THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) Council and Vice-Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao yesterday concluded negotiations for a deal which will see the latter exiting the country’s premier learning institution on 31 May, six months before his contract expires on 30 November 2019.
There had been added impetus to decide Prof Mahao’s future at the university in the aftermath of his February 2019 election to the post of deputy leader of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC).
The ABC held its elective conference on 1 and 2 February 2019. However, Prof Mahao and the rest of his colleagues in the new national executive committee (NEC) are still to assume office after their elections was fiercely resisted by the old NEC which has since taken the matter to court.
NUL Council Chairperson Tseko Bohloa told the Lesotho Times that the two parties concluded negotiations yesterday.
“The council met today (yesterday) and final decisions on the matter (of Prof Mahao’s exit) were made,” Mr Bohloa said, adding, “Those decisions will be communicated in a press statement tomorrow (today)”.
However, trusted sources at the university yesterday told this publication that the NUL council meeting which has enjoyed cordial working relations with Prof Mahao rubber-stamped a deal that the latter had agreed with a task team that was established by the NUL council to negotiate with him.
“A decision has been finalised that the Vice-Chancellor (Prof Mahao) will no longer be at the helm of the university with effect from 1 June 2019,” one source said.
The two parties had initially agreed to explore two options for Prof Mahao’s exit, including a proposal that he should immediately go on six-month terminal leave as per one of the clauses of his employment contract with the university.
Although Prof Mahao is not ill, reliable sources last month informed this publication that the two parties were of the view that the terminal leave would work for both parties and allow Prof Mahao to leave the university much earlier than the 30 November 2019 date for the expiry of his contract.
The sources said the other option was for Prof Mahao to immediately leave the university and be paid out in lieu of his remaining time in office.
However, the sources yesterday said the two parties resolved to abandon the two options and come up with a separation arrangement which would be effected on 1 June 2019.
The sources said that Prof Mahao and the council had made it clear that they did not want to rush into a decision that might come back to haunt them in future. The source said the two parties were also keen to avoid anything that would bring the university into disrepute or soil Prof Mahao’s reputation.
The source further said the council “had advised itself against being influenced by the political pressure to ensure that Prof Mahao immediately leaves office due to his involvement in the ABC as its newly elected deputy leader”.
“There is a cordial relationship between Ntate Mahao and the council and they have not entered into these negotiations in bad spirit.
“The council made it clear that everything would be done with respect and dignity for Prof Mahao and that the process should also protect the integrity of the university. Both parties strongly believe that he did not commit any crimes and therefore he should not be treated like a criminal.
“The council worked very hard to ensure that the whole (negotiation) process was not influenced by political dynamics. The council members wanted the process to be conducted professionally until its conclusion. Prof Mahao was also anxious to see the process completed and he gave the council the respect it deserved,” one source said.
The negotiations between the two parties began in February after Prof Mahao informed the council that he would not seek another term and he “might leave earlier” depending on what the council decided.
Prof Mahao communicated his decision to leave during the NUL annual general meeting in January, a few weeks before the ruling ABC’s hotly disputed 1—2 February 2019 NEC elections where he clinched the deputy leader’s post.
NUL has already advertised the Vice Chancellor’s post and the deadline for the submission of applications was 29 March 2019.