Former partner at BAIN SA Prof Athol Williams appeared before the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo last month. File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
Former partner at BAIN SA Prof Athol Williams appeared before the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo last month. File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

UCT denies hush money claims by former senior lecturer, Professor Athol Williams

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Jun 1, 2021

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Cape Town – UCT on Tuesday denied claims by former employee Professor Athol Williams that the institution’s ombudsman offered him hush money to stop “raising concerns about their dealings with state capture companies”.

“Mr Williams consistently claims UCT does not want to engage him and made claims that he was ’receiving no help’ and then ’offered money by UCT’. UCT totally rejects these distortions of fact and deny these claims,” UCT said in a statement.

It started on Tuesday morning, when Williams took to social media claiming the ombudsman offered him “hush money”.

“Read this slowly ... the University of Cape Town ombudsman offered me hush money. We have sunk so low in SA. Anyone with a platform willing to raise the alarm?” he wrote on Twitter.

Responding to a Tweet asking what the money was for, Williams said: “To stop raising concerns about their dealings with state capture companies”.

In the statement, UCT said it respected and applauded Williams for his efforts to blow the whistle on fraud and corruption.

“We recognise that exposing fraud and corruption is a service to the nation. We also appreciate the profound toll such a process can take on the whistle-blower,” the statement read.

The university said it fully supported the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and the efforts aimed to understanding and remediating state capture and corruption.

“As an institution, UCT has previously made a public call against state capture. Regrettably, Mr Williams has again raised and repeated multiple, very serious allegations against UCT in public statements. This is unfortunate and unjust.”

UCT said Williams continued to make “unsubstantiated allegations and false and distorted claims related to UCT” and forced them to set out the “factual issues”.

Senior UCT individuals attempted to engage Williams, UCT said, adding that it was unfortunate that he remained aggrieved despite the institution’s efforts to “hear and resolve the issues he has raised”.

“UCT cannot be expected to shoulder the responsibility that Mr Williams seems to expect in his particular case. UCT has taken what it believes are reasonable steps to assist him and has made reasonable accommodations, of which Mr Williams is aware,” it said.

UCT said the acting obmudsman contacted Williams to resolve his issues but Williams chose to “make absolutely distorted and false claims of “being offered hush money” in public after the engagement”.

“The acting Ombud was asked for a full report on the engagement and we are of the view that Mr Williams’ statement about what transpired is not factual and is distorted and false,” UCT said.

“Mr Williams’ continued slandering of UCT is unfair and unjust. There is absolutely no factual basis for Mr Williams’ insinuation that his resignation, or UCT’s acceptance of it, was somehow connected to his whistle-blowing activity.”

UCT said Williams had every right to raise the issues with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), but to date it was not aware that he has exercised this option.

After UCT released their statement, Williams took to social media again on Tuesday afternoon and said the institution did not respond to his core issue of its dealings with state capture companies and challenged the ombudsman to a lie-detector test.

“UCT statement. Note: no reaction to my core issue of them having dealings with state capture companies. Denying offer of a year's salary. I challenge the ombud to a lie-detector test!” he wrote.

Williams further alluded to a cover up, saying: “UCT Cover Up: The UCT issues are simple (1) Make the ombud report public (2) Explain which state capture co's UCT has dealings with (3) Explain why the ombud offered me a payment of a year's salary. Simple.”

Responding to the institution’s CCMA suggestion, Williams said that this was not a labour issue.

“Why go to the CCMA? This is not a labour issue. Its about UCT's dealings with state capture companies. Make the ombud's report public. Get him to explain his offer of a year's salary to me,” he wrote.

On April 1, Cape Times reported that Williams accused UCT of launching a public attack on him after he allegedly rejected their 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.

In response to the claim, the university said it made a process available for Williams to engage with them to try to resolve various issues.

In March, Williams, a former senior lecturer at UCT's Graduate School of Business, testified at the Zondo Commission on information relating to the South African Revenue Service 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.

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

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

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