University of Botswana Vice Chancellor, Professor Thabo Fako will not be seeking a second term at the helm of the country’s highest learning institution, Weekend Post has established.
According to the institution’s acting Director of Public Affairs, Tefo Mangope, Fako has made up his mind and has since communicated the decision to his superiors at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and his decision was accepted.
“I can confidently confirm that Prof. Fako will relinquish his position as the vice chancellor of UB when his first term comes to an end on the 31st of March,” Mangope told this publication. Mangope further confirmed to this publication that Fako has successfully applied with Department of Sociology for a new role as a professor.
The positions of; Deputy Vice-chancellor, Finance and Administration and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Student Affairs also fell vacant last year following the departure of Dawid Katze and Professor Lydia Nyathi- Saleshando after completing their two full terms.
The university policy allowed them to serve only the two terms.
Katze has since joined BIUST serving in the same position while Prof. Nyathi-Saleshando has rejoined the Faculty of Education.
Mangope also told this publication that, Prof. Martin Mokgwathi has been appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor – Student Affairs while Director of Financial Services, Mendel Ngoni Nlanda has been promoted to Deputy Vice Chancellor -Finance and Administration.
The position of Deputy Vice Chancellor-Academic Affairs may soon be declared vacant should Prof. Otlogetswe Totolo be appointed vice chancellor of BIUST. Information reaching this publication suggests that Prof. Totolo is amongst the three short-listed candidates for the position of vice chancellor at BIUST.
Fako’s reign as UB vice chancellor
Prof. Thabo Fako was appointed the fifth vice chancellor in April 2011 for a period of five years. His appointment was marred with controversy as the cabinet, which has the last say on the appointment of the vice chancellor decided to settle for him instead of the preferred candidate, Prof. Brian Mokopakgosi who has since been appointed executive director of Botswana Examinations Council.
Fako received accolades from the academic staff as they said he was assuming the position of vice chancellor at a time when the university was in crisis. When Fako’s predecessor, Prof. Bojosi Otlhogile stepped down in 2011, the university was embroiled in crisis.
There was mass exodus of the academic staff due deteriorating working conditions, low staff morale and acerbic employer-employee relations. Students were also looking up to Fako as their concerns were not addressed during Otlhogile’s era.
Relations with the student community
Kago Mokotedi who served as the president of the Student Representative Council said Fako never deserved to be the vice chancellor hence his decision to step down comes as a relief on the part of the students.
Mokotedi described Fako’s leadership as an extension of the executive noting that Fako succumbed to the pressure from the country’s political leadership and failed to engage the SRC in addressing pertinent issues regarding student welfare.
“Fako lacked accountability and viewed the SRC not as equal stakeholders but his adversary. In a nutshell I would describe Fako’s leadership as a successful operation in which the patient died,” he remarked.
“It was during his reign that; politics were banned within campus, popular student bar, 411 closed, intervarsity games were suspended, SRC was ripped off its benefits like free on campus accommodation and malicious charges were laid against the SRC,” he explained.
Mokotedi called on the relevant authorities to review the procedure on the appointment of the vice chancellor and the chairman of the university council adding that the current one was flawed.
Another former SRC president, Jacob Kelebeng said Fako was too philosophical and autocratic hence reluctant to solve problems emanating at the university.
“As someone who served under his leadership twice, I realised that Fako’s working relationship with students and academic staff was shaky because of his favouritism and pettiness,” said Kelebeng.
“It took him ages to admit that the only remedy to high failure rate at the university was supplementary examinations. He was also reckless in dealing with SRC and that is why he lost numerous court cases against the SRC,” opined Kelebeng.
Kelebeng said the only thing he appreciates about Fako is his decision to change the university logo though the university spent millions of pula on the exercise.
Relations with the academic staff
Contacted for a comment, president of University of Botswana Academic and Senior Support Staff Union, UBBASSU, Dr. Sethunya Mosime said as the union there were still to meet and discuss Fako’s exit from the office of the vice chancellor.
According to impeccable sources at the institution, Fako had literally unleashed war against the professors and was governing the university with an iron fist.
The dean of Faculty of Medicine resigned after Fako decided to cut salaries and allowances of the staff.
In 2014, Fako suspended the university’s high ranking officials including Prof. Happy Siphambe and Prof. Rolang Majelantle.
He was also accused of reversing the gains made by his predecessor, Bojosi.
The resignation of former deputy vice chancellor, Prof. Frank Youngman is attributed to Fako’s decision to defer the organisational restructuring which was led by Youngman.
Fako’s reign as the VC saw the mass exodus of lecturers to BIUST due to poor remuneration and poor conditions of service. Faculties of Science and Engineering and Technology were hard hit and the university is still struggling to fill some of the vacant positions.
The lecturers complained that the support staff was earning more than them yet the core business of the university was teaching and research.
Fako also scrapped off Performance Management System and under his leadership, a lecturer could be promoted to professorship without a PhD, the development which divided the academic staff.
Relations with the government and political leadership
A highly placed source at the office of the vice chancellor says Fako’s decision not to extend his term was the fallout between him and his superiors at the MoESD. It is alleged that Fako could no longer tolerate interference from government on the running of the institution.
An official at the institution who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Fako differed with the government on the running of the academic hospital and decried that government had cut the subvention fund to the institution hence complicating the budgeting process.
Fako also accused government of delaying payment of tuition fees for students on government sponsorship. In addition, Fako lamented that the government was gradually forsaking UB and giving more attention to newly established BIUST.
Fako observed that BIUST’s subvention fund exceeded that of UB hence the former offered better salaries and improved conditions of service.
Appointment of the sixth vice chancellor
According to Mangope, when Fako steps down at the end of March, one of the deputy vice chancellors shall be appointed acting vice chancellor. “Regarding the appointment of the sixth vice chancellor, the Joint Committee of Council will approve details that the job advertisement must carry before the advert is posted,” he said.
After applications are received, the same committee will consider applications and identify those who qualify. These will be presented to the University Council to recommend a name to the appointing authority, the minister of education and skills development, Dr. Unity Dow.
It is believed that Prof. Happy Siphambe is a top contender for the position of VC. UB has had five vice chancellors namely Prof. John Turner (1982-1984), Prof. Thomas Tlou (1984-1998), Prof. Sharon Siverts (1998-2003), Prof. Bojosi Otlhogile (2003-2011) and Prof. Thabo fako (2011-2016).
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.