Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) new Student Representative Council (SRC) leadership was recently sworn in at the 2020/2021 SRC Virtual Inauguration Ceremony, held online on the DUT website: www.dut.ac.za and DUT’s YouTube channel: DutCampusTv.
Welcoming and introducing the new SRC members was the Dean of Students, Dr Maditsane Nkonoane who wished them a successful term of office.
Giving the keynote address was DUT’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Thandwa Mthembu, who began by congratulating the 2020/2021 SRC for having being successfully elected as leaders of over 30 000 students across DUT’s seven campuses in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
“With about 38% of the student body from all walks of life and social affiliations having voted, as opposed to previous voter turn-outs in the region of 20%, this is a much higher expression of a vote of confidence in you as a collective of student leaders. Though it’s been devastating to all of us, thanks to COVID-19 having forced us into an online voting system. We could not have achieved this higher level of voter confidence,” said Prof Mthembu.
He said contrary to what has become common in political circles, their election is certainly not for self-aggrandisement and for being lined up for corrupt benefits.
Furthermore, Prof Mthembu urged the new SRC leadership to remember that DUT is a university, not a political organisation where facts and evidence often recede when so called ‘political solutions’ are sought.
“Facts and evidence, reason and debate, do not emanate from democratic processes like the representative democracy the SRC elections are about. Decisions at a university are not taken on the basis of the force of numbers; but, the force of facts and evidence, reason and debate. Thus, when we do not seem to agree on this and that, remember where you are. You are not in your township. Not in your church. Not in your village. Not in your political organisation. You are at a university with its unique identity and culture whose disappearance would spell its death,” he said.
Academic freedom is an important feature of a university’s institutional identity and culture, Prof Mthembu said it cannot be that when a group of students does not wish to attend lectures, then by sheer force and violence, all of them are prevented from attending lectures.
“As a university, we exist as the light that should irradiate throughout our society and advance it. We are not fascists. We are not arsonists. We are not into gender based violence. We are not a breeding nest for criminality. Being a member of the Student Representative Council (SRC) has the potential to cultivate, sculpt and nurture tomorrow’s leaders of society. Through Envision 2030 – our new strategy – we have committed ourselves to contributing towards improving the lives and livelihoods of our people, including the broader society. We do not exist for our own sake,” explained Prof Mthembu.
In closing, Prof Mthembu urged the new SRC to be part of a DUT, that is Different, Upended and Transformed, be the SRC whose legacy will be the pursuit of development and greatness, living DUT’s values and principles.
Delivering his farewell speech, the outgoing SRC President, Njabulo Sangweni, he first congratulated the newly elected SRC whom he said they won by a huge margin.
“This is a proof that young people are hungry for change particular for EFF. The newly SRC have a huge responsibility ahead. Today we have students who were expelled by the institution including the SRC President, Thami Memela who was expelled at his third level of studying. The issues of students are still the main issues, till today we have students who have not received allowances. The incoming SRC should take a closer look on the administration of NSFAS and the communications between NSFAS and the Institution,” said Sangweni.
He added that SRC must always take the side of the students and don’t try to build relationships at the expense of the students.
Incoming SRC President, Zabelo Ntuli said: “The SRC led by EFFSC remains the most students centered SRC which aim to address the inequalities that resulted from the historical background where black students were regarded as inferior and white students regarded as superior. The SRC led by EFFSC will never allow any financial and academic exclusion next year given the fact that both government and institutions of high learning did not provide necessary support to students.”
In passing his vote of thanks, Dr Nkonoane, thanked Prof Mthembu for reminding the SRC what DUT is all about and the outgoing president, Njabulo Sangweni for sharing his experiences during his term of office and for virtually handing over the baton to the incoming president, Zabelo Ntuli. He also thanked the team from Student Governance, led by Masiza Ngculu for working tirelessly to make the online SRC elections a success.
Pictured: New SRC 2020/2021 leadership.