Anthony Andrews, a 20-year-old law student at Stellenbosch University, was elected as speaker of student parliament at a meeting on Thursday.
“Our focus should not be on the win but on the opportunity for change”, Andrews said after the results were announced. “It’s an honour to be at the forefront of this institution, what I need now is a good team.”
Andrews ran against BA International Studies student Almero Prinsloo. Prinsloo congratulated his opponent saying “He is a wonderful guy and has a great character. Nobody knows student parliament like him.”
The proceedings started with both candidates motivating their reasons for running for the position of speaker. Prinsloo focused on his experience as a representative of the university at the United Nations in New York earlier this year saying: “This opportunity gave me immense teaching and negotiating abilities to bring people from different worldviews together.”
Andrews focused on the failures of university structures to engage with student issues such as “rape culture, gender minorities, safety and security and the residence placement policy”.
“In my time here, at Stellenbosch University, frankly, I cannot even say the institutions have been weak as they have never even existed,” Andrews added.
Both candidates faced four rounds of questions from the floor. Tensions rose when a student asked of Prinsloo whether he could understand the plight of a black student given his economic background. Prinsloo’s response elicited anger when he related fatherlessness to race and the family structure of black families as a result of apartheid.
Lonwabo Nkonzo, a BComm student, raised a point of order saying he was disgusted that Prinsloo could relate fatherlessness to blackness, adding that it perpetuated stereotypes. Prinsloo apologised and said that he did not mean to cause offence.
When asked how he will deal with political issues on campus, Andrews said “it is the job of the speaker to remain non-partisan, not the students. It would be counter-intuitive to expect the students not to act in their best interests.”
The ballots were counted by election convenor Monde Petje, Fanele Ndebele and a student representative. 95 votes were counted with four of those spoiled. Andrews won the majority vote.
Law student Thato Phatlane said: “I am confident in the leadership of the new speaker and I am looking forward to proper administration, which has not been seen on campus for a very long time.”
JD Blanckenberg, a university staff member said: “The process was fantastic and showed that you don’t have to be a positional leader to run. Both candidates were wonderful in their own interesting ways.”
Kerwin Jacobs, a BA Social Dynamics student said: “The process was good especially since it was an emergency in its nature. I am looking forward to engaging with the speaker in the future. He clearly did his homework and knows the student structures.”
Students raised concerns about the legitimacy of the elections, pointing out that many of those present were not students. Petje reassured the students that the proper precautions would be taken and enlisted the help of Blanckenberg to validate the student cards of those voting.
A date for a student parliament sitting will be communicated to students shortly. This will be the first sitting of parliament in almost two years. – Christina Pitt and Dylan Jack