- Makhema in office for less than six months
- Makhema denies all allegations
LAWRENCE SERETSE & LETLHOGILE MPUANG
Disgruntled members of the University of Botswana Academic & Senior Staff Union (UBASSSU) are expected to table a petition of no confidence on the university’s council chairman Dr Joseph Makhema.
The Botswana Gazette is in possession of a 23 page document written by the UB staff union in which they reveal the deteriorating relations between UB staff and their chairman, less than six months after being appointed to the post.
“When UBASSSU asked for a meeting before the end of the year (i.e 2018) to bring the Chairman of the Council’s attention pressing welfare matters negatively affecting our members such as appointments and renewals of contracts of some in the employ of the University, Dr Makhema flatly refused. This was the first instance of attack on his pledge to embrace dialogue and uphold good corporate governance,” states the petition.
The document reveals that at a meeting held on 18th January 2019, Makhema made it clear to the attendees that as the council, they have VETO powers, which invoked the ire of the university employees.
“This kind of statement is at variance with practice of the rule of law that makes any decision of any tribunal or public body or corporate entity to be subject to the judicial review by the law courts of Botswana. The Chairman of the council also made a decision for the University to not pay the University of Botswana staff their deserved performance related rewards after the conclusion of the 2018 calendar year’s assessment cycle and this communication having made directly to the UB staff by him without the Vice Chancellor’s participation, is evidence of a person who pays lip service to due process.”
The UB staff further accuse Dr Makhema of conflict of interest. According to their claims a law firm believed to have close ties with Makhema is currently contracted by the university. In addition, the UB staff claim that there have been instances where condonation of violation of due process in the making of administrative decisions such as appointments and promotions, has been given without justification.
“From our interaction with Council Chairman it has revealed a man who lacks proper and sound understanding of the identity of the University of Botswana as a comprehensive public tertiary education institution constituted by an Act of parliament, which gives life to its existence. The Council’s chairman says for example the academic staff should attract funding to pay their salaries, conference funding and all sundry, as a norm rather than an added advantage in the financial operational efficiencies of the institution. Then we wonder who then will pay for those employees designated as support staff?”
“UBASSSU, further submits that the chairman of the Council should be the emissary of the University of Botswana, a person eager to challenge the designs of any orchestrated plan by some elites to hold the University of Botswana Management at ransom, thereby making it difficult for it to carry out its mandate of spearheading and enabling the University to discharge its functions. Et now, we have a chairman of the council who seems to act in complicity with those who desire to suffocate the University of Botswana through leveraging the control and operations of allocation and disbursement of funds not to equitably support its purpose and operations, in turn creating a climate of industrial restiveness.”
The Botswana Gazette sought confirmation of the document from UBASSSU Chairman Kaelo Molefhe, who confirmed that they are in the process of submitting a petition to the relevant authorities, before the end of the month.
When reached for comment about the allegations raised in the petition seen by this publication, Makhema denied all allegations. “There has never been any complaint that has been brought to my attention,” he strongly refuted the claims.
“In fact I challenge anyone who is making these allegations to come out and produce proof. I have met all stakeholders of the university and there has never been anyone, who has raised any complaint whatsoever.”
Also reached for comment, UB Vice Chancellor David Norris confirmed knowledge of the staff members’ complaints but said there had been no formal communication to his office yet.
Makhema joined UB late last year, replacing former President Ian Khama’s lawyer and ally Parks Tafa, whose departure from the post was not short of its own controversy.