‘Mutharika’s directive on Chanco flawed’

Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika’s recent announcement of the reinstatement of the famous Chanco ‘four’ lecturers and the subsequent plaudits he received amount to praising illegality, a respected academic has said.

“By the way the directive does not open Chanco automatically because the concerned parties to the saga will still have a few issues to settle and this would be complicated by the fact that now there are three groups of what would be the first year students,” a lecturer whose name Nyasa Times has withheld said in a statement .

The lecturers, according to their lawyer Bright Theu, welcomed  Mutharika’s “political suggestions” but would consider returning to the classroom after all necessary measures were taken including  dissolving court injunctions taken during the period of the  impasse.

Jessie Kabwila: : All necessary measures should be taken before returning to class

And the Alliance for Democracy (Aford) has described Mutharika’s action as below the expected level of political maturity.

“What makes this decision a mockery is that Mutharika has failed to conduct a rational assessment of the saga,” Aford’s Chairperson for Elections and Campaign Committee Dan Msowoya said.

He said Mutharika has also failed to elaborate elements or assumptions that led to his decree citing the unclear position of Police IG Peter Mukhito, who is the chief culprit in the matter.

“It is pertinent to also establish the clear role of Mukhito in this saga and how it has impacted on the students and national integrity. Other wise we strongly recommend that Mukhito must be fired,” Msowoya said.

The university professor agrees with Msowoya saying legally the ‘reinstatement’ has been done by an ‘incompetent authority’ adding that it is unprocedural and irregular.

“Mutharika, both as head of state and Chancellor of the University of Malawi, does not have the legal powers to hire, fire or reinstate any member of staff of the University. The legal authority is the University Council, which is the management team and Mutharika is not part of that,” the professor observed.

The Professor also noted that Mutharika goofed again when he guaranteed academic freedom within the limits or contracts of staff member’s contracts.

“It cannot be. The staff members fought the battle on the grounds that academic freedom is enshrined in the constitution and not in their contracts. Their contracts are not above the Constitution,” the academic don said.

He noted that the only positive development his ‘rescission’ has done is that it has given UNIMA and Police IG Peter Mukhito a chance to take appropriate actions in relation to their respective roles in the saga.

“The worst mistake they could make would be for them to start saying, ‘Following the directive…’ because it will nullify their actions and legitimise Mutharika’s illegitimate decision,” the professor  cautioned.

Msowoya also called for the dissolution of the Commission of Inquiry that was established to investigate the saga saying it had no mandate in the first place.

“A Commission of Inquiry does not have the powers to define, interpret, and change the contents of the constitution. Coming up with definitions of academic freedom would amount to altering the contents of the constitution,” the professor said.

The four lectures who were dismissed over the issue and are to be reinstated are Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula, Franz Amin, Garton Kamchedzera and Blessings Chisinga.

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