• Tjivikua, Niikondo rift
• Corruption claims raised by previous council
• Gunzel employed way past retirement age
• Tjivikua’s two-decade tenure
• Niikondo still without employment contract
The founding Namibia University of Science and Technology Council, which comprises several high-skilled individuals, will begin its three-year term facing a myriad of issues threatening to cripple the institution.
Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi, unveiled the new council, which she urged to strive to uphold a professional relationship for the sake of the institution.
The minister’s remarks came when she responded to media queries surrounding council infightings, which haunted the previous council at the unveiling ceremony.
The previous council was divided over issues related to alleged corruption at the institution, in-fighting between the vice-chancellor Professor Tjama Tjivikua and his deputy Dr Andrew Niikondo, the continued serving of Dr Gert Gunzel despite him being a decade past the mandatory retirement age of 65, Tjivikua’s marathon tenure at the helm of the institution and the fact that Niikondo continues to work without an employment since last year.
“It is important to do first things first, today we are inaugurating a council that has the full mandate to delve into the issues that are topical at that institution and I believe many of the issues itemised are obviously some of the issues they will have to address once they are fully constituted.
By that I am saying I do not think it is proper to put the cart before the horse, we must allow them to settle and familiarise themselves with the issues that require immediate attention and then we move on and see if those issues will be addressed or not,” said Kandjii-Murangi, who chose to get rid of the entire previous council.
Kandjii-Murangi pleaded with the media to give the new council members time to settle and familiarise themselves with the issues at NUST before they can comment on them. “I think it is unfair to present those questions at this point in time.”
Regarding Tjivikua’s tenure at the helm of the institution, she said: “I must say each institution has procedures regarding termination points. But if an institution realises it needs to extend services of individual, it is its prerogative do so.
“This is my first year-and-a-half into serving as minister, many of the contracts and appointments were done prior to my time and by saying this I am not saying I do not have to deal with challenges of some contracts. We are dealing with those, and with this council some will be resolved with time,” she explained.
Although there are those who are calling for the university to replace Tjivikua because of the length of time he has led the institution, many have warned that his departure could threaten the stability of the institution, which Tjivikua managed to transform into a world-class university that attracts students from all over the continent from a mere technikon when he took over more than 20 years ago.
Tjivikua even received several numerous international awards for the way in which he has been handling the affairs of the institution.
Despite the minister indicating that the rift between Tjivikua and Niikondo has been resolved, NUST insiders have something else to say.
“It cannot be true that the situation is resolved because those [Tjivikua and Niikondo] two still do not see eye to eye. It is true they were called in by the minister to solve the matter, but I can confidently say that they hardly talk,” said the insider.
Kandjii-Murangi admitted that there was indeed a rift but indicated that it has since been resolved.
“The rift was there but we dealt with it. I called them in and we addressed it,” said the minister, who indicated that she is not aware that Niikondo continues to work without signing any employment contract.
“Employment contract does not have to be in writing to be a formal employment contract. Give us a chance to get together so that we can look at challenges like the minister has said. We need to get together and look at these things to determine the way forward,” said Advocate Esi Schimming-Chase – one of the new council members, who interjected when the minister was being questioned about Niikondo’s contract saga.
She went on to say: “Conflict is part of life. I am not concerned about conflict but rather the resolution of conflict.”
The external members of the council are Markus von Jeney, Advocate Esi Schimming-Chase, Maureen Kambala, Michael Mutonga, Samuel Januarie, Mercy Situmbeko, Kondjeni Nkandi, Dr. Michael Humavindu, Goms Menette, Linda Aipinge and Raimo Naanda.
While the internal council members will comprise of NUST vice chancellor, the three deputy vice chancellors, a member of the NUST student representative council, a member of Senate, a member of the NUST alumni and two staff members.
The minister urged Council to ensure that programmes developed at NUST meet the needs of the industry.
“Too many of our graduates are in the streets and we cannot be producing for the streets. The graduates must become self-employed or absorbed in some industry. If we can begin to engage the industry early during the programme development stage we will succeed,” she said.
She also stressed the need for a good working relationship within the institution.
“Relationships are critical, be it with themselves [Council], with the senior management and with staff members. This is something that needs to be cultivated and board members must define the relationship and lay parameters, but it has to be a professional relationship that demands results,” the minister said.
She also singled out skills development of locals as one of the areas that need to be looked at in order to boost the country’s human resource pool.
She further listed land scarcity, water shortage, drought and food security as some of the biggest challenges facing the nation, and urged council to “ensure that research and innovation is keenly pursued to find solutions to problems facing the country”.
The minister said the aspect of relationships within the institution, as well as between the institution and the ministry was critical and urged “regular feedback on good and bad things so that we can work together”.
She also highlighted the importance of financial prudence and ensuring that graduates are employable upon completing their studies.
“Taxpayers must get their money’s worth and we need to have a good support system in place to assist students,” she said.
Council members will select the chairperson and deputy chairperson themselves once they meet for the inaugural council meeting.