28 February 2022

UMP Dean of Students, Dr Paul Maminza spoke laudably about the importance of student leadership and good governance. He also reminded the leadership that they are democratically elected and it is important for them to do right all the time.

"As you do your duties in the SRC office, always remember to do right by those who have elected you. The university management has a commitment to ensure that you are well equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to deal with the challenges you will face," he said.

“This journey is not an easy one. You will be faced with many difficulties and challenges. We are here to offer our support as we know the obstacles you will need to overcome. Our doors are always open. Represent the wishes and needs of the students, not something else."

Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso mentioned that the investiture of the SRC represents an important date on the UMP calendar.

“We are here inaugurating an important structure, and to us as a university, this is not just a tick-box exercise but an activity we take seriously. Congratulations to all of you who have been voted by the students to represent them,” she said.

“We would like to invest in discussions and engagements that will add value to the university and contribute to the development of your leadership skills. UMP has successfully inaugurated seven SRC now and has brought forth good ideas around some of the aspects that keep the wheels of students’ representation well oiled.”

She further continued that the previous year was historical as it had the first female president of the SRC, Ms Vuyelwa Magagula. “The young woman steered the ship safely to shore. May your term of office be steady as you navigate the choppy waters, especially because Covid-19 is still around us, and we continue to learn how to live with it, while remaining vigilant, yet resilient, as we all realise the importance of striving to keep one another safe," she said.

UMPVice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso welcomed the new SRC, and thanked its outgoing members.

Keeping UMP vision, mission and values alive

Professor Mayekiso went on to share key matters the leadership should keep in mind, such as understanding the vision, mission, strategic objectives and values of UMP.

“You need to have a solid appreciation of the full context in which you operate and, therefore, be mindful of the environment of your constituency. The facilities the students have at their disposal are important infrastructure and should be handled with care and respect, mindful that there are generations of students still coming who should not inherit dilapidated buildings and classrooms,” she added.

“As leaders of students you set the tone, you also serve as role models. If you strive for excellence in all that you do, the value of your contribution to the UMP community will be enhanced. Strive to excel in your studies, and you will encourage the rest of the students to work hard.

The next thing is to reflect on yourselves as leaders. What unique attributes do you bring? Each one of you is unique. You need to get a grip of who you are – your strengths and weaknesses. What makes you tick, and what value can you add, as you join leading with others.”

SRC President, Mr Bathini Madinawe, honoured the previous leaders who passed on the baton to his group. “I applaud the efforts of president Vuyelwa Magagula, Comfort Msimango, Castro Mashabane and all the past SRC presidents. Their achievements are worth celebrating,” he said.

Mr Madinawe continued that students’ confidence in the power of the SRC has declined over years because some felt that the student leadership was no longer serving their aspirations.

“We cannot forget that students have been facing depression for years, with financial issues, a depressing exam atmosphere, and high fees. I believe our endorsement will clear the path for a new beginning. We plan to reignite the spirit of student activism,” he added.

“I join hands with all my teammates for work to officially begin. In no way will any lukewarm attitude be tolerated. We have made a decision to serve the students and will do so to the best of our abilities.

Outgoing leadership praised

Meanwhile, on the same day, the university bid farewell to the 2021 student leadership at a gala dinner held at the Wellness Centre on the Mbombela campus.

Professor Mayekiso acknowledged their great work, and appreciated the engagements management has had with the previous SRC. “Even with robustness sometimes, but in the end, whenever we take the big picture approach, we arrive at win-win solutions. Striving for common ground has proved to be a winning formula,” she said.

“It is a great human attribute to engage with civility and cordiality, even when you differ. What is more, you respected the brand of UMP. And one could trust that you would not be reckless on external platforms about the name of this university.”

@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures @ChrisplPhoto.