Sunday, January 29, 2012

DASO Clearly Doesn't Understand Majority of Students

Gift Ngobeni

The campaign that caused much trouble.
The Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) recently launched its recruiting campaign in a rather controversial, if not provoking, manner. A poster of a black woman and a white man, seemingly naked while embracing each other, has sparked some serious debate, ridicule and outcry in the media and the political sphere.  

As a student who is currently in his fourth year at university I find the poster rather confusing and unnecessary. DASO has argued that the picture aims to increase racial tolerance in the future of the country. But what confuses me is DASO’s reason to make the models naked. It would be rather vague to say DASO is promoting sex in schools like one Facebooker articulated. I think we have moved beyond the stage of thinking such campaigns are promoting sex, but what wasn’t clear to me is what this student organisation, which is barely seen campaigning at many universities, stands for exactly. The poster released earlier this week sure doesn’t explain it and DASO says it comes as the first in a series of them. I wonder what the rest will look like if the mother body hasn’t told the youngsters to chuck the rest in the dustbin. 

 It has become a tradition that every year we see South Africa’s ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) student body the South African Students Congress (SASCO) take to the streets to protest for various issues like last year when they descended on Pretoria to ask for free education. Another party that one would oftean hear about is the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA). They often contest elections in many universities and even head Student Representative Councils there. There are some others like the Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP) South African Students Mocement (SADESMO) which holds its own in KwaZulu-Natal campuses. I’ve never seen DASO protesting or holding a meeting to fight for their beliefs like others do. I’ve never even seen a poster or heard that they would be holding such. The first time I hear of them making headlines is when they publish a poster of a naked interracial couple embracing. 

This has raised questions about their priorities as a student organisation which is supposed to fight for the rights of those it represents. As students we strive for economic empowerment, lower fees at universities, proper accommodation, access to libraries, the list is endless and we usually see the likes of PASMA, SASCO and others as being at the forefront of these battles. The majority of South Africans are poor and the majority of the poor are black. So one might start assuming that the reason the political structures mentioned above seem to represent issues of the poor is because their supporters form a part of the majority of the country and thus they understand the needs of the majority while DASO doesn’t.
DASO is definitely picking the wrong battle - or do they even have an issue they are fighting or fighting for? It appears most DASO members are white and most white South Africans are middle class and therefore part of the elite. Many of them are not affected by high tuition fees as they can afford to go to university. Most of us, young black students, cannot afford this and have to rely on loans – a point the young Democrats are missing. This means the minute we graduate we already have a debt to repay. That makes it difficult for us to start our lives like the majority of white graduates who would start their lives with no debt and at times with a car from parents. This enables them to buy property early, invest some money in shares or have a jolly good time every Friday night without worrying whether every member of the extended family has eaten. Believe me, getting into interracial relationships is the last thing we fantasise about.
This is the support SASCO gets when protesting on various issues.
One would think that the DA, by now, knows  what the grievances of the majority of university students are. Putting black faces on posters or in prominent positions unfortunately does not resolve deeper fundamental incongruities within the party. DASO also showed that this ignorance does not only run within the older members of this traditional white parties, they clearly are in the youth as well which means many white students who grew up in post-apartheid South Africa don’t understand how the other side of the colour line lives, thinks or needs. There are universities, like the University of Cape Town (UCT), which are accused of refusing to transform and continue to close doors on many black students. Maybe that would be a good start for DASO. They need to put such universities under the microscope if they really want to be seen as a progressive student organisation in the new South Africa.
An alleged SASCO photograph then emerged the following day depicting a white woman as a maid. SASCO has denied any involvement in this saying the image was a creation of DASO, perhaps to divert attention from them. If the SASCO created it then they should own up and if DASO did indeed create it then shame on them for the second time in one week.

1 comment:

  1. I think DASO should go back to the drawing board because first of all, if they want to reach the youth they should speak a clear language comprehensible to all youth. With these posters everyone is bewildered, including the so called "target audience". *purpose defeated*