The first press briefing by University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) students about their involvement in the #FeesMustFall movement this year got off to a rocky start on Monday as arguments broke out about who was meant to address the media.
The EFF Student Command (EFFSC) has dominated student representative councils (SRCs) at a number of universities, including at Wits, where disruptions during the briefing were attributed to "political jealousy" by the ANC-aligned Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA).
The planned briefing by the Wits EEF student command has still not started because of leadership battles.— Queenin Masuabi (@Queenin_M) October 30, 2017
"We know who won the majority seats in the SRC. We know who students voted for, so let it not be a misconception that the division you see today is the division that students see in us," incoming Wits SRC president and EFFSC member Oreditetse Maseba said on Monday afternoon.
Maseba spoke frankly about the divisions within the student leadership at the university.
"I can honestly say this to you now, and I am sure you can see it for yourself, that there is a lot of division in terms of the direction the students must take," he said.
"The student body is highly agitated and highly divided, and I know there are elements that are responsible for this division," Maseba said.
He addressed the possibility of a shutdown of the university as part of the #FeesMustFall movement, but noted that it could only officially be announced by the new SRC once they had been sworn in on Wednesday. "We will not allow a shutdown that has been announced on social media. We are not going to allow a shutdown that is announced on WhatsApp," he said.
Maseba also warned that student leaders should not be part of the movement only for fame.
"We are tired of creating pop stars out of every protest. We will not create political elites," Maseba said.
There seems to be a disagreement between the outgoing SRC, with a majority of PYA members and the incoming body which is majority EFFSC.— Queenin Masuabi (@Queenin_M) October 30, 2017
Meanwhile, PYA member and incoming SRC member Palomino Jama said there was no problem with the EEFSC holding a briefing.
"There was a confusion of whether the press conference today was going to be an EFFSC press briefing or an incoming SRC press briefing," Jama said.
The PYA had worked seamlessly with many other political parties in the past, Jama said, and she expected the EFFSC to follow suit.
"The PYA has been in charge of the SRC for eight years. We have never handled ourselves like this. We have also worked with EFF people and people from other political parties within the SRC."