ILLEGAL CONDUCT OF THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION /UNZA MANAGEMENT CAUSED THE UNZA DEMONSTRATIONS
Dear Editor, FOLLOWING our meetings with demonstrating unions at the University of Zambia (UNZA), the Economic Freedom Fighters-EFF compiled this report: The acting Minister of Education Mr. Elvis Nkandu did not just usurp the powers of the Minister of Labour but committed an illegality when he endorsed the move by UNZA management to unilaterally alter workers’ conditions of service without consensus with the workers’ unions:; UNZAPROSU, UNZAWU, UNZALAWU.
That action is ultra vires section (55)(1) (c) of the Employment Code Act, 2019 of The Laws of Zambia which guides that, “ an employer is considered to have terminated a contract of employment of an employee by reason of redundancy if the termination is wholly or in part due to an adverse alteration of the employee’s conditions of service which the employee has not consented to.”
The fundamental condition of service that the UNZA management has unilaterally changed is the rate for accrue of savings towards pension and gratuities from 35 percent to the meagre minimum of 25 percent. The Zambian law demands that in instances where fundamental conditions of services are unilaterally changed by the employer as the case is, the employees be considered automatically declared redundant and as such be paid a redundant package before they sign a new contract. The unions have vehemently refused this illegal move by the UNZA management to change their conditions of service unilaterally and has challenged it in court, now awaiting judgement. However, the UNZA management has resorted to using illegal under-hand methods to effect new conditions as well as abdicating the FIFO payment principle the parties had earlier agreed to use in paying debt owed to deserving employees and former employees whose benefits are due. So far, a colossal disbursement amounting to K125 million from the total K150 million collected from the K200 million loan the previous government loaned from ZANACO Bank has been given out by management in methods the unions believe are contrary to what was agreed. The unions also complain that these ill manoeuvres by the UNZA management have the full unholy blessings of the Minister of Education as was disclosed by the Vice Chancellor when he met the unions’ leaders.
This is the genesis of the confusion that rocked UNZA prompting the three workers’ unions to commence a demonstration last week Friday. On Monday, the demonstration escalated when the workers did not open the Library prompting the students who are preparing for their examinations resorting to embarking on a march to have an audience with President Hakainde Hichilema at Nkwazi House to intervene. This demonstration happened when the Minister of Education despite being debriefed ignored calls for his intervention.
The Vice Chancellor also refused to take responsibility. The students were being inconvenienced and had no option but to seek audience with President Hichilema. As Economic Freedom Fighters, we are appealing to the government and more earnestly to the President to quickly intervene so that this problem does not escalate to an extent of having the university closed or the academic calendar disturbed owing to the loss of time the country lost during the Covid-19 pandemic. We salute the minister for allowing the students who have not finished paying their tuition fees to write the exams.
Our other demand is that the Ministry of Education devises intelligent and innovative ways to remodel the public universities into entities that are financially self-sustaining. As EFF, we will protect the rights of students and employees in our country because these are the fulcrum of our economic emancipation. Wherever we want to go, our feet shall take us there. We have the hope that refuses to Die.
KASONDE MWENDA C, EFF President.