By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
The University of Namibia (Unam) is threatening its Head of Department for Accounting, Auditing and Taxation, as well as a lecturer in the Faculty of Education with action if they do not comply with its policies regarding participation in “party politics” before February 29.
New Era has also reliably learnt that in a resolution adopted by the University Council on November 23 last year, the university has also decided to bar staff members from holding political office. In this regard, Vice Chancellor Lazarus Hangula issued a circular last Wednesday barring staff members from holding office in any political party, or to go on unpaid leave if they choose to do so.
The barring of Unam’s staff from active politics comes in the wake of recent public pronouncements by the Swapo Party’s Youth League Secretary for Information and Mobilisation, Charles Siyauya.
Siyauya is a staff member at Unam attached to the International Office.
However, it is believed that Siyauya and the Swapo Party branch that has been active on campus, is an unfortunate target of the unintended and unforeseen consequences of Unam’s anti-party politics policy.
Unam’s policy “Terms and Conditions of Service”, that has been dormant for years, bar among others, Unam’s staff from undertaking “outside work, which might encroach upon the time expected to be devoted to their University duties”. Although staff members may attend any legal political party meeting and take part in its discussions, they “may not preside or act as a speaker at such meeting”.
Staff members may also not conduct their political activities in such a way that they become an “embarrassment” to the University. They may also not “conduct party politics on campus or use bodies, meetings, et cetera to promote specific politically oriented aims.” It also prevents staff members from compiling or delivering public addresses to further or prejudice the interests of a political party.
Rather they have been caught in the crossfire that Unam, in particular its Pro-Vice Chancellor for Academic and Research, Osmund Mwandemele, seems to have unleashed against specifically the Swanu president, Usutuaije Maamberua, and his secretary general, Dr Tangeni Iyambo, a lecturer in the Education Faculty. Maamberua and Iyambo were elected to the respective positions at the Swanu Congress on November 9 last year.
Incidentally, the first communication from Mwandemele to the two Swanu office bearers was reportedly on November 14, shortly after their election.
New Era is so far not aware of any such communication being at the same time directed to any other political party’s Unam staff members other than the two Swanu office bearers, even in the past.
This is despite the fact that staff members of other political parties have occupied leadership positions, with Siyauya again coming to mind.
The former Swanu president, Dr Rihupisa Kandando, was also a Unam staff member at the same time. However, Unam authorities never made any communication before the recent circular.
Both Maamberua and Iyambo refused to comment on the matter save that they have referred the matter to Metcalfe Legal Practitioners.
The Acting Vice Chancellor of Unam spokesperson, Zach Kazapua, said similar letters reminding staff members of the policy with regard to “party politics” were forwarded to Siyauya by himself as he resorts under his office, as well as to Linus Hamunyela of Unam’s northern campus who is a member of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).
Admitting ignorance of the policy, he said he forwarded the letter to Siyauya only after November 23 when he became aware of the meeting, while the ones of Maamberua and Iyambo were forwarded by Mwandemele before the council meeting.
Siyauya said he had relinquished his position in the SPYL and they were awaiting proof of his resignation and acceptance by the party.
Maamberua and Iyambo indicated that they would only be able to respond this year. According to Kazapua they did not specify when exactly this year, hence the deadline of February 29. However, New Era has established that Maamberua has indicated that he would be able to respond during the first half of this year.
Kazapua admitted that none of the staff members involved have in any way prejudiced Unam through their political activities, but the policy was preventative lest their political engagements interfered with relations at Unam. He did not believe that the policy in any way infringed the political, civil and human rights of the staff members since it did not prevent them from belonging to the political parties of their choice.
The Executive Director of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), Phil ya Nangoloh, has described the policy as a “serious violation” of the rights as enshrined in the Constitution under articles 10, 17, 21 and 95 (a). He said the rights under these articles, including the right to partake in public affairs, are rights to which all Namibians are entitled irrespective of their status.