Anger As Makerere Passes Law to Dismiss Staff Facing Criminal Charges

1408 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
According to the amendment, where criminal proceedings are instituted against an Employee in any Court of Law, the Employee shall be at liberty to institute an investigation and take disciplinary proceedings against him/her.

Makerere university staffs are up in arms against amendments to the Human Resource Manual, which they say are intended to suppress dissent. Tempers flared on Monday when the staff was briefed about the amendment to Section 5.11 of the Human Resources Manual (2009).

The amendment mandates the appointing authority to terminate the contract of any staff charged with criminal offenses.  The amendments were approved by Eng. Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem, the Chairperson Makerere University Council, according to the Uganda Gazette no.56 released of November 2nd, 2018.

Makerere University Council approved the changes at its 142nd meeting held on May 24th. According to the amendment, where criminal proceedings are instituted against an Employee in any Court of Law, the Employee shall be at liberty to institute an investigation and take disciplinary proceedings against him/her. 

"Nothing shall be construed as prohibiting or restricting the Appointing Authority from exercising its powers to take disciplinary action against an Employee who is facing criminal proceedings and subject such an Employee to any form of punishment including termination, suspension or any other appropriate sanction," reads the amendment. It also provides that upon suspension, the employee shall be on half salary until the conclusion of the investigations and disciplinary proceedings by the Employer

The amendment also provides that an Employee convicted of a criminal offence shall be deemed to have been summarily dismissed. However, an employees' acquittal by the Courts of Law doesn't in any way affect the decision made by the Employer during internal disciplinary process. 

Prof Ben Twinomugisha, a Law Don and former Dean School of law, has objected to this move arguing that; "No staff in this university should accept a move to limit the presumption of innocence, which is guaranteed under the 1995 Ugandan Constitution." 
Article 28(1) of the Ugandan Constitution provides that; 'Every person who is charged with a criminal offense shall-be presumed to be innocent until proven guilty or until that person has pleaded guilty'.
Additionally, Article 2(1) of the same constitution provides that the 'Constitution is the Supreme law of Uganda and shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout Uganda'. 
Quoting Article 2(2), that says "any other law or custom, which is inconsistent with the Constitution, shall be void to the extent of its inconsistency," Prof. Twinomugisha has advised staff associations to challenge the gazetted decision, saying it is unconstitutional.

"In my humble view, the gazetted decision by Council is unconstitutional as it infringes the above provision on the presumption of innocence," Prof. Twinomugisha says.
Adding that; "All staff associations should challenge this. Human rights and freedoms in the Constitution must be upheld and respect by all organs, including the University Council."

Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the Chairperson of Makerere University Academic Staff Association- MUASA observes that instead of passing a motivating policy, they (council) turn to witch hunt and law breaking.

"We refuse to be pulled into the mud by those who wish to gain from acting lawless. We will remain on the path of wisdom and steadfastness well aware that you chose us to protect each of you from injustices in our workplace. We are also inherent custodians of our greater citizenship," Dr Kamunyu said in a statement to staff.
Dr Kamunyu has urged staff to remain united and strong to fight the lawlessness and high handedness of their leaders. 
"It's a serious leadership weakness that lead destroys institutions and undermines universities. It's surprising that policies are being made by a premier university outside the mother law/Constitution of Uganda," Dr. Kamunyu said. 

He says Makerere's stature must appreciate democracy, adding that the leaders ought to understand human rights and basic freedoms of citizens and academicians. 

"We take exception of this trend and will internalize this particular issue and many others affecting members in days ahead. We will take lawful actions," Dr Kamunyu said.


About the author

Davidson Ndyabahika
Davidson Ndyabahika is a Journalism major from Makerere University and is passionate about investigative and data journalism with special interest in feature story telling.

He has gone through digital and multi-media training both at Ultimate Multimedia Consult, and has attended Data Journalism Sessions at ACME to enrich his capacity in data journalism.

Davidson has previously freelanced with The Campus Times, The Observer, Chimp reports and URN. He is currently reporting under Education. He is also passionate about reporting on environment, health, crime and political satire writing.

Follow him on Twitter: @dndyaba