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After ‘cat and mouse’, EFF Student Command wins court battle against UJ

2019-01-22 21:13

Almost three months and a court battle later, the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) will take the reins of the student representative council (SRC) at the University of Johannesburg.

The North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday ruled in favour of the application by the EFFSC to be constituted into office by the end of the week after an almost three month delay which the EFFSC said was caused by members of the SA Students Congress (Sasco) who did not attend the constituting meeting and the university which refused to constitute the EFFSC majority in the absence of the two Sasco members.

The EFFSC took the university, the two Sasco members and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to court where the ruling said the “second and third respondents (the two Sasco members) are ordered and compelled to attend the next constituting meeting to be arranged by the first respondent (EFFSC) …”

The EFFSC won overall majority seats at the SRC elections in October last year and took over three of the four campuses historically belonging to Sasco.

But the victory was bittersweet.

Read: EFF students make mark on campuses

In December, EFFSC member voted into office, Tshireletso Mati, told City Press the university had been playing cat and mouse with them.

“The electoral policy says everyone needs to be present for constituting but at UJ we historically have never had everyone present to constitute. It’s not a new thing, it’s just a matter of the university not wanting us to constitute. We have a simple majority; we have six seats, Sasco has two seats. They don’t want us to sit in the university’s highest decision-making bodies such as council and senate.

“As it stands Sasco is still the interim SRC so until we are constituted they remain interim SRC. They want to delay this process and we will not allow that.”

EFFSC members day before the 2018/2019 SRC elections at UJ’s Kingsway campus. Picture: Rosetta Msimango

Despite Tuesday’s court victory, the EFFSC said they were frustrated with the delay as it had affected their plan of action for their term of office.

“The university has set us up for failure,” incoming EFFSC chairperson Sergio Malatji told City Press, adding that the delay to constitute denied them “a legitimate platform to assist students from the beginning of the year who already are in the process of being registered, with some having being turned back”.

Malatji said once the EFF-led SRC was constituted by the end of the week, as per the court order, they would deal with burning issues.

“We will have a meeting with the vice chancellor and the finance department because what happened is the university denied the EFF SRC the opportunity to be part of the fee increment meetings. Instead they took Sasco ... and agreed on a 5.3% increase for tuition and 7.3% increase for accommodation. The university has also been making returning students and students on Nsfas [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] pay registration money, which is ridiculous because poor students cannot afford that. As such many students have had to stay home. These decisions were made in our absence and we intend to change them,” Malatji added.

University spokesperson Herman Estherhuizen confirmed to City Press that the university was aware of the court ruling.

“Constituting must take place within the next five working days. The university legal representatives were present. The ruling confirms the university stance that for constituting to take place, all elected members of the central SRC must be present at the meeting as prescribed by the SRC electoral policy,” he said.

When asked about the claims of the EFFSC that they had been left out of university discussions, Estherhuizen denied it and said: “Consultation was done with the student representative body which was in office at the time of consultations. It has always been like that to consult student representative bodies in office.”

Attempts to reach Sasco were unsuccessful at the time of publishing.

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May 19 2019