Mak staff in last-ditch attempt to stop Nawangwe reappointment

Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe during an interview with Daily Monitor at his office in Kampala on July 20, 2022. PHOTO | FRANK BAGUMA 

A section of staff at Makerere University have challenged the impending reappointment of Barnabas Nawangwe as vice chancellor, claiming his age contravenes the current cap in the human resource manual, and that his promotion to professor in 2013 was done irregularly.

The University Council is set to reappoint Prof Nawangwe for a second term in office when his current term expires on August 31, with the vice chancellor confirming in an address to the Senate yesterday that he was only waiting for the final decision of the Council.

The University Secretary has called a Special Council Meeting for tomorrow at which, sources say, the final decision will be made.

On Monday, a group of staff led by Associate Prof Jude Ssempebwa and Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi sent their lawyers, Nassuuna and Company Advocates, to compel Dr Lorna Magara, the chairperson of the University Council, to pour some cold water on their own resolve. 

To do this, the lawyers have pointed out alleged irregularities in the vice chancellor’s past promotion, as well as terms of his appointment.

Arguing that the reappointment can only be appraised based on the conditions for eligibility in the advert for the position from 2017 when Prof Nawangwe first took over the top job, the lawyers say at 66, Prof Nawangwe is above the age requirement since the condition was that one had to be between 40 and 65 years of age.

In the demand notice to the Council, Nassuuna and Company Advocates argue that Prof Nawengwe would overshoot the retirement age if he served another five-year term.

The university’s human resource manual caps the age of service at 60 years, upon which one retires and can only serve on contract for a total of 10 years. Post-retirement contracts are given to professors up to 70 years. 

However, Dr Magara said she has no intention of bending to the demands of the staffers, who are aggrieved that there has been no search committee instituted to allow for a competitive selection process.

“We have laws and regulations that govern all public universities, including the Human Resource Manual,” Dr Magara told Daily Monitor.

“Makerere is not an isolated entity, nor does it have unique laws governing it. All public universities have the same governing laws, the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act. Anyone in doubt can check what it says on any matter of governance.”

The Act is silent on the issue of age for top administrators at universities, leaving institutions relying on own human resources manuals for guidance.

In an interview with Daily Monitor last month, Prof Nawangwe defended the Council.

“The search committee is set when you want a new VC, but if you want to retain the one who is there, then there is no need for a committee. You just do an evaluation,” he said, rubbishing a section of the university staff who had petitioned the Council to set up a search committee. “So that is the confusion that some confused elements are saying ‘search,’ search for what? There is already a VC who is still interested. Evaluate and make a decision. If the Council says ‘we think he is not fit,’ then they will do a search.”

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