By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
The University of Namibia (Unam) Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) branch has taken strong exception to its barring from the disciplinary hearing of two University of Namibia lecturers which started yesterday morning.
Nantu’s Unam branch chairperson Ruddy Kamerika and a member of the branch executive committee, Muree Tjiueza, had to excuse themselves from the hearing when consensus could not be reached on whether Nantu is entitled to be present at the hearing, even in an observer capacity.
According to Kamerika, hearing chairperson Dr Louisa Mostert, with the tacit approval of other hearing committee members, opined that there was no provision for the representation of Nantu at this hearing. Lest they were seen to be disrupting the meeting, they excused themselves.
Kamerika, however, maintains that in terms of the recognition agreement with Unam it is their right and they are entitled to be represented at the hearing, pointing out the fact that they have enlisted the services of lawyers does not and should not preclude them from sitting in at the hearing and observe what is going on.
He says this is not the first time that they are sitting in at any hearing and questioned the motivation of the committee in keeping them out. Not only that, since this matter started they have always been recognised by being copied by the university some correspondences between it and the two lecturers.
Taking great exception to their barring, Kamerika vowed to consult the mother unions, Nantu and National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) to put an end to what he described as a “type of dictatorship”.
This is a reference to the apparent reference of this point by the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Osmund Mwandemele, who may have advised negatively that Nantu should not be represented at the hearing.
Kamerika sees this as a dictatorial violation of the recognition agreement between the union and the university, which is again rooted in the statues of the university and the law of the country.
“Unions are entitled to serve on committees that affect conditions of service of employees,” he cites the recognition agreement as providing. This is a form of dictatorship prescribing what the union should do in view of the recognition agreement,” a composed but obviously disturbed Kamerika pointed out.
“The recognition agreement should be respected,” he emphasized, adding that their barring from the hearing raises the question of transparency and consistency and accused the university of practising something contrary to what it has been teaching and preaching.
Meanwhile, the legal representative at the hearing of the two lecturers Usutuaije Maamberua and Tangeni Iijambo, was gunning for the dissolution of the current hearing committee and the appointment of “totally independent members of the committee as well as the initiator/prosecutor/complainant”.
In this regard, he was to move for the postponement of the matter pending a Declaratory Order from the High Court as to the constitutionality of the “Staff Terms & Conditions of Services” of Unam.
In the document that he prepared for the hearing in defence of the two lecturers, lawyer Jan Wessels of Stern and Barnard Legal Practitioners, was to protest against the presence on the hearing committee of the complainant, Professor Nico Horn. He was also to protest against the presence on the committee of Professor Manfred Hinz and Reggie Izaks.
He was to submit that Horn had made a public statement in The Namibian newspaper on March 14, 2008 in which he expressed the university’s stance on the matter, signing as the Dean of Faculty of Law of Unam. It was thus doubtful whether Horn would not unduly influence members of the hearing committee.
With regard to Hinz, Wessels was to submit that Maamberua was already at loggerheads with Hinz on the Ovaherero reparations matter and that he also had already complained against Hinz to the former PVC for academic affairs, Geoffrey Kiangi regarding his dissertation proposal.
Because of Hinz, Maamberua is also said to have been removed from a World Trade Organisation Training Programme. All these cast doubt on whether Hinz would be an impartial member of the hearing.
Despite being Unam’s Director of Human Resources, and being tasked with the implementation of its policies whether he agreed with them or not, Izaks was also instrumental in the investigation and compilation of the charges against the two lecturers.