. . . as Sejanamane contests Mahao appointment
NATIONAL University of Lesotho (NUL) Acting Vice Chancellor Mafa Sejanamane is challenging the appointment of Nqosa Mahaoas the substantive vice chancellor of Lesotho’s largest university, effectively arguing that he should have been considered for the post.
Professor Sejanamane outlines his concerns in a letter of complaint to Minister of Education and Training ‘Makabelo Mosothoane and the NUL Council Chairman Mokhele Likate. He challenges the process leading to the appointment of Professor Mahao as “seriously flawed” and null and void at law and asks for it to be re-started failing which he would take the matter to court.
In his letter dated 22 August 2014 and signed by his Advocate Zwelakhe Mda (King’s Counsel), Professor Sejanamane also describes the process leading to the appointment of Professor Mahao as being “inimical to established principles of good cooperate governance”.
The letter headlined “Proposed Appointment of Professor Nqosa Mahao as Vice Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho” goes to great lengths in outlining Professor Sejanamane ’s revulsion at the appointment of Professor Mahao.
“Client (Sejanamane ) is one of the candidates for the post of Vice Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho; he applied for the post and went through the processes as determined by the joint Committee of Council and Senate.
“On the 21st August, 2014 client met briefly with the Chairman of Council: Mr M Likate at the instance of the latter. The Chairman informed client that the recruitment process has pointed Professor Mahao as the successful candidate for the Post of Vice Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho.”
According to the letter, Mr Likate urged Professor Sejanamane to be magnanimous and accept the appointment of Professor Mahao with good grace and cooperate with him.
“It came as a surprise to client that such sentiments could be expressed even before the Head of State had exercised his discretion in the matter in terms of the provisions of section 16 (3) and (4) of the National University of Lesotho Order, 1992,” the letter reads.
“Client has learned that the Council has decided to submit only the name of the successful candidate – namely: Professor Mahao to the Hon. Minister.
“This decision flies in the face of a well established good practice of submitting three names to the Minster for presentation to the Head of State – with Council indicating its preferred candidate.”
“This was the practice since 2001 when Tefetso Mothibe was appointed; in 2006 when Professor A. F. Ugurinade was appointed and 2011 when Professor Sharon Siverts was appointed.”
The rationale for the practice, Professor Sejanamane argues, is to avoid the “repository of power being presented with a fait accompli, and ensure that the decision maker is accorded full facts for the proper exercise of discretion”.
He further argues that the whole process of appointment was seriously flawed and inimical to established principles of good corporate governance.
“For instance, the Joint Committee of Council and Senate was made up of four members of council and three members of Senate … The former participated in the deliberations of Council to confirm their committee’s recommendations.
“Clearly this flies in the face of the basic principle of procedural justice that no man ought to be a judge in his own cause. Thus there was a real likelihood of operative prejudice.
“The composition of the committee was itself not balanced and therefore not a suitable vehicle for ensuring fair outcomes, it was a guarantee of skewed outcomes,” charges Professor Sejanamane.
He also claims that the council meeting of the 16h of August 2014, summoned for the consideration of the committee’s recommendation of the candidate for the post of Vice-Chancellor was hurriedly done, without ensuring maximum attendance of members “despite the magnitude of the business to be transacted”.
This, he says, was clearly contrary to the spirit of the law as articulated in the provisions of Section 23 (2) of the Higher Education Act 2004.
“On the facts, incidence of bias actual or apparent abounds, which with due deference does not warrant elaboration at this stage,” the letter alleges.
Professor Sejanamane also accuses Council of violating the Higher Education Act, section 23 (4), by basically making decisions which he claims favoured “factional interests”.
He effectively asks the Minister not to proceed with the appointment and to have the process started afresh failing which he would seek legal recourse.
“My instructions are to demand Council in the spirit of good corporate governance and justice to revisit its decision and address the litany of irregularities referred to herein.
“And to urge the Honourable Minister not to endorse the process fraught with such illegalities until the Council has put its house in order (sic).Failing which client will have no option but to seek appropriate relief before the courts of Law”.
Contacted for comment, Advocate Mda confirmed Professor Sejanamane was his client but said he would not tell the media about his client’s instructions without his consent.
“Why don’t you ask him?” Advocate Mda said. “I cannot comment to the media about issues concerning my clients.”
On his part, Professor Sejanamane would neither confirm nor deny authoring the letter saying: “I cannot comment on anything concerning the process of the recruitment of the NUL vice chancellor”.