The widely anticipated general meeting of the student body on Monday March 19 was later described by some attenders as a “circus” led by the two contesting parties, Paul Hjul and the SRC. The meeting, which was called to discuss a vote of no confidence in the SRC, soon led to the raising of other issues and tensions.
The meeting was convened after a recent petition, drafted by Hjul, was circulated around campus, calling for a vote of no confidence in the 2007 SRC . Issues surrounding Bryony
Green’s resignation, the SRC’s recent controversial poster campaign, the SRC disciplinary board and the rewriting of the constitution came into focus.
After a brief introduction by SRC president Fatema Morbi, the tone of the evening took the form of an aggressive debate. Hjul took the stage and declared the response of the SRC to the meeting as having been “frightening, patronising” and “claiming credit for things other people do”.
Hjul’s initially complained about the SRC’s attitude towards student interests, including the inconvenience of both the location and meeting time for students. He also suggested that the SRC’s smart PowerPoint presentation and the Barratt lecture theatres made
them “look more competent then they actually are”.
The SRC’s current position on the motion of no confidence is that the SRC is not a student governance substructure. As such, a vote of no confidence cannot be launched against them as a body, according to the students’ constitution. After referring to Hjul’s statements as “dreadful” and “frightening”, Morbi called on the dean of students, Prof Vivian de Klerk, to present the results of an enquiry into the status of the SRC as a governance substructure. The vice-chancellor, having had no legal background,
convened a board which ultimately resolved that the SRC was not a student substructure but rather the primary student governing body.
Morbi presented that it was thus unconstitutional for the SRC as a whole to be dissolved. However, she stated that individual members of the SRC could be voted off the council.
Morbi said that Hjul could appeal against the decision that the vote of no confidence was unconstitutional. If he did, she said, “I [would] commend you for your persistance but scoff at you for your stupidity.”
After denouncing Morbi’s statements as a “string of personal attacks”, Hjul informed the audience that “the real entertainment” was about to begin. Discussions were opened with regards to the amendment of Schedule Eight of the constitution. Students complained
that they were not informed of the proposed changes. Neither Hjul nor the SRC had a draft to present to the students, despite its presence on the agenda.
Hjul reiterated that he wanted to “yield to the floor” to be able to pass a motion for the SRC to consider resigning. His attempt was however denied by the SRC, which said that he would have to give them five days’ notice of the new motion.
The SRC reshuffle, a controversial saga, was brought forward once again when SRC members referred to Bryony Green’s resignation from office. The SRC presented a document outlining the events that occurred on Saturday January 27, the day when Green presented her resignation. The document was ratified with ten signatures from various SRC members, but did not include Green’s signature. This became a point of tension between the SRC and attenders.
The attenders’ sentiments were such that many walked out of the meeting dissatisfied with the way it had been run. One person commented that there had been too much focus on procedure rather than real student issues and interests. Masters student Jenna Williams commented after the meeting: “I was completely disgusted at Fatema’s behaviour. Her derogatory, insulting comments towards Mr Hjul were utterly unnecessary. She appeared unprofessional and childish and she certainly lowered the tone of the meeting. How are we supposed to respect our president when she resorts to such behaviour and doesn’t even have the good grace to apologise for it?”
Questions regarding the SRC’s accountability still remain unanswered, as students look towards the SRC Imbizo to be held on March 26.