Fatema Morbi became Rhodes’ new SRC president after Bryony Green resigned in January. Filipa de Oliveira and Kim van Beeck spoke to her about the big SRC reshuffle and her plans for the year.
Q: How long have you been at Rhodes University and actually part of the SRC?
A: This is my third year at Rhodes and I got onto the SRC in my first year here. I was on the executive as academic councillor in my first year and then vice-president in my second year and now president.
Q: What are you studying and where do you hope to be in the future?
A: I’m a third year BSc student. I’m doing ichthyology and environmental science. I’d actually like to travel around the world with fisheries – specifically in relation to meeting the Millennium Development goals. That’s why the combination of ichthyology and environmental sciences. Save the world kind of thing.
Q: How have your first few weeks as SRC president been going?
A: Stressful, but that’s expected because of O-Week. I think right now I’m really taking over the presidential duties because O-Week was a bit of a grey area. Evan and I are also trying to sort out things amongst ourselves according to our strengths and weaknesses.
Q: What kinds of difficulties have you or do you to expect to experience this year?
A: I think the first and the biggest challenge will be incorporating the new hall reps into the team because the remaining members have been through a lot these past few weeks. But as far as the rest is concerned we have our year planned out. Our team building was very constructive. Things look really bright at the moment.
Q: What would you like the student body to know about you as the SRC president?
A: I’m genuine, I really do care and that’s in fact one of the only reasons that I took over the presidency because it’s not something I was originally interested in. I have student’s interests at heart and I know that will be the best thing for the team and henceforth the students.
Q: What are your plans as president for the year and what do you want to focus on?
A: My personal goal is, as president, to develop 14 other people into leaders. Bryony was the face of the SRC and I’d like the focus to move away from that now and more into the team. I mean at the end of the day I don’t understand why someone should e-mail me about societies when we have two of those councillors sitting on the committee. You don’t always have a president that will be able to take on all those roles and at the same time, it is a team, it’s a council, it’s not a person. They all do their jobs really well and should be given credit for what they do.
Q: How has the SRC committee reacted to your sudden position change?
A: They’ve been very, very, very supportive. I think that’s been my main motivation. Bryony and I had a very good relationship, both professional and personal, and we worked very closely with each other. I knew a lot of the stuff Bryony was doing so the transition wasn’t a really rough one in that sense.
Q: How have the students reacted to your sudden position change?
A: I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting to get a lot of flak… I haven’t been portrayed as a power hungry ogre yet (laughs). I think they’ve come to accept Bryony’s resignation as is.
Q: There were rumours that both Katherine and Evan were fighting hard for the vice-presidency role and that quite a bit of negativity was raised between them about this issue. Is that true?
A: In the entire thing that has happened, there has been no conflict, confrontation or aggression. After I took over the presidency there was a vacancy. Both Katherine and Evan contested for vice-presidency. When Bryony stepped down we talked about it, we felt that Katherine’s portfolio, the academic portfolio, requires a lot of relationship building, which would have to restart if a new person stepped in. Meanwhile Evan’s first agenda was the budget and getting funds for the SRC through negotiations and sponsors. Now that we have the funds sitting there, with structures in place for accountability , we’ve done all that part of the treasury and now it’s simply the administrative parts that need to be done which he felt anyone with a little bit of financial expertise could handle. So from that it was easier in other words to replace the treasurer than it would be to replace the academic councillor.
Q: So the big question is, what was the real reason for Bryony’s sudden resignation and how do you feel about it?
A: Okay, can I tell the story the way it happened? On Friday, January 26, Bryony spoke to the executive, you know that Thato is on academic probation so he is no longer eligible for the SRC, so Katherine, Evan and myself. Bryony told us that she would be spending a lot of time away from Grahamstown. We asked her how much, and she told us she was literally going to be gone for weeks at a time, the entire swot week period and the entire examination period. She was ready to negotiate the dates but at the same point our year had not been planned, all the events that we wanted to have. At the same time these periods that she wanted to take off coincided with her fiancée’s leave and the times that he would be off so there was actually very little room for negotiation. She asked us what we thought about it and we said we needed some time to think. The three of us were a little bit unhappy because of the responsibility that would fall on us in Bryony’s absence. So on Saturday morning she offered her resignation to the rest of the council, with the exception of Thato and Mpumi, who are on academic probation, and Hannah, who was writing supplementary exams in Grahamstown, and Mathapelo, who was winning a national award. Obviously the initial reaction was, “Oh my god, Bryony can’t leave, what’s going to happen to the SRC?” We discussed it extensively for an hour and we decided to accept her resignation. When Bryony returned an hour later, I told her what the council’s decision was – it was a vote by the way – and she left right away.
Q: And did you the take over immediately?
A: No, not at that point. We went for a walk on the beach and came back and did our team building exercises and then at night we sat down to do the serious stuff. That’s when we discussed the presidency. Katherine and Evan both said they weren’t interested. I asked if there were any objections and I took it over because there were none.
Q: You said earlier on that you are close to Bryony, do you still remain close to her and consult her at times or ask her for advice?
A: Yes, she came in O-Week as an O-Week helper because she expressed some interest in doing that. Bryony is also involved in the re-writing of the constitution and that’s her baby. She’s still going to be on board with the team.
Q: Bryony’s policy has always been to be very approachable and easy to get hold of. Are you going to adopt that policy as well?
A: Yes of course. I don’t think I’ll be as conspicuous as Bryony, I tend to hide in the crowd a little. But in terms of communication I’m very easy to get hold of. I’m usually lurking around in the office during my free periods and I’m in res so people generally know where to find me now.
Q: Bryony’s shoes are quite big to fill. Do you feel intimidated to step into the role that she is so well reputed for?
A: This is something I made really clear to my council when this entire thing happened and that is, that I am not Bryony. Bryony and mine’s strengths lie in totally different areas so they should not expect me to be Bryony and I’m not going to fill her shoes. I believe in leaving my own footprints.
Off the Point
1. Three words that describe yourself.
Inspired, motivated, dreamer
2. If you could be any type of shoe, what would you be?
3. Favourite place in G-town
At the top of the Monument where you can see the whole city spread in front of you
4. What colour do you think you aura is?
5. Last thought before you go to sleep?
My parents and my brother I miss them. They’re in Kenya.
6. What’s essential for a good sandwich?