There should be intense lobbying in the corridors of power as the country’s academics vie for the post of vice-chancellor which will be vacated by Prof Walter Kamba at the end of this month.
Having served for 10 years and being widely regarded as one of the top government advisers, Kamba’s departure and the way he announced it, coupled with the fact that the mainline media never bothered to find out where he was going, showed that there was now a serious rift between the college head and the politicians.
The vice-chancellor was no longer prepared to tolerate the political whims of the country’s leaders at the expense of academic freedom. This is particularly obvious taking into consideration that the new University Amendment Act which has been a bone of contention since it was rushed through Parliament last year gives the chancellor even greater powers which, had they not conflicted with his principles, he would have gladly accepted. Or was it simply that the politicians misjudged by believing that every top official wants unchallenged power?
Apart from saying that there were too many non-professional fingers in the affairs of the university with a variety of agenda, the vice-chancellor emphasised that he was a professional and wanted things run that way.
The intense lobbying for the top post at the country’s highest institution of learning will for some time overshadow murky developments at the newest institution, the National University of Science and Technology (NUST).
The vice-chancellor has now been assured of a place to stay with the purchase of a $90 000 stand over two acres in Matsheumhlope. A hefty half a million dollars have been set aside for the vice-chancellor’s residence but reports in the local press say this is not enough. Granted construction costs have been escalating but what kind of house is not good enough at $500 000? But this is peanuts if one takes into consideration that a cool $3 million has been set aside for the residence of one of the vice-presidents.
Accommodation aside there are already grumblings about how staff is being recruited for the second university. All agree that there could have been no better choice for vice-chancellor than Phineas Makhurane and perhaps two other appointments made to signal that the university was open.
Academics, however, are a bit skeptical about the support staff. Some of them are even saying if Dr Makhurane, for example, were to depart the new university will be nothing more than a celebrated polytechnic. They even claim that instead of the new college being a University of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo it may turn out to be a University of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.