By Ithuteng Mashabela
Activate reporter, Ithuteng Mashabela speaks to SRC President Kholosa Loni about her recent appointment and her plans for the year ahead.
So, how did you feel when you discovered you were the new SRC president?
I was really excited. It’s an enormous honour, but I think I’ve gotten over the initial hype. Now it’s all about the work. There’s a lot of planning to do once you realise the magnitude of the responsibility that you’ve been entrusted with.
You’re the first black female president too. What does that mean to you?
I think it’s wonderful, but I don’t think of myself as simply the ‘first black female president’. I’m the SRC president, that’s the crux of the matter. I do feel, though, that it is important that I raise the bar and set the standard for those who come after me.
How has your time as a member of the SRC in 2008 prepared you for this position?
I’ve grown a lot during this time. I’ve gained a greater understanding of the workings of the University system. I’ve also grown more confidence as a speaker. I’m more assertive and my people skills have improved and I’ve learnt to liaise and network quite well.What’s a typical day like for you?
Busy! I get up, go to the office and handle general admin like checking and replying to mail. As soon as the day really gets started, anything and everything can pop up. I sit on various committees so that means attending meetings all the time. Then I deal with students who have problems and issues they need to talk about. Sometimes I only really leave the office at 11pm or so.
How do you cope with the influx of responsibilities that arise?
The key is to delegate. Otherwise, it’s easy to cope because of the contagiously happy atmosphere in the office. There are always a lot of people popping in because we have a flexible open door policy. You could get addicted to it. I’ve got to admit, I’m addicted to it because of the filter coffee!
Former president, Ricardo Pillay, resigned partially for academic reasons. How do you plan to prevent that?
Academics will always come first. We’re here first and foremost to get our degrees. I do my best to remain on top of my game though. And I’ve got a brilliant support system from the rest of the SRC, so I’m well-grounded.
What do you plan to do differently from your predecessor, Xolani Nyali?
I prefer to think that I’ll be building on what he has done throughout 2008. I do, however, hope to improve the communication links between the SRC and the students. That was a crucial area of concern in 2008. It’s a big priority of mine.
What is the SRC doing for the students in line with the upcoming national elections?
One of our biggest projects for the year is actually our coming Voter Education Drive. It’s aimed at tackling the political apathy that is becoming typical of the youth because of the state of political affairs in the country. We’re going to help students to cast educated votes by telling them what the various political parties have promised on the local, provincial and national levels and looking at where they have delivered or failed to do so.
The SRC has on many occasions been accused of being the lapdog of the office of the Dean of Students. What are your thoughts on this?
The SRC and the Dean of Students have one common element – the students. The nature of our work makes it necessary for us to liaise closely on certain issues. It’s something that neither of us can avoid. However, each organisation still remains an independent and autonomous body. We don’t infringe on each other’s authority and influence – we just co-operate and collaborate.
What about the Alcohol Awareness Campaign? What is the SRC’s role in it?
As you will know, it is the Dean of Student’s initiative, not the SRC’s. Our job is not to police it. What we strive to do is to promote responsible alcohol usage in general. We subscribe to the policy and encourage the students and societies to do the same.
October 2008 was a terrible month for the safety of students at Rhodes. What is the SRC doing about this?
It was really an upsetting time for every student on campus because we are all affected. We must all now deal with constant paranoia about what’s around the corner. We recently released a statement denouncing all these acts of violence and demanding that the University do more to ensure the safety of the students. Already, such campaigns as the “Get Home Safely” campaign have been put in place by the university.
What advice can you offer to the new Rhodents on Campus?
Enjoy O-Week! Socialise and get to know the town. After that, just get involved in as many school activities as you can. First year is not a monster, just challenging. So talk to your friends, sub-wardens and lecturers and make use of the counselling centre.
What would you like the first years to know about you?
I’m a very friendly and very bubbly person! People tell me I’m approachable too, so you guys can pop in and talk to me anytime.