UWC convocation polls marred by allegations of ‘capture’ by elite
THE UNIVERSITY of the Western Cape ( UWC) will elect new convocation leaders today amid controversy about proposed amendments to its founding statute.
There are allegations, as well, that attempts have been made “by a small elite to capture” the institution.
The university’s convocation is made up of its graduates, many of whom have gone on to become prominent voices in various fields.
Weekend Argus was approached in the past few days by some UWC alumni voicing concern over what they call the university’s “apparent shift from its left roots”.
Alumnus and ANC provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said he was concerned that a university which once stood for justice was dragged into court over acts of injustice.
He was referring to a lawsuit which the university lost in November over the suspension of convocation members of council, Brian Williams and Songezo Maqula.
The two have since been reinstated and are running for convocation leadership again.
Also standing for convocation election are Nathan Erasmus, Llewellyn MacMaster, Clive Hendricks and Stephen Charles. “What worries me is that an unlawful decision by the council, the highest authority at UWC, was taken in the first place when the facts showed that the allegations against Williams and Maqula were false and that the process was flawed.
“UWC suffered significant damage because of this unlawful action by the university leaders and with a punitive costs order, the society ends up paying for the conduct of a few who do not respect the rule of law,” said Jacobs.
Williams and Maqula sued the university after they were expelled and suspended, respectively, as council mem- bers for allegedly inciting students to violence during #FeesMustFall protests in 2015.
The court found the university’s action to be unlawful and ordered that they be reinstated.
Judge Patrick Gamble questioned UWC council chairperson Mthunzi Mdwaba’s conduct and decision-making.
Mdwaba took decisions that were costly to the university, the court found.
“These legal costs would have been avoided if the chairman had conducted himself in accordance with the most basic principles of good governance, taken counsel from others who acted with due diligence and enforced observance of a fair procedure,” Judge Gamble said.
UWC spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said the university had complied with the judgment and reinstated Williams and Maqula as well as having taken steps in covering legal costs of both parties.
Another alumnus, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the university was trying to amend its founding statute without the approval of the council. These amendments, the alumnus alleged, were about concentrating power in vice-chancellor Tyrone Pretorius’s office and away from the council. Tyhalibongo disputed this, saying the council was behind the amendment process.
He said the process began in mid-2015 with the identification of an external service provider who made suggestions regarding the existing statute.
According to the Department of Higher Education and Training, universities may amend their statutes in line with the Higher Education Act and must obtain approval from the minister of higher education and training.
“Universities determine what they want to amend and set up a process to do so,” spokesman Madikwe Mabotha said.
UWC convocation member Songezo Maqula was suspended in 2015.