Exposed: UB top academics bullying juniors
University of Botswana (UB) which is regarded as the best institution of higher learning in the country is engulfed with bullying and academic mobbing by top academics over junior staff members.
According to one of the victims of bullying and academic mobbing at the institution, the experience is traumatizing and rife. In her research paper titled ‘Auto ethnography and cognitive adaptation: two powerful buffers against the negative consequences of workplace bullying and academic mobbing’ University of Botswana lecturer Dr. Mpho Pheko from the department of Psychology stated that managers and supervisors bully them.
The experience of working is not always pleasant and the research is an exploratory study which used auto ethnography to investigate experiences of academic bullying and mobbing, and relates the practices to power structures in academic institutions. Specifically, the author shares personal experiences and explores the physical and emotional pain of being bullied and mobbed.
“In chaotic organizations such as my employing organization (UB), where (even) protective policies are nonexistent, managers and supervisors seem to have legitimate power to bully others,” she stated in the research paper released this week.
“I wish to start by noting that the type of bullying and mobbing I incurred could be profiled as supervisory bullying or academic mobbing because all three of the primary perpetrators in my story had been the heads of the academic department at one point or another,” Pheko asserted. Furthermore, she said, all were still sitting on higher university committees where hiring, firing, promotion and compensation decisions were made.
She continued in her ordeal that she was also aware, as it was public knowledge in the university (UB) that the head of the institution was in a relationship with one of the perpetrators in her department. “This relationship complicated the situation even further because my attempts to report the matter to the university higher offices and committees were met with contempt, which ultimately forced me to seek justice through the Botswana courts of law—a decision that almost bankrupted me emotionally, financially and physically.”
Dr. Pheko said the head of the institution was later forced to resign from his position because of different allegations of maladministration. She narrated in the academic paper that her experience of being bullied began earlier than 2013. “At that time, I had worked for the university for several years, completed my doctoral degree and had a few publications under my belt.
Prior to this period I had never been verbally or formally warned for any form of indiscipline. My official performance records also showed that I was a diligent worker and a high performer, by all standards used,” the UB lecturer said. For many academics, and different academic institutions, quantity and quality of publications have been identified as the single most important criterion for tenure decisions, and the same applied to UB, she explained in the study.
With this understanding, she observed that a year before the bullying and mobbing practices intensified, “six of my colleagues and I, who had noticed practices of unfairness in the department, decided to form a group to facilitate research and publication collaboratively. In 2013, looking purely at the standards and the university’s criteria for the appointment, promotion and review of academic staff at the university; a number of us qualified for promotion.”
Therefore, sometime in 2013, she said a colleague and herself submitted applications for promotion from the position of lecturer to senior lecturer. The UB lecturer emphasised that, having noted their efforts, the three senior staff members teamed together in a mob-like fashion and forged a plan to exclude, punish and humiliate the seven of them.
“We later learnt, through a secret report, that the three perpetrators had carefully designed and launched a plan to ruin our reputations and dismiss us from work, by manufacturing stories and relaying them to the higher offices of the institution.” Fortunately or unfortunately, she highlighted that most of the other victims were on contract; therefore, it was easy for their contracts to be terminated. Unfortunately or fortunately for her, she pointed out “I had been hired as a permanent and pensionable staff member; therefore, the mob could not easily dispose of me. To fire me, they needed to be more creative.”
Dr. Pheko continued: “because of this employment status, the three senior staff members carefully crafted well-planned propaganda which entailed writing secret reports and letters which contained fictitious incidents, incorrect statements, subjective evaluations, doctoring of minutes, professional character assassination and libellous insinuations, and presented them to the highest offices in the institution. Most of these letters were written and submitted in secret, and my supervisors falsely claimed that they had copied me in to the letters and other official documents.”
According to Pheko in the department of Psychology, she only received most of the documentation when the university was forced to produce them by the courts of law. She said “I noticed then that most of the reports had been collectively and carefully handpicked, nit-picked and selectively assembled to devalue my contribution to scholarship as well as to discredit me personally, all done with the intention of raising doubts among the promoting bodies regarding both my credibility and my abilities as a scholar.”
Another painful and humiliating incident she said entailed her head of department coming into one of her classes to inform her—in front of students—that she was getting kicked out of the class. The Psychologist also noted that the UB management perpetrators were the only psychologists sitting on the university committee responsible for promotion. Therefore, all the other committee members (who were non-psychologists) relied on their expertise when promotion and remuneration decisions were made, she highlighted.
