MUASA BOSS DEUS KAMUNYU FLOORS NAWANGWE IN LATEST STAFF TRIBUNAL RULING OVER HIS 2019 SUSPENSION
By Mulengera Reporters
Chaired by Retired Judge Patrick Tabaro, the Makerere Staff Tribunal has quashed the 2019 suspension of Muasa Chairman Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi on grounds his right to a fair hearing wasn’t respected as required under the Constitution and other laws of Uganda. That it was wrong for the Barnabas Nawangwe-led Makerere University management to put Kamunyu on trial with disclosing to him the particular policy, relevant provisions and sections that his conduct had breached or violated. That without such information being revealed to him, there is no way Kamunyu would adequately prepare his defense against the allegations leveled by management.
The staff tribunal also exonerated Kamunyu because his suspension was based on charges that were ‘vague and ambiguous.’
In the year 2019, Prof Nawangwe and other Makerere University management bosses referred the Kamunyu matter to the Appointments Board where he was required to answer for his participation in what they termed an illegal strike. He was also charged with being disrespectful and using abusive language towards his superiors besides “committing acts or omissions that are prejudicial to the proper performance of duties or the university’s image and slander.” The Appointments Board acquitted him on all the charges but ambiguously indicted him for non-adherence to the policies governing the University. He was subsequently suspended for six months during which he would earn half pay. However, the Nawangwe-led management described the 6 months suspension as inadequate insisting the man deserved total dismissal from the University employment.
A dissatisfied Kamunyu appealed to the Staff Tribunal seeking to overturn the Appointments Board’s ruling and was represented by Byarugaba & Co. Advocates. In the appeal, he accused the Appointments Board of denying him a fair hearing because the laws and policies, which he allegedly contravened, were never clarified to him. His other argument was that the Board erred both in law and fact by relying on the management’s evidence supporting their allegations against him imputing offences he never committed.
Because the Tribunal was too busy with other anti-Nawangwe cases filed by other aggrieved staff, Kamunyu’s petition wasn’t heard on time and he consequently served the entire 6 months suspension and more. Patrick Tabaro takes cognizance of all this in his 14th October ruling confirming that the charges over which the outspoken Muasa boss was suspended were too vague and ambiguous to sustainably prove anything against the accused person. “The tribunal found out that by failure to disclose the particular policy or policies and relevant provisions or sections that were breached the appellant was denied an opportunity to adequately prepare his defense thus violating the appellants right to fair hearing, which is a principle of natural justice,“ Tabaro asserts in his ruling.
Tabaro also observed that the Kamunyu suspension and deprivation of full pay was in contravention of provisions of the Employment Act and was also alien to Makerere’s human resource manual. “It is clear from the above provisions that the purpose of suspension is to allow an investigation against the accused employee before disciplinary proceedings are commenced against him or her. In this case, no investigation was carried out. The suspension of six months with half pay was imposed by the Board on the appellant after the disciplinary proceedings had been concluded,” the tribunal ruled. The Nawangwe-led management has since been directed to immediately pay Kamunyu all the half salary he missed during the six months’ suspension period because these were illegal deductions. A triumphant Kamunyu has since welcomed the Tribunal decision adding he will be able to speak more after holding some consultations with his lawyers to determine his way forward.
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