The South African Students Congress (SASCO UP) called for the SRC to cease relations with the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS). This follows an SRC meeting held on 26 February in which the head of Tuks SAUJS, Sasha Said, approached the SRC with the goal of establishing relations between the SRC and SAUJS. According to the minutes of the SRC meeting leaked to PDBY, a vote (eleven for, 3 against, and 1 abstaining) by the SRC secured the decision to work with SAUJS in order to raise money to work with students.

The big mess – why is SASCO so mad?
In the minutes, it was raised that SAUJS held Zionism as a founding pillar of its organisation, which is the source of SASCO’s backlash over the SRC’s decision. SASCO stated, “It is the view of SASCO UP that working with any Zionist structures in democratic South Africa goes against the core values of our Constitution.” During the meeting, Said offered her reassurance on the topic of SAUJS’s Zionism, stating, “Everyone has a different definition on what Zionism is, and we struggle with this because then we are labelled for what we stand for.” The nature of SASCO’s outrage is primarily rooted in associating a university structure with any form of Zionism, while SAUJS views the relationship as an opportunity to help poor students.

Where’s the money coming from, where’s the money going to – why is SAUJS here?
SAUJS approached the SRC offering financial aid, with the core premise of the meeting revolving around the potential use of the finances to help students who are currently facing historic debt. Said explained that SAUJS could find donors from among its alumni to provide assistance with a series of things such as “venues, funding, merchandise, food and beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), as well as stationery packs”. In addition, SAUJS
requested the SRC to not make any statements in alignment with sentiments concerning Palestinian solidarity and the PSC UP (Palestine Solidarity Committee). This manner of aid is not unique to SAUJS Tuks, as Said explained that the SAUJS counterpart at Wits managed to raise funds for the Wits SRC. In a responding statement, SASCO indicated that they viewed the acceptance of this funding as insensitive and, furthermore, that it would be tantamount to accepting a “masked bribe”. When asked what Said’s response was to the SASCO statement, she replied, “I would encourage you to speak to SASCO in regards to their statement. However, their members, who are also part of the PSC, were fully present during the initial engagement and, when it was voted on, lost by a two-thirds majority.”. Said continued, “We’re concerned that the PSC, as a narrow political interest group, is trying to undermine a democratic decision of the student council and trying to exclude Jewish students from university life.” A major point of contention between SASCO and SAUJS was Isreali Apartheid Week (IAW).

The true, the confusing and the unanswered questions
IAW is a platform used by the PSC to mobilize grassroots participation in a series of demonstrations in solidarity with the people of Palestine. In the minutes, Said explains that IAW “is associated with anti-Semitism around campuses”; she supports this claim by referencing the events of IAW 2022. Said’s recollection is inconsistent with the version of events covered by PDBY in an article titled ‘South African Union of Jewish Students clashes with the Palestinian Solidarity Committee’ (published on 9 May 2022). SASCO’s view is that IAW is necessary in the form that it currently exists because “[Zionism] has proven in practice to enable and sustain systemic apartheid policies in Palestine”. SASCO UP concluded their statement by urging all progressive structures such as the PSC, and Amnesty International to “condemn this SRC’s poor decisions”.

Where the buck stops – what does the SRC say?
PDBY approached the SRC to weigh in on the matter at hand. SRC Deputy Secretary of the SRC, Christo Pretorius,
responded on behalf of the SRC, “The SRC has a mandate to serve all students, a large part of this mandate is fundraising. The SRC reaches out to various bodies in an attempt to fulfil the aforementioned mandate.” Pretorius continued, “Any reaction by structures regarding the mandate of the SRC seems premature pending the contextual communication of decision… No MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] has been reached” When asked if the SRC had any specific plans for the funds Pretorius replied, “The current dire financial situation that thousands of students find themselves in, pertaining to historical debt, registration holds, and accommodation issues, is foremost on the SRC’s agenda.”

Banathi Nkehli, Carel Willemse and Micaela Liebenberg

This article has been edited following errors in the print publication.