Wednesday, October 21, 2020

UB recruitment policy said to be favouring non-citizens over citizens

There is a great deal of consternation among some citizen staff members at the University of Botswana about a “reservation policy” that favours non-citizens.

In terms of this policy (which is not even official) some faculty positions have ÔÇô to all intents and purposes ÔÇô been reserved for non-citizens with little or no regard to competence. In itself, the hiring of non-citizens is seen as a huge plus in universities around the world. Way before “globalization” became a buzzword, universities were mindful of the need to enrich the learning environment by having a diverse faculty. Such diversity generates a variety of viewpoints, overcomes a deficit in creative thinking and innovation and gives an institution better international recognition. To the extent it wanted to harness these benefits, UB’s engagement of non-citizens is faultless. What, however, is being faulted is that executive management operates this programme on a non-meritocratic basis and against the dictates of the government policy on localisation.

Each UB faculty has what is called the Faculty Appointments, Promotions and Reviews Committee (FAPRC) which doesn’t exactly do what this name states because its recommendations can be overturned by a higher authority – the Vice Chancellor who has the final say on matters relating to FAPRC business. Sunday Standard has been made aware of numerous instances when recommendations of various FAPRCs with regard to the contracts of some non-citizen lecturers were disregarded by the Vice Chancellor. Through the exercise of his power and authority, Vice Chancellor Professor Thabo Fako, has renewed the contracts of non-performing non-citizens while rejecting recommendations to appoint citizens. One of those in the latter category was a highly competent Motswana PhD.

The Vice Chancellor would have his reasons for overruling FAPRCs but what he does is in conflict with the government’s localisation plans as outlined in the Revised National Policy on Incomes, Employment, Prices and Profits. In terms of this policy, employers are required to ensure that non-citizen employees have citizens who understudy them. Sunday Standard learns that this is not the case at UB.

The localisation issue was revisited in parliament last year when Selebi-Phikwe West MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse, asked the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu, to make some clarifications on it. The minister explained that in terms of this policy, work permits for non-citizens are issued subject to evidence that an organisation has sought to recruit and give preference to Botswana candidates, normal security clearance and commitment to implement plans. For subsequent issuance of work and residence permits, evidence of availability of and adherence to training and localisation plans are also a condition. Employers are required to prepare and submit training and localisation plans.

However, as even Batshu himself acknowledged, the ministry lacks the capacity to monitor the implementation of this policy. Among other problems, this failing means that the ministry doesn’t scrutinise training plans when, as one UB case shows, it really should. In this particular case, a department head ÔÇô a non-citizen ÔÇô is supposed to have sent a succession of his Batswana juniors abroad to “study programmes that made them no threat to his job security after they qualified.”  

At press time, UB had not responded to Sunday Standard’s written questions which were sent off on August 1, 2016.

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