FORMER acting UNZA School of Law Dean Dr Lungowe Matakala and Assistant Dean for undergraduate James Kayula have revealed that Vice Chancellor Professor Luke Mumba threatened to disappoint them, so they opted to resign because being fired would be a bad record on their personal files.
According to an internal memorandum addressed to the registrar, Dr Matakala and Kayula stated that they had opportunities to resolve any misunderstanding amicably, but this was frustrated by using arm twisting tactics and rushing to the media with misrepresentations.
“Our attention has been drawn to your Press Statement dated 10th March 2022, which has been shared widely in both print and electronic media. You are well aware of the issues that have led to both our resignations as the Acting Assistant Dean Undergraduate and Acting Dean respectively in the School of Law. We therefore take great exception that you could author and sign a Press Statement that not only misinforms our important stakeholders, the students, university community and the general public at large, but also borders on defamation of our characters. Registrar, you may know that on 28th February 2022, the School of Law and the Executive Management held a meeting in which the School was duly guided that its newly amended progression rules were at variance with those of Senate with regard to first year students. The Senate Regulations of 2019 stipulate that all first year students who have passed 75% of their course load should be subject to the “proceed and repeat” rule; while the School Regulations do not have any such provision. The School quickly noted this and accepted the error as Senate Regulations are above School Regulations,” the duo said.
The duo said Prof Mumba asked them not to make his work more difficult when they tried to question the decision to go against the Senate’s rule.
“Senate further resolved that a Committee would be established to look into the varying progression rules across schools and that based on the recommendations of that Committee, some amendments would be effected. Until then, the current regulations would apply. You ought to know that Senate unequivocally declined to amend and apply any regulation retrospectively. To our surprise, on 8th March 2022, you issued a Press Statement alleging that Senate had resolved that “all post first year students, not in their first year of study, who have passed 75% of course load in two consecutive years should proceed to the next year but to repeat the failed course(s). For all such students, the appropriate comment shall be “proceed and repeat” as opposed to sending them on part time.” We challenge you to produce the Senate minutes that made such a resolution,” they stated.
“In a spirit of consultation, the Acting Dean posted your Press Statement on the Senators’ WhatsApp group chat and asked the Senators to confirm if that was the Senate resolution, stating that what the Acting Dean recalled was different. Not a single senator answered this question. Instead, the Vice Chancellor in-boxed the Acting Dean, suggesting that she should “seek clarification from the Registrar directly and not on the Senate platform.” The Vice Chancellor added, “Please don’t make my work even more difficult than it is right now.” The Acting Dean then responded; ‘I sent my question on the Senate platform because Senate pronounced itself on this matter. As such, it is only right that Senate should confirm if the write up is in tandem with its pronouncement. This is my humble opinion, vc.’ To this, the Vice Chancellor replied, I do not agree with your approach though. I will engage you one on one on Wednesday rather than rubble rousing on the platform. Registrar will join us in the meeting.”
The duo said Prof Mumba acknowledged that students who passed 75% of their course load in two consecutive years should proceed and repeat as advised by the Senate.
“As requested, on 9th March 2022, we met the Vice Chancellor in his office. Also present in the meeting were yourself, the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, the Deputy Registrar Academic Affairs and a Secretary. During that meeting, the Deputy Registrar Academic Affairs confirmed that the Acting Dean was on firm ground as far as Senate’s resolution regarding the results for the School of Law was concerned. You also noted that when the “proceed and repeat” rule was discussed during consideration of the results for the School of Natural Sciences, Senate resolved that students who passed 75% of their course load in two consecutive years should proceed and repeat; and that you thought that that resolution applied to all schools. The Vice Chancellor acknowledged that that resolution did not apply to all schools but he said that as Chairperson of Senate, it was his view that it was in the best interest of students that it did, hence he would submit the Press Statement to Senate for ratification,” the duo said.
