Grave Fight for Polytech’s Soul

THE council of the Polytechnic of Namibia is heavily divided over the sour relationship between the rector, Tjama Tjivikua, and his deputy Andrew Niikondo.

Council is also split over issues that include alleged mismanagement, corruption and Tjivikua’s continuous demands for a salary increase that would see him take home more than N$2 million per year.

Niikondo’s letter to the chairperson, Evelyn Breuer, dated 27 March 2015 in which he is complaining about Tjivikua’s behaviour towards him, brings to the fore the extent of the division among the 15-member council.

The council consists of among others, Breuer, Tjivikua, Niikondo, Gert Guumlnzel, Erastus Ikela, Meriam Kahitu, Florence Zitha Munyungano, Katrina Liswani, Joshua Amukugo, Loide Shaanika, Brian de Lacy Figaji and Rebecca Iyambo.

Niikondo, who is the vice rector for academic affairs, told the council that he was unhappy about Tjivikua’s behaviour towards him and alleged that there was a plan to purge him.

The bad blood between the two top officials led to a secret meeting attended by more than six council members a few weeks ago to discuss how to deal with the stand-off.

It was at this meeting that a decision to call for a separate council meeting that would exclude Tjivikua and Niikondo and in the process institute a high level investigation into the claims made by Niikondo was taken. That proposed meeting never took place.

The plan, according to a council member who attended the secret meeting, was to extend the probe beyond allegations made by Niikondo into the alleged corruption at the Polytechnic.

Sources said the councillors, who are all from external institutions, were outdone by their counterparts who are said to be Tjivikua loyalists, who also held a separate meeting.

According to the sources, those loyal to Tjivikua are mostly employees of the Polytechnic as well as a few external officials.

The division is not only about the plans to split Niikondo’s office but the council is not happy with the plans to give top jobs to foreigners, while there are Namibians qualified to take up the posts.

Some council members are questioning why the Polytechnic is downgrading the required qualifications for the position of vice-rector of administration and finance from a doctorate to a master’s degree.

Sources said this decision is aimed to ensure that the position, which is currently occupied by the 75-year-old Gert Guumlnzel, is given to a Tjivikua ally, who will ensure continuity and might cover up the alleged corruption at the institution.

Corneels Jafta, the Polytechnic’s registrar and a favourite of the rector, is being linked to the top financial position.

The fight for top positions at the Polytechnic comes a few months after members of parliament criticised the tertiary institution in the National Assembly for sidelining Namibians from top positions.

The five-page letter, which was obtained by The Namibian, shows that Niikondo outlined more than six points of grievances against Tjivikua.

Niikondo complained about the unhealthy relationship he has with the rector, which dates back to 2013, and which he described as basically “non-existent”. He also said Tjivikua does not communicate with him when he is absent from the office. This, Niikondo said, is disrespectful towards him.

Niikondo recalled how Tjivikua allegedly boasted about his superior use of English.

“The rector has been trying to capitalise on this issue (English) to make me look like a fool at meetings and also use it as a pretext to constitute a case of incompetence against me,” he said.

Another case raised by Niikondo is how Tjivikua continuously blocked his deputy from sitting on a panel that is interviewing the shortlisted candidates for the City of Windhoek chief executive officer position.

The Namibian reported two weeks ago on how Tjivikua’s involvement in the selection of the next CEO might constitute a conflict of interest because he has two lucrative land deals pending with the municipality.

The City of Windhoek CEO position is also a strategic position for the Polytechnic of Namibia. The new CEO is likely to be part of the Polytechnic council.

The current representative of the city of Windhoek in the Polytechnic Council is Amukugo, the city spokesperson who replaced former CEO Niilo Taapopi in 2014. Urban minister Sophia Shaningwa reportedly told the municipality to remove Tjivikua from the panel.

The future of Niikondo, who declined to comment yesterday, remains uncertain. There is talk that his office will be split when his contract ends in July this year.

New Era newspaper reported last week that the Polytechnic council decided to appoint an independent external person – from the Law Society of Namibia or the Society of Aocates – to head the investigation of the alleged incompetency of Niikondo.

Meanwhile, Tjivikua, who is one of the best-paid parastatal bosses in the country, is asking the council to increase his salary which is around N$2 million.

A source said Tjivikua wants his salary to be increased and be backdated to 2013 when he got the current five year deal. Sources said Tjivikua wanted a N$500 000 increment in 2013.

The long-serving rector threatened to take the Polytechnic of Namibia to court if he was not given a new deal. Council members are arguing that the institution is struggling financially and that the rector is already paid above the stipulated limits of government rules.

Tjivikua is one of the few parastatal bosses’ who earn more than the Prime Minister who annually gets just over N$1,2 million.

It remains unclear whether the government will intervene in the decision of the council. Tjivikua has close ties to President Hage Geingob.

The rector occupied a high table spot during Geingob’s campaign to be the Swapo Party vice president in 2012 in Windhoek.

Efforts to get comment from Tjivikua were not successful after phone calls, SMSes and email were not answered.

Source : The Namibian