By Kelvin Chiringa
Council chairperson at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), Advocate Esi Schimming-Chase has reportedly reached out to university chancellor and speaker of parliament, Professor Peter Katjavivi to call higher education minister Itah Kandjii-Murangi to order for interfering in affairs outside her powers.
This comes amidst latest revelations that Kandjii-Murangi wanted to use her power to influence the re-advertising of the vice chancellor position.
A few weeks ago she wanted the whole process halted altogether.
Schimming-Chase has in the meantime refused to be cajoled by Kandjii-Murangi. Leaked emails seen by The Patriot also reveal that member of the Joint Search Committee of Council and Senate (JSCCS) Dr. Michael Humavindu has been accused of siding with Kandjii-Murangi, an accusation he demanded clarified.
It also appears that there has been pressure from Humavindu to sideline recently appointed acting Vice-Chancellor Morné Du Toit, and the registrar, from attending Council proceedings. This is according to an email sent from Schimming-Chase to Humavindu. “Whether a Council meeting or JSCCS meeting takes place they must be there if it is to be a duly constituted meeting of the Council or JSCCS. Otherwise the meetings you suggest are informal meetings, and in that case it would be sufficient if a meeting is arranged between the chancellor who is the legal titular head of NUST, the minister, myself and the Vice Chair only,” she said.
Schimming-Chase stands up to Kandjii-Murangi
In a communication dated May the 28th 2019 to the minister, Schimming-Chase said Kandjii-Murangi’s direction of council to halt the re-advertising of the position would be in breach of the NUST Act and Article 18 of the Namibian constitution.
The letter was also copied to President Hage Geingob, Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, Professor Katjavivi and Prime Minister Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
“NUST can certainly bring your views to the attention of council at a formal special meeting, which would have to be called in terms of the procedures contained in the NUST statutes, however I cannot direct members to vote in a certain way,” said the chairperson.
The minister declined to comment on whether she had issued a directive to the council in connection with the re-advertising of the position.
“Look, I am not in a position to discuss this with you right now and I am sure you are in receipt of all my letters, the first one that I wrote and the second one that I wrote, so really I cannot discuss this in the media like you want me to,” she said.
Schimming-Chase has also indicated that the closing date for the advertisement was on May the 31st.
In the letter, she further reveals that Kandjii-Murangi is in favour of the vacant position being filled by a female without lowering standards as enshrined in the NUST statutes which gives preference to a Namibian.
However, Schimming-Chase also discloses in the letter that Kandjii-Murangi’s office maintained its silence on a draft advertisement delivered by hand to her permanent secretary for review in advance of the advertisement.
It was not clear at the time of going to print whether the minister had issues with the NUST recruitment agency, Heidrick and Struggles The agency, according to Schimming-Chase, was appointed for one year following the procedures set out in the Public Procurement Act No. 15 of 2015. Schimming-Chase has nevertheless told the minister that the contract NUST has with the agency could not be cancelled “without severe financial penalty or even possibly a lawsuit”.
“It is to be borne in mind that NUST must abide by its statutes and associated procedures in recruiting a vice chancellor and that the accepted scoring must be completed by the Joint Search Committee alone,” she told Kandjii-Murangi.
Chronology of events at NUST
Meanwhile extracts of minutes gleaned by The Patriot from the university’s council, at a special meeting held on January the 29th this year resolved to have five candidates shortlisted for interviews for the position of vice chancellor.
Further, NUST’s Joint Search Committee of Council and Senate (JSCCS) reviewed interview results of five candidates who had been shortlisted at a February.
The candidates were interviewed by the JSCCS and invited panelists and made presentations to NUST stakeholders between the 7th and 9th of February 2019.
Council then discussed a report of the JSCCS that head-hunting be considered as a viable alternative since the JCSSC was not in a position to recommend a certain candidate given concerns raised.
It was also noted that none of the candidates was able to present a clear vision for NUST and none stood out.
As such, council resolved to re-advertise the position while the management committee of the NUST council recommended the appointment of Morne du Toit as acting chancellor with effect from April the 1st 2019 for a period of one year or until the position is substantially filled. The appointment of Du Toit was received by protest from NUST lecturers who considered him a junior member of staff. “His appointment comes as surprise because he has no PhD. Du Toit is an accountant and the Deputy VC for Finance,” one lecturer is quoted by a weekly as saying.
However, the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) threw its weight behind him. “Under the threat of capture of NUST by those with ties to the enemies of our progress, we were compelled to look into Mr Morné Du Toit who has been appointed as VC at the institution.
We found that he is a Chartered Accountant, holds a Master of Commerce. He has lectured before at UJ, has run a private education institution before as well. Also, he has worked internationally in Saudi Arabia.
“We would therefore like to thank the board for not giving in to undue pressure to appoint someone with not only a confirmed sordid agenda, but known ties to those hell-bent to undermine our progress and for completely doing away with the initial idea of rotation of acting VC’s,” said SPYL in a statement.