UWC con­vo­ca­tion polls marred by al­le­ga­tions of ‘cap­ture’ by elite

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - NOLOYISO MTEMBU

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.

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