Despite being very confident about winning the student representative council elections at Wits University, the Economic Freedom Fighters were soundly beaten by the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA).
In the run-up to the elections, EFF leader Julius Malema declared that Phephela (the EFF winning trail in institutions of higher learning) would be landing at Wits for the second time.
A well-attended rally at the university on the eve of voting was led by the party’s national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, together with tweets and messages of support from Malema.
However in an unexpected turn, the Wits PYA (a student body coalition of the the ANC Youth League, Sasco, the Young Communist League and the Muslim Students’ Association) had “reclaimed its campus”, taking 12 of the 13 seats with a voter turnout of 26. 35% with 10265 students taking to the polls.
The EFF won just one seat.
After the announcement on Wednesday night, students gathered in song before listening to messages of support from former leaders of the PYA including Mcebo Dlamini, Mukovhe Morris Masutha and Fasiha Hassan.
Speaking to City Press, Hassan said: “Students had a taste of the EFF and they were unable to lead. Many students suffered as a result. Students have since put back their faith into the PYA. We have had an opportunity to know what it means to not serve you and we will not disappoint you.”
Outgoing student representative council member Palomino Jama told City Press: “The EFF could not match the standard of governance set over the years by the PYA. As a result students rejected them.”
Jama added that “there is a narrative that the PYA is corrupt like our mother body and we really work hard against this narrative and we allow time and the violent nature of the EFF to expose itself”.
Masutha told City Press: “We have no reason to ridicule them (EFF). This election simply went to the best effort. Students have shown that their loyalty is to who will work in their interest. The PYA should move away from exclusivity and represent all students. Anyone who is homophobic, xenophobic, should be an enemy of the PYA-led student representative council and anyone preaching elitism must be our enemy. You only have 10 months to prove to students so PYA must work now and prove to students that they did not make a mistake.”
While the EFF has been doing well in other institutions, it was at Wits where their winning trail began in 2017.
Speaking to City Press EFF Student Command leader Peter Keetse said: “We would like to thank all students who rallied behind the EFF for their support. We also welcome and congratulates the Wits PYA on their win although we are not sure of the nature of the election because there were speculations around the first day of voting that some of our candidates were not appearing on the system and you can imagine that this may have cost us votes. But overall we do wish the PYA well.”
Keetse also reiterated that the EFF would continue to lead outside the student representative council position and “go back to the ground”.
Wits University spokesperson Buhle Zuma confirmed that these were provisional results subject to objections within 24 hours.
“Wits is delighted that voter turnout increased to 26.53% from 19% in 2017, the highest in recent years,” she added.