Sources at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development say that Professor Thabo Fako has been given another five-year term to serve as Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana.
Sunday Standard learns that the UB Council deliberated on the matter on Friday under the chairpersonship of Mpho Mothibatsela as the substantive chairperson, Parks Tafa, didn’t attend the meeting. The outcome of the meeting will come as a surprise to many because late last year, the Minister of Education and Skills Development, Unity Dow, said that Fako had indicated that he wouldn’t exercise his option to renew his contract which ends next month. It is unclear what caused this about-turn but some Council members (who were in the minority) are said to have been opposed to the renewal of Fako’s contract. With the Council’s decision having been taken on Friday, it would likely be formally communicated to the minister’s office this week. Dow, who is the appointing authority, is herself said to be amenable to Fako serving another term.
The whole matter has been shrouded in mystery. Notwithstanding the outcome of the Friday meeting, all indications are that Fako would still have stayed on as VC for an indeterminate period of time. A source says that period would have ranged from nine to 18 months. While this was not communicated to staff, UB sources say that it was clear that Fako was going nowhere. The changing of the guard at UB is an elaborate, time-consuming process and traditionally, preparations are made well in time. In Fako’s case, there were not even plans for a farewell party which has happened with his predecessors. Fako himself is also said to have made certain decisions that strongly suggested that he was going to be at the helm for some time. The news blackout caused both anxiety and frustration among some staff members, especially those who were looking forward to the end of Fako’s administration.
Prior to the Friday decision, ministry sources were saying that the powers-that-be were mulling the possible extension of Fako’s contract for an indeterminate period. Front and centre of this development was consideration that if Fako left next month, a group of people completely new to executive management would take over. When UB re-opened on January 4 this year, Professor Martin Mokgwathi replaced Professor Lydia Nyati-Saleshando as Deputy Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. Already, Mendel Nlanda had been appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration, replacing Dawid Katzke who had taken up the same post at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST). After serving for 10 years, the contracts of both Nyati-Saleshando and Katzke could not be renewed in line with UB regulations. While he is still in post, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Professor Otlogetswe Totolo, is said to have been shortlisted for the post of BIUST Vice Chancellor and is the favourite.
With Totolo at BIUST, Fako out as VC, the new executive management would have been made up of entirely new faces, a situation that the ministry is said to have viewed as being far from ideal. This prompted the decision to give the transition a bit more time while a suitable replacement is being sought. Along the way, the powers-that-be just decided to renew his contract.
The renewal of Fako’s contract means that those who had been hoping to replace him will have to wait for another five years. It also means that Fako will not go down in UB history as the first VC to serve only one term.