A STATEMENT ISSUED IN RESPONSE TO UNZA MANAGEMENT’S TRENDS TO SUPPRESS ACADEMIC FREEDOM
The University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union (UNZALARU) is deeply concerned by the press statement issued by the University of Zambia (UNZA) Management through its Acting Head of the Department of Communication and Marketing under the heading, ‘UNZA Disassociates itself from Dr. Sishuwa’s seditious article’ issued on 22 April 2021. We find the UNZA Management’s press statement deeply troubling for the following reasons:
First, the press statement in question reveals the growing and alarming trend of weakening the practice of academic freedom at the University of Zambia under the current crop of managers. This press statement is evident and makes sad reading for every well-meaning citizen. While we note that public universities are more susceptible to political pressure because they receive funds from the Government, UNZALARU believes that the biggest and most feared let down is in the approach taken by the Management team. The University of Zambia Management is wantonly disregarding and violating the principles of academic excellence, among which, is academic freedom. Academic freedom is one of the bedrocks of any functional and reputable university and its practice distinguishes it from other forms of education and training institutions.
Academic freedom entails freedom to teach and communicate ideas or facts and to state even controversial or unpopular opinions including those that may be viewed inconvenient to political elites without academic staff being threatened with repression or any other forms of intimidation as expressed in the press statement of the University Management. We wish to emphasis here that no member of the academic staff has ever been ‘disowned’ in the manner that Dr. Sishuwa has been treated by the University Management in the history of the University of Zambia. It is our desire that this will never happen again.
Secondly, UNZA’s press statement in question is misleading to the public because it contains inaccuracies. For example, Dr. Sishuwa is actively employed by the University of Zambia Council as a Lecturer and his leave does not make him inactive. In addition, at no time has Dr. Sishuwa, or any other member of the academic community at UNZA written articles or engaged the broadcast and print media in the name of or on behalf of the University of Zambia. Every academic staff of UNZA has the right to freely express their views or ideas amongst themselves or with members of the public without necessarily being associated with the University of Zambia or UNZA Management. We therefore find it unnecessary and unbefitting for the UNZA Management to want to be disassociated to a piece of work which they were not associated with in the first place. We similarly wish to disassociate ourselves from such levels of intolerance and lack of objectivity in the management style of our premier university.
Thirdly, we have struggled to understand the relationship between Dr. Sishuwa’s article to his status of employment with UNZA and how that should bother the University Management in the matters raised by the author. We are left to wonder whether the said press statement was a genuine reaction to the contents of the article or is a repeated repression of freedoms to shape and control the flow of information to society. There are many examples in Zambia where such flow of information and critique have positively impacted policy, enhanced good governance and improved the understanding of issues by society. This is why society, and Government itself, should have an interest in protecting academic freedom.
The Union, therefore, wishes to stand in solidarity with Dr. Sishuwa’s academic freedoms and all other members of the University of Zambia academic community. These are rights that we are ready to fight for and defend.
President General Secretary
Andrew Phiri, PhD Kelvin Mambwe, PhD