Missing the Bigger Picture

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

THE D-day of June 30 is fast-approaching for two lecturers at the University of Namibia who are challenging the institution for trying to bar them from playing an active role in party politics. By the word of mouth of its spokesperson, the university would not extend this matter beyond June 30.

This is typical of the insensitivity that the university seems to have been displaying in this matter involving Usutuaije Maamberua and Dr Tangeni Iijambo, both office bearers of Swanu. In fact, the two at one time appealed to the institution to submit the matter for an opinion to instances like the Office of the Ombudsman. The university turned a deaf ear to this friendly advice.

Ultimately, the matter is to have a sequel in court sooner or later if the proposed hearing proves to be a travesty of justice. It is no longer in the hands of Unam to dictate a deadline being headed for the court, as the matter ultimately seems.

In fact, it is unfortunate that the matter is soon to go to the High Court. This is despite the two lecturers drawing the university authority’s attention to the wisdom of revisiting its policy or staff rules, which bar its staff members from active politics.

It is rather unfortunate that the right of the two lecturers to practice the politics of their choice and to belong and lead any political formation of their choice is being denied by Unam. This is despite the Constitution of the country guaranteeing such a right. What is most unfortunate and ominous is that the Unam authority has been recalcitrant in seeing the entrenchment of this right in the Constitution. One would have thought part of the mandate and duty of the Unam management and the Unam Council as well, is to protect and uphold the rights of its staff members as much as they have the duty to protect the institution. How it can really protect the institution without protecting the rights of its constituents is beyond comprehension?

One such right is obviously the right of its staff members to practice and belong to a political formation of their choice. On the contrary, the university seems hell-bent on protecting its regulations as ill-advised, ill-informed, misinformed and unconstitutional and anti-constitutional as they prima facie seem. It is rather ominous that an institution of its kind, from which one expects foresight and insight when it comes to matters like this, cannot see the bigger picture. This is an institution that produces or is supposed to produce our legal brains. Yet, it cannot rely on its legal prowess to enquire into the relationship between its staff rules and regulations and the legal constitutional matters such as the political rights of the two lecturers.

Can one help but detect some ominous signs into this and conclude a sad case of the blind leading the blind? Can you also blame anyone for doubting the products it produces in the legal field?

It is not only the duty of the court to give interpretations of the Constitution and its provisions but the duty of all. Foremost the university as an institution of higher learning should be leading in this respect. Sadly, this is not what we are seeing and this is reason for concern. Because this is not only a legal matter but an academic and intellectual one in which the university is well-disposed or supposed to be rightly positioned in providing the lead in opinion-making to help the bosses of the institution see the light concerning the fallacy of the institution’s staff rules and regulations. We have at this very institution what is called the Human Rights Documentation Centre. There is no mistaking that the two’s lecturers’ case is typical infringement of their political and human right. What good is this centre if not making the principals of its own backyard wise about the crookedness of its staff rules and regulation?

February 8 is hailed in Namibia as Constitution Day when we celebrate the adoption of our supreme law. I don’t think such celebration must be a one-off matter only relegated to the 8th of February but a constant engagement every day of our lives. At the centre of the celebration of the day has been the attendant question whether the Constitution is a living document. Such also entails the political rights of Maamberua and Iijambo that stands on the sacrificial lamb of a narrow application and abstraction by the Unam policy-makers and managers of the staff rules and regulations.

If the university bosses and the council are as foresighted as they are, or as those who have entrusted them with the stewardship and captainship of this institution believe they should be, it is not late to properly and internally address the matter rather than try to persecute their staff members for the sin of upholding and exercising their constitutionally given right. It is a pity that the two lecturers are being drawn into this expensive exercise just to uphold their rights which are in black and white in the Constitution.

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