Makerere Law School: Prof Nawangwe has no powers to fire, suspend or investigate his fellow university staff

The Makerere University School of Law has issued a statement voicing the opinion that the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, has no powers to either suspend staff or appoint committees to investigate them for indiscipline.

The statement, signed by Associate Prof. Christopher Mbazira, the acting Principal School of Law, and seconded by the entire staff of the country’s oldest and most prestigious school of Law, was released yesterday.

The statement reads thus in the parts where it takes on Prof. Nawangwe head-on:

“It appears that the powers invoked to suspend and at the same time nominate an investigative committee are not available either in the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act or in the Makerere University Human Resources Manual.

“The law school observes that the Employment Act provides for the manner, in which suspension of employees is managed. Section 63 (2) provides that “Any suspension under subsection (1) shall not exceed Four Weeks or the duration of the inquiry.

“We observe that the suspension of MASA Chairperson Bennet Magara and the Secretary Joseph Kalema is illegal as it has exceeded the mandatory 4 weeks from the date of suspension on 21st December 2018,” they further contend.”

Prof. Nawangwe has in the past relied on section 31 (1) and 55 (2) of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act to suspend staff. However, the law dons argue that neither the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act nor the Makerere University Human Resource Manual empower the vice chancellor to doll out suspensions.

The law teachers say the threats by the university management to take disciplinary action against any employee of the university who has withdrawn his/her labor in accordance with the resolutions of the February 4, 2019 Joint Assembly are illegal and should be rejected.

The law dons also argue that Makerere University Human Resource Manual is riddled with several illegalities, which contradict the Constitution and other employment laws.

“Close 5.9 (b) (i&v) which provide for 90 days of suspension contravenes section 63 of the Employment Act. The recently gazetted amendments to the HR manual are likewise legally problematic.”

Prof. Mbazira says the Law School remains committed to all its academic, administrative and support obligations under the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act and their terms of employment.

“It is also our responsibility as a School to provide well-reasoned guidance on matters of constitutionalism, rule of law and administrative governance. It is in this spirit and for the overall good of Makerere University – the oldest and most prestigious institution of higher learning in the land – that we give this opinion and advice,” states Prof. Mbazira said

Expounding on the statement they released, Associate Prof. Ronald Kakungulu Mayambala, a senior law lecturer, says that one of the purposes of the document is to express their legal opinion as School of Law, that the Vice Chancellor like any other university staff is an employee of the university and cannot have powers to discipline a fellow employee without going through the necessary committees.

On Wednesday this week, the Vice Chancellor issued a letter to association heads appealing to them to play their ‘rightful roles’ in restoring normalcy in the university.  He appealed to lecturers to abide by an agreement he said had been reached by his team and the academic staff associations. However, the staff are yet to call off their strike.