Over the past few months, the Namibia University of Science and Technology has enjoyed significant media attention for all the wrong reasons.
The institution has been plagued by pending investigations of internal conflicts, accusations of nepotism, procurement flaws, maladministration, and power struggles among an avalanche of many others, resulting in a surge of adverse media coverage.
However, amidst the turmoil, the minister of higher education, Itah Kandjii-Murangi finds herself confronted with a dual dilemma - fighting corruption allegations levelled against her while also trying to steer Nust out of the doldrums.
On Friday, Kandjii-Murangi, called for an emergency meeting with the management of the institution for the second time since assuming her position.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the current state of affairs at the controversy-marred entity.
She expressed her concern over the institution’s poor public image and emphasised that Nust seems to lack an effective strategy to overcome this challenge.
“We need to identify what needs to be done and the threats we are facing,” she stated during the hastily-arranged meeting.
“We have been observing and interacting with outgoing boards. While these boards may function at a certain level, it is ultimately the responsibility of the parent leadership structure to ensure the integrity and stability of this institution, even in the face of challenges.”
She called upon the management to take immediate action in addressing the manner in which they handle various situations.
Expressing concern over the negative and corrosive nature of certain reactions, she emphasised the importance of finding common ground and dealing with challenges as a united front.
“Things always come, negative and bad and it is how we deal and confront them together in-house and as people who know what to do.
“We have experts who can engage and face each other with emotions and still find common grounds, we expect something positive but this is not happening. Sometimes when reactional matters become so corrosive, I don’t know what we are passing on to our students,” she said.
She highlighted that her passion for the institution and its return to normalcy prompted the meeting, with the goal of ensuring that Nust emerges from this negative publicity unscathed.
She implored the management to reflect on themselves and examine what actions they should take, as well as to identify the root causes of the issues that constantly make headlines and the underlying frustrations that remain unresolved.
“Another thing is communication, I know we have seen many write ups and you know you can approach the minister anytime on any matter but unfortunately that has not been the case,” she said.
In the midst of it all, a member of the management expressed their frustration, labelling the meeting as a “bloody waste of time.”
In an audio recording obtained by New Era, a visibly agitated staff member can be heard complaining about the decision to bring together the accused and the aggrieved parties in one room, disregarding concerns of potential intimidation.
The member voiced their dissatisfaction with the short notice and rushed nature of the meeting.
They suggested that given the gravity of the circumstances, a mere two-hour gathering would not be sufficient to resolve anything.
“What is it that we can talk about and be solved in 2.5 hours? The communication that went out mentioned issues and the matter is really happening as mentioned in the papers but we cannot also go one by one to address the matter because it is the time factor. Secondly, we have both the aggrieved and the accused in one room so you cannot expect people to come forth and freely express themselves,” said the staff member.
Furthermore, the individual emphasised that the bureaucratic nature of the organisation hinders the aggrieved parties from reporting issues directly to management, which led them to resort to the media.
“Are the platforms and the doors open? There is a thing that you cannot come directly to me unless you have gone through who, are we reachable and approachable?, are the communications channels open and encouraged?” the staff member asked.
While Kandjii-Murangi is busy repairing the Nust house, she is also dealing with various urgent issues.
Political activist, Job Amupanda has repeatedly accused her of embezzling funds from parastatals under her ministry’s jurisdiction to finance her frequent international travels related to higher education.
In response, her lawyer Clive Kavendjii from Kangueehi & Kavendjii Inc, has written a letter to Amupanda, demanding that he stop spreading “false and defamatory” allegations against her.
Amupanda took to his social media platforms to claim that the minister has been misusing her position to corruptly access public funds, specifically in the form of travel allowances amounting to approximately N$1.5 million.
Kandjii-Murangi›s lawyer has informed Amupanda that his posts are untrue and are tarnishing her reputation by portraying her as a corrupt and morally compromised individual.
The minister, through her legal representation, has demanded an unconditional public apology from Amupanda before the end of business today, 11 July. Failure to comply with this request will result in the minister taking legal action against him.
In response to Kandjii-Murangi’s lawyers, Amupanda claims to possess evidence supporting his allegations, indicating his unwillingness to retract his social media posts or issue a public apology. He expresses his belief that some litigants manipulate lawyers into becoming mere mercenaries, often withholding crucial information and leading them astray.
He advises Kandjii-Murangi’s legal representative to request the disclosure of correspondence between the minister and DBN (Development Bank of Namibia) following a court order.
This includes SMS or WhatsApp messages exchanged with DBN officials regarding the matter.
Amupanda also suggests requesting a letter dated 14 October 2022, from DBN and assessing its alignment with the aforementioned court order or DBN credit policies.