TENSIONS are running high at the University of Zululand after the outcome of recent students representative council elections on the campus.

The ANC-aligned South African Students Congress (Sasco) recorded a landslide victory after the IFP-aligned South African Democratic Students Movement (Sadesmo) was penalised for failing to meet the deadline to submit its list of candidates.

But a letter leaked to Sowetan indicates that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has advised university management to declare the SRC elections of October 15 "null and void".

This was after Sadesmo sought legal advice in opposing the outcome and also sought relief from the IEC chairperson and the provincial electoral officer.

Sadesmo has denied that it had missed the deadline.

The IEC letter sent to rector Rachel Gumbi and signed by chief electoral commissioner Pansy Tlakula says they received a letter from Sadesmo's attorney, Lourens de Klerk, objecting to the outcome of the elections.

Tlakula said: "We have advised the said attorney that there are provisions that expressly empower either of the two officers to consider and decide an appeal.

"The MoU, which was not signed, also does no do so.

"In fact, there are no provisions relating to an appeal. We have in that regard advised Sadesmo that the university remains with the power or authority to decide on the matter based on our analysis of the actions of an electoral officer," Tlakula says in the letter.

She says the IEC has noted the exclusion of Sadesmo candidates was not based on any provision in the MoU or the election timetables that prescribed 5pm as the cut-off time for the submission.

It noted also that the local electoral officer had not used the MoU or timetable or any legislation to decide on the cut-off time.

"It would accordingly be impossible to defend the decision of the electoral officer in the absence of any express provision to that effect," Tlakula says.

"Under the circumstances we advise the university to declare the election of 15 October 2009 null and void."

Sasco branch chairperson Xolani Memela said they were disappointed in the institution's management.

"We only heard that the management had sought legal advice to accommodate Sadesmo," he said.

"The IEC had declared that we won the election after Sadesmo had failed the meet the deadline," he added.