As the case progressed, she implied that the head of the institution used his power and authority to dissolve the sitting disciplinary committee, which had been generally fair towards the matter, and handpicked personal friends and associates to sit on a new committee that he formed.
“Colleagues alerted me to this and suggested that I resign from my job. I refused to resign because I knew that I was not guilty of any offence that I was being accused of. Throughout these experiences, I felt like a criminal and kept asking myself: “I have worked for this university for years. My head of department only had six months’ tenure with the university.”
Before him, the lecturer reminisced that she never had even one single verbal or written warning for any form of indiscipline. “Why do all these seemingly smart people believe that I have started doing all these crazy things that my supervisor is claiming that I have done?”
Following the constitution of the new committee, she received yet another letter indicating that she was being suspended from work indefinitely because she was “under investigation”. The suspension letter indicated that she was not allowed to enter any building belonging to the institution—a public institution, for that matter.
Furthermore, she said in the research paper that when studying the letters and emails and preparing court documents, it became clear that there were major partialities and a lack of consistency in the application of the university’s procedures, rules and regulations. “Therefore, when your employing institution is like mine, you are also likely to experience feelings of anger and rage about the lack of procedural fairness and even legal remedies,” she asserted.
Through psychotherapy and writing therapy, the UB author realized that for many months she just could not fathom or comprehend how a group of psychologists, university professors and seemingly sane-looking people could intentionally team up and unanimously agree to hurt, target, intimidate, humiliate, suppress, exclude, malign, discredit and intentionally fabricate stories about another human being. It is important to note that more than one worker experienced the mobbing, and that their experiences are equally important and relevant, she highlighted.
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DPP drops Kably threat to kill case
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chief Whip and Member of Parliament for Letlhakeng/Lephephe Liakat Kably has welcomed the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP)’s decision not to prosecute BDP councillor, Meshack Tshenyego who allegedly threatened to kill him. However, the legislator has warned that should anything happen to his life, the state and the courts will have to account.
In an interview with this publication, Kablay said he has heard that the DPP has declined to prosecute Tshenyego in a case in which he threatened to kill him adding that the reasons he received are that there was not enough evidence to prosecute. “I am fine and at peace with the decision not to prosecute over evidential deficits but I must warn that should anything happen to my life both the DPP and the Magistrate will have to account,” Kablay said.
Connectedly, Kably said he has made peace with Tshenyego, “we have made peace and he even called me where upon we agreed to work for the party and bury the hatchet”.
The DPP reportedly entered into a Nolle Prosequi in the matter, meaning that no action would be taken against the former Letlhakeng Sub-district council chairperson and currently councillor for Matshwabisi.
According to the charge sheet before the Court, councilor Tshenyego on July 8th, 2022 allegedly threatened MP Kably by indirectly uttering the following words to nominatedcouncilor Anderson Molebogi Mathibe, “Mosadi wa ga Liakat le ban aba gagwe ba tsile go lela, Mosadi wame le banake le bone ba tsile go lela. E tla re re mo meeting, ka re tsena meeting mmogo, ke tla mo tlolela a bo ke mmolaya.”
Loosely translated this means, Liakat’s wife and children are going to shed tears and my wife and kids will shed tears too. I will jump on him and kill him during a meeting.
Mathibe is said to have recorded the meeting and forwarded it to Kably who reported the matter to the police.
In a notice to the Magistrate Court to have the case against Tshenyego, acting director of Public Prosecutions, Wesson Manchwe cited the nolle prosequi by the director of public prosecution in terms of section 51 A (30) of the Constitution and section 10 of the criminal procedure and evidence act (CAP 08:02) laws of Botswana as reasons for dropping the charges.
A nolle prosequi is a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit or action.
“In pursuance of my powers under section 51 A (300 of the Constitution and section 10 of the criminal procedure and evidence act (CAP 08:02) laws of Botswana, I do hereby stop and discontinue criminal proceedings against the accused Meshack Tshenyego in the Kweneng Administrative District, CR.No.1077/07/2022 being the case of the State vs Tshenyego,” said Manchwe. The acting director had drafted the notice dropping the charges on 13th day of March 2023.
The case then resumed before the Molepolole Magistrate Solomon Setshedi on the 14th of March 2023. The Magistrate issued an order directing “that matters be withdrawn with prejudice to the State, accused is acquitted and discharged.”
DPP seizes prosecution duties from Police
Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has finally taken over prosecution from the Botswana Police Service (BPS). The police have been prosecuting for years, but the takeover means that they will now only focus on investigations and then hand over to the DPP for prosecution.
