The leadership of Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) acting Vice Chancellor Dr Mataba Tapela has once again come under the hammer. Disgruntled BUAN staff is threatening to boycott the university’s envisaged launch if Dr Tapela is not relieved of his position as he has failed to implement the university’s transformation process. Even though a clear date for the launch of BUAN is not yet been set, the general staff is of a view that launch would be premature and should be aborted as BUAN does not have credible and identifiable structures that could constitute a university that could be launched at the moment. They contend that the launch of the university should be spearheaded by a fully-fledged and qualified individual whose credibility as a leader has been proven internationally and regionally. To show their seriousness, the staff members have since petitioned the Minister of Agriculture Patrick Ralotsia about what they term his inexperience to lead the university to a successful transformation. Currently low morale, frustration and loss of confidence on the acting vice chancellor are reported among staff members at the university.
Sources say staff is dissatisfied and have since developed doubtfulness about the entire transformation process. At the top of the matter they say is Dr Tapela’s ability of lead the process as he is inexperienced for the job. This publication has learnt that as a result of their prolonged frustrations, in a general staff meeting held on July 6, 2016, BUAN staff resolved to petition the Minister of Agriculture about the prevailing state of affairs at the university. BUAN Public Relations Officer, Onkgopotse Moreri, confirmed knowledge the said petition. A three-man delegation representing BUAN staff handed the petition to the Ministry of Agriculture on the 9th August, 2016. The petition is reported to have been received by the Permanent Secretary Boipolelelo Khumomatlhare on behalf of the minister. The petition that this publication is in possession of poured out the concerns of the staff concerning the acting vice chancellor’s repeated reinstatements. BUAN staff is arguing that Dr Tapela has over stayed his acting position since 2014 without anyone relieving him. They argue that his over stay has resulted in the delay of transformation progress.
“The continued exclusive re-appointment of the same inexperienced individual to the position of acting vice chancellor has created a vacuum that has resulted in lack of focus and direction for BUAN,” reads the petition. It went on to say this scenario has excluded competent staff members from taking the position to forge ahead with the transformation process which has now stagnated. Dr Tapela is the former acting principal of the then Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) before becoming BUAN’s acting Vice Chancellor. His tenure as acting vice chancellor came to an end at the end of July 2016 and has since being renewed to 2017. In a petition, the staff has called the minister to reverse for his appointment and replace him with a qualified person. They also demand that the statutes that have been approved be implemented without delays to constitute the governing council and other university structures that would then facilitate the advertisement of the Vice Chancellor position and the establishment of faculties for BUAN. If these requests are not met, staff threatens to boycott the envisaged BUAN launch.
The general staff indicated in the petition that things are not going well at the university as there is lack of transparency and consultation about the transformation process. “For example, statues are not made available to the general staff members. There is also uncertainty about the structure of the university and reluctance to consult staff openly about issues,” read part of the petition. BUAN came into existence in February 2016 when the then Botswana College of Agriculture was turned into a fully-fledged university. Leadership has always been a cause for concern the institution as even the students once showed their displeasure. In 2015 the students of the then BCA sought to demonstrate against what they called poor leadership of the management. Efforts to get a comment from the Ministry of Agriculture officials were unsuccessful as the ministry’s spokesperson Boikhutso Rabasha could not respond to the questions sent to her before going for print.