By Catherine Sasman
Academic, Dr Joseph Diescho, described the University of Namibia (Unam)’s intention to subject two of its lecturers to a disciplinary hearing for holding office in political parties as “completely wrong”, adding that Unam was “going too far”.
“An institute like Unam cannot prescribe the association its staff members ought to have, and which is an enshrined constitutional right. Members should have the right of association as long as they do not ‘teach’ their parties in class,” Diescho said.
Director of the Namibia Institute of Democracy (NiD), Theunis Keulder, agreed that academics should have a right to belong to any political party of their choice and exercise these rights without infringements being placed on them.
“I can hardly see how one’s political affiliation or position in a political party can be sufficient ground to take disciplinary measures,” Keulder said.
He believes the lecturers would have a strong case against Unam should they decide to take the matter to the country’s courts.
“I cannot see how Unam would succeed in their actions against these lecturers,” Keulder commented.
The Pro-Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research at Unam, Osmund Mwandemele, earlier told New Era that the institution would continue taking disciplinary steps against lecturers, Usutuaije Maamberua, recently elected as the president of Swanu, and Dr Tangeni Iijambo, Swanu’s secretary general.
University of Botswana Public Affairs Director, Samuel Moribame, said that the university has a policy framework on political participation on the part of staff and students within the university premises.
Last year, Moribame said, the university submitted a position paper from the institution’s management on political participation to faculties and other structures, as well as students through the Student Representative Council for comments and input for them to inform the management when it considers its policy on party political participation.
“The university management has received varying inputs as a result of this consultation and this input would be considered when considering a framework on such issues,” Moribame said.
An academic at the University of Botswana Taolo Lucas is the secretary general of the Botswana Congress Party – BCP.
Responding to questions from New Era the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa stated that the university had no objection “in principle” to a member of staff becoming a candidate or member of an elected provincial or national legislature.
Notwithstanding, said Dineo Noganta, head of media liaison in the communications and marketing department of UCT, any member of staff nominated by a registered party on a list of candidates must take leave from the date of nomination until the date of publication of the lists of names of all members of legislature in terms of the Electoral Act of South Africa.
He said a staff member so nominated may then take leave and participating in an election may take vacation leave during the period, or if the person has insufficient leave, must take unpaid leave “with full rights”.
“A staff member elected to the provincial or national legislature will be deemed to have resigned from UCT on the day following publication of the names of elected members of the legislature bodies,” Noganta said.
“However, a staff member so elected may be re-appointed to the university staff after careful consideration of his or her ability to meet both the requirements of the UCT post and his or her commitments to the legislature body concerned.”