By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
Usutuaije Maamberua, a lecturer in the Department of Accounting, Auditing and Income Tax and leader of the South West Africa National Union (Swanu), and Dr Tangeni Iijambo, a lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Swanu’s Secretary General, can soon expect to be served with a notice for a disciplinary hearing.
In its latest communication to the two dated April 30, Unam Pro-Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research, Osmund Mwandemele, reiterates that Unam’s policy on participation of its staff members in party politics remains unchanged. Nor does Unam consider this policy as unconstitutional and sees no need of referring it to Cabinet and the Minister of Education.
In a letter to the Vice Chancellor Lazarus Hangula in February, Maamberua and Iijambo, refused to budge to the university’s pressure to have them relinquish their respective political positions in Swanu.
Instead, they questioned the constitutionality of such a policy advising Unam on the need to bring the matter to the attention of Cabinet and the Minister of Education.
Mwandemele says when Maamberua and Iijambo entered into a contract of employment with the university, they bound themselves to obey and abide by the university’s rules, regulations and policies including the university’s policy on participation in party politics. Further, he says the university is not amenable to submitting this policy to an external body maintaining that it fairly provides for the exercise of political rights by all Unam staff members “with reasonable limitations imposed in the best interest of the University”.
He says the two have persistently been in breach of this university policy and have blatantly defied it, the university council and the instructions of the Pro-Vice Chancellor and Vice Chancellor. By Friday neither Maamberua nor Iijambo had received any notice of a disciplinary hearing.
Meanwhile, the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) University of Namibia (Unam)’s branch is waiting on its headquarters regarding the way forward in the matter involving the two. However, Nantu’s Unam branch Chairperson, James Kamerika, says Nantu’s efforts to have the matter resolved amicably following Unam’s grievance resolution procedures did not materialise due to insistence by Mwandemele that the two have had ample time to respond to the university’s ultimatum to relinquish their positions and what is now left is for them to face suspension.
Kamerika says they sought a meeting with the university management to follow the grievance procedures of the institution but instead ran into a meeting early this month where Mwandemele would not have it otherwise than warning the two that if they do not comply, they would face suspension.
In his opinion, the university should have exhausted its grievance procedures by at least listening to the submissions of the two, but instead found at the said meeting at the beginning of April two different agendas: the university pressurising Maamberua and Iijambo to comply, and Nantu and the two lecturers on the other hand clamouring for a hearing for the two as per the university’s grievance procedures. He says in view of this Unam’s Nantu branch was left with no option but to write to its headquarters to seek legal opinion on the matter.
In Kamerika’s view the university’s management in insisting on compliance by the two lecturers without hearing their side of the matter was already prejudiced in the matter. Unam spokesperson Utaara Hoveka says it is up to the “aggrieved party” to lodge a grievance in accordance with the procedures laid down.
As far as he knows, no grievance has been lodged. But according to Kamerika, their efforts have been thwarted by Unam. In the latest communication Mwandemele points out to the two that they “may raise issues regarding the matter at the said hearing”.
Kamerika says the way forward is for Nantu and Maamberua and Iijambo to pool their legal resources to carry this matter further.
More than three weeks after being approached for comment, Unam spokesperson Hoveka has as yet to respond on whether Unam has followed any internal grievance procedures as provided for or not and why it has been reluctant to do so as per Nantu’s claim.