LOLITA DE ABREU
The sitting held by Student Parliament on 7 May was anything but ordinary. With the late arrival of Parliament members, multiple outbursts of anger from the members of the house, and only two of the six discussion points on the agenda being somewhat addressed, the evening in Wilcocks 1001 did not go as planned.
Keitumetse Lebesa, the Speaker of Student Parliament, brought forth the #NotAllMen discussion point, originally third on the list, as the first point of the evening. The #NotAllMen critical engagement event was held by the SRC at Dabreek men’s residence on 16 April. The session sparked tensions as some students allegedly believed it denied the lived experience of women suffering from gender-based violence who are represented by the #MenAreTrash movement.
The discussion surrounding the controversial event was interrupted by a series of complaints regarding the change in the order of agenda for the evening. Lebesa explained that upon request by members of the house, the #NotAllMen agenda point was brought forward. Not all members approved of the change as some voiced their frustration towards the lack of prior notice.
“We know Dagbreek has issues, but mental health needs to be addressed,” stated a member of the house. This was the first of multiple critiques levelled against the men’s residence during the evening. To provide a ruling that would please most of the house, the Speaker proposed the change. It was voted on and votes against the change were outnumbered.
Almost an hour of the evening was spent debating the change in agenda order. “If we understood why it was changed, maybe we could’ve been past this point,” one of the members said. The Speaker had made the reason clear more than once.
Points of order were raised so frequently that members began leaving the sitting with shaking heads. According to Tian Alberts, Dagbreek Prim, the debate surrounding the change in agenda was “malicious”. Days after the sitting occurred, he disclosed to Die Matie that he was among those that requested the #NotAllMen agenda point be bumped to the top of the list.
This was supposedly due to another obligation Alberts had alongside the Ordinary Sitting, and neither the Dagbreek prim nor the Speaker of Parliament apparently saw any harm in switching the order of agenda points.
Robert Kucera, Dagbreek HK member, said that Dagbreek did not voluntarily attend the Ordinary Sitting. “We were summoned to account for relevant actions that some students had a grievance with,” Kucera said.
In a lengthy back and forth exchange, Kristhoff Krige, SRC manager for Critical Engagement, was asked multiple times to shed light on the #NotAllMen event the SRC held at Dagbreek. He said that he had already given clarity to the situation.
Several other members came to his aid and argued that Student Parliament did not have the authority to force Krige to repeat his statement that was emailed to Parliament already.
“I don’t see the point of repeating myself to the house. Speaker, you have access to the communication, I think it’s appropriate for you to convey that information,” Krige said. The statement was eventually retrieved and read out. In the statement, Krige and his committee accepted full responsibility for the event and said that Dagbreek had no part in the content presented at the event.
He added that the Dagbreek Inkululeko booklets were only made available at the event as a condition for using the venue, and that the SRC were not responsible for them. Thereafter, members of the house accused Dagbreek, as well as Alberts, of being racist and sexist. These members of the house felt that the Inkululeko booklet denies the lived experience of marginalised individuals on campus.
After hearing several accusations from members in the house, Alberts left the venue on his own accord. However, multiple other members were asked to leave due to their conduct.
“Having a platform to practise your freedom of speech is valued on campus. However, we must also utilise the procedures correctly,” Lebesa said.
Alberts said that the claims against himself and Dagbreek are completely unsubstantiated. “It seems like there is a fringe group on campus that is trying to taint the [Inkululeko] booklets and Dagbreek in general,” Alberts said. He added that the booklets describe an open society as well as promotes seeking deeper understanding instead of just winning an argument.
Kucera referred to the residence’s welcoming programme as a defence against the accusations levelled against Dagbreek in Student Parliament.
“If you want to talk evidence, take our welcoming programme for example. We were commended by the university for being one of the few residences that managed to balance our history, tradition and heritage and align ourselves with the progressive practises and attitudes that the university wants to introduce in the light of inclusivity,” he said.
The Dagbreek representatives said that they confidently stand by Inkululeko. They disclosed that they will continue to hold critical engagement events next semester, and that there will be many more booklets like Inkululeko in the future.
Regarding the rest of the sitting, the second agenda point was eventually brought to light. The discussion did not go far, due to the sitting being dismissed as the venue was only booked until 21:00. Lebesa said that there will be another Ordinary Sitting next term, and encouraged students to attend.