The importance of political tolerance

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Taken NMMU SASCO's Facebook page

As the election results are currently being captured, Student News Grid has decided to focus on one of many concerns raised during the run up to the municipal elections which was political tolerance. Some have been concerned about political parties and their members accepting the results. Others have questioned whether the political parties, who win, will work together to address issues like service delivery and unemployment. In this article, we are looking at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) political arena and some of altercations that have taken place this year due to a lack of political tolerance.

At NMMU the battle seems to be mainly between Democratic Alliance Students Organization (DASO) and South African Students Organization (SASCO).   Early this year in February SASCO and DASO’s intolerance escalated to an altercation between members of the organizations. The Herald reported that on February 5, five NMMU students associated with SASCO were questioned at the Humewood Police Station based on charges of assault and intimidation laid by DASO. Lufefe Mkutu, SASCO’s leader, said during a meeting concerning student residences that both organizations took part in the physical altercation.

There is a clear distinction between the two when it comes to dealing with students concerns.  The recent protest led by SASCO on July 11 is an example of how SASCO and DASO differ in their approach to student issues. The protest was sparked by NMMU withholding results from students who had outstanding fees as well as management’s failure to implement in-sourcing and increase wages for security guards, kitchen staff and grounds staff. Part of the protest involved the entrances to North and South campus being blocked and the burning of tyres.  DASO condemned the protest. Yusif Cassim, DASO leader, told The Herald that DASO “condemn[s] this violence and call on the ANC to stop this political abuse of genuine students’ concerns”.

DASO also addressed the issue of results being withheld from students using a different approach. DASO on July 10 held a peaceful sit-in to highlight the issues surrounding funding. DASO felt that it was important to deal with student concerns without affecting their education. SASCO on the other hand believed shutting down the university was necessary to address these concerns. However, according to The Herald SASCO did “urge those who will be participating in the mass action to refrain from violence and intimidation”. Despite the different approaches, students were able to access their June exam results and the university ensured that promises made during the #FeesMustFall movement would be kept.

Political parties and student organizations have yet to find a way to ensure tolerance for each other. The political killings serve as a gruesome reminder that tolerance is important to ensure democracy. It is up to political leaders to ensure that members accept the outcome of elections and tolerate each other despite different political preferences.  Evidently, student organizations should find a way to work together without comprising students. Tolerance among student organizations is important to ensure that student concerns are addressed despite the different approaches in addressing them.

For those of you who missed our articles on the political climate at UP and UFS.