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'What R4 million?' SASCO NMU accuses 'demonic' DASO of smear campaign

By Afikile Lugunya - Oct 17, 2017
'What R4 million?' SASCO NMU accuses 'demonic' DASO of smear campaign

The South African Student Congress Organisation (SASCO) at the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) on Monday held a press briefing to address allegations by the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) that it had failed to account for R4 million that was allocated to the interim Student Representative Council (SRC).

However, interim SRC President, Pedro Mzileni, scoffed at the accusations and said that if they had been given that kind of money, he would probably had taken a holiday abroad.

“If we had R4 million with us, we wouldn’t be in Port Elizabeth. We’d probably be at a beachfront somewhere overseas ... The truth of the matter here is that a figure of R4 million does not exist,” he described.

According to Mzileni, the budget of the interim SRC this year was R3.2 million before operational deductions were effected. 

“R600 000 went towards the grants of societies - and in this university, we have 82 societies that are all benefiting from this money including DASO," he explained.

“Another R600 000 is allocated to SRC members as stipends or salaries, R250 000 allocated to George SRC members - that is before we even started our work as the SRC."

He also added that there are traditional events that cannot be avoided by the institution, which includes the City Bus Tour for first-year students as part of their orientation; the Mr and Miss Fréchet pegeant; Operation Sangena where members of the SRC members visit Grade 12s in the province's rural areas and assist them to apply to the university, as well as the hosting of the Campus Life Festival.

“For the first-year picnic and City Bus Tour, we spent R220 000. For Campus Life Festival, we sponsored the event with R60 000. For Mr & Miss Freshette, we spent R350 000. For Operation Sangena, we went deep into rural areas of the Eastern Cape for 3 weeks during June holidays selling the idea of studying in a university to the poor, it costed us R51 000. All this tallies up to R681 000,” Mzileni said.

He further added that R500 000 was added to a bailout fund for 2015 & 2016 debts of poor students to be allowed to register in 2017, another R50 000 was spent on SRC uniform and R54 780 was used by DASO.

“Stealing money at the Nelson Mandela University is practically impossible. No student touches hard cash in their hands - not even the SRC Treasurer.

“There are about six administrators that any transaction passes through before it is approved, with three of them being inside Department of Student Governance and Development and the other three based in the Finance department," Mzileni described.

“Students, who lead societies and house committees would also follow our logic - you just DO NOT touch the money of the university. Administrators do that. Hence, you would never ever find a R14 million NSFAS-type scandal in this university because our financial systems are extremely tight and guided."

'Allegations very concerning'

He also said that that the timing of the allegations is very concerning as it is just before this year's SRC elections, which take place on Wednesday, therefore students must be open-minded as to why the allegations came ahead of the elections.

Furthermore, Mzileni said that the interim SRC is not led by SASCO since SRC elections were not held last year due to the #FeesMustFall Protest.

“The office of the Dean of Students indicated that the interim must have 10 members, two members per organisation, which include, SASCO, DASO, the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC), United Democratic Students' Movement (UDESMO) and students, who don’t take part in the school organisations, all 10 of us consisted as the SRC.

“Out of those 10 people, Ian Tafadzwa Shonhiwa was voted the President of the SRC and the Secretary came from DASO,” Mzileni described.

According to emails showed to the media, Shonhiwa allegedly abused his position by ordering food from the student canteen in the name of poor students.

In one of the emails, he ordered supper, cool drinks, peanuts and chips, to the amount of R453.

“There’s a track of his emails where he asks for his personal food and he took money for his personal use ... the last time I checked, the total was about R24 000.

“I only became the convener of the SRC on the 20th of July 2017 on the launch of the name change, so it not true that the SRC was led by SASCO,” Mzileni said.

Mzileni said the allegations show that DASO is a "demonic" movement that is out to destroy other student organisations at the university.

“We urge students on Wednesday to go and vote for SASCO and dismiss this demonic organisation called DASO because it not participating in the students development, but it is only here to destroy personalities of the organisations, who are trying to develop the lives of students,” he appealed.