CHAOS broke out at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in the early hours of yesterday when a mob, alleged to be Sasco and ANC Youth League members, stormed a vote-counting station and grabbed a ballot box.
Police spokesman Captain Johan Rheeder said police had been called in to monitor the situation.
The SA Students’ Congress (Sasco), the ANC’s student body, and the youth league have denied any involvement in the disruption.
NMMU spokeswoman Roslyn Baatjies said when IEC officials moved to the central voting station at 2.15am, “one of the people standing for election, allegedly for Sasco, took it upon himself, along with his supporters, to disrupt the process as it became apparent that Daso was well ahead with only one station to be concluded”.
Baatjies said an electrical substation near the food court at the south campus where the votes were being counted was forced open by the mob. The door and the lock had been broken and various power switches and circuit breakers switched off or removed, leaving the area in darkness.
“In what was clearly an orchestrated act, the front door of the food court was forced open and a large group of allegedly Sasco supporters entered and took possession of Daso ballots, many of which were found strewn outside afterwards,” she said.
Baatjies said the matter was being investigated.
Student elections at tertiary institutions are crucial as they indicate voting trends among South Africa’s educated youth.
The race between Sasco and the DA Student Organisation (Daso) was hotly contested, with leaders from both the ANC and the DA campaigning in the weeks leading to Wednesday’s elections.
Daso’s outgoing SRC president, Yusuf Cassim, said he and other Daso members had been waiting outside the vote-counting station when Sasco and ANCYL members forced their way into the cafeteria and stole a ballot box.
He claimed the group was angered by indications from IEC party agents that Daso would win by a landslide victory. Although the university has yet to release the results, Cassim claimed Daso had won 16 out of 21 seats on the SRC.
Meanwhile, Sasco has lodged a complaint with the IEC, alleging the election was unfair as their party agents were not allowed to travel in the car transporting ballot boxes from the voting to the counting stations, while Daso agents were.
“The senior official of the IEC was also asking himself what happened, but he decided to carry on counting,” Sasco regional secretary Christopher Mncwabe said.
“Sasco party agents were left to walk to the south campus. Oddly enough, they arrived there first before the people who were driving, taking a different route to the campus.”
But Cassim said: “There is absolutely no truth to that. Daso members were in no cars of the IEC members.”
ANC Youth League provincial secretary Mziwonke Ndabeni said: “At about 2am or 3am, I got a call that there was a distraction during the counting. Sasco members were alleged to be behind that distraction.
“I also got information that there were youth league members there, but from the information I gathered, there were no youth league members there.
“So there was a dispute [about] why the ballot papers were taken without Sasco [agents].
“As the youth league, we distance ourselves from criminal offences of any nature and disruptions.”
Baatjies said election results could not be announced yesterday as the IEC had to grant both Daso and Sasco an opportunity to lodge written objections. “After the IEC has considered the objections, it will present the university with a written report [perhaps today]. Only then will we announce the outcome of the election.”