SU probes claims VC attempted to influence language policy case

Judge Burton Fourie to investigate Wim de Villiers' approach to Edwin Cameron

Stellenbosch University probes claims that VC attempted to influence language policy case

5 November 2019

Stellenbosch University has launched an independent investigation into allegations that Vice Chancellor Wim de Villiers tried to influence the Constitutional Court case on the university's language policy.

Chairperson of the university's council, George Steyn, said retired Judge Burton Fourie would lead the independent investigation, which would be conducted in the interests of "good governance" and "transparency".

"It is envisaged that a written report with the findings of the investigation will be tabled and considered at the next scheduled Council meeting on December 2, 2019," said Steyn in a statement this past week.

In a statement last Sunday, DA Stellenbosch constituency leader Leon Schreiber said the party was shocked to learn in media reports that De Villiers had "allegedly attempted to improperly influence former Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron by offering him the position of Chancellor at SU while the university was a respondent in front of the court in the case about its language policy to practically eliminate Afrikaans from the university".

Schreiber continued: "According to media reports, De Villiers persisted in his attempts to tempt Cameron with the position of Chancellor, even after Cameron initially declined the inappropriate offer."

'Acted in good faith'

De Villiers has strongly denied the accusations.

"I did not interfere with the legal process. I am satisfied that I acted in good faith, and that the nomination and election followed due process," SU's statement read, quoting De Villiers.

The Constitutional Court ruled last month that the language policy is constitutionally justified.

Organisation Gelyke Kanse (Equal Opportunities), along with the president of the convocation of the university and others, initially took the case to the Western Cape High Court to have the policy reviewed and set aside.

It was the applicants' belief that the policy infringed on the rights of Afrikaans-speaking students.

Cameron meanwhile was announced in September as the university's new chancellor with effect from January 2020 - after a vote by the university's electoral college - taking over from Johann Rupert whose term ends on December 31.

He was also appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as Inspecting Judge of the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) - an independent prison watchdog.

Cameron retired from the Constitutional Court bench in August after 11 years.