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Friday, 19 April 2024

Exposed: UB top academics bullying juniors

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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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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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