Talks of complete takeover began as far back as 2008, but for years it seemed implementation was sluggish. However, the Minister of Justice, Machana Shamukuni, revealed that the complete takeover is expected to be completed soon.
During a presentation to the Committee of Supply by Shamukuni this week, it was revealed that the project has been implemented in 22 police stations nationwide, including Maun, Selebi-Phikwe, Palapye, Francistown, and Kasane. He further stated that the project has been allocated P3,000,000 for the 2023/2024 financial year to facilitate the opening of more satellite offices for the DPP.
Shamukuni said the Lobatse station is scheduled for a complete takeover by the end of May 2023, while the Kasane DPP satellite office has been established and became operational as of February 1, 2023.
“As reported previously, preparations are at an advanced stage to open a satellite office in Tsabong to curtail expenses, as well as frequent long-distance trips to these areas, as it is currently serviced by the Lobatse DPP office,” Shamukuni said.
Shamukuni said that the takeover strategy is to enable a seamless and gradual takeover of prosecution from the BPS without overwhelming and overstretching the thin resources at its disposal.
According to Shamukuni, the implementation of the prosecution takeover project has increased the workload of the 211 prosecutors in the DPP establishment.
Furthermore, the Justice Minister said DPP statistics show that the DPP has a total of 11,903 cases and dockets as of January 2023. He indicated that this is a significant increase in the number of cases being handled by the DPP, considering that in November 2021, the DPP had just over 8,471 files.
“Out of the total case load, 8 382 are cases pending before various courts while 3521 are dockets received from law enforcement agencies of which 1 325 are awaiting service of summons while the rest are being assessed for suitability of prosecution or otherwise” said Shamukuni.
He further stated that The DPP has consistently maintained an 80% success rate in matters completed at court.
“As at the end of January 2023, the success rate stood at 82.3% against a target of 90% whilst the average performance in respect of turnaround time for conclusion of cases at court stood at 17.5 months against a target of 18 months,” he said.
BACKLOG OF CASES – LAND TRIBUNAL
Meanwhile, Minister Shamukuni has revealed that Gaborone land Tribunal is experiencing a backlog of cases. Before parliament this week, Shamukuni revealed that a total 230 appeals were completed for the period of April 2022- December 2022 and only 76.5% of them were completed within set time frame.
The minister said that the Gaborone division has experiencing a backlog of cases due to manpower constraints and he further indicated that presiding officers from other divisions have been brought in to expedite case disposal.
He further indicated that the land tribunal is a specialized court that has been empowered to resolve appeals arising from land boards. “It has been mandated to determine appeals from the decisions of Physical planning committees of Districts Councils” said Shamukuni.
Land Tribunal relocated to the Ministry of Justice from Ministry of Land and Water Affairs in November 2022.
“An amount of P37, 842,670 is requested to cover salaries, allowance and other operational expenses for the Department of the land Tribunal,” alluded Shamukuni
BCP, AP stalemate in 7 constituencies
When the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Alliance for Progressives, Botswana Labour Party (BLP), and conveners reconvene next week, the controversial issue of allocation of the seven constituencies will be the main topic of discussion, WeekendPost can reveal.
Not only that, but the additional four constituencies will also dominate the talks. The idea is to finally close the “constituency allocation phase,” which has proven to be the most difficult part of the ongoing negotiations.
Earlier this year, the two parties announced that the marathon talks would be concluded by February. Even at a media briefing last month, BCP Secretary General Goretetse Kekgonegile and Publicity Secretary Dr. Mpho Pheko were optimistic that the negotiations would be concluded before the end of February.
However, it is now mid-March and the talks have yet to be concluded. What could be the reasons for the delay? This is a question that both Kekgonegile and Pheko have not responded to, as they have ignored the reporters’ inquiries. However, a senior figure within the party has confided to this publication as to what is delaying the highly anticipated negotiations.
“We are reconvening next week to finalize constituency allocations, taking into account the additional four new ones plus the outstanding seven,” he explained. It later surfaced that Gaborone Central, Gaborone North, Mogoditshane, Tswapong North, Francistown West, Tati West, and Nata Gweta are all contested by both BCP and AP. This is because the other 50 constituencies were allocated by December of last year.
The three parties have failed to find common ground for the Bosele Ward by-elections. Are these constituencies not a deal breaker for the talks? “None of the constituencies is a deal breaker,” responded a very calm BCP official.
In Bosele Ward, AP has yielded to BCP, despite most of its members disapproving the decision. On the other hand, BLP has refused, and it will face off with BCP together with Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The decision by BLP to face off with BCP has been labelled as a false start for the talks by political observers.