EFF scores victories and ANC suffers setbacks in battle for soul of universities

The EFF has won some of the SRC elections at universities. File Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

The EFF has won some of the SRC elections at universities. File Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 30, 2023


By Lulu White

In recent years, the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections in South African universities and colleges have assumed a pivotal role in shaping the nation's political landscape. They have evolved from mere campus affairs into a launchpad for burgeoning political careers, a stage where political parties allocate substantial resources, and a litmus test for the changing tides in the nation's politics.

At the forefront of these transformative SRC elections stands the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a party that has not only garnered resounding victories but has also ushered in a fresh political paradigm. The EFF's ascendancy in SRC elections reverberates far beyond academic corridors, foretelling potential shifts in South Africa's political dynamics.

A striking illustration of this transformation unfolded at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where the recent SRC results unveiled a remarkable outcome. The EFF Student Command (EFFSC) secured a noteworthy eight out of 15 seats, solidifying their influence among the student body. Independent candidates claimed the remaining seven seats, with Tebogo Mabusela emerging as the highest vote earner. This triumph at UCT adds yet another feather to the EFFSC's cap.

However, the phenomenon is not confined to UCT alone. The EFFSC has etched its mark across various institutions of higher learning. The University of the Free State witnessed the EFFSC securing four seats, leaving no room for the South African Students Congress (Sasco), an ANC-affiliated student organisation. Concurrently, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses, the EFFSC clinched all five seats at each location. Further afield, the University of Johannesburg became a significant stronghold, where the EFFSC triumphed with 12 and 11 seats at the Doornfontein and Auckland Park Kingsway Campuses, respectively. Wits University mirrored this trend with the EFFSC securing eight out of 13 SRC seats.

Of notable mention is the University of Limpopo, where the EFFSC claimed a landslide victory, capturing a staggering 12 seats in the SRC elections. These victories underscore a growing trend of student support for the EFF and a concurrent wane in the influence of the ANC's student political arm, Sasco, within SRC elections.

Beyond academic institutions, these developments reflect a broader political reconfiguration in South Africa. This is evidenced by the ANC's setbacks in the preceding local government elections, where they relinquished five of eight metros to opposition parties. These defeats are emblematic of the ANC's diminishing popularity among the electorate.

In this context, SRC elections have transcended their traditional role of managing student affairs; they have evolved into a battleground where political parties flex their influence and a crucible where emerging leaders are forged. The EFF's triumphs in these elections underscore its burgeoning appeal, particularly among the youth, and offer glimpses of the potential alterations in South Africa's political panorama.

As South Africa approaches national and provincial elections, all eyes will be trained on the EFF's momentum, with speculation rife about the possible ramifications for the broader political landscape. One fact remains irrefutable: SRC elections, once a niche within campus politics, now reverberate far beyond university walls.

One of the salient trends in recent years has been the meteoric rise of the EFF in SRC elections. This dynamic and youth-oriented political party has effectively captured the hearts and minds of younger voters, often at the expense of the ANC. The question naturally arises: what are the driving factors behind the EFF's success in SRC elections?

1. Youth Appeal: The EFF's unapologetically radical stance on issues like economic inequality, land reform, and free education resonate profoundly with many students grappling with the challenges of high tuition fees and limited access to quality education.

2. Effective Campaigning: The EFF's ability to mobilise and energise students during their campaigns is a testament to their organisational prowess. Charismatic leaders, adept use of social media, and grassroots organising have been pivotal to their victories.

3. Policy Alignment: In SRC elections, the EFF's policy platform often aligns more closely with the concerns and aspirations of students, including addressing financial hardships, improving campus conditions, and advocating for accessible education.

While the EFF's dominance in SRC elections is palpable, it is essential to acknowledge that SRC elections and national/provincial elections represent different arenas. Nevertheless, the profound impact of these victories on South Africa's political landscape cannot be underestimated.

* Lulu White is CEO of Elections Management Consulting Agency of Africa

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL