The Vice Chancellor of Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Professor Hilary Inyang pays a whooping P31, 000 a month to live in a lavish mansion owned by Botswana’s Ambassador to the United States, Tebelelo Seretse. Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that, after failing to provide housing for executive management at the Palapye campus, BIUST had to scour the Serowe and Palapye areas in search of suitable housing for the university’s top brass, and eventually settled on Seretse’s mansion, at a cost of P31, 000 per month to the tax payer. Responding to Sunday Standard enquiries, BIUST Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Shackie Kebaswele said the founding development at the BUIST campus in Palapye did not include construction of executive houses for senior managers of the University.
“This has compelled the search for suitable properties in the private market in both Palapye and Serowe to accommodate the senior leadership. The employment contracts of the affected staff members prescribe the features of the housing that they are entitled to. Such features are not determined by these individuals but by the BIUST Council which is responsible for employing them,” he said. He added that it is very difficult to find executive houses in Serowe and Palapye at reasonable cost, especially because of competition from other organizations that are flocking into the two villages. “I am sure you will agree with me how difficult it is to find what you will classify as executive houses in the two villages, and if you are lucky to find them, the prices are high because of their scarcity as many other incoming organizations in the same Serowe/Palapye/Mahalapye area are searching for similar houses for their top executives. For instance, one of the houses identified in Palapye was going for around P50, 000 per month and the owner was not willing to negotiate. Just to set the record straight, the rental for the Vice Chancellor’s residence in Serowe is P31 000 per month,” he said.
He added: “I am just wondering why this issue is of such interest to you. You may wish to know that as practiced in top scholarly institutions, the VC’s official residence contains a library, meeting rooms, etc. to support both personal and official activities that may run for an average of fourteen (14) hours per day, sometimes, including late evenings and weekends.” Kebaswele said there are only 35 houses for senior staff on campus which were not necessarily earmarked for the executive leadership. Nevertheless, he said, some of the university staff have gone ahead to occupy these houses. “In view of this situation, the University searched for suitable accommodation for the Vice Chancellor in the private market. A number of properties were identified regardless of who they belonged to. The University identified a particular property in Serowe which happened to belong to a certain Tebelelo Seretse, who was not known to the Vice Chancellor. When you want to rent accommodation or an office in a certain location, you simply search for what suits your needs and affordability. You care less about the ownership and their social status.
BIUST has been publishing general calls in the papers to solicit responses by owners of rental properties for use,” said Kebaswele in his response to Sunday Standard inquiries. He emphasized that BIUST is an international university that is scaled to others in Africa and has to attract world-class senior leaders who come from positions with similar benefits. He could not understand why Sunday Standard was interested in news about the Vice Chancellor’s residence, saying there are there are many issues of significant importance that the university has engaged in since Inyang’s arrival which the newspaper should be focusing on and informing the nation about. “Certainly the issue of rental is none of those and it leaves one with no choice but to suspect the motive of the inquiry,” he said.
Kebaswele also denied allegations that Inyang’s move to Botswana was facilitated by Seretse and insisted that it was facilitated by the University Council. “The BIUST Council and the Ministry of Education and Skills Development are the two bodies which are responsible for recruitment of the senior leadership of the University. Her Excellency Ambassador Tebelelo Seretse has been doing an excellent job in facilitating several in-bound education missions from the United States to Botswana. She and her team at the Embassy continue to assist BIUST on a number of strategic issues in their areas of accreditation,” said Kebaswele He however insisted that Seretse played no role, whatsoever, in facilitating Distinguished Professor Hilary Inyang’s move to Botswana. In fact, he said, Ambassador Seretse neither knew nor met Professor Inyang until several months after his relocation to Botswana. Meanwhile the College of Science at BIUST has relocated to the Serowe Institute of Health Sciences, in a move that Kebaswele said was prompted by acute shortage of critical laboratory, classroom and office space within the founding campus facility in Palapye. Efforts to get a comment from Seretse were unsuccessful.