Ané van Zyl
Student court has ruled that the 2014 version of the student constitution is valid and enforceable. This comes after Bernard Pieters, AfriForum Youth leader, approached the court alleging that the 2014 constitution (version 2.4) was never approved by the university council and is therefore invalid.
Pieters also claimed that the most recent Student Representative Council (SRC) was null and void, and he requested that all the financial decisions of the SRC from 2014 to be examined and audited by an independent auditing company.
Student court found that no provision was made in the 2011 or 2014 version of the student constitution, or in the statute of Stellenbosch University (SU), that the council needs to approve amendments made to the student constitution for it to be valid.
Student court also said that the university council’s approval of the 2011 version of the student constitution can only be seen as an act of good faith, and not that such approval was in fact a validity requirement.
Student court also found that amendments proposed by the SRC in 2014 were accepted by students in a referendum with 1 141 votes to 240.
“The amendment process set out in the 2011 student constitution was followed and the amendments set out in the 2014 version of the student constitution are therefore valid,” court documents state.
Pieters is of opinion that student court did not act in the interest of students. “Justice did not prevail, as I believe none of my statements were proved wrong. The ruling was therefore in the interest of SU and not the students,” he said. “I also do not have vendetta against anyone currently serving on the SRC, student court or student parliament. The issues I brought forward before arose before any of their terms began.”
Student court also did not find any compelling evidence suggesting that there has been a misuse of funds or any financial wrongdoing by the SRC. Student court documents state that “there is no basis for the examination of the SRC’s financial decisions by an independent auditing company.” Following this the request from Pieters was denied.
Previously held SRC elections that took place in accordance with provisions in the 2014 student constitution were also declared valid, which means there is no need to restart the election process.
Lwando Nkamisa, current SRC chairperson, believes Pieters should have followed other procedures before he approached student court with the matter. “We have student parliament, he could have tabled the motion there, and thereafter proceed to student court. We have to utilise all our existing structures thoroughly before going to court.” Nkamisa said.
Nkamisa also said that the SRC would welcome an audit from another independent company. “The SRC is audited by the same company or institution that audits the university’s finance, and we also follow the university’s finance policy. We have nothing to hide.”
The Senior Director of Student Affairs and Chairperson of the Stellenbosch University Council were listed as respondents in the matter, but as they are not students or members of a student body, student court does not have jurisdiction over them. They were removed from the list of respondents.
Summer van Haght was listed as respondent, “for not having furnished, despite repeated requests, any proof of the legitimacy of this student constitution”.
Student court found that this allegation does not set out a case against van Haght. She was therefore removed from the matter.
Inge Odendaal was also cited as a respondent in the matter. Court documents state that no case has been made out against her, nor is the order sought against her. In accordance with this, Odendaal was also removed from the matter.
Pieters is not deterred by the judgement, and sees the ruling as a sign of external influence.
“The resistance I get from SU is a good indication that I’m moving in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to what’s going to be done in the next few months.”
Cartoon: Jana Slabber