MASERU — A new storm is brewing at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) following the vice-chancellor’s decision to swap her official home at the Roma campus for a house in Maseru. Vice-Chancellor Professor Sharon Siverts moved to Maseru at the beginning of this month, according to documents seen by this paper.
She is now staying in Maseru where the university is understood to be paying around M11 000 in rent per month. This has triggered howls of protests from some members of the NUL management who question why the university is spending so much money on the VC’s accommodation in Maseru when she has a house at the campus.
NUL registrar, Tumelo Tsikoane, confirmed the move but refused to give further details. He said as far as he knew the vice-chancellor was supposed to move on July 1. “Beyond that I cannot say more,” Tsikoane said on Friday. Siverts moved into her official house at the campus a few months after she was appointed in 2011 because the university needed to do some renovations.
According to several highly placed sources at NUL the renovations cost the university nearly M400 000 and were done in two phases. The sources said the first phase cost the university about M290 000 while the second phase required just over M100 000. The house was fully furnished by the university. Some at NUL are questioning the logic of spending so much money on renovating the house only for the vice-chancellor to vacate it midway through her five-year contract.
The Roma house itself is a mansion by Lesotho standards. It has six bedrooms, two servants’ quarters, two lounges and a double lock-up garage. It also has a guardroom in the yard. Although some at the university had indicated that Siverts had moved into a poshy apartment this paper has discovered the vice-chancellor is staying in a house built in 1924. It has four bedrooms, servants’ quarters and a visitor’s flat. On Friday, NUL council chairman Molotsi Monyamane who has been accused of illegally amending Siverts’ contract to allow her to move to Maseru said there was nothing sinister about the move.
He said Siverts had been allowed to move to Maseru because her security at the campus house had “deteriorated”.
Monyamane said it would have been irresponsible of him as the vice-chancellor’s supervisor to insist that she stays in Roma when her life was in danger. He alleged that Siverts had received death threats through phone calls and text messages.
“The vice-chancellor has made reports to the Roma police about the threats. The minister of education and the commissioner of police are all aware of her security situation,” Monyamane said.
He said he did not understand the outrage over Siverts’ move “because NUL vice- chancellors have always had two houses, one in Maseru and another at the campus”. Siverts could not use the university’s house in Maseru because it has been rented out to generate income, he said. Asked about the rent, Monyamane said it was just over M10 000.
He said Siverts had not violated her contract by moving to Maseru.
“She is entitled to a housing allowance equivalent to 10 percent of her salary. Many people at the university are getting this allowance,” he said. “So it’s not as if the vice-chancellor is getting a benefit she does not deserve.” Siverts’ annual basic salary of M1 193 657 (M99 471 per month) is subject to performance adjustments. She is also entitled to inflation adjustments the university might give to other employees.
Monyamane said he had to allow the vice-chancellor to move because she had been raising concerns about her security for the past two years without getting assistance. “The management has not been supportive on this issue. I could not fold my arms and allow her life to be put at risk,” Monyamane said. “The security of the vice-chancellor and other expatriates at the university is the responsibility of the university and the government. The government is fully aware of the vice-chancellor’s security situation.”