“We know the progressive role played by Brian Williams and we declare our unconditional support to him as the chairperson of council in ensuring good governance and providing ethical leadership to the university and its council,” they said in Cape Town.
The UWC convocation, which Williams also chaired, was briefing media to respond to a call by Western Cape Congress of SA Trade Unions general secretary Tony Ehrenreich.
The briefing was supported by the university’s student representative council (SRC) and campus leaders of the SA Students’ Congress, ANC Youth League and Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania.
Williams was “disruptive and unsuitable”, Ehrenreich said recently.
He asked university graduates and workers not to re-elect Williams when they voted for council leadership at the convocation’s annual general meeting on Sunday.
Graham Siebritz, who described himself as convocation and community leader, said Ehrenreich was out of touch with worker and academic sentiment.
“He has not been informed by the workers that he claims to speak on behalf of. He has no mandate,” Siebritz said.
“It’s Political 101: we don’t speak on our own opinions, you first consult.”
Siebritz wondered who had informed Ehrenreich.
The groups claimed Williams was one of the few voices that had sought to protect the interests of the university.
The SRC and the convocation’s executive leadership had put forward Williams and Songezo Maqula as their council candidates.
“The SRC, for example, has always strongly maintained, through its deployees to council, that UWC must remain a university of the left which jealously guards the interest of the working class and espouses values of justice, dignity, good governance, and transparency at all times,” Siebritz said.
Williams returned to work last month after a special meeting of the council removed him as chair in September.
He approached the Western Cape High Court the same month to challenge his removal.
Last month, the court found his removal had not been placed on the agenda and that the sitting was unlawful. It ordered that he be reinstated.
Ehrenreich said recent events at the university had detracted from its “amazing work”.
“During his [Williams’] tenure as the chairperson we have had many problems with how he has undermined Cosatu and the struggles Cosatu advances for working families,” Ehrenreich said.
“We believe that his recent conduct has confirmed his unsuitability for the position of chairperson of the council of UWC.”
The other candidates up for election are Brian Figaji, Martin Hendricks, Western Cape High Court Judge Nathan Erasmus, and Scholastica Ntoyanto.