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Opinion - Rejoinder to opinion - is NUST xenophobic?

2021-12-07  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Rejoinder to opinion - is NUST xenophobic?
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It is incredibly important to correct the false narratives of opinion published in the New Era newspaper on 29 November 2021, attributed to sister Keshia !Hoa-Khaos and reports in Confidente concerning the wellbeing of non-Namibians written by Tracey Tafijarika. 

Firstly, according to Merriam-Webster definition, “xenophobia is the fear and hatred of strangers or foreigner or of anything that is strange or foreign”. It is also defined as “a person not native to or naturalised in the country, or someone who belongs to a country that is not your own (Collins Dictionary). Xenophobia has no place in an independent Namibia, given our genesis. The country is credited among the League of Nations, particularly in Africa for her free press and expression of opinion/thoughts by her citizen and guest alike. However, this freedom comes with the responsibility from every citizen and guest alike of ensuring that such expressions are based on factual, credible, and verifiable information. This is particularly important when the expression is disseminated through public media, which can have serious implications on social discord, internal cohesion with the potential to cause harm to the national and international image and reputation of our premier University of Science and Technology and to the economy of the country. 

Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) is an internationally recognised university of repute, which is home to several international or non-native individuals across her administrative and academic cadre, 25% of its total workforce. The required standard is 7.5%. There are non-natives from Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, India, USA, Germany, Pakistan among many others in employment at NUST. This diverse non-native nationalities in employment at NUST does not in any way reflect “fear or hatred” as portrayed recently.

The standard practice across the world, including Namibia, is that qualified and experienced non-natives with expertise in critical specialised fields that are not available locally are recruited, on the understanding that appropriate measures for training and mentoring plans for capacity development of our citizens are put in place, if behead is to the various national legislations and policies. 

In amplification, employment at the institution follows standard practice of public advertisement, transparent and competitive selection processes open to all. In some instances, internal advertisements are conducted where there is an abundance of expertise within the institution. (Note the word advertisement in both instances) Where capacity exists among natives/nationals including permanent residents, domicile individuals, priority is given to these persons. This is standard practice across the world. 

Legislations and policies require that non-natives be employed on a fixed-term contract basis as per the contract of employment between the university and the non-natives. At the expiration of contracts of non-natives, the positions are advertised where natives and non-natives, including non-native incumbents, are free to apply. It is standard practice to inform non-natives whose contracts will be coming to an end of the expiration in writing and subsequent re-advertisement, called notice. The duration of these contracts is five years, whereas they were three years in the past. This is the same as with the position of the vice chancellor. 

This procedure enriches the process of talent selection whilst enabling the development of local capacity. Although, in special circumstances, motivation for extension of contract may be made for exceptional performance in specialised areas/fields of study. Again, it is important to note that this process is not synonymous with NUST alone but with other public and private higher educational institutions in the country and across the globe.

For those whose contracts ended at the beginning of 2020, a general blanket extension of contracts of employment up to December 2020 was made due to disruption of the normal recruitment process as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lock-down the world experienced. This extension led to a pile up of positions resulting in what appears to be a massive advertisement, contrary to the false narrative traded out there.

In compliance with the provision of the Public Enterprise Governance Act, (See Chapter three of PEGA Act) and the established practices of public enterprises, NUST also conducted a review of her Strategic Plan for sustainability and operational efficiency purpose, review of operational purpose, which is an exercise being conducted every five years and spearheaded by the board of directors. This process was concluded in 2020, but due to that the appointment of a substantive vice chancellor had to be reviewed under the leadership of a professor from Nigeria, in the employment of NUST. This exercise resulted in the realignment of functionalities since these are now based on performance rather than the opposite. This again is not synonymous to NUST alone. 

Prior to 2021, the university had five executive management cadres, inclusive of the accounting officer. With the current realignment, the said number remains the same, five. Further, there were six faculties, which faculties will be reduced to four, with the same operational functionalities.

The cited published opinion in the New Era newspaper deliberately failed to appreciate these facts through appropriate channels, rather than relying on unverified, distorted, and biased information. There is a need to protect the integrity of our institutions, public and private for national, regional, and international relevance and competitiveness. 

It will be self-defeating for NUST to adopt an inward looking approach, whilst Namibia is a child of international solidarity, mid-wived by the United Nations (Dr Geingob). 

In a country, whose intention is the understanding of herself and her attempts of addressing the historical imbalances and contemporary social ills affecting her people and those within its borders at a given time, a discriminatory approach will be self-defeating. 

The happenings at NUST is not worth writing home about at the moment. NUST is not xenophobic nor have we terminated 80 employments of expatriates. This is a natural effluxion of time of these contracts, which has also affected natives alike. Out of the 393 non-natives (expatriates), only 52 are affected. Most of whom first or second-degree holders and not professors as portrayed.

The Republic of Namibia prides itself as a democracy premised on the rule of law, and thus should anyone feel discriminated against, other than by a law of general application, should find recourse in the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies, rather than crying foul. Ours is indeed a resolve to build on the legacy of Dr Tjama Tjivikua and bequeath a university of diverse and inclusive demography. Knowledge should not be individualised and by so doing perpetuate the comfort of the self, but to impart and empower the greater self to become masters of their own destiny. 


* Joshua Razikua Kaumbi is the Chief Legal Advisor of the Namibia University of Science and Technology, NUST. The views expressed in this article are solely his and not that of his employer.

2021-12-07  Staff Reporter

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