Sunday, November 29, 2020

BIUST on the verge of collapse

The Botswana International University of Science is on the verge of collapse following a spate of resignations.

In the wake of the resignation by the University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Hillary Inyang late last month, the Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Dennis Siginer, “tendered his immediate resignation” this week.

BIUST Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Shackie Kebaswele states in a communiqu├® to management and students that “This note serves to inform you that the Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Dennis Siginer, tendered his immediate resignation as Acting Vice Chancellor yesterday to the Acting Chairman of Council.” Kebaswele assured the management and students that “Professor Siginer is, however, not lost to BIUST as he will continue to serve as in his substantive position of Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost. You will be kept abreast of new developments relating to this matter in due course.”

Sunday Standard understands that Professor Siginer cited the same reasons as Inyang – interference and micro-management of university by the Acting Board Chairperson Boyce Sebetela.

Contacted for comment, Sebetela referred this publication to Kebaswele whose phone rang unanswered. “It would be unfair to comment on BIUST issues while it has a spokesperson. Board members shouldn’t talk to the media, only the public relation officers should,” he said when asked to comment on allegations that he is meddling into the operations of the university.

Recently the University’s Council chairman Serwalo Tunmelo was ousted from his position. Vice President and Minister of Education and Skills Development Mokgweetsi Masisi then appointed Sebetela as acting chairman. In a letter addressed to BUIST staff, students and copied to the University’s Chancellor, former President Festus Mogae, Inyang states that he believes in the separation of roles between the Management and Council of a University.

“No member of staff or student should take instructions on any BIUST Management matter whatsoever, from persons outside the Management structure of the University. This has been compromised and I do not see how the emerging format of operation can lead us to the targeted status of an international research university that can help develop the economies of Botswana, the SADC and the African continent,” said Inyang.

In the same letter Inyang states that “I am writing to you to personally inform you that I have resigned from my position as the Vice Chancellor and Distinguished Professor of BIUST. I am currently on terminal leave until such a time that agreement on severance arrangements is reached with my Appointing Authority- the Honourable Minister of Education and Skills Development and the Chairman of BIUST Council.” Stating reasons for his resignation, Inyang warns that universities should not operate on the basis of rumours. “Rumours and allegations cannot be prevented, but they should be subjected to time-tested verification processes as specified in university operational policies and guidelines,” he said.

He added that “Willful misinterpretation of such policies by external parties above the level of Management of BIUST has occurred when Management set up an Internal Commission of Enquiry to verify circumstances surrounding what was clearly harassment of foreign staff on the BIUST Campus on Tuesday, September 16, 2014. That Commission has been cancelled by an external party.”

“So, I tendered my resignation without an iota of regret.” He pointed out that “ I will now leave BIUST to lead the African Continental University System, a new South Africa- based initiative that is configured as an elite institution with campuses in six African countries and two others in the United States, and Dominica (the Caribbean) respectively.”

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Sunday Standard November 29 – 5 December

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of November 29 - 5 December, 2020.