12 June 2019

Namibia: Nust Council Chair Schools Minister

Namibia University of Science and Technology council chairperson, Esi Schimming-Chase says the higher education minister's interference shows bad governance.

Schimming-Chase said this on Monday in a letter addressed to higher education minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi. The Namibian reported last week that the minister refused to allow the Nust council to readvertise the vacant post of vice chancellor, since they will be gone in two months.

Secretary to the council, Moss Garde confirmed the letter to The Namibianyesterday, adding that the chairperson is scheduled to have a meeting with the minister in due course.

"Until further notice, the university is not in a position to make any further comments," he added.

In the letter dated 10 June, the council chairperson explained that according to the Namibian Constitution, nothing permits the minister from dictating the actions of the council.

"I am constrained to point out that the purported attempt to direct council to cancel the re-advertisement process, which was resolved by council some time ago with the honourable minister's knowledge and some three days before the closing date of the re-advertisement, is legally invalid and a breach of every notion of good governance," Schimming-Chase said in the letter.

She further explained that Nust remains an 'independent and juristic person' by law, capable of suing and being sued, even though it is a state-owned enterprise, and council remains the highest decision-making body in terms of the Nust Act 15 of 2015.

Schimming-Chase noted that the Nust Act provides that the vice chancellor is appointed by the council in the manner prescribed by the statutes for an initial period of five years, on such conditions of employment and privileges as determined by the council.

"This is why I advised in my earlier correspondence to you that you share your concerns at a properly constituted Nust meeting, and to allow the council members to deliberate without interfering in their constitutional rights," she stressed.

She added: "To suggest that you can direct council members on what to do, or direct council what to do, is egregious abuse of your powers, and flies in the face of the provisions of the Namibian Constitution as the supreme law, as well as the Nust Act."

The council chairperson also suggested that the minister addresses council on the issues she has raised in the next meeting, and in line with the laws that govern constitutional democracy, to allow council to take a decision forward, whether to suspend recruitment or not, without ministerial interference.

Schimming-Chase said the higher education minister's actions manifest an illegal and embarrassing attempt at micromanaging the institution.

She added that she was disappointed that the minister engaged with certain staff members directly on issues concerning council, including the day-to-day management at Nust, and then act on vague, unparticularised and unsubstantiated information received from them, without taking the time to listen to the other side.

"This undermines and is an unfortunate example of bad governance," she stressed.

Schimming-Chase continued that there are firmly established procedures contained in the Nust statutes and regulations for the resolution of grievances, which the minister has effectively allowed staff members to bypass.

She said the minister's conduct displayed favouritism towards certain staff members and encouraged insubordination which was damaging to the proper functioning and repetation of Nust.

Former Nust vice chancellor Tjama Tjivikua previously accused the minister of directing council members to protect or shield certain staff members and promote her relatives' interests, adding that some council members "simply dance to the minister's tune, and neglect to carry out their statutory responsibilities."

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