UZ fines 'protest' student, backs down on fees

HARARE - The University of Zimbabwe (UZ) has fined graduand Tonderai Dombo $50 after the institution’s disciplinary committee found him guilty of breaching rules of students’ conduct following his protest in front of President Robert Mugabe during a graduation ceremony in September.

Four other graduands — Thembinkosi Rushwaya, Alexander Mukamba, Tinotenda Mhungu and Hlalanilathi Khosa — were ,however, cleared by the committee.

The five — facing charges of violating rules of students’ conduct and discipline, commonly referred to as Ordinance 30 — were represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights attorneys Denford Halimani, Jeremiah Bamu and Dorcas Chitiyo.

Dombo pulled a shocker after he demonstrated against the unemployment situation in the country while Mugabe was conferring degrees at the university.

He stood up and waved an A4-sized placard inscribed “graduates today, rovha Mangwana (loafer tomorrow)”, as Mugabe watched from the high table.

Dombo was then hurriedly escorted outside the venue and detained by alleged State security agents.

Zimbabwe has an estimated unemployment rate of over 90 percent, with government failing to deliver the promised 2, 2 million jobs. Halimani told the Daily News that they were now awaiting a response from UZ vice chancellor Levi Nyagura on the matter.

“The disciplinary committee recommended a $50 fine and a final warning for Dombo. We will wait to see if the vice chancellor will confirm or change that. In Rushwaya’s case, the committee agreed that he was no longer a student so they could deliberate on it . . . the others were acquitted,” Halamani said.

“The committee also agreed to let Dombo carry on with his postgraduate studies for an Honours degree in War and Strategic Studies,” he said, adding that the issue of the graduands’ certificates had not been deliberated on.

Meanwhile, the UZ has allowed unregistered students to sit for their final examinations, despite not having paid fees. This comes amid escalating economic hardships that have seen thousands of students deferring their studies and hundreds more dropping out.

In recent years, the country’s top university was only allowing students who would have paid 60 percent of their fees to sit for final exams.

“The vice-chancellor has directed that all unregistered students who have been attending lectures and have fulfilled all the coursework requirements as determined by the respective departments will be permitted to sit for the end of semester examinations commencing on November 16, 2016,” the university said in a statement.

“You are required to pay a minimum of $20 and register by November 4, 2016.”

However, the university said it will withhold the results of students until they pay their full fees. The move received mixed reactions, with UZ Student Representative Council vice president Zivai Mhetu saying although the institution had shown compassion, authorities should go beyond that.

“Unfortunately, these students won’t be able to access their results meaning they can’t go to the next level and ultimately that is the end to their academic career. That’s why we are advocating for learn first and pay later policy,” he said.

The development at UZ comes as students at State institutions, namely Midlands State University (MSU) have engaged in demonstrations against late registration penalties.

MSU students pay between $600 and $1 600 per semester for both undergraduate and post-graduate degree programmes.        

The students were irked when the university recently requested that unregistered students pay $2 penalty for every day passed without registering for the semester.

Comments (1)

Why was Dhombo even arrested for waving a placard, or did he have to get police clearance to do that? Hahahahaha. How many placards are waved at Zuma or Obama, Mbeki used to take that on a daily basis with some even burning his picture in front of him. No one gets arrested for that. Where in the constitution does it say its a crime to wave a placard in demonstration?

XG - 4 November 2016

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