The College of Medicine , one of the constituent colleges of University of Malawi is in internal crisis over non-renewal of contract of former Principal Dr Mwapatsa Mipando who is demanding K70 million as minimum compensation for unfair and unlawful termination of his contract.
The position has currently been offered to Professor McPherson Mallewa .
University Council leadership refused to renew the contract of Mipando which expired in July last year. In the same month July 2019 he wrote the University Council expressing interest to have the contract renewed. The University Council responded more than a year later , in a letter dated 6th November 2020 and signed by University Registrar Dr Benedict Wokomaatani Malunga advising him to leave immediately and to hand over everything to an acting Principal, Mallewa who has been Mipando’s deputy during his tenure.
A letter from lawyers, Nicholls & Brookes — addressed to the Registrar of the University of Malawi (UNIMA) dated November 20, 2020 — this compensation sum represents Mipando’s net earnings, perks and loss of use of official car he was entitled to use and computed at the prevailing cost of hiring a similar vehicle.
“This has been calculated for the period of 10 months up to when his two -year contract would have terminated by effluxion of time,” says the letter, copied to UNIMA Vice-Chancellor; Secretary for Education; Comptroller of Statutory Corporation and DHRMD Principal Secretary.
“It also represents a mark-up for the distress and anxiety caused by this abrupt, inconsiderate, unjustified, wanton and patently whimsical termination,” reads the letter in part.
The lawyers argue that Mipando is entitled to service gratuity calculated at the rate of his benefits when it was first due,1st July 2020 as resolved by Council of the University during its 117th Ordinary Meeting.
“Our client is in the category of longest serving members which Council ranked second from retirees in terms of payment of service gratuity.
“To our Client’s knowledge, service gratuity has not been paid yet due to financial constraints on the part of the University. To be clear, it is legitimately expected that at the time of payment, our client’s service gratuity will be computed at the higher rate of earnings that he was entitled to have the gratuity been paid in July 2020.”
Mipando is basing his lawsuit that he was appointed as COM Principal on a 4-year contract effective 3rd August 2015.
And on August 13, 2019 — following the Pro Vice-Chancellor’s advice during a face-to-face discussion which he had with him on 31st July 2019 — Mipando wrote the UNIMA Registrar notifying of the expiry of his contract and expressing interest to continue serving during the still on-going delinking of UNIMA.
“This was further in keeping with the 111th UNIMA Ordinary Council Meeting’s resolution that pending completion of delinking, all senior management of the Colleges should be offered 2-year contracts, subject to automatic termination if delinking occurs earlier.
“This resolution was followed through by your letter dated 10th July 2018 in which you directed that 2 years contracts should be offered to those whose contract would be expiring.
“In keeping with that resolution, the College of Medicine’s Finance Officer and the Vice Principal, were offered a 2-year contracts.”
Mipando further contend that it was by the same token that the contracts for the Polytechnic Principal was renewed in 2018 and that of Chancellor College was renewed also in 2018 and further renewed in 2020 when they expired.
He further argue that as a member of Council, he is not aware of any Council meeting which resolved to terminate his contract — however, he is aware that the current Council chairman (Professor Jack Wirima) and the Pro-Vice Chancellor of UNIMA, in his capacity as chairman of the Appointments and Disciplinary Committee of the Council, met with the now acting Principal at the Wirima’s Mwaiwathu Hospital prior to his appointment.
“On our reading of the applicable law, this ‘Mwaiwathu affair’ hardly passes for a Council meeting that would resolve to terminate our client’s contract prematurely.
“Furthermore, whereas your letter of 6th November 2020 indicated that our client should use the rest of the month for handovers, on 18 November 2020 the Registrar for College of Medicine advised that our client shall revert to his salary and benefits as before his appointment as Principal from the 10th November 2020.
“This is clearly abrupt and disregards any consideration of notice as a fair labour practice. The termination of our client’s contract is spiteful, harsh, inconsiderate, and in any event unconnected to any lawful reasons that would warrant it,” says the letters signed lawyer Bright Theu.
Deans and other staff members wrote the University Council expressing concern with the prompt removal of Mipando .
Reads an email dated 14 November 2020 addressed to the Registrar which Nyasa Times has seen: “We would have loved to see this transition managed differently. Unless there is / was an urgent and pressing need / reason for the change to happen in such an abrupt manner, it is generally nice to have a respectable period of transition to allow for smooth transfer of powers and handovers, such a high office deserves a much better coordinated transfer. This is critical for several reasons as Internally, the College management needed to prepare for the transition.”
One Professor also wrote an email to the college leadership, bemoaning the manner in which the Principal has been hastily kicked out.
“A big injustice has been done to Dr. Mipando, Ma be we did not need to be informed for whatever reason, but the management and deans at least needed to know and prepare for such an important change. The College has many local and international partners and collaborators who equally need to be made aware of the changes in a timely manner. This is important as the office of the principal and the incumbent, legally has signing powers for various instruments, grants.”
Another argument raised by the concerned staff members is that UNIMA is still in the process of de-linking, which may be finalized soon. The removal of Mipando is particularly surprising as it is claimed staff were informed, during the briefing meetings, that during this de-linking process, incumbents will hold office until the process is completed to avoid unnecessary position changes and for continuity.
Mipando has been a principal of College of Medicine after preceding Prof Broadhead . He has previously served as vice principal, dean of faculty, head of department of Physiology. A trained physiologist having graduated from University of Malawi (Bed in Biology), University of Liverpool (MSc-Physiology) and University of KwaZulu Natal (PhD-Physiology).Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :