11 June 2014

South Africa: The Life of Brians - What the Hell Is Going On At UWC?


Long regarded as the intellectual home of the left in the province, the University of the Western Cape has been caught up in an unseemly controversy since 2012 as the "two Brians" at the 55-year-old institution - outgoing Rector and Vice Chancellor Brian O'Connell and President of the Convocation and Chair of Council, Brian Williams - have been locked in an apparent battle for the soul and ethos of the university. Last week Cosatu's Tony Ehrenreich weighed in supporting O'Connell over Williams but Ehrenreich's endorsement appears to have had no effect, as Williams emerged victorious at a surprisingly well-attended convocation AGM over weekend. MARIANNE THAMM tries to make sense of it.

It all began in 2012 with the simple enough matter of a proposed invitation to a Cuban ambassador to deliver a talk at a public dialogue event due to take place at the university in March that year. It wasn't an unusual or out-of-character occurrence for UWC, regarded locally as "the people's university" and the "intellectual home of the left" ("more home of the left behind" an old alumni jested affectionately). Besides, the university had, in the past, invited Cuban guests and had paid for their hotel and travel...

South Africa

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