UWC coun­cil sus­pends two mem­bers af­ter stu­dent un­rest

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ZENZILE KHOISAN

THE UNIVER­SITY of the Western Cape this week con­firmed that two coun­cil mem­bers, rep­re­sent­ing 70 000 grad­u­ates of the univer­sity’s con­vo­ca­tion, have been sus­pended pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions by the Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil that they sup­ported the griev­ances of protest­ing stu­dents on the cam­pus.

A news release is­sued by the univer­sity on Thurs­day said: “As part of the coun­cil meet­ing agenda, the coun­cil dealt with a for­mal com­plaint about the con­duct of two coun­cil mem­bers, Mr Brian Wil­liams and Mr Songezo Maqula, for their per­ceived en­gage­ment with the protest­ing stu­dents. The univer­sity said the coun­cil made the de­ci­sion to sus­pend both of th­ese coun­cil mem­bers, pend­ing fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The univer­sity said it had es­tab­lished an ad hoc com­mit­tee to look into the con­duct of the two, and re­port back to the coun­cil as soon as pos­si­ble.

The sus­pen­sions were im­me­di­ately con­demned as un­law­ful by con­vo­ca­tion pres­i­dent Mu­lungisi Noludwe, who threat­ened to take the institution to court.

The SRC let­ter, sent to coun­cil chair­man Perry-Ma­son Mthunzi Md­waba on Novem­ber 6, stated that “the SRC wishes to reg­is­ter its deep­est dis­ap­point­ment and dis­plea­sure with the con­duct of par­tic­u­larly two coun­cil mem­bers, namely Mr Brian Wil­liams and Mr Songezo Maqula”.

The let­ter al­leged that Wil­liams, in par­tic­u­lar, “took the lib­erty of com­ing to cam­pus on Oc­to­ber 30, 2015, with­out con­sult­ing the SRC and the rec­tor, to ad­dress the pro­test­ers in a man­ner that was per­ceived as fu­elling and ag­i­tat­ing them”. The SRC also al­leged in the let­ter that Maqula “was seen to be mo­ti­vat­ing and en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents to con­tinue protest­ing”.

The sus­pen­sions is­sue was not specif­i­cally listed on Thurs­day’s of­fi­cial coun­cil agenda.

It is un­der­stood that the de­ci­sion to sus­pend the coun­cil­lors was taken be­fore the coun­cil could dis­cuss a pro­posal from the con­vo­ca­tion call­ing for dis­cus­sions around Md­waba, which could po­ten­tially spook donors and un­der­mine the in­tegrity of the institution’s cor­po­rate gov­er­nance.

Week­end Ar­gus is in pos­ses­sion of the doc­u­ment handed in at the meet­ing, which de­tail the con­vo­ca­tion’s mo­tion for a dis­cus­sion on risks to the institution of Md­waba con­tin­u­ing as chair­man. Maqula, one of the two sus­pended mem­bers, put for­ward a writ­ten mo­tion that the coun­cil “de­lib­er­ate the full spec­trum of risks at­tached to the Univer­sity of the Western Cape if Mr Mthunzi Md­waba con­tin­ues as the chair­per­son of its coun­cil”.

At is­sue was the rul­ing on Md­waba by the South Gaut­eng High Court “that de­clared him a delin­quent di­rec­tor, as well as his non-dis­clo­sure of that fact to the coun­cil”.

Maqula warned of a po­ten­tial neg­a­tive im­pact on rev­enue streams vi­tal to UWC.

“Good cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and ethics, as well as trans­parency, go hand in hand, and there are in­escapable obli­ga­tions we have as coun­cil mem­bers to pro­tect the institution from pos­si­ble donor re­volt,” he said.

The mo­tion con­cludes by stat­ing that Md­waba’s con­tin­ued pres­ence as coun­cil chair­man may con­sti­tute a “grave risk to the univer­sity, its rep­u­ta­tion and its im­age”.

It is un­der­stood that ques­tions of due process were raised in con­nec­tion with the sus­pen­sions.

The univer­sity coun­cil meet­ing took place in the wake of a bit­ter and in­tense strug­gle waged by the #UWCfeesmust­fall move­ment, dur­ing which po­lice were brought on to cam­pus for the first time since apartheid to quell protests by stu­dents.

The re­sult of the con­flict has been the in­ter­rup­tion of the reg­u­lar aca­demic pro­gramme, in­clud­ing ex­ams, which were even­tu­ally post­poned un­til the new year.

The coun­cil said it “is very con­cerned about the sit­u­a­tion on cam­pus, par­tic­u­larly the dis­rup­tion of the aca­demic pro­gramme and the on­go­ing in­ci­dents of violence on cam­pus”.

“While coun­cil sup­ports stu­dents’ plea for eq­ui­table and af­ford­able ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion, and other de­mands be­ing made by stu­dents, it strongly con­demns the violence and van­dal­ism that occurred at UWC dur­ing the stu­dent protest ac­tion.”

The com­mu­ni­ca­tion also con­firmed that the coun­cil chair­man, de­spite his adamant stance that he would not meet any group ex­cept the of­fi­cially recog­nised SRC, was part of a del­e­ga­tion that ear­lier met des­ig­nated rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the UWC #feeswill­fall move­ment on Wed­nes­day. It noted that it was agreed that the stu­dent move­ment could sub­mit a writ­ten pre­sen­ta­tion of their is­sues to the coun­cil for con­sid­er­a­tion.

zenzile.khoisan@inl.co.za

SE­RI­OUS: UWC coun­cil mem­ber Brian Wil­liams.

SUS­PENDED: Songezo Maqula

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