Professor Lydia Nyati-Saleshando says the charges laid against her by University of Botswana (UB) over the controversial P45 million catering tender at the university, is part of a bigger plan to stop her sociolinguistics courses on language and ethnicity which are thought to incite students.“The level of animosity is unprecedented and the issues are so personalized to the level of not talking. It is always a threat to dismiss, never counseling, coaching or warning. Sometimes I wonder if all attempts to get rid of me fail, what should I expect next?” she said in a response to the charges.
Professor Nyati-Saleshando is charged with willful neglect of duty contrary to paragraphs 1.6, 2.2 and 3.5.3 of the University staff and disciplinary regulations and procedures as read with clause 4.4.3 of the University tender regulations and procurement procedures and section 21.1 as read with section 21.4 of the general conditions of service.
The university, in a letter to her, alleges that she was conflicted in the proceedings of a meeting which considered the evaluation of Tender No. UBT 2015/2016 – 07 for the provision of catering services at UB main campus, and that she failed to comply with the university tender regulation and procurement procedures when she chaired and participated in the deliberations of the interest from which she was expected to recuse herself. It is also alleged that she further failed to provide the Director, Human Resources with prior written notification of her interest direct or otherwise as required by the University General conditions of service.
Responding to the charges, Professor Nyati-Saleshando said her reading of the situation was that management had no interest in defending the institutional position, but were very eager to cancel the tender and place blame on her. She said this is evidenced by how the university deliberately ignored its own Act to which she and the committee complied. This, she said, was a deliberate ploy to find fault with her so that she loses her job and her benefits which she has deligently worked for- for the past 33 years.
“As a socio-linguist, my ideas about language and ethnicity in Botswana have not been well taken by some people. As a result, my going back to class is not attractive to some people,” she said, also revealing that there were plans to close the Department of Primary Education where she teaches.
Professor Nyathi-Saleshando said attempts to get rid of her started in 2014 when she was reported to the Chairman of Council and threatened with dismissal if she observed The Sabbath on graduation day. “Secondly I was reported to the Council for not sanctioning students who had unkind words with management. I felt this last step should certainly be done by someone else, but management felt I should do all four actions, and if I did not, I was incompetent.”
According to Professor Nyathi-Saleshando, the act is very clear on the conditions under which the decision can be nullified. “The conflicted person should have failed to declare their interest and they should have direct interest…I had declared my interest as recorded on the form and in the minutes. My interest was indirect in that I derive no benefit from Dr Saleshando’s company, who is my step son. This is also recorded in the minutes. These sets of minutes were submitted to the Tender Committee and the Finance Committee as it is practice,” she writes.
She further stated that, management had the opportunity to respond to Moghul’s letter of inquiry by simply referring to the Act that the committee directed her to participate and close the leadership gap observed. She notes that, should Moghul have been further informed that the conditions for sustaining the tender were satisfied, Moghul would have never gone to court, thus preventing cancellation of the award.
“Further, there was a second opportunity to defend the position of the finance committee in court using the Act, the supreme law and safeguard the reputation of the university, its structures and its processes. My letter of April 25th, 2016 was my attempt to facilitate this process,” she said, adding that, instead management rushed to judgment, excommunicating her, conceded in court, canceled the tender and advertised, and then called the finance committee to endorse its decisions.
She said management therefore willfully and seriously neglected duty by deliberately missing two golden opportunities to defend the position of the university by setting aside her letter of April 26th, 2016 in which she was advising management not to concede in court because she and the committee had fully complied with the University Act. She said management grossly neglected duty, which resulted in the rushed cancellation of the award of the tender.