Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Minister promises to resolve unions, UB Vice Chancellor stalemate

Government has indicated that a matter between the University of Botswana and staff union is expected to be finalized soon.

In May this year, UB staff petitioned government, arguing that the UB Vice Chancellor Professor David Norris has failed them, therefore demanding his removal from office.

University of Botswana Academic Senior Support Staff Union (UBASSSU), University of Botswana Staff Union (UBSU) and University of Botswana Manual Workers Union, in a petition submitted to Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and technology Douglas Letsholathebe, called for the dismissal of Norris.

The Unions said that under the leadership of the Professor, UB staff members suffered immeasurable pain, agony and frustration while their welfare is entirely overlooked.

Letsholathebe said the matter had long been presented to the UB council, adding that he has advised them to sit down with all concerned parties to find a solution.

“I recently had a good discussion with BOFEPUSU and the University unions, a very good one because when people fail to agree, we look at the issue at hand and see how best we can find a common ground,” said the Minister.

“I have engaged the UB council to solve the problem to find out the differences and we are hoping that very soon it will be resolved,” said Letsholathebe.

He said the UB council has also met the concerned parties, indicating that there is a procedure that needs to be followed.

“We should also be wary of the fact that there is a possibility that all concerned can meet and fail to agree on a way forward, so that is why I want to believe that once the matter come to a conclusion, it will be known,” said Letsholathebe.

The unions petitioned Norris on a number of issues including “blurred roadmap, inflationary adjustments of salaries, security services, corporate governance, teaching and learning resources, deteriorating infrastructure, staff victimization as well as appointment of staff undemocratically.”

In their entreaty, staff members say that Vice Chancellor has failed to provide a clear roadmap to guide a wide range of operations within the University. Prior to Norris’ arrival, they say, UB had developed a strategy using its own scholars, led by Prof Thapisa and Prof Moahi respectively.

The petition signed by UBASSSU President, Motsomi Marobela, acting on behalf of Manual Workers Union President, Oneile Mpulubusi and Ghadzani Mhotsha (Staff Union President), argue that Norris relishes grand standing and cheap rhetoric to project a positive image of the University to outsiders while the institution faces monumental challenges.

Professor Norris is a researcher and lecturer, having served in different capacities in Botswana, the United States of America and South Africa.

Prior to joining UB, Professor Norris was Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), a position he had held since 2016. Prior to working for BUIST, he worked for the University of Limpopo ((formerly University of the North) of South Africa from 20016 to 2016. He also worked for Austin Peay State University in USA from 1998 to 2000.

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