President Banda asked to reconstitute University Council

Malawi president Mrs Joyce Banda, who is also Chancellor of the University of Malawi, has been asked to reconstitute the University of Malawi (Unima) regulatory body – University Council .

Consolidate Democracy, Rights and Rule of Law (CDRRL)  argues that the University Council has been filled with sabourters that may resurface the academic freedom struggle.

The group made the statement after it has emerged that the University Council has engaged top-notch lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale  to institute legal proceedings  to demand some K55 million from Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula, who was acting president of the Chancellor College Academic Staff Union and the Attorney General.

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The council wants the money to compensate a group of non-residential students who sued the council for losing money when they were recalled to the college at the time the lecturers were boycotting classes due to the academic freedom saga

CDRRL said in a statement signed by its director Kwatha Chitanda and spokesman Chifundo Mkwanda that the actions by the University Council are “ deliberately rekindling” a difficult problem that saw the Chancellor College closed for eight months due to failure by the same council to intervene where they were expected to defend the teaching and learning at University.”

The group says it finds the new concept where the University Council, a government body suing the Attorney General who is the chief legal advisor of Malawi Government very strange.

“It becomes more strange when you realise that the head of the University is the President who is also the head of government. The President who appoints the University Council cannot be seen to be suing on her Government.”

Axe to grind

CDRRL says it is aware that the current leadership of the Council comprises members some of whom were avid members of an ethnic grouping that supported the DPP regime to the letter.

The watchdog says it does not hope that the same grouping may not be involved in what can be described as political “civil war” on behalf of the DPP regime, wondering e where the University Council amass the strength to sue the Attorney General.

The group also finds   the University Council as “naïve and brandishing an axe to grind “Kabwila Kapasula for standing up as an elected leader in defence of the Academic Freedom.

Kabwila was the acting president of the lecturers union and cannot be sued to pay reparations on behalf of the collective actions that the lecturers took nor can she be sued on behalf of the union, CDRRL observed.

“This legal suit will only in flame the already bad environment at the University,” noted the group.

Saboteurs

CDRRL therefore advised President Banda she should reconstitute the University Council “to avoid slipping back to the experience of the academic freedom.”

The group says the University Council requires individuals “with positive energy and not those that thrive in conflict.”

CDRRL also advised the President Banda that at the helm of most public institutions there are directors and some employees “who are busy working against the good intentions of the PP government because some of these individuals are finding it very difficult to accept and embrace change.”

The group says to most of them they do not want to deliberately believe that DPP is not in control and to some they are busy trying to wrong foot the PP Government so that the DPP returns to power in 2014.

Contempt

The University council argues that the decision for the lecturers not to teach during the academic freedom struggle was not “legally sanctioned” by the labour laws and that the academic staff union did not follow statutory procedures under the Labour Relations Act.

Kapasula and the Attorney General have been given 14 days to defend themselves in court.

But CDRRL says it condemns the actions of the University Council with the contempt that it deserves.

The lecturers started boycotting classes in mid February to demand for assurances on academic freedom which they felt was threatened when one of their colleague, Dr Blessings Chinsinga, was summoned by Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito over an example he gave in one of his classes on the causes of uprisings that toppled governments of Tunisia and Egypt.

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