June 8, 2015, 9:04am
A call for Tjivikua's head
By Shinovene Immanuel
THE vice chairperson of the Polytechnic of Namibia council, Silas-Kishi Shakumu, has proposed that the institution's rector, Tjama Tjivikua, should be suspended, investigated and disciplined.
In an email seen by The Namibian at the weekend and sent to the council, Shakumu says Tjivikua must face a disciplinary hearing on allegations of victimising fellow top officials.
Shakumu's call is linked to a grievance letter written last month by deputy rector for academic affairs Andrew Niikondo to the council in which he alleged victimisation by Tjivikua.
The email was apparently in response to council member Loide Shaanika, who questioned where the chair and deputy chair of council stood regarding the deeply fractured council over Niikondo, whose contract ends this month.
Some council members want an urgent meeting to discuss the contract and the complaints by Niikando, which would mean that Tjivikua will be investigated.
Others who are said to be on Tjivikua's side want a meeting at the end of June or early July, which some say will be too late since Niikondo's contract would have lapsed.
This would also mean that Niikando's grievances will not be valid since he would have ceased to be a vice rector but an ordinary lecturer at the institution.
The Polytechnic wants to charge Niikondo for incompetence among others, while sources have alleged that there is a plan to split his office.
Shakumu said although Niikondo and other top officials complained about Tjivikua's alleged mistreatment, council did not act against the rector but they were targeted instead.
“Under normal circumstances, where two or more employees complain to council, they should both be treated equally, meaning the rector should also be disciplined and if necessary be suspended to pave way for investigations,” Shakumu wrote in the email.
Shakumu, a northern-based lawyer, said Tjivikua should have appointed a panel from the senate and council to determine whether there is a case against his deputy.
He further said a decision would then be made depending on the recommendation on whether to discipline Niikondo or not.
Shakumu said once the panel recommended and depending on the strengths of the case against a staff member, council would then resolve, after applying its mind to the claims, whether to institute disciplinary action.
“To apply your mind means to consider all the relevant factors and potential prejudice against the staff member involved. As far as I am concerned, specific claims against Niikondo were never presented to council. All what council was presented with are bare claims of incapacity,” Shakumu said.
He said the council needed to be briefed in detail on the allegations to pronounce itself on the possible charges against Niikondo.
“Action is taken against Niikondo in the month his contract ends. This issue has been concealed from the council and we had to learn about it from the media. Until now his contract was not placed on the agenda,” Shakumu said. “It appears that the intended hearing is aimed at unduly influencing the council in its considerations of the extension or termination of Niikondo's agreement.”
The email by Shakumu is not the first in recent weeks after another one which he wrote on 27 May 2015, calling for an urgent meeting on 29 May 2015 to discuss the claims made by Niikando against Tjivikua.
It is in that email where he also raised the issue of remuneration of board members; the persistent sidelining of council members from key decisions and the disciplinary action against Niikondo which he believes is unlawful.
Responding to the first email, Polytechnic council chairperson Evelyn Breuer told Shakumu that she would call for a special meeting as soon as possible through the secretary of council, Corneels Jafta, who doubles as the Polytechnic registrar.
Breuer, however, said council should be given reasonable notice of any meeting.
Some council members allege that Breuer and Jafta are delaying the meeting to decide Niikondo's fate and the allegations against Tjivikua by planning to have it on 29 June or 3 July this year.
Jafta, in his email on 2 June 2015, said a meeting would only be held on 3 July 2015, which meant that Niikondo's contract could be discussed three days after it expired.
Breuer defended the legality of disciplining the vice rector for incompetency, saying: “Niikondo's matter has been decided upon by a quorum of council, duly constituted. The decision taken was lawful.”
Shaanika, a unionist council member, in her emailed response questioned why their call for an urgent meeting was being ignored.
“Be reminded that Polytechnic is a public institution and all council members have equal rights. Let us not undermine each other please,” she wrote.
Breuer refused to answer detailed questions yesterday, telling The Namibian that her mandate as chair “is to act with due diligence and integrity for the sake of the Polytechnic of Namibia”.
“It is interesting for me to notice that a/some council member/s opt to discuss council issues in your newspaper rather than in council meetings. So, I look forward to reading your newspaper in the coming days and weeks ahead,” she said.
Shakumu and Niikondo refused to comment, while Tjivikua did not respond to emails, SMSes and calls.
The council is also divided over plans to give top jobs to foreigners while there are Namibians qualified to take up the posts.
Brian de Lacy Figaji, a council member, who is based in South Africa, complained about travelling to Namibia for meetings that do not take place.