A BETTER life for students.
That is the promise of newly elected Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) SRC president Yanga Sibelekwana, a DA Student Organisation (Daso) member.
The student movement claimed a landslide victory in the SRC elections last month, securing 14 of the 21 seats – up from the 11 seats they won last year.
Sibelekwana, NMMU South Campus chairman and site representative until he assumes presidential duties in January, said he would go beyond the ordinary SRC official duties and saw this as an opportunity to develop and empower students.
“I am excited, but at the same time I have big shoes to fill. This shows the students have faith in Daso,” he said.
“It will mean more work and sleepless nights. The day I joined the SRC, it was our mission to show what real student governance should be. I said I wanted to take it a step further, so the hard work starts now.”
Sibelekwana, 21, was born in East London. His mother, Zodwa, is a town planner and father, Christopher Sotomela, a contractor who is now running the family business – started by his grandfather 45 years ago.
“I look up to my grandfather because of his teachings which are old school. Even if they are old school, I like the manner in which he applies them,” he said.
Sibelekwana attended Selborne College in East London where he was involved in extramural activities such as chess, isiXhosa and choir societies.
After matric he started studying construction management at NMMU, before switching to a BSc in construction economics.
“As a student coming from a family that has a business in construction, I had no interest in politics,” he said.
His passion to serve others was his motivation for joining Daso, after initially joining Sasco, said Sibelekwana.
It came as a shock to his family, who are staunch UDM supporters.
“I made my move to Daso as I took a decision that [Sasco] is not the right party for me. As Daso, we came into an SRC that was in chaos.
“This thing goes way beyond serving students, but to an opportunity to develop people to be empowered.”
Sibelekwana said the SRC hoped to use its year in office to champion initiatives such as video-recorded lectures to be available online, as well as tutoring sessions in isiXhosa and Afrikaans.
While he expected to be busy with his studies and SRC duties, he hoped to use the little spare time he had to play chess because it was “a game that gets you thinking”.
Sibelekwana said he would like to go into rural development, influenced by his exposure to the rural area of Dutywa, where he grew up.
“Should I decide to go that route, I will do an honours in rural development… One thing I want to do is serve people and make a difference in people’s lives.”