“The Acting Dean opposed the Registrar’s interpretation of the Senate resolutions and the Vice Chancellor’s intention to take the Press Statement to Senate for ratification, arguing that it was irregular at law because Senate had already pronounced itself differently on the matter. The Vice Chancellor was incensed that the School of Law wanted to do something contrary to what was in the Press Statement. That notwithstanding, the Vice Chancellor declared that the School of Law should go ahead and implement what it deemed fit. Delighted with the Vice Chancellor’s declaration, the School shared with all those present in the meeting, including yourself, its written resolution and response to your Press Statement dated 8th March 2022, stating that the School would not apply the “proceed and repeat” rule to all post first year students; and that rather, as guided by Senate, the School had already moderated the results of the said students, which ameliorated the number of students sent to part time in the School of Law.”
The two said Prof Mumba said he needed people who could carry out his instructions or he could change the leadership of the school.
“The Vice Chancellor was still enraged and remarked so Law School will not follow what is in the Press Statement even though the entire university will? How can I work like that? You are making my job very difficult! I can change the leadership of the School, I have the power to do so! I need people who can carry out my instructions. You certainly recall that this was the spirit of the meeting. Immediately after the meeting, we submitted our resignation letters to the Vice Chancellor which each read; following the indication of your desire to make changes in the leadership of the School of Law after I opted to stand by the inapplicable of decisions made outside Senate, I hereby write to submit my resignation with immediate effect. You and other principle officers were copied in our letters. In other words Madam Registrar, we resigned because the Vice Chancellor threatened to disappoint us,” the duo said.
“Fearing that that would not be a good record on our personal files, we both opted to resign and state our reason for the resignation for the record. The Vice Chancellor accepted our resignations. Much to our surprise, you went on to issue the 10th March 2022 misleading Press Statement, ironically alleging that we had resigned on account of failure to comply with the Senate resolutions and regulations. This is a very serious accusation against the two of us when we are both seasoned lawyers, well trained in the strict observance of rules, regulations, policies and laws. Though false, this statement questions our integrity. This is especially concerning because UNZA is a public academic institution of higher learning. In our academic set up, we only owe allegiance to excellence in teaching, pronouncements of Senate and the provisions of the Higher Education Act and the Constitution. We are therefore resolved that the provisions of the Higher Education Act No. 4 of 2013 together with its amendments enshrining the superiority of Senate as an academic organ are not subject to negotiation, unless duly altered by Senate itself in the prescribed procedural manner.”
The duo said it was particularly appalled by the lack of sincerity in handling the matter.
“The Higher Education Act does not provide that the Vice Chancellor as Chairperson of Senate can arbitrarily vary any Senate approved regulations or resolutions and then proceed to “give direction to any School” on that erroneous and illegal basis. We are therefore at pains to understand what motivated you to issue your 10th March 2022 Press Statement. Further, our considered view is that Senate cannot accordingly ratify any decision by the Chairperson that is not in the spirit of the resolutions and regulations passed by a full sitting of the academic organ. On this basis, we reiterate that you produce minutes of the Senate meeting that specifically approved the regulation or end comment of “proceed and repeat” being applicable to returning students in the School of Law. We must also mention that we are particularly appalled by your lack of sincerity in handling this matter. For instance, the foregoing notwithstanding, on 10th March 2022 at about 1400 hours, you caused an internal memorandum to be written to all members of staff in the School of Law, calling for a meeting at 1600 hours on the same day,” said the duo.
“The substantive agenda item in your notice of meeting was relinquishment of administrative responsibilities — Acting Head of Department, Public Law and Acting Assistant Dean Undergraduate. In response, our colleagues in the School intimated that they were all desirous of meeting Executive Management as proposed, however, the notice of meeting that had been given was rather too short because most of them are on leave and needed time to make their way to the University. This was communicated to you under cover of memorandum of even date and reference. It is therefore evidence of malice on your part that immediately after this aborted meeting, you rushed to issue the misguided Press Statement demeaning the undersigned. For the record, we find that the totality of the conduct of both the Vice Chancellor and yourself, borders on intimidation, defamation of character and misrepresentation of Senate Resolutions. We have had opportunities to resolve this misunderstanding amicably, but this has been frustrated by your resolve to use arm twisting tactics and rush to the media with misrepresentations as we have demonstrated. We seek your explanation of this approach.”