UCT accused of enabling state capture by former senior lecturer, Prof Athol William

By Nicola Daniels Time of article published Apr 1, 2021

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Cape Town - Former UCT employee, Professor Athol Williams, has accused the institution of launching a public attack on him after allegedly rejecting its cash offer.

He said he believed the money was to make up for not being offered paid leave to complete a 700-page affidavit for the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

“On Monday, the UCT ombudsman offered me a cash payment which I refused. I told him I didn't want to gain anything personally ... The money could go to an NGO. I want UCT to address the concerns I raise for the good of the university and our country.

“I even offered the ombudsman that the money could go to the ethic(s) institute I started which could pay student fees and research collaboration with the university. Less than 48 hours after rejecting their cash offer, they launch a public attack on me,” said Williams.

He said the money was supposedly a symbolic payment as compensation for lost income because “UCT only offered me unpaid leave to work on my testimony for the Zondo Commission. But the moment money enters such situations, there is always the risk that it comes with strings”.

In response to the claim, the university said: “UCT has made available a process to engage the former GSB staff member and try to resolve the various issues he has raised in relation to the university.

We are committed to dealing with issues within that process. We view the process as ongoing and, as such, we do not wish to comment further at this stage.”

Last week, Williams, a former senior lecturer at UCT's Graduate School of Business (GSB), gave testimony at the Zondo Commission, providing information relating to the South African Revenue Services and his former job at management consultancy firm Bain.

Williams told the commission that the firm was working with former president Jacob Zuma for financial gain through state capture.

He said that UCT had not supported him when he blew the whistle and stepped forward.

“UCT asked me to leave from the business school because they said you are doing all this Zondo stuff, you are doing all these things, you are writing your affidavit,” he testified.

“To write my affidavit, 700 pages, I did it myself. No law firm in South Africa would offer me support. Even the commission said they could offer me no legal support.

“I wrote that sitting at my desk at home with Google at my side, trying to figure out what to write and how to do it.

“UCT then said, well, then I am neglecting my duties as a senior lecturer and they asked me to leave. This is the experience all whistle-blowers have, where they do not have the support where they are.”

He also testified that the university continued to do business with companies involved in state capture.

UCT released a statement in response to Williams' testimony, denying his claims.

“The university rejects Mr Williams' claim that the university is an enabler of state capture.

“For the record, we wish to add that UCT supports the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and all other efforts aimed at understanding and urgently re-mediating state capture and corruption.

“As an institution, UCT has previously made a public call against state capture,” the university said in a statement.

Williams’ resignation on September 14 last year was not forced and UCT had made a person available to resolve the issues he may have, said the institution.

In response, Williams said: “Let me express my disappointment that UCT has sought to challenge my integrity, rather than address the ethical concerns I have raised with them, namely, their working with companies involved in state capture and their lack of support for whistleblowers.

“The claims in their statement ring hollow, because they clearly chose not to support me in any way, instead choosing to punish me for speaking up at the Zondo Commission,” said Williams.

He said he decided to quit on the suggestion of his line manager who he claimed characterised his “harrowing and dangerous work with the Zondo Commission as me pursuing other interests”.

“This shows UCT’s real attitude to the Zondo Commission, despite its claim in its statement.

“By its lack of support and personal attacks, UCT hampered my efforts to speak up against state capture. Neither the VC, the Chair of Council or the ombudsman have responded to the facts of any of these concerns,” he said.

He said choosing to blow the whistle was not easy and there was a desperate need for protection and support of whistle-blowers.

The unemployed Williams said that while he did not regret coming forward, he did regret the damage and stress to his family.

Cape Times

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