Avatar photo

By Getrude Makhafola

Premium Journalist


Stellenbosch: Billionaire Christo Wiese backs motion against Heunis

Opposing groups of Stellenbosch University staff and alumni lobbied for support ahead of the meeting.


Voting got underway on Thursday night over the motion to remove Stellenbosch University (SU) convocation head Advocate Jan Heunis after nepotism allegations against Vice-Chancellor Wim de Villiers gripped the institution.

Billionaire businessman and alumni Christo Wiese took to the podium at the extraordinary convocation meeting held at Bloemhof Girls’ High in Stellenbosch.

Speaking in Afrikaans, Wiese told the audience that the motion had nothing to do with De Villiers.

He said the executive committee had no right to go ahead against De Villiers without consulting convocation.

“I will be voting for motion number one [against Heunis] because the executive committee did not follow proper processes and procedures,” he said.

The embattled vice-chancellor’s fight for his academic career will receive a slight reprieve should Heunis be ousted.

Lobbying

The motion against Heunis is also supported by prominent SU academics such as Thuli Madonsela and Jonathan Jansen.

Weeks of lobbying by opposing factions went on for weeks through social media platforms and chat groups.

ALSO READ: Stellenbosch nepotism probe: Staff called to make submissions

Hundreds of SU alumni, and current and former staff members gathered at Bloemhof Girls’ High while more than 400 others dialled in online.

Online voting opened last night and is set to close after 24 hours.

‘Sowing divisions’

The motion to remove Heunis and his executive committee, except his deputy Dr Rudy Buys, was brought by Dr Louise Van Rhyn in May.

The second motion was against Buys. Supporters in Van Rhyn’s want him to stay on, while others accuse him of “sowing divisions” among the convocation.

ALSO READ: Stellenbosch University council to probe ‘grave’ nepotism claims against embattled VC

In his address, Buys said all he did was try to build rapport in the convocation that split into two groups following the vice-chancellor’s nepotism accusations.

Heunis is backed by the other convocation section, including Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Leon Schreiber.

His supporters say Heunis has an “unimpeachable” integrity, criticising others for blaming Heunis “while ignoring De Villiers’ actions.”

The embattled convocation president on Thursday denied allegations that he is racist, and even gave remarks about how he gets along with other race groups.

Madonsela urged attendees to not undermine accountability.

“People refuse to be held accountable once they are elected Accountability is succinct and non-negotiable, no one is above the law,” she said.

In April, the council acknowledged Heunis motion calling on the vice-chancellor to resign, but opted to launch a probe before taking any action.

Retired Judge Carole Lewis is heading the investigation.

Voting results are expected to be announced Friday night.

NOW READ: Inside Stellenbosch University’s tug of war over beleaguered vice-chancellor

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits