Action-based and ‘us’ oriented, so the new President of the University of Cape Town (UCT) Student Representative Council (SRC), Mila Zibi, describes his leadership style. His mission, he said, is to be a “servant of the students”.
Zibi of the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) will lead the new 15-member SRC during his tenure from November 1, 2021 to October 31, 2022. He spoke to UCT News about his role and plans.
Helen Swingler (HS): Tell us a bit about yourself.
Mila Zibi (MZ): I am 20 years old and I come from Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape. I am studying towards a bachelor’s degree in social sciences. Initially, I had hoped to become an academic, but as it is now, I plan to study a postgraduate certificate in education and go to work for my family.
HS: What do you think of the responsibility of the head of SRC? The past year has not been an easy time for students – or university – following the COVID-19 pandemic.
MZ: Well, I feel very honored to have been elected and to act again as a servant to the students. This shows that the work I have done in representing students since I joined UCT is recognized and appreciated by students.
HS: What were the percentages of voters this year, up or down compared to last year?
MZ: The percentage of voters was 27.7%, which is a slight decrease from 28% last year.
HS: Have you been part of other student organizations at UCT, or in other leadership roles?
MZ: Yes, I was the head student of Kopano, the co-chair of the Residence Council, President of EFFSC, student representative to the Residences Committee, Institutional Forum, University Student Affairs Committee and various other structures.
“I plan to launch initiatives that will ensure that students benefit and use them in the long term. “
HS: What do you hope to bring to the student body and to the experience as president of the RSC?
MZ: I hope to contribute more to what I have committed to before [through my student leadership work]: To be a radical and action-oriented leader who will know how to bring about and achieve change as quickly as possible. I hope to help make life experiences for students easier.
HS: How would you describe your leadership style?
MZ: I believe in “we”, in collective leadership, what Marxists call democratic centralism. [I believe in] a strong, robust and empowering leadership style, and of course [I believe in] radicalism and activism, without a doubt. Above all, I adhere to values of dedication, honesty and love for those I represent.
HS: What are the main issues you plan to focus on during your tenure, given the controversy over mandatory COVID-19 vaccines and the plan to take a hybrid approach to education and training? apprenticeship in 2022?
MZ: I plan to put in place initiatives that will ensure that students benefit and use them in the long term. I intend to focus on the issue of access to higher education and its funding. I also hope to go further [the process of] decolonization as something beyond a simple project, but as a way of life. I intend to advocate for a return to campus and to normalcy.
HS: How, if any, do they relate to your personal political affiliations?
MZ: All these elements are linked to my political affiliation because they inform and influence the way I think, behave and exercise my functions. I am a member of South Africa’s only Marxist-Leninist and Fanonian school of thought, the Fighters for Economic Freedom.
“Not only do I understand, but I know the difficulties faced by many disadvantaged students within our university.”
HS: What life lessons do you bring to your SRC presidency?
MZ: I bring a lesson to life from having to learn to overcome difficulty. As the child of a working mother and an unemployed father, not only do I understand, but I know the difficulties faced by many disadvantaged students within our university.
HS: Each brings a different perspective and mandate to the Presidency of the RSC. What do you think your legacy will be as president of the CBC?
MZ: Without a doubt, the notion and the vision to be disturbed; we must constantly disrupt the status quo and shake the racist system at its feet. We will continue to engage and serve in the best interests of students and to the best of our ability. We will continue to provide support to students who are in need.
HS: Will you be working with other CRSs across the country in terms of national issues for universities?
MZ: I believe that the only way to implement effective change is to be coordinated nationally as a CRS. We began this project as we seek to formulate a synchronized response to the funding “guidelines” proposed for 2022 by NSFAS and the Minister. [of Higher Education, Science and Innovation] Dr Blade Nzimande.
HS: Juggling studies and extramural roles can be very demanding. How do you plan to manage this balance?
MZ: I have to be honest, it’s not easy but I’m taking some training and lessons on time management to balance. Sometimes we easily forget that we are also students while serving other students.
HS: What legacies from the old SRC will you and your SRC team build on?
MRS: I hope my legacy will be that of being an action-based leader and SRC in solving student problems; one where we do not become a helpdesk or a communication office between management and students. I hope to be proactive rather than reactive in the face of situations and possible failures of our system and its bureaucracy. I hope to bring a legacy of sustainability through the projects that will be implemented during our tenure.
HS: Is there anything else you would like to add?
MZ: I would like to add by thanking those who voted for us. We will ensure that we are a radical, left-wing voice that stands up for black, poor and marginalized students. I want to add that the CBC does not exist in a vacuum outside of the influence and reach of politics, so it is a political structure. When we were running, we were running as political beings, so attempts to depoliticize the structure are but weak attempts to perpetuate the status quo. Thank you.