By Lynn Nowers
The race for the Student Representative Council (SRC) presidency took an unexpected turn last week when it was ruled that one of the candidates, Katherine Henry, is no longer eligible to run for the position.
Henry transferred to Rhodes at the beginning of this year, after having spent two years at the University of Pretoria. She recently appealed to the SRC Student Disciplinary Board (SDB) to have the Constitution for Student Governance, which states that a candidate has to have been at Rhodes for at least three semesters in order to run for president, changed. This would allow for people who do not meet this requirement to apply to the SDB for a concession. Henry won the appeal but the decision was objected to by student Paul Hjul. It was discovered that the SDB does not have the authority to make such a decision, and thus the ‘amendment’ was ruled invalid.
“The appeal [from Henry] came to me and I referred it to the board,” said Xolani Nyali, outgoing president of the SRC. “We, as the SRC, take the SDB ruling very seriously so we thought, okay, this is the ruling, let’s move forward.” However, following the objection, the matter was taken to the Vice-Chancellor where impartial officer, Advocate Roberts deemed the ruling invalid. “After [Henry] received the ruling, she considered the matter closed, as did we. But of course matters are never closed,” Nyali went on to say. “I don’t think it can be a question of unfairness in terms of procedure,” said Henry. “At no time was I actually told that the SDB was not authorized to amend the constitution. If I had been told, I would never have asked them to do something so blatantly unconstitutional.”
The ruling had an impact on the SRC election process as Henry had already been campaigning for a week. “I have a lot to offer Rhodes. I have classes with students from three different year groups, so I actually interact with more students than 90% of people on campus. I understand the objections raised. No one is above the law and I am no exception, despite my circumstances,” Henry clarified
Hjul later said that he never objected to Henry herself. “I don’t actually care whether a candidate has to complete three semesters or not,” he explained. “My objection was to the fact that the SDB was not adhering to the constitution.”
Henry is still allowed to take up the position of vice-president should she be elected. SRC elections have been postponed due to the controversy surrounding the ruling as well as a lack of nominations for some of the positions.