Tjivikua alleges political interference at NUST 

17 May 2019 Author   NYASHA FRANCIS NYAUNGWA

Founding Vice Chancellor of the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), Dr Tjama Tjivikua, has warned NUST Council Chairperson, Esi Schimming-Chase, of political interference in the governance and management of the university. 

In a letter seen by the Windhoek Observer this week, Tjivikua, who retired from NUST at the end of March after almost 24 years at the helm of the country’s second biggest university, said Council should be concerned about the direct interference from the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi. 
Schimming-Chase confirmed the authenticity of the letter in a brief interview with the Windhoek Observer on Thursday.
The NUST Council Chairperson said she sat down with Tjivikua who expressed his concerns to her before he wrote the letter. 
Tjivikua’s uneasiness with Kandjii-Murangi’s involvement at NUST seems to stem from the minister’s directive demanding that he vacate the position of Acting Vice Chancellor on 31 March in order to ensure a smooth transition without his interference. 
Tjivikua was initially requested by Council to continue serving as Acting Vice Chancellor until June 2019 after his contract expired in September last year. 
The academic was not happy with the manner in which he was asked to leave the university.
He told Schimming-Chase that the Council should be concerned about the conduct of certain of its members who simply dance to the minister’s tunes and who neglect to carry out their statutory responsibilities. 
“Some have sided with staff members to the detriment of the university’s management.  A case in point is the matter of unresolved grievances and pending disciplinary hearings, which delay was caused by the minister’s directive to suspend all disciplinary actions against members associated to her during my extended tenure. 
“[The minister] has issued directives, ultra vires, to the chairperson and the Vice Chancellor, to blatantly protect or shield certain staff members and promote her relatives’ interests.  This is interference in the institution’s autonomy and demarcation of responsibilities.”
This is in reference to the appeal hearing of sacked Director for Marketing and Communication, Kaitira Kandjii, which went ahead in November despite Kandjii-Murangi’s directive.
In a letter dated 09 October 2018 addressed to Schimming-Chase, the minister directed that all disciplinary actions and suspensions that were pending at the time be put on hold.
The minister advised then that the strategic focus of NUST as it prepared for the exit of Tjivikua should be on aspects that enhance performance of the university.
“…it is thus our view that the vice chancellor should prepare for his exit by identifying strategic issues that are still outstanding and make suggestions in terms of how he would have addressed these issues.
“You are therefore kindly requested to ensure that all disciplinary actions and suspensions that the vice chancellor is busy with are put on hold. Please note that the outgoing vice chancellor should enter into no new commitments on behalf of the institution,” the letter from Kandjii-Murangi read.
Tjivikua alleged that the minister’s interference and protection of her relatives has corroded the trust amongst the key role players of the university and have empowered or encouraged certain staff members to act with impunity. 
“Thus non-performing and delinquent staff members have formed a “lobby group” enjoying the minister’s support. They are now poised to take over the university and purge it of those seen with or associated with me.”
He said the culture of non-performance and impunity, being advanced by various interferences, has resulted in the wasteful expenditure of resources. 
“This has sown a very bad atmosphere in the university, with the consequence of detrimental, demoralising and pernicious effects on all other university staff. Already this practice has promoted mediocrity and has caused the university to lose some of its top performers recently,” Tjivikua said.  
The minister told the Windhoek Observer on Thursday that she was surprised by the allegations from Tjivikua. 
“I really don’t understand where all this is coming from. I worked with Tjivikua for four years and there was never one single moment where he complained either to me or to the media of my interference.  Why would he work with me for four years and then when he was about to leave he writes such a letter?  I am really fed up.”
Kandjii-Murangi said the letter from Tjivikua deserves to be treated with the contempt it deserves, while denying favouring Kandjii, who is her relative.
“If Kandjii is my relative, so what?  It was not only Kandjii, but there were others, four of them, who were facing disciplinary charges.  
“Why would Tjivikua want to discipline people when he was about to exit NUST?  He wanted to create chaos for the incoming VC to quell, and that is not fair,” the minister said. 
“The man has done so well for that institution and no one will ever take that away from him, but he cannot, as he leaves, try to destroy the one thing that he has built.”

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