Niikondo Faces Demotion As Vice-Rector

The rift between the Polytechnic of Namibia rector, Professor Tjama Tjivikua, and his deputy, the vice-rector for academic affairs and research, Dr Andrew Niikondo, has reached boiling point. Niikondo now faces a disciplinary hearing as well as possible demotion to being an ordinary lecturer.

Niikondo’s current office is also likely to be split into two vice-rector positions, when his contract ends in July.

On Friday the Polytechnic Council resolved to appoint an independent external person – from the Law Society of Namibia or the Society of Aocates – to head the disciplinary inquiry of Niikondo.

The disciplinary action is based on a performance review of Niikondo, in which Tjivikua found Niikondo incompetent. Niikondo already has a warning for allegedly being incompetent.

Niikondo yesterday said due to the pressure from Tjivikua he had no choice but to return to the department. “What can I do if this is the situation? It seems like the Polytechnic is a private institution and not a government institution,” he said when contacted for comment.

Niikondo has submitted a formal grievance to the council, citing constant victimisation and intimidation by Tjivikua, that Tjivikua deliberately sidesteps him in all official duties pertaining to the office of the vice-rector, and demeans and humiliates him in front of junior colleagues and students.

However, the council meeting of Friday said “a grievance action cannot postpone or stop a disciplinary action”, because the institution’s policy is clear that “if a grievance is submitted as a result of the disciplinary action, the disciplinary action must first be taken.” The independent external person would “consider the [disciplinaryincapacity hearing] and aise the chairperson of the council on a course of action, on both issues,” according to minutes of the council meeting in possession of New Era. Chairperson of the Polytechnic Council Evelyn Breuer would act as aisor to the independent legal person. Tjivikua did not pick up his phone and did not return messages left with him yesterday.

“Pursuant to my previous complaint letter dated 14 November 2014 regarding continued harassment, victimization and discrimination, I would like to submit a formal grievance against the Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia Dr Tjama Tjivikua,” Niikondo said in the grievance letter dated March 27, 2015 to the council.

He says although the two offices are intertwined and interdependent, communication has been limited. “Communication between us has been poor since 2013. It has never been frank at best and non-existent at worst. I have tried several times to send messages regarding work to the rector, but he has consistently ignored these communications,” said Niikondo. Polytechnic sources said that Tjivikua and the council chairperson Evelyn Breuer had a meeting with the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi to brief her on a wide range of issues pertaining to the institution, including that of Niikondo. Efforts to get hold of the minister yesterday proved futile as her mobile phone went unanswered. New Era understands there are plans to split Niikondo’s position into two, meaning Tjivikua will have three vice-rectors. Sources said the new positions will be titled vice-rector: academic affairs, and vice-rector: research, innovation and aancement. Niikondo’s contract ends on July 1 2015. Niikondo is the first vice rector: academic affairs to complete his four-year contract, as well as the first Namibian to ever hold the position. Niikondo claims he was not informed about the plans to split his position.

“I was extremely astonished to hear my job discussed in the meeting without my previous knowledge. I felt totally disrespected and persona non-grata. Or else, this could be yet another attempt by the rector to get rid of me through a purportedly legitimate position,” said Niikondo.

Source : New Era