Stellenbosch University VC Wim de Villiers has backing as motion of no confidence looms

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Professor Wim de Villiers.
Professor Wim de Villiers.
Lerato Maduna/Gallo Images/Beeld
  • The Stellenbosch University Senate has adopted a motion of confidence in and support of the rector and vice-chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers. 
  • It comes after a scathing report by the SA Human Rights Commission, which found that the university violated the rights of Afrikaans-speaking students. 
  • Meanwhile, De Villers will still face a motion of no confidence against him next month. 

The Stellenbosch University (SU) senate adopted a motion of confidence in and support of rector and vice-chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, following the release of a scathing report by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which found that the university violated the rights of Afrikaans-speaking students. 

The motion was tabled last week by Professor Geo Quinot of the faculty of law and seconded by Professor Mbulungeni Madiba, dean of the faculty of education.

The motion of confidence related to De Villers and his management's "pursuit of inclusivity and multilingualism at SU".

The motion read: "Having noted the SAHRC report of 14 March and SU's response to it, senate affirms its confidence in and support of the rector and vice-chancellor and his management team in their pursuit of inclusivity and multilingualism at SU."

In motivating the motion, Quinot submitted to the senate the recent announcement in the public media by a SU council member of the intention to institute a motion of no confidence in De Villiers at the council.

"I would like to state that: We as SU academic leaders are committed to multilingualism as set out by the SU language policy and indicated by the widespread implementation thereof by our university community," he said.

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Two weeks ago, the SAHRC released its findings following complaints that students at the university were being prevented from communicating in Afrikaans. 

The SAHRC found the university violated the rights of Afrikaans-speaking students when it was said they could only speak English in specific residences during their welcoming period. 

The report's release comes after both the DA and Freedom Front Plus filed a complaint with the SAHRC in March 2021. 

Quinot argued that the non-compliance with, or incorrect implementation of, such policy by certain groups and/or individuals in specific contexts within the institution does not support a vote of non-confidence in De Villers but instead supported the continued reflection by the university community on how to best become an inclusive and multilingual institution.

"Even the South African Human Rights Commission report couldn't find any fault with regards to our language policy, except one phrase which it recommended should be changed. We are not saying our language policy is perfect ... there is no such policy in the world," he stressed.

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Quinot added that while it might be true that SU's language policy needed to have been correctly interpreted by students at only two residences out of 31 residences during the orientation period as per the SAHRC report, "These mistakes cannot be taken to represent the state of language policy implementation in the university and the overall performance of the rector regarding the implementation of multilingualism in the university."

De Villers and the management team recused themselves from the senate meeting during the discussion of the motion.

Meanwhile, DA constituency head for Stellenbosch, Leon Schreiber, a member of the Stellenbosch University council, announced that he would table an urgent motion for the removal of De Villiers at the next council meeting.

"I can confirm that the motion of no confidence against De Villers has been scheduled to be heard at the next council meeting on 17 April," he said. 

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