The Democratic Alliance Student Organisation, DASO, which holds the majority in and also leads the University of Cape Town’s SRC, has recently found itself in the spotlight for very questionable reasons.
It has recently been reported that the organisation has been experiencing tension within its ranks as a result of the removal of former SRC Treasurer-General and DASO member Emma Johansson from the SRC. Johansson initially had submitted a letter of resignation to the student representative committee stating that she was unable to continue serving the committee and fellow students in her capacity as treasurer-general due to a private health issue. The letter was then immediately withdrawn after the alleged interference by DASO-UCT under the leadership of DASO Chairperson Neo Mkwane.
Johansson, however, has been subsequently removed from the SRC after PASMA and EFFSC members of the SRC together with two prominent members of DASO, Mthobisi Mngomezulu and Christopher Logan, voted against her forced reinstatement. Johansson’s ouster has effectively reduced the number of DASO members within the SRC to just eight which, however, does not affect their standing as the majority organisation.
Firstly, it is very important to recognise the great initiative shown by both PASMA and EFFSC SRC members in ensuring the full functionality of the SRC as a body that represents the concerns of the majority of students at the University of Cape Town. Their vehement call for the removal of Johansson, who has previously been described as an inefficient and withdrawn member of the student committee exhibits a strong commitment by the opposition SRC members to serving the needs of the students at UCT, particularly the poor and voiceless who also happen to be black and constitute a considerable sector of the UCT student populace.
The second point of consideration is how the current leadership and communication fiasco within the DASO-led UCT SRC highlights a complete disregard for protocol and procedure with DASO itself. It rather hints at a malignantly alarming power struggle within the organisation, one which has failed to be contained within, which has now spilled into the public arena.
DASO parades itself as a progressive liberal organisation and yet it fails to abide by a very basic tenet of any kind of progression; the ability to communicate effectively and the consideration of any opinion that might be contrary to that of the organisation’s supposed leadership. How is an organisation which exhibits such serious flaws expected to represent an entire university’s student populace, who expectedly hold varying concerns and opinions whose only intersection point is their collective representation by DASO?
In a rather crudely constructed Facebook post by Christopher Logan, one of the two DASO members who allegedly called for the removal of Emma Johansson from the SRC, Logan reiterates his pledge of loyalty to DASO and goes on to say that “Those that claim I am otherwise and make baseless statements are simply constitutional hooligans and will be dealt with by the very same processes within our organization which they choose to ignore and disrespect”. This seems like a direct challenge of Neo Mkwane’s authority as DASO Chairperson and de facto leader of the SRC. This came shortly after Mkwane expressed, using the DASO-UCT Facebook page, his disapproval of the voting out of Johansson.
Besides being an absurd response to his role in the DASO crisis, Logan’s statement also appears to be an unnecessary enlargement of Mkwane’s role as a contender for influence and control within DASO. Mkwane has of recent been the sole diplomatic voice of DASO and by extension the DASO-led UCT SRC, in a space where other structurally relevant members of the SRC such as Secretary General Tamil Jackson are expected to act as SRC spokespersons. They were elected into these positions. Mkwane is not an elected member of the SRC.
The UCT electorate should not be held as collateral in an internal power struggle by DASO pundits who have shown complete disregard for the students and does not put into consideration student’s future prospects after UCT.
The country itself has been witnessing the accentuation of an extremely liberal agenda, which is being explicitly expressed in the national narrative. This has possibly led to the sprouting of schools of thought such as the one the de facto leadership of DASO arguably wholeheartedly believes in; one of complete disregard of public opinion and concern. This is a school that continually exhibits a complete lack of understanding of the ground situation. The mode of operation is that the masses do not know what is important for them and therefore can be influenced to adopt any kind of thought and undertake any kind of action that adheres to any particular ‘leader’s’ point of view. This in itself is a gross undermining of public intelligence. It reeks of dictatorial tendencies and totalitarianism within DASO.
Any organisation which seeks to represent the views and interests of the majority should not appear to be incapable of upholding the objectives for which it is supposed to stand. It should be able to meet and redeem any popular and internal grievances which the majority might hold. Constitutionally and morally this is the rightful position to hold. A deviance hints at an egoistic accentuation of personal motives and other non essential objectives. The students of UCT, especially the ones who accelerated, through their votes, DASO’s hold on power within the SRC, should mark this event as an important factor of consideration.
Instead of seeking to sympathise with DASO’s recent clash with their own essence of conviction, the masses should be asking exactly what this evidently fragmented organisation has achieved for them since it came into power. As a reminder, this is the same organisation that expressed negative views about Free Education in the light that its implementation might compromise white economic interests. It would be justified if students begin to think of their fate laying somewhere other than DASO because of the shocking and disappointing nature with which is has conducted itself thus far.
DASO’s promised idyllic liberal space finds itself riddled with overzealous theorists who continue to exhibit a bookish understanding of themselves, the masses they represent, and the very essence of what it means to stand for and with the masses. This casts their entire tenure thus far as a perfunctorily cursory experiment with the politics of leadership. The masses should consciously not allow themselves to be led by such assiduous delusionists.
The fact of the matter is the the UCT SRC itself is overflowing with proponents of partisan rhetoric which fails to to objectively translate into substantial immediate changes of the desperate conditions within which the non silent majority finds themselves at the university. The opposition, however, has shown taken enough care to project itself as people-centric and because of this it continues to command the respect of a large section of the university population. By addressing the squables occurring within DASO and by extension the SRC, PASMA and EFFSC have prevented the SRC from descending into anarchy precisely due to the incompetence of DASO’s leadership. PASMA and EFFSC continue to fight against total functional and operational dominance by DASO and this might be the only glimmer of hope in the rather dull present prospects created by DASO whose contribution to the student body belongs in the dustbin of history.
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