Our newly-elected Students' Representative Council has been elected, with Phiwokuhle Qabaka, former SRC Secretary General, voted in as Chair.
The new SRC Executive was officially welcomed into office on Thursday (27 September 2023) at a ceremony held at the SU Museum. During the ceremony the outgoing SRC members were also honoured for their contribution to the student community at Stellenbosch University (SU). The students were addressed by Prof Deresh Ramjugernath, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Learning and Teaching, and Dr Choice Makhetha, Senior Director of Division Student Affairs, as well as outgoing SRC Chair, Masilo Silokazi.
In 2022/2023 Qabaka served as SRC Secretary General, a position in which she learnt many lessons.
“The biggest challenge of being the SG is the workload you have to do as a single person and everyone's expectations of you to do it right. My academics suffered quite a bit and I often felt overwhelmed, so it was a joy and also a challenge," she says.
Before serving as Secretary General, Qabaka was class rep for students completing the Extended Degree Programme as well as for the BCom degree, Financial Accounting, Intro to Logistics and Supply Chain classes in the Economics and Management Sciences Faculty.
“I was also a non-positional leader of the EFF student command," she says.
She was inspired to run for SRC when she identified “a gap between the SRC and students".
“I wanted to fill that gap and show the students that we are genuinely there for them. I didn't just wake up and decide I'm going to run for SRC. I actually made sure that I am in touch with how the institution functions and what our students actually need."
When asked what she thinks makes a good leader, she pauses and shares her insights: “Compassion. One's willingness to listen to others and patience are important. Also, when you occupy a position like Chair, you should also be able to take critique and not lose your cool."
Qabaka is stepping into her role as Chair at a time when the higher education sector faces a number of challenges that are severely impacting students, such as financial exclusion due to student debt and the shortfalls in study funding caused by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme's (NSFAS) cap on funding for South African students.
“Financial exclusion is definitely a big concern. There is also a lack of accommodation with not enough space for students, so they often end up living in horrible conditions. I think student governance structures and students are also divided on campus, so I think that one thing I would like to accomplish is to eliminate the unfortunate divide between the Prim Comm and the SRC. I am deeply committed to a non-racial society because ultimately we are all human - and it is something I will die trying to achieve."
Like all leaders, Qabaka also has to deal with fear.
“I think I'm used to the SRC space but I have a fear of failure which often drives me to work harder and succeed in all that I do."
The position of SRC Vice Chair is held by Abongile Quthu, with Mzwakhe Bolotina as Secretary General. Ongezwa Tshazi was selected as Treasurer. The following students are General members of the SRC: Reagan Johnson; Risuna Risimati; Bradley Grovers; Daisy Ndebele and Solomzi Mphambo.
The Ex-officio members are: Qiniso Sithole, Senior Prim Committee Chairperson; Andri Malan, Prim Committee Chairperson; Courtney de Klerk, Prim Committee Vice Chairperson; Thandile Ngxikwe, Societies Council Chairperson; Theo Plaatjie, Military Academy Student Captain.
As the manager of a team, so to speak, Qabaka says she wants to foster “patience amongst my team" and that “we are a team during the good and bad times."
The night ended with the SRC taking an oath of office to obey and uphold the Student Constitution and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
“In the presence of all assembled, I hereby solemnly affirm that I, as member of the Student Representative Council, shall be faithful to Stellenbosch University and all its students. I shall obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Student Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and all other laws of the Republic," repeated the new office holders.
“I solemnly and sincerely promise to do the following to the best of my abilities: to promote all that will advance the University, and oppose all that may harm it; to protect and promote the rights of all staff and students; to discharge all my duties withal my strengths and talents, to the best of my knowledge and ability, and true to the dictates of my conscience; to do justice to all; to devote myself to the well-being and service of the University and all its students; and to endeavour to embody and instill the values of excellence, empathy and accountability, while fostering human dignity, equality for all and non-racialism.
“I take this oath willingly and regard it as binding on my conscience."