Aformer University of Botswana Student Representative Committee (SRC) president Richard Khumoekae has described outgoing UB Vice Chancellor Thabo Fako as ‘bossy and too rigid for the contemporary world.’
Professor Fako’s contract comes to an end in March, and he has communicated his decision with the Ministry of Education and Skills Development not to seek another term. Khumoekae is the author of a book that is highly critical of President Ian Khama’s rule, titled, ‘Scandalous Murdering Of Democracy.’
According to Khumoekae, Prof. Fako’s exit was long overdue as he did not blend the qualities that can lead lecturers and students. “As a person, he is an intellectual of repute. However, leadership-wise, he is more of a disciplinarian,” he told Botswana Guardian, adding that the Sociology professor is more of an authoritarian.
From the students’ perspective, Khumoekae says that Fako did not project their interests, citing the termination of supplementary exams in 2011 as an example of Fako’s arbitrary leadership style. The reseat exams had previously been reinstated by his predecessor Bojosi Otlhogile. “Fako talks less and acts more, without consulting,” said Khumoekae.
Another battle between Fako and students was when the school of medicine was opened. Khumoekae revealed that the VC’s administration tempered with salaries of the medical school staff, in particular, the Dean. It is an international practice that medical school deans earn above vice chancellors.
However, Fako is alleged to have had none of that, which resulted in mass exodus of lecturers from the school of medicine. Medicine students would then demand answers from the SRC and went on a strike. During that same period, there were also talks within the UB that Fako was going to suspend intervasity games and close down the student bar, popularly known as 411. The bar has since been closed down.
“You can’t control Fako. He is too authoritarian for leadership where people are allowed to express their opinions freely. But again, I knew he was going to clash with government or eventually get bored,” said the 26 year-old Khumoekae.
Failed by gov’t
Reliable sources from the UB administration say Fako felt threatened since the arrival of the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST). It is alleged that he was feeling ‘sabotaged’ that government was giving more attention to BIUST and neglecting the UB.
Fako also accused government of delaying payment of tuition fees for students on government sponsorship and also giving BIUST staff better packages than UB. His supporters, however say he should be given credit for the growth of infrastructure at the UB. “He leaves behind a number of topnotch buildings such as the Media Block. He has also brought in new staff and filled the gaps,” said a professor from Sociology, where Fako is said to be returning to.
The academic describes Fako as ‘a man who fears God and loves order and hates chaos.’
UB spokesperson Mhitshane Reetsang says vice chancellor Fako should be remembered as a leader running an organisation trying his level best. “People have different opinions. If you are doing something, expect to be criticised,” she says.
She would not want to be drawn into Khumoekae’s sentiments. “When I read his book, I just saw it as a personal opinion because, this is a free country,” she states, she knew the youthful author as a student leader mobilising for what he thought was right. Efforts to get a response from Fako were unsuccessful. He had not responded to an earlier email from Botswana Guardian requesting for an interview.
UB has had five vice chancellors being Prof. John Turner (1982-1984), Prof. Thomas Tlou (1984-1998), Prof. Sharon Siverts (1998-2003), Prof. Bojosi Otlhogile (2003-2011) and Prof. Thabo Fako (2011-2016).
Meanwhile, Professor Martin Mokgwathi has replaced Professor Lydia Nyati-Saleshando as Deputy Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs. Mendel Nlanda has been appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration, replacing Dawid Katzke who is reported to have taken up the same post at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST).