By Reyhana Mohamed
The Student Representative Council held their first student introduction Imbizo on September 20 in Zoo Major. Each new member was given three minutes to present their plans for the SRC for 2008.
SRC president, Ricardo Pillay explained the Imbizo was aimed at enabling the students to get to know the SRC and attach a face to the portfolio.
The structure of the SRC underwent some changes this year. Along with Pillay, there is a vice-president internal, Xolani Nyali, as well as a vice-president external, Bianca-Maree Sampson. The role of the vice-president internal is to deal with issues concerning the student body directly and is responsible for the internal workings of the SRC such as the SRC policy. The vice-president external fulfils external activities relating to the SRC, hence Sampson will remain in contact with other education institutions and host visits from other education institutions. The hall representatives do not occupy SRC positions this year. Pillay, Sampson and Nyali hold executive positions alongside Pumeza Mdangayi as Oppidan Councillor and Ingrid Cloete as Academic Councillor.
Regarding her vision for the SRC next year, Sampson said, “I want to connect Rhodes to the rest of the universities in the country and have all the universities participate in the Zim march next year.” Nyali wishes to work closely with students.
Pillay said that he wants to empower leadership in students and hence, place emphasis on Rhodes’ slogan: ‘where leaders learn’. “I also want to maintain the contact between the students, SRC and admin,” added Pillay. He wants the students to approach the SRC and influence the decisions being made at committee level. “There needs to be a culture of debate,” added Kwezilomso Mbandazayo, Activism and Transformation Councillor, “so that all students are dialogued.”
SRC members wished to improve communication and encouraged students to approach them anytime they had pressing issues. Media Officer, Hanna Barry, said, “I want to create creative and effective ways of communicating with students that will encourage students to get involved in campaigns.” The SRC will recruit a media task team to assist Barry with the design of posters, The Purple Press, etc.
The floor was opened to raise opinion. Pillay was asked to outline his top three plans for the SRC for next year. He outlined them as: 1. Regarding the size and shape debate, we want to contribute to the transformation process at Rhodes in terms of class, race and gender.2. One of my big passions is to empower leadership development in students. This can be done through societies hosting workshops on leadership development.3. We need to increase communication between the SRC and the students and maintain it.
The issue of multilingualism at Rhodes was raised to which Cloete responded: “We can’t do the whole Stellenbosch thing and lecture in Afrikaans as there are too many international students at Rhodes. Zim students might kick up a fuss about that.” A member of the audience felt insulted by Cloete’s comment. “We are being taken as a soft target,” said Farayi Chikuni, a Zimbabwean student. “It is extremely insulting if leaders take us as a soft target. I take it personally,” she said. Franchesca Beru, also a Zimbabwean student, said that Cloete’s comment was not insulting at all. “They don’t take us as soft targets, we are a majority and that is why [Cloete] made an example of us,” she said. After the Imbizo, Cloete approached Chikuni and apologised. “I didn’t mean to insult you; I should have been more neutral. I can promise to not make an example of Zim again,” said Cloete. However, Chikuni did not accept her apology.
“They made a lot of promises. We will have to wait and see if they are going to deliver,” said Vuyo Mangene, a second year student. Lybon Mdlhuli, a third year student, found the Imbizo uninformative and said, “They [the SRC] are still not aware of their roles.”