By Professor Mutodzi
Harare, October 19, 2016 – UNIVERSITY of Zimbabwe (UZ) authorities have summoned five students to appear before a disciplinary hearing for staging a protest against President Robert Mugabe during the institution’s graduation ceremony last month and taking part in an anti-government demonstration in Harare.
The students, Tonderai Dombo, Thembinkosi Rushwaya, Alexander Mukamba, Tinotenda Mhungu and Hlalanilathi Khosa, are being charged for breaching some rules and regulations governing the conduct of students at the higher learning institution.
They are set to present themselves before the university’s students disciplinary committee on Wednesday.
Dombo, Rushwaya and Mukamba were arrested on Thursday September 29 by police and charged with criminal nuisance as defined in Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.
This is after they allegedly protested against Mugabe during a UZ graduation ceremony presided over by the nonagenarian leader, also UZ Chancellor, who capped several students during the event.
The students held placards with messages complaining about the failure by Mugabe’s government to create jobs and employment opportunities for graduates in the country.
The students, who were detained at Harare Central Police Station and were represented by Gift Mtisi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), were released after electing to pay an admission of guilt fine amounting to $10 each.
Almost a month later, the trio is set to appear before the UZ’s student disciplinary committee facing charges of breaching rules of student conduct and discipline commonly referred to as Ordinance 30.
According to letters served on the students, the UZ authorities claim that Dombo, Rushwaya and Mukamba, who are all represented by ZLHR lawyer Denford Halimani, sought to disrupt the 2016 graduation ceremony, which was an official UZ function held at the university’s Pavillion grounds.
The UZ authorities charged that the trio had breached the UZ rules and regulations.
“You had no right to do so. Your conduct was in breach of Sections of Ordinance 30 more particularly that no student of the university shall engage in any conduct whether on or off campus which is or is reasonably likely to be harmful to the interests of the university, members of the university staff or students. In particular, your conduct was in breach of rules of conduct as envisaged by Section 3.2.2,” reads part of the letters seen by RadioVOP.
In another matter, Mhungu and Khosa, who are represented by Jeremiah Bamu of ZLHR, will answer to charges of breaching the university’s rules after they allegedly participated in an anti-government protest held August 24 in central Harare, which they claim to have been an illegal demonstration.
The duo was arrested together with 11 other Harare residents by ZRP officers and charged with committing public violence.
The alleged participation of Mhungu and Khosa in the anti-government protest, the UZ authorities charged, was harmful to the interest of the university, its staff members and students.
However, of interest is the UZ authorities’ decision to subject the students to a disciplinary hearing even though their matter on charges of committing public violence is still pending at the Harare Magistrates Court.
Protests by suffering Zimbabweans including students have become routine in the troubled southern African country, which is grappling with one of its worst economic and political crisis blamed on Mugabe’s administration.
For many years the envy of many in the developing world, Zimbabwe’s education sector has now crumbled after several years of underfunding and mismanagement.