The Vice President of the Republic Botswana, who is also Minister of Education Mokgweetsi Masisi has said there is a potential for conflict of interest emanating from the fact that University of Botswana Council Chairman, Parks Tafa also doubles as the university lawyer.
Masisi was responding to a question from Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, Phenyo Butale who wanted to know if there was no possible conflict of interest emanating from the fact that being the UB Council Chairperson Tafa was also serving as the University lawyer. In his response Masisi said:
“There is a possibility of a conflict of interest as the Honourable member (Butale) has alluded. The University of Botswana Council is made up of 32 members of diverse backgrounds and interests. Conflict of interest is to be expected under such circumstances,” he said. Masisi noted that the University of Botswana Act of 2008, section 17, guards and regulates how the Council deals with conflict of interest as and when it arises. Attorney Parks Tafa’s appointment as Chairman of the University of Botswana Council in May 2013 sparked questions amongst UB academics and staff.
Tafa had been appointed the chairperson of the University of Botswana Council for a period of three years, replacing former President of Industrial Court, Now Court of appeal Judge Justice Elijah Legwaila. Immediately after his appointment in 2013 The secretary of the Council, Clement Ng’ong’ola, urged the UB union to take a stand against the appointment writing to the chancellor its opposition to the appointment. An academic staff member whose name The Telegraph has, wrote in 2013: “I for one feel that the chancellor misdirected himself in Tafa as the chairman of Council. First Mr.Tafa works for a company which is the legal adviser of the University and I see a conflict of interest right there.
Secondly, I doubt if Mr. Tafa understands university level education enough to lead the UB council, as he joined the council just recently.Cognizant of the fact that the chancellor has a legal responsibility of appointing the chairperson of Council without consulting anyone, I’m suggesting that the union leadership should ascertain that the company for which Mr. Tafa works is the legal advisers of the university…” Commenting on the issue at the time, the University of Botswana Public Relations officer, Mhitshane Reetsang, said Section 10 (1) of the University Act empowers the Minister to appoint the chairperson of the Council.
Reetsang said Tafa had been a sitting member of the Council and one of the four members that were appointed to it from the 1st March 2011. She said the Council is yet to decide whether Tafa’s law firm should continue to act as legal advisors to the University, or not. Tafa, one of the best, and arguably the most influential lawyers in the country is a partner in the Collins and Newman law firm. More than a year later, the University of Botswana is still deciding on whether Tafa’s law firm should continue to act as legal advisors to the University or not.