Cape Town - Embattled UWC council chairman Brian Williams has been elected president of its convocation and was congratulated by vice-chancellor and rector Brian O’Connell.
Before Saturday’s convocation elections the two had been embroiled in a clash that had tarnished UWC’s reputation.
Williams received 93 votes followed by Judge Nathan Erasmus with 91. Williams was also elected council representative with former UWC SRC president Songezo Maqula, Williams receiving 199 of 400 votes cast.
UWC spokesman Luthando Tyalibongo said Williams’s and Maqula’s terms would start on December 1.
“Following vote counts conducted in full view of the scrutineers and independent auditors, in addition to being taped on camera, the secretary to the convocation announced that Mr Brian Williams and Mr Maqula were the democratically elected council representatives. All voters were verified prior to entering the voting area. Voters’ fingers were marked to ensure they did not vote more than once. Senior staff from an independent audit firm were present to oversee the process,” he said.
Tyalibongo, who said he also spoke on behalf of O’Connell, said it was no secret there were disputes between Williams and O’Connell, but Saturday’s meeting was not about that.
“Actually, the rector shook hands and congratulated Mr Williams after the announcement on Saturday. UWC wishes the new convocation president, Mr Brian Williams, and the council representatives well in their roles, to ensure the prosperity and progression of this highly esteemed institution. They all had good campaigns.”
Williams declined to comment, referring questions to
convocation spokesman Keith Gottschalk, who said: “Now is a time for healing, and repairing the fabric of collegiality at UWC. Convocation looks forward to co-operating with the incoming vice-chancellor and other new leadership at UWC in our work of building a great university.”
O’Connell had accused Williams of using the SRC to wreak havoc. Williams had told the Cape Times his nine-year relationship with O’Connell had broken down when a complaint had been filed in June 2012 by the council member against Professor Ramesh Bharuthram, O’Connell’s deputy.
Williams had said Bharuthram had refused to pay accommodation and airfare for a Cuban ambassador invited to the university. He said the council overturned the decision. O’Connell later wrote to the council to allege Williams had appointed an external investigator to probe the complaint.
Last year, Williams went to court after his removal as chairman.
A court ruling last month ordered UWC to reinstate Williams.
Gottschalk said on Sunday that during robust debate at Saturday’s meeting, some members made interesting contributions from the floor which the convocation would seek to implement.
SRC president Msingathi Kula said: “The graduates have spoken and elected Williams.
“This shows that he has a lot of support in the institution.”
However, “the management’s side of the institution and the ‘other people’ were not happy with Williams being elected”, Kula said.
Kula said the next step would be to hold Williams and the other people elected accountable.
“It is not about the individuals. It’s about the future of UWC. We will make sure that we hold those in management accountable.
“As the SRC we welcome the outcome of the election,” he said.