The University of Botswana (UB) Council could be headed for a legal showdown with the Student Representative Council (SRC) after the former took a sudden decision to ban political campaigns within the campus ahead of the SRC elections this week.
In what the outgoing SRC President Jacques Kelebeng sees as an attempt by the UB Council to thwart certain victory for the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at the SRC elections, the Council on Monday banned political campaigns within campus and immediately dispatched security personnel to shut down all political party campaign stalls.
“They came and forced us to close our stalls. The UB council says politics have been banned in the University and SRC elections must not be contested on partisan lines,” said Kelebeng.
He added that the Council’s decision was a desecration of the students’ rights to political freedom and freedom of association. All student political parties will host an emergency press conference on Tuesday to chart the way forward. Kelebeng opined that the sudden ban on political campaigns at UB was triggered by the massive turnout at a political rally that was hosted by the UDC-SRC on Sunday.
“We know that the Council, which is dominated by ruling party functionaries, was not happy with the massive turn out at our rally yesterday. They think they can derail our victory but they can’t. Clearly democracy is being eroded at UB. We all know that UB Council Chairman Parks Tafa was behind this decision,” said Kelebeng.
He accused the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) of trying to stifle political education of the approximately 18000 UB students because it knows that it will never enjoy the youth vote.
“Students are well informed and no amount of sanctions can stop the rise of the youth. We are the drivers of regime change and we will vote the BDP out of power in 2019. How can you ban political activism at UB when it has birthed national leaders like Dumelang Saleshando, Botsalo Ntuane, Gomolemo Motswaledi and Key Dingake?,” he asked.
The UDC-SRC is due to meet with their lawyers on Tuesday to determine their next course of action. At the launch of its campaign team on Sunday, the UDC-SRC promised a healthy and progressive UB. The launch was also attended by area MP Phenyo Butale. A few years back, the UB Council banned political party campaigns at the University. BDP insiders have opined that the decision backfired as the BDP was severely punished at the polls, especially by the decisive youth vote.
“It was not a wise decision because it alienated us from the youth. Without tertiary institutions we cannot get a share of the youth vote. The recent decision will alienate us even more and we will live to regret it,” said a BDP member after the recent ban.