The Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) Council faces the chop after angering Higher Education, Training and Innovation Minister, Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi, when it refused to follow a directive to cancel an advertisement for a new Vice Chancellor.
Kandjii-Murangi recently wrote to Council Chairperson, Esi Schiming-Chase, instructing her and Council not to go ahead with the recruitment process to fill in the position of NUST Vice Chancellor which was left vacant by Professor Tjama Tjivikua who retired at the end of March after almost 24 years at the helm of the institution.
The minister said that the recruitment of a new Vice Chancellor is best left to external members of Council to ensure that there is no conflict of interest during the hiring process.
“I also wish to bring to Council’s attention that as per the corporate governance principles, the current Council’s term has run its course as it ends in August 2019.
“In terms of the NUST Act, my office is under a statutory duty to start the process of recruiting the new Council three months before, a process that has commenced in earnest. It is not good corporate governance for an outgoing Council to recruit an incoming Chief Executive Officer,” Kandjii-Murangi said.
With this statement, the minister seems to have delivered a fatal blow to Council which had defied her directives on suspending the recruitment process for a new Vice Chancellor, lowering the experience of applicants and possibly giving the position to a woman.
The latest move by the minister will also likely give ammunition to claims by Tjivikua who recently warned Schimming-Chase of political interference in the governance and management of the university.
The Windhoek Observer recently reported that Tjivikua wrote a letter to Schimming-Chase advising her that Council should be concerned about the direct interference from Dr Kandjii-Murangi.
“[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,” Tjivikua claimed.
He further alleged that the minister’s interference and protection of her relatives had corroded the trust amongst the key role players of the university and had 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.
In a previous interview with the Windhoek Observer, the minister said 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.