UNIMA petition JB over Council, says have lost confidence in it

  • Also demands council to withdraw case against Kabwila

Chancellor College lecturers have petitioned President Joyce Banda asking her to dissolve the entire university council saying the council’s recent court action against Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula has reignited the dark days of the Academic Freedom struggle instead of the council spending its energies on restoring and rebuilding its battered image.

In the same breath the lecturers have petitioned the council demanding it to immediately withdraw its third party court action against Kabwila-Kapasula and the Attorney General in which it is asking the two to contribute K55 million (almost US$212,000) as compensation to students who sued the council during the academic freedom impasse.

Madise: Writes President Banda

Vote of no confidence

The letter to President Banda entitled Vote of No Confidence in University of Malawi Council and Top University Management, was sent Tuesday July 10, 2012 and was signed by Chancellor College Academic Staff Union President Sunduzwayo Madise.

“Your Excellency, CCASU wishes to bring to Your Excellency’s attention recent disturbing developments within the Unima. More specifically, the Council has, by way of a Court summons, joined all members of CCASU as Third Party Defendants in a case in which some aggrieved
non-residential students sued it for compensation,” reads the opening of the letter.

Added Madise: “This is happening at a time when the University of Malawi should be expanding its energies to restore and rebuild its battered image after the Academic Freedom struggle. This action, to say the least, has reignited the dark days of the Academic Freedom saga.

“More worrying, is the deliberate abuse of the Court process by raising issues on which two High Court Justices had made clear pronouncements. Instead of Members of CCASU and other Academic Members of Staff expending their energies on administering and marking examinations, we are now called upon to once again defend ourselves against an unprovoked attack.”

Madise said Ccasu notes with sadness and alarm that Council, being a public body, has also joined the Attorney General as party to the proceedings.

“Your Excellency, it is our conviction that Council’s action is a deliberate and calculated scheme by a clique to sabotage the emerging harmony within the University and create room for chaos and conflict. As a Union we refuse to be complicit to such a scheme,” he said.

Added Madise: “You will recall Your Excellency that it was in part the manner in which Council handled the Academic Freedom saga that protracted the conflict. Needless to emphasize that the damage to Students, Lecturers, the University and the Nation as a whole is incalculable. The University also lost colossal sums of money through needless Court battles.

“It is clear to us, that Council’s action is motivated by the cheap fortification that its leadership is not held individually responsible for its misdeeds. Your Excellency, it is important to restate that our
return back to class was hinged on the premise that there would be no reprisals on Staff and Students who stood in defence of Academic Freedom.”

Suffocating academic freedom

Madise said the lecturers also had hope of a free teaching environment after President Banda’s remarks during the Opening Session of the Academic Freedom Symposium, when she categorically stated her personal and government’s role of defending Academic Freedom as enshrined in
the constitution.

“This gave us hope and vindication that our cause was a just one. Therefore, it is utterly out of order, we believe, for Council to act in a way that contradicts this pledge and spark new tensions within
the University. As a result, our trust and confidence in the leadership of Council and top Management has been grossly eroded,” reads the petition.

Madise said in the Ccasu’s view Council and top University Management, in its present status represents residual particles of the past regime that was bent on suffocating Academic Freedom in Malawi.

“Your Excellency, it is against the above background, that CCASU and its Membership including other Members of Academic Staff convey a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the Council and top University Management. The continued assumption of these offices by current holders is recipe for tension and conflict which can only be to the detriment of the goals,” said Madise.

“Your Excellency, it is our hope that Your Excellency shall see merit in this petition and act in the best interests of the University of Malawi,” concludes the petition, which State House sources confirmed
that has been delivered to the President through Ccasu representatives.

Pens Council

In a separate letter to the Council with the heading Demand of Withdrawal of Legal Action Against Ccasu, also dated July 10, 2012, Madise said the Union writes to express great disappointment with the legal action that the Council has taken to include CCASU Members as Third Party.

“It is very unfortunate that you have decided to expend your energies to resurrect an issue that was ebbing after an acrimonious struggle. Instead of working towards healing wounds which emerged, it is disturbing and worrying that your Council has taken a course of action that reignites the confrontation between the two parties,” reads the letter.

It adds: “This action is provocative and not in tandem of our expectation of your role of ensuring the smooth running of the University. Furthermore, we consider your action as an unnecessary
abuse of the Court process and a deliberate abuse of tax payers’ funds. We see no merit in your action save as a ploy to disrupt teaching and learning in the University.”

“In view of the above, CCASU and Academic Members of Staff demand a retraction of the Court summons your lawyers recently served on us within seven days. Should you not respond favourably to this demand, CCASU reserves the right to take any action it deems necessary,” concludes the letter.

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