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NUL meets again on Prof Mahao’s fate

  • Vice Chancellor’s tenure ends in November
  • first meeting was inconclusive on his fate after his election as deputy leader of the ABC

Pascalinah Kabi

THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) Council will meet again this week to decide the future of its Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nqosa Mahao.

This week’s planned meeting follows an earlier one last Thursday which ended without a decision on the fate of Prof Mahao whose contract expires on 30 November 2019.

There has been an added impetus to decide Prof Mahao’s future at the university in the aftermath of his recent 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.

NUL Council chairperson Tseko Bohloa told this publication that the council will meet again this week to discuss the fate of Prof Mahao.

“Yes, we had a meeting on Thursday but we didn’t conclude the matter (of Prof Mahao’s future at NUL) and we resolved to meet again next week (this week) to further discuss the matter,” Mr Bohloa said, adding, “It must be understood that we are still in negotiations with the Vice-Chancellor on his future at the university and the outcome of the negotiations will be announced in due course”.

The council meetings over Prof Mahao are taking place barely a month after he was elected deputy leader of the ABC.

However, he and the rest of the national executive committee (NEC) of the ABC are yet to assume office as their election has been challenged by some senior members of the party which is led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. The old ABC NEC has so far refused to hand over power and two cabinet ministers, Habofanoe Lehana (Trade and Industry) and Keketso Sello (Mining) recently joined forces with the ABC’s legislator for the Rothe constituency, Mohapi Mohapinyane, to launch an urgent High Court application to nullify the outcome of the elective conference. Messrs Lehana and Sello contested and lost the party polls for the posts of deputy secretary general and treasurer respectively.

In the deputy leadership contest, the Vice Chancellor of the National University of Lesotho, Professor Nqosa Mahao, prevailed over Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, Public Works and Transport minister Prince Maliehe and former party chairperson, Motlohi Maliehe.

Others who were elected into the new NEC are Lebohang Hlaele (secretary general), Samuel Rapapa (chairperson), Chalane Phori (deputy chairperson), Nkaku Kabi (deputy secretary general), Tlali Mohapi (treasurer), Likhapha Masupha (secretary), Montoeli Masoetsa (spokesperson) and ‘Matebatso Doti (deputy spokesperson).

However, Prof Mahao and his colleagues have not been able to assume office due to resistance from the old NEC as well as the court challenge Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane.

Immediately after the elections, the old NEC refused to hand over the office keys to the new NEC while the trio launched their court action.  Messrs Lehana, Sello and Mohapinyane have since been granted an interim order barring the new NEC from taking over until after the finalisation of their main application for the nullification of the 1-2 February poll results.

The trio argues that the elections were marred by gross irregularities and as a consequence, they could not have produced a “credible outcome”.

It remains unclear whether or not Dr Thabane is enamoured to the idea of Prof Mahao as his second in command. This is especially because during the run-up to the ABC’s elective conference, Dr Thabane described Prof Mahao as a useless rag who should never be allowed to succeed him at the helm of the ABC. Dr Thabane also suggested that Prof Mahao had only joined the ABC bandwagon upon realising that his tenure at the university was about to end.

“People stand in long queues to vote for individuals who, when elected into office, think they are entitled to make the people their slaves. Please stop giving me people who are going to make you slaves because I am fed up because of people who don’t respect the electorate.

“Tell that person to leave the ABC alone. Let him go and start his own party and all those who believe in him should openly declare it so that the rest of us may count ourselves and know exactly how many of us are left (in the ABC)

“I am not accusing anyone in particular but we took one of them and gave them a responsibility to head the National University of Lesotho and when his contract lapses, he now says he wants to be leader of ABC. He is not even an ABC member but just a rag that came flying here…,” Dr Thabane charged at 17 January rally in his Ha Abia constituency.

There have been calls from some sections of society for Prof Mahao to resign from NUL ahead of the expiry of his contract due to his new political post but Prof Mahao has however, dug in, telling the Sunday Express’ sister Lesotho Times publication that his fate will only be decided by the NUL Council.

He said there were rumours about his impending resignation from the NUL which were being peddled by people who “do not know anything about the university”.

“There is absolutely no law that says you cannot participate in politics and remain a staff member at the university. This is why we have had many activists here at the university in the last few years. They have held positions in political parties and we could not do anything about them because there is no law that says they should not (be involved in politics).

“My contract expires at the end of November 2019 but the council can exercise its discretion (as to when I can leave). I am ready for that but the ball is in the hands of the council, not mine. We have made our efforts to improve things at the university in the last four years and I think they have paid off. And so, I am not by any means running away particularly because the university is going to face what I call an Armageddon of financial challenges this year. If you are a leader and you jump ship, you are likely to send a wrong message that the university is not going to hold it together. I deliberately decided to stay put but I also avail myself to the discretion of our council,” Prof Mahao said.

He said the university was in a “delicate situation and one cannot just desert in an uncoordinated fashion” because there are people “who hold scarce qualifications at the institution and can knock at any door elsewhere and the doors will open globally for them”.

“So, (if you just quit in an uncoordinated fashion) you might experience a haemorrhage with other people also leaving. We have worked very hard to build this university to have this calibre of people and so you do not want to leave in a manner that will sink the university back to where it was four years ago,” Prof Mahao said.

Earlier this year at the NUL annual general meeting, Prof Mahao indicated that he would not seek another term and “might leave earlier” depending on what the council decided.

“I seize opportunity to announce that, l, as Vice-Chancellor will not be seeking to renew my contract when it expires in the months ahead, and I may well leave earlier, contingent on how the Council advises itself.

“I view the eminent departure of some of us as necessary renewal that should lead to the infusion of new energy and new vision to propel the historic institution forward. The past four years, the NUL has turned the corner in a decisive manner from a staid institution characterised by discord, ill-discipline, inefficiencies and inertia,” Prof Mahao said at the AGM.

He implored the council to “quickly get down to the business of searching for new managers…in accordance with the act and statutes of the university to ensure seamless transition and continuity”.

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