University of Zambia Lecturers and Researcher’s Union (UNZALARU) says a recent statement by the University of Zambia (UNZA) management dissociating itself from absentee lecturer Dr. Sishuwa Sishuwa is an indication of the alarming trend of weakening academic freedom at the institution.
Union President Andrew Phiri said the approach taken by UNZA management against Dr. Sishuwa is a disregard and violation of principles of academic excellence and freedom.
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 statement by the university management,Dr. Phiri.
We wish to emphasize here that no member of the academic staff has ever been ‘disowned’ in the manner that Dr. Sishuwa has, in the history of the University of Zambia. It is our desire that this will never happen again.
Dr. Phiri added that UNZA’s statement was misleading and inaccurate, citing that despite being on leave, Dr. Sishuwa is actively employed by the university council as a lecturer, contrary to the university’s statement which labelled him as inactive.
His (Dr. Sishuwa’s) 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,he said.
The Union President has further charged that every academic staff at UNZA has the right to freely express their views or ideas amongst themselves or with members of the public without being associated with the institution or it’s management.
We therefore find it unnecessary and unbefitting for UNZA management to want to be disassociated from a piece of work which they were not associated with in the first place,Dr. Phiri.
Meanwhile, 29 historians and social scientists across Zambia, Africa and the rest of the world have in a statement of solidarity, described the threat of seditious charges against Dr. Sishuwa as unfounded.
The scholars, led by retired Senior Lecturer in Political Science at UNZA and now Executive Director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, Dr. Neo Simuntayi, said they were extremely concerned that the charges are being used to silence the legitimate expressive belief of Dr. Sishuwa.
Dr. Sishuwa, who has published outstanding and prize winning research articles in the world’s most prominent Africa Studies journals, is drawing on his research expertise to bring to public attention his concerns about the current direction of Zambia’s political life,Dr. Simuntayi.
Far from inciting popular rebellion (as the term sedition implies), he seeks to address the underlying causes of societal tension as a way to reduce it. We believe it is both his right and his patriotic duty to bring such concerns into public eye.
The academicians have since called on the University of Zambia management to guarantee Dr.Sishuwa’s continued employment and his right to academic freedom.
On 28 April 2021, UNZA Acting Head of Communication and Marketing Brenda Bukowa released a statement in which the University dissociated itself from university lecturer Dr. Shishuwa Shishuwa, following his recent article called “Zambia may burn after the August elections. Here’s how to prevent this.”
This is according to a statement jointly issued to the Lusaka Start by UNZALARU President Andrew Phiri and General Secretary Kelvin Mambwe.