The Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act stipulates that the tribunal shall have, in its composition, a person qualified to be a High Court Judge as its Chairperson, a representative of the University Council, a representative of the Senate, a representative of the Public Service, two representatives of Staff associations, and a representative of the senior members of the Administrative Staff.
Makerere University main gate. Photo by Fahad Muganga...
Tensions are escalating among Makerere University staff
following the university's decision to invalidate the selection of their
representative to the University Staff appeals tribunal.
Michael Onoria was named the new Chairperson of the Staff Appeals Tribunal last month after nearly five months of inactivity of the tribunal since the suspension of Justice Patrick Tabaro by the University Council. The
University secretary Yusuf Kiranda subsequently directed various constituencies to conduct elections to choose new
representatives to the tribunal.
The Universities and Other Tertiary
Institutions Act stipulates that the tribunal
shall have, in its composition, a person qualified to be a High Court Judge as its Chairperson, a representative of the University Council, a representative of the Senate, a representative of the Public Service, two representatives of Staff associations, and a representative of the senior members of the Administrative Staff.
However, according to a letter written to the University secretary by Deus Mujuni, the Acting Director for Human Resources, while there
was a call for nomination to all Administrative staff, there was only one staff
member- Sarah Wegosasa who picked and returned the nomination form by close
of business on the nomination date of September 1, 2023.
The Human resource officer informed the
University secretary that Wegosasa qualified to be the representative to the
Tribunal and had been subsequently named the representative of Makerere University Senior Administrative Staff Association to the tribunal.
But Kiranda disagreed with the results, citing the limited time for
nominations as a possible reason for excluding interested parties. He added that it was improper to issue a roadmap providing only
one day for the nominations.
Kiranda added that after consultations with the Vice Chancellor, it had been agreed that the deadline for nominations is extended to a minimum of one week. However, this did not sit well with the Joint Staff
Association of Makerere, including the Makerere University Academic Staff
Association, the Makerere Administrative Staff Association, and the National
Union of Education Institutions.
A letter signed
by the chairpersons of the three associations and addressed to Vice-Chancellor
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe explains that repeating the tribunal
elections was both unlawful and in bad faith, especially at a time when they
sought to work collaboratively for the university's betterment.
A source who preferred anonymity in order to speak candidly on the
matter told URN that the University Secretary’s purported
justification for nullifying the process that qualified Wegosasa on the
basis of being improper is a pretext. Instead, she noted, the real reason is
that the candidate that went through was not their best choice.
“The University Secretary and Vice Chancellor ordered a
re-run of elections because they believed that the candidate that went through
was not their best choice,” The source said, and called for respect for the independence of established
organs of the University.
They accused the University of striving to weaken the Staff Appeals Tribunal by dictating who should represent the Staff so that such a representative
can always approve all the bad decisions of the University Management and
Sources interviewed by URN maintained that
the tribunal had long been making decisions that the University Council did not
agree with, including reinstating a significant number of staff members who had
been unfairly dismissed by the Appointments Board after fair hearings. This
move allegedly displeased the Council.
“All we see now are the glaring double standards in the
election of representatives. Staff argue, that it appears after the suspension
of the staff Tribunal to weaken it, the University Management wants to dictate
on who should represent them."
When contacted for a comment, University Secretary Yusuf Kiranda said that; "Ms. Wegosasa's candidature has not been challenged and remains valid. Management has only allowed ample nomination time that underlines a free and fair election."