BRYNLEY VAN AARDT
Two days succeeding the Progress SA posters that marked Stellenbosch University campus, new posters with counter-arguments were seen in their place. These posters were put up by a new political society called Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
Originally a reading group, interested in academic leftist literature, a group of 18 students realised they were struggling to understand the literature they were reading. This led to political discussions becoming the norm during their meetings.
After thinking about becoming an official society for a while, when they saw the Progress posters put up around campus, they used the opportunity to become public with their beliefs. Paul Joubert, a founding member, said, “Someone needs to do something about the posters. I wanted to put up posters as well and I realised I am part of this new society, why not do it in the name of this society.”
“It was an opportunity. We saw it. This was just a good way to get our voices out there and to make an impression in a constructive way,” Jurgens Pieterse, another founding member, said. “We’re still in the infancy stage and we’re busy writing our constitution,” Joubert said. “We believe in progressive projects and in creating a place where people can talk about it in good faith meaning you are willing to listen to their story”.
With a belief that debate is not constructive and more of a performance, SDS looks to have panel discussions and invite guest speakers. They also want to make academic political literature more readily available and understandable to students.
When asked about sharing the name of the radical and sometimes violent Students for a Democratic Society prominent in anti- war protests in 1960s America, Joubert said, “We believe that we are also radical, but radical in the original sense of the word meaning going to the root of the problem. We share nothing else with them except the name.
A more verbose name would have been Students for a Truly Democratic and Free Society but that’s not as catchy”.