections of the CSG guided by well trained and organised panel members.”

House Humanities Chairperson, David Kabwa added, “It was communicated that [the] amendment would be taking place and a prospective date would be given for us to communicate this to students of our Faculty. However, we have not received any further updates until just recently. Our hope was that we receive clarity regarding the CSG at the Student Forum which was unfortunately dissolved.” Kabwa explained that, “Last year we were put in a situation that should never occur. Do we choose to be democratic or constitutional? The biggest change to be seen is the 40% demographic split that groups different racial profile under a single grouped designation. In 2017, this prevented leaders from being inaugurated into the SRC. I believe that leaders should be elected according to their competence for the position and the fact that they were democratically elected by their constituents.” Sephofane continued to suggest that, “The CSG indicates that there are only two racial classifications at the University, namely white and non-white(black). This has created problems with the racial balance to the SRC portfolios which has caused very intense compromises to ensure that this racial balance is met. A suggestion is that the racial classification of the University should be revised and be diversified to include other races [...], this will ensure a good representation of all races in student leadership, and most importantly, in the SRC.” OPVSC stated that, “The communication regarding the amendments was a bit late but other than that, everything is fine. From OPVSC there is no dire need to make any amendments.”

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