Cosatu secretary wades into UWC vote

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IOL  Tony Ehrenrich DONE Cosatus Tony Ehrenreich

Cape Town - Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich wants members of the UWC convocation to reject incumbent Brian Williams as president in this week’s election.

But Williams’s lawyer, Rael Gootkin, says Ehrenreich has not consulted Cosatu members at UWC, who support Williams.

Williams, who was also chairman of council, returned to work last month after the Western Cape High Court ordered he be reinstated.

At a special meeting in September the council removed him as chairman.

Williams approached the court that month to challenge his removal.

About four weeks ago the court ruled that his removal was unlawful and invalid.

In his judgment, Judge Ashton Schippers found the decision was invalid given the matter of Williams’s removal hadn’t been on the agenda.

He said the court papers showed “differences of opinion” between Williams and the university’s rector, Brian O’Connell, over a period.

Ehrenreich said Cosatu was concerned about recent goings-on at the university which detracted “from the amazing work the institution has been doing since inception”.

“We do not want to take sides and go into our own views about the weaknesses of the parties to the conflict that has exploded publicly. Professor Brian O’Connell has done amazing work, consistently raising the bar of the institutions, despite some challenges and disagreements.”

He had personal knowledge of Williams’s “immediate disrupting effects”.

“During his tenure as the chairperson we have had many problems with how he has undermined Cosatu and the struggles Cosatu advances for working families.

“We believe that his recent conduct has confirmed his unsuitability for the position of chairperson of the council of UWC. We call on the university community and all those allied to our organisation to act in a manner that elects a suitable chairperson of council immediately.”

Gootkin said Ehrenreich’s letter was “unfortunate as it contains no facts to support the allegations made by him”.

He said Williams had spoken to Cosatu leaders at UWC who said Ehrenreich had not had a meeting on campus to consult staff and therefore should not speak on their behalf.

“Mr Williams is of the view that he has made no attempt to establish the facts about the true nature of the situation at UWC and has not engaged with Mr Williams or others about the developments at UWC.”

Gootkin said Williams denied that he was “disruptive and unsuitable”.

“The circular of Mr Ehrenreich is improper as he is seeking to influence the electorate of convocation members, in the absence of substantiated facts. Mr Williams regards his interference as being unwelcome and Mr Williams believes that Mr Ehrenreich should rather address the challenges that UWC face and establish the facts before issuing public statements.”

He called on the electorate to be allowed to decide who they felt was the most suitable person to lead council.

“Mr Williams has the support of the overwhelming majority of the members of the council. However, having foiled an unsuccessful attempt to remove him, at great personal cost to himself, Mr Williams understands he is now facing a campaign to tarnish his image and reputation.”

Convocation members, who include graduates and employees, vote on Saturday.

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