By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
Two University of Namibia (Unam) lecturers remain unmoved by the university’s latest warning letter and threat of a disciplinary hearing.
In a letter written on April 2, Unam gave Usutuaije Maamberua, a lecturer in the Department of Accounting, Auditing and Income Tax and president of the South West Africa National Union (Swanu), and Dr Tangeni Iijambo, a lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Swanu’s Secretary General, until April 17, to relinquish their leadership positions in Swanu or face disciplinary action.
However, the two are “humbly” requesting that the university respond to their letter of February 26 and to clarify issues they raised therein, saying that once the university does this the matter would be cleared.
Maamberua and Iijambo advised the university in a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Lazarus Hangula, on February 26 to seek an “independent, unbiased and neutral” person or body to interpret to it the constitutionality and legality of its decision to ban its staff members from holding political office. They suggested in particular the Office of the Ombudsman in this regard.
“Because everybody that we consulted on this matter had their serious misgivings about the legality and implementability of the rules,” they stated in the letter pointing out that the Council Resolution (C/07387/27) was highly contestable.
They take exception to the latest warning letter from the university saying its threatening nature is intimidating and makes their working environment uncomfortable and unbearable. Rather, the university should address the “fundamental issue” they raised in their letter of February 26.
Among the issues they pointed out to Unam in this letter is the fact that all positions in Swanu are not remunerative and also not fulltime. In this regard, they maintained that they had no other fulltime work outside Unam.
Thus the question of them taking unpaid leave as Unam suggests in its latest warning letter does not arise. They also question the retrospective application of the Unam Council’s resolution barring staff members from holding political office.
The resolution was adopted on November 23, 2007. Hangula then issued a circular on January 16, this year notifying all staff members of the ban or to go on unpaid leave if they choose to hold position in political parties.
Prior to this resolution, Maamberua and Iijambo were only reminded of the university’s articles on the policy on “Terms and Conditions of Service” on November 14, 2007 shortly after their election to their respective positions in Swanu.
These “Terms and Conditions” however only talk about outside work by staff members which may encroach upon the time they are expected to devote to their university duties. The “Terms and Conditions” further clarify that permission for external work shall only be granted where the proposed activity shall not create a conflict with the university’s staff members’ duties and responsibilities.
Before the resolution explicitly barred Unam staff members from holding political office, there has been one which says staff members “may not preside or act as a speaker at such a meeting” although they can belong to political parties.
The same article also prohibits Unam staff members from conducting their political activities in a way that embarrasses the university on campus or use bodies and meetings to promote specific politically-oriented aims.
It also bars staff members from compiling or delivering public addresses to further or prejudice the interests of a political party.
Meanwhile, the Unam Nantu branch has appealed to the mother body to intervene on behalf of its two members if only by availing legal assistance against what it describes as the university’s victimisation of the two without internally addressing their grievances as per procedure.
Unam spokesperson, Utaara Hoveka, confirmed that the two were indeed given warning letters to comply with Unam’s policy against staff members holding political office, and that disciplinary measures would be taken against them if they do not comply.