18 June 2017

Malawi: APM Dissolves University of Malawi Council - Orders Justice and Education Ministers to Mediate Standoff With Academic Staff

President Peter Mutharika, who is the Chancellor of the University of Malawi (UNIMA), has dissolved the UNIMA Council with immediate with effect in an attempt to bring sanity between the Council and academic staff of the university.

Chancellor College (Chanco) has remained closed for close to seven months after the academic staff demanded harmonisation of salaries in all Unima constituent colleges.

According to a statement signed by Presidential Press Secretary, Mgeme Kalirani, the reconstituted Council will be announced soon.

Mgeme further said in the statement that the labour dispute betwen the concerned parties will be mediated by the government.

The announcement comes barely a day after President Mutharika held discussions with the representatives of Chancellor College Students' Concerned Parents at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.

The concerned parents mentioned to Mutharika, who is the Chancellor of the Unima, that they were disappointed at the prolonged labour dispute between the Council and the academic staff at the Chancellor College.

The parents indicated that they were further disappointed with the apparent failure of the Council of the University to resolve the dispute on time.

They said as much as they are aware that the legal mandate to manage the University of Malawi rests in the Council, they nonetheless asked the Malawi leader to help in resolving the matter.

And following the meeting, President Mutharika has directed government to mediate in the labour dispute between University of Malawi academic staff and the Council, "having noted that Council and its Management are failing to resolve the matter".

According to the University of Malawi Act (1998), the direct management of the University of Malawi rests with the University Council supported by the Vice Chancellor and his management. This legal framework also applies to other public universities in Malawi.

"Consequent to the President's directive, Government invited and met the University Council, Management and representatives of Academic Staff to agree on the steps that will ensure that Chancellor College opens with every expedition possible.

"Therefore, a Taskforce comprising representatives of Council and Academic Staff, as previously agreed upon by the Council and Academic Staff. The discussions of the Taskforce will be facilitated by the Minister of Education, Science and Technology; and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in order to ensure continuity of the first meeting held on 16 June 2017.

"Also attending the discussions will be Secretary to Treasury, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, and Comptroller of Statutory Corporations," said Kalilani.

He said with task force in place, the President hope the involved parties will reach a common understanding and re-open Chancellor College.

"The President therefore places his confidence in the Taskforce and the process they have agreed upon to resolve the situation in the University of Malawi," he asserted.

Education Minister Emmanuel Fabiano, who addressed reporters in Lilongwe] after meeting representatives of Unima academic staff and Unima Council on Friday,said: " A s government, we are equally concerned that this issue is taking too long to be resolved. However, from this meeting we just needed to find out from the council and academic staff where the problem lies [and] after that we have agreed they should meet on Tuesday when we are hoping that tangible results will be reached at."

The stand-off over salary harmonisation took a twist recently when Ccasu rejected Unima Council's proposal to refer the matter to the Industrial Relations Court (IRC) on the basis that both parties had not yet commenced dialogue on recommendations made by arbitrator Modecai Msisha.


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