HomeOpinionWhy University of Malawi Council lose so many court cases

Why University of Malawi Council lose so many court cases

The Magnificent Chanco Library
The Magnificent Chanco Library

There is no doubt that such over-excitement, overzealous behaviour, whether caused by ignorance of the law and its procedures, or malice, will cost Malawi Government a lot of money by way of damages for lost employment benefits. Such moneys could have been used for the improvement of the economic and social life of all Malawians.

The above were the hard hitting words of Judge Chimasula in the case of Jamadah v Attorney General.  Jawadah had sued the Immigration department after the unprocedural withdrawal of his passport.  The Immigration Department was faulted for violating the principles of natural justice and at the end was condemned in costs.

There are several statutory corporations that have been dragged to courts by various people and have ended costing the government millions either in damages or lawyer’s fees. One such public body is the Council of the University of Malawi. It should be stated here that the Council of the University of Malawi is sued as a legal entity for the ‘sins’ committed by its decision makers at all its colleges. But the question one may ask is; why does the University of Malawi lose so many cases? A close analysis of some of the cases, one can agree with Judge Chimasula that it’s all about malice, arrogant, emotional and possibly adding bravado.

In Nkhoma and Others v UNIMA,four Business studies students at the Polytechnic were withdrawn following allegations of cheating. After failing to find tangible evidence to nail the students, the Vice Chancellor withdrew the students on academic grounds; yet he could not produce evidence in court to prove his claim that the students had failed before and that they were given warnings. The University lost the case and was condemned in costs. Then there were the cases of Mpinganjira v UNIMAChipungu v UNIMA and Zodetsa v UNIMA, all these cases concerned lack of discipline among the students. Students were suspended and others warned. The management arrived at the decisions based on emotions and not following principles of natural justice as a result when the students took the matter to courts, the University lost all the cases and was condemned in costs. What was interesting is that in the Zodetsa case even the presiding judge acknowledged that there was indeed indiscipline at the college where the Zodetsa case originated. The Judge could not do otherwise as the University had arrived at such decisions based on unprocedural factors.

It is not only in educational area that the University of Malawi has lost cases, in employment too. Take an example of the Chihana v UNIMA case where the University terminated the contract of Mrs Chihana simply because her husband was involved in politics. Then there was the most interesting case of Mvalo v UNIMA, Mr Mvalo applied for leave of absence from the University. This is a common practice that was happening and is still happening in the University of Malawi. People like Dr Jessie Kambwila and Dr Bright Mollande have utilised this opportunity to pursue other careers. It is legal and nothing wrong with it. Yet when Mr Mvalo applied for it to work for USAID the University of Malawi under the directive of its Chairman Mr John Tembo terminated the contract of Mr Mvalo. No amount of sense went into Tembo’s head from the then Vice Chancellor Brown Chimphamba. When Mvalo sued the University, he succeeded and was compensated, with the government losing millions of money again. A clear show of bravado, inconsiderate and arrogance on the part of the decision makers, it is this spirit that is still going on in this statutory body.

Today the University is still losing cases; making one wonder if there are any lessons this Council is learning. Cases like SUCC v UNIMA ex Parte Ayuba James,UNIMA v Masiye,Mkandawire v UNIMA. At the end of the day it is the tax payer who is footing all these costs and it does not even affect the so called decision makers. The bottom-line is that there is something wrong with the decision makers in the University of Malawi, they make their decisions based on arrogance, emotional, bravado and yet courts have no precedence to support such tendencies.

It is time that the government should wake up from its slumber and realise that these lawsuits are causing a hole its coffers. Judge Chimasula had a point when he made that statement and today it is proving to be true in the University of Malawi. I have counted more than a dozen cases where the University lost and in all these cases it was all about poor decision making. Of course there are cases that the university has won but believe you me most of them are cases where students have challenged results and have lost because the evidence was against them. But in cases concerning decision making this University is lacking. For how long is the University of Malawi going to lose cases like this?


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