Student sues minister over expulsion Prof Murwira

Mashudu Netsianda,Bulawayo Bureau

A Gweru Polytechnic student has taken his college and Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister, Professor Amon Murwira to court challenging his suspension for allegedly inciting other students to protest over “exorbitant and substandard” hostel meals.

Panashe Mudzingwa (21), who is in his final year of studying towards a diploma in information and technology, was suspended indefinitely last year in November from attending lectures pending a disciplinary hearing on allegations of misconduct. He now wants to be fully re-instated with the hearing dropped.

He is alleged to have incited other students to demonstrate at the hostels over “expensive and substandard” meals.

Mudzingwa was barred from attending classes and accessing college premises pending disciplinary hearing.

The suspension was done in terms of section 4 of the Manpower Planning and Development (Government Teachers Colleges and Technical or Vocational Institutions) Regulations.

Mudzingwa, through his lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, yesterday filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court citing Prof Murwira, Gweru Polytechnic principal Mr Washington Chandiwana and the college’s head of division for student affairs, Mrs J Nzvenga as respondents.

He wants an order directing the respondents to reinstate him at Gweru Polytechnic with full entitlement and benefits ascribed to students including attending classes.

Mudzingwa is also seeking an order blocking college authorities from convening a disciplinary hearing.

In his founding affidavit, Mudzingwa said the decision by the principal to bar him from attending lessons without justification and lawful cause was a violation of the provisions of the Manpower Planning and Development (Government Teachers Colleges and Technical or Vocational Institutions) Regulations Statutory Instrument 81 of 1999.

“On 7th of November 2019, I, together with other students who are resident at the college hostels attended a meeting at the dining hall. The meeting had been convened by the Students Representative Council’s vice president and its agenda was to address some housekeeping issues pertaining to our stay at the college hostels,” he said.

“During the meeting, which was chaired by the college matron, a lot of issues were deliberated on and as students we were also afforded an opportunity to highlight some of our challenges.”

Mudzingwa said students were not happy with the service they were getting from a catering service company contracted by the college. “Among the topical issues of concern to us as students was the issue of the catering services company which was contracted by the college to provide catering services to us. Generally, students are not happy with the service as the food provided is substandard and at the same time too expensive and beyond the reach of many students,” he said.

Mudzingwa, who is a member of the students’ food committee, said his suspension was some form of punishment for being the most vocal on the subject during the meeting. He was shocked when he received a letter from the principal the following day notifying him of the suspension.

“On the same day, I approached the principal to seek audience and enquire on what could have brought about my suspension and for a possible way forward, but it hit a brick wall,” said Mudzingwa.

He said he then decided to engage a lawyer as he was being prejudiced by missing lessons. Mudzingwa said despite his lawyer having written a letter to the college authorities there was no response.

He argued that his suspension had no legal basis. “Furthermore, arraigning me before a disciplinary committee based on the facts or allegations will be a breach of my fundamental rights as guaranteed by the constitution. The allegation that I incited other students to cause commotion at the college hostels should not lead to a disciplinary hearing as freedom of expression is sanctioned by the constitution,” he said.

The college and the minister are yet to respond.

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