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Makerere Loses Case Against Two Staff Association Leaders

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While delivering the ruling, Kiwanuka said the university relied on mere allegations, hearsay as well as unsubstantiated facts and failed to prove the guilt of the respondents.
Exonerated staff. Bennet Magara and Joseph Kalema, Makerere Administrative Staff Association leaders.

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Makerere University Appointments Board has exonerated Bennet Magara and Joseph Kalema, both senior administrative staff.  The two were suspended by Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe in December last year for their alleged involvement in acts of ‘hooliganism’, committing acts that were prejudicial to the proper performance of duties of the university and hurting the university image.  

 

In the December 21st, 2018 suspension letters, Prof. Nawangwe accused the duo of mobilising staff members pitch camp at the Main Building and escort Ms. Ruth Iteu Eyoku, the staff representative to the inaugural Council meeting well knowing she had not been invited. 

The university management also accused the duo of mobilising the media to cover their actions well knowing that it would dent the university image. During the hearing, University lawyers claimed that the two were engaged in a scuffle and heated exchange that caused a standoff with security officers at the Vice Chancellor’s office and entrance to the council room. 

The university management presented three witnesses including Vincent Abigaba, the out-going chairperson of Makerere Administrative Staff Association –MASA, Gordon Murangira, the Personal Assistant to the Vice Chancellor and Isaac Anyaku, a security guard deployed at the University Main Building to implicate the duo.    

Abigaba pinned the two for mobilising MASA members on social media to escort Ms. Ruth Eyoku to the inaugural council meeting. Gordon Murangira also told the board that he saw accused staff in a mob in the corridor of the Main Building approaching the Vice Chancellor’s office in the company of Iteu.    

He further disclosed that he overheard Magara calling Delta TV to cover what was going on. He also said that the Vice Chancellor was informed by one of the Heads of Department that her best student couldn’t secure admission into the University of Bristol because the university no longer considers degrees from Makerere University owing to its bad image resulting from such scuffles as created by the two staffs.  

Anyaku, another witness told the Board that while on duty he was deployed in the main building at the entrance of the Council room together with his colleague, Milly Onen.  He testified that he had clear instructions only to allow in members with invitations to attend the meeting, which he would cross-check on his list.  

However, the two denied the accusations during the hearing by the Appointments Board.  They argued that they showed up at the Main Building on December 20, 2018 to serve the University Secretary, Vice Chancellor and other officials and were not involved in any scuffle as claimed.  

Through their lawyer, Isaac Ssemakadde of Center for Legal Aid, the accused staff complained that the investigations were not carried out in accordance with the rules of natural justice and asked the Board to dismiss the charges leveled against them.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Appointments Board delivered its ruling that was read senior counsel, Kiryowa Kiwanuka. The other board members are Jude Mbabaali, Dr. Sarah Ssali, Dr. Winston Tumps Ireeta and Jolly Uzamukunda Karabaaya.    

 

While delivering the ruling, Kiwanuka said the university relied on mere allegations, hearsay as well as unsubstantiated facts and failed to prove the guilt of the respondents. 

“Their evidence is so weak that it does not prove the ingredients of the offence with which the respondents are charged. It is therefore our decision that the charges against the respondents should be dismissed. The respondents are therefore discharged,” Kiryowa Kiwanuka read the 13-page ruling.    

Shortly after the ruling, Bennet Magara told Uganda Radio Network that the Appointments Board had breathed fresh air into the Makerere employment systems that had been suffocated by intolerance, malice, bribery and impunity.  

//Cue in: “The ruling sets aside…

  Cue out: …for their own rights.”//  

The accused’s lawyer, Ssemakadde welcomed the ruling, saying it was a landmark precedent that will streamline the employment systems and mechanics of administrative justice at Uganda’s premier institution.  

//Cue in: “We are overjoyed by the ruling…

Cue out: …through proper investigations”//  

According to Ssemakadde, the ruling is hoped will put to eternal rest the past “obnoxious practice of leapfrogging cases to the Appointments Board before thorough investigations are conducted.” 

The suspension of these staff association leaders prompted a staff strike that brought about a month-long stalemate at the university.

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