The University of the Free State’s (UFS) current Student Representative Council (SRC) has decided to discontinue the institution’s partnership with ATKV earlier this year, on the basis that the ATKV hosted Klienser competition catered only for those who are adept at the Afrikaans language, which indirectly meant that it catered only for a certain demographic of students.
Delia Moumakwe, SRC officer of Arts and Culture, said “We [SRC] did not want to be affiliated with an organization that seeks to uplift one group at the expense of other people. That’s why Afrikaans speaking residences have always made it to finals.” The decision to withdraw from the competition was met with animosity from Residence Committee’s Arts and Culture representatives, who sought to challenge the SRC’s decision with a request to allow the university to take part for the current year as planned and then review the matter again before the commencement of the 2017 academic year. This request was consequently denied by the SRC and thereafter the SRC Arts and Culture portfolio released its proposal for an internal competition.
Moumakwe explained that “retaliation came from residences but the support came from off-campus students who are in the majority. As the SRC we need to be democratic in our actions, and democracy means responding to the cries of the majority.” Both Moumakwe and Chiyindiko Tonderai, Arts and Culture senior officer, spoke at length about how the decision to terminate the institution’s participation was not taken lightly. According to them, concerns about Klienser and its lack of inclusivity has plagued members of the student body for years now. “These are issues that have always been on the table, we just needed students to take them forward, and the strikes and protest action provided the momentum we needed to enforce this change.” stated Tonderai.
One of the concerns raised by Residence Committee (RC) members was the perceived loss of the national platform that the competition provided to the students. Tonderai questioned “How can we say that it is a national competition if only four of the previously ‘white Afrikaans’ universities are taking part? When we play sport, we play with all the universities in the country, not just four of them.” He further elaborated that if ATKV continued to remain unresponsive and indifferent towards inclusivity, the competition itself would eventually die out. Tonderai said that “Serenade as it was has run its course, but we need to look at what it can be going forward. If ATKV keep doing things as they have been doing, they are eventually going to wake up and see that nobody is attending and participating.”
The RC members also raised a concern about the possibility of the new internal competition being a financial burden on the university and therefore lacking longevity. However Tonderai addressed this misconception by explaining that “ATKV was only sponsoring prizes. To put the event together comes solely from the Arts and Culture office. Longevity doesn’t depend on funding, it depends on our ability to create something sustainable that all our students feel that they can be part of and that speaks to the realities and challenges of our students. Ser was always funded through us and not ATKV.”
The format for the internal competition remains somewhat the same; however the ATKV enforced language stipulation has been done away with completely. The rules of the internal competition require performances to showcase at least 3 of our national languages and the independent composition can be composed in a language of any choice. “If it is a music competition why do we have to stipulate that groups must sing in Afrikaans? Why can’t they sing in other languages because, music is meant to transcend languages.” said Moumakwe.
Tonderai feels that in light of the protest action that has racked the institution in recent months, the time has come for the SRC and members of the student body to consider whether programs and activities engaged in on campus are really for the benefit or the detriment of the students it seeks to serve.