The Council of the University of Malawi which was complicit in the Mutharika’s academic freedom saga has dragged to court former Acting President of Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (Ccasu) Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula and the Attorney General (AG), demanding that they pay K55,404,800 as compensation to students who sued the council during the academic freedom impasse.
A group of non-residential students sued the council, claiming compensation of the money they lost when there were called back to college only to be staying idle since lecturers were still refusing to teach demanding academic freedom.
But court documents filed at the Zomba registry of the High Court signed by Council’s lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale show that the council wants Kabwila-Kapasula, as the then leader of Ccasu, and the AG to contribute to the claims.
“Take notice that this action had been brought by the plaintiff [the students] against the defendants [Council].
“In it the plaintiff claims against the defendant K55,404,800 and damages as appears from the writ of summons and statement of claim, a copy whereof is served herewith,” reads a third party notice to Kabwila-Kapasula and the AG.
The council argues that both lecturers and the AG should either contribute to the payment of the claims because the lecturers’ decision not to teach was not legally sanctioned by labour laws while the Inspector General of Police had a part to play by summoning lecturer Blessings Chinsinga for questioning over an example he cited in class.
“The defendant claims against both of you (being Attorney General and Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula representing members of Chancellor College Academic Staff Union) indemnity against the Plaintiffs claim and cost of this action or contribute to the extent adjudged by the court on the ground that the conduct of the Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service in summoning Dr Blessings Chinsinga to question him over his classroom conduct is the one that led to the lecturers’ refusal to continue teaching.
“The withholding of labour by the Chancellor College Academic Staff Union as a form of industrial action was done without following statutory procedure under the Labour Relations Act and was directed to the wrong party,” reads the court notice dated July 4.
The university council chaired by James Seyani had tried all it could to intimidate and frustrate the lecturers at Chancellor College as the lecturers demanded assurances on academic freedom last year. In a protracted battle, four lecturers were fired in the process.
The non-residential students sued the the council because the council called students to come to study without agreeing with the concerned lecturers resulting in students stayed on Chancellor College campus for two months without receiving tuition.
The lawsuit by the council is surprising but it might be a pre-emptive action from the council as it is very likely that it will fired by the Joyce Banda administration for the role they played in the academic freedom saga.