Nelson Mandela University student elected Sasco head amid tensions

Newly elected Sasco president Bamanye Matiwane (left) and secretary-general Buthanani Ngwane.
Newly elected Sasco president Bamanye Matiwane (left) and secretary-general Buthanani Ngwane.
Image: Bamanye Matiwane via Facebook

After three false starts, the South African Students' Congress (Sasco) has elected its national executive committee (NEC).

The ANC-aligned student movement hosted its 21st electoral conference at the Saint George hotel and conference venue in Pretoria on Sunday night. This is after the conference was scheduled unsuccessfully three times last year — in Port Elizabeth, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

Among those present at the congress was ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, who delivered an address on Saturday evening.

Bamanye Matiwane from Nelson Mandela University (NMU) was elected president. Buthanani Ngwane from the University of South Africa (Unisa) in Johannesburg was elected secretary-general.

Matiwane told SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE that the new leadership would work with all factions.

“An organisation is no organisation without its members. Members are invited to congress with their preferences and we accept that. We appreciate contradiction because we cannot reduce the organisation to one understanding,” he said.

“Our role is to engage and console those we differed with in congress and to work with them. There will be no butchering of those who opposed us.”

The congress was not the first time the student body had tried to elect leaders.

The first attempt to host the conference was in Port Elizabeth in December, when it collapsed due to factional dynamics over who was to be elected to head the umbrella body of students in campuses across the country.

The second attempt resulted in breakaway factions — supporting rival presidential candidates Luyanda Tenge and Bamanye Matiwane — planning to host two parallel conferences arranged for the same day in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

Outgoing Sasco president Avela Mjajubana said that after the failed Port Elizabeth congress, Sasco's NEC at the time asked former leaders — among them Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku and former minister and NEC member Malusi Gigaba — as well as leaders of the ANC alliance — including ANC deputy-secretary Jesse Duarte — to help resolve conflict and division and prepare for congress.

“Students are frustrated on campuses, so we asked for a meeting with alliance leaders and convocants to discuss the future of Sasco,” said Mjajubana.

The steering committee, made up of Sasco convocants such as Gigaba, assisted the students’ organisation with convening the groups and taking over logistics such as transportation and hosting the congress in a neutral venue leading up to conference, which resolved on Sunday night.