… Fired in South Africa, hired in Namibia
- Paid R100 000 less than previous job
- My coming was never about money
When Professor Errol Tyobeka was shown the door at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in 2010, Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) was probably the last place on his mind as he plotted his next move. Tyobeka was left jobless when TUT refused to renew his five-year contract. He then took the university to court to have its decision to advertise his position declared unlawful. In 2011 he landed a job at NUST as Professor Tjama Tjivikua’s special advisor. Two years prior to his sacking, Tyobeka was the fifth highest earning vice chancellor at all 23 public universities in South Africa, reportedly raking in R1.93 million When Professor Errol Tyobeka was shown the door at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in 2010, Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) was probably the last place on his mind as he plotted his next move.
Tyobeka was left jobless when TUT refused to renew his five-year contract. He then took the university to court to have its decision to advertise his position declared unlawful. In 2011 he landed a job at NUST as Professor Tjama Tjivikua’s special advisor. Two years prior to his sacking, Tyobeka was the fifth highest earning vice chancellor at all 23 public universities in South Africa, reportedly raking in R1.93 million per year (N$161 000 monthly), according to a 2008 Mail and Guardian report. Documents seen by this publication, indicate that in 2013 Tyobeka, a fully qualified biochemist was earning around N$739 000 at his current employer. He did not confirm or deny the figures presented but explained that: “It should be noted that while I am unable to confirm the amount claimed I earned in 2008, however, it needs to be stressed that money was never a prime motivation for me to join NUST.” Media reports surrounding the case cited court papers in which Tyobeka claimed that TUT rules stated that he could be appointed for a second term based on his performance and that university council chairwoman Dr Nono Mohutsioa-Mathabathe had voiced her support that his contract be renewed.
Tyobeka, who also served in South Africa’s public service as Chief Director in Public Science and International Relations in the Ministry of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, refused to comment on his salary when questioned why he took such a hefty pay cut and his decision to look for a job in Namibia. Despite claims that he was hired directly by Tjivikua, Tyobeka maintained that: “After my service at the Tshwane University of Technology I did apply for a position at NUST and after going through the selection process the Council offered me the position of Special Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor.” “It is a fact that I had serious disagreements with the leadership of the institution regarding to how they had intended to handle the process of appointing a vice-chancellor. The long and short was that this matter ended up at a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) where a settlement was reached and underpinned by mutual agreement on non-disclosure between the two parties was reached.”
Tyobeka added that: “However, the fact that I had acquired over 30 years of experience at different levels of the higher education system and more specifically, that I had been part of the process of transformation of the Technikons that were upgraded to Universities of Technology and managed such institutions undergoing change, therefore, I was convinced that I could make a meaningful contribution to an institution in transition.”Tyobeka’s journey in the higher education sector started over 35 years ago when he started as a research assistant at the University of Fort Hare and later as a teaching assistant at University of Witwatersrand. Remembering vividly his teaching days, Tyobeka described it as: “A wonderful period of inspiring young students to achieve whatever they wished, supporting postgraduate students and mentoring junior staff members, while through establishing networks pursued serious research on chemical agents that regulate growth of cancer cells.” In 2001 he became a deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic affairs at the Technikon Witwatersrand and when it merged with the Rand Afrikaans University and a campus of Vista University to form the University of Johannesburg he served as interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic and External Affairs.
“I was part of the executive that steered the merger of these institutions,” Tyobeka said proudly. In 2005 I was appointed Vice- Chancellor and Principal of Tshwane University of Technology, a new university which was also an outcome of a merger of three institutions, Pretoria Technikon, Technikon North West, and Technikon Northern Gauteng. “Hence, I was charged with directing and managing the transformation of this institution, which over the period of my 5-year contract was successfully implemented.”
State of Namibia’s tertiary education
Tyobeka views Namibia’s higher education sector as a young and dynamic sector that has done extremely well for itself. “It does, however, require greater support and resourcing in order to strengthen the research and innovation capacity, which would then unleash the potential to impact significantly on the developmental agenda of the country,” said the professor. Coming from a country that boasts 23 public universities, compared to two in Namibia, he credited local institutions, saying they are on the right developmental trajectory, provided they keep focus on continuous improvement in their mandate. Asked what Namibia can do to lure more local students to local universities instead of opting to cross the Orange river and what the situation depicts of the overall state of local tertiary institutions, Tyobeka said: “It is encouraging that there is a growing public confidence in our local institutions, however, this will not and should not dissuade a component of our students from studying outside the country. This injection of external ideas and approaches to our higher education system can only strengthen the system.”
Regarding his current job, his mandate includes providing strategic support to the Vice-Chancellor and working with the VC on projects deemed a priority for the institution. However, the Special Advisor’s function is not limited to servicing the Vice-Chancellor only, but it also entails working with all the other members of the executives on various facets of the institution, he explained. Tyobeka said he also participated in the development of the legislative and policy frameworks governing NUST and activities related to the transformation agenda of the institution.