The Namibia University of Science and Technology has claimed Professor Frednard Gideon, who was one of the candidates interviewed for the NUST vice chancellor position, was untruthful during his public presentation.
The university said they did not take this lightly as integrity was an integral characteristic in choosing its preferred candidate. Gideon has since denied the allegations that he inflated the numbers of master’s and PhD thesis students (30 000) he has supervised and 90 scientific papers he has published.
Gideon, who lost out on the vice chancellor position at NUST, had approached the High Court in November 2020 to seek a court order that would review and set aside NUST’s decision to appoint Dr Erold Naomab ahead of him as vice chancellor. He thus wants the court to declare Naomab’s appointment as irrational, unfair and unlawful.
Furthermore, any employment agreement and remuneration entered into by NUST and Naomab should be declared invalid.
He also wants the court to revert the matter for reconsideration to the chairperson of NUST’s council. Naomab was announced as NUST vice chancellor by the institution’s council on 13 November 2020. He subsequently signed his employment offer.
During oral submissions yesterday before Judge Hannelie Prinsloo, NUST’s lawyer Jan Meiring said the university was not pleased with Gideon’s public misrepresentation of facts that did not correlate with information within his CV. The university saw it as a “blemish on his integrity”.
“How would the applicant (Gideon) ever have been able to lead NUST, in the face of his unexplained embarrassing public statements and where, not through tallying scores blindly, but by considering all the attributes of the candidates, NUST chose who it wished to be its next leader at this crucial and difficult stage of its development,” argued Meiring.
He added that the assertions made by Gideon that he is entitled to the position because he holds the position of associate professor, which is not a professional chair, or that Naomab reported to him at the University of Namibia, is unfounded. He further argued that Naomab’s appointment was at the discretion of the NUST council at the recommendation of the joint search committee and senate (JSSC).
“The truth of the matter is that, while no process of appointing a high-ranking position ever goes without hiccups, the instant process was remarkable for the fact that the respondents garnered a wide body of evidence and used that evidence in a measured and balanced way to determine who would be the most appropriate candidate for NUST at this stage of its life,” submitted Meiring.
He then asked the court to dismiss the application, indicating that unseating Naomab now would not be in the best interest of the institution.
The lawyer highlighted that during his tenure, he has excelled as he has attracted multi-million-dollar investments and collaborations with various institutions, which includes nine research and innovation projects worth over N$240 million. In addition, he has been embraced by the university, Meiring said.
Gideon’s lawyer Sisa Namandje argued that since the first advertisement was placed in 2019, Gideon was doomed to fail. In January 2020, NUST decided to re-advertise the position, even after Gideon was the overall best performer in the first round.
The JSSC decided to lower the recruitment requirements to give more Namibians an opportunity to contend for the position. Namandje said even with the second recruitment process, Gideon still outperformed his opponents. According to court documents, Gideon scored 68% in two quantitative assessments, while Naomab scored 64%.
However, their scores are below the 70% mark set for the top candidate. In respect of the interview, Naomab got a total score of 64, whilst Gideon scored 67. For public presentation, Gideon obtained a score of 73.44, while Naomab scored 74.48.
Namandje also indicated that the NUST council ignored the scoring results and opted to use secret ballots to determine the best candidate – which is both procedurally and substantively irrational as the process adopted ignored the fixed criteria and selection method agreed upon by the university. On the allegations that Gideon was untruthful during his public presentation, Namandje said such factors deemed as a reason for NUST not to appoint him were not recorded in the minutes of 12 November 2020.
“The reliance on allegations that the applicant inflated certain numbers during the public presentation part of the interview is of no consequence because the candidates were given specific scores in respect of each and every attribute and section of questions in that regard. Those scores are extant,” said Namandje.
He further argued that even if the assertions were true, Gideon would still have outperformed his opponents. Naomab’s lawyer Norman Tjombe said the joint search committee of the council and the senate submitted a report to the council, after which the latter appointed him as vice chancellor of the university. He argued that Gideon has failed to present evidence that Naomab’s appointment was irrational insofar as the university is concerned.
“As we stated at the outset, it has not been alleged that Dr Naomab is incompetent or otherwise unfit for the statutory office of vice chancellor,” said Tjombe.
He also asked the court to dismiss the application, stating that if the court grants the orders sought, ‘unimaginable hardship’ will follow Naomab. The lawyer said following Naomab’s appointment at NUST, he resigned from his job at Unam and relocated his family from Keetmanshoop to Windhoek. Tjombe said should Gideon’s application succeed, Naomab will be unemployed. The court will give a ruling in the matter on 15 June.