Unam Lecturers: A Legal Conundrum

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By Catherine Sasman

WINDHOEK

Although the University of Namibia should ‘discipline’ its lecturers for holding political office, the institution would have a difficult time to defend its disciplinary action against Usutuaije Maamberua and Dr Tangeni Iijambo.

This is the opinion of the Director of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), Norman Tjombe, arguing that while academic staff at a tertiary institution should be seen as ‘independent’ and unfettered by political ideologies, the institution could be seen as being selective in the execution of its regulations.

Tjombe cited Eunice Iipinge, who has continued working at the university despite being a prominent member of the Swapo Party.

Public Relations Officer of Unam, Uutara Hoveka, however, said although Iipinge remained in the employment of the university, she took unpaid leave while she was secretary general of her party, also citing the example of the late Kala Gertze, who resigned from his position as lecturer once elected as the secretary general of the Congress of Democrats (CoD).

Disciplinary committee member, Prof Nico Horn, stressed that the action taken against the two lecturers should not be viewed as a witch-hunt, but merely as effecting the regulations of Unam.

The disciplinary action planned against the two lecturers – holding the positions of president and secretary general in Swanu – is, according to Hoveka, in accordance with internal regulations of the institution, and not necessarily in accordance with the Unam Act, a legislative provision sanctioned by Parliament.

This, said labour and legal expert, Clement Daniels, could make it difficult to defend, should the case be brought before the High Court.

Daniels said the Namibian Constitution does make provision for rights and freedom of association that can be limited by an Act of Parliament, but that internal regulations should be viewed subject to the Constitution.

He is of the opinion that as long as political activities of lecturers or other university staff do not interfere with their work – “if they do not take it to the classroom” – such staff should not be restricted from exercising their rights of freedom of expression and political activism.

Vice Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia, Dr Gert G?

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