Student politics is an old phenomenon or practice just as politics in general; it is has been historically seen as hub of intellectualism and a preparatory school for future leaders of the country of course emanating from different political organisations. The student movement has produced many leaders who are today sitting in parliament, leading strategic sectors of the economy and occupying other influential positions in society.
The question many would ask is whether the current generation of student leadership reflects the future of this country? Does it possess inspiration to the students it leads and society at large? Is it an epitome of good leadership? Is it relevant to the post 1994 generation? Those are just some of the questions I ask myself as a student leader. I believe the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Soshanguve campus is one the most politically vibrant campuses in the country with many political structures and lots of people who proclaim themselves as leaders and politicians – but many seem to be unaware of the many realities in this country and, at times, contribute towards the problems in the campus’ student leadership structures.
Let me highlight the challenges facing this campus in particular relating to student politics:
· Tribalism is rife and there are those who do what is coined as “anti-tribalism tribalism” (This means those who claim to fight tribalism when their ethnic groups are marginalised, but later do the same when their tribe is given the space initially contested).
· Chauvinism, careerism, opportunism, corruption, crass materialism and dishonesty of the highest degree.
· Lack of ideological and theoretical work and knowledge of global and national balance of forces politically and economically.
- · Failure to excel academically.
- · Pseudo and borrowed radicalism accompanied by obscured militancy.
- · Conservative and unappealing forms of running their campaigns to attract students to join or vote for them.
- · Poor communication – including poor grammar, spelling and use of political jargon when addressing students.
- · The general lack of self-conduct visible in collaborated hooliganism and refusal to be humble.
These issues form part of my onservations as a leader of one the student organisations. They are also found in the organisation I am part of. It may be that I wittingly or unwittingly contribute to some of these elements. Even so, I still fight them from within to extradite and culminate some of these issues from obscuring the real goal which is serving students and growing as future leaders of our beautiful country.
Those who diagnose or see these challenges and wrong deeds then take a decision to refrain from involving themselves in student politics. This also contributes to the decay of we see in student structures. This is because these are the people who should fight from within and seek to bring about change to the manner in which things are done. If you think it’s not possible, then you are wrong as I believe I’ve changed lots of things in the organisation since joining it - not by bulldozing my views but putting them across correctly and swiftly and fearing no one in articulating them.
All I am saying is that I have met many people who hold interesting views - some of which I support; but would tell you they won’t join any political structure because of the conduct and character of some leaders and the organisation thereof.
The sad reality of all this is that if people who should bring change hold back and continue being armchair critics, then this means we should accept to be led by the calamity of leaders who lead us today and we should just shut our views as we refuse to raise them in correct platforms and to the people who should hear them.
Let me also send a message to my fellow student leaders perhaps sending it to myself as well, we are not in a secret jungle or some cocoon where it’s only us and no one else. I’m saying this because most of us act as though students don’t see all the wrong deeds we do and they are just blinded followers who will simply follow us for they love and support our organisations. If we have that mentality we are doomed for failure and collapse.
We should know that people do see our wrong deeds but continue to support us because they hope we will change for the better. I must concede that student politics is at its lower moral fibre and has lost its political direction and as such there’s a lot that should be done by those in leadership, members, supporters, voters and those who are my great worry armchair critics and those who can bring substantial value but choose